Civilian review by Steve Lottich

From The Gentle Giant Home Page
Jump to: navigation, search

From: slottich@his-po.inf.uiowa.edu

To: on-reflection@darkwing.uoregon.edu
Subject: gg: Civilian painting
Date: Fri, 1 Mar 96 06:42 CST

...I wanted to give my take on the album as a whole. It takes place in a dystopic near-future with a Big-Brother-type society, where the rich live in comfort off the sweat of the factory workers, grunts who live like poor slobs. (The plot of many gloomy sci-fi movies.) The grunts are given vices like excessive TV and drugs to keep them complacent and non-rebellious. Most of the album is from the viewpoint of these workers.

Convenience (Clean and Easy)

This is pretty trivial, but the sample-and-hold type stuff in the intro immediately establishes a futuristic time-frame for me.

All Through the Night

During some of the choruses, especially at the end, this noodly organ part can be heard. It has a mechanical sound to it, so for me it evokes images of factories, with their machine noise and repetitive jobs. Even though the worker in the song is "free till morning", he's haunted by the factory noise he lives with all day.

Inside Out

My take on this song is completely different from the others posted here earlier in the week. I don't see it as at all spiritual. Visions are induced by the government-sanctioned mind-altering substances I alluded to earlier, which keep the worker in passive acceptance of his lot in life. (Or maybe I've seen too many of those dystopic near-future movies.)

The song as a whole is very trance-inducing in its consistency. However, changes in intensity throughout the piece could indicate great mood swings during the worker's trip. In addition, it's possible he has taken a combination of medicines, because the constant double-time high-hat invokes a "fidgety" feel. (I noticed this because of the way I listen to music: I sometimes sit with one ankle resting on my other knee; when I do this, my foot on the floor generally keeps the beat, while the other foot follows the high-hat or snare. While listening to "Inside Out" a few nights ago, I gradually became aware that my foot in the air was waving furiously in sync with the high-hat, making me feel like I do when I've had too much caffeine.)

One thing I've noticed about the album as a whole is that they make much use of quickly ascending scales. Examples are during the chorus of "Number One", the intro and verses of "Underground", the intro and verses of "I Am a Camera", and the intro and verses of "It's Not Imagination" (the last one's more of a pentatonic scale). Any ideas on what this is about?

Other Civilian tidbits, not related to painting:

1. Many posters have expressed disappointment with GG's later output. While I too was disappointed with TMP and GfaD, this was *not* the case with Civilian; I loved this one from the first listen. I know, it's not the sound that brought most of us into the fold, but it's still a more creative and complex work than it's given credit for.

2. On the inner sleeve of Billy Joel's Nylon Curtain album, is an aerial photo of a huge new housing development, which was apparently abandoned, because all the windows are boarded up. I imagine the faceless people on Civilian's cover live here.

Steve Lottich