Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Free Design - "I Found Love" (1968)

A bias in my aesthetic should be pretty apparent by now: I’m a sucker for 60s pop. This is only the fifth entry here, and the third one to feature an AM Gold track from 40 years ago. I can appreciate almost any genre of music (except rap and country, lolz), but nothing gets my attention quite like lush orchestration, tight vocal harmonies, and complex musicianship; and The Free Design have no shortage of any of that. Now that the bias is exposed, I feel I should say that I’m not just going to focus on any song found on your grandparents’ favorite station; Herb Alpert was good and all, but I don’t think I could say come up with more than three sentences about him, let alone a few paragraphs. “I Found Love,” on the other hand, has something to it.

The first thing that grabs my attention about it is that it’s a love song to love. Never is there a mention of someone else. Who’d the Dedrick siblings fall in love with? Which one fell in love, even? It’s impossible to say, because they’re not as concerned with that aspect as they are with the feelings that are associated with love: the giddiness, the excitement, the sense of adventure and awakening. Perhaps I’m forgetting something obvious, but I can’t think of any other love songs to love. The best I can come up with are songs about looking for love (like Brenda Lee’s “I Want To Be Wanted”). Even “All You Need Is Love” is more didactic than celebratory. By not naming a subject, The Free Design succeed in describing something universal. It’s innocent and genuine, but more than anything else, it’s sincere; I find it hard to critique the song as being sappy or overly twee because it broadcasts such honesty.

I once had a conversation with Travis Morrison while he was selling merch after a Dismemberment Plan concert. He told me that he had just been to an exhibition of Norman Rockwell’s work in DC, and that with all of that work collected in one place, he got a sense that Norman Rockwell was trying to cheer up America throughout the Depression and the wars. He then asked me if I was going to buy anything, and I quickly made an excuse about needing to use the bathroom. My point is, when it comes to shitty years, 1968 was no slouch: The Viet Nam war was raging, Dr. King and Robert Kennedy were assassinated, race relations were tenuous, The Cincinnati Bengals were formed. Things were touchy for Chris Dedrick, The Free Design’s principal songwriter, too: his cousin was killed in action in Viet Nam and his career wasn’t progressing. I don’t want to speculate on Dedrick’s actual motivations behind “I Found Love”, but an interesting reading of it, much like the Rockwell interpretation, is that it’s an attempt to cheer up himself and the country. It’s a song to remind everyone of better times. The lack of a human subject is a way of suggesting that it doesn’t matter who or what you love, as long as you love. That’s gotta be better than rioting, or at the very least, playing football in Ohio.

Youtube Link: The Free Design - I Found Love

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