Track four from Inchoatery – nerves and neurosis and worrying about what the other person is up to.
This was easily the most fun track to record from the whole album, and I hope it’s one of the most fun to listen to. The basic idea came to me fairly early, walking home from breakfast out on the 3rd of February and singing to myself. (I seem to come up with a lot of song ideas when I’m walking around. I should probably do more of that.) The idea of a thematically finger-wagging, rhythmically ass-shaking It’s All In Your Head thing struck me as something that I don’t normally record at all and that maybe I should.
Listening to the first sketch recording, in C, it’s clear I had the basic chord structure and melody idea before I had any words down, and that the foot-stomping four-on-the-floor kick rhythm under it all there was there from the very beginning. There’s a couple of specific breakdown ideas in that first sketch that I didn’t end up using for the final track.
In the second sketch, in A, the lyrics are starting to make an appearance, and the octave-jumping disco-style piano bass-line central to the finished track shows up for the first time as well. I also play around further with one of the later-abandoned musical breaks, using the piano bass to play around with non-root tones from the chords in the breakdown, something that might have been interesting to develop if I’d stuck with it. But I think the decision to keep Uh Uh fairly simple harmonically was the right one; letting harmonic cleverness get in the way of the basic pop energy would probably have been a mistake.
The third sketch is closer yet to the final form; the lyrics are more complete, and the slightly complicated melodic bit in the second part of the verse (“she ain’t cryin / you’re dyin / but she don’t miss you at all”) is in place. I’m still apparently playing with that abandoned break bit at that point. I also bring in the idea of vocal “uh uh” callbacks in that sketch, something that eventually became a vocoder track on the final track.
The “break” sketch is another musical figure I started laying out on piano as an independent idea, and which eventually got simplified significantly and used as the basis for the central big-and-then-drop, big-and-then-drop break in the album recording. This is a good example of a case where I had I think the good sense to abandon a fairly complicated idea that I thought was clever in favor of a less-clever but more musically satisfying take on it. Too complicated and drawn-out of a musical break in Uh Uh would have killed the energy.
The demo had things more or less in their final form, but is a somewhat different sound than what I was intending for the final track — I had been thinking of using a lot of synth stuff for it fairly early on, and the demo has none of that, being just piano and acoustic guitar and drums and vocals. Still, it’s a fun demo and captures a lot of the energy I wanted in its own way. The pounding piano on that, without other things to buffer it, makes me think a bit of the theme from Peanuts.
For all the synth stuff on this, I borrowed my friend Hiram’s Microkorg, which is a fun little machine. I’m kind of a nut for vocoders — Laurie Anderson + impressionable youth = dangerous obsessions — but I’ve almost never used them, so this was kind of a kid-in-a-candy-store situation. There’s also some synth bass stuff in there married to the piano bass (which I kept around from the demo on the advice of some smart folks over at Metafilter Music).
If I’d had more time to work on the song, I’d have firmed up the drum track more; as it is, the constant uptempo four-on-the-floor stuff was just about killing my right leg after I made a dozen passes at the song, and I eventually gave up and just recorded a few bars of the kick alone and looped that under the track and recorded the snare-and-cymbal stuff as a separate take. Being able to record the rest of the drums for the album at all was more important than doing that bit honestly, or crippling my leg trying.