Marcus, Jo and Rob are listening to Exit by the Nah
Marcus: The first line, if I’m hearing it correctly, is, “You’re finally exiting a rumination state.” Rumination is the act of chewing one’s cud if one is a cow, as I recall.
Rob: That’s correct.
Marcus: So I’m thinking this song could be about the death of a cow in the remote rural community of Wollongong, where these guys are from. Out there in the bush they still depend on subsistence agriculture for survival, so the loss of a cow can be a serious blow to the household economy.
Jo: That must be very sad for them. What good is a billy full of tea by the billabong if there’s no milk to go with it?
Rob: It’s like a billy full of tears.
Marcus: Did anyone catch any of the other lyrics? What happens after the cow dies?
Rob: I didn’t hear anything because we were talking, but logically they would move on to the preparation of hamburgers.
Marcus: For sure.
Jo: You can give us a follow up report after you do the vinyl mastering, Marcus.
Rob: It just occurred to me that goats are also ruminants. It may not be about a cow at all.
Jo: It’s a mystery. Shall we talk a bit about the music too?
Rob: This song has a lot of cool ideas. I love the sleepy bass chords at the start and that descending keyboard hook.
Jo: The little do-oo-oo bits in the vocals.
Rob: The thing that really captured me is the fact that this song changes speed. That’s a rare thing. David Byrne, in his beautiful book How Music Works, writes at length about how digital recording has resulted in everyone recording to click tracks, so songs never speed up or slow down. Sound engineers demand it because steady beats are so much easier to edit in digital software.
Marcus: We were also listening to that podcast this year, Ways of Hearing, by Damon Krukowski from Galaxie 500. He did a whole episode about how the use of click tracks has transformed recorded performance.
Rob: I was in the middle of listening to that when I heard Exit, and I felt kind of high when the song suddenly sped up on me.
Marcus: Yeah, it’s totally unexpected. It’s not exactly what either Byrne or Krukowski were talking about, though. They both discuss the speed changes that used to occur when bands shifted from verse to chorus, or into bridges and climaxes. I think the Nah did use a click track, but stopped recording half-way, reset the metronome, and recorded the second half of the song at a faster speed.
Rob: That’s an imaginative workaround for present-day recording technology. They still get a cheap digital recording that the engineer can edit easily.
Marcus: But they get to speed up.
Jo: Breaking all the rules.
Rob: I want to try this myself one day.
Marcus: You’re scaring me, man. But I think I like it.