I once had a very long instant message conversation, which led almost directly to the end of my marriage.
At some point along the way, the interlocutor and I had an argument about whether lyrics or music were more important in the grand scheme of things. I reckoned lyrics, since in those days they were all I was really equipped to appreciate.
The interlocutor didn't think much of this. 'What if a song had great lyrics, but was musically rubbish?,' said he. 'Would you still buy it?'.
I reckoned yes. The interlocutor told me I had a lot to learn. This led into an argument about Badly Drawn Boy, and the next thing I knew my marriage was over and I was living on my own in Shepherd's Bush.
But I was reminded of that snippet of conversation today upon investigating Okkervil River's new album, The Stage Names. As previously advertised, this band have really quite fantastic lyrics that are really more like intensely intricate prose poems set to music, which is all very wonderful and everything, and they do also have some marvellous instrumentation, with trumpets and accordions and what-have-you, but I can't really be doing with singer Will Sheff's voice (and also his long face freaks me out, but that's face-ist, and anyway you can't see it when you're listening to the CD), and sometimes they start a song all promisingly alternative-y and alt-rock-y, but it all turns a bit mainstream rock by the end (see also Calexico's last album), or sometimes you think if only Will Sheff could growl a bit more and whine a bit less, then Okkervil River might be a bit like Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds*, but the lyrics are brilliant.
Here's the opening song off The Stage Names; it exhibits most of the traits outlined above, but it has some excellent 'ooh ooh's in it. And great lyrics.
Okkervil River - Our Life Is Not A Movie Or Maybe (mp3)
(Buy from Amazon)
I do really like them, though, despite their flaws. Although apparently their latest flaw is to be less flawed than they used to be. I don't know, tricky stuff, this indie music.
* Someone on iTunes has suggested that this album is more reminiscent of Elvis Costello's My Aim Is True, which makes a lot more sense (same sort of combination of pop melodies and wordplay and vitriol), especially as 'the' River have covered Elvis Costello in the past. This is why it's important never to listen to anything I say about music, as I know nothing.