Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Strokes "Under The Cover Of Darkness" Song Analysis

Reader Carlos Ponce de León recently requested a song analysis of The Strokes "Under Cover Of Darkness." This was the first single from the band's fourth album entitled Angles, which was a big hit in many parts of the world, reaching #1 in Australia and #6 in China, among other countries. Like with all song analysis, we'll look at the song form, the arrangement, the sound and the production.

The Song
"Under Cover Of Darkness" appears to have a rather simple form on the surface, but it's a bit more complex than it seems. The form looks like this:

Intro, Verse, B Section, Chorus, Intro, Verse, B Section, Chorus, Bridge/Solo, B Section, Chorus, Intro

What's makes this song interesting is that the second time all the sections are played they're a lot shorter than the first, and the last time they're even shorter still, with the final Intro line played only once. This works great because the song would've been way long otherwise, and the way each section changes keeps things interesting.

The Arrangement
The arrangement on the song is pretty straight ahead. You just hear the band with very little embellishment or extra parts. It's actually very refreshing to hear a song that doesn't suffer from tons of sweetening for change. The arrangement form only uses three elements instead of the typical four.

  * The Foundation: Bass and drums

  * The Pad: None

  * The Rhythm: The strumming rhythm guitar on the right channel pushes the song along.

  * The Lead: The vocal

  * The Fills: None

Except for some backing vocals in the B sections and choruses, the song gets its development and movement strictly from the playing and not from additional instruments entering the mix. One guitar plays the rhythm while the other plays rhythm and lead.

The Sound
All the elements of the song are very much in your face. The song is wonderfully absent of any effects except during the guitar solo, which has a short reverb with its tail only on the left side to balance the panning. The vocals are somewhat buried in the mix, but what that does is bring out the power of the band. This is a very old-school approach and quite the opposite of what a pop song would require, but it works very well here. The song seems to get a bit bigger in the chorus, so it might be that the guitars are gently doubled, although it's hard to tell for sure, which is what's supposed to happen.

The Production
Produced by my buddy Joe Chiccarelli (who's also an excellent engineer), this song is what you'd expect from a production in 2011. The players aren't virtuosos, but they play well together and are very disciplined in their playing on the record. This could have gotten sloppy but the attacks and releases are performed well so the band sounds extremely tight, the vocal is passionate and real, and even though some of the guitar parts are a bit outside the norm, all fit together well.

Don't be afraid to send me your song analysis requests!


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1 comment:

online mastering said...

Thanks for sharing this, interesting stuff.

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