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album analysis > catch without arms

Concept | Liner Notes and Artwork | Lyrics | Videos | Discuss

Here we take an in-depth look at the album 'catch without arms' by dredg. We took clues and hints from the official dredg website left by the band members, used the liner notes/artwork from the booklet for the album, and with help from others, looked up related information dealing with the concept of the record. I want to make one thing clear however; this is in no way 100% accurate, and there is no perfect answer to all the information below, or all the ideas supplied on this album. On another note, all the artwork for this album was created by Drew...

The Concept

"A Little Change...Like a Sunset, or a Photograph of One."

Positivies and Negatives: It has been stated by the band that the concept of the album involves positives and negatives, as well as opposites, which + and - are! The album has been structured in a way that allows for this idea to flow throughout.

"The whole underlying basis of the lyrics and the music is opposites, contrasts...I’d written some lyrics that are based around conversations or arguments, so we thought about a record with two halves that contrast each other. The whole basis of the record could be about objection to ideas, and contrast." - Gavin

There are heavier and lighter elements, the positive and negative in well as faster and slower parts, which are the opposite of each other, or contradict each other if you will. According to Chinese philosophers, everything has a positive and negative, such as; masculine/feminine. Ancient Chinese observed the principles around them: day/night, light/dark, awake/sleeping, summer/winter, growth/decay, man/woman, hot/cold, heaven/earth, sun/moon, fire/water, +/-, etc... Each can be dangerous or useless by itself, but harnessed with its opposite, they operate in harmony ----- they balance each other out. Yin-Yang, explains changes around us, and all changes contain two opposite aspects, Yin and Yang, or (+/-). Yang wouldn't grow without Yin, and Yin couldn't give birth without Yang.

"To be very cliché, the yin and yang of things," Hayes said. "Just sort of the black and white of life, I suppose." Accordingly, the record is split into two halves: songs one through seven, or "Perspective One," and eight through twelve, "Perspective Two." "It's divided into these halves, and certain songs, some of the lyrics are kind of a clash of ideas," Hayes explained. "And that idea carries from song to song, as well as from verse to verse."

A negative will always present itself, as a result of any equation trying to balance itself out, be it in Mathematics, human life, or nature. ( +1 and -1 = 0 ) And according to all information, theory, and accepted practices, 0 is the foundation of everything...and allows for balance.

"Is beauty the making one of opposites"

Aestetic Realism: The above quote, "is beauty the making one of opposites", which has been used by the band in their emails, corresponds to Eli Siegel's "Is Beauty The Making One of Opposites". Eli Siegel deals with Aestetic Realism, or a philosophical theory as to what is beautiful and that all things exist independently of their being thought or perceived. He asks 15 Questions, each part opposing; Freedom vs Order, Sameness vs Difference, Oneness vs Manyness, Impersonal vs Personal, Universe vs Object, Logic vs Emotion, Simplicity vs Complexity, Continuity vs Discontinuity, Depth vs Surface, Repose vs Energy, Heaviness vs Lightness, Outline vs Color, Light vs Dark, Grace vs Seriousness, Truth vs Imagination. You can visit this link to read the ideas behind these 15 Questions.

To help tie in the above questions, within the booklet for "Catch Without Arms", scribbled randomly; Light and Dark (on the page opposite Zebra Skin, which makes sense, light being white, dark being black) this is #13 on Eli Siegel's list. Also, in the "Thank You" section of the booklet, Depth (which is really Depth and Surface as stated by the band) this is #9 on Eli Siegel's list.

Also, on the official dredg website, long before the album hit shelves, or the Internet for that matter, they posted the following news: "Aesthetic Realism: founded by Eli Siegel is the education that says the way to take care of yourself is through justice to the world outside yourself". On that same date, they also posted a poem by Eli Siegel, view it here.

Change: The symbol on many dredg shirts and on the cover of previous dredg albums is once again brought out, and once again in a derived form. The symbol is a derivative of the Chinese character which is the ideogram "I" meaning 'chameleon', or 'change'. The Chinese philosophy of I-ching is also focused on the idea of change. Change is eternal both for the cosmical and the human world - and therefore it is necessary to know in due time how to adapt to it. I-ching philosophy results from a natural wisdom connected to the real events of life. The idea of change is interwoven in all of dredg's music.

People Living Together: Again, stated to be entwined into the concepts of the album by the band, people living together in a way ties in with; positive and negative. To quote from an interview; "Relationships through interaction pull the negative or positive one way or the other." Anyone who has ever been in a relationship knows that there are positive and negatives surrounding it; be it family, friends, a significant other, teachers, etc. All relationships pull and give on a daily basis. This directly relates to "change", and "positive and negative", as well as "opposites and contrasts". The album concept is also about conversations, which tend to happen when people live together. There are two voices are depicted in many of the songs.....talking, back and forth, positive and negative.....happiness, arguments, sexuality, mistakes, love, hate, all the parts of relationships and conversations.

Foreshadowing: This is a concept that was not really stated by the band, but has been brought forth through repeat listens, first listens, and simply the urge to find different meanings and themes within the record. Now, what this really "means", we have yet to come up with a clear answer, but we think it's pretty interesting and has much to do with the albums message. So, on to the occurrences...

  1. To start the album, before the lyrics to "Ode to the Sun" actually begin and before the actual music to the song starts; Gavin can be heard in the background singing lyrics to the song...foreshadowing the actual song..."Ode to the Sun".
  2. At the end of "Not That Simple", there's the child singing the "Planting Seeds" lyrics. This foreshadows the song "Planting Seeds" a few tracks later on during the album. It's meaning may indicate growth and the progression of life; a child singing the lyrics early on the album, then an adult singing the lyrics later on during the album.
  3. On "Zebra Skin", Gavin sings about having "a couple of drinks", then later on the album, he is "Hungover on a Tuesday"; regretting choice, life, etc...wanting to change.
  4. At the very end of "Sang Real", after the laughing and noises, there is a brief moment of the outro to "Matroshka", foreshadowing the last moment of music at the end of the album. On another note, "Sang Real" also is the end of the first perspective, so perhaps that's why we here "Matroshka" at this point as well.
  5. The repetition at the end of "Jamias Vu" is trying to create an instance of "Jamias Vu". As the listener you are hearing a repeated sample from "Sang Real" ("From the ins..") but the lyric is never finished, is repeated a few times, and sounds completely different. Therefore it is different, and it is new to you, which means you have the illusion or impression of never having experienced it before, since it is different, and not the way it was in the song "Sang Real", however, you have actually experienced it before.

The Songs

Perspective I

01. Ode To The Sun

+ Light / Angels / Outline
- Gray / Demons / Color

An almost sarcastic at times discussion between the worshippers and the worshipped. Gavin noted it was partially based on a car accident he witnessed and has themes from George Carlin's take on religion, and sun worshiping.

An ode is a form of stately and elaborate lyrical verse.

The modern ode, stems from the writings of Greek and Latin poets. Its structure is: strophe, antistrophe, epode. This song is based on the homostrophic ode type. In this ode type, the strophe and antistrophe can consist of a number of stanzas alike in structure and rhyme scheme; the Poet is free to choose the structure of the basic stanza--its number of lines, line lengths, and rhyme scheme--in accordance with the demands of his content. The epode differs in structure in whatever ways the poet chooses to make it differ to suit his content; it is usually placed after the antistrophe but may be used between the strophe and antistrophe. A strophe, antistrophe, and epode make up a triad.

02. Bug Eyes

+ Reincarnation / Grace
- Death / Seriousness

Bugs, such as flies, have many eyes, and in the song the journey of looking at life from birth, and looking ahead at his life till death haunts him. He is looking at his time spent here through bug eyes, many of them, all different perspectives on his situation.

03. Catch Without Arms

+ Catching Something / Being Rich and Famous / Freedom
- Without Arms / Compromising Art and Integrity / Order

This track is about the band, or more so Gavin, viewing his situation through an artistic prism. Part of the inspiration for lyrics like "sing about love, sing about they will care...that’s what happens when you compromise your art" was, according to Hayes, "the expectation, what I feel I need to do to make people care about a song, rather than just writing for what makes me happy. You always have this underlying worry in your head – are people going to enjoy this? We want to make ourselves happy, but it’s not only about writing a good song, it’s being able to connect with people in some manner. That one was probably the most literal thing I’ve written in a long time."

In other words it's about an argument in his head, contrasting what he believes, what he thinks, what he feels, and what he actually does when writing and creating music.

04. Not That Simple

+ Simple means it can be done / Depth
- Not means it can't be done / Surface

About the brokenness of life, love, and all that surrounds us. This song is the "broken" versus the "unbreakable".

05. Zebra Skin

+ White Stripes / Sober / Love / Truth
- Black Stripes / Addiction / Obsession / Imagination

This song is about addiction and the toll it takes on life. Losing best friends tends to happen with addicts, taking chances one normally wouldn't take is also a familiar occurrence with alcoholics...when they lose everything, they find a new best friend, the this case, "the drink".

According to Gavin, this track is not only about addiction in the alcohol sense, instead it can be interpreted as a metaphor...and "questions the point where a relationship turns from a true emotional connection to a security blanket."

06. The Tanbark Is Hot Lava

+ New / Logic
- Old / Emotion

Definition: Tanbark
1. The bark of various trees used as a source of tannin.
2. Shredded bark from which the tannin has been extracted, used to cover circus arenas, racetracks, and other surfaces

Explanation: The Tanbark is Hot Lava
This is a game based on the childhood game of walking down the sidewalk and not stepping on any of the cracks....

Arguments and Love...To Stay or To Go...To Work it Out or To Give Up-----it's the back and forth, positive and negative in relationships. Someone wants out, wants change, but wants to stay or wants the other person to stay, or they just like the idea of staying....whatever or whichever it is...There is a hardship within some sort of relationship, as there almost always is. Relationships tend to deteriorate over time, from the inside out...turning into hell due to's own thoughts, feelings, desires, hardships, worries, and doubts. However, people also fear change, and thus the back and forth, all the positives of the relationship (whatever kind it is) and all the negatives of the relationship (whatever kind it is) jumping out from the song from the an argument taking place, brutally. Aiming towards one of the themes/concepts of the record..."Relationships through interaction pull the negative or positive one way or the other."

07. Sang Real

+ Sober / Many Friends / Manyness
- Addict / Loner / Oneness

The Sangreal is another name for the Holy Grail, a legendary sacred vessel associated with divine revelation. It's the cup, according to Arthurian legend, from which Christ drank at the Last Supper, into which He shed His blood from the Cross, and which was brought thereafter to Britain by Joseph of Arimathea. The Grail quest was attempted by the knights of the Round Table, and was achieved by Sir Bors, Sir Percival, and Sir Galahad. The documents surrounding the Grail are said to state a created balance between Man and Women, Male/Female, Positive/Negative, +/-, these are all opposites. Balance is achieved between masculine and feminine aspects of the soul, then and only then will the person begin to have glimpses of Christ consciousness, which lead to union with God.

Sangreal = Saint Graal = Holy Grail = Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost

To also tie in the themes of the record...are lyrics that oppose each other....contradictions...positives and negatives...different perspectives if you will..."addict, yet sober", "many friends, yet still a loner"...etc etc

Perspective II

08. Planting Seeds

+ Beauty / Sea Shells / Sameness
- Destruction / Sea of Bullet Shells / Difference

"One of the verses is from one person’s perspective and then the second verse is from the other person’s perspective; the chorus is the resolution of those two outlooks."

The lyrics: "A sea shell in a sea of shells"; = A sea of empty bullet casings (shells) or something beautiful in amongst so much ugliness or beauty (depending on your perspective)

The lyrics: "planting my own seeds"; = pollination

The lyrics: "It's dark like Poe"; refer to Edgar Allan Poe...if one knows the writings by author Edgar Allan Poe, it is understood he was a "dark" writer. Also in his short story "The Sphinx" written in 1850, Edgar Allan Poe writes; "His endeavors to arouse me from the condition of abnormal gloom into which I had fallen, were frustrated, in great measure, by certain volumes which I had found in his library. These were of a character to force into germination whatever seeds of hereditary superstition lay latent in my bosom. I had been reading these books without his knowledge, and thus he was often at a loss to account for the forcible impressions which had been made upon my fancy."

Quotes by Poe:

"Right is positive; wrong is negative -– is merely the negation of right; as cold is the negation of heat -– darkness of light."

"Contradictions cannot both be true -- that is, cannot coexist in nature"

09. Spitshine

+ Finding Importance / Impersonal
- Losing Importance / Personal

Definition: Spit Shine - a term used years ago, particularly in the military. Soldiers would "spit shine" their rifles and shoes, to a nice shine.

10. Jamais Vu

+ Jamais Vu / Life / Light
- Deja Vu / Death / Dark

Jamais Vu, n.: The illusion or impression of never having experienced something that has actually been experienced many times before (The opposite or contrary of deja vu). There's a condition in epilepsy called jamais vu which means, literally, "never seen." It's the opposite of déjà vu; what happens here is that, when the sufferer comes round after a seizure, the whole world is new. He or she has, or so it seems, never seen any of it before.

After playing Jamais Vu, Gavin once said "that's about dying, so don't die. Or do so, It's a natural thing, right. I think death is beautiful. There is a tribe in Africa that laughs at death. When someone dies they sit around the body and all laugh at it."

On another occasion, Gavin said "Jamais Vu was about inner conflict and accepting death."

11. Hungover On A Tuesday

+ Being Happy or Feeling Good / Heaviness
- Being an Addict and Feeling Bad / Lightness

It's about closure and the uncertainty and pain of leaving something, letting go of something, in this case, an addiction. Be it alcohol, drugs, love, hate, etc. Though it makes you feel good, the situation needs cleansing. Let go, so long to all the bad and "fun" thing, all the control those ideas put over your mind, body, soul....let it go. The cure is within. You're can't be controlled forever.

The relationship between your mind and body and soul. The interaction each plays in the actions you take. The positive and negative effects each has on the other, and that each choice we make has on the next, or the previous.

This track is an argument between the addicted and the addiction. In this case, it would be a drink arguing with the alcoholic. Kind of saying, 'You need me so much that your life won't be anything without me. I'm your fuel, your catalyst.'

12. Matroshka (The Ornament)

+ One Big Doll / Being in one's protective shell / Universe
- Many Smaller Dolls / Being outside one's protective shell / Object

MATROSHKA is a simulation of a space walk. It is an ESA project that simulates as exact as possible an astronaut while he leaves the 'protective' area of the spaceship in order to carry out work in free space. The task is to measure particle fluence and energy spectra, dose and dose rates outside and inside a human phantom over the period of a year. The data are needed to improve the determination of radiation exposure of an astronaut performing a space walk.

However, this track takes its title from Russian nesting dolls called, Matryoshka. These are the most popular Russian souvenir, and were first made around 1890 in Moscow. Why it is called "Matryoshka"? Russian wooden dolls within smaller dolls were called matryoshka. In old Russian among peasants, the name Matryona or Matriosha was a very popular female name. Scholars say this name has a Latin root "mater" and means "Mother". This name was associated with the image of of a mother of a big peasant family who was very healthy and had a portly figure. Subsequently, it became a symbolic name and was used specifically to image brightly painted wooden figurines made in a such way that they could taken apart to reveal smaller dolls fitting inside one another. “I thought that was a great visual for our whole universe, the scale of things and how you perceive scale,” Gavin says of the song. “We had finished recording the record and we went back to record that song. It felt like a closing song, it had a conclusive feel to it, and we didn’t have a song that did that, yet."

The whole record feels the way these dolls are made...smaller pieces fitting inside one another until all that's left is one big piece.

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