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Music Picks

Real Guitars and Songwriting

Richard Hawley's 'Hotel Room.'

By Adrian Mack 26 Jul 2007 |

Adrian Mack is a Vancouver-based musician and writer. When he's not busy practicing, writing, editing, raising his kid and being a devoted husband, he's wondering how anybody could find the time to blog.

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'Conspiracy theory-free.'

Any new material from Richard Hawley is cause for celebration, and not only if you're still hung up on the simple virtues of songwriting, guitars and a rich, commanding baritone. (My condolences if you're not.)

Let me also recommend Hawley to any new parents out there. When I first stumbled on his Cole's Corner album in the summer of 2005, my own daughter was freshly born, her parents were freshly alarmed by the fact, and Hawley was the guy I turned to whenever the baby woke up screaming at night. I'd cue up "Hotel Room" from Cole's Corner, which Hawley has very graciously left sitting on his MySpace page.

At the time, I wrote that "Hotel Room" is up there with Santo and Johnny's "Sleepwalk" (which it quotes) for its evocation of midnight. And midnight or thereabouts was when the kid and I would generally dance around the kitchen listening to it together, until she'd finally nod off again, here in my arms, as the song says.

These days, she likes a lot of children's music -- Disney stuff, songs about banana phones, early Megadeth -- which is fine, I suppose. But her viewing habits are freaking me out, something that hit me hard when I caught an episode of something called 4 Square -- one of her favourite shows, actually -- that featured four mimes who pretended to be the moving parts of an engine, while a French guy in a leotard stared into the camera and said, "You are all good little machines!"

I think not, Xavier. Kids' media is clearly fertile ground for my specific type of paranoia, honed through decades of science fiction and conspiracy literature; it compels me to search for evidence of the soft forms of control. Social engineering dressed up as entertainment, low-intensity mind control in shiny disc form, perception management with an Oprah's Book Club endorsement -- you get the picture. It's what I like to do while other people are enjoying themselves. (I'm determined to prove that The Exorcist, for instance, was a covertly sponsored government PsyOp designed to encourage a resurgence in fundamentalism. Wish me luck!)

I've got a big problem with Teletubbies, too, ever since I caught Dipsy, or Tinky-bloody-Winky, or one of those candy-coloured freaks getting romantic with his hat while that somnambulant BBC voice intoned, "Teletubbies love their things." I've been railing for weeks about that one, although my two-year old just isn't interested in the debate.

What does this have to do with Richard Hawley? Nothing probably, although I sensed a certain beautiful symmetry when I checked in with his latest video, "Tonight the Streets Are Ours," and found my daughter's first-ever favourite singer lampooning supercilious talk show hosts, shopping-channel hucksters, and laughably grave TV newsreaders while crooning in that chocolaty voice of his, "those people they got nothing in their souls / and they make our TVs blind us / from our vision and our goals."

Beyond that, I'd say Hawley is a soft-control and conspiracy theory-free zone, even for an ardent watchdog like me. Not including the big, obvious conspiracy that keeps him off most people's radar and a zero like James Blunt on it, of course.

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