David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 223: Zero 7 (In The Waiting Line)

February 2, 2023

Movie soundtracks that rely on a compilation of mostly already recorded songs by various artists seem a strange thing to me. At best, we hear 15-30 seconds of a song in a movie, and if we don't know the song, it may mostly drift in and out of our consciousness as we try to navigate the visual and narrative elements of the scene. In the end, are these sound clips likely to make us seek out the artists that made them? For me, rarely.

Because of this inability for me to connect more deeply with the music, I probably never would have bought the soundtrack to Garden State, which while a good movie didn't exactly end up on my must-watch again list. I will not be ashamed to admit this is another version of my unfair impressions of Paramore (Day 219). As you get older, you can't help but feel out of touch with the younger crowd. And, boy, did Garden State perpetuate my idea that younger generations were a bunch of brooding discontents.

Still, a friend did burn me a copy of the soundtrack, and I wasn't entirely unhappy, if for no other reason than to get the great Colin Hay, Nick Drake and a lesser-known Simon And Garfunkel ("The Only Living Boy In New York City"). However, repeated listens for the whole CD did allow me to see some of the brilliance in Zach Braff's song choices for the overall milieu of the movie.

Zero 7's "In The Waiting Line" is a sterling example. I wouldn't have even known what to call Zero 7's genre, until looking them up on Wikipedia to present this blog. Apparently, they represent a Downtempo or Downbeat genre, which even if I have never heard of, appropriately describes a song that seems to burble along for close to five minutes, heavy reliance on multiple keyboards, quite Supertramp-ish or 10CC-ish, over a jazzy beat.

In fact, given especially the lyrical repetitions ("do you believe in what you see" and "everyone's saying different things to me"), "In The Waiting Line" could be waiting room Muzak, something you vaguely hear while you leaf through a six-month old People magazine. You might even be humming it long after finally getting your license plate renewed or your blood drawn.

However, those lyrics, and their suggestion that life is a "waiting line," probably speak to the Zach Braff generation. Life is to "wait in line/'til your time." I get it, and am probably too patient in a waiting line. Waiting is a sacrifice of my time I rarely question. Maybe other generations value their time more.

Furthermore, "In The Waiting Line" challenges other common assumptions about the world. The song asks, "do you believe in what you see/there doesn't seem to be anybody else who agrees with me." I see a virus, he sees a hoax, she sees a crisis, you see an irritant. A colleague of mine has shared a story of waiting quietly in a waiting room while others went on and on about a conspiracy theory. When her opinion was finally asked, she delivered the ultimate "who are you kidding?" response. In the end, are you wasting your time in the waiting line, lining up to participate in the broken social system, along with others whose sense of reality shares nothing with yours? Perhaps most sobering is the song's observation that "everyone is taking everything they can."

So, if the song does burble along, not moving much faster than the "motionless wheel" at the heart of the song's metaphor, it does so betraying its complexity. In my memory, the song has about 4 lines, but there is much more. In my mind, the song could be produced by a basic quartet, as the music seems so minimalistic.

Long after getting my burned Garden State, I caught Zero 7 and "In The Waiting Line" on Later . . . with Jules Holland, the coolest live music television venue ever (sorry Midnight Special and Old Grey Whistle Test). My link below is to the Later . . . clip, as watching a Nonet perform a song that sure sounded like a quartet allows you to visualize its complexity. You can hear the softly strummed acoustic guitar, the delicate variations of the keyboards, and the humming of synthesizer overlaying all of it. It is a deeply rich song, even if there doesn't seem to be anybody who agrees with me.

Zero 7. "In The Waiting Line." Simple Things. Ultimate Dilemma, 2001. Link here.

Day 222: Jim Croce "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown"

Day 224: The Inmates "Tell Me What's Wrong"

See complete list here.