Riff: Phosphorescent – “Muchacho’s Tune”

Mar 20, 2013

But like the shepherd to the lamb/Like the wave onto the sand/I’ll fix myself up/To come and be with you

from Muchacho's Tune lyrics by Phosphorescent

The weakest melody on an otherwise brilliant concept album spun around a dude’s trek to Mexico to set his broken heart right, a game-time waltz of a key dance frolics with a sad mariachi horn, as Matthew Houck comes to the namesake man-boy realization: “I’ve been fucked up. And I’ve been a fool.”

  • contraryquestion

    Weakest melody?!?! Any songwriter would be lucky to have written such a beautiful tune. Simple and pure. Seems you haven’t understood the River is bigger than you are yet…

    • Gavin Paul

      “The weakest melody,” yes, “on an otherwise brilliant concept album.” It’s a few notes away from ballpark organ tuneage, which when compared to the sprawling, whiskey-soaked Americana of the rest of the album, baffles me, sure like a river of which size I can’t accurately judge. Not trying to knock it for the sake of knocking. The lyrics are choice. Just don’t dig the crackerjack waltz.

      • contraryquestion

        So how many notes would constitute far enough away from ballpark organ tuneage? Not that Baseball is at all the proper analogy if you’re knocking something for NOT being Americana enough. The “sprawling, whiskey-soaked Americana” tunes on the rest of the album have just as many (or few) chords. Muchacho’s Tune is probably the most whiskey-soaked tune on the entire album in terms of simple note, chord, and melody structure, if you use the classic songwriting canon as a barometer. He does do sprawling production well elsewhere on the album, yes; but this tune is great precisely because it shows that, underneath it all, he can write a simple and beautiful melody without having to rely on the sprawling production techniques that so often cover up an absence of quality melody these days – ie “throw a banjo on an already-written U2 melody” mainstream-radio Americana.

        • Gavin Paul

          Ha, baseball would fit in the confines of Americana, wouldn’t it? No, every track doesn’t need to be sprawling and wrought with a complex melody. Though the saturation of whiskey aside, its likeness to a ballpark organ waltz just throws me off. I’m not saying the song, its lyric, or its melody are trash, nor that it need substitution with “an already-written U2 melody” dressed with a banjo. Not even trying to box the record into Americana, really. Perhaps I have a prejudice for ballparky organ waltzes. In this case it cheapens the sentiments I dig in the song, for me and me alone, perhaps, again, because I am ballpark organ waltz prejudiced. I’m with you on the simple ethos, though, which is why I dig the line, “I’ve been fucked up/And I’ve been a fool,” so much.

Riff by Gavin Paul

Gavin Paul is SONGLYRICS' Editor-in-Chief. Chicago-bred, New York-sculpted, his words and ideas have appeared in publications ranging from Spin and Rolling Stone to The Chicago Sun-Times and Arborist News.

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