6. Extreme – III Sides to Every Story
This album has, hands down, the greatest ending section of any album I’ve ever heard. The only thing that even comes close, in my opinion, is Nine Inch Nails – The Downward Spiral. III Sides to Every Story is another concept album (like The Downward Spiral, Mellon Collie and The Infinite Sadness, or The Wall), that we all know I’m so fond of. This album’s “concept” is fairly straightforward.. as the album suggests, there are 3 sides to every story: yours, mine, and the Truth. I capitalized “Truth” for a reason: This album has an overwhelmingly obvious Christian theme to it. The last three songs (grouped together under the title “Everything Under the Sun“) are ripped straight from Ecclesiastes (Which, as you might recall, I like a lot). I can’t say enough just how truly amazing sounding these 3 songs are, and just how well they complete the message of the album. You’ll just have to listen yourself to understand. Okay, that having been said, I’ll dig into the album a bit.
We start off with Warhead, and as you might have guessed, it seems to be about war and violence. It starts out with “Hey kid, wanna have some fun? Choose a side and here’s your gun.“. This song features one of Nuno Bettencourt’s amazing guitar solos (He has many, and they are all unbelievable), and has almost a Metallica – Black Album feel to it. Straight from the [obviously sarcastic] “celebration” of culture’s violence obsession, we jump into the violin-introed Rest in Peace. “Make Love not war sounds so absurd to me. We can’t afford to say these words lightly, or else our world will truly rest in peace.“. One of my favorite parts of this song is the guitar solo. We’ve already established that Nuno Bettencourt is a guitar deity, yes? Good. This thing about this solo is that he makes it sound very natural and fairly uncomplicated. (i.e. It doesn’t sounds horribly complicated in that Eddie Van Halen “There’s no way a human can play anything that fast” sort of way, though Nuno is certainly capable of such things (See Flight of the Wounded Bumblebee or Midnight Express). Instead, it just sounds really, really good, flowing well with the rest of the song. You don’t realize just how complex is is until you pick up the guitar and say “Hrm, maybe I should to learn that one.” About 5 seconds later you giggle nervously and set the guitar back down.
Next we have Politicalamity… the reason for owning a Wah pedal. Another pounding anti-war anthem. “Wars ‘n rumors Of wars, no one knows what for. Toys and soldiers deployed, on some foreign shore.“. This leads into Color Me Blind, a grand rock song plea for racial equality. “Why do we dream in black and white?“, “Picture the world without any color. You couldn’t tell one face from another. I don’t understand why we fight with our brother. Color me blind just to love one another.“. Each of the verses begins with the line “I had a dream..“. This sets the stage for the Peacemaker Die 2 tracks later. But first, there’s Cupid’s Dead. Rather than try to describe it, I’m just listing the lyrics. It’s fairly self explanatory:
I read the news today oh boy, About a tragic comedy Newspaper hinted suicide, The letterhead read 'Dear Johnny' A tainted truth was all it said, Sleep tight now that You've made your bed An arrow that once pierced your heart Points to the apple on your head Three sides to every story Yours, mine And, Monday morning's CUPID'S DEAD, HEADLINES READ, CUPID'S DEAD Oh, Romeo, Oh, Romeo Where did our love go, Romeo? If you read between the headlines, You wouldn't be the last to know No mystery yet to unfold, A paperboy left in the cold A love was said to never die, Withered away and just got old 'Our top story tonight, is a crime of passion The victim, an unidentified man, is found in bed, wearing only a diaper, holding a bow an arrow in one hand, and clutching a letter in the other. The letter simply read ... CUPID'S DEAD.' Extra, extra, extra, read all about it CUPID'S DEAD, Cupid is dead, deceased, I got peace of mind Still it's hard to forget, what it leaves behind A lot of love lost, your feelings are wasted, tasted the sweetness, but now you're faced with, the thought, of being alone Nor more companionship, you can handle it, just abandon it, leave it behind, and look for the brighter day Give it some time, cause it won't come right away You gotta be standing strong, hold on to your dignity Don't sit around, saying look what ya did to me It's time to move on, you gotta continue to look for a love, of a life that's within you Cupid is dead now, it's time to rely on, yourself to cope You got no shoulder to cry on DEAD
After that, we have the final song of the first section, Peacemaker Die, which I also consider to be the most moving song of the first section. “Peacemaker Die, I don’t know why.“,”Blessed are the warmongers..“. After two verses and choruses, we move into yet another amazing solo. As the solo eases up, we’re suddenly presented with a clip of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a Dream” speech:
I have a dream this afternoon, That the brotherhood of man, Will become a reality In this day, with this faith, I will go out and, Carve the tunnel of hope, Through the mountain of despair With this faith, I will go out with you and, Transform dark yesterdays Into bright tomorrows With this faith, We will be able to achieve This new day When all of God's children, Black men and white men, Jews and gentiles, Protestants and Catholics Will be able to join hands And sing with the negroes, In the spiritual of old Free at last, free at last, Thank God almighty, We're free at last.
I consider that speech moving in and of itself, but in the context of this song, this section of the album, and this album as a whole, I find it even more so. Truly an amazing song. And with that the first section is over. The Yours section is characterized by pounding rock songs about social and political topics, targeting whole groups of people, or the world as a whole. This sets us up for the next section:
This section is noticeably softer, and more personal, focusing on Gary Cherone’s voice and acoustic/orchestra backing rather than Nuno Bettencourt’s guitar. It starts off with Seven Sundays, a sweeping ballad with an orchestra and piano joining the band. I toss back and forth with this song as to it’s meaning, and the more I think about it, the more I think it has two meanings. It’s in the form of a love song, and when coupled with the next song, it would make perfect sense (and these two songs together would form a good reply to Cupid’s Dead). But when you take all the songs that follow, and see the direction the album is going, it makes sense that this could be a song to God saying something like “I’ve been too busy for You, but if I could, I’d spend more time with you”. Take a look at the lyrics:
One day we'll find the time to spend, together until then, My Love If I had one wish, it wouldn't be hard to choose: Seven Sundays in a row, cause that's the day that I spent with you. Someday soon, you and I will hold each other once again, My Love If I had one wish, it wouldn't be hard to choose: Seven Sundays in a row, cause that's the day that I spent with you.
Tragic Comic is one of my favorite songs on the album, and the only song I could take out of the album and listen to without feeling like I had to hear the entire thing in context. A guy completely in love who managed to [at the very least in his own mind] screw everything up…repeatedly I am this guy. Dear lord am I this guy. One thing I really like about this song is that it’s still sung with an obvious joy.. I could see a song like this being sung like “Woe is me, I’m a pathetic loser”, but instead it’s a “I’m so completely in love that I can’t even do anything right, and I couldn’t be happier.” I envy this person with every fiber of my being.
From this point on, the album focuses in on the overriding theme, with each song growing nearer to the final song, which encapsulates the entire album so brilliantly that one need only listen to that song to know the whole album, and love the whole album. First we have Our Father. Here’s another song like Seven Sundays that can be taken 2 ways, and both would be accurate, and intended, I think. Our Father is a song from a child to their father who has gone away. Taken literally, it’s about a father who has left a family, and the child desperately wants him to come back and be there for him and the family. Taken in the scope of the album, and the songs to follow, it could be a plea to God. He feels like God has abandoned him, and realizes he needs Him in his life.
Oh Daddy please, I pray every night the doors will open Oh Daddy please, this house is just a broken home, left all alone
This leads perfectly into Stop the World. Now we have a man looking at the world, and realizing that the world has no idea what it’s doing (“All the world’s a masquerade made up of fools and philosophers”). The more he looks at it, the more he realizes that things aren’t going to get better if we continue to try to do things on our own (“if we forget yesterday, We’re bound to repeat it tomorrow. It’s not too late to start today, Better off safe, than sorry.“). Then we get the line that points to what’s to come:
There's nothing new under the sun for me and you Won't somebody please Stop the world Stop the world I wanna get off.
The next song, God Isn’t Dead, is the saddest song on the album. We’ve come to the point where he realizes the world is messed up and evil, and it’s not getting any better… and now he’s crying out to God, wanting to know how this could be, and wants to know where God is for all of this. It ends in a plea for someone [God, Himself] to prove that God still exists.
Ah, look at all the lonely people, losing faith, in a world full of despair, no one who cares, wondering where God disappeared I, see the pain in everybody's faces asking why, the God up in the sky, didn't say goodbye, please tell me, God didn't die Please tell me God isn't dead. Please tell me God isn't dead. Please tell me God isn't.. I want to know if He's.. Tell me God isn't.. Please tell me God isn't dead. I want to know.
If you don’t feel your soul ache after that song, then you either weren’t’ listening, or you’ve got no soul.
While I was searching for lyrics for this album, I found out there there was one additional song on the cassette that they couldn’t fit on the Cd version. I was excited, to say the least, and sought out to acquire that song, and my computer tells me I’m about 2 minutes away from doing so. The song is Don’t Leave Me Alone, and it fits right here, after God Isn’t Dead, to close out the middle section. It’s another plea to God (and finally mentions Jesus by name), begging him not to abandon him (“I’m on my knees, Forgive me please. Just don’t leave me alone. How long will my song be wrong?“). And with that, the middle section is done.
This section is essentially one song (Everything Under the Sun) broken into 3 parts:
I. Rise ‘n Shine. The song begins with a child’s music box playing, then a simple acoustic guitar enters, and as the song begins, a full fledged orchestra joins in, growing to a crescendo at the first chorus: Rise.. Rise ‘N Shine, a new day is coming. Rise.. Rise in time for everything under the sun.. After another orchestra rich verse referencing Daniel’s dream interpretations (and again referencing the “I Had a Dream” line used in Color Me Blind and Peacemaker Die), the song quiets down, back to just the acoustic guitar, and the lyrics come straight from Eccesiastes:
Vanity, Yes, all is vanity Vanity, Yes, all's futility For one that dies, another's born Where laughter's heard, comforters mourn There's a time for everything A song for love, even abhor An olive branch, or winter's war There's a time for everything under the sun
II. Am I Ever Gonna Change?. With the new found energy and encouragement of the previous song, we enter into this song, and he voices the battle between an earnest desire to change, and problems of weakness, doubt, and failure:
I'm tired of being me, and I don't like what I see, I'm not who I appear to be So I start off every day, down on my knees I will pray, for a change in any way But as the day goes by, I live through another lie, if it's any wonder why Am I ever gonna change? Will I always stay the same? If I say one thing then I do the other, it's the same old song that goes on forever. Am I ever going to change? I'm the only one to blame. When I think I'm right I wind up wrong It's a futile fight, gone on too long. Please tell me if it's true, am I too old to start anew, cause that's what I want to do But time and time again, when I think I can, I fall short in the end So why do I even try, Will it matter when I die, Can anyone hear my cry? Am I ever gonna change? Take it day by day. My will is weak and my flesh too strong This Peace I seek til Thy kingdom comes.
Then there’s a Priest reading some Latin text that sounds like part of a Catholic Mass or something, but I haven’t yet been able to find or figure out what exactly is being said… then they blast back into the chorus with the orchestra again… then the music fades out…
III. Who Cares?. This is the best song on the album, and one of the best songs ever created, in my opinion. It begins with a simple piano melody being repeated. As it continues, we hear what sounds like whispering or something in the background… the whispering starts to get louder, but then is overtaken by the entrance of some shrieking violins… then the entire thing explodes with a full orchestra, then all is hushed again, and back to the piano, as the singer directs his song straight to Jesus:
Tell me, Jesus, are you angry? One more sheep has, just gone astray A hardening of hearts, turning to stone Wandering off, so far from home So many children, losing time Walk in darkness, looking for a sign Chasing their rainbows, the future looks so bright Slowly we're losing, Sight of the light.
This is followed by the chorus: “Who Cares? repeated over and over again… then back to a soft verse, then a just plain beautiful guitar solo. Nothing uber complicated, but just perfectly flowing with the tone of the song. After the solo, we get the orchestra kicking in again, and the next verse is sung/screamed:
Here I am, a naked man Nothing to hide with empty hands Remember me, I am the one Who lost his way, your Prodigal Son
With all masks dropped and walls broken down, he presents himself as he is and begs for God. With the final words of the verse sung, the piano and gentle strings return, and a peaceful melody plays through, and gains momentum, and again explodes into what is hands down the most beautiful section of this song, and the album. The melody from Who Cares is mixed with the Chorus from Am I Ever Gonna Change, and in the background the chorus of Rise ‘N Shine is sung, blended together perfectly. As they reach the end, the music abruptly stops, and we return to the music box from the start of Rise ‘N Shine, only we now recognize the melody it’s playing as the chorus to Who Cares.
Quite frankly, I think this is the most beautiful album I’ve ever experienced. I may listen to others more, but I have seen no other full album that holds together as a unit, and tells as compelling a story as Extreme’s III Sides to Every Story.