Singled Out: Tarmac Adam (Crowded House)
"Chalk On Slate" is a journey song, replete with metaphors about choices, opportunities and forks in the road. The title alludes to the "old-fashioned" method of writing on a blackboard. The idea of keeping a record by writing down your life story as you go appealed to me. The circus mentioned in verse one offers us the opportunity to escape, to experience the freedom of a transient lifestyle. It's counterbalanced by the image of the trapeze with its inherent risk and danger. The illusion of being in control is also touched upon - someone or something else driving the car, holding the wheel as you venture forward.
A lot of the imagery in the lyric is driven by its rhymes, giving the song a sense of momentum. I like the abstract imagery they create, allowing much of the meaning to be left to the imagination of the listener.
"Chalk On Slate" had been around for a while in various versions before it was re-invented for the new Tarmac Adam record, The History Effect. Its sense of buoyancy sat well with the energy of the other tracks, and it seemed to fit perfectly with the overall themes of the album. It's like an introduction; the beginning of the album journey. The car is packed, seat belt is on; turn the ignition, engine ticks over; a tank of gasoline, and off we go.
The sounds you hear in the song include a chordmaster keyboard - an old electric accordion-like instrument. This is paired with a ukulele to set up the song in the intro. An electric rhythm guitar kicks in at the first chorus and drives the song to the end, referencing Blur's Coffee and TV guitar style.
The song layers instrumental and vocal parts over each other. Backing vocals pay homage to The Beach Boys with their "ba-bas". The drum rhythm is insistent, and Nick Seymour's walking bass line drives the song towards the horizon.
"Chalk On Slate" has a whimsical lyric vibe matched with a toe-tapping groove that's unashamedly indie pop.
Hearing is believing. Now that you know the story behind the song, listen for yourself and learn more about the album right here!