Podington Bear is Chad Crouch, who, in early 2007, committed himself to releasing three songs a week for an entire year, all without the least bit of compensation. By June 2008, he’d gone over the year mark, but had followed through with his commitment, producing 156 songs that were released via his free podcast. To conclude this more-than-year long meditation on electro-pop, Podington Bear released a CD entitled The End. The included contents are seven tracks, each of which deal thematically with “The Seven Notes.” These “Notes” are stages one must go through when facing The End, stages comparable to the Five Stages of Grief proposed by Elizabeth Kübler-Ross in her book On Death and Dying. The Seven Notes of The End are Change, Denial, Bargaining, Fury, Ebullience, Grief, Acceptance. There’s a puzzle in that info, and I’m not going to spoil it.
The packaging I’ve received with my edition of The End includes an annotated break down of The Seven Notes, each stage described in about three or four declarative statements. For this review, I’ll do my best to catalog the points that seem to best apply to each song:
Change – “Often when the end is near, systems stop working, or they try to transfer their functions to other systems. What was once harmonious becomes disorder.”
“Change” rises from the primordial silence that is the birth of all music, rising to the heights of precision to create melodies that brim with a harmony like the sun shines off a cumulus cloud. The woodwinds hum and the synthesizer sings, but the piano falters, falls to the ground. Pitter-patter go the keys like raindrops, and the final storm cloud starts its brewing.
Denial – “Denial comes and goes in many shapes and sizes. It’s not unusual to say last goodbyes one day, only to make plans for the distant future the next.”
“Denial” is absorbed in the gloom taking shape before our ears, but seemingly to spite the dark cellos and dull tones, a keyboard comes trotting along on high notes. The light-footed melody sings its song and carries us along, down a yellow brick road without a crack in the mortar; although every so often, the thunder rumbles, and its all just an illusion.
Bargaining – “A bargain often involves a change in behavior in exchange for more time.”
In longer electronic songs that lack the intonation of singer’s voice, artists tend to change the preeminent melody of the song in a fairly regular fashion. Each tune is allowed to play through its life at least twice in repetition before the change is made. “Bargaining” shows us how silly we are to think the music actually moving on with the progression of melody, a change in behavior. The end is steadily approaching, but all we have is the illusion of movement.
Fury – “Fury is an outlet for the anguish of the end…It may take a while before we are capable of expressing fury in the face of the end.”
We move past the illusions, and everything stops. It hasn’t been this quiet since the start of it all, the chaotic and primeval nothing. The music rises once again, a steady triumph come to conquer all the silence. In four minutes’ time, we’re at the summit of our powers and nothing can take us down. Our end shall never come. “Fury” is eternal.
Ebullience – “Ebullient is Latin for ‘boiling up.’ Thus when we feel ebullient we feel lifted as if keenly aware that we are elementally in transition. Metaphorically speaking, as water becoming gas.”
The xylophones climb the scales. The seven trumpets sound the never ending reign of “Ebullience.” We are neither beginning nor the end. We are the middle, a joyous middle.
But ebullience passes. The ebb and flow of time has chosen to leave us destitute.
Grief – “…grief is not all sadness. Think of grief as a chord: a note of sadness, a note of peace, and a note of mourning all entwined.”
Washed up. We stand to hear the tide roll in and out. With the water comes light traces of a life we once led, hearing lighter xylophones and crashing cymbals, reminding us. We trod along the shore with our footsteps following close behind. They last a span of a few paces, and then they’re washed away. Waves dive inside their craters and take them out to sea. They’re gone. Their end has come.
Acceptance – “Acceptance is not defeat or submission. It is a time of calm and inevitability.”
The rhythm moves in the steady pace of seconds. The music is keeping time like a clock. We stare it in the face. We look at it tick, tranquil. The end is coming. We know that.
This is the end.