Here’s a clip of Americana-Indie outfit and songwriting vehicle for Mark Oliver Everett (AKA ‘E’) Eels, with their 2005 song “Railroad Man” as taken from the album Blinking Lights And Other Revelations.
Trains and railroads are singular metaphors in rock n roll, and in the traditions that feed rock n roll. Usually, they refer to the passing of time, and ultimately of the inevitability of death. Yet, when Johnny B. Goode was learning guitar, he played beside the railroad tracks, ‘strumming to the rhythm that the drivers made’. Maybe this is where the music sits in the grand scheme of things, at least where the metaphor is concerned. Maybe getting in tune with the rhythm of one’s life, whatever that rhythm is, holds the key to it as well. And if Johnny B. Goode can figure it out, why not the rest of us?
Mark Oliver Everett understands this very well, having written this tune which is about taking your time while on the line, walking along the tracks at your own pace. Yet still in this song, there is a sense that the way the tracks lead may not be suited for a vintage train, one that is not in such a hurry. This is a pretty easy connection to make, especially in changing times when life is getting faster and faster, seemingly with every passing day. Yet, ultimately I think this is a song about hope as much as it may be counted among the songs about getting older.
And i know i can walk along the tracks
It may take a little longer but I’ll know
How to find my way back
This is a statement about self-sufficiency, about not letting the world set the pace, but rather about setting one’s own place, and letting the world react however it will.
For me, E is like Beck for the more introspective listener, and certainly one of the most eloquent songwriters working today.
For more information about Eels and Mark Oliver Everett, check out the Eels official website.