Listen to this track by Alexisonfire splinter project authored by singer, guitarist and songwriter Dallas Green, working under the moniker City and Colour (an expression of his own name – both city and colour. Geddit?). It’s “Fragile Bird”, a tale of night terrors, love, and helplessness as taken from the 2011 album Little Hell.
The song was released as a single earlier this year on this, Green’s third album under the City and Colour name. And this song is a prime cut on a record released during a year of new starts for him, with this new solo record coming out while his primary band, Alexisonfire was in the throes of a crisis, leading up to their break-up in August. Green had split his time between the two concerns, as his work under the City and Colour soon eclipsed that of his work with Alexisonfire.
“Fragile Bird” is a dark tale, a night song that pits a man against the uncontrollable forces of a fitful sleep, and not his own. This is the unrestful sleep of his wife, wrestling with her own mind while suffering from night terrors while he is forced to watch, helplessly.
This is certainly some dark subject matter. But, what else is at the heart of this song?
Dallas Green had been a songwriter before Alexisonfire formed in the early 2000s. His approach then was a basic “just me and my guitar” vibe. This seemed appropriate to the kinds of things he had been writing. While busy with the band, the songs he’d written with this approach in mind languished, although questions about a solo career seemed to be a way to give life to them.
His first album was comprised of songs he’d written in his teens and early twenties. All the while, Green’s solo career has been bolstered by a selection of Canadian talent backing him up, including Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip. Little Hell is his third record, and now at the center of his artistic concerns amidst the ashes of his former band.
Although Little Hell is not a concept album in any formal way, the title of the album certainly pertains to the narrative unfolding in “Fragile Bird”. It is something of a little hell to see a loved one in crisis, and not be able to really help them in that moment. As such, I think this tune is, at heart, a love song. But, it’s a love song of a very precise variety.
This love is not about gushy feelings of romance, but rather about love being caught in frustration and darkness. It’s a song that communicates a deep and onerous suffering at a time when we are at our most vulnerable – in the middle of the night, when our inner children are most active, and when the things that frighten us seem bigger, more primal, and more real to us. Our love that we have for those close to us are held in relief to that.
That’s the dramatic engine of the song; that if fear separates us, than love draws us in in the face of it.
For more information, check out City and Colour official site.