Six of One, Half a Dozen of Something Else

Posted: October 30, 2013 in A Little Less Profound
Tags: , , , ,

By Glen

I’ve got a huge and eclectic variety of music from which to choose when I drive.

On longer trips, I hook up the iPod, and choose from one of three playlists. If I’m alone, it’s The Airborne Toxic Event Collection: every recording of every TATE tune in my library. If the kids are with me, it’s a sanitized version of said playlist: everything Airborne, minus the F-bombs. And if I’m really feeling like mixing it up, I may queue up Airborne on E Street: 50% TATE and 50% Bruce, which I trust will short-circuit any accusations that I’m stuck in a musical rut.

For shorter excursions when I’m too lazy to pull out the iPod, I’ve got a wide selection of CDs at my disposal. All the official Airborne releases – deluxe versions, of course. Bombastic: a homemade disc of audio rips of TATE’s acoustic video series. There’s an early live show recording, and a 3-track disc with just the new songs that were released last month, on repeat.

But more often than not, I go with either TATE 1 or TATE 2. These two discs represent the best of the best. Excruciating decisions have been made in the process of culling the Airborne songbook to the 34 choicest cuts. I could easily make a third disc of faves that didn’t quite make the list, but that would defeat the purpose of this exercise. Like I said: best of the best.

My TATE collection includes multiple versions of every song… up to a couple dozen recordings of some oft-played numbers, like “Sometime Around Midnight” and “Timeless.” At the very least, I’ve got a studio and an acoustic version of almost every song.

Oftentimes those duplicate versions are very different, and very difficult to choose between when I update my “Best of TATE” discs. But there’s only one song that appears on both discs, with two versions that are sufficiently unique and sufficiently spectacular to warrant double inclusion.

On the day that All At Once was released, I drew a few snap but abiding conclusions:

1. The title track was immediately one of my favorite songs, ever.

2. The closing track, “The Graveyard Near the House,” had the most beautiful lyrics I’d ever heard.

3. “Half of Something Else” included a vocal delivery that made my hair stand on end.

“The way that you screamed,” the singer roared, tearing open a vein. “The way that you cried,” he wailed in despair. “The way that you’d wipe your eyes and fall against my side.” It would become my ringtone for the better part of a year, and remains a Top 5 Mikel vocal for me, easily.

And yet, for all the emotion conveyed in those few anguished lines, the upbeat arrangement of the song as a whole obscured the pathos of the lyrics. I’m ashamed to say it took far too many listens for me to clue into the fact that, at its heart, “Half of Something Else” is a bittersweet, even tragic tale: a story of regret; a broken person struggling to come to grips with being less than whole.

In fact, it wasn’t until I heard the acoustic version of “Half of Something Else” from the Going the Distance soundtrack that it finally, fully sunk in. And this time, it didn’t require words at all, though there are some minor lyrical differences that drive home the point.

Has there ever been a more wistful sound than Anna’s viola in this rendition? Her instrument sounds positively heartbroken, as though the viola itself is a character in the story. If the recording was nothing but viola, it would still be enough to drive the attentive listener to tears.

But not to be outdone, Mikel delivers what is, for my money, his most emotion-laden vocal to date, somehow outperforming even his primal scream from the AAO album rendition.

The way that you told, told me I was wrong
And the way that you’d sing when you’d hear our song
And the way that you answered when you knew I was gone
Now I know that I’m blind, and that you’re all I see
And I know it’s not clever, but I just want you with me

It’s a broken, crumbling croon, and there’s no more mistaking the intention. The ache transferred straight from his voice to my soul the moment I heard it, transforming my understanding of the song just as quickly.

One song. Two very different experiences. One makes me want to punch the sky in an odd kind of triumph; the other makes me want to curl up in a ball and weep.

Which is better? That’s the beauty of having two discs. Because for me, it really is six of one, half a dozen of something else – and this is without even getting into the wonders of the Bombastic version, voted by TATE fans as their favorite of all of Airborne’s acoustic videos.

Purchase Half of Something Else:

Half of Something Else – All At Once
Half of Something Else – Going the Distance (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

Glen, Fan of The Airborne Toxic Event Glen is the founder and editor of This Is Nowhere. He’s grateful for an understanding wife and kids who indulge his silly compulsion to chase a band all over the Pacific Northwest (and occasionally beyond) every time the opportunity arises.

  1. Susan says:

    By far, this is my favorite TATE song. I love the original with the wailing, which was my ring tone for a long time. 😉


  2. […] as they achieved with a pair of strikingly distinct versions of “Half of Something Else,” TATE succeeds in evoking two very different emotional responses with their two arrangements of […]


  3. […] Bombastic video, with “Half of Something Else” taking top spot in the poll. Though I’ve written elsewhere about my love for that particular song, it didn’t get my vote. In fact, as I thought through my answer, it didn’t even crack […]


  4. […] The Curious Case of The Kids Are Ready to Die (“The Kids Are Ready to Die”) Six of One, Half a Dozen of Something Else (“Half of Something Else”) The Hitchhiking Game (“All I Ever Wanted”) If […]


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