avengers music: alt-j’s left hand free

before moving on to thor: ragnarok, the newest movie featuring a bunch of the avengers, let’s look back. the last time a bunch of avengers were together in a movie they were fighting each other in last year’s captain america: civil war. spoiler alert: by the end of the movie they reconcile (get back together) and alt-j‘s cool cut left hand free plays as the closing credits run.

the two opposing sides in the avengers civil war

the teams when the avengers fought each other during civil war

there is some discrepancy about the track’s origin.

but first of all, who is alt-j? their first release, an awesome wave won the 2012 mercury prize, awarded annually to the best album in the uk & ireland. sam richards, in an article at guardian.com, reported that

amid the celebrations, they were keenly aware that their lives had just changed forever…….one of the words alt-j used to describe their mercury prize win was “traumatic”

amid means in the middle of. keenly is intensely. aware means they understood, they knew it.

thom green, gus unger-hamilton and joe newman of alt-j: they’ve been called out for being boring and geeky. (sarah lee, the guardian)

it might seem strange to talk about trauma after winning an award, but richards justified the band’s reaction, explaining that

the backlash has been harsh, with alt-j routinely called out in the press for being boring and geeky – the “bland band”, as one guardian headline put it.

backlash is a negative reaction. harsh is ruthless, unkind. call out is challenge, criticize. the -ing form being is used because it follows for, a preposition. geeky is like a geek, nerdy, not cool. nowadays it is often used proudly in descriptions or social media profiles, but in the guardian article, it is closer to the insult it was in the 80s. bland means uninteresting. put in this context means say.

a dog with its hackles raised
hackles are the hairs on a dog’s back. they are raised when the doggy feels emotion. (mastersdegreedogtraining.com)

additionally, alt-j’s american label, atlantic, insisted that the band write a hit single for their second album, this is all yours (released) in 2014. the article implied that they were not exactly thrilled (excited) about the idea.

hackles (mildly) raised, alt-j resolved to write “the least alt-j song ever”, taking a “joke riff” joe had been playing in rehearsals and fleshing it out with the most perfunctory chords and rhythm imaginable. whereas the band typically spend weeks agonising over every note, left hand free was written “in about 20 minutes”.

hackles raised means the band was angry. mildly means they were only moderately angry. resolve means they firmly decided to do it. riff is a tune that is repeated throughout the song. rehearsal is practice. flesh out means make more complete, perfunctory indicates they didn’t try very hard. whereas contrasts how alt-j usually writes songs vs their effort on left hand free.

a wedding rehearsal

it’s typical to have a wedding rehearsal the night before the ceremony.

each member of the band gave a comment that reinforced the lack of enthusiasm they had for writing a commercial hit. drummer thom sonny green said

i tried to make the drums as cliched as possible, there’s none of my personality in it.

cliched means unoriginal. vocalist joe newman observed

i can imagine it appealing to american truckers with good riddance to bin laden stickers!

appeal to means they will like it. good riddance is used to express happiness or relief when a person or other object is gone.

i couldn’t find a ‘good riddance to bin laden’ bumper sticker. but there are ‘fuck obama’ bumper stickers all over the internet. (totalfratmove.com)

keyboard player gus unger voiced concern that

someone’s going to walk onstage to it at an nra convention.

the nra is the national rifle association, a group that promotes gun ownership rights. unger worries the nra might try to use their song because the lyrics to left hand free make a few references to guns.

reaction to a catchy song

left hand free has a catchy riff.

despite the band’s reluctance (unwillingness) to intentionally write a popular song, sam richards declared left hand free to be really catchy (audiences like it instantly and can’t get it out of their heads), and a couple days after the interview with the guardian, alt-j tweeted to fans that they weren’t forced to write it and they approve of its success.

contrary is opposite, joy is extreme happiness and please, used as a verb here, means give pleasure to.

and unger echoed these sentiments in an interview with stereogum.com. he said

it was definitely not written in any way for the label, to please the label or to piss the label off, or whatever people have been saying.

piss off means make angry. whatever means any other thing.

hulk pissed off

this is what happens when u piss off bruce banner.

do u agree that left hand free is catchy? do u think their label forced them to write it? share your views under leave a reply




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