Ball of Wax 35 Songs: Peter Colclasure – “Cynic”

Peter Colclasure is a former member of the Foghorns whose contribution to Ball of Wax 35 is a surreal kiss-off in waltz time. “Cynic” contrasts Colclasure’s derisive lyrics (“you got yourself seen at all the right places / all the hip parties and happening show”) against a darkly whimsical boardwalk carnival arrangement of strummed guitar, bass and synth strings. The song is marked by odd combinations, like the harsh put-downs sung by Colclasure’s clear, guileless tenor. A creepy monophonic solo (maybe a suitcase organ?) in the middle played atop canned audience laughter and applause sets a bizarre tone of nostalgia and dread. Colclasure scores extra points for having a song that, as an (anti) love song in 3/4 time, works for both volume 34 and volume 35.

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4 Responses to Ball of Wax 35 Songs: Peter Colclasure – “Cynic”

  1. Kat H. says:

    I’ve had some email conversations with my pal Peter regarding this song, and got his permission to share some of his comments here to add to others’ potential understanding of it. My impression, since confirmed, had been that it hadn’t been intended as a creepy, kiss-off, anti-love song.

    About the overall meaning:

    “I like the idea of the cynic in the song being this person (not me but someone like me perhaps) who lives in Seattle and is trying really hard to be a cool hipster, detached and ironic and mirthless, yet gets drawn helplessly into head over heels love despite their best efforts.”

    About the bridge:

    “I guess my instinct with the bridge was to make it sort of melodramatic and tawdry. It’s not making fun of anything, but it’s something that you would want to make fun of. Which is how I feel about the concept of romance generally, at least the Valentine’s Day/rom-com variety of love, where this basic human emotion is treated as a cross between a sugar high and the stomach flu.”

    About the instruments:

    “Every instrument in the piece, with the exception of a bit of guitar plunking, is a mellotron sample. Mellotron strings, bass, guitar, flute, choir voices and that’s it.”

    Lyrics:

    Cynic

    you used to be such a good cynic
    happy endings made you mad
    nobody ever tried harder than you to care less
    so now how embarrassing to be so glad

    you got yourself seen at all the right places
    all the hip parties and happenin’ shows
    but there was an innocence you were ashamed of
    hiding out beneath your fashionable clothes

    I myself have used the word falsely
    but with you the feeling’s true
    this thing which for lack of a word less abused by popular music
    we shall have to call love

    ——–

    Hope that’s of interest to others of you too!

  2. Jon Rooney says:

    ah, mellotron – that makes sense. Thanks Kat for clarifying that and the lyrical intent. I read it in a “Like A Rolling Stone” or “This Year’s Girl” kind of way.

  3. Levi Fuller says:

    Yeah, that last stanza is key. A nice portrait of an unsentimental soul struggling with his own sentiment.

  4. Kat H. says:

    Thanks for your comments, you guys. I’ve gotten permission to share these thoughts too.

    I had the benefit of having known Peter for years, and having conversed with him about that very topic—the challenges of the word and concept “love,” so I had bonus context.

    Another bit of bonus context is that even though he moved to California, he recently flew up to be recorded for the upcoming album by The Foghorns. So while it’s true that he’s a former member of the band, he’s also a still-periodically-visiting-from-afar member . . . much to the delight of those of us who love, shall we say, having him around.

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