When it comes to the appeal of pop music or any of its affiliated sub-genres, the element that quite often affects and determines the ultimate strength of its musical allure, is the main chorus. A brief but impactful unification of memorable and singable notes with captivating rhythmic pull, keeps music bearing this songwriting approach feeling fresh and full of ample replay value. In fact, these qualities are so powerful that they allow the music itself to keep to a relatively tight knit tone span and avoid too much melodic unpredictability. A bit ironic then that Dunfermline, Scotland alternative pop-rock quintet, Dancing on Tables, would craft a new song about the frenetic unknowns, emotional instability, and collective unpredictability of a fractured relationship using this classic pop song structure, and manage to have those sentiments be conveyed with such palpable resonance.
Dancing on Tables is:
Robbie McSkimming (Lead Vocals, Keyboard)
Callum Thomas (Lead Vocals, Guitar)
Hamish Finlayson (Guitar)
Gregor Stobie (Bass, Backing Vocals)
Reece Dobbin (Drums)
Titled “How Do I Get Back To Her?”, Dancing On Tables’ newest single does follow the tried-and-true “verse, pre-chorus, chorus” format of pop songwriting (with notable dedication given to the aspect of melodic minimalism in both the verses and the chorus). That said, the melodic and rhythmic dimensions of this track –– especially the chorus itself –– shouldn’t be written off as having minimal influence on the emotional weight of the song. This assertion might seem contradictory based on the strongly function-oriented power of the pop song format and its widely applicable nature. However, for “How Do I Get Back to Her?” decisions revolving around elements like tempo, key, and melodic direction, build up a backdrop for its otherwise despondent lyrics’ that is simultaneously a strong support and a communicative tool capable of standing on its own.
One of the lesser appreciated and more clever qualities that the pop format used for “How Do I Get Back To Her?” greatly benefits from, especially the song’s melodic flow, is the connection that Dancing on Tables makes sure to draw between the state of being for the central figure of the song’s narrative and the small but nonetheless definitive direction of the melody and corresponding chords cradling the otherwise despondent lyrics. Much of the music moves within the range of single half steps at a time, evident right at the start, with the first three notes being a set of tones that descend in a straightforward stepwise fashion. In drawing a parallel line between the downtrodden emotional state of the song’s protagonist and the downward motion of the supporting melodic framework, the two elements of the song can work together to enhance their corresponding emotional impressions. Conversely, if reflecting on either element independently, each can give the same emotional picture without the other. This subtle musical nod to emotional intent is reflected in a few places in “How Do I Get Back to Her?,” beyond the opening verse. In the verse below, the words in the second line, You told me when you got up and left my life, align quite precisely, with the up and down vacillations of the main vocal melody, particularly where the words “up” and “left my life.” Furthermore, the song imparts an extra feeling of punctuation with the band alternating between prominent quasi solo vocals and the band mirroring the first two notes of every other lyric line in the verses, almost like a sonic bolding or underlining of those words.
Don’t be the type that thinks they’re always right
You told me when you got up and left my life
Time’s passed but no matter what I just can’t move on
I’m last in a race I thought I’d already won
– Lyrics from “How Do I Get Back to Her?”
Of course, step back from examining the nitty gritty crevices of Dancing on Tables’ latest song and its solid execution as a whole musical idea is still easily heard and felt from the first few bars: The bright, smooth, and clean timbre of the band’s two guitars and bass; the crisp but snug layering of the closely harmonizing vocals in the chorus; the polished and punchy tone on the hits to the kick, snare, and splash cymbals; all of these choices work in service of making the pop-style foundation really stick in listener’s minds, while also satisfying the classic bite and drive that accompanies familiar rock band instrumentation, as opposed to the more recent favoring of softer, rounded synth tones, and loose layers of reverb used for more electronic-oriented songs that have permeated much of the mainstream pop landscape.
All in all, “How Do I Get Back to Her?” conveys the fraught nature of a fresh breakup but does so with an uplifting melodic cushion, rather than embracing the more unsettling instrument or vocal timbres and more depressive tonality that adds an emo label to the foundations of pop song. On the one hand, this sounds like a simple case of sadness coated in glitter but a perhaps more substantial way to look at this pairing is with a more piecemeal eye: With the title of the song asking a question that posits the possibility of redemption and repair rather than a more acceptance-oriented question like “What went wrong?” or “Why did you leave me?” it seems fitting that the music give the listener a reason to get up and dance and feel like smiling in the face of a loss, because the main character of Dancing on Tables’ new story is showing and telling that they haven’t given up on the chance for a reconnection.
Colour in the Grey will be released on 14 October 2022, via Enci Records.
Keep up with Dancing on Tables through its official website and these social media platforms: