There are a lot of threes in rock and roll. There are lots of groovy three-piece bands, like the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Cream, and Emerson, Lake & Palmer. There are lots of wonderful triple albums, including the original Woodstock soundtrack, Joanna Newsom’s Have One on Me, and Tom Waits’ Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards. More recently, some artists such as Rosie Flores have begun streaming weekly three-song sets. Flores’s show is called “3s a Charm” and can be heard every Wednesday evening at 6:30 CDT.
The Bird and the Bee’s Inara George has gotten into the act recently. She’s released what she calls “a bundle of new songs” titled The Youth of Angst that consists of three separate tracks: “Sex in Cars”, “Brother”, and “1973”. George said of these songs, “I wanted to write from the perspective of my younger self, but also with the idea that I could never actually have that perspective again.” That’s a bit of a contradiction, but George finds the present situation a tough place from which to view the world with fresh imagination. She looks back as a way of seeing forward, albeit with a sense of worry.
After all, the trilogy is called The Youth of Angst and captures the anxiety of someone who knows where her life is headed and maybe doesn’t want to go there. For example, she penned “1973” for a friend who lost a child, and the song honors the dead son, his mother, and the relationship between George and her friend. There are coy references to taking acid and Ecstasy, shared secrets, and “things that can never be known” while a string section plays formally in the background. There is a sense of calm in the center of sorrow.
George offers a love song to her “Brother” because of his friendship and loyalty. The lyrics recall the past when she was small rather than being expressed by the kid she was. As such, George sings knowing time has moved on. There’s a slashing guitar lick that moves things forward as we hear about the one who will always be there.
George wrote “Sex in Cars” at the behest of creative artist Terry Allen who asked her to be part of an art installation for the Contemporary Austin art museum. It’s more whimsical than the other two tracks and treats the topic as a source of obsessive pleasure. Who needs a place when one can pull over to the side of the road and do it anytime, anywhere? George recorded several different versions of this track with Wendy Wang (who produced the other two cuts), but George ended up using the original demo that she first sent Allen. That gives the song a pure vibe, a more innocent tone despite the topic at hand. She’s just a girl in love with making love in an automobile (“You don’t have to start it up to go real far”) with her special one.
The Youth of Angst is the first in a planned series of bundled releases. It’s kind of an odd duck, somewhere between a single and an EP. George is using the power of three as a way of dealing with the depressingly weird situation in which we currently live. We no longer live in the age of anxiety, and the 45-year-old George is no longer a youth. That doesn’t mean she can’t use her past to create in the present moment.