Writer: Wright, Ian
Genre(s): Electronica Pop, Progressive Pop
Oftentimes, albums revolve around one specific concept. Whether it be the loss of a family member like in Kanye West’s 808s & Heartbreaks, or the apocalypse with King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard’s Infest the Rat’s Nest. One of my favourite “concept albums” is Sweet Trip’s You Will Never Know Why. Sweet Trip’s third album paints a beautiful picture of sheer heartbreak, and the acceptance that must come after that.
You WIll Never Know Why can be split into two halves thematically. The first half tells the story of a doomed relationship, and the second half describes the aftermath.
You Will Never Know Why opens on “Conservation of Two” with a driving, punchy bass line, popping synths, and soft arpeggiated guitar. While this song is sparse and abstract when it comes to lyrical content, one line stands out in particular; “He will never know why”. This theme of not understanding carries through the first “section” of the album as “Conservation of Two” fades from rippling synth into the second song, “Air Supply”.
Air Supply immediately grabs the listener’s attention with an ascending synth line straight out of the ‘80s that evokes imagery of a sleek spaceship powering on. As the drum machine begins to lay down its highly textured beat, a melancholic yet passionate chord progression enters the scene. “Air Supply” tells the story of two partners who, despite a clear lack of happiness in their relationship, pretend to love each other. As is hinted at by the song’s title, this charade is utterly suffocating for both parties.
As with “Air Supply” the next song, “Forever”, starts off mellow with simple arpeggiated guitars and a soft synth line. All of a sudden a dramatic ascending and crashing synth line takes hold, and the aftermath of “Air Supply” is described. One partner enters a depressive state. They were led on by this cold and calculating person, and they loved them for it. Days turn into weeks as the partner “[sleeps their] days away”.
From Forever, the album transitions into the “meat” of its material with “Acting”. Before delving into the story of “Acting”, it cannot be overstated how engaging the music of this track is. Continuing the theme of soft starts, Acting opens with some curious bass and synth, however quickly transitions into a frantic, exciting blend of progressive rock, psychedelia, and electronica. The instrumentals make one think of what it might feel like to have a lucid fever dream, yet it remains incredibly accessible to listeners unfamiliar with stranger genres. This song is the climax of the story of the heartbroken lover. They realize that though they are distraught, they are not to blame. Their partner “once had a chance to make things right” and squandered it. In the process of breaking up, their ex also broke all of their friends hearts, and is now alone.
Next on the album comes “Milk”. “Milk” is the turning point on the album, from an absolute emotional low, to a newfound peace. “Milk” is an acoustic ballad, composed of stunning female vocals, swirling guitar chords, and gentle percussion. This song emulates the feelings of peace, acceptance, and moving on in a way that words simply cannot describe. This is the point at which the protagonist in this story comes to terms with the fact that though they are in pain, their partner is the one “hoping to find [the protagonist] awake on [their] lonely bed”. The partner acknowledges that this relationship will drift away into the past, and wishes nothing but the best to their ex.
Sweet Trip in 2019
It is important to point out that while this album is spectacular, it runs into an issue that many albums of its era also suffer from, that being it feels padded at points. While tracks 7-10 are certainly great songs, in the context of the album they aren’t strictly necessary. As such the next important song to talk about is “Pretending”.
“Pretending” is the first point in the album where the song starts off in a truly upbeat way. It’s the kind of music that would play during the montage of a newly single person “getting their groove back”, in the best way possible. It is a joyful track about how “we all have our due time”, and how we can’t squander the precious time we are given. It is about “[clearing] your mind from the past” and “chasing your dream”. The protagonist is realising that though their past was truly awful, there is no point in dwelling on it; all that does is waste time that could be used for better moments.
As the album begins to wrap up, “Pretending” moves into “Misfortunes are Cruel”. This song also embodies the sound of optimism through lively synths and some energetic drumming. This track is half of the message the partner would like to say to their ex. They want their ex to know that there is “no one to blame but [them]”, and that the emotional toll they put them through was truly cruel.
The second half of the message the protagonist wants to get across is one of acceptance, in the form of “Your World is Eternally Complete”. It tries to convey to the ex through poetic language that they need to face their demons and move on with their life. It reflects on the story told in “Air Supply”, and how though their relationship was benefitting no one, it was the ex trying to fill a gap in their heart. The song closes out with belting, choir-like vocals, emphasizing the feeling that the protagonist has fully let go of their anger and sorrow, and is finally happy.
You Will Never Know Why generally gets overlooked when it comes to late 2000s albums, and that is quite a shame. Sweet Trip managed to tell a beautiful and relatable story in a package that is both easily accessible while having the musical density to interest those who have heard almost everything to hear.