Citizen know how to make good music. “Control” from their As You Please album (released 6th October via Run For Cover Records) is one example of the band’s prowess, and is also our Track Of The Day.
Eighth on the album, “Control” starts simply enough with a droning hum and an easy and engaging beat. It’s when the vocals and guitars join in that “Control” begins to feel heavier emotionally.
Now that we have the lyrics to As You Please, it’s clear that “Control” throws lyrical barbs that seem to be the product of frustration, or maybe just raw honesty which shatters an illusion. “Control” is ambiguous lyrically like much of As You Please, with the guys of Citizen being quoted as wanting listeners to make their own interpretation.
“I’m your toy when things get shallow
It swallows everyone”
Some of the lyrics of “Control” have me think it could be an observation of the listener-musician relationship, the first verse in particular. When it comes to music, the listener is in control. They are the ones that spend the money and buy or stream the music. Whether a musician ‘makes it’ or not comes down to the listener’s interactions with their creation.
But that control that the listener has could also lead for creative limitations based on their expectations. The “Hands held under the thorns” lyric could indication a sense of being bound to them. The expectations and pressure of that in terms of selling music or making it as an artist could prevent the musician from expressing themselves how they are naturally drawn to. Another lyric “Keep you proud and me unknown” could express the ongoing admiration (pride) of the listener toward ‘their band’ keeping to the expected sound, not branching into a new sound they’d prefer to, which renders their truth irrelevant and them unknown. ‘They’ cease to exist when the listener seeks something that isn’t who they are anymore.
Regardless of whether Citizen are referring to that dynamic or not, “Control” seems to express a love-hate relationship with the way things currently are. It’s a frustrated capture of outward appearances that seem pointless, and the silent agreement of how to be, while something else more damaging exists in reality (“Well, it is never clean behind the film we’re staring at”).
“Control” is a huge track, and the emotion of the relationship is brilliantly expressed along with an ache and fire. After the massiveness of the choruses, the gentle guitar close of the track feels like a surrender; submitting to the dynamic, as limiting as it is.
What’s your understanding of “Control”?