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This tune is pretty confusing, which is great. I really wanted to learn it, but I had a hard time counting it and nailing down some of the weirder chords, so I bought an official (?!) score. Unfortunately, in the ‘grand’ tradition of the ...And Justice For All transcription book, it just made things more difficult. The score is unnecessarily complex (the meter changes every single bar) and wrong (mislabeled chords). As a result, the simple structure and true weirdness of the song are obscured.
For the purposes of analysis, critique, and just learning the song correctly, my transcription — which is essentially a correction of the one from Musicnotes — is below. If you want to see how confusing the Musicnotes version is, you can buy it or look at the preview on their site.
Harmonically, it’s a weird tune. Steve Reich says it’s in F Minor, even though there’s no Fm chord in the song, on the basis that the chorus vocal begins F — C — F. But it lands so hard and repeatedly on C, that I can’t hear anything but C as the tonic, oscillating between C Major and C Phrygian.
I think this song is not really modal or key-based. I think of it as being fundamentally about harmonic, rhythmic, and psychological instability — the harmony as glitchy as the computer-processed vocals, reflecting the anxiety of ambiguity. The odd meter, accents not falling on the beat, unstable chords being held and then moving up rather than resolving down. Phrases cross bar lines, even section lines.
Harmonically it alternates between C Major and C Phrygian, with brief pseudo-cadences suggesting F. It happens fast at the end of the 2nd verse, but you can hear and interpret Cm7/E♭ — Gdim — F7 — C as a kind of ‘double-pseudo-cadence’: a Phrygian i — v°, and then a Mixolydian I7 — V. I don’t know if that’s really a thing. Probably not.
Probably the best thing to do is to just look at the changes, and let them stand for themselves, without overthinking it:
They’re incredibly dark, but I find them beautiful. Adding the minor 7 to Cm7/E♭ supports the vocal in the verse, but is left out of the chorus, keeping it plain and strong. The D♭maj7♭5, an altered secondary dominant (which to my ears strengthens the idea that C is the tonic), just floats there grimly. It’s not a passing chord like the Gdim.
If the D♭maj7 — C change in the verse had a ♭5 as it does in the chorus, we could be more certain that C Major was the intended tonic. But, no; it’s a stable chord, entirely in-key for A♭/C Phrygian.
The voicing of the E♭add9 is so tight as to be almost claustrophobic. Maybe my ear is warped by growing up on this, King Crimson, and Godflesh, but I really like that sound. Stacked whole steps speak to me.
Anyway, I hope you find this score easy to use and understand! Have fun and keep two harmonic colors in your head at all times.