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"We were playing, and we noticed that as we played, the more comfortable we got," Tony explains. "It felt better to play harder and bigger, and the possibilities of the dynamic range we covered got bigger. So we wanted to try to capture that on the record and found it affected the songwriting."
"Before, I would just write rock songs or quiet songs," Waronker explains. "When we started to love to play rock songs, though, I didn't want to lose the quiet songs, so I started writing around that."
That dog.'s sound now is as beautiful as it is bracing, a flesh-and-blood sound that's as tangible as emotion itself. If Totally Crushed Out is indeed a theme album, bound together by the concept of failed love affairs and the inability to put back together a fragile heart broken into a thousand pieces, then it is also a celebration: Tomorrow is a new day, and there's still hope. And so the songs are cathartic, mean, hopeful, touching, sometimes painful to listen to because they are familiar. It is a record on which girls become women and boys become men, and it draws the line separating a crush from truest love.
Originally, when Waronker set out to write the songs for the band's second album, the farthest thing from her mind was creating a concept album. Rather, it evolved over time, as she began noticing how she would write about only two subjects--"crushes and breakups," she says. And so, rather than shy away from the material, the band decided to embrace it, going with the concept album, from its teenage romance novel cover to the words and music contained within.
"I originally didn't want to write love songs, and then I didn't have a choice," Waronker says with a slight laugh. "I thought we should make sort of a joke about it. I had five broken hearts at one time. I had a few going at one time."
"She actually has many hearts," Tony adds. "It's very interesting."
"Yeah," Waronker shrugs, "and they're all broken in five different places."
Ultimately, Waronker chose to write the song cycle that makes up Totally Crushed Out because it made her feel better to exorcise the demons of old relationships and love affairs that were never meant to be. For the listener, it serves a very similar function--to hear this record, to step into its songs and assume its characters' hurt and heartbreak, is to feel slightly better because there's someone out there who feels damned awful. In that respect, Totally Crushed Out is the Where Are You? for the modern age, as deep and as sad as any Frank Sinatra concept album best heard in the wee small hours of the morning in the loneliest bar in the world.
"That's why I'm here," Waronker says, "to make other people feel better because I feel worse." And she laughs. "Oh, God.