You Never Know is a mashup of a lot of different things I like: the mysterious phone calls, episodic amnesia, and midnight rendezous of B-movie noir; the creepy and sometimes paranormal storytelling of Nick Cave and Tom Waits; abandoned things, especially theaters; mysterious women (who breathe loudly into the phone); the list goes on. Oh yeah - Meta-detective? Watch I (Heart) Huckabees and you'll see where that came from.
One of the most gratifying parts of being in a studio like Tarbox, is that it is actually a studio in the artist sense where band and producer work in a completely collaborative relationship, unlike some studios that can sometimes feel more like a factory where the producer takes on the role of the foreman. (We've fortunately never experienced quite that extreme of a situation on any of our records, but we know of some bands who have.) Take for instance this episode, where we were trying to find the perfect guitar tone for Aaron's rhythm part during the verses of this song. It went something like this:
Us: "How 'bout this?"
Dave: "Hmmm. Nope."
"Perfect. That's the sound."
It never would have occurred to us, but we loved it. And for what it's worth, at any point in the record, we could have tried this:
But I digress.
James even had a hand in the rampant experimentation, fashioning a percussion instrument out of an industrial farming implement. That metallic "gonk" sound you hear in the middle section that replaces the snare drum is actually a blade from a disc plough with a tambourine mounted on top. James may be from New Jersey, but he knows how to strike a chord with us corn-husking Midwesterners.
That instrumental section, in my opinion, is the jewel of the song. I still love listening to it on the album (and I usually hate listening to our albums after about the first month), and I love being enraptured by it every time we play it live. To me, it's a perfect dreamy mixture of Strange Times-era Chameleons, The Joshua Tree, and Disintegration-era Cure.
As for the singin' parts, I always thought it would have been really cool to put an AM radio-style effect on my voice during the verses to give them a little more flavor, but for one reason or another we ran out of time to explore those kinds of possibilities. The half-spoken delivery was somewhat of a nod to The Fall, which makes the song fun to sing live, but half the time I wish I would have come up with something less barky and a little more melodic. Just trying on different hats, you know? (Plus I'd need two more decades of gin and scotch to pull off a halfway believable Mark E. Smith…although for what it's worth, You Never Know is one of two songs on PoV where my memory of tracking it is more than a little foggy, thanks to the plentiful spirits Thursday and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah left behind.)
Also, the chorus was more or less directly inspired by Sly and the Family Stone's song Thank You. Keep that in mind, Trivial Pursuit players.
Enjoy the rest of your Hump Day,
Jonathon Christopher Newby of Brazil