Our pasts shape us. We are affected by what we have done, said, heard, read, and watched during our time growing up, so it is the things that shaped us we most cherish or what affected us the most emotionally. Song writers like East Londoner Drew Worthley show this fondness using allusions— references made in writing to movies, famous celebrities, and other media.
His newest album, “Crucible,” makes so many references in his lyrics. Even the title connects to the 1953 Arthur Miller play, “The Crucible,” a tragedy taking place during the Salem witch trials. However, it is more than just specific media Worthley references. Throughout the album, listeners will find many of his songs are similar to retro ‘80s pop songs, as he uses a combination of piano, guitar, trumpets, and other odd instruments like the organ. Meanwhile, his voice is both soothing and entrancing in every track, particularly when combined with his lyrics. It can seem weird at first, but listeners will eventually discover he’s not simply referencing nostalgia, but inserting the emotions created from his past influences.
One interesting song is “John Proctor’s Lament,” which is narrated by the main character from Miller’s play. The song has several lyrics important to the play, like “I’ve given my soul, given my all/Won’t you leave me my name?” The strange thing is while the song is described as a lament, typically a sad song, the rhythm and beat are much lighter and upbeat. With the piano, guitars, and synthesizers, “John Proctor’s Lament” turns into a pop song. It’s odd, but the irony is great and the melody is catchy.
Another track that caught my attention was “Flood of Red,” a slower, sadder-sounding song than “John Proctor’s Lament,” fitting into the Americana genre with its use of guitar, cello, and banjo. The lyrics’ references are interesting as well, especially when you see “I am Indiana Jones with no Short Round to help/And I’m trapped in the Temple of Doom.” I love how he refers to Indiana Jones in this song that seems to be about lost hope. The narrator has lost almost all his hope, and at the end, we see he still has some faith left, though it’s dripping out of him. I found this song both weird and entertaining with its usage of the folk guitar before trumpets make it quite dramatic. You can tell Worthley is emotionally involved with this song until the end. You can feel he was once hopeless, but he is still pushing on.
Finally, “Bone China Savior” is the epitome of strange, retro ‘80s pop music. Listeners find lines like “Che Guevara is on my coaster,” and “Jesus is on my teacup,” both strange images themselves. However, with the mixture of odd lines and piano, this song is perfect for its matching music video. Scenes from old commercials and cartoons are edited to fit the vocals, making a truly enjoyable and intriguing piece of art.
These are not songs you normally hear today, but the nostalgic factor works well in Worthley’s favor. The references are smart and the writing is poetic. You can really see how Arthur Miller, Indiana Jones, and many past events shaped Worthley’s life and song writing style. His emotions are placed up front and it never feels over-dramatic with him. After all, this is from his past, meaning he perfectly understands the person he is now. I won’t say this album’s for everybody, but everyone should still look it up, even to only find a reference you understand in them.