Glenn Smyth – A Sense of Freedom EP

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I love albums that delve into deeper truths. If a group of songs with an established theme can cause me to stop and think, then I love it even more. Whenever we break out of our pre-established mindsets, we discover more about ourselves and the life we’re living. For example, do we truly know what freedom is? It’s a question that has been thrown around a lot during the past centuries, but I have never heard a better answer than the one presented by Glenn Smyth’s new EP, “A Sense of Freedom.”

Based in the UK, Birmingham’s Glenn Smyth lived out a portion of his youth playing soccer for the Derby County professional football league. At least, he did until an accident that nearly ended his career. When Smyth fractured his fibula and tibia, he didn’t have a lot to do. That was the moment he began teaching himself the guitar, although his musical career didn’t truly begin until after he got into some trouble with the local law enforcement. He was a misguided rebel but when he started playing the guitar again, he found a way to release his emotions in a much more positive way. He loved song-writing and wrote darker songs discussing the problems in our society. His personal style formed during his time with the bands Escobar and Evil Alien, and once he got together with Dave McCabe, an artist he had collaborated with several times before, and producer Owen Morris, a man whose music influenced Smyth in his youth, Smyth was on his way to putting the five songs together that created this astounding EP, released on August 19th

When I first listened to Smyth’s songs, I had trouble understanding the lyrics. The instrumentals are a mix of alternative rock and techno, creating many interesting, yet artificial sounds that can drown out Smyth’s vocals. However, I continued to play the tracks repeatedly, and eventually, I discovered that each song has to do with a different aspect involving freedom. There’s actually a bigger twist later on, but for now, I wanted to discuss the messages behind each of the tracks.

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The EP opens with “Lost and Found,” a song that immediately alerted me to Smyth’s style. As I said before, there are so many interesting sounds, but the guitar strums and drum beats all sound somewhat fake, as if they’ve been drained of their life force. This is fitting, as the song opens with the narrator surrounded in darkness. He’s at the point where he has lost all hope, until he suddenly has gone from lost to found. He has regained his confidence, and even as darkness tries to threaten his newfound hope, he knows that no one can stop him. As the song says, “Nothing’s going to keep him down.” This is the most positive song of the bunch, showing the freedom felt during the good times. When you’ve gotten through a huge struggle, you feel like you can beat anything that comes your way. This song does well to enhance that feeling, making it one of my favorite tracks of the bunch.

Now, I had previously assumed this album would be a positive one, with a concept like freedom and the previous track. “An Eagle Flies Alone” was the just the first to prove me wrong. The  mix of alternative rock and techno seemed to have been injected with an old western film’s soundtrack. My head became filled with images of cowboys riding across a long, barren desert. Flying overhead is a lone eagle, majestically flapping its powerful wings while the cowboys watch in wonder. I remember hearing the word pride thrown around, which lead my thoughts to the idealistic United States.

As I delved into the next few songs, I noticed they became much darker and somber than the previous two. For example, the third song, “Dead to the World,” has lower-pitched instrumentals that emanate the narrator’s feelings of anguish. He sings about how the world sees him as deceased, how he’s always been destined to be alone. At first glance, it doesn’t seem like there’s freedom here, but maybe it’s the freedom of not having to live up to the world’s expectations, to not have to worry about social interactions and the daily requirements of life. Because he’s alone, he doesn’t have to follow anyone’s feelings except his own. His differences make him seem dead to everyone else, but perhaps he’s alive in his own way.

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The fourth song is called “What Have I Done To Deserve This?” It’s a song quite similar to “Dead to the World,” at least when it comes to somber feelings. This one is higher-pitched than the last song, though this pitch and its slow tempo remind me of a funeral march. Its lyrics are difficult to decipher at the beginning, with the narrator sounding like he’s moaning and groaning. He gets clearer as the song goes, lamenting over choosing the wrong path. He’s stuck in a rut and he wonders what he did to bring on such turmoil. This song has to do with the consequences of freedom. Since we have free will and the ability to make our own choices, we can be restricted by them, especially when we choose unwisely. One choice can ruin the rest of our lives if we let it.

Finally, we reach the last song, “Nobody Knows,” and here’s where the twist I talked about earlier appears. It starts out slow and steady, with a beat that reminds me of tiptoeing. The music sounds like it’s sneaking up on someone with sinister motives. The narrator sings about people’s selfishness and asks where we’re going from here. He claims that nobody knows or cares, because all they think about is themselves. Nothing else matters because everyone is the center of their own universe. It gets to the point where they don’t even consider what will happen when they die, or afterward.

Towards the end of the song, the tempo picks up quite a bit, the narrator spending the rest of the song repeating the same lyrics: “A sense of freedom/Is all we have/Lust and greed/Turn good so bad.”  This is the EP’s twist, as well as the main message Smyth is attempting to convey, telling us that we don’t know what freedom really is. We only have a general idea of it, but we will never obtain it if we continue to be corrupted by our own desires. As well, the desires of those who rule often restrict the freedom of the people under them, stealing away freedom from everyone but themselves. After all, as long as they get their way, that’s all that matters, right?

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I mentioned how eye-opening it was to listen to this EP. Not everyone realizes we’ve never had true freedom. However, when I think about the message in the final song, how true freedom involves everyone having their own way, I’m not sure if I want it. I’ve always been the kind of person who tries to put others first. Whenever I put my own desires before other people, I ache inside and try to do whatever I can to make it up to the ones I’ve hurt. Maybe we’ll never have true freedom the way we define it now, but perhaps we can find freedom from selfishness, putting the needs of others before ourselves.

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