My Favourite Songs: James – Getting Away With It (All Messed Up)

James – Getting Away With It (All Messed Up) (2001)

from the album “Pleased to Meet You”.


“Yeah, you know, all women seem to like this U2-type arena rock ballads.”
This was the comment made by a cynical friend of mine when I presented this song to him. Well, let me just say, there are plenty wrong with this statement, but the generalization of female versus male taste in music aside, because that’s just ridiculous and especially to me since I have the taste of a 56-year old man (if we were to keep generalizing, that is), is this the archetypical “U2-ballad”?

First off, what is the typical arena rock ballad? Obviously set for large scale-arenas, set to capture a large audience, a bombastic, overdone display of feelings, strings and often a message of companionship, compassion, love, friendship or whatever goody-two-shoes set phrases there are.
Let me also contrast this by saying it’s not necessarily a bad thing.
I happen to like U2, even if it’s not cool to say so these days.
I like these BIG FEELINGS, I like a bit of drama in music. I like Bond themes, for God’s sakes.

I never thought of James as being just a band in the U2-line though they might be teetering on the brink sometimes, as in this song, at a first glance.
But look closer and this song, at least to me, holds a variety of meanings and needs further analyzing than just the band wanting to preach to us.

“Are you aching for the blade?
That’s okay, we’re insured
Are you aching for the grave?
That’s okay, we’re insured

Getting away with it, all messed up
Getting away with it, all messed up
That’s the living”


It’s the living for some people, sure. Some people are just aching for the blade, and in the end, aching for their grave, and their self-destructive life path is just the means to get there as fast as they can. They’re getting away with it, but they’re all messed up.
To me, already in the first lines of the song, I get this image of someone living life at the fullest, or rather, living life too hard. They know it, but they don’t care.
To them, life is just a passing phase, or it’s something they don’t want anymore. They’ve taken the aforementioned line “living life to the fullest” too far, and they’re basically abusing every part of it.

“Daniel’s saving Grace
She’s out in deep water
I hope he’s a good swimmer
Daniel’s saving Grace
Deep inside his temple
He knows how to serve her”


This person’s out in the deep water, for sure, and we’re not sure he or she will survive, so we hope that he or she is a good swimmer, that this person will somehow make it, survive, and realize that they’re headed towards sinking, towards something dark and somehow see the “light”, finding the will to live and survive.
The line “he knows how to serve her” suggests the term “co-dependency”, meaning you’re staying/living with someone in an abusing position, you keep making sacrifices, getting nothing in return, in the vain hope of this person finally coming around.. “to their senses”. It’s a an abusive pattern for both, your self-worth and your estimation of yourself is dependent of this person, or in my personal case, on how well you can save this person from their misery.
If I can save this person, it means I’m good. It means I’m worth something. It means I did something worthwhile, so I can be likeable.
You end up subverting your own needs to please this other partner, and you project your own feelings of inadequacy and helplessness to them.
That’s what Daniel’s doing, I think.
That’s why Grace is his own saving Grace. If he can save her, he can save himself, from himself.

Of course, it’s an impossible situation that very rarely works out, as evident in the last verse of the song:

“Daniel’s saving Grace
She was all but drowning
Now they live like dolphins”
Now they live like dolphins, because they’re both drowning. Daniel can’t help himself, so he can’t help Grace. Grace doesn’t want help, and Grace doesn’t think she needs any.
Or, you can have this other viewpoint; now they live like dolphins because they learnt how to deal with it. Instead of sinking, they’re swimming peacefully.

To me, this song is about pulling yourself up, either by someone or something, that’s worth more than your pain, something that makes your life worth living.
I also see it as a sort of warning of what happens when you get lost in your self-destructiveness.

So, you see, my dear cynical friend, there was more to this song than just the stereotypical arena rocker. At least I think so.


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I love music.

Now, I could be writing one cliché after another.. like how I can't live without music and how I love to discover new kinds of music and toy around with my music library.. and... well, those clichés are all true, so I might as well write them here.

My taste is eclectic and varies from day to day and swings with my mood.. but my main focus is always on the classics of 60's and 70's. Now, I was born in '86 but the music I grew up listening to was the music of decades before.. I think "brainwashed" would be the appropriate term to describe how this came about, as my parents has always made sure that I knew about their influences and what they like.

I don't just love listening to music. I love reading about music, I love finding out about music, and what goes on behind the scenes. I love a really great use of a song in a film. I love making playlists and I love rummaging through other people's record collections and playlists as well.

I might as well come out and say it: I AM A MUSIC NERD, in every way.

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