Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Take it whichever way you will: after an extended spell of separation from acquaintances of varying degrees, in many cases the only thing I could think about on my return was their flaws. This isn't how it's supposed to work, you know; it suggests either a remarkably deep-seated sense of individualism, or remarkably bad luck in forming a broad social circle. Neither possibility is pleasant. My unease reached its peak when I realized that I was after amalgamation: I wanted to take every desirable quality I saw in each of them, and use that to forge the perfect friend. Among other things, this mythic being would share all my tastes, my sensibilities, and have the sense to know when to stop talking.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

One of the more impressive pairs in recent memory, and a reminder of the mysterious power of popular song.

1) The Triffids, "Wide Open Road". There have been many instances when a song I've gone on to consider great is, on first listen, greeted with apathy by my ears. In recent memory, I can't recall a mistake of similar magnitude as with this track. My first listen many years ago didn't leave much of an impression, except me thinking that the title evoked a rather nice image. But now, as with a few other songs that have featured in this series of mine, I think it's justified to call it perfect. Infused in spirit with all the vast mystery of the great Southern land, but remarkably also a moving metaphor for the most universal of all feelings, longing. And of course there's the organ, which is what lets us discover these things in the first place.

2) The Triffids, "Tender is the Night". The fact that Born Sandy ends with a ray of hope suggests the band has soul, which is a rare thing for music of any time period. Hope infused with some sadness, mind you, but that makes it all the more convincing. The standard of the lyrics is something else: poetically subtle when it's called for, and tenderly simple when it isn't. As I mentioned when discussing "As Long As That", tracks like this remind me of my perennial dream of turning a songwriter.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Shelve your western plans

I stumbled to the phone as it disrupted my stupor, with my mind still trapped in dreams. Try as I might, on lifting the receiver I found my mouth simply unable to conduct language. After some awkward fumbling, I somehow managed to convey to him my disinterest, which apparently caught him off guard. But he only needed a second to fire a painful retort, one which would have been unimaginable in the place my heart calls home, but my body no longer recognizes. Thus shaken out of sleep, and caught in this state of weakness, my only thought was that I cannot survive a lifetime in this country.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

A time for looking at tunes of songs past, I suppose.

1) Lou Reed, "Last Great American Whale". My current perception of what it means for an album to be good is strongly rooted in the hope that I can listen to it in a year or two, without looking back at the songs as being merely appropriate for a particular time in my life. I'm glad to report that at its one year anniversary, Reed's New York passes the test. It's hard to say why Reed's poetic impulses are so compelling when he filters them through his dirty realism (for lack of a better phrase). But the words seem to have that ability of all great lyrics, of coming to you years into the future and forcing you to pause and reflect, without necessarily knowing why.

2) Lou Reed, "My House". The Blue Mask has passed the above test year after year, but only recently have I begun to fully appreciate how important it is. The opening track sets a reflective tone that is very uncommon for rock music: when trying to recollect my feelings on first hearing this song, I realized that it's no wonder I used to be obsessed with this type of music! Even after all this time, I have to say that it's Reed's finest (near) spoken-word song; and mind you, that's a category with some stiff competition (see #1!). Popular song is a remarkable medium to allow something like this to exist and feel natural.

3) Bruce Springsteen, "The Promised Land". Six years ago, I was initially hooked by the harmonica line on this song. Six years later, it sounds as good as ever when it cuts through at the beginning. Yet, the song's place in my emotional history is cemented by the words: their passionate frustration is a perfect response to the music, and they convey a very genuine desire to do away with the forces keep a dream in chains. Remarkably, the hyperbolic praise I had for the album way back when now seems nothing more than perfectly apt.