Thursday, December 29, 2011

Spanish Blue

On the train listening to Grant McLennan, recalling the melody the instant before it is sung, passing the green plains and windmills. Nothing happens here. It must be heaven.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Do you remember Ween/Parsons? Funny how I gravitate towards certain genre combinations.

1) Mr. Bungle, "None of Them Knew They Were Robots". I shut the band off totally after cursory listens to tracks off of Disco Volante many years ago. It seemed then to be the kind of weirdness in music that I least appreciate, because there was no core that gave it any meaning. Imagine my surprise on learning that the successor to Volante, California, is one of the strongest albums of the '90s. My first reaction to this fine track was that it must be telling a pretty epic story underneath all the noise and stylistic shifts. My later reaction after sifting through said noise and shifts was confirmation of this hunch.

2) Townes Van Zandt, "Pancho & Lefty". Sometimes one encounters a supposedly classic track and finds it no different to any other track by the artist. While things sometimes settle on that state, other times there is a gradual process where one starts to appreciate the subtlety of the song. With "Pancho", it's probably the understated melody that's easy to lose sight of initially; with it, the words become that much rougher.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

I fixed my gaze to the floor. Words were being spoken so casually. My brain was processing them, but my body was in complete meltdown. I thought that by looking away, maybe it wouldn't be true. But of course that didn't work. I know one often says such things, but sometimes they are true: at that moment, I truly did not know what the point of anything was.

People ask me how I like the country of dreams. I smile politely and express warm satisfaction. Indeed, I've liked it every time I've set foot in it. It's been very kind to me; it's given me so much over the years. But it's also taken away something very important from me, and from the rest of us stranded sailors. I don't hold a grudge, per se, but it's best to just stay clear. There are things I'd rather not think about. I'd rather do my crying at home.

Friday, December 02, 2011

1) The Go-Betweens, "Magic In Here". I recall the same: summer walks by the river, with the soft blue approach of the water, and the nightfall of diamonds evident on the surface. Life can be as peaceful and comfortable as the song suggests.

2) The Go-Betweens, "He Lives My Life". Rachel Worth bears at least one similarity to 16 Lovers Lane: it's pretty difficult to decide if it's Grant or Robert that wins out overall. Generally, when Grant wins it's by sheer lyrical acuity, while Forster uses atmosphere to get mood across. He pins that atmosphere here: like him, I know all too well the sound when that evening Sun goes down, and understand why one would ever want one's counterpart to succeed.

3) Iris DeMent, "You've Done Nothing Wrong". Forster once asked whether it was Guy Clark or Townes Van Zandt who sounded the best in the dark. Iris is simply too good natured to even be in contention for such an award, but some of her sadder songs do get a particular resonance in the late hours; with "Calling For You", you get a pretty sobering take on being kept up with regret, and finding no respite in the morning either.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


I'm not going to try to act smart or funny or anything about this. The equation is quite simple: your presence has an amazingly negative impact on my day. I could tolerate it - I might have tolerated worse, I'm not sure - were it not so pervasive and insistent. I don't want to say who is right or wrong, or even begin to claim that I feel I'm in any sort of position of emotional or spiritual superiority. I just want to say that it is best for my life if things were not the way they are between us, and if my insecurities didn't have to be put to the test every day. Or: please, just go away.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Over the hills

Lingering memories of particularly weak late '70s/early '80s 'Dead efforts kept me from engaging with Robert Hunter's catalogue, beyond just owning one of his CDs as an acknowledgement of his influence over my formative music experiences. It turns out that listening to said CD wasn't such a bad idea after all. Even after so many years, I can remember the mystery and power of his lyrics, how they became enmeshed with my reality. Sitting on my bed as school came to a final close, following the words of Terrapin Station, counting stars by the candlelight, and having a sense that this life had some magic in it: it was an early sign to me that there was something important in whatever this style of music was. It's reassuring to know there's enough left of the old self to find something evocative in the music even today. I would like such profoundly altering experiences to happen again, and I'm sure they will. Just maybe not to me. No matter: I'll take a memory.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Even when I think I've totally pinned someone down as serious, no-nonsense, maybe even gruff, they go and tell me something that reveals a glimmer of a different side to them. It isn't the way they say it, but the fact that it for once places them amongst a type I know very well, and feel very fondly towards. They don't see the incongruity, but that makes their admission seem even sweeter. At that instant I forget all our past encounters, and find myself feeling incredibly charitable towards them. I suppose it's foolish to ever believe you can fully know a person, or the complexity of what goes on in another human heart.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

I've commented at least a couple of times previously that despite owning so many of his albums, I still feel like I haven't the faintest idea what makes Lou Reed tick. I suspect this is a sentiment that will only strengthen with time. (This isn't apropos Lulu specifically, but it is a good example.) I find myself unable to answer the most basic questions about what his music is about, and sometimes unable to assess if at the end of it all, the guy is good or not. It's true that he's come up with some unusual -- sometimes jarring, sometimes humorous -- rhymes and lines, which it's convenient to attribute to his being natural. But that's a potentially oversimplifying judgement, one that could apply to near anyone. What is it that makes the music interesting? What occurs to me is that you get the sense that you are learning something about him when you listen to his albums. And it isn't just that he pours out the complex emotions that broil inside; in the course of an average song, it's as if he's just chatting with you about what's currently on his mind. This simple fact opens many possible points of empathetic connection. Even when the songs are throwaways, they come across as heartfelt by virtue of there being no (indication of) pretense in the writing. And when they're about weighty concepts, the blunt, almost clumsy way he writes about them makes it seem impossible that it's any form of posturing. In sum: he means what he says, and he has things to say. Which is a rarity in any form of art.
1) The Blackeyed Susans, "By Your Hand". I was so sure the first McComb-less album would be basically perfunctory apart from his one contribution; it's how things have panned out historically, all the way from Other Voices. Fortunately, I was proven very wrong, and reminded that there are plenty of fine songwriters around, even if only a few are truly great. All that said, this is still probably the best song on the album, and I suppose a reminder that this is after all one of rock poetry's greats at work. Unquestionably a member of his canon of perfect love songs, with the same ring of truth as "Every Gentle Soul", but in the opposite direction. It's only human nature that when this is playing, one thinks it to be the only direction worth contemplating.
Even as a relatively well-informed individual when it comes to popular music's origins, I take for granted the ease with which styles are meshed and boundaries are erased in today's interpretation of the medium. Basically, nowadays you can record near anything, and you can do the same with listening. Which sounds like, and is for the most part, a great liberty to have, but there is generally something that's lost when boundaries are erased. (See video games for example?) My reading of the earlier days of recording is that the forays into new styles were borne out of a deep reaction to sounds that seemed exotic and simply beyond one's conception of reality at the time. Precisely because of the sheer volume of what's available now, I'd conjecture that such experiences are significantly rarer, unless somehow artificially simulated. Put another way, with the boundaries goes some (though not all, granted) of the mystery. And with the mystery goes some of the visceral kick. It is too early to say whether this phenomenon is actual, not imagined, and whether sheer volume can overcome any deficiencies in the medium, if any. But I have my concerns.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I had an awkward interaction today reminiscent of quite a few others in the past; an attempt at a joke, with my finest attempt at mock swagger and disgust, met with first mystification and then aggressive defense by the unwitting recipient. As with times past, I wanted to completely switch gears once it became clear that things were heading down the wrong path. But I imagine that changing masks midway would cause further confusion. Not only does it leave one feeling silly at the joke having misfired, there is a mild distaste at it being met with pointed offense. In summary, sometimes it feels like it would be better to speak no more.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

At least a couple of dreams came true the past few months, what with there being John Prine and Paul Simon concerts in this fair city. I don't want to read too much into the fact that I didn't greet them with the delirium I used to invoke when I imagined these days in my bedroom. Part of it is the even-temperedness of growing up, and probably much less is due to my general emotional hesitance. Anyhow, each concert reminded me what great songwriters the two men are, and in particular each had a moment where I was reminded how their genius captured me when I first listened to their songs. It further added to the belief that there is something special in this medium when it is done right; and that these masters share this intuitive understanding of it, but are also blessed with the ability to draw from this mysterious force. It is a little sad that I personally have not found many people capable of carrying the torch into the next generation. But I'm grateful for what I have, so I'll keep humming that lonesome tune.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Sometimes the father is the son

When I told him the news, joyous to most, he didn't betray any hint of disappointment. He shared the good sentiments, definitely. I can't pretend to read his mind, even after so many years, but I know that I at least could not forget the alternate future he had planned, one which the news so firmly and emphatically rendered impossible. The rest of us never took these dreams seriously, and would tease him about it in conversations amongst ourselves. We remarked that even he couldn't really think things could work out the way he wanted. I think now we were wrong: his silence just speaks too loudly. This doesn't change any of the realities, not least  that we were always right about this being the only way it could have worked out. But it's not always a good feeling being right.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

As always, something I needed to put down, even if I have cooled down considerably since.

The terror. Things may only get worse from here. Any memory of a world you once knew will be pulled up by the monster and ripped to shreds. I would like very much for a global stasis, for everything to stop moving, so that I can feel like anything of what I have experienced has had some value or meaning. How do others cope? By not caring so much on what has happened and instead looking ahead to what the future holds. Why can't I do the same? Because the past is all I have, and it is mocked every time the beast decides on a fresh execution. I don't know if I have lived my life by a code or not, but I am pretty sure few persons of my generation are racked by the confusion caused by this exotic combination of traditional inlook and progressive outlook. If I weren't so exposed to and aware of what lies outside, none of this would bother me as much, I think. But that's not the way I am. So what can I do but want to annihilate the self that is forced to go through this refuse day in and day out? I am really not one for exaggeration, but let it be on the record that at times like these, and I don't remember them feeling as dangerously real when I was younger, the classic line about nights we tried to die finally hits a note of relevance and resonance. Maybe it was premonition and not immaturity that made me attracted to the music then. The hope I felt soon afterwards turned out to be completely unfounded anyway. And it's not just the work, I think. It's the abject loneliness and sense of desperation that magnifies with each second. I can say it with some confidence, I think - I am, at this moment, what anyone rationally observing the situation would call depressed. As depressions go, I don't see too much reason to feel optimistic about anything, because I don't see a good future ahead. Even if I am done with a primary cause of discontent - studying - there will be another to take its place - the fact that she has moved away from me in spirit, perhaps, or the fact that every decision I have ever made has no place or value in this modern world. To frame it another way, it's gotten to the state that if you leave me alone in a room with headphones, I will resort to those songs that saved my life. Only I won't know why they bothered to. The alternative may have been preferable.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

1) Television, "Venus". The album has always occupied a strange place for me: something that on first listen was unquestionably, firmly high quality, but somehow didn't leave a strong emotional mark. This song however I always thought to have an extra spark, and I'm happy to report my feelings have only amplified with the years. It's a great example of what I mean when I talk about rock poetry; the intonation and melody suggests at something mysterious yet significant, which the playful chorus promptly confirms.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

I'm experienced enough to know that statements like "There's an excellent chance I will never discover artists like Steve Harley again" are (i) too topical to be of any interest to you, dear reader, and (ii) very likely of no lasting power beyond, say, a few months. (Music writing is especially difficult that way, and to think otherwise is to ignore history.) But with things being what they are, I'll swallow the shame and forge ahead. (As for boring you, well, that is not exactly without precedent.)

Anyhow, as for Steve Harley, my introduction to his music was through that ancient but ever trustworthy guide, Starostin, and I really don't see his kind surfacing again. Not with the explosion of access to music and the perceived knowledge about the subject that that instils in otherwise well-meaning listeners. I've speculated about what I find lacking in many of the new guard, and I think it stems from a basic difficulty when dealing with popular music, which is the culture of judging things based on novelty, rather than resonance. It's easy to get recommendations for obscure artists from years past, but ones who also happen to be good are a trickier ask. Harley is a good example of someone who's unquestionably weird, but only slightly less unquestionably good. I can imagine him being summarized by any of the new guard to sound like just your typical weirdo, and consequently lamenting how many other artists there are who face the same fate.

Even aside from Starostin's rigor, the old fan sites at least made it clear why they liked the music they did. I miss them, not just for nostalgia's sake, but because there was an obvious sense of love and attention to detail (okay, maybe it was often obsessive). I don't sense the emotion amongst the few sites I read nowadays, and so it is all the more harder to project one's own musical makeup onto the review and infer if there is likely to be a match. To say nothing of the sense these sites imparted of an album being part of a larger story, be it an artistic or emotional movement. You don't get that with fragmented one-off reviews, no matter how many of them are accumulated.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

I saw him again after a much needed break in our interaction. The first new sight of him immediately brought a thought to mind: I could almost perfectly map his personality and actions to someone from the country I left behind. I had to smile at this, which he probably took to be a warm welcome. The equation has changed, I thought, for I felt as though I now controlled his fate.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Orpheus Beach

Every time I think of you, I'm conscious somewhere that I deepen my curse. Of course having a heart and having some memory of love, or whatever this wretched affliction is, is better than none. But ask me honestly if I would like to keep this heart, bruised everytime it is reminded of its denial, and of course I will scream back No. Ask me if these years and years of your face coming to my mind when the spirit is at its most vulnerable are something I cherish and I will weep in reply. After all, this is the only life I have, and what happened, happened. Forever supposing on how things could have turned out might have seemed tragically romantic for a year or two. But now I've had it with all that. I'd gladly give it all away, but I doubt anyone would actually want to take it. That leaves patiently and methodically erasing these memories and feelings all by myself. All this requires is convincing the curse that it wants to be lifted.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

If these posts were like Dylan songs, even the most rabid Dylanologist would find it hard to recall the prior reference to the Cure's "Friday I'm In Love". I suppose that's something to be proud of, but onto the matter at hand. Locked away with this song, which I've heard properly maybe one or two times, improperly only a few more, is some peculiar emotion and fragment of memory. I can remember sitting by myself in a hotel room, staying all alone for the first time, and finding myself oddly upset by the cheerfulness of the song. Lord knows why; being the Cure, you always get a sense that things can take a gloomy turn any minute, so it isn't a supreme declaration of happiness or anything. But there was something in the melody and tone of the song that triggered the feeling. Its simplicity, its wishfulness, and (in my reading) the sense that no matter how many times you find yourself standing with your head on the door, eventually it all works out and you find some new reason to live which makes the rest of life seem worthwhile.

When I write nowadays about yearning for the past, I do so remembering full well moments like these. If you asked me if I was happy and fulfilled then, well, evidently not. So I think my revisionist reflection considers how much better off things were, even if I didn't realize it. Thinking back to those days now, I wish to tell myself: please don't cry over this. This is only the first act. Today, strolling through an airport once again, when I heard the song playing in the background I did not know how to respond. After all, here I am after so many years, with these same thoughts and feelings. Does it ever end? It's a sobering reminder that things don't always just work out and right themselves. More depressingly, it's a reminder that perhaps the finale has yet to reveal itself.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Why be coy? I've expressed frustration at a recent tendency to star gaze and think of summers past. But I've mostly copped out from giving any concrete explanation for why this has come about. It is true that it is rather non-specific, but I'll be darned if I can't make some educated guesses: I find myself physically distanced from the only people who have any semblance of a decent understanding of me. Through a combination of ill luck and shockingly poor decisions, I've found myself increasily unwilling to let down my guard to anyone I meet nowadays. It's no surprise that I feel emotionally stranded, and I naturally fear that it will always be so. Moving forward requires opening up, and maybe also understanding why exactly I feel these mythical people from my past should lament my absence. Doesn't look like I have too much to offer them as of today.

1) Cockney Rebel, "Sweet Dreams/Psychomodo". Sitting in a hospital bed and discovering Dylan may have pushed Harley towards a surrealistic lyrical style, but he evidently paid close attention to the importance of intonation in the message. I think it's what saves the songs, which can otherwise be too obtuse, unlike Dylan. No one else comes to mind immediately as having forged such an idiosyncratic style of delivery (not to mention voice), one which can convey emotions that would be completely lost on paper.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

I once expected I would grow up and learn to look at life in the right way, and leave behind silly philosophizing about the meaning of it all. Instead I seem to have grown up and learnt the art of determining the one best moment from the past 20 whatever years that serves as perfect contrast to the one I'm experiencing now, and curse everything that brought me to something that feels awfully close to a meaningless pursuit. This would make for a fine living, I think, spending every moment thinking not about how to get forward but how things were so much clearer and better in a time when I didn't have to make any decisions.

Friday, August 05, 2011

1) The Blackeyed Susans, "Every Gentle Soul". We all know McComb has his preferred subject matter, but it rarely disappoints. Because, at least to my reckoning, his lyrics rarely ring false, and convince you he lived through the anguish and felt it very deeply. The desperate statement, almost a plea, from the narrator here counts amongst his best lines on the subject. At the right moment, it can seriously shake one's constitution. The only remedy is to keep listening and wait for "Memories" to come on.

2) The Go-Betweens, "Boundary Rider". At times during the final album, McLennan gives the impression that he managed to compress all the mystery and beauty in the art of lyric writing that he picked up over the years and double its potency. I don't quite know the literal story being told here (if any), but I very much understand "the sky so deep that you can't find your sleep". As he clearly got better with age to the point of virtually floating above us anyway, one can construct comforting stories about the end that the album suggests. When all else fails, there is still the trove of melody and lyric that helps keep us walking through our tears.

3) The Triffids, "Spanish Blue". Evidence of the songwriter's softer side, in case it gets lost amongst the passion of his more definitive work, and a quaint piece of history in their development. But I don't think it's just the hopeless devotee in me that sees traces of the lyrical talent here. Summer days walking around the city, watching people strewn about the sidewalks after a busy night, and I can't help but bring some of the words to mind. And the opening lines, well, they summarize not only my current stance to distant lands, but also serve as a calling to one day return and get back to what is really important.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

I was walking through the bookstore, discounted purchases in hand, marvelling at the reality that it was actually closing, that my future trips to the city could no longer involve a quiet stroll through the towers of books and music. It's terribly egocentric to say this, but I find it apt that my own decline and dismantling should be mirrored so clearly in the world around me. There was something extremely upsetting about seeing the store in the state it was, the odd book lying tossed on the floor, the once carefully arranged shelves split asunder as the stock was being disposed of, and of course the people. Had any of them so much as whispered a word to me I probably would've started shaking them in fury. I disliked the matter-of-factness their faces suggested, the indifference to what was happening here. I wanted so badly to see some external acknowledgement that this was not right, that the future this was portending is not a place we should be moving towards, but, I saw nothing. I began to wonder if it was right of me to even be there in these end-times. I can't say that I've ever been unhappier purchasing books.

But why are memories of earlier (and invariably happier, through some strange logic) times so important to me, and why do I always pull them to the surface? I surely can't be afraid that I will forget them; that would require a major upheaval in my internal aesthetics. Sometimes I think my use of these objects is a burden of expectation that I place even though full well knowing that no future can relieve it. What do I expect but for these things to eventually give way and move on? And of course I'm well aware of this, but it doesn't seem to matter. There is always this sense of a future hovering unthreateningly in the horizon, while the past is spread out as far as the heart desires, ready to be revisited at any moment one chooses. I suppose I get reminded by otherwise inconsequential events that this is dangerously incorrect. No matter how much I'd like to think otherwise, wheels are turning, clocks are ticking, and what matters is drifting out of reach.

Monday, June 27, 2011

1) The Go-Betweens, "The Wrong Road". There probably isn't a better way to express a fundamental, if non-specific, sense of despair and gloom than repeatedly drawing from that state to conjure up telling couplets and images. Which is what I think happens here, because even if there isn't a single story (that I can tell), there's certainly a message underlying the many quotable lines in this one. The ending clinches it, with the exasperated admission of defeat when he realizes that no matter which way he expresses the feeling, its truth and implications are unchanged. The song may alleviate the burden for a while, but it cannot erase the condition itself.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Even in the early stages of the vague, hazy sense of gloom that characterized a certain period of my college days (perhaps unsurprisingly, the one coinciding with my most prolific period of writing), I remember having a sense that the affliction was temporary. I could almost imagine looking back on that period five, ten years in the future, and writing it off as some form of insanity that one must go through. Of course, I couldn't project perfectly in the future, else I would have been able to use those insights to cure myself then and there, but there was at least a belief that things would look up. And it is true that that particular brand of nihilism has all but been dispatched with, and that pondering weighty matters on the meaning of everything leave me largely unharmed nowadays. But I sometimes think that whatever unhappiness that has accompanied a certain study decision is really not that different from what ailed me back then, being somewhat unspecific yet very pervasive. And given that it manages to affect me in all my glorious maturity, it's of a far deeper, more unsettling nature.

It probably sounds trite, but you can't discount the element that time plays in these mental battles. In earlier times, there was at least the sense that some full life was out there waiting to be met, no matter how miserable a prospect it seemed at the time. Having tasted some of this future and having studied my reaction to it understandably downs my hope quite a bit. Realize that I had once thought myself cured of all this drama, and had forged an idiosyncratic path to something resembling good standing. But the time since then has been unkind, and it is only a slight exaggeration to say that I have declined physically, intellectually, and worst of all morally. I look back with sadness at the person I used to be, and while I used to feel disgust at what I have become, it is now just a numbness and state of disbelief. "Started out Oliver / Ended up Fagin."

Why the sudden resurrection of my past troubles? Because of a bookshop, actually. One thing that struck me today is I can scarcely remember the times when I felt impossible joy due to some piece of perceived beauty, invariably an album or a book. As these were during formative years, et cetera, it is naive to wish for similarly passionate reactions today. But nowadays, the passion doesn't arrive not because things don't move me; it's because I seem to avoid the arts altogether. The very act of reading or listening to music used to be comforting, as it invited me into a familiar, known space that provided hope. While I wince at contemplating the possibility, it must be said: my inability to set aside time for these things nowadays seems to be partly borne out of a wish to spare those hopeful things the sullying contents of my psyche. There is something magical in them, no doubting, but I do very much doubt that they will escape unharmed by the malaise that I've got cookin' inside. Better that they sit quietly, waiting for the day that the clouds part and things seem more hopeful.

Or maybe that's just tripe, and I ought to actively seek to do away with such adolescent theories about the interaction between art and the mind. I did mention that the bookstore got me thinking about these unpleasant matters, but this was only after I got a taste of the forgotten pleasure of reading. I take this as a cause for some hope. Of course, it isn't as if this will make things all better - it didn't back in the day - but good God do I need more sources of positivity in my life. I don't think that can hurt when trying to find a way out of this dark.

Writing all this down has definite mental (if zero artistic) value. I am reminded of the fact that no matter how cringe-inducing my earlier writings were, they at least solidified my concerns at the time, and helped shoulder the burden a little. Perhaps silence is the worst weapon for this battle.

Monday, June 20, 2011

I'd like to think that even if one disagrees with the conclusions of Carr's The Shallows, one can agree that it does a good job of laying out the argument for the negative effects of technology and the internet without coming across as being just another tirade of a curmudgeon or luddite. Me, I'm at least one, probably both those things, so I often worry that my shared distrust of the internet is a product of something fundamentally irrational. But Carr manages to take many of my concerns and really get to why they should worry the society at large.

What's sad is that he seems to have relatively few supporters in his own generation; mine is of course beyond hope, and the one after will most likely bring about our ultimate destruction. It's remarkable how quickly society seems to have totally embraced the internet, rightfully praising its conveniences but too quickly dismissing what it loses when compared to technologies past. (I can almost picture the book being nonchalantly sunk in my lifetime, for example.) Being of the generation that came of mental maturity at the same time the internet did, it's hard to say whether the seeds for this societal shift were already in place. Maybe it's a convenient myth that people used to care about deep reading and all that in generations past. The internet may just be allowing people to indulge in frivolities that they used to indulge in through other forms. Who knows, maybe I was on the fringes starting from childhood...

Saturday, April 23, 2011

"Anyone who ever played a part / Never turned around and hated it"

My melodramatic side has been getting a bit out of hand lately; that's what you get when you don't post enough, I suppose. The latest episode occurred when all someone did was ask me my name. The act of repeating those familiar syllables, as I've done innumerable times, in many places and at many stages of life, for some reason made me pause on the inside and begin one of my inner monologues. While these soliloquies may sometimes seem amusing in hindsight, this time, believe me, even I was struck by how odd it was. What I was thinking was, roughly, as follows: I can recall a time when I knew the person who used that name and earned everything that was associated with it. But these days, I don't know what it means to use that name anymore. Certainly none of my past accomplishments or adventures count for anything to those I encounter. My past may well have never existed, then; but even more than that, there is this nagging belief that somehow, this is all a dream that I can someday wake up from and resume the life that seems most familiar. It feels like a tragedy that gets renewed every day, even though each morning I rise and have some desperate hope that somehow it has all been called off, and I am free to resume reality. Who am I even performing for anymore? I used to have stakes to fight for, to hold on for, no matter how slight or ephemeral. Now I just have crumbling memories, and a deepening sense of doubt.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Guinness records, canvas shoes, finishing moves. I never knew I would take those memories and keep them so safe, only to...wake up in a world where no one cares.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A great song somehow finds a way to transcend the apparently insurmountable limitations of its form, and reveals a secret world that you suspect only you and the composer share. Meaning is never what it appears to be on the surface, and whether it's the instrumentation, vocal delivery, or intangible feel of the music, it can take one to a strange space that we never otherwise see in our waking moments. Sometimes, when reminded of a particularly favourite lyric, and unable to express the feelings it induces, I feel as though I've been bequeathed something very special. How odd that someone's thoughts and words, expressed in a few minutes' worth of music, should trigger a reaction in someone born a generation later, someone living in an altogether different world. I wonder if I am meant to do something with these keepsakes, put them to some use beyond the pleasure they give me. My humblest response and offering is an attempt to facsimile my internal processes when the music hits me; in hopes partly of reaching to other wanderers who may have stumbled onto the shared secret, but mostly to pay some respect to the spirits that created them, so that some part of them may live forever.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Looks like I'm branching out - those pesky Triffids no longer at the top!

1) The Blackeyed Susans, "Memories". Would that every cover were so idiosyncratic. Like the original, it's not meant to be taken all that seriously, but McComb believes every line all the same. It even comes across as sweet in some listens, but it's hard to make a case for that because of, well, the lyrics I guess. The song is a testament to the perennial mystery of songwriting and stagecraft: how does something that, in different hands, could seem juvenile and banal, seem in this rendition to be nothing less than the delivery of the most important sentiment on the planet?

2) The Blackeyed Susans, "This One Eats Souls". Even though its message may be hard to pin down precisely, the mood is clear enough: somewhere inside is the fear that it's all basically meaningless. McComb's lyrics grow more precise with each year, and here trade raw anguish for a subtler, more insidious sense of gloom. And honestly, even if he didn't add anything beyond the title, I would still be moved.

3) The Go-Betweens, "Finding You". It's something of a cliche to acknowledge the mysterious movements of the heart, but at the same time it feels like one of those veins that never dries up, just waiting to be rediscovered generation after generation; how else to explain the longevity of the emotion? Of course, it takes a talent to receive due instruction, and that's something McLennan long since established. So one really shouldn't be surprised that he could do justice to it in 2005. But such are the vagaries of popular music, that one grows increasingly hesitant about a songwriter's output as time goes by. No reason to fear when it comes to this group, though. This cycle of their song may be finished, but a new one just waits to be reborn.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

If I've boasted about my memory too many times here for your liking, you will be pleased to know that it's really served me no use. If combined with an ability to foresee events, then maybe the memories would serve to be of some use. But as time goes on, it becomes scarily clearer that this is not just a game, a temporary phase that will end. This demon will not stop. I can hardly remember the person who started this blog. I envy the time he had before him, and regret how much of it he wasted. But I also worry that all those years may prove to be nothing to anyone else. In which case, why did they bother happening at all?

Friday, March 11, 2011

My Life

Only a song, sung at night; only a dream that once shone bright. But those times have faded away; I see no light on the brightest day.

Monday, February 21, 2011

A twist in my sobriety

I don't really want to discuss subjects as dismal as sobriety, but sometimes you have no choice; appears not all that much else has been happening. Anyhow, even when desperate, I have standards: I'm not in the mood to have a serious discussion about whether teetotalers like me are basically hypocrites who should be exposed as such. Instead, I would like to point out that I was struck by someone asserting that teetotalism is "irrational". I feel this strikes upon something very deep, because even if true, it seems irrelevant to me. I really don't want to make every decision rationally, scientifically. When it really counts, sure, rationality usually ends up with the optimal reward. But stuffed if I'm going to let that dictate things as trivial as alcohol. Without a little playful idiosyncracy, even if it is irrational to the heavens, what good is any of it? I rather enjoy having a certain stout constancy, even though I honestly don't care about the meaning behind any of it. The source of this constancy isn't (primarily) a sense of principle, it's more a result of this being the way things unfolded from the start. And why should that be so strange*? Just another trait that seems to suit my character, and which offers some topic of conversation as an ice-breaker. (An annoying topic for me, but good if it makes the other party feel better about themselves!)

Alright, I can't resist, I must make one more comment before retiring, even though you may think it smug: I wonder whether a lot of the appeal of spirits is lost when you have access to the spark of lunacy. Having seen many a young dude in high spirits, laughing uncontrollably at what are rationally (!) trivialities, I totally sympathise with the desire to reach that state of mind. But I think I can summon at nearly at will; I've gathered enough experience over the years to serve as all the stimulus I need. That's a gift I was given long ago, and I've tried to put it to some use. It's probably how I've come so far. Maybe with an added catalyst I could go even further and start recording gripping post-punk records that reveal my genius to the world at large, but I choose to live with that mystery.

* I do understand there are other reasons why being seemingly deliberately contrarian might upset people, but I don't much feel like belabouring this subject.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

1) Lou Reed, "Don't Talk To Me About Work". While I own 9 of this guy's albums, I still feel like I have only a vague sense of what he's about. Maybe he does too. This uncertainty manifests itself from time to time, and I wonder whether I've been tricked into thinking that I like some of his songs; maybe I'm mistaking banality for realism? But this song is an example of his ability to pull out a resonant line that takes you by total surprise: it's one of those emphatic transmissions of feeling that popular song conducts best. It also doesn't hurt that I sympathise with the subject, as some of you might know.

2) Lou Reed, "Bottoming Out". I sympathise again, but thankfully only in spirit. I mean, good lord! The sequence with his doctor! The threat of murder! And don't get me started about the ending! Yes, there certainly is truth to that cliche of him being dark, but as with any great songwriter, he's capable of doing it subtly. It's hard to be sure, since The Blue Mask has been cemented in my ears for a long time, but I feel this sort of casual, matter-of-fact style must have few precedents in the rock canon. By almost downplaying the subject, it becomes all the more affecting.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Sabbath's Theater is easily the filthiest book I've read - Alexander Portnoy would be shocked at some of the goings-on, I'm sure - but, oddly, maybe one of the best? Asking myself why, I suspect it's because the book feels true to itself, and possesses that elusive sense of internal logic. As lechers go, Mickey Sabbath manages to be entertaining in his shame-free defense of his ways, and self-aware enough to come across as a genuine human being, one who has carefully considered all options and concluded that his chosen path is the right one. Which is more than you can say for most of us. And, of course, there's the fact that it's compellingly written. Maybe any subject can capture one's attention given a sufficiently talented writer. The yearning to peek into another life and see what drives other people is probably innate, and when a book gets things just right, we not only get to see but to live that counterlife. God bless the novel for allowing us to experience a multitude of such lives within this corporeal one. Does any other form offer such amazing possibilities? (That isn't a very insightful question, but I'll answer "No" anyway. )

Portnoy's Complaint is Sabbath's natural cousin, and while I may be retrofitting, I think one can feel that book's adolescence. By contrast, Sabbath feels mature, grown-up even if screwed-up. I suspected it very strongly with Exit Ghost, felt it corroborated by everything but the final scenes of The Plot Against America, but now it's confirmed that Roth is a masterclass.