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.