The images in the pre-choruses — first
But now my take-out food is growing cold
And the candle’s burned a hole in the floor
And I’m still waiting for the ring of the phone
Since when do prog-metal showboats talk about take-out food, even after selling out? And the candle melodramatically burning a hole in the floor, presumably knocked over in anger or carelessness, left there in distraction and apathy — this would be a gem from Stephin Merritt. Then
But tonight I’ll sit here tending the fire
And pace the floor one hundred times in an hour
And check the voice-mail for a message you’ve called
Like he’s too tired to even rhyme anymore. But it works by forcing even more attention on the words and details — yes, the flame comes up again; the nervous pacing (I do that too! Even waiting for the bus!) with the specific number ‘one hundred’ enunciated and emphasized as the melody climbs; the specific reference to voice mail, even more impersonal and abstract in a way than an answering machine with which one can at least hold a tape in one’s hand.
And the piece concludes with his own amusingly, pathetically awkward voice mail message: “Sorry, I miss you. It’s starting to hit me like . . . uh, . . . um, a 2-ton . . . uh . . . a . . . heavy thing”.
All held afloat by a pageant of infectious twinned leads, ringing suspended chords, spiraling arpeggios, and falsetto harmonies — these fops’ poppest move became their most meaningful. Too bad it got buried by that Pink Floyd crap from the same album.
JIMI HENDRIX – “Drifting”
Notes enter, chiming like church bells, repeating and ringing over each other. Then a light patter of drums, a brief reminisce of old sounds, running backwards now, before that voice comes. Floating, drifting, over the layers of guitar sound, almost unearthly, ghostly, resigned to loss and struggling to not be broken by memory, “drifting on a sea of forgotten teardrops.” New guitar layers appear and drift away rapidly, forwards, backwards, overlapping, flying like moments of experience becoming memory. Plucked notes flicker and tease the whole while. A violin-like line pushes and propels while descending plucked chords pull back before all collapses into a glistening spiral of sound, ascending endlessly, drifting away.
Glenn McDonald tackles the new Fugazi (in the middle of a unique look at our favourite genre): “One of the most pivotal events in the evolution of a sustainable genre, however, is when the feedback loop starts, and the artists who founded or inspired it start to sound more like the versions of themselves that their followers are following. This happened with several key bands during metal’s development (most notably Black Sabbath, who basically reached the point of self-parody in about 1989, but one could make a good case that most important metal bands have regressed towards means in exactly this way, with the notable exception of Slayer), and happened with almost a whole generation of prickly art-school post-punk bands that all discovered synth-pop and became New Wave. Fugazi, though, has betrayed no acknowledgement of, much less interest in, Braid’s retrofitting of straightedge back into a semblance of rock and roll. “
Glenn McDonald on Rush and fan loyalty: “I’m still going to buy every record they make, and if this is sort of their pension I’m funding by doing so, then I’ll send the checks without fail, and every visitors’ day will find me pushing them around the grounds in their chair, listening to them tell disorganized annecdotes that I’ll cherish as much, in their own way, as the books that made them famous.”
EMPEROR – “Thus Spake the Nightspirit”
Really, if primitive garage sludge is all that interests you, just spike your hair and spray-paint me an anarchy symbol. Those who complain about black metal becoming pomp and pageantry are complaining about it becoming metal and is “Nightspirit, nightspirit, embrace my soul” really that much cheesier than “We knocked on the doors of hell’s darkest chamber?” No one has yet explained to me why songs about imaginative fantasy are worse than songs about sodomizing fiteen-year-olds or smashing the state (which is an imaginative fantasy of its own, I suppose).
So the opening chords surge inwards like spear attacks. Then drums clatter and a cackle begins. Synths hover, screaming doom, as guitars dance toward and away from climaxes terrified of the evil they suggest, before exhaustion of a sort is attained and a fearful incantation is intoned. And I’m all for the straightforward and brutal as much as the next guy but, come now, after a point, straightforward and brutal and unpretentious is just, well, straightforward and brutal and unpretentious. Like life, you know. Four minutes of fantasy and terror never hurt me before and I don’t ask more from my metal.
Erf. Got the Roots Manuva title wrong the first time. Damn intro tracks. “Witness” is cool too but it sounds nothing like that.
ROOTS MANUVA – “Join the Dots”
The horns march fatalistically. He leads, striding and declaiming, sometimes whistling only to keep time.
NIRVANA – “Smells Like Teen Spirit”/SONIC YOUTH – “100%”/SMASHING PUMPKINS – “Cherub Rock”
Spiteful snarls and bitter distortion claw at curtains of shopping-mall gloss.
Butch Vig never got his due.
This thread got me thinking that I hadn’t posted here in a while and that my day yesterday would probably make a better story than that Shellac-and-Main bullshit in the archives so my day from about 3 pm August 19 went:
Sarah and I start drinking around 3. We were hoping to have some weed but we couldn’t find any despite Sarah’s best efforts (I’m more or less a parasite in this area). So we drink. I tell Sarah I’l turn off the shit that is on the radio and put on something with the soul of rock (Sarah likes to rock). I think it was Deep Purple’s Machine Head that I put on. Josh says he can see why I could find Deep Purple and Rush records for next to nothing but what does he know about it really, he likes boredom. I love “Highway Star” – it’s as everything-right-there as the Stooges. “Nobody’s gonna get my car/ I’m gonna race it to the ground/ Nobody’s gonna get my car/ I’m gonna break the speed of sound” while one chord jackhammers – he waits till the next verse to talk about his girl. There’s some nice jammy shit on the rest of the first side too. I like organs.
Sarah’s twit ex-boyfriend shows up dressed all homey talking a lot of shit about how he has three bitches ready to do his every bidding at any given moment. I put on the second side of Machine Head, which starts, of course, with “Smoke On the Water.” My friend Ross hates the song and the riff because he thinks it’s weak and light and faux-attitude but I like the way it motors, all in Gregorian parallel fourths too. So we finish the record, ending with the rightly titled “Space Truckin’.” The twit’s too cool for all this bullshit now, he puts on the hip new stuff he’s into now – Shaggy and Pink. Fine singles but I have a feeling that even if I were sober I couldn’t say a lot more for the albums sorry.
So Sister comes on. Sarah’s ready to concede that if it doesn’t quite have the soul of rock it has the soul of something, which is a step you know though I have been working on her since I moved in and she’s been the most tolerant person vis-a-vis my music taste I’ve met in my life (sigh I’ll miss her when I move). Twit accepts that it’s okay for mellow stuff but it’s not what he’d put on. What he’d put on is what he does proceed to put on which is Switchblade Symphony.
By this point most of the bottle of vodka’s done. A good portion anyway. So I don’t actually have much to say now about Switchblade Symphony, I don’t really remember a lot, I’m not sure I absorbed a lot at the moment other than that it was wimpy and I said “Oh, you’re into goth, let’s put on some goth that rocks.” And I put on the first side of In the Flat Field and the “Heart and Soul” side (which I’ve always played first but most people seem to think should be the second side just because that’s how the CD reissue was organized even though there’s nothing specified on the record) of Closer, which isn’t really goth of course but I love it and just want a reason to play it.
Somewhere in the middle of all this we listened to “Love to Love You Baby,” which right now I can accept as The Greatest Song Ever (TM). We close things with the first Zeppelin, of course. It thunders and pummels and sighs and howls, all so crudely resplendent and transcendent, yes. The profoundest truths are those understood by pre-teens, I still believe that.
Eventually the twit leaves and we go out searching for weed. The usual downtown source is dried up. We hang out at the Royal Oak for a while (they played rock, I don’t remember what). We ask these two guys if they have any leads. They don’t. One guy asks me if I’m an engineering student because I look like an engineer. I’m a little annoyed because just recently a supervisor thought I look like a comp sci major. She was surprised that I haven’t seen Star Wars not because everyone’s seen it but because I look like someone who must have seen it. I wonder what all this is supposed to mean.
We plan to take a 97 bus back but we take it the wrong direction and end up at Lincoln Fields station. These two kids who look 16 and say they’re 23 claim they have some because one of them has a biker father. We follow them to a house. They come back with our money, saying that cops must have raided and trashed the place, leaving nothing. They stare at Sarah’s feet a bit and ask her questions about her shoe size.
We take the 86, planning to get off at Meadowlands and Fisher. This unshaven guy in a baseball cap starts talking, saying he’s got cancer and only has one year to live. He says he’s picked out five things he wants to do before he dies (“three of them I’ve already done to one wonderful woman”) and won’t tell what they are. He tells us we need to grab life by the hair, pick out our own five things (“if they’re completely disgusting to other people, it doesn’t matter; if they’re completely degrading to other people, it doesn’t matter”) and do them. I’m already on the right path, he divines, but Sarah still needs to grab what she needs. Even if she’s engaged to a man at one point, he tells her, if she sees a guy walking down the street, she needs to grab it (“not him – it – grab your fantasy”). We miss our stop and have to take another bus home.
I put on Steve Reich’s Music for Mallet Instruments, Voices, and Organ to lull me to sleep. It sways gently but firmly, with soft rings overlapping and locking and rocking like a hammock.
RUSH – “Overture/Temples of Syrinx”
I like Ayn Rand. Granted, I’ve only read two of her novels and nothing in five years or so but I like what I know. As someone who likes both literature and social programs, this has taken me a long time to admit. There’s something worth preserving in the uncompromising personal individualism she celebrated, the emphasis on self-fulfillment — these things are not so bloody obvious to every 15-year-old, thank you very much. There’s a certain elegance and prettiness to the unfolding of the melodramatic tales of non-conforming heroes. Would I want her books on an undergrad English reading list? God no, what do you think I am? Would I want to live in her uber-capitalist utopia? Well of course not. I wouldn’t live in Orwell’s or Pound’s or Steinbeck’s or Crass’s or Morrissey’s or Ian Curtis’s utopias either but it doesn’t stop me from having enjoyed or enjoying their work. In fact, the idea of a 15-year-old finding himself or herself in Anthem makes me much happier than the idea of a 15-year-old finding himself or herself in Minor Threat.
And I like this too, composed “with acknowledgment to the genius of Ayn Rand.” Its adolescent zeal gives it a metallic force Rush never achieved before or since. The tightly constructed riffs pile one on the other with unabashed bombast before a gentle voice reminds us that “the meek shall inherit the earth.” Then the blaze begins. Geddy Lee declaims with especial stridency the forced collectivism of the evil priests who rule the temples of Syrinx. The music gallops. Its relatively low production values, its violent individualism, its musical aggression, its teenaged conviction are weirdly reminiscent of punk at its best. Excess, virtuosity, pretentiousness — if these qualities are present here they are made immediate and hungry, driven with a sense of mission.