Monthly Archives: October 2009

Songs for People Who Can’t Hear Part III: I Need More Love by Robert Randolph and the Family Band

Wow.  The song opens at second one with a lone, funky, slapping bass solo – like the riff from Michael Jackson’s Speed Demon, only left to its own devices after all the other instruments have gone home for the day.  The bass gets crazy, eviscerating all notions of time signature or melody, and just when it seems like the whole song will come off the hinges, a tambourine jumps into the mix.

Now you know what the first four seconds are like in Robert Randolph and the Family Band’s posse jam.

From there, things start speeding up, and the Family in Family Band starts to shine through.  A hand drum and an organ enter the mix, and soon after, a drum and a hip vocalist join the party.  As soon as the vocalist begins singing, a guitar matches him note for note – what follows is a crazy jam – even the singers jam out, with some singers matching each other at the same notes but at a higher octave – like a group of ten people, some basses, and some falsetto castrati, just had to sing along to a funky beat laid down at a Carolina BBQ or somewhere on the Bayou.  The only thing that’s missing from this song is a big punch bowl of rum cocktail.  Invite your friends and play this song; the party is sure to start.

Download link: I Need More Love by Robert Randolph and the Family Band

wolf trap

everything is a phase, but the fluttering.   i’ve tired all confusion.  the walking dead in boots once said, ‘believe in yourself, believe in that which is better than yourself, and believe in the one you love.’  you have been half the first, an incessance of the second, and unnameably living the third.  i refuse to chew my own fat, asking questions whose answers are insignificant to their impulse and abseiling instinct.  in you i see the leap from knowledge to self-forgotten humility, an incomparable stoutheartedness, a float glass grin, and a love too terrified to give what is not guaranteed to be given back.

i’ve consumed cages built to my form.  they would keep me, so i presented weather without design, leaving them ashen ground to nourish new complexities.  now i wait outside a design beyond double.  thrill quells fear, both bigger than my body.  you’ve looked up and pointed aloud.  i am unmoved.  who wants to see a half-born chick?  what would i say to provide my quiet with arms it hasn’t seen?

what is it about love’s insouciance that moors insanity?  what is it about the excuse of affection?  when you share the same with another, why choose them for hanging?  you desire time to label your affections, allowing another man to leave his tail intact.  i lack interest in the procession of hand-holding monkeys.  this is not a claim.  live in what you live with.  intangible labels don’t exist, do they.  adoration was to be placed at bay.  i pictured you stronger.  you’ve never needed anyone to save you from situations, yet someone else would tell me how you feel.  you should have sent them again, to let me know you’d doused it in exchange for something unstirringly sentimental.

Your ice-out’s trapped an animal wearing its weakness as wool that mirrors your own, regardless of whom by he strides.  the reflection may startle you, unless you stand long enough, see through the skin you may or may not yet love, lift it, to toss away or take back, and find underneath something you do.  perhaps in the background of the wolf’s back, you see a house painted in fear and fore-warnings of friends.  you accept such impediments over your heart, yet let me not the marriage of true minds admit.  i’d trail you for the scent alone.  when you alight god stops the flood to listen.  paint your house with that.

Tuesday the 13th

Oh look at Tuesday! Are those Friday’s old
clothes? That’s so adorable, I’m sending
this picture to my mother. Look at those
sleeves hanging past his tiny hands, his arms
raised up, trying to scare us all! So cute!
I remember when Friday was this young;
he couldn’t scare a squirrel off the porch.
Now look at him, spooking the bejesus
out of people one to three times a year.
And he’s such a good brother. You must be
so proud of him, coming home from college
for the weekend, hanging out with Tuesday,
letting him be 13 for Halloween.

Why I Don’t Love the Beatles

Do I have your attention now? Good. Because I like the Beatles. I do, I really do. And I absolutely love a lot of their songs. I love The White Album and I love Sgt. Pepper’s and I love Let It Be (but only the naked version. I only like the Phil Spector Wall-of-Mono). I really like Rubber Soul and Revolver and Abbey Road, too. Overall—and call me radical, call me profound, call me revolutionary—I’d say that the Beatles were a pretty phenomenal band.

But I don’t love ’em. I don’t get excited about them. I don’t seek them out, memorize their class schedule and just happen to be in the hallway right outside the door and act surprised to see them. I don’t seek out obscure versions of songs and demos. I don’t bring them up in conversation when I meet someone—”Oh, you like the Beatles, too?! No way! I like the Beatles! Let’s be friends!” Beyond the three aforementioned albums, it’s actually very rare for me to actively and consciously choose listen to the Beatles. I own every album, and I enjoy them immensely whenever they come on, but I rarely think, “I want to listen to the Beatles right now.” Hell, just between you and me—seriously, don’t spread this around—but a little tiny part of me judges someone in my age bracket if s/he refers to the Beatles as his/her favorite band. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve definitely met people my age who do genuinely love the Beatles, and mean it when they say it with the full-fledged passion of wedding vow, but I’m not talking about them. They’re fine by me. I’m talking about the people who say it, as far as I can tell, because it’s easy. Because it’s what they think they’re supposed to say, supposed to like. Because they lack a real passion for music. They’re the greatest rock and roll band of all time, without a doubt—but that doesn’t mean they have to be your favorite.

You see, the Beatles aren’t my band. They’re not my band, because, in a way, they’re everyone’s band. We all lay claim to them, in our own way, but as a result, we all have to share them (It is different for the people who were alive for that brief dimple in time when the group was actually active because they were there. They were a part of it). Maybe it’s some subconscious monogamy thing, but if I can’t claim the Beatles as my own, then I can’t love them. I love the songs, but not the band as a singular collective entity. It’s not about popularity; there are plenty of bands that I claim to love who are popular (not as popular, sure). But with these groups, it’s still something I can be there for, and it’s not nearly as universal. Maybe the Beatles are like air; it’s not very often that I really crave air, or desire it (except when I’m having an asthma attack. But that’s different) the way I do bacon, or beer, or a milkshake. It’s just a fact of life.

Songs for People Who Can’t Hear Part II: Happy When It Rains by The Jesus And Mary Chain

To briefly restate the case for this: what follows is a series of posts describing songs verbally, without musical accompaniment or auditory reference.  Enjoy, to the extent feasible.

Happy When It Rains by The Jesus And Mary Chain

The song opens with a machine-gun fire drum synth pounding away.  Then, a strident guitar riffs loudly on top of it, pushing the gain way up.  it feels very much like synth mets new wave meets rock and roll, and before the vocals kick in (which they do – kind of quickly), you’re really expecting them to be some 80’s balladeer style Brit-pop vox.

What you get, though, is almost-spoken lyrics.  The song quickly identifies itself as a torch song, just by the cadence of the vocalist’s notes.  The word “she” doesn’t actually come in until line 3 of the lyrics: “She can take my darkest feeling / tear it up ’til I’m on my knees” – but it doesn’t matter.  Just as the musical introduction puts this song in a clear frame in terms of style of music, the first utterances out of lead singer Mr. Reid make it clear that this is clearly a song about feelings from the heart.

The bridge to the chorus, and the chorus itself, identify themselves quite readily by major chord progressions, making it obvious that this is, structurally, little more than a simple pop song written with a loving nod to the music of the Second British Invasion in the early 1980’s.

Download link: Happy When It Rains by The Jesus and Mary Chain

Finding the Groove

I went to Rhode Island this week and spent time alone in my childhood home for the first time since my father had passed away. My mother had finally returned to work, my uncle found his way back to Memphis to be with his wife and daughter after helping my mother with a lengthy but much needed cleansing and redecorating of the house. No longer did my father’s couch rest against the wall in the living that allowed it to receive the last rays of the dying sun. Walls had been painted, floors redone, the furnace had been replaced and the basement was cleaned. As I walked around I noticed the empty shelf where he used to keep his records and thought about the writing I had been doing on 5×500 up to this point.

I spent some time today writing about Look Sharp by Joe Jackson before I decided to take a look back at some of the titles I had chosen. My original concept for these entries was inspiration in the form of a person’s personal collection of music. I had never wanted these entries to read like a review but some of the albums I have chosen are STILL reviewed daily.  It is time to re-write the formula and start listening to some albums that are a little less familiar to me and the general public.  Titles that won’t automatically remind people of other reviews, memories or opinions they may have already read/lived/formed.

I’m putting Joe Jackson away for now.  Canned Heat featuring John Lee Hooker is about to be cued up and it is already the 11th hour on Thursday.

See you next week!

part two of three

Broken from thoughts on mounting particles of air, Cerebus, in sudden and familiar feral haste, hears a roar.  A digital roar, howling from speakers, left and right combining somewhere between just out a child’s television set and C’s little ears; the mashing enters left and right, to split again in the brain.  Waves over a forest.  It happens everyday.   That far-off kid’s got bass; that imaginary wolf’s got a low end.  Except only, no tv.  No left-right.  It’s the kid.  He’s howling.  His waves, his rib timbre and tremolo, trigger another light.

Cerebus tries to reach, but he’s out of sound; his lungs muster carbon wind, sending pain as warning with the added push required for words.  The sides of his tongue tell him they’re dry.  His brain tells him to save.  He sees waters.  He sees rocks, and strangers kicking.  Here comes the door.  There are the boot crunches, no closer but shit there they are.  Tell Left Buttress to brace, tell Elbow to miss Ribs, tell Right Hand to loosen Fingers, ready Palm and not miss.  Door handle, left or right?  twelve to one.  twelve to one. twelve to one.

He slams it shut, summer pane cracking.  He heads to the faucet before turning back to guillotine the dog door before spinning back again.  Now he’s spelled and sliding along the counter-top to the faucet.  His hand hits the lift.  His hands hit the glass.  Cerebus stammers back, staring at a hideous young man, panting and lithe, staring back at him through the window above the sink.  It’s always a pretty big window, and it’s rarely shut.  Cerebus lunges and slides it, shaking it in new ways.  He knows the water’s been running as much as he remembers his thirst.  The young man, missing hair in shocks, speaks with heavy mist softly onto the glass.  Be.  Ware, he says.  Be.  war, he spells with quivering fingers.  He begins to cry.  Be-ee-e.  Wa-are, he says.

Cerebus’s brother runs into the kitchen, the tat, tat of the light wood swinging the door behind him.  What is it, what is it?!  Cerebus wonders how he knew there was a what before he came in.  He has little outside oxygen left and no water.  He nestles into a brainless burrow.  He sighs to his brother with smiling eyes.  His neck limps.  It’s OK, C.  It’s OK.  Look at me.  Don’t point.   There’s no one there.  It’s OK.  Look at me.  Close your eyes.  Remember your dreams.  I’m right here.  Just close your eyes.  Close em hard and it’ll all go away.

The knife was cheap, denticulate, serrated all wrong from wear.  They needed new knives.  They needed Cutco.  The man outside screamed and ran, pulling ribbon waves behind the brush.  Cerebus felt the tear of organs, detail, new depth, and overdrive.  He opened his eyes.  The blood ran over the Farberware blade, covering letters like wine legs, spelling “be ware”.  His brother mumbled at his father’s hands as they held the handle and didn’t shake.  He looked as hurt as C, who held his shoulders in kind.  They couldn’t brace his grip, and so his nails dug, through skin past small-time cloth.  His brother waggled round them.  The man came boring toward the pane door, the door to home, his boots almost silent in their speed.  His brother lunged at their father’s back, giving daddy a fistful of Cerebus, giving C a lumbar the other way.

next one:  Cerebus meets Alan Tims in purgatory.  And that’ll be the end of that.