Thursday, November 17, 2005
Iím told that Iím getting thin just at the age I should be getting fat, and last week the first Kate Bush album in twelve years was released in America.
Kate Bush and I were lovers. Our falling out was entirely my fault and had nothing to do with my brief but intense affair with Jane Siberry.
We were secret lovers and cohorts. I learned quickly that at parties, well after the buzzes were lit, the surest way to find the seducible women was to play one of my lover Kateís albums. Women, their ears and minds still bruisebleeding from the concussion bombs dropped by Zeppelin and the whipsawing wankities of Skynyrd turned to see the woman who had dared to play Kate Bush and saw - - - me, attractive enough if not a God, standing there, a man of undrunken ungruntingness, and, well; Kate forgave me my infidelities because each girl was Kate.
Undrunken ungruntingness yes, stupid maleness, no. The flaky girlfriend: When with the boys, when it was just boys partying, I had to say to them, as they whoo-whooed their imitations of Kateís songs, aw, I just listen to her for the sex. I couldnít tell them I actually loved the music. I couldnít say I actually loved her. Hasnít everyone had a lover who fit every keynotch when just you two of you were together who, to your utter and irresistible moral cowardice, embarrassed that one part of you stronger than your love, that craven need to judge yourself as your friends see you? They would falsetto, ay, ay, babushka, babushka, babushka ya ya, and it was then I was shamelessly and unforgivably and irredeemably unfaithful to Kate. I left her, she didnít leave me.
Years pass. You hear rumors: sheís coming back, and as long as they remain rumors self-castigation at your loveís failure before public opinion can be postponed. Iíve never stopped picking at scabs, of course, and I like to pretend Iím not a cutter, just magnetic to jagged edges and broken glass. But still: the justifying balms of demeaning the good memories: her songs were silly; it wasnít all good times; and the burden of constantly indulging her eccentricities, which were never eccentric for eccentricís sake, which perversely might have been better. Her demand for devotion.
And then sheís back. Older, like me. A parent, like me. Moved on, like me, except I havenít. Sheís still dippy sometimes, singing of washing machines here, singing the first six dozen decimal places of pi there. She getís tired easier, running not up that hill but out of momentum within some of the songs themselves. As in the old days when she wouldnít listen to me, no one tells Kate that just because itís a cliche the adage that less is more just once in a while could be true, a lesson Iíve never learned either, though there are lesser songs here that need precisely more of her magic.
But Jeebus, sheís still beautiful, and those enchanted moments she looks up at you with those eyes and her voice caresses that button in your brain that sends musical ur-endorphins zinging, and she sings in that way and the music is that way and it says things that could only be said and sung that way: itís love again.
For Its Own Sake
A couple of weeks ago, Jerry posted on the mothership about the Fiery Furnaces' new CD *Rehearsing the Choir.* Yesterday, as I was on my way to Andy Kershaw's weekly world music show on BBC3 I clicked on the New Music link and found this, a live recording on Mixing It of the Fiery Furnaces, recorded October 24 this year and broadcast November 4.
I'm not sure where my line is, and I'm certain I won't find it using logic, but at some point I find that music goes from being experimental for innovation's sake to experimental for experiment's sake. I find the Fiery Furnaces to fall into the latter. To put it another way, there is a line where the music stops being about the music and instead becomes all about the project; the music is created not to call attention to the music but to call attention to the production of the music: weirdness becomes the trademark, weirdness becomes the goal; not sounding like anybody else is of paramount importance.
Listen to the first set of the BBC recording by three musicians I am totally unfamiliar with, Kevin Blechdom, Janine Rostron, and Elizabeth King, placed on the bill one has to suppose because a promoter saw similarites between their project and the Fiery Furnaces. I find Blechdom-Rostron-King's music just as experimental as the Fiery Furnaces (note the BBC page calls FFs "defiantly experimental") but far more fascinating than the Fiery Furnaces' music. B-R-K seem, to me, to be interested in the music (which happens to be experimental at points) while the FFs seem to be interested in the experiment (which happens to be music at points).
This is, of course, another aspect of "newness" as value, and all values are personal. Still, I remember buying the first Fiery Furnaces album, *Gallowsbird Bark,* with excitement, and I listened to it again after Jerry's post a couple of weeks ago, and what sounded new and fresh in 2003 sounded old and static in 2005. Perhaps this is the difference between music that experiments for music's sake and music that experiments for experiment's sake: the first lasts, the second ages fast.
Most people who now know of Modest Mouse know them through the surprisingly ubiquitous (and I'm quite sick of) "Float On" (and really, if you'd made me a bet that a Modest Mouse song would be used as bumper into and out of Major League Baseball radio broadcasts between half innings you'd have taken my money). The song is deceptive, cleverly: it is a much darker song than its perky, poppy sound suggests, but it's a song that is unlike most of Modest Mouse's music. Over the course of their 12 year career, they have created a wonderfully dark catalog of songs that are disjunctive and harrowing and very unlike the ear-candy of "Float On," in a style and sound that makes those songs unmistakably identifiable as Modest Mouse songs.
Which makes *Tiny Cities,* the new Sun Kil Moon album, utterly remarkable. Sun Kil Moon is the latest project of Mark Kozelek, the former front man of the terribly underappreciated Red House Painters, and one of the most forcefully quiet musicians I've ever heard. *Tiny Cities* covers eleven loud, typically agressive, confrontational Modest Mouse songs and thoroughly, convincingly, slowly and hauntingly, reinterprets them in ways that reveal the genius of Modest Mouse's Jason Brock, his songs, and of Mark Kozelek. The first time I heard "Ocean Breathes Salty," the sensation of knowing but not knowing the song was dizzily uncanny. Brilliant.
Minus the Bear, a Seattle band, has a sound that fans of Pinback and The Sea and Cake might like (you'll be hearing about The Sea and Cake from me, I guarantee). Their new one is worth a listen.
Sufjan Stevens has been getting a lot of press with his proclaimed project of creating one album for each state, and *Illinoise* has garnered fabulous reviews. It IS beautiful. Released earlier this year, if anyone has listened to it, I'd be interested in your take. There's something I'm not getting. My feeling is that it's hollow inside, but whether that's because it is, and/or because I don't subscribe to the religiosity of its intent, and/or because I'm temperamentally ill-equipped to like something with so much good hype, I'm not sure.