Tuesday, March 12, 2013

History and the Past

We are all taught in history that we must learn from the past so that we do not repeat history's mistakes, but people are also taught to adhere to tradition and the teaching of elders. Often, tradition is built upon mistakes that are then magnified and compounded to a point of no recognition and no return. Then we have groups who want to kill one another because of a 1000 year old transgression no one can remember. 

How does one differentiate from mistakes and tradition? From Legacy and Fantasy? Where is the way forward in a world of tradition kindled thousands of years ago? 

Do not misunderstand, I love studying history and learning the past. I spent a good chunk of this very afternoon reading more about the history of San Francisco, which is fascinating and colorful with a healthy dose of pain and misery to temper the nostalgia.

We, in North America, all watched M*A*S*H while growing up. The Korean War was in our collective living room for almost four times as long as the actual original conflict, but in a weird twist, the conflict outlived even the television show, and North Korea has a young buck in charge who wishes to make his mark upon the world stage. He is staging tests and war games and rattling his sabres, and our stupid powers that be are responding in kind as they do to any troll on the internet. It makes the sense of fear rise among the populace. Forget fearing fear, that is an old, tired adage best left in the dusty catacombs of history.

But. Well, But, Well, Really, this is the point. Old Speeches mean naught. The old guard was weak and miserable, but the new guard has it all figured out, and more the better for our citizens. But, yet and still, this is a different time.

The first Korean War included the Canadians, Chinese, Russians, Australians, and more, but now.. ... . . . . ?

The Middle East is a kettle waiting to explode. There are little explosions every day, but there is a world stage watching every move already. Oil and fire and grease and butter and kindling and timber and news are a great fire indeed. And the war mongering, and the fear mongering of all our countries is perverse. Can we stop it?

What do we do if we cannot? Do we fight? Against whom? For how long? Toward what end? I cringe to know, but I do fear that World War III is nigh, and we are the tiny piglets who will be asked to go forth to die, and I am not afraid of dying. . . .  But I do not want to die for some snot nosed Power only looking for profit in the killing. 

But that is the truth, we are run by corporations and public interest groups. Oh the name is so perverse, 'Public Interest Groups' because really they are not interested in the public interest. They are only interested in their own interest, and they have so much money to throw around, but they do not throw at the people who need it, oh no!
It is only thrown at the politicians who get paid too much already anyway. 

This World War will be much messier and far more over arching consequences involving many more countries and regions  than any before, and the enemy will be nothing like before, and the world will really change as a result of this war, and i am not certain it will be for the better. 

And finally, I believe in Gun Control but I want to own Guns. That's the point too. Authorities are taking guns away from people who are documented as crazy or unstable, but they are lettling normal, reasonable people keep their arms.  There used to be a number of hospitals where known difficult people were kept under surveillance. How do you justify locking up an American Citizen? Well, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Most Armericans, indeed, most humans, are fine to leave alone to their own devices with their own lives, but there are a few who go a little wrong. We want to try to help, but sometimes wrong is wrong. 

Which is something else we've learned from history. Some decisions are alright to be left alone, and some must be scrutinized further. Nothing is simple, but life does go on.  

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

We've gotten too big
and we just cannot see
the lie that we are
and no one can be
as huge as we say
we never could be
as huge as we wish
as huge as we say

Nick Cave; Ripples In A Lake

Nick Cave apparently knows no limits to the widths and depths of possibility.  Some of his records hit you over the head immediately and say here I am, look at me! Some lurk in the corner and wait for you to discover them in your own good time. 'Push The Sky Away' is one of the latter.

When the first single was released, I have to admit, I was a bit put off. It was spelled We No Who U R. For better or worse, I am still resistant to the text spelling trends though I find myself texting more and more these days. It seems to be the new email. Of course, it also sounded like his song 'Abattoir Blues', which I love (the song and album), but it sounded like a bit of a repeat.

Well, I need not have worried, well ok I did with Jubilee Street a bit at first, but I think it only took hearing it a number of times, without that video, for it to grow like ivy in the spring on brick.

That is the essence of this record. It lurks, and it grows. There is just enough of a hook here and there to bring you back in your haze of uncertainty. 'Wide Lovely Eyes' is beautiful. 'The Water's Edge' hearkens back to 'Sad Waters' with its quiet menace, but this new song has a little new release at the end.

'Mermaids' is endlessly fascinating. It prowls and meanders hither and yon from a bad relationship to  religion, to fantasy and hope. The melody does just the same rising when you least expect to a peak of hope that rises above all that came before. Hope is, after all, all that we really have from day to day.

The entire experience casts a spell. There appears to be a bit of a narrative and continuity. There is a connection with the elements of water and air and breath and life that lurks below in the undertow of the Bad Seeds' music that sets off the sometimes ambiguous words perfectly. I can't help but think of James Joyce a bit here. Except here we have Brighton, where Nick now lives, instead of Dublin. There are a number of voices and lives and experiences across this 45 minutes, and I find myself endlessly drawn back over and over.

I laughed and cryed to 'Mermaids' alone.

I wondered at 'Higgs Boson Blues' and its lonely protagonist on his futile journey of loneliness, and the seemingly more autobiographical, 'Finishing Jubilee Street', and I cried again a bit during the song, 'Push The Sky Away. Life is futile, but life is rich. Life is empty, but life is beautiful. You can try to end the futility, but you'll miss so much. That's what I get from this record.

At first, I was a little annoyed at Warren's loops. I love his violin playing, it's why I love him, and his loops, to me grew a little loathsome on Grinderman 2, but my mind has adjusted to the new template. Well, that is the thing. This is new. The first Grinderman, to me was amazing, and the second, not so much, but now it feels like a palate cleanser for this beauty of a record.

I highly recommend it, and I know my writing about it will never do it justice. It needs to be heard. It demands it. Only, if you do, do not just listen once, dive in again. Pick a spot, pick a song. It is like ripples. One song, whichever you pick, leads forwards and backwards again like ripples in the lake, until the whole is consumed by your ears and brains. See if you agree that this shadow lurking in the corner could become a central figure in the spotlight.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

I have always thought that performing a song from another artist you admire is a chance to display your respect for their creativity and originality by exposing other aspects of light and shadow and possibility held within the framework of their creations. In short, what can you do differently? Imagine trying to stretch that notion across an entire album. That was the goal of the remaining members of Throbbing Gristle who had dubbed themselves X-TG after Genesis P-Oridge abruptly left the group via e-mail.

The idea apparently originally came from Peter 'Sleazy' Christopherson, and the final double album plus bonus remix album is dedicated to his vision. Released two years after Sleazy's death, we can wrap ourselves in the warmth of these tendrils of music. No longer confrontational, these strands of sounds are welcoming and warm like an old friend. This is, I suspect, the point, and I think it is my favorite release of 2012.

The first disc is chock full of guest artists singing to laid back tracks of sound and noise. . . nothing too jarring; all wrapped in love and comfort. There are standout moments, for me in particular, Blixa Bargeld's takes on the German tracks. He sounds at home in these soundscapes. Where else would he be after all? Blixa sounds at home in the bowels of hell and damnation while singing of love. Of course, Cosey Fanny Tutti sounds great. This is her home. Sleazy, her friend, Chris, her partner.  She brings a pathos to the words and the mood. The loss and the life are monumental and equal.

The noise and the fury that build only hint at that of the past fury. So again, it is comforting and warm.  Dissonace becomes harmonious and sound as antagonist becomes sound as joy.

Of course, it is difficult to write about this without mentioning that absent voice you cringe to name. The second disc really sounds barren and cold and wanting. It really makes me miss the Voice of Gen.
i can feel the hole. I can feel its roundness and limits. Whereas the first disc has its presence and voices, the second disc is wholly lacking. I suspect this is the point. Peter is lacking as well. Well. . . It is I believe a reflection of the lack of the whole. And that is I believe the point. Sometimes the guiding light is just in the shadows like a conductor. You can see the motion, but there is no sound of the conductor. Only the sound.
Old is new, and old is well, history. How? Why? Why? Indeed!

Here I am again immersed in early Hall and Oates. Specifically again, War Babies (1974). This is dark and unrelenting. There are no hits. There are no uplifting moments. There is reality, and there is life, and there is pain and fucked up human beings. There is also Todd Rundrgren who, i think, encourages and loves this aspect of life. There is the memory of the past juxtaposed with the reality of the present. Yet darkness uplifts in its own way. I love this disc. I have for years and years. Days lead to weeks to months to years to life and more and so on, and where does it end, if ever? There is darkness illuminated by tv screens and life illuminated by death scenes. Life and death. Begin and End. Sink and Swim!