Notes From The Flip Side: 02.09.2003
"Your old music cannot sustain you through a life, not if you're someone who listens to music every day, at every opportunity. You need input, because pop music is about freshness, about Nelly Furtado and the maddeningly memorable fourth track on a first album by a band you saw on a late-night TV show. And no, that fourth track is not as good as anything on 'Pet Sounds,' or 'Blonde on Blonde,' or 'What's Going On,' but when was the last time you listened to 'Pet Sounds'?"
I'm amazed at how much merely seeing San Diego on television makes me miss it. I'm amazed at how much seeing Jack Murphy Stadium hurts. All I can see is the mesa behind it. I know the 15 is just past the stadium and I know that my home is the next exit south, a few blocks west and then a few blocks down.
And all I can do is look at that fucking hill on a television screen, 2,000 miles away.
And so I immerse myself in trivia. I read constantly. I obsess over music and making mix CDs. I spend time with my dog. And I feel several orders of magnitude older than I actually am.
And then I look out the window late at night and see snow falling on empty streets. I see fresh paw prints on the lawn and watch the first cautious squirrel of the morning hopping across the street.
It's a quiet life here and that's something new to me. It seems to be dramatically slower. I spend most of my time at the local record store or at the radio station.
And then there are the other nights, the nights that remind me of a little pop song I heard on my birthday many years ago, a bouncy techno tune on a Mexican radio station that no longer exists, a song that came on the radio while I was waiting to hear from a girl I loved who I was supposed to see that night but who never called, a song carrying a name I never knew by a musician I never identified and a chorus that consisted of "Uh huh / Eh heh / I'm gonna get out of town tonight."
I spent Friday night in Chicago, smoking and drinking Woodford's Reserve at the Metro, enjoying the hell out of Mates Of State and Rainer Maria. I drove to Champaign last night to see them again.
The Chicago show surprised me - most people seemed to be too cool to care about the music. Tonight was fairly similar except for a handful of people, most notably a small blonde girl standing at the edge of the stage, dancing and singing every word like her life depended on it.
It's behavior that I recognize. It stems from a need, a craving, a yearning, a passion that I'm all too familiar with and know all too well.
It's the sort of thing that I'm used to doing. It is the shock of recognizing myself in another and, I hope, the converse is also true.
And it's all because of these stupid little pop songs that fill my days, a handful of simple chords strung together, some strings and sticks and booms and thuds. It's all because of these songs that I can't get enough of, that I listen to over and over again, these songs that I can't get out of my head.
It's all because three minutes can be remodeled and reconfigured in ways that remind me what it feels like to fall in love all over again, that make me feel alive. Every last second is precious, a gift that I can't explain and wouldn't trade, and because of all these things, I can catch a fleeting glimpse of someone at a show and, even though I don't know them, even though I've never even met them, I can see them singing along and simply know that we share something between us, that these songs make our respective burdens easier to bear, if only for a little while, and that we will go our separate ways but a common thread remains between us - two strangers bound together by the songs.
It makes walking back to the car in the cold night air much easier. It makes such nights seem warm, forgiving, filled with possibility and wonder. On nights like that, anything can be made or made anew, made real or reified. On a night like that, a deep and embracing form of love abides and persists and everything seems okay, even if it is only for a short while. But a short while is perfectly fine with me.
Oh, yeah. I almost forgot. I listened to "Pet Sounds" this past week. Take that, Nick Hornby.
Off The Top Of My Head ...
- More news on the Communiqué EP - it comes out at the end of February. It contains one of the single most amazing songs I've ever heard ("Love Unconditional"). I literally cried during the band's show when I first heard them play it. It has rendered me incapable of speech each time I've heard it. And I haven't heard a studio version yet.
- My stereo is all about Azure Ray right now. I needed these records 15 years ago. Can you blame me for trying to make up for lost time?
- The last Sea And Cake album was quite astounding. The new one is just flat out beautiful. The same goes for Rainer Maria. "Long Knives Drawn" is just gorgeous. I feel blessed to hear albums like that. And while the last two nights of Rainer Maria shows have been exhausting, in distances traveled and time at the show and the emotional impact of the songs, they have both been worth this delicious exhaustion that will squander the remainder of my Sunday with nothing but movies and mix CDs.
- My copy of the Anthology Of American Folk Music came in. So did my copy of the Woody Guthrie Asch recordings. Yeah. They're that good.
- I finally got around to rediscovering Bash & Pop and Red House Painters. I recently heard Neil Halstead. Yes, it may seem that I'm getting into singer-songwriters lately, but I'll still be at any Dillinger Four show within about 200 miles of here.
Now seems like as good a time as any to remind you that Ceylon wrote a piece about his trip to Iraq. I finally added his pictures to it. I will warn you in advance that some of the pictures are graphic and that the page will take a few moments to download. Since the U.S. government is gearing up to wage war in the name of its citizens, you should probably see exactly what that entails.
And as trivial as it seems when an illegitimate president is hell-bent on getting a war and following in his father's footsteps, I've added more pictures to the Rogue's Gallery. If you have an STM shirt, kindly snap a pic of it and send it along.
There are also more new playlists.
Rainer Maria. Azure Ray. The Sea And Cake. Beulah. Ryan Adams. Tom Waits. Wilco. Uncle Tupelo. X. Bash And Pop. Jesse Dayton. Red House Painters. Neil Halstead.
Jerzy Kosinski, "Passion Play"
Thomas Wolfe, "You Can't Go Home Again"; Andrew Feenberg, "Questioning Technology" and "Alternative Modernity"; Steven Heller, "Graphic Design History" (edited with Georgette Ballance); Gunnar Swanson, ed., "Graphic Design And Reading"; Naomi Klein, "No Logo"