Notes From The Flip Side: 05.25.2003
Summer Storms And Tornado Warnings ...
The days just wave goodbye, a blur of greenery, robins and late-night cottontails hopping across the street. I spent most of yesterday wandering around with my dog and a girl, talking and drinking coffee. As the evening came on, the wind picked up and we could see distant flashes from lightning, so far away that we couldn't hear the thunder. The air felt electric - warm, humid and crackling with energy - so we drove over to the town park to sit under the stars and enjoy it. The lightning flashes got brighter and closer. We could hear the thunder. And the wind had picked up - it felt like gusts up to 30 or 35 m.p.h. I don't know how long we were out there but it didn't rain on us at all. It wasn't until I got home that I found out that a tornado warning had been in effect the entire time and that a couple of twisters had touched down nearby (in Pekin - about 15 miles away) and caused some damage. And there we were - out in the middle of it all with no cover, nowhere to run, nowhere to hide ... and it felt great.
And perhaps this is why I'm here - to experience these things, to accept them and lose these last remaining vestiges of fear, to gain new knowledge to carry me through my next 30 years.
The Ghosts Of Iowa City ...
Friday, May 16, was one of the greatest days I've had in this or any other year. I woke up dead tired, reeling from days of not sleeping much (if at all) and went to work to finish some tasks. When I called it a day, I went home, changed and drove 200 miles to Iowa City for the Give Up The Ghost / Hope Conspiracy show. I rolled in around 4:30, met up with Wes and Tim and went to get some Indian food. We talked about music, food - the goofy stuff people talk about when it's been a while since they've seen each other. And since they happened to have a mixed and mastered copy of the new album with them, we went back to the van and they played it. All of it. And you can probably guess what I'm going to say next:
It's fucking brilliant. Same hardcore riffs as "Background Music" but more melody, more hooks, more artistic and musical experimentation and exploration. I had been wondering how GUTG would follow up "Background Music" - I'm not wondering anymore. And calling the new record an instant classic ain't hyperbole - it's simple honesty.
The bands were great that night. The sound was a bit dodgy, the crowd seemed somewhat indifferent - GUTG and Hope Conspiracy could have written it off and just phoned the show in, but they didn't. Kevin from The Hope Conspiracy started challenging the audience, calling the kids out and wondering why they weren't at least pretending to give a shit. And then GUTG rolled out like a juggernaut of a rock 'n' roll killing machine and it was all over.
The night went on from there - lots of talking, practical jokes and general tomfoolery. It's almost a week and a half later and my knee is still healing.
It's been a long time since I felt that happy. I wish we could all be so lucky as to experience days like that.
What We Forget About When We Forget Why We Make Music ...
I had been hearing about the Langley Schools Music Project for a while - no one could really tell me much about it though. They just said it was great so I finally quit ordering In Flames albums and Nick Drake reissues long enough to put an order in for the Langley disc. And now I'm wondering why I waited.
The basic story behind this record is that Hans Fenger, a Canadian music teacher, set up some microphones in a gym and recorded his students performing pop songs back in 1976 and 1977.
The instrumentation is loose - hell, it's downright sloppy - but there's something profoundly affecting about that off-time tambourine, about those off-beat cymbal crashes, the rudimentary guitar playing, soloists who sing in a plaintive register and can't quite hit the high notes. It's affecting because these performances are musical explorations made by people who apparently weren't told that they couldn't sing, who apparently weren't told that they couldn't play. These are performances of kids who love music and whose performances were, in some way, validated and reified by the recording process.
This is not to say that performances must be laid to tape to be real; I'm merely observing that it must have been immensely meaningful to these children to know that someone liked their efforts enough to set them to tape. I can only hope that they know that people are still listening to their performances of almost 30 years ago.
Even The Mona Lisa Is Falling Apart ...
I go back into the doctor on Tuesday. For the past several weeks, my back, neck and shoulders have been bothering me. Decreased range of motion, diffuse pain symptoms - you get the idea. Some things have been ruled out. Others haven't. The result of my last visit was a handful of medication samples like Celebrex, Vioxx and Bextra. For the past few weeks, I've been waking up and taking three extra-strength pain relievers to take the edge off the day. Three more after work. And I'm carrying aspirin with me during the day. When I stretch, various parts of my body crack and pop.
It's been about three weeks since my last visit. After three weeks of as many over-the-counter pain relievers as I can reasonably take in a day and the anti-inflammatories he gave me, my back, neck and shoulders are worse. I believe I'm headed for another round of physical therapy. I really don't see much of a way around it at this point.
I feel like I'm living in a body which is twice as old as I feel. And that's saying something. I'm frequently amazed that I manage to do as much as I do, given that I'm usually in pain and never feel 100%. On the other hand, I don't have much choice.
Off The Top Of My Head ...
- I am a damned idiot. As I ramble on about the phenomenally wonderful albums released by Ted Leo, Elliott, Rainer Maria, The Essex Green and whoever else I'm babbling about at the moment (all of which you should go acquire immediately), I'm forgetting about the sonic greatness of Blood Brothers. I will amend that slight forthwith. The Blood Brothers fucking rule.
- The new Alkaline Trio is a great burst of gruesome, morbid poppy punk rock filled with songs about sex, blood, drinking, death and despair. You already know you're going to buy it.
- I can't wait for the new Give Up The Ghost and Fairweather discs.
- If you aren't aware that In Flames is about the best metal band in existence right now, you should correct that oversight.
- I just finished listening to The GC5's "Never Bet The Devil Your Head" again. I suspect I'll be spending a lot of quality time with that record - it's about everything that I had hoped the most recent Bombshell Rocks disc would be.
- I'm loving the new Arab Strap disc. It's worked up and so sexual (with apologies to The Faint). Since rock 'n' roll was a euphemism for sex, it's only appropriate that some forms of rock are now more lusty than the best and most literate smut.
Alkaline Trio. Hank Mobley. Leonard Cohen. Joe Henderson. In Flames. Blueline Medic. Armor For Sleep. Black Dice. Black Cross. The Black Heart Procession. Herbie Hancock. The GC5. Arab Strap. Beth Orton. Placebo. Lightning Bolt. Leonard Cohen. Lambchop. Pavement.
Paul Avrich, "Anarchist Portraits"; Umberto Eco, "Island Of The Day Before"; Alan Lomax, "The Land Where The Blues Began"; Peter Guralnick, "Lost Highway" and "Sweet Soul Music"; 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"; Daniel Guerin, "No Gods No Masters"