Sunday, June 28, 2009

John Finn's Wife - Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

Artist: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

Album: Live Seeds

From the live album “Live Seeds”, “John Finn’s Wife” shows the Bad Seeds at their absolute formidable, murderous best. This song arrives much like the narrator in the song – crazy eyed, dangerous and without remorse. Whilst the intro (and outro) hints at the beauty of the woman that the song is named after, the body of the song is brawling, chaotic, throwing you into the midst of a bar brawl where someone is going to be killed by night’s end. The imagery of people too terrified to move is nicely juxtaposed by the hurtling speed of which the Bad Seeds are careening at. Not a second is wasted and moments of terror are thrown in off the cuff by the band – see (what I assume to be spontaneous) Blixa Bargeld’s scream at 4.03.

The outro of the song leaves the narrator surrounded by the body of the man whose wife he has stolen, through a persuasive combination of white-hot lust and violence. As the song falls away it reminds me of Cave’s later film work “The Proposition” – a description of a brutal time where might was right and people moved on quickly from the remains of violence.

This song propelled me through a night in Key West, Florida in 2004. After a 3-day (continual) bus ride between NYC and Miami I ended up in Key West with nowhere to go and no plans. Not having enough money to get a room, I came across a Youth Hostel at 11pm that rented bicycles. I had the $10 required for a 12-hour rent, a purchase that would keep me busy until my 9am bus ride back to NYC. From 11pm to 8am I rode the entire island in equal parts an effort to stay awake and to see as much as I could of a very beautiful place (albeit at night). Riding past Hemmingway’s once residence, listening to this song I felt he would appreciate the imagery of a night where death arrives in a chaotic and taut manner, and the dense air of fear that pervades the body of the song.

Any fear of riding throughout the night (in what I would assume is one of America’s safest towns) was easily vanished by the bravado that this album empowers the listener with. It is easy to imagine oneself as Cave throughout, whether commanding the audience from the stage or being transported to locations of soon to be crime, deciding who is going to live or die, on a whim and a sense of possible deceit. The entire concert follows this pattern of rampage and is a riveting hour of violence; waiting, execution and no thought as to whether what has been committed could be wrong or regrettable. At this stage of Cave’s career (and his following Bad Seeds) I feel he was absolutely invincible - unstoppable in whichever direction he chose to turn.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Two Planes - Bardo Pond

Artist: Bardo Pond

Album: Dilate

The first section of this piece - guitars slowly pulling together, pushing into chords which slowly become more confident. A violin that just hangs in the air, like smoke from a cigarette on a frozen winter’s night which may have been exhaled ten minutes earlier, the user long gone. The feeling of being exhausted with nothing more to give, completely sapped of all strength.

Then at 3.04 a heavy guitar enters, slowly pulling this mess of sadness together in what is not a feeling of strength but sad acknowledgment of unity. Sonar like guitar bubbles push upwards, away from this heaviness that is weighing everything down. At 3.51 a distortion pedal flattens everything, the sound is that of pure molten lava, consuming everything in its path, rolling down slowly, obliterating all that stands before it. The drums seem to be the sound of collapse as it all falls away. A few loud bass and guitar notes strike up towards the end, like smoldering crackles of wood that is buried amongst the embers of a fire.

This piece to me contains a sadness which is overwhelming and suffocating. It is almost the audible version of being buried alive, layers and layers of oppression pushing down, suffocating, nowhere to go. The title and music also remind me of the excruciating tragedy that occurred later in the year after “Dilate” was released and the unfathomable sadness accompanying this.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

All My Friends - LCD Soundsystem

Artist: LCD Soundsystem

Album: Sound Of Silver

  A repeated piano part over and over, over and over. Repetition moving into a feeling of disjointed alertness but also soothing re-assurance due to the expected and delivered repetition. The bass begins, darting in and out, present then disappearing like someone peering out from behind a tree in a game of hide and seek. Hi-hats enter, pulsing, pushing forward and then James Murphy sings, his voice sounding earnest, flamboyant and world weary all at once.

  I find LCD Soundsystem a revelation. James Murphy is perfectly able to voice his feelings and emotions, often when they seem a blur of confusion, uncertainty and regret. But next to all of this is a musical backing that is rushing headlong to the end of 7 minutes 37. These lyrics evolve, pulling together a internal thought process that somehow makes sense of the previous years of hedonism and living. It takes me back to moments in my life where I have being drunk in a club, surrounded by friends, not sure of what I'm doing with my life, but very happy and lucky to have a moment filled with warmth and reassurance like this. Falling down drunk but taking yr friends with you as you fall into a laughing happy mess. 

  There are times of desperation and self-guessing which for me makes this song so poignant - the lyrics show someone who is well aware of what has been happening as they get older but they are willing the momentum of the speed of their previous years to push them past where they currently are. And it works, the music just keeps pushing forward, drum fills being fired into increasingly small pockets of empty sound, keyboards rising, sides of the mix filling in and a overall feeling of being swept away, and being very happy to run with it. This song is the definition of euphoric - it's the equivalent of a plane taking off in 7 minutes and 37, suggesting the length is no aviation misnomer. Starting. Moving. Accelerating, then being consumed in the magical moment where the plane is picked up and deposited into the clouds.


  I am writing these posts to try and remember some things that used to greatly excite me; times of my life that felt like I was living in a film – an excitement and naivety that really filled me with joy and the feeling of my bones being warmed with life. Most commonly music, film and travel gave me these feelings, so I will write of these, but of other things too. Hopefully you will be keen to check out some of these songs/places/moments that I write of and you might get a similar experience from them that I have had.

   As I get older I find it harder to get the same “kick” out of things that I did when I was younger – life takes on more gravity, and whether I like it or not I seem to feel more tethered to day to day life. This is good in some ways – there are wonderful moments that come with urban domesticity, but I do miss feeling like I used to when I was younger – that the world was a very open place, and that anything was possible. I guess these posts will be an attempt to reconvene with those moments, relive them and be inspired to create new moments of pure-life.