Sunday, 19 July 2009

Dose 23...Sore Subjects of the Seventies

1)Spanish Bombs by The Clash

Giovanni Dadomo famously heralded The Clash as, "the first new group to come along who can really scare the Sex Pistols shitless". Ironically, the band was formed in an effort to branch away from the Sex Pistols unapologetic, "like it or fuck off", brand of rock. Stummer and Jones, instead, sought to popularize pub rock and even add an even deeper basis to the music. By their third album, London Calling (1979), the band had not only established pub rock as its very own scene, but synthesized elements of reggae, ska, punk, and soul in creating a truly unique amalgam.

"Spanish Bombs" typifies the sheer genius of this record. Initially conceived during a conversation regarding a Basque nationalist separatist movement (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna), the final work reflects on the friction between Franco's fascist regime and his centerist/communist/anarchist opposition. Thoroughly intricate, the track is littered with allusions to figures like Frederico Garcia Lorca and the people's militia, red and black flags (communists and anarchists working together to oust the dictatorship), la Gaurdia Civil (a Spanish police force), and the atrocities at Guernica.

Amazing Album. Amazing Song.

London Calling

2)California by Joni Mitchell

If I were around in the 60's and 70's, had a bit of a musical streak, and was willing to compete with Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, I think Joni Michell and I could have got on great as a couple. Her because she was a beautiful, young idealist with an angelic voice and a passion for creating the best folk music of the decade (Re: Dylan excluded). Me, well, I probably could have served as a fawning devotee to any of her causes, in addition to being a great homemaker (see how progressive I would have been!). The problem with this fictional romance I, not-too-regularly, daydream about is that (and here's the kicker) I would never have had Joni's heart. No, she wasn't tied up with another man, but rather with another land. As a Canadian transplant, Mitchell found herself enamored of California's surreal geography and open-minded thinkers. Consequently, she recognized her new potential for independence in this frontier and saw that she had an audience comprised of those who believed her ideas possible. Luckily, as an 80's baby, I never had to deal with the anguish of losing Joni Mitchell, but you get the idea...

Blue (1971)

Friday, 3 July 2009

Dose 22...Black Bile & Lugubriousness

1)St. Augustine by Band of Horses

As the last track on Everything All The Time (2006), "St. Augustine" could have really gone any way. Throughout the album, the band (presumably, of horses) demonstrated their prodigious versatility. From their morose tracks like "The Funeral", lush with stoic lyrics about abortion challenged by cascading guitar chords, to their more upbeat songs such as "Wicked Gil", these guys proved over and over that they didn't necessarily fit into any prescribed niche. True, Birdwell's voice sounds a lot like Jim James...and that "glimmering reverb" doesn't help either. But what Band of Horses has going for it has all together nothing to do with these MMJ-esque qualities. Rather it's the dichotomies that they themselves establish. Stephen M. Deusner describes it as the "delicate balance of elements- between gloom and promise, quiet and loud, epic and ordinary, familiar and new, direct and elliptical, artist and listener", which is the real draw of their music. Nowhere is this is more apparent than on "St. Augustine", a song which harmonizes the basso vocals of Mat Brooke with Birdwell's soothing whisper. As the two croon in combination, they tell of past indiscretion, redemption, and forgiveness. Whether this song is about St. Augustine, Florida (as many from the locale posit) or about the misguided Saint Augustine Indian Mission School (their website even has pictures of the staff...gruesome), it is really the melancholy tone of the song which is most interesting, as it, like most conclusions, defines the complete work.

Everything All The Time

2)Citrus by The Hold Steady

"Citrus" isn't a fitting song on Boys and Girls in America (2006) or even for The Hold Steady. They don't thrash about loudly with heavy rock 'n' roll chords. Nor does Craig Finn narrate, in vivid detail, the story of teenage love and drug binges, though these themes are integral to this despondent piece. In fact, the only real resemblance this piece has to the rest of their catalog is that it is self-reflective and thus particularly apropos for drinking by oneself , in addition to our other self-destructive vices. Apart from this attractive complement, the song is gentle, cathartic, and unsurprisingly meticulous, making it pleasing on sonic levels as well.

As is typical of their lyrics, The Hold Steady are primarily speaking to the interplay of sex and drugs (with themselves creating the rock'n'roll to complete the trinity), but, this time it comes from a grander perspective. Perhaps, a bit older, Finn is now speaking with the voice of someone who's lived through the good times, as well as the bad, and uniquely, he tells no cautionary tale. Instead he, like the experienced sage, urges you to go forth and try it all. He only impresses on you that down this path, both Judas and Jesus await.

Boys and Girls in America