Monday, November 17, 2008

I swear on Heaven's Gate's black-and-white Nikes, I'm From Barcelona are a cult. It's not so much their roster size (two dozen, give or take a few), their like-minded fashion sense, or their unchecked ebullience. It's this hint of secrecy, this sense of us being on the outside of some knowledge only they are privy to. They are eternally happy and comfortable in their black-rimmed glasses and wool sweaters, and we will never know why.

Do I sound jealous? Good, because I am. It's why I emailed Emanuel Lundgren and told him I want in. They're looking for new members; cults always are. Hear "Andy" and the lyrics, "We could need someone like you in our band / No audition and you don't have to pretend." Or "Orphelia," which reads like something you'd find in a cult's literature, a case study along the lines of "Look what our cult did for poor Johnny!": "He didn't believe in anything / He didn't believe in joy."

Then again, the Barcelona Temple really doesn't need pamphlets and colorful buttons and what not. They have pop songs, which are infinitely more powerful. And thanks to the music, you'll be one of them before the night comes. La-la-la-la-la-la-la . . .

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

"We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." Oscar Wilde once said that. Smart man.

Monday, November 10, 2008

As the years accumulate, Astral Weeks becomes less and less of a leisure grab. It's not for a lack of appreciation; it's for the crushing sense of nostalgia. Morrison wrote "Ballerina" after meeting his first wife following a gig at the Fillmore. After first meeting -- this is crucial. The song focuses upon her physical sorcery, which Morrison deftly conveys with his reoccurring image of an elegant, graceful ballerina. Celebrating the allurement of a Helen is an ancient songwriting trick, but Morrison isn't doing this because it's custom. Really, he's got nothing else to latch onto -- he has yet to discover her vices, her quirks, her charms. He only knows her face. And this is what pains. Years from now, that striking physical beauty -- which sent Morrison into a sort of "hallicunatory ecstasy" (not my words; two of Lester Bangs' 3,700 from his legendary Astral Weeks review) -- will have fled, with only aged photographs and words to venerate it. So pay homage while it still exists, while it still enchants, while it still forces you to pen the following couplet: "And I'm standing in your doorway / And I'm mumbling and I can't remember the last thing that ran through my head."

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Artists who have mentioned Steve Reich as an influence: Brian Eno, Kevin Shields, and Jason Pierce. That's one holy-shit triumvirate, no? Maybe I'm naive and indulging in too many priggish-classical-musician stereotypes, but after recently watching an infinity of Reich interviews, I was struck by how affable and humble and approachable he is. How he touched upon those individuals who regularly indulge in Beethoven, Bach, and Brahms, and how wonderful this is, yet: "We don't want them to be the only ones." Then a laugh. This seizes me, when it shouldn't really, since this is an artist who penned something as casual and unconventional as "Clapping Music." In speaking about that particular piece of music, Reich commented on those slight variations on traditional canons or rounds that don't tell you how to sound, but help you to think. But what I truly enjoyed hearing: How the classical music establishment thought Reich had gone crackers when he started doing performances, only to re-assess the artist in the late 1970s and decree, he's not crazy -- he's actually pretty good. "If you do something in life, you want other people to appreciate it." When do creative giants ever admit as much?