Here are some of the things I’m listening to these days which are new to me, or else which have reappeared in my life again, after a long absence:
- The Smiths. Myoung Jae loaned me a copy of the CD that collected their singles and it was funny, the conversation that he and Mer and I had about it.
“When Myoung told me he’d loaned you the Smiths, I was surprised you hadn’t heard it.”
“Yeah,” I said, sometimes it sounds like something coming from me myself, the lyrics feel like they’re coming from inside me.”
“Yeah,” Mer replies. “I couldn’t believe you hadn’t heard them before. I mean, they were so miserable, and you were so miserable.”
“I’m not so miserable anymore, though!” I said, halfway between insistence and joyful declaration.
“I know. It kind of foils the point,” she said, or something like that. And Myoung Jae just chuckled.
That’s kind of paraphrased, apologies to Mer. Anyway, it’s true, the Smiths is wonderfully miserable music, quite awfully unhappy and somehow they made something beautiful out of bitterness and loneliness and celibacy and all. I probably wouldn’t have quite understood back in the old blackhearted days, but now I see what they were up to. There’s something I totally relate to in the lines:
I was happy in the haze of a drunken hour
But heaven knows I’m miserable now
I was looking for a job and then I found a job
And heaven knows I’m miserable now
In my life, why do I give valuable time
To people who don’t care if I live or die?
sung crooningly over such a sweet, quasi-80s accompaniment. Let alone, “I’ve Started Something I Can’t Finish”.
The Flaming Lips, especially the album Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots which I think is the most original of the “narrative” rock albums I’ve heard; it makes not just Roger Waters’ The Pros and Cons of Hitch-hiking but even David Bowie‘s efforts (such as Outside) look like evolutionary predecessors.
I am also enjoying songs from their album Transmissions from a Satellite Heart (especially the song “She Uses Vaseline”) but it’s my opinion that they got truly, incredibly interesting with Yoshimi. Before that they were merely a really good rock band, but with that album, they became truly outstanding. That’s just my opinion, though, and my bandmates seem to think otherwise. So, apparently, do the guys at the studio who are handling all the sound work for our CD: they recommended some of the Flaming Lips’ sound as a model to how our own sound could be handled, a kind of precedent-setter for our album. Apparently, though, Myoung and Mer and Thai have all been into this album for months, and I never noticed or picked up on it.
- Neutral Milk Hotel‘s In The Aeroplane, Over The Sea. These guys are friends with Apples in Stereo, whom Thai got me into, and I quite like the poignant brashness. But unlike with The Apples In Stereo, Thai didn’t get me into these guys: it was John Wendel who loaned me their CD, and I still really enjoy it. The instrumentation (including accordion and theremin), the crazy lyrics about love and adolescence and ironic reincarnation and the King of Carrot Flowers. It’s really good stuff.
I wish I could say I’ve also discovered some newfangled jazz stuff that I’ve never heard of, or that I’d come across some composer that I’ve been hearing about but not gotten anything by before now, but the truth is that I’m trying to figure out what makes the rock music I like work, what it is in this stuff that I am connecting to. So I’m listening to rock music of some form or another almost all the time now, delving into it and trying to see through the (relatively simple) forms to what it is that is engaging me there. Strange, I know, but it’s fascinating for me, for now anyway.
Probably just as well, as we’re making a rock CD now. So it’s only right to have my head full of this stuff.