"Holdin' On Like a Hubcap in the Fast Lane": A Dictionary For Curing Hella Seasonal Depression (A thru M)
It's a Metaphor: Minotaurs
A is for "American Music" by the Violent Femmes, wherein lead Femme Gordon Gano figured out how to trick a fumbling tryst between Tom Petty and Phil Spector that ends in a rave-up, sound like woe actually is him and still more cheery-charming than Jonathan Richman or unapologetically fucked up than Spiritualized. Like a huge party in a chapel where all the mistakes you’ve ever made get wasted and tousle your hair but don't exactly forgive you.
B is for “Blue Nile” by Alice Coltrane for when you can’t afford mushrooms and don’t feel like putting on your sarong but wouldn’t mind the full Hippie Jazz Entropical Vacation package where Pharoah Sanders paddles you through a dark, verdant corridor to a whoosh-waterfall of a harp solo with just enough augmented chords to rip the pants off Debussy and rub him down with scented oil while he’s nodded out cross-legged on a hooked rug yeah.
C is for Candi Staton’s “I’d Rather Be an Old Man’s Sweetheart”, a gutting piece of soul music that makes having sex with geriatrics sound deeply comfortable and disconcertingly alluring.
D is for Destroyer’s “Thief”, a set of lyrics I’d tattoo on my back if someone put up the money for it or at least let me bite down on their forearm when I feel the words “You take back the curse but the girl just gets every rip-off artist to paint a picture / Of a world at war / When the world was not at war,” be it a need borne of pain or because I didn’t want the body artist to see me crying softly into my chest hair.
E is for E-40’s “The Slap”; I saw E-40 host MTV2's Sucka Free Countdown the other day, and in one segment, Ghostface showed up on a video screen and asked E-40 how he comes up with all his great slang; E-40 responded with 20 seconds of flashy, affirmative nonsense.
So, well, sort of like
THE NORTH STAR: How do you shine so nice?
A SMALL, DISTANT STAR: So okay there are like these things called Giant Molecular Clouds and
COW: How do you get your milk so sweet?
F is for Frank Kogan, because I never really cared for reading “music criticism” up until a year or so ago and now I feel like I’ve got some catching up to do, because I’m totally intrigued by the well-studied alien approach. I’m really excited for Real Punks Don’t Wear Black to arrive.
G is for Gilberto Gil and Os Mutantes performing "Domingo No Parque" on TV. It’s not just because the coda makes me deliriously happy and thoroughly inspired, but because it’s interesting to be reminded that Tropicalia wasn’t a) off the radar or b) universally accepted – the audience noise is pretty constant, and the tone of the response is pretty mixed. Not sure where this is from, but then again, that’s the rootless joy of YouTube for you, isn’t it. Also, Os Mutantes: really silly-looking.
H is for Harry Nilsson’s “The Most Beautiful World in the World”, a song that implicitly mocks The Jungle Book using the same colonial islander-folk vibe of “Coconut” or later “Kokomo,” but then breaks into an extended world :: woman metaphor over a schlocky orchestral passage, spotlight and all. Moral is, breasts – touch them, if you can, because we’re just on a long shimmy to the grave.
I is for “I Want to See The Bright Lights Tonight” by Richard and Linda Thompson. PBW wanders into Cheers on Friday afternoon and finally sees the appeal – good-old-tymes, straight backslappin’ and yukkin’ it up in sepia; also, briefly surrender to what people see in the sagging anachro-folk-rock of The Band.
J is for “Jealous Guy” as performed by Donny Hathaway, because I like Bryan Ferry better than John Lennon, but I’m wringing out the sad sacks in favor of the self-possessed for right now. Hathaway’s meaty staccato maximizes every saloon syncopation “Benny and the Jets”-style; the unambiguous confidence in his voice spanks every idealization of the Trembling Patriarchal Sissy and sends them back to their rooms.
K is for Kano’s “Mic Check (Remix)” not because I was all that thrilled with his Beats and Bars mixtape or even this song, but because his justification/evidence for being crazy and fucked up is that he’s a minotaur.
L is for Lil’ Wayne’s “Tha Mobb”. I still basically consider myself a casual rap listener, and I really don’t know if the way I hear this stuff is at all similar to the way other people do, but what I really find amazing about Tha Carter II’s opening – save the fact that at 5:20 and no chorus, it’s obviously an expository flex – is Wayne’s scorched-earth tableau of jungle survivalism. If I cringe when he says “And the beat keep cryin’ and I’m’a keep beatin’ her,” I get serious goosebumps when he moans “I’m hungry like I didn’t eat/I want it like I didn’t see a meal before 17” and I usually go bliss-blank when he hits blockbuster shamanism: “I’m in the sky when the thunder’s cryin”; he steals from bears, compares himself to a shark, gorilla, and a tiger, loses the beat and gains the power of invincibility: “Start ‘em ignite ‘em I walk through fire / Watch the flames start multiplyin.’” I know that buying into CGI anim/animalism morph jobs is its own trap, but it’s a lot more interesting than jewelry or his basketball metaphors.
M is for “Misen Gymnastics” by Oorutaichi, which ostensibly imagines the Talking Heads’ “I Zimbra” as the soundtrack to an anime orgy of jungle mutants. I got a copy of Yori Yoyo, language barrier and all, and it’s got some wonderful moments. Not sure how space disco it is, and it doesn’t really help alleviate the “wacky Japan” stereotype, but it definitely fits in with the neo-tribal naïf/cartoon aesthetic I fall for pretty easily.
(Please check back later today or tomorrow for the thrilling "N thru Zed" portion, which will include specious obituaries, me cautiously proclaiming my love for 60s NY salsa, and a humorous anecdote about a time I slept in someone's bathroom, totally uninvited.)