Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Rock and Rollins.

I met Henry Rollins tonight. I told him it was an honor, and then we talked about the Meat Puppets.

Next week, I am going to see said Meat Puppets with Built to Spill, and then immediately drive with Curtis the following day to Jonesboro, Arkansas to see Lion of Judah. Lots of long drives and rock shows in my future, and there isn't a goddamned thing wrong with that.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Blog on the Tracks.

I decided about a week ago that I should create a blog. The creative fire that makes my fingers itch and my heart sweat has been running a little low on kindling lately. Ben always tells me to write more often, as does my father. Now I have an excuse, a medium, my own private corner of the vast cyberplasm to fidget and whittle sticks and pick my nose.

I suppose blogging would be a good deal easier, and more fun, if I actually had anything reasonable or interesting of which to blog about. As it is, I have nothing.

Tonight, I watched Star Trek: First Contact, ate rice and green beans and smoked oysters on saltines with Tobasco sauce. I'm a little unnerved at how sexy I find the Borg Queen to be.

Today's playlist, from morning to night:
Neutral Milk Hotel - In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
the Replacements - Don't You Know Who I Think I Was?
Son Volt - Okemah & the Melody of Riot
Gob Iron - Death Songs for the Living
the Gunshy - There's No Love in This War
Bad Manners - Special Brew
Jawbreaker - Etc.

I've decided I'm going to go see Henry Rollins next week, despite the high ticket price of $25 and my relative poverty. But to pass up a chance to see Mr. Rollins would be akin to pass up a chance to take Communion from the Pope, or to make love to Monica Bellucci.

Other upcoming shows I'm excited about?
the Meat Puppets/Built to Spill (Columbia, MO)
Modern Life is War (their final St. Louis show)

I suppose that's about it. Nothing and no one good comes to Springfield anymore. That's why we have to take matters into our own hands. "We can be the bands we want to hear" indeed.

Excellent Las Cruces practice today. It never ceases to amaze me that the four of us, despite our glaring ineptness, always manage to come together on such a unified front. We learned a new song, entitled "Memorial Day". It's a little bit Jawbreaker, a little bit Crazy Horse, a lot Las Cruces.

"Memorial Day"

It's Memorial Day, 2084
It's been a hundred years since I was born
And I wonder if anyone will remember me
Who will see to it that my grave is swept clean*?

Will they say I dug my bootheels in,
And refused to give up the ghost?
Did I hold tight to this temporary thing?
Or did I just lie down with that night train ringin' in my ears
And close my eyes to dream the endless dream

It's Memorial Day, 2084
It's been a hundred years since I was born
Will anyone be around to breathe a letter of my name?
Will the world go on spinnin' just the same?

Will a great tremor run through the earth,
Will all the oceans turn to steam?
Will all the songbirds forget all their songs?
No, the stars will just laugh and shine
And the tide will rise and fall
And everything will go marching on

It's Memorial Day, 2084
It's been a hundred years since I was born
And I hope that they speak of me with love and not with shame
For I'd rather be forgotten than be blamed

Will all my tattoos fade to dust,
As all my words and all my deeds?
All memory that I ever even lived?
Will all of the saddest girls turn their backs to my stone,
Or will they find it in their hearts to forgive?

It's Memorial Day
It's Memorial Day

*(see "See That My Grave is Swept Clean", by Blind Lemon Jefferson)

I haven't drank in two weeks. This is the longest stretch of sobriety I've encountered in probably three years, and it feels good. My current vices instead include Meredith, green peppers, candy, Morrissey, and coffee. Lots of coffee.

Albums in heavy rotation lately:
Earth - The Bees Made Honey in the Lion's Skull

This is sprawling, epic, instrumental rock from the pioneers of "drone metal", though there's nothing really that "droning" about it. As much as I appreciate bands like Sunn O))), who certainly aren't shy about their passion for making a song that is fifteen or twenty minutes of low-end ambience, there's something much more interesting about Earth's current take on the genre. Bees Made Honey in the Lion's Skull is super-slow and heavy, but not exactly sludgy or metal. More like slow-motion Sabbath or Skynyrd riffs, calling to mind long night drives through bayou country, or those lonely Texas back roads that seem to stretch for fucking eternity.

Summation: "Drone" rock that calls to mind the soundtrack to Jarmusch's Dead Man instead of Lynch's Eraserhead.

Bob Dylan - Blood on the Tracks

I'm certainly not above slaughtering a few sacred cows every now and then, and my feelings 0f ambivalence towards Mr. Dylan are no exception. In the early to mid-Sixties, he was the manifestation of the progressive, youthful energy that swept the nation, a sort of zeitgeist/avatar/incarnation of Us vs. Them, Good vs. Evil, all that. Ginsberg said something about Dylan being a shaman, that all the words and feelings of the nation came out of Dylan like a column of air. And I suppose I agree, to a point. However, I also believe that, after Highway 61 Revisited, it was all downhill into irrelevancy. I suppose it's just that innate, inborn punk rock elitist within, but I still have never been able to sit through Blonde on Blonde from start to finish without getting bored or wondering "What's the big fucking deal?".

In hindsight, the Flower Children changed nothing. They became Yuppies and Baby Boomers, elected all sorts of Reagans and Bushes to presidential office, and their fearless prophet Dylan settled into a groove of releasing shitty, bizarre records that all of those upwardly-mobile ex-"radicals" pretended to enjoy. But there are always flukes, and Blood on the Tracks is certainly a fluke.

Released in 1975, between Planet Waves and Desire (neither of which, I'm sure, are worth mentioning), Blood on the Tracks is an album built around the concepts of anger, love and loss, almost undoubtedly stemming from Dylan's recent divorce. And this, I believe, is why it's held up so well, and why it rivals anything else he has ever or will ever release; it's Dylan being human. There are goddamn emotions on this record. There are still cryptic metaphors and rambling stories (see "Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts"), but even these hamfisted allegories and images carry a real emotional weight that is devoid from nearly all of his other material (though there are a few exceptions, such as "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright").

Blood on the Tracks is, essentially, a break-up record. A very adult break-up record. When I first listened to it, probably five or six years ago, the themes meant little to me. Now that I'm older and a little bit wiser, I'm amazed at how realistic and human the words ring. Dylan moved from the left-wing politics of the youthful Sixties to the interpersonal politics of the heart, which are much more interesting and useful anyhow.

Single lines drum up and sum up empathy and the emotions associated with love and loss better than entire albums' worth of material from other artists trying to convey such things. "Tangled Up in Blue" belongs on every post-break-up mixtape in the world, alongside Morrissey's "Suedehead" and "Come Pick Me Up" by Ryan Adams, while "Buckets of Rain", the album's closer, belongs on every mixtape you're making to get on someone's good side ("I like the cool way you look at me/Everything about you is bringing me misery"). "Idiot Wind" starts off as a noir narrative and rapidly descends into anger and frustration, certainly some of his angriest material since the mid-Sixties protest era, framing one of the greatest lines on the record; "I can't feel you anymore/I can't even touch the books you've read". If that doesn't sum up the way you've felt about a loved one at some point in your life, you've never known heartache.

I didn't mean to go on for so long about this record, but it's just that good. And I don't even really give a shit about Bob Dylan after I heard what Neil Young had to say.

Summation: When high schoolers get their hearts broken, they listen to the Get Up Kids, Blink-182, maybe Dashboard Confessional. College kids; the Smiths and Ryan Adams. Grown-ups? Blood on the Tracks.

Sometimes it just takes a while for something to really sink in.

It's almost four o'clock in the morning. This blog is far too long already. I'm off to a good start. I'm finishing my smoked oysters and going to bed.