Saturday, March 10, 2012


MY NEW BLOG (Ben Rose Art)

I had no idea this blog would become such a success - it started as merely a passion project but has garnered a shockingly large number of readers. Thank you so much for your interest, everybody!

I have consolidated this blog (including all old posts) with my new website, which shows my artwork and (coming soon) my design and consulting business. I will continue writing the same kind of pop music blog posts, too! Coming soon: Corona's Rhythm Of The Night, New Order's 5 8 6 and Sylvester's Do Ya Wanna Funk?

Thanks everyone!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Talking Heads - This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)

Original Promo Clip

From Stop Making Sense

Talking Heads - This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody).mp3

This is a song with which I have been familiar for most of my life, but I've only recently really listened to and loved it. But the past week or so, I've been absolutely enamored of it, and I've listened to it dozens upon dozens of times (as any of my Last FM friends may have seen).

For some reason, I feel like starting with a line from near the end of the song, because it is the one that is most enduring for me:

"Out of all those kinds of people, you've got a face with a view."

It is this kind of awkward, obscure but incredibly poignant phrase that defines this song; everything about it could be described in the same terms, but it all adds up to a golden goose that is truly beautiful and heartbreakingly tender and sincere. I mean, I guess Talking Heads are inherently this way; weird, wild and always off-center, but they manage to hit the heart of just about everyone.

Recently, I've been thinking a lot about love. What is it? Why do we love? How do we love? How do I want to love? Do I have a choice in how to love? Is the way we traditionally think of love an accurate way of thinking about it? When we say love, what do we mean? To what are we referring? Aren't there like a million things that people can and do call love? What is love, in essence? These are the questions Depeche Mode has asked and will continue to ask with such tracks as "Love, In Itself". Stay tuned.

And how is love expressed in pop songs? It's strange, because most of my favorite songs are actually not direct love songs. And it's not because I don't like straightforward love songs; I guess that a lot of them are just so histrionic and self-centered; they are about expressing longing and desire. That's not always a bad thing, but I am usually not as turned on by it. I tend more toward weird, kind of cryptic love songs like Peter Murphy's "I'll Fall With Your Knife" and "Yummy Yummy Yummy I've Got Love In My Tummy". I guess I often feel like the songs that are most imbued with love actually don't really refer directly to it at all, or they don't even have vocals.

But in terms of a song that is almost without question a love song, no matter how weird, I think that This Must Be The Place is maybe the best I've ever heard. The more I listen to it, the more I love it and the more it opens my eyes.

First of all, the whole song seems kind of childlike. It's naive (hence the title, perhaps). It's small and silly and quirky, like it's still learning the language of music. I think that with some people, this might cause its immediate dismissal. It is an easy song to dismiss for these reasons. It almost seems a little stupid at first - let's be honest. But it's absolutely anything but. Good lord, it's anything but. And that naivety is precisely why it's so brilliant. It's a return to naivety; a wise return to origin. And that's what the song is about, and that is what, I've realized in the past 72 hours, love is about.

Love is everywhere; it is inherent and omnipresent. All that is, is love. I talked about this in my Being It post. Life is about learning to recognize this, to find the love that is already there, and always has been there. And there are certain people with whom we connect so very deeply and love so very much, and it just feels differently than it does with other people. I mean, I think that there are certainly people we are just meant to love, and meant to feel a certain way about. I think most people actually think this, but they feel reluctant to make a firm commitment to the belief because it sounds strange and spiritual or something. Well, I am going to come right out and say that we are absolutely meant to love the people we love, and that it is never accidental. In fact, I will say that we are born loving these people, before we even meet them. I think that feeling or falling in love for someone is merely recognizing this and discovering who it is that we already inherently love on a spiritual, essential level. All the world, in reality, is light, and love is essentially about finding the lights that reflect our own; perhaps finding our own light in another place. But falling in love is merely returning to a love that was already there; it is a recognition of and a return to what already was, has been and will always be. A return to that which is most naive and simplistic; light, and nothing more. It is forgetting what we have learned, and remembering what we already knew.

This idea of return has been on my mind a great deal. I really think that more or less everything essential about me was there, in full, when I was a little kid. And so many things I dismissed as I grew older have been back in my mind again as being something very valuable and true. Of course, they all now must be incorporated and understood quite differently now, because I am no longer a small child. But all the groundwork was there, and I am constantly returning to where I was so long ago, and moved away from for so long. We are all prodigal sons, and there is a reason that for the entirety of human literature and storytelling, the idea of being in one place, leaving, and returning to it again (with a different perspective) is so crucial. It is the pattern of life, right along there with the Hegelian dialectic. The essence of the world and the way it always will be is right in front of us and has always been there, and the essence of who we are in ourselves is always there, sitting and waiting to be discovered. I like to think that life is really just about trying to clear away all obstruction from who we really are, from the light of our souls. This is what people talk about when they refer to the "light in your eyes" or "your shine" or something. Once again; people already kind of think this way, it's just been covered up quite a bit. But we can find it there, buried in language and phrases we use constantly. We just need to forget what we've learned and look at things laid bare.

The more I listen to this song, the more I love it. Every time, there is something new that hits me and amazes me. It's musically loaded with different melodies and noodlings, and it all adds up to a majestic, beautiful beast. It makes me think of a moose; awkward but gorgeous and with every reason to be proud.

Let's look at the lyrics. Immediately the idea of returning home is alluded to:

Home is where I want to be
Pick me up and turn me 'round

If home is where he wants to be, and then he asks to be turned around, then wasn't he heading away from home, and he's asking to be pointed back toward it? It's the whole prodigal son thing, straight away, and he refers to it again later. And already, we are musically placed in a place mysterious, yet strangely familiar and safe.

I feel numb - born with a weak heart
I guess I must be having fun
The less we say about it the better
Make it up as we go along
Feet on the ground
Head in the sky
It's ok, I know nothing's wrong . . nothing

Here, there is a continued sense of naivety, of not knowing - "I guess I must be having fun", etc. The first line is so interesting to me, too. Is numbness the symptom of a weak heart? What exactly IS a weak heart? Is a weak heart a good thing, soft like the living and enduring, as explained by Lao Tzu? "The less we say about it the better / Make it up as we go along". This is gorgeous too, and it's something I can relate to. We can tend to want name things too quickly, or to name them at all, when really we need to just know that they are what they are. There is no set way that a relationship should look, and sometimes unusual or unexpected arrangements are what work best for two people. Or is this about a relationship at all? Perhaps I'm getting ahead of myself. Maybe he's just talking about not talking about the journey he's going on with another.

Oh, the beauty and mystery of this verse, though. The image of the final three lines, with the assertion of the final. I picture a sky with clouds serving only to highlight the blueness beneath them, the beams of light crafting extraordinary shapes in their shadows on a stretched mountainside, with a figure standing tall within the beams. And the statement that he knows nothing is wrong; it's like we are experiencing a strange new drug for the first time, and despite our still panic, we know to trust the voice we hear within...

And then, a shout.

"I got plenty of tiiiime!"

We notice the music shift; we are moving upwards, guiding by padded bursts of light, rising from our feet.

And another.

"You got light in your eyyyyyes!"

I feel a tingle, the space beneath my eyes fills with feeling.

"And you're standing here beside me
I love the passing of time
Never for money, Always for love
Cover up and say goodnight
Say goodnight"

This part is one of the most beautiful things ever recorded by any band, ever. It is executed and describes what, when you feel it, is undoubtedly the greatest epiphany you've ever had. It is so simple, and says so little, but it reveals all. It is the recognition of youth, and of the eternal, and of the wisdom we gain with age. But it is, at once, the recognition of the light in the eyes of the one next to you, of your partner, and that they are, in fact, beside you as you are on your journey.

And isn't any journey through reality done in time, even as it transcends it? It is that passing of time which slowly burns away all facades and illuminates your secrets. And the further away you are from birth, the closer you are to returning. And when you find the light in someone's eyes, when you recognize their connection to that home, to that return, a whole new journey begins, whether you like it or not. Sometimes the passing of time and the movement through space is meaningful in and of itself, and it is its own glorious action of profound personal meaning (see the work of artist Richard Long). And in all finite time, we find the infinite, for where else do we exist?

The song returns to modesty, with a cutesy little melody. Then the strange, sighing sounds return to flutter. The break is nice, but we are still charged, naively along for the ride.

Is where I want to be
But I guess I'm already there"

Of course! Aren't we all already home, no matter where we are? Aren't we our own home, and doesn't our own home exist eternally within ourselves? Again, he "guesses" that he is already there; knowledge tells us we are nowhere, our hearts tell us we are home. Unlearning is the real teacher here, going backwards is the greatest step forward. Of course, there is also a sense of resignation in what he says, like he is merely along for the ride, his return to himself guided by a will not entirely his own.

"I come home
She lifted up her wings
I guess that this must be the place"

Again, we have a golden goose. Like an angel, she welcomes him home, and it is her lifting her wings that coincides with his supposing that home is the place. Home is where she is found, and vice versa. They go hand in hand. Have you ever been in love? Doesn't it feel like a return home when you truly love someone?

"I can't tell one from the other
Did I find you or you find me?"

Here, we are given a sense of unity of all things, of a melding together. And that question: "Did I find you or you find me?" What a beauty. Perhaps they both found each other without even looking. There is a sense, too, that they were simply destined to come together, that perhaps it wasn't a question of finding anything at all because it was already there.

"There was a time before we were born
If someone asks,
This is where I'll be
Where I'll be"

Gorgeous. Just gorgeous. And what is this time before they were born? Is this the home where they found each other? Did they know each other before they were born? Is it simply amazement at the idea that things existed before they did? Is it all of these things? Am I just a blithering idiot? Is he simply saying in the following lines that he is returning to that time, before they were born?

I love the casual use of "If someone asks, this is where I'll be", as if he's slipping her a note with the name of a local hardware store on it. But isn't he saying that not only is he going to be in this time before they were born, but that THIS is precisely where THAT exists? The ambiguous use of pronouns here is absolutely genius. THERE was a time before we were born...THIS is where I'll be. He isn't saying that they are one and the same, but it sure seems like it, without us ever knowing for sure. But how could something like that really be described with language anyway? Can't one individual space/location/thing/place be both "this" AND "there/that", simultaneously? Isn't this whole idea of returning home by going away from it the same thing? Isn't the prodigal son both "this" and "there/that"? Isn't returning home by meeting someone you've never met in the reality of your life both, as well? With the use of "this", Byrne is tugging quickly at that time before they were born, pulling it snugly to his chest and our consciousness. Isn't "this" an interesting word? Forgive me here, because I know nothing about language and how to write about it. But it implies possession of something while maintaining that it is something to be possessed, as it is not intrinsic. It can also refer to an ethereal space, a physical object or a state that can be objectified. "There" implies a lack of possession altogether. In its use here, it is a vague term referring to something abstract; it is floating in ether. Here, the use of both is doubly brilliant in that the whole song is about an abstract space/idea becoming and/or being reflected in both a space, a state and an object. The idea of home - which is something mysterious - is being gradually uncovered (or quickly revealed in the course of this few-minute pop song) and manifested in the space of the here and now, the state of love and feeling at home, and the object of the woman.

Was that a trainwreck? Be honest.

But the song goes on. A yell.

"We drift in and out!"

Another. The beauty of this weird song is just so unbearable!

"Sing into my mouth!"

More and more, the song just ascends into something that is so hard to understand with our minds, but so easy to understand with the naivety within us. "Sing into my mouth"...This reminds me of some sort of eternal loop of communication of joy, in which it is so seamless, the mouth becomes the ear, the giver becoming the receiver. "I can't tell one from the other!"

"Out of all those kinds of people
You got a face with a view"

Oh man. As I mentioned earlier, I fucking love this goddamn line. Isn't this like saying "You have vision unlike any other, You see so much more than anyone, You see so deeply into life"? But isn't it such a weird way to say it? I guess for me, this just makes me think about how many gorgeous, sexy, incredible women there are in the world, but so few (if not only one) with the kind of vision that I am in love with.

"I'm just an animal looking for a home
Share the same space for a minute or two
And you'll love me 'til my heart stops
Love me 'til I'm dead
Eyes that light up
Eyes see through you
Cover up the blank spots
Hit me on the head

Just how gorgeous is this goose? And the way it just rises when he says, "And you'll love me 'til my heart stops!" This is male urgency here. This is being hit on the head like Andy Capp by his lovely wife. Byrne even says, "Hit me on the head!", for chrissakes! The way it just rises and rises; I really feel like I am feeling something new that I've never felt...or haven't felt in a long time.

I realize that this is one of the loosest, weirdest and most rambling entries I've written on this blog, but bear with me as if you were a bear I could call my own. This song has been changing me over the past several months, and it has coincided with that idea of returning. More and more, I really think that we are born who we are, and life is simply learning what that essence is, and then choosing whether to manifest it. Recently I've been realizing more and more things that were true about me as a young child that I eventually dismissed as I grew older, but have learned to embrace again. For instance, I was a really intense kid, and I felt way more than I was really prepared to handle. I experienced a great deal of self-loathing starting at the unusually young age of two, and I of course learned to think of that self-loathing as bad, and positive self-esteem as good. But I've realized recently that that self-loathing was actually borne of something very real and very positive: the desire to get beyond the self. When I was young, I feel like I - as so many children are - was very cognizant of the illusions of the Self and I really wanted my Self to be destroyed. But you see, people thinking of self-loathing as bad and unhappy aren't, in my opinion, really seeing the big picture. Our culture has this strange notion that self-esteem is happiness, that feeling validated and content is everything, that feelings of pain and frustration equate to unhappiness. This is largely bullshit. While it's true that I think it is important for people to feel good about who they are and what brings them joy, they must recognize that there is so much more to who we are than what we want and the emotions we feel.

Nowadays, I have no desire for my Self to be destroyed, because I feel great about being alive and learning what I can with a Self intact. I enjoy life a great deal. I mean, my favorite song is Bill Drummond's "The King Of Joy", for the sake of Christmas! But I will never look at those early years of depression as depression again; I look at them as a naive reception of exactly what I perceive now. I returned to where I was, and the further I was from the beginning, the more I have returned. There became this, while retaining its thereness. Man, that Byrne line is fucking brilliant. But anyway, the thing is: I returned to where I was, and I had to move away from it to get there.

I had to journey. I had to completely change my perception of the world, and unlearn what our culture has taught me about happiness. And sometimes going backward is going forward. "For just letting it go is what makes it stay."

St. Augustine thought of the soul as a living light that comes to earth that it might better see its own reflection. In my experience, the ultimate mirror is the one we love, the one with whom we resonate on such an innate level. And I think that love is the most innate state of being, and when we discover it in life, we return to where we are originally from, where we are in essence, and what we are in essence. This song's celebration of that phenomenon is one of the most beautiful things I've ever heard, and one that I will undoubtedly continue to find inspiring for the rest of my life. I hope you enjoy.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

BT - Lullaby For Gaia
Lullaby For Gaia.mp3
This song is a classic blast from the past for me. When I was a senior in high school, I got BT's second album, ESCM (which apparently stands for Electric Sky Church Music, which is awesome). I immediately fell in love with it, and I perhaps appreciate it even more now, eight years later. Remember BT's biggest hit, Flaming June? It was the track that immediately preceded this one on the LP, and that 1-2 punch is still one of the best in the biz, right alongside Datsyuk and Zetterberg (I couldn't resist). The album has some cheesy, overly slick moments, but I totally eat it up with a big, golden spoon of the finest origin. In fact, ESCM has been one of the most important, enduring albums in my life, and its ability to remain fresh, vibrant and moving despite the great amounts of change I have undergone during that timespan is extremely unique. Most of the albums I loved then aren't ones that I still enjoy in the same way now, without a certain sense of irony. This album is still just a pure golden goose, and I'm constantly discovering new things I love about it. It's right alongside The Chemical Brothers' Exit Planet Dust in that respect, and probably always will be.

And on an album of virtually nothing but high points, Lullaby For Gaia remains the highest one. This song is spectacularly beautiful. It is sad, sweet, uplifting, and fun all at once. As its name might suggest, it seems to encompass the whole world in 5 minutes and 22 seconds, sending us soaring over oceans, vast mountain ranges and the deepest forests. At first, we hear a few seconds of transition from Flaming June, immediately setting a tone of bright light and lush synths. Then this nice beat comes in with this slick bass guitar, enchanting us further. Perhaps it sounds cheesy to some, but I think it's really just gorgeous stuff, especially once the vocals kick in. When I hear this, I'm overcome with this sense that I'm soaring and smiling. As much as the soaring sensation comes the smiling one. But it's not just a little, superficial smile - it's a big one. A deep one. This song just lights up my soul, and makes my heart simply smile - nothing less, nothing more. But it's a really profound thing; it just makes me feel joy. It's a triumphant smile, a smile of surrender, and of the bliss in surrendering, in giving in and letting the waves of sensation and emotion that run through our veins wash over us in ecstasy without fear.

That's what this is about, that global feeling I mentioned earlier. It's about accepting everything for what it is, and how great it feels when we stop being afraid, when we stop fighting ourselves. That's where the melancholy tinge to the song comes in, too; there is a feeling of loss. "A million shattered pieces...I'll let it be...I'll be released. I'll be released." But as I always say in these damn blogs, what is wrong with loss? Loss is merely making room for something else. Without nothingness, there could be no giving, no receiving, no growth. Think about that. Everything would already be as full as it could possibly be, and nothing could possibly be exchanged, because it would already be one. Now, I think that, in essence, everything is in fact one in a sense, but I think that life and the physical reality we know must somehow be a means of enriching that oneness. That doesn't make sense, and it's something I will probably never know, but it's interesting to speculate. Anyway, loss is not bad. It is what it is, and doesn't that make it good? Take something bad, and make it into something good. That's all you can do. It's funny, because in my high school senior yearbook, my friend Ian (the I-Bomb) wrote, "What brings more pain: loss or gain?" I still think about that all the time, because I think it's actually a really good question. It's funny, too, because I think that most of the things we gain that are most enduring come directly from the loss of less-enduring things. I, for instance, have perhaps learned more about love from the loss of a loved one than the discovery of one. And gain inevitably brings at least some loss, anyway, if not only for the fact that we all inevitably die. But even if we, say, meet someone and end up marrying them and sticking with them for the rest of our lives. There will be many times when we feel some sense of loss as a result of that union, of that gain. Pain is inevitable. It's like that idea that people like Edvard Munch are so obsessed with: sex (life) is necessarily coupled with death, because everyone dies, and a new life means, no matter what, an inevitable and necessary death.

I can't claim to know all the lyrics to this song, but the fragments I hear here and there are awesome. I really like songs about sleeping; there's something so resigned yet beautiful about it. Isn't sleep gorgeous? And I've always had this fascination with women I love sleeping; it's always been such a beautiful image to me that somehow figures prominently in my conception of love and romance. Take, for instance, Crispy Ambulance's "Death From Above", off of their album The Plateau Phase. I have always loved that song, and it has always given me the image of a woman I loved lying next to me, sleeping. This, in conjunction with and in the context of that song, was one of the ultimate images of love; sitting or lying next to someone while they slept and just feeling grateful. It wasn't even about how they made you feel, and certainly not about what they were doing to make you feel that way (snoring?); it was just about them being. And watching them so peacefully, and I guess admittedly there could be a bit of that feeling of them trusting you enough to sleep next to you and share that with you - it's just so beautiful to me. Sometimes, too, sleep is where we experience our deepest connection with someone we love. I really believe that we can "meet" each other in our dreams, and that we often do when we are connected on a deep level. I know many would disagree with this idea because it is simply not logical, but I really believe this very deeply. In fact, dreams can often be our deepest and clearest window into reality. Who among us has never had a dream that completely changed our life? I have had countless, and many people I know - if they are really honest - have had at least one huge one that they can recall with a sense of profound mystery.

And this song is a gateway to that gateway - it is a lullaby to the earth, the world, the entirety of existence. It opens us up and gives us license to experience this depth, to turn off the filters of our conscious minds and just experience all that our hearts and souls have to offer, all the pain, all the sorrow, all the joy, all the wonderment. This song has captured my imagination for nearly a decade now, and I have no doubt that it will continue to do so for many years to come. I think this is one of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard, and I've yet to come across another that evokes exactly what this one does. And like our dreams, it has this enigmatic quality that can never quite be solved, and nor should it be. And isn't that exactly like all things in life? Revel in the mystery, the unknown, and surrender to it, despite your fear. I hope you enjoy.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Patrick Hernandez - Born To Be Alive
Born To Be Alive.mp3

This song is a fucking legendary mythical beast. I first heard this a few weeks ago (which is shocking) on the radio, and it instantly blew my mind. And let's just think about this song. What do you think of the title? It's fucking profound, is what it is. Born to be alive. It is profoundly simple, profoundly true and its message is positively amazing. Throw all that together when you look at it linguistically and the simplicity of its literal meaning, combined with the added significance of saying "alive" (as in living life to the fullest), and you've got gold on your hands. Plus some diamonds. This song is so fucking good. And damn, is it a weird track.

Musically, this thing is just wild. Immediately, it throws you for a loop and keeps you off-balance. And those horns are crazy!!! They shoot and zip all over the place and you never feel like you get a hold on the song; it's always surprising and delighting you (like life!). The instant you hear, "We were born to be! Ali-ive!", you know you've got a strict beast on your hands. How profound is this phrase?!?!??!!?!?! It's unbelievable!!!!!! Think about it! As my friend Akiva pointed out, it is quite possibly the only absolutely true statement that anyone could ever make (reminds me of Paul Haig's "The only truth anymore are the words that I sing in this song..."). Think about that one for a minute. This phrase is on the level of even the legendary "It is what it is" (which could be the only other statement that is absolutely true). We were born to be alive. But this phrase isn't even one with the same linguistic simplicity, in which a pronoun is simply stated to be itself. This is just a phrase that is clever and completely and utterly true. And literally, you are born to be alive. If you are not alive when you are born, you are not born. And what is the purpose of being born? To be alive.

But here, Hernandez states this truth but also uses it to exclaim to the world that we are meant to be ALIVE! To LIVE! To go wild and enjoy ourselves, to live life to the fullest and regret nothing! This is gorgeous. When he begins saying "It's good to be alive! It's good to be alive!", I get goosebumps. This song is just phenomenal. These are words to live by, aren't they? This song is flat-out profound, and it's one of the silliest songs in the world that I could ever say that about. I mean, listen to how weird this thing is. This guy is NUTS, but in all the right ways (watch the video clips above).

This song is literally changing my life. I have not been the same person since I first heard it, and I'm totally not even kidding. This song has ignited a fire within me, simply through my marveling at the beauty and profundity of its refrain - not to mention the message itself. But this thing is a work of genius. Seriously - "We were born to be alive" is one of the most brilliant things ANYONE has EVER said in the history of humanity. So put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Anyway, I had a dream the other night that was very, very important, but will also make you laugh. I dreamt that I was hiking on a mountainside that contained on its surface an unnaturally wide variety of different elements of landscape. There was a stream, snow, large patches of strange rock, dirt, grass, and so forth. As I was walking along the mountain (often moving sideways as opposed to uphill), a voice told me that every element I saw; everything I touched; everything on this mountain had its own unique voice, and that nature was constantly speaking to me and to all of us. And guess which song was somehow playing aloud as if on a soundtrack? As David Putty would say, "Yeah, that's right." Born To Be Alive.

This song is so zesty and has all of these incredible little musical elements that just come in at the strangest times. As I mentioned earlier, this is just like life. All these unexpected things happen to you, and you just have to make the most of them. That's part of being truly Alive, isn't it? Taking things as they come and not shying away from what is presented to you? It's like in Paul Haig's Something Good; all you can do is take everything - even if it seems bad - and make it into something good. Life is not about control; and that is something this song understands perfectly. It is decidedly out of control, isn't it? It's one of the most insane songs I've ever heard, musically. It just runs wild, unabashedly. And this is how life flows; it comes at you so quickly sometimes, and you have control over almost none of it, although you must take responsibility for all of it that becomes Your Life and part of Yourself. Do the work and let it go, for you will never stop Life and Time.

We were born to be alive.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Marvin Gaye - Sexual Healing
Sexual Healing.mp3

This is a song that I think is rarely understood in the way that I understand it. Most people I know see this as a tongue-in-cheek yet still over-the-top declaration of nothing more than just wanting to bang a foxy young lass. But I see it as much more. In fact, I think this is one of the most romantic, sincere songs ever recorded. I would argue that Sexual Healing is in the same vein as Bruce Springsteen's I'm On Fire (see earlier post) as one of the most uniquely masculine expressions of affection, desire and need in the history of pop music. This song IS sincere, ladies and gentlemen. There is no joke about it.

First of all, the music should instantly tell you that this track is not coming from a frisky, playful place. In all honesty, it's an extremely melancholy song, musically speaking. It feels safe and secret, and brings us to a very private, intimate world of tenderness and warmth. Compare this to Let's Get It On. Let's Get It On is smooth as a chocolate swirl, but it is also much more upbeat than this. Even the title suggests a playfulness that Sexual Healing does not. Sexual Healing is not ironic in any way; it only seems that way to people who see sex as merely a dirty little secret in each of our lives. Sex is not just something people do for fun; it can serve a very deep, genuine and necessary role in our lives, and it can be truly beautiful, loving and, as the title of this song suggests, healing.

I think that this is particularly true for men. We are strange beasts, just like women. Sex is absolutely huge for both men AND women, and neither sex is more sexual than the other. Women love sex just as much as men do, everyone. But I think that it can play different roles for each sex/gender, and sex plays a uniquely strong role in men's lives. Again, sex is not any more of a man's activity than a woman's activity, and women are just as sexual as dudes are, but sex is at the forefront of men's minds in a much greater way, I think. Of course, I am not a woman, so I can't speak to this from personal experience, but based on my experiences with both, I can tell you that I think sex occupies a unique role in the life of men. Sex is everything, and it has such a profound mystique. Men crave sex constantly from everyone, but we rarely get to control when we get it. Men are always asking for sex in so many ways, and women are almost always in control of when they get it. It's like that scene in the show Coupling (the hilarious British sitcom), where a man and woman are having dinner on a date, and the man explains to the woman how men are in a unique position on dates, because they spend all night wondering whether they're going to get lucky, while the women know the answer for the entire duration. This is hilarious and completely and utterly true. This grants sex with this tremendous mystique, and women are like these sacred goddesses who are the sole beings in the universe who can give us what we want more than anything. Of course, no one knows what the hell to do to get them to give it to us, but sex is this thing that men are constantly craving that we can't necessarily have on will, unless we have a girlfriend or want to go to a prostitute (although that's not my scene and I have no experience with this).

For men, this gives sex this incredible mystique and power that I don't think women perceive in the same way. For women, I think sex can be a much more playful, strictly enjoyable experience, because they know, deep down, that they can get it whenever the hell they want it (don't try to deny it - you know this is completely true) if they are willing to perhaps lower their standards a bit. But any woman I know could easily fuck a different guy every single night if she wanted, and that's the facts, ladies and gentlemen. This is exactly why men and women act so differently at strip clubs. Women hoot and holler and laugh and giggle and just have a blast. Men don't. Men sulk and stare and don't have anything even vaguely resembling a smile on their face when they watch a naked woman stick her ass in their face. This is because this sexual desire is infinitely more intense because it is insatiable. I think that women can revel in the strip club experience because it is simply a microcosm of the dynamic that exists outside; there are men constantly strutting around saying "I got a bigger dick than the next guy and I wanna be your daddy" and they get to pick and choose at will. This microcosm exists with men, too. They are constantly staring and lusting after women that they can't have, despite their best efforts. It's really brilliant. I'm not a big fan of strip clubs, but I think that the dynamic they create is so interesting.

Anyways, this is just illustrative of how intense sexual desire is for men. Sexual desire can absolutely burn a hole in your skull (or "cut a six-inch valley through the middle of my soul", as The Boss says in I'm On Fire). Men feel deeply rejected when they don't have sex for a while. This is partially because men also often lack the same emotional intelligence that women have, or they at least are unwilling to display and utilize it. Women often are more used to talking about their feelings and asking their friends for emotional support when they need it. Men are usually very uncomfortable with this, and often just drink and talk about sports or The Big Lebowski or the girl with the big jugs at the end of the bar when they are troubled and need support. Men are also really weird about relationships in that they often don't understand about intimacy because of this difficulty in truly communicating. For a lot of guys, the penultimate point in a relationship is when you fuck a girl. Dating is about taking a girl out to dinner until she lets you fuck her. Some guys have no clue how a relationship can progress past this point. Seriously. I wish I could say this humorously, but I mean it really, really seriously. Now, I am not one of them and I think that a loving, intimate relationship is one of the absolute best things in the world, but this is the reality for a lot of guys. Men get whipped into a frenzy over wanting to fuck a girl, and that becomes the goal, whereas for a lot of women the goal can be to get to know a guy and then get it on once you know them better. Of course, there are many, many exceptions to this, but this is often the case.

As the legendary Jeff Murdock explains in Coupling: "Do you know what would be the best way to wipe out all of humankind if you were a space alien with a special kind of mind ray? Make women telepathic. Because if they suddenly found out about the kind of stuff that goes on in our heads, they'd kill us all on the spot. Men are not people. We are disgustoids in human form. Women think we're normal, like them, because we talk to them like normal people. You know, we say 'Hello. How are you? Haven't seen you in this place before. What kind of music do YOU like?' But all the time in our brains, we've got the word 'breasts' on a loop. If we ever lost control for a second we'd all start shouting, 'BREASTS! BREASTS! BREASTS!'"

This is gospel, ladies and gentlemen. It may be sad, but it is true. Now, this doesn't mean that men are categorically incapable of feeling emotion beyond desire, but desire is pretty fucking dominant in the mind of a man. And to someone such as myself (and I think, judging by his music, Marvin Gaye), women are goddesses. They aren't just pieces of meat that you hope will let you fuck them. But even as strictly sexual beings, their power, beauty and meaning are awe-inspiring. Men can go two ways with their intense desire: they can embrace its emotionality, or they can attempt to deny it, instead opting to just try to bang bimbos they don't give a shit about.

I personally have to vouch for the former approach, which is what Sexual Healing is all about. In this song, sex is an act of love, warmth, caring, tenderness, empathy and, yes, healing. It's also important to note that Gaye has addressed this song to one woman, rather than many or a universal one. This is about his lover, and it is an admission of his need for her. He feels broken, and only she can fix him. She serves a completely unique role of nurturer and giver in his life, and he would be incomplete without her. And what is the refrain of the song? "Heal me, my dar-ling...". This song isn't even vaguely sleazy, insincere or misogynistic. This song is, in fact, empowering to women. Gaye is admitting that he would be lost without his woman, and - I believe - that he loves her very deeply. This is profoundly beautiful, especially in our culture. So many people have such a bizarrely puritanical notion of sex as this dirty little secret, but here Gaye is singing its praises and exploring how beautiful and powerful it can be. He is also making himself completely and uniquely vulnerable.

There was a time when I had a female friend that I cared very, very deeply about (well, I'm still friends with her). We had been friends for a while and although I had admitted that I dug her, I had never really expressed how I felt about her. We spent some time together and I told her about how deeply I cared for her, and how special she was to me, and this made me feel incredibly vulnerable. But I have to tell you - one thing that I said made me feel very, very vulnerable, and it was when I told her that I wanted her. And this is one of the most powerful and tender feelings I had for her; that desire to hold her, and kiss her, and lay my cheek on her stomach, and taste her, and make love to her and worship her body that I might experience it as fully as I wanted to. And believe me, there is nothing sleazy about it. I wanted to share my body with her, and to have the honor of her sharing hers with me. It was beautiful and incredibly tender, and making love to her would have been truly beautiful and healing. But admitting that desire was absolutely crucial, because for me it was a huge part of my feelings for her. There are many women for whom I feel a less powerful and tender sexual desire, but that one was special because it was truly an extension of the feelings of adoration and affection I had for her.

In this sense, Gaye is not even putting himself in a position of power. So many songs about sex - especially by men - are about how magnificent they are in the sack and how they can get any chick to suck their dick (I'm thinking of a lot of recent rap here). This song is completely about how truly wonderful and amazing his woman is when she makes love to him, and how much it means to him and how much he needs her and would be lost without her. This song is as honest, unique and beautiful as they come, ladies and gentlemen. And believe me - it takes a lot for a man to admit something like this in the way that Gaye does in Sexual Healing.

Just listen to it. This song is as tender as raw beef. I tell you, too - I associate this song heavily with a certain woman who used to be in my life. When I really got into this song it made me think about her a lot, and it still does. And honestly, it just makes me wish I could share that kind of sexual intimacy with someone. Isn't that one of the most wonderful parts of a relationship, when you really, truly feel that you can just share each other's bodies with one another? When sex becomes just this wonderful thing that you can give to each other - and each other alone - and you just exchange it constantly, back and forth, forever? It can become as spiritual and loving and yes, healing, as talking. Sometimes all you have to say to each other is just sexual. You have no words - just action. And it's completely understood, everything that it means. And it's not because you have no words to share; usually it's best when you have an unlimited number of words to share and things to talk about. But eventually the words are just too much, and you have to heal each other. You have to make love. Everything melts away into the other, and you give and take everything from each other that you can possibly give. I hope you know what I mean, and that you have been fortunate enough to experience such wonderful sexual intimacy.

I was out with a bunch of dudes tonight, and I had a blast. It was truly awesome. Of course, we are all horn dogs and couldn't stop thinking about women. I bombed with one and got another one's number. All night, you think about sex and how great it would be. It would be healing in its way, but not in the way that Gaye is talking about. Gaye is talking about making LOVE. Not just fucking, but making LOVE. Where sex is tenderness and expression and voicing everything you need to say and need to let go of. This is sex shared with someone you care about deeply. This is a rare and beautiful thing, and something you don't find at a bar on a Saturday night.

This song is absolutely gorgeous, and gives voice to so much that is so hard to say.


Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Arthur Russell - Being It
04 Being It 1.mp3

We all have different songs that we feel have changed our life, particularly if we are someone who has a very intimate relationship with music. Off the top of my head, I can think of dozens of songs that have made an impact on the way I think about the world, myself and my life. There are many songs that have been important in the way they can act as a sort of marker for where I was at a certain point in my life, and they can take me to a deep and intimate place within myself that I otherwise may have forgotten. These songs are wonderful and will always have a special place in my heart.

But there is no song that has brought me the same degree of actual enlightenment than Arthur Russell's "Being It". The effect it has is different than the everyday profundity of Paul Haig's "Something Good" (see below), for while the latter is a reminder to change how we interact with the world and the choices that we make within the world, Being It is about seeing past the world we live in altogether; it is literally about transcendence, and acts as a harbinger for that transcendence.

Let me tell you a little anecdote. Once, this past fall, I was having a rough day for whatever reason. I was exhausted and at work and I just felt kind of bored. I was talking with this girl who is a very old friend of mine and I was playfully but somewhat boldly flirting with her, although I did not expect her to reciprocate it. She didn't, and it upset me. I felt rejected. I had also applied to several jobs the day before but had not heard back from any of them. This also made me feel rejected. In both instances, the feeling of rejection was, of course, stupid. Why should I feel rejected by either? But I did anyway.

On the train ride home, I was listening to Being It. I was sitting there, and I noticed that almost no one on the train was talking to anyone else. Everyone was alone. At first, this depressed me. I was on a poorly-lit 7 train, we were going under the river into Queens and I felt rejected and I was listening to this somewhat intense song. Then, I just decided to surrender to it. I closed my eyes and felt the sensations filling my torso shift; I became softer inside and then, when Arthur sings what he does at the 3:55 mark, I suddenly felt a profound sense of liberation, and I no longer felt rejected in any way.

It is only being.

Think about that. It is only being. If you feel willing to indulge me, close your eyes and think about that phrase for even five minutes. Hell, even one minute. It is only being. It is only life. It is only being who we are. It is only being human. It is only our egos. It is only our emotions. It is only what we want. It is only what we fear. It is only what we know. It is only what we feel. It is only all of these things. What makes us think that these things are so monumentally important? Think about that.

Now, I believe that we all have souls, and that there is a world beyond our material one. Maybe you do, maybe you don't. But believing what I do is a huge part of believing Arthur when he says, "It is only being." Our egos, our selves, are impure and create drama. They desire and fear and demand of others, although I believe that our souls do not. Why do we equate intensity with profundity? Why is pain or longing considered important or profound? It is only pain. And we are only ourselves, and we cannot take things personally. If someone rejects us, it wasn't meant to be; at least not at that moment. If we don't get what we want, it wasn't meant to be. It is what it is, at every moment.

Think about that. It is what it is. Our life is only our life; our bodies are only our bodies; our thoughts are only our thoughts; our desires are only our desires; being is only being. Why do we think any of these things are important? This song is a call to let go of thinking anything is more than it is, and once we achieve that, once we realize that it is what it is, we see beyond it to what it truly is, but only once we let go of what our emotions think it is. Confused? It is very confusing, but profoundly simple. When I was rejected by my friend, I was only rejected by my friend. That is it. There is nothing more to it than that. It does not matter what the reasons were, because they do not affect what is and what is not. Sit in stillness and ponder this; when we lose, we only lose. Detach all emotional connection to words; loss is loss. It is when something is no longer there, when it no longer is. And that loss is what it is, and nothing more. Our selves are what fears loss. Fear fears loss. And what is fear? Fear is fear, and nothing more. It is what it is. Our selves judge life and others; they determine something to be good or bad. Why is one thing good and another bad? Everything is what it is. Good and bad are constructs of the self, and really: who are we to judge the universe, to judge existence, to judge being and the way of God or heaven or nature or the universe or Isness or whatever you want to call it? We are only ourselves, and everything is what it is, and what is not is what it is in being what it is not.

Let me relate something very personal to me. When I was a child, I used to have dreams and occasionally conscious visions in which I would see what Aldous Huxley called "Preternatural light" in his book about LSD, The Doors Of Perception. This kind of light has been associated for more or less the whole of recorded human history with spirituality and enlightenment, and for whatever reasons I was lucky enough to see it. Preternatural light is essentially light that appears to be self-luminous and alive. It is unlike anything in the material world, and cannot possibly be recreated, even by computers. In fact, the closest thing to it is to stare at a Dan Flavin and let the layers of entoptic phenomena flow in until the light gives the impression of being alive and moving (hence why I love Flavin). In the light I have typically seen, there are colors that flow into one another as one; they are distinguishable but only at certain moments; they are one and many at once, orange is green and green is orange, yet one can still be called by its name and the other by its own. The appearance of preternatural light has always been accompanied by this strange sensation of simultaneous fullness and emptiness, with each moving in and out of the other, like a moving, living Yin and Yang. It feels something like sand shifting so quickly that we cannot comprehend it, and it feels slowed down to what our human bodies can apprehend. I used to often have dreams in which all material had vanished, and all that remained was a mass of preternatural light; there was no sky, no ground. All that was, was light.

Part two of this story: when I was a senior in college, I had a vision while writing a paper on Stan Brakhage (fittingly). Now, when I say vision, I mean something that I knew was borne of my intuition, from my soul. I suddenly had a flash of what love looks like. Yes, of what love itself looks like, if it could be photographed or represented visually. It was of a blue light, reflected identically on the other side of a streak of black void. That was it. It was a reflection of light, with a void between it. I realized a few months ago, while listening to Being It, that that blue light is what the soul looks like, and that that mass of preternatural light is essentially what the non-material world appears as. Perhaps the non-material world I refer to is what Christians would call Heaven. Now, I know that most of you will probably think that I am totally nuts, and not buy any of this, but I believe this very deeply; take it or leave it. I know it sounds strange. But if you look throughout loads and loads of literature, many very well-respected scholars and writers have said more or less the same thing. Why do you think people are obsessed with light? "Let there be light." "All that is, is light." St. Augustine equated the soul to a living light. And why is mescaline important in many Native American cultures? Anyway, you can take it or leave it, as I said. It is what it is.

All of this has made me realize something which I will now try to explain. Love is the most important thing to me. Love is what I value above all else. And the big thing that I have realized, is that love is not an emotion. Love has nothing to do with the Self. We only think it does because when our Selves experience it, it is intense, and provokes much longing, fear and general emotion. Love is as still and simple as the light filling your room right now. It is as simple as reflection in a pond, as light reflecting in a mirror. That is all it is. My vision of love was not a metaphor; it is what it looks like. That is what love is; it is being. Love is merely acceptance of what is and what is not, because love is what is natural and already there. Love is Being and Being is Love. God is Love and Love is God, and Love is God is Being. With those whom I love unconditionally, I feel each and every time a sense of wonder at who they are, a sense of stillness and peace when reflecting on them. I cannot tell you why I feel this, either. Why do we love? I think that when we feel unconditional love for another person - we meaning our Selves - it is because our souls reflect one another; they are the same light with a space between them. Or perhaps that black void I saw was just the 98.7% (approximately) of light that is invisible in the universe (scientific fact!). But when we feel that love, we see beyond ourselves, beyond this world, and into the eternal. But this love; this can be full of joy and it can be full of fear. Yet I firmly believe that true love is not about the Self; it is not about emotion. It is simply a fact, a state of being. It is as simple as saying, "This still pond is reflecting the sky above it." That is love, my friends. It is what it is, and nothing more. It is light reflecting itself. It is the acknowledgement of this, and of letting things be. Our Selves experience love as this huge dramatic thing that is so cinematic, but it is so simple. It is only being. It is the light coming through your window right now. It is as simple as a mass of light and color, together as one, in complete and eternal silence. In the silence of light is love. In becoming the silence of light, we become love; but there is nothing to become, for we already are. When we let go of our Selves, when we quiet our minds, we become love, for it is what we already are and always shall be. When we love another, we love and accept them; we let them be, and respect their being. Our love for them is a fact, a state of mind; it is as straightforward as seeing our face in a mirror when we stand before it. Love is only profound to us because it signals the overcoming of fear; in reality, love is everywhere and everything.

All that is, is light.

Love is God and God is Love.

God is light.

All that is, is love.

This summer, at the Dan Flavin retrospective at the LACMA, I was staring at one of his corner pieces, in which green and pink illuminate the corner. As the colors transposed due to my photoreceptors wearing out, I was overcome with the utter certainty that I was looking at - and seeing - God.

All of this is immediately before us, we only have to recognize it. Being It is about that recognition.

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. -Corinthians 13:12

Everybody on earth knowing
that beauty is beautiful
makes ugliness.

Everybody knowing
that goodness is good
makes wickedness.

For being and nonbeing
arise together;
hard and easy
complete each other;
long and short
shape each other;
high and low
depend on each other;
note and voice
make the music together;
before and after
follow each other.

That's why the wise soul
does without doing,
teaches without talking.

The things of this world
exist, they are;
you can't refuse them.

To bear and not to own;
to act and not lay claim;
to do the work and let it go:
for just letting it go
is what makes it stay.

-Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter Two

Friday, February 15, 2008

X-Ray Connection - Get Ready
Get Ready.mp3

This legendary track is not quite like any other that I've ever heard. I don't even really know anything at all about the band, except that their producers were the high-quality team of Adams & Fleisner, also known for their work with the Danish disco band Digital Emotion. But this, this...this THING, is beyond words. It is so fucking cool. It's from 1983, and I don't even know where the band is from. Something tells me that they are from one of the "D" countries in Northern Europe (Deutsch, Dansk or Dutch), but I'm not quite sure. All I know is that, judging by the cover, these guys are fucking top-notch EuroTrash.

This song is instantly dramatic with the sudden dropping sound and the weird spacey bloops going all over. Once the siren sound kicks in, and we have that weird droning which is also rather siren-like, we are on the edge of our seats. Then the beat comes in. This thing is fucking epic. There's this certain innocence in the twinkly melody that starts up, but this track clearly knows the score, as evidenced by everything beneath it. Then, the new melody that replaces it at 1:10 comes in. Man, this thing is phenomenal. I can't tell you how excited that damn thing gets me. This beast is primed for making partying and dancing feel like it's the most dramatic and important thing in the world, though.

The twinkly one comes back, and then these descending hits come in, telling us that the good stuff is just around the corner. We hear some claps, and then the awesome synth line comes back AGAIN, but this time with a Moroder-esque whipping beat on top of it. This thing knows how fucking great it is; it knows that it has us by the balls now. But the thing backs it up. It reminds me a lot of the 85 Bears in that respect; they knew they were the best but - unlike the 07 Patriots - they back it up (ZING!). It has a sense of humor about it too, just like the Bears did with the Super Bowl Shuffle. Oh man, the way this thing just comes right back at you; it has the guts and self-confidence to return to that earlier synth line and just change it around slightly; it knows it will have a huge impact, and the presence of the twinkly interlude only serves to heighten it. Just like the human eye, we listen in contrasts.

When that disco diva voice comes in and says, "GET READYYYYYYYY", our minds are blown once again. And that amazing hook is still banging away in the background. I admittedly have no clue what the dude says right afterwards the first time (something about "see the light?"), but the coupling of "GET READYYYYYY" and then "There's a party on tonight!" is INCREDIBLE. There's something about the cadence of the way he says it that just blows my mind. This thing takes partying SERIOUSLY. Basically, the message of this song is "Get ready to get down, because that's what we're gonna do." The only problem is that very little can follow this up appropriately. I think this song is the perfect opener for the headliner of a DJ set who wants to make a dramatic entrance. It is badass enough to be later on, but somehow this is just too perfect to pass up.

"Now move it and shake it and do it up and down! I love it I like it we'll hit that funky town!" This part is cheesier, but man does it work with this. This whole song is cheesy; it combines all these amazing elements of American disco cheese and Euro Trash electro; but to incredible effect that you still take seriously. I mean, isn't this thing epic? The breakdown occurs and things - as they are wont to do during breakdowns - slow down significantly. But I promise you that it will reward you for continuing to listen, for not mixing into the next track. At 4:56, we know it's coming back, lurking around the corner. If you weren't ready to have fun already, now it's going to beat it into you. We get the "Get Ready!" announcement again, followed by the same thing as before. With the ascending and descending twinkly melody on top of the amazing one and the rest of it, this thing just gets that much more intense. It's a subtle move, but it's marvelous. All the elements are synthesized in the end (by synthesizers...whoa.) to create this epic beast. It's kind of a reminder to make use of what you have, and that sometimes taking even the weaker part of something, whose presence is intended to highlight that of the stronger, and re-using it, might give it additional value. And isn't that true with having fun? With shitty beer like Natty Ice, you can play beer pong; the least attractive of your friends can play wingman and sit on the grenade. Just kidding with that last one, but you get what I mean.

But I am fascinated by songs that I perceive as being about taking fun seriously. Isn't it weird how that can happen in real life? Taking having fun seriously. It doesn't really make sense, does it? It's weird when it happens, but it seems to happen all the time. I think part of it can be the sexual/romantic element, that desire. Like I talked about in the Camaro's Gang entry, going out to a club can be serious business if you see someone you dig, or if you want to see someone you dig. I think for some people, too, partying is all they feel they have to look forward to. And there is a certain dangerous, sinister and destructive side to hedonism, isn't there? I mean, isn't that the foundation of house music, American disco and entire bands like Happy Mondays? Drinking, drugs and sex can be dangerous or even deadly. And what about the emotional toll? I mean, in a weird way, this song sort of - sort of - makes me feel like I'm going into battle or something. Something epic and really, really important...Disco Battle. I mean, maybe fun should be taken seriously in this day and age. Or is it just that people get so addicted to partying and place so much of their emotional and physical energy into it that it necessarily becomes a serious affair? I mean, even when people are just having fun with having fun, they can get really into it. The planning, the excitement over the plans and prospects; it's all an intense affair that can actually be best when someone took it seriously and made the proper plans and arrangements beforehand - like for a party. And sometimes isn't going out and partying how some people assert themselves in the world? I mean, seriously. Don't you know some people who really honestly view partying as their means of fulfilling their potential? Of showing people who they are and making their presence known in the world? Friday night can be like this little window in which you can go out and feel like a superstar, even if you just organize pens in an Office Depot. I mean, I think we all kind of have little moments like that, where we feel like our lives are more cinematic when we're out with friends, winning beer pong tournaments and feeling like Michael Jordan.

I don't know - most importantly, this song kicks ass.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Covenant - Feedback

Now here is a golden oldie from my past. Back when I was in high school, I was a huge, huge fan of a lot of electro-industrial stuff like Front 242, Skinny Puppy (see below), Front Line Assembly and Covenant. Now, I often don't take stuff labeled as such seriously, but I think that bands like Skinny Puppy and Front 242 are totally unique acts that really do something totally unique within the whole scope of pop music, regardless of their genre. In fact, in some ways, I think that Front 242 is one of the most innovative electronic bands of all-time, period, and that Skinny Puppy totally transcends genre altogether, but that's beside the point. Covenant is another beastly band that is basically a Swedish electro band. This cut, taken from their second album, 1996's Sequencer, is a barn burner. Don't think of it as electro-industrial; just think of it as a song. It'll sound better.

This beast is grating and repetitive, but very beautiful. It immediately builds atmosphere, particularly once the obviously synthetic and creepy choral patch comes into play. A slightly less creepy but still strange voice robotically growls, "I consume the wind that makes you cold, And drink the blood of the bleeding souls, To check your fear and hide the noise of the howling wolves that steals your voice." What the hell is he talking about? It certainly doesn't sound very nice, or does it? He's actually saying that he gets rid of the wind that makes you cold, drinks blood to check your fear and hide the noise that steals your voice. Is this guy some kind of weird guardian? He's certainly creeping me out. Maybe he's kind of like Arnold in T2 or something, and doesn't know how to talk to people.

Then this nervous little synth line come in, and then a powerful beat. Every element in this song has syncopated perfectly and we are now driving at full speed, but we still seem to be going slow, dragged down by the slow, pulsating, quivering synths beneath us. He continues: "I confuse your mind to feed your dreams, To read your thoughts and keep them safe, From harmful truth and the hopeful lies of the tempting demon that hurts your eyes." Here we have more stuff that he's keeping you from, but it seems to get even more confusing here. He seems to be some sort of omniscient entity that controls your mind to protect you, but it seems like maybe a few things are being sacrificed in the process.

Then, the incredible chorus hits us. It stops and builds until we hear him say, "I will protect you from your visions, To save you from illusions," as the chords shift and progress in this most gorgeous way that draws so much attention to the way the song has been structured up until this point. "I will protect you from ideals, To save you from defeats." Are these lines not incredible? This dude, whatever the hell he is, is basically trying to protect you from that which makes you human. He repeats himself, and we get such a strong, undeniable sense of the invincibility, the omnipotence of this force - at least within the song itself. The music mesmerizes us draws us into this strange world where we are slowly drained of our humanity with every beat and every squiggle, with every bit of feedback layered over the beat. With visions can come illusions, and even if they are sometimes true, this guy protects us from them. I get this really strong sense whenever I listen to this that things are being gradually destroyed - but with a quickness that sneaks up on and surprises you. But perhaps the most shocking line is the chorus' second, because ideals are just so clearly considered to be such an integral part of being human. It's like, at a garage sale where you're desperate for cash, you could maybe - maybe - sell your visions, but if some schmuck asks for your ideals, you'd say no way, I'm no chump, chump.

But isn't it true, that if we didn't have ideals, we could never be defeated? The thing that I find with this song is that that idea is offensive, but it's frighteningly seductive. It's like you want to give in and just let the guy erase your humanity and get rid of your ideals. But maybe that's just because I like that wacky Taoist crap. I mean, I don't actually want someone to get rid of my ideals - that'd be terrible - but the song has a musical quality to it that is really, really hypnotic and absorbs you in it in such a thorough way.

Then the music slows again, and builds. The lyrics take a turn, and the guy becomes more aggressive. "I consume the wind that makes you bold, And suck the blood of the living souls, To make you numb and hide the noise of the howling wolves that is your voice." Here we see the wind is the source of boldness and courage, along with the cold. That extreme can be the source of courage, a well of strength. This, to me, seems very Nordic, and I love it since I love the cold and the feeling of invigoration it gives me. Then we see that this guy is just sucking the blood of the living in order to make you numb; this is pretty obvious, of course, that numbness would follow if he did all these things. But I really love the twist on hiding the noise of the wolves, which he says is, in fact, your voice. Before, it was that which erased your voice, but now, it is your voice. Isn't this so wise, though? I mean, it's obviously drawing on some quasi-Romantic imagery of nature and relating it to interior processes and states (like emotions, etc.), but isn't it so true how some things which can make you feel silenced can then become that which you use to break that silence? For instance, desire - a fitting analogue for howling wolves. Sometimes, I think everyone can be silent when they feel desire, because they don't want to express it. It is that which silences you. But then, you can decide to express that desire, and those howling wolves become your very voice. I think it's really powerful, beautiful and astute. And if this dude were to indeed silence our humanity, our visions, our ideals, then desire would naturally be supressed, as well.

The music goes marching on, and the situation seems more and more dire. He finally goes on, "I seduce your mind to fear your dreams, And read your thoughts to keep you blind, From harmful truth and the open skies, Of the outside world before your eyes." Here he continues being really open about the destruction he intends, talking about instilling fear of our dreams and keeping us from harm - even when it is borne of truth - and of the openness that awaits us before our eyes (and within our minds and hearts). Again, I really like the equation of nature and ourselves.

Then, it builds. Again. To a fucking beast of a climax. But how does this really change from before, musically? I can't really tell if it does, but I don't think it does. The song has just built the tension so damn well that it sounds twice as loud and twice as powerful. The urgency of what he's saying is escalated, and we are drawn deeper downwards, helpless against the force of this song and its unstoppable voice. Then, when it stops again and begins sparkling with that extra synth line, it just goes nuts. But it's all still so restrained. It's like there's this bizarre ecstasy filling the listener; perhaps the bliss of the ignorance the voice seems to promise. But it's totally bittersweet, of course - how could it not be? There is this profound resignation, this surrendering of our humanity, that is inherently sad but made to feel somewhat sweet. That is part of the magic of this song; its ambiguity and the emotional and intellectual confusion it engenders in the listener.

But who - or what - is this guy? I love the song's title: Feedback. Maybe it's supposed to pertain to television, media and technology? It could be anything that makes us feel noise. Or maybe it's literally supposed to mean "feedback", as in getting a reaction from someone else. Or maybe it's self-feedback, a self-reaction. Maybe the title is a reference to how we feel when we listen to it; what kind of feedback do we give to the song? How do we react? It's clear that this force is powerful, and it's here to stay. It's also strangely seductive. But what the hell is it? I love not knowing.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Camaro's Gang - Fuerza Major
Fuerza Major [Extended Version].mp3

At the time that I wrote my post on Miko Mission's How Old Are You?, I had not yet heard Fuerza Major (1985) by Camaro's Gang, and I think that I have to say that Fuerza Major is an even better Italo Disco track. This song is absolutely magnificent, and one of the most beautiful things I have ever heard. It's a really bizarre and interesting song, too; most of the time you have absolutely no idea what the hell they're talking about. And the title itself is odd too because "Major" isn't a word in Spanish (yes, this song is Italian), whereas "Mayor" is. Only a couple of releases spelled the word correctly, but the band seemed fine with the missppelling. It essentially means "Greater Force", which I think is kind of cool. And there's a mixture of what I think is Spanish and English during the song, with the English being typically kind of...grammatically incorrect.

Like many dance songs, this one begins with a simple beat. We hear weird, totally synthetic harp-like flourishes that are kind of like a Disney soundtrack or something, and then: a beastly bassline comes in. The emotional table is set, and now it's time for the main course. Then, the main hook. God, this thing is gorgeous. It's so simple and earnest, with this youthful fragility and hopefulness. Then we hear the woman say a bunch of non-sensical stuff that lends the whole thing a light air of almost campy humor. Then the hook drops out and we just have her and the bassline (and the beat). Then a guy comes in, speaking in English. He says something about fate, and having seen this lass once before at the discoteque, and now he "won't forget you anymore", which I think is kind of a beautiful line. They connect visually with a smile, and then dance. There's something so simple and poetic about this, and the way he words it. I have to admit that I am a sucker for songs with lyrics about music and dancing, and connecting with people through that. Sure, it's kind of shallow, but there can be real connections made. And one thing that I've discovered is that while there can be truckloads of babes that get you going, there are very few that truly, truly drive you wild. That's one major thing about the bar scene and partying and so forth that I've discovered - that although there may be many appealing options out there that you come across constantly, it's rare that you see one that just completely captures you and instills a desire in you that goes beyond the merely sexual, one that you find absolutely, devastatingly beautiful, one whom you can sense and read (whether truthfully or not) emotionally, perhaps even sensing a deeper connection. And sometimes when you find someone and you just feel an unbelievably strong sexual attraction to them, that can be meaningful. Sure, it doesn't necessarily mean anything to want to diddle someone, but when it's really, REALLY strong, it can mean something. That kind of desire is important when it comes to having a lasting, successful relationship, I think, and when you meet someone that you feel that way about immediately, it's golden goose. At least for me, when I feel that way I also feel emotionally attracted to them; I feel a kind of caring even if I've never spoken to them simply because I think they are absolutely ravishingly beautiful and they embody this perfect femininity. I mean, maybe the difference is how when you walk down the street, you can see loads of people you want to fuck, but rarely do you see one that you want to make love to. Does that make sense?

"I was here and you were there / When you just touched me with your smile..." I love this, because I'm really interested in the way that all people are separate, but use emotion and communication to bridge that gap (see the "One Too Many Mornings" post below). Simply a smile can make you feel touched and connected, and that kind of connection can feel so full, so intense, so frantic, when you're out partying at a club. I mean, isn't that kind of the point of going out dancing? To find that connection, to meet someone who touches you? I mean, sometimes you really do just go out to have fun with your friends and you don't worry about meeting anyone, but I think it's often in the back of your mind. "What if I meet The One tonight? What if she's here and I don't know it yet? What if it's fate? What if it's ordained by a greater force, a fuerza mayor?" These thoughts are usually bullshit, but I think that they're there. I've found that things just happen when I have an open mind, and when I go out to have fun. They are rarely profound, but there's often a lot of fun, and things can feel profound in a way. I think it can be great when fun becomes profound (I think Scotch's Italo Disco classic "Disco Band" is one of the ultimate songs at evoking this feeling). And sometimes you get this sensation of profundity, of cinematic beauty, even when you're just standing there dancing like an idiot with your friends or maybe someone you just met. You get so swept up in the moment, and that can be beautiful.

But is this feeling a lie? In some ways, it is, but in others, it isn't. Every moment is beautiful, every breath is to be savored. Sometimes I feel like when I'm in high spirits with my friends it can be easier to remember this. I start laughing all the time and I just get jovial. I mean, I probably annoy the sober people with my enthusiasm. But at the same time, I don't think this is the means through which to experience truly deep beauty and happiness. I mean, it's definitely not. You have to find that beauty when you're sober too, when things are peaceful and you're completely in yourself, as well. Being drunk all the time does most definitely not equal happiness, needless to say. But sometimes it's just really fun, and it can be beautiful for a short moment in time.

Here the lyrics are hard for me to decipher. But I can tell you, that once that gorgeous synth line comes in, it all seems like the words of some mythical truth-beast that's descended from the heavens to enlighten us. "...Only for you..." When he says that, it makes me want to cry. Seriously. But again, I can't stop thinking about how the whole thing seems to just be about some lass he met at a discotheque. But does it matter? That's the thing that I think is at the heart of the millions of songs and movies about love that is obviously shallow. I mean, most on-screen romances are a bunch of fluff, just like meeting someone at a club. But again - does it matter? I don't know the answer to this, because it can feel amazing, no matter what. And sometimes those things do turn into great loves that change your life.

This makes me think a lot about love in general, and dating. I was talking about this with a close friend recently; I feel less romantic and sensitive than I used to. I think I've really taken the idea to heart that, to date (especially in New York), you have to not give a shit about it. And as awesome as it would be if I met a wonderful girl and fell in love and became her boyfriend, I also just don't give a shit about it. Sometimes I feel a desire for that to happen, but then I just sit there and listen to Arthur Russell's "Being It" and it just sort of goes away. I feel myself dismantling my desire further and further, but am I taking it too far? This song moves me so much, but do I really relate to it like I would have a few years ago? Is my letting go of desire numbing me as a person? Am I losing a bit of my humanity? Even now, when I like a girl, I don't feel as romantic as I used to, I'm not as inspired to do something to "sweep her off her feet". It used to be just because I didn't want to come on too strong, but now I think maybe I just don't give a rat's ass. However, it's also totally true that I haven't met anyone really amazing in a long time, either, and that could be it, too. Dating in New York is brutal and I think naturally kind of numbs a lot of its participants.

But I still believe in love; there's no question about that. I just think it's really rare, and maybe my standards are too high now. Yet I still have this kind of longing (ironically) to let go of desire for love and lose that part of my humanity. Maybe I'm too into eastern philosophy. Yet songs like this still excite me, and I enjoy feeling that kind of desire sometimes. It's fun. There's also the ever-popular trap of getting too into feeling shallow sexual desires and pursuing them at the expense of potentially finding love. I just haven't really found anyone that special, and that bums me out, but I also sort of don't care and don't expect it to happen. Is this healthy or unhealthy? Maybe I've become too masculine, too.

But regardless, this song is beautiful, and what it describes is beautiful, too. And you know what? I'm not numb to it, and I definitely relate to it. I think I will always love stuff like this and the kind of real-life, situational feeling it describes and evokes. Emotion isn't our enemy; it just has to be controlled, and it must be seen past. I think there are different kinds of emotion, some deeper than others. Many of them are borne of our egos, our minds, but some come from the heart and beyond. When something truly touches your soul, it can be very emotional. But I think the thing is that when that happens, it is also felt most deeply as a non-emotion, a sensation. Emotion pertains to investment, it is created by it and depends upon it. The deepest things have nothing to do with personal investment, because they are beyond the self.

But can one really live thinking like this? This is what I'm struggling with right now. I really believe in getting past the self, but for one to devote their life to it, they basically have to be a monk or something. But I mean, sexual desire and attraction is about the self, unless you feel it more deeply. I get so invested sometimes in that desire and that feeling and finding those little sparks in the night, but is it all an illusion?

Perhaps it doesn't matter, even if it is. Live in the moment - that's what I always say. This song is all about that; it's about feeling that spark, feeling the drive (a la Doctor's Cat) and going wild with it. This song is ecstatic, and I frequently fall into a state of minor ecstasy when I hear it. How beautiful is this? How beautiful is it to be inspired by another? Even if it goes nowhere significant, even if you don't end up marrying the person, those small moments can be beautiful, and they can be little moments of glory that you can always look back on. Attraction is a major force, and one that can bring people together.

Maybe that's it - maybe this song is a celebration of when our genitals get it right, when that force brings people together who are meant to be together in more than just a sexual way. I mean, isn't that how many of us have met the greatest loves of our lives? Haven't many of our greatest romances come from first thinking that someone was really, really smokin' hot? I know that's happened with me before. I mean, you can't deny the emotion in this song; it's not a shallow song, and even the lyrics speak of something deep, major. "Only for you..."

Enjoy this strange classic.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Paul Haig - Something Good
Paul Haig - Something Good.mp3

This is one of my top-five songs of all-time, period. In fact, I would call it a triumph of human creativity, a spiritually profound work of art that has the capacity to evoke wonder at the miracle of simplicity and inspire personal change and growth beyond perhaps any other song I have ever heard. This, my friends, is the real deal. And it is just so damned simple. In fact, I think that perhaps the only better example of perfect simplicity in pop music history is Joy Division's Love Will Tear Us Apart. But other than that one incredible feat, Something Good is my personal favorite, amongst all the songs I've ever heard.

Paul Haig was the frontman for the legendary Glaswegian post-punk band Josef K before the band broke up and he began releasing solo records. His second solo album, The Warp of Pure Fun, is one of my two favorite albums of all-time, along with Psychocandy by fellow Scots The Jesus & Mary Chain. Something Good was released in 1989, the lead single for the LP Chain.

This song is magnificent. Life can be so confusing, so complex, but this song reduces it to something simple, moral, and good - something good. From the very first note, the crash of the cymbal, this song is mesmerizing, the bassline hooking you while the guitar expresses so much deep feeling, some sadness, some resignation. The song's lyrics are about a break up. The first verse:

Open the door
And leave behind the memories
This is for sure
Some things just had to be
And if you return
Then the sun will shine again
But I don't expect
That anything will ever be the same

There is a simple sense of acceptance here that I find very compelling. He states that "some things just had to be" and admits that it would be great if the person came back, but that he doesn't expect anything to be the same. It's refreshingly honest and provides a unique twist on typical love lyrics - something Paul Haig has excelled at throughout his entire career.

Then, the golden goose. "Take something bad...and make it into something good. Take all you had...just like the way I knew you would."

I'm going to say it again, just for emphasis: "Take something bad...and make it into something good." Is that not the simplest, most profound and beautiful thing you've ever heard? I mean, think about the way we approach our lives. Can't our thought processes about the directions we are headed be maddeningly complex? The human mind is indeed complicated, and we feel and think so much in response to what we see and experience. And in the case of something like a break up or other profound loss, the internal reactions can be very varied and intense. How wonderful, how refreshing, how beautiful, is it to hear "Take something bad...and make it into something good"? I mean, isn't that really all that we can do? Isn't that its own moral imperative, its own prime directive that if only we could all follow, we would be as happy as possible? Bad things happen. We suffer. We feel loss. It is part of life. But these things can all be made into something good. I know from experience that incredibly painful losses can be transformed into beautiful things, and that no suffering is needless. Sure, people can point to horrors far beyond that which most (including myself, certainly) have experienced, but I believe that they can be transformed too. And if only we could focus on each individual thing that happens, each tiny thing at once, one step at a time, and turn each bad thing into something good, something positive, life will work itself out.

The second verse continues:

And there is no time
And there is nowhere left to go
You give me a sign
A little thing that I should know
I read it in books
And I turned the page again
You got the looks
But nothing else will be the same

This verse is somewhat cryptic, but makes the greatest sense. It seems, to me, to be about accepting the need to move on, accepting that things end. And how better to do this than to live by the philosophy of "Take something bad and make it into something good"? If we really live by this, if we really believe that something bad can be transformed into something good, that an end can become a beginning, that pain can be turned to joy, then what do we have to fear? They have run out of time and places to go; nothing will be the same again. The final two lines are so beautiful too; the looks are the same, the same looks that can still spark the greatest desire, but what's inside has changed. But this is all said with such acceptance, such matter-of-factness. But it's still so human, so tender, so vulnerable - yet it's done with tremendous strength. "I read it in books, and I turned the page again." It's such a perfect reflection of the song's music; it's driving and strong yet so vulnerable and open. The pulsing bassline never ceases as it breathes like bare lungs, beats like a hand-held heart, and shows a resolve of concomitant fragility and impenetrability, for it is the heart that both makes us tender and gives us power; it is what makes us open to receiving others and able to give to ourselves despite them. This is the magic of the bassline, truly the heart of this gorgeous song.

And isn't this song just incredibly human for that reason? Whenever I listen to this, I feel like I am staring into the heart of humanity, both that of others and of myself. Yet this song goes beyond being human, and the heart that is revealed is the light of the soul; it is the soul's voice. Only from within the heart of the soul can love come, and only from within that same heart can come the resolve vocalized in this song, the desire to continue on despite pain. In fact, for me, it is when I ponder the idea of the soul, of the eternal, of that which is more than mere being, that I find the greatest ability to overcome pain and suffering, and to make something good from it. And isn't there a joy, an ecstasy, within the chorus? The synths rising from beneath our feet toward the sky, illuminating us from within, the words self-luminious and alive. It is ascension itself, the transcendence of time and being that leaves it behind yet grounds us firmly within it and its possibilities, revealing that the eternal, the sublime, is within even the simplest of things. Because for all the transcendent spirituality coursing through the song, isn't it profoundly simple? The "something bad" and the "something good" can be as grand as giving your life for that of another or as simple as finding you're out of the kind of ice cream you wanted and discovering a new one instead. And even in such a small act, isn't there a spiritual enrichment, a moral lesson? Learning to use pain, sorrow - the "something bad" - to create something good is the simplest thing I can think of, that which can be done in the blink of an eye, but whose effects can be felt echoing throughout our entire lives and indeed throughout the whole of the universe and the endlessness of our souls.

Paul Haig's "Something Good" is, perhaps more than any that I have ever heard, one that has changed my life for the better and has made me a better human being and a better soul, and I feel incredibly grateful that it has always been and will always be there for me whenever I need a reminder that there is a good to be found in every bad, if only we are willing to see and make it. This song has exapnded my consciousness and understanding of the beauty of the world and also helped me through some tough times, and I hope that you will enjoy it even half as much as I do, because then I will know that it has changed your life too. This is truly a song that makes even the stars themselves more beautiful.

Now that I think about it after having written this, this may just be my favorite song of all-time.