There’s no nostalgia industry for The Animals, but they used to be one of the most important British Invasion groups and the most serious of the British blues bands. History can be cruel that way. The best-remembered bands of the era were the best-branded ones. The Rolling Stones looked into the future and saw that the future lay in logos. The Rolling Stones are now a very successful corporation. Although the Animals were not above pumping their name for punny album titles, they didn’t take it to its full potential with a clever logo. You can’t keep yourself marketable over decades without a clever logo. Another things that undermines the Animals’ legacy is that they were more of a ‘singles’ band. They weren’t about putting together albums as a self-contained artistic statement. They never even straightened out the confusing disparity between UK and American releases. Those were managerial mistakes that undercut a strong body of work and that’s why we don’t remember them alongside their more PR-literate peers.
What does David Bowie know about the disappointments and frustrations of a mundane life? Probably not much, having escaped from it long ago, but he can empathize. This may a standout from Reality, which I’ve always thought was a very strong album overall. It’s a return to the plastic soul sound he perfected so well in his Young Americans days. It certainly tunnel-visions it back to the days of station wagons with faux-wood paneling on the outside and Soul Train on television. And it imagines the nagging resentment of a life lived on the wrong side of the Hudson River, a life of suburban dreams grown shabby and the paths to escape growing fewer over the years and the repetition of daily life becoming the only experience. That’s a life we all either end up living, or narrowly escape from.
“Come out and find the one that you love and who loves you…”
On a gloomy day, it takes the Smiths to raise my spirits. There’s something uplifting in being a miserable misfit and yet bopping along anyway. There’s something about Morrissey’s weird confidence that he’s incurable. And he is incurable. In the beginning it seemed like a posture, because how seriously can you take a pretty boy who insists he’s antisocial and sad? Every young person thinks they’re antisocial and unlovable and permanently locked out of the normal-people party, and then they grow up and realize their juvenile angst was just that, juvenile. Not Morrissey though. He grew up and stayed the same miserable antisocial fuck he’s always been, just somehow truly incapable of whatever it is that makes you a functional adult. Whatever doors regular people walk through on their regular-person pathway of life, those doors are closed to Morrissey, and by extension, the people who relate to him. Being good looking and brilliant and acclaimed at what you do isn’t enough. You relate to Morrissey because you never grew out of that nagging feeling that there’s just some secret skill that you’re missing, some stroke of luck that hasn’t struck. Or maybe you just like animals more than people and enjoy feeling sorry for yourself a lot.
In good music world news, Rhye released a new album this year, and it sounds exactly like their first one. If they made ten albums that all sound exactly the same, it might get tedious, but at this point, twice as many identical Rhye songs is exactly what the world needs. (This one is from 2013, if you can’t tell or don’t remember.) If Rhye’s output it the musical equivalent of an Instagram filter, well, who doesn’t love a good Instagram filter? It makes the ugly world look a tiny bit more beautiful, and your ugly life more appealing. It may be an illusion, but only you know the truth. That’s also what mood music does, only with your emotions. It makes your miserable mental state and sleazy love life seem adventurous and poetic. That, unlike Instagram filters, is an age-old tradition. People have been strategically using music to alter their moods and enhance the atmosphere ever since people invented music.
Remember when MGMT was, like, the next big hot thing? And then it turned out that they were too weird and eccentric to be major mainstream hitmakers, and the press was all like, “where did they go?” Well, they didn’t go anywhere very far. They just stayed weird. Little Dark Age is their first record in five years, and an aptly titled one at that. It’s not going to recapture the freak popularity of Kids, but nobody is asking for that anyway. It’s exactly what you signed up for as an MGMT fan; it’s humorous and spacey and catchy, psychedelic pop with a spring in its step. I don’t know if it’s going to become one of the most remembered records of the year, but certainly it was one of the most welcome upon arrival. It’s happy music for unhappy times, and honestly, that’s actually a lot to ask for.
This is everything that’s wrong with the Rolling Stones: another one of Mick Jagger’s absurd tales of mindless sexual conquest backed with the same tired riffs. By 1983 the Stones had sunk into self-parody, and judging by the tongue-in-cheek video, they were well aware of it. Taking the stance of “yes, we’re pretty silly at this point but we’re good at what we do” was understandable. Imagine trying to generate new ideas when you’re 40 years old, you’re trying to record your 17th album and you hate your coworkers. Jagger’s urge to take himself seriously would take the shape of an abortive solo career. (At this point he was hoarding his ‘best’ songs for his own project.) Keith Richards had stopped taking himself seriously around the time the band stopped being blues purists, and the others had never taken themselves seriously in the first place. The fans, meanwhile, proved that they didn’t need seriousness to keep them paying for the product. And that collective attitude kept the Stones rolling straight into the millennium and beyond. They don’t care if they’re not relevant, they just do what they do. They’re also among the last of a dying breed, literally. Blues based rock music is struggling today – nobody takes it seriously anymore! Also, nobody wants to listen to songs about the simple pleasures of fucking and discarding an interchangeable series of women. It’s just not what the conversation is about today. This entertainment is retrograde. There are many elements of rock star culture that we can’t zoom away from fast enough – the glorification of predatory sexual behavior, for example – but I don’t think we’ll ever lose our fascination for figures like Mick Jagger, people who are so larger than life that the very idea of their lifestyle is enough to fuel decades of profitable work.
Yes, this makes sense and I understand the sentiment. If Marc Bolan sounds like someone trying to sing in English despite not knowing the language, well, he was English and therefore spoke the language and that’s just the way he sang. It took him a few years to develop his elocution. Maybe he was embarrassed because his lyrics were about unicorns a lot? But honestly, having seen the actual lyrics (see below) everything kind of makes sense, at least in a poetic way. The images are great, so great I want to see them illustrated, I want them expanded and detailed and written out into a book.
She was born to be my Unicorn
Robed head of ferns
Cat child tutored by the learned.
Darkly ghostish host
Haggard vizier of the moats
Seeks the sandled shores of Gods
Baby of the moors.
The night-mare`s mauve mashed mind
Sights the visions of the blinds
Shoreside stream of steam
Cooking kings in cream of scream.
Jackdaw winter head
Cleans his chalcedony bed
A silken word of kind
Was returned from Nijinsky Hind.
Giant of Inca hill
Loosed his boar to gorely kill
The dancing one horned waife
In doublet of puffin-bill.
The beast in feast of sound
Kittened lamb on God`s ground
Ridden by the born of horn
Jigged like a muse on life`s lawn.