Return to Sender

A lot of things have changed since Elvis Presley’s day, but some things have not. This is one of my favorite Elvis songs because it illustrates just that. Obviously, it’s a song about outdated technology, but technology is just a vehicle for the same old human behavior, and human behavior doesn’t become outmoded at quite the same pace. People still write to one another, of course, although some scholars may argue that we’ve actually reverted back to hieroglyphic writing. How we write and how that writing finds its way to its intended reader has changed monumentally. In 1962 letters were still being delivered by specially trained dinosaurs, so that must have been really different for anyone trying to conduct a love life. But one thing you could count on, than as now; sooner or later somebody would to that thing to you that we call ‘ghosting’ and which your grandparents called ‘ignoring them until they go away’. There’s a lot of debate on whether or not this method of stomping out another person’s feelings towards you is more or less humane than just straight-up telling them you don’t like their face. But the sentiment remains the same, from pony express days to the heyday of the telegram to the information superhighway. And as Elvis clearly grasps here, if your letter comes back a third time, move the fuck on, buddy.

Return to Paradise

It’s a great day for jazz. The weather is beautiful and we all survived the weekend. So sit back and drink some tea and unwind for a minute. Let Shirley Horn take you away. I really need to listen to more jazz music, and more Shirley Horn in particular. Her voice is like silk and honey and whatever else delicious sexy things that poets would use to describe a sexy delicious voice. It’s a song to crawl into bed with, whether to sink into a fever sleep or something more productive.

Return of the Ugly

When Buster Bloodvessel sings about the return of the ugly, he means himself. Damn, that dude is ugly! If you’re cursed with a face like that, make it your schtick. Buster has made a career from being an ugly rudeboy, to the eternal inspiration of ugly rudeboys everywhere. You don’t have to be pretty to succeed at ska, you just have to be really fun, and I guarantee that Buster has more fun than you. He’s probably having more fun than you right now. And that’s why Bad Manners exists – to help you have more fun. Forget about social consciousness, let’s get drunk and rampage til we drop!

The Return of the Mother

With Nina Hagen, it’s sometimes necessary to suspend critical thinking, and it’s nearly always necessary to suspend expectations. Doing the first can be difficult, because the singer is so frequently full of shit. Ideologically, she’s basically the worst kind of New Age; full of appropriated spiritual bromides, half-understood cosmology, and misdirected tirades against “the Man”; the kind of science-denying, Krishna-will-make-it-better crackpot who makes drinking chamomile look bad. On the other hand, though, she’s a visionary musician, author of a bizarre aesthetic so far ahead of its time that she still hasn’t fully gotten her due. The things she does with her voice! Nina Hagen has a vocal range so broad it defies the usual definition of range. She has the voice of a cartoon character, and an image to match, except there’s nothing cute or approachable about her at all. She’s terrifying, though she claims that she’s full of nothing but cosmic love. She really occupies her own universe, and has to be appreciated on her own terms, because coming at her any other way just doesn’t work.

Retreat!

Sharon Jones has the answer to the age old soul singer’s question of what to do with a no-good man. Obliterate him. Make him quiver before your fabulosity. Send him packing with his bag of tricks. Jones learned the hard way how no-good live could be, but her message was never that life sucks. Because Jones also learned that music and creativity are the path to empowerment. She earned her creative and economic independence after many years of struggling, which makes her just about the most inspiring role model anyone could hope for. She wasn’t a 17-year-old sensation whose career was a reward for being pretty. She was a tough woman with something to say, who honed her talent in obscurity and earned the respect of her peers. The unfortunate downside to late-life success is that the good years may not last very long, and Sharon Jones was one of the casualties of 2016 (she dealt with the election of Donald Trump by dropping dead, which is something a lot of us wish we could have done.) She deserved many more years of building her legacy.

Retox

To retox is when you wake up in the morning and immediately start drinking to ward off a hangover. I just made that up. We already have a word for when you do that. I think what we have here is a kind of a spiritual retoxification, as in when you get pumped up to go party. It’s strange to think that the world is so old that we actually have classic EDM now, just as it used to be weird when ‘classic rock’ became a thing. This is like, your dad’s EDM, from the old days. Fatboy Slim is a grandee now, he’s middle aged and all awash in laurels. I’m waiting for some wit to make a Bob Seeger-sampling remix of Give Me That Old Time EDM. No, really, I want to hear that. Anyway, this here is some primo classic big beat music, coming out of the year 2000, which puts it on the downward side of the big beat trend, when electronica ceded ground back to guitar rock for a short period of time. If you’re the type who favors guitar music, all those words sound like gibberish, and they kind of are; electronic music subgenres all sound the same, as is the nature of all hyperspecific subgenres. This is what trendy electronic music sounded like in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, and it doesn’t even sound that dated. I mean you can definitely timestamp it for what it is, if you’re familiar with what the trends have been, but not so much that it makes you groan. I honestly have no idea how I came to know so much about ED subgenres; I sure as hell wasn’t listening to this stuff when it first came out. I guess it’s kind of an acquired taste.

Rest My Chemistry

I really, really love songs about hard living. They give me something to aspire to! Not everybody can live the highs and lows of rock stars, because most of us don’t have the drug budget to disappear into a never-ending bender, but we can have a taste of it for a weekend, if we’re brave enough. Apparently, though, according to real legit research, most people don’t even bother; not everybody even partakes in the heavenly nectar of fermented grains and vegetables (huh?) and waking up with chemical burns all over your epiglottis because what you inhaled last night turned out to not be cocaine is far from a universal experience (double huh?). Turns out Nancy Reagan’s hard work paid off after all! Recreational drug use among young people is at an all time low, according to social anthropologists who’ve dedicated their lives to studying the ways of the Millennials. (Never mind that right now heroin is the Acai smoothie of the working class.) It’s ironic that our permissive godless secular capitalist society has somehow led to a generation that’s collectively doing less dumb shit than the previous ones. Less drugs, more social activism, less teenage pregnancy, higher literacy rates, etc. But that still leaves precious little to relate to for those of us who consider all-night benders as normal as going to the grocery store. It’s like the more society changes the more it still frowns on killing brain cells as a lifestyle option. Perhaps visiting altered states is best left to people who have something to gain from it; the artists and musicians and poets and visionaries. People whose job is to explore and to suffer and to kill brain cells and to tell something useful or entertaining about it.