It’s nice to see that Robert Plant has repented some of his old ways. Not so much the rampant plagiarism, which is what he should be repenting for, but definitely his old desire to be as ear-piercing and bombastic as possible. If anyone had to lay their money down, back in the day, it would have seemed like a good bet that Plant would be one of the ones who didn’t age well, still whipping his shirt off and screaming about his juicy lemons at the age of 700. Yet here he is, looking quietly dignified as he croons pastoral songs with lots of strings and harpsichords. Also you have to admire his refusal to hit the nostalgia circuit. A Led Zeppelin reunion stands to collect what has to be about a year of God’s salary. It takes a pretty big man to not jump all over that payday. It’s just nice to see an old god do well and not act stupid.
Wherever you were in 2014, I hope you fell in love. Like, with a person who reciprocated your feelings and stuff. Me, I actually did the opposite, but I did fall in love with Future Islands, and falling in love with music is way better than getting attached to people. (I’m totally warming up to celebrate the anniversary of my most miserable breakup, stay tuned for that shit.) What music does, and why we cling to it so much, is make art out of feelings. Feelings are mundane, hormonal and stupid; art is forever, and it validates the feelings that created it and the feelings that it creates in turn. Every once in a while a song will come on the radio that just speaks to every feeling you’ve ever had, and you’re like “Yes! welcome to the soundtrack of my life!” So it stays on in your life long after whatever it was you were doing that day or than summer or that year has faded from memory. Fortunately for me, as it were, this doesn’t remind me so much of the shitty summer of 2014, but it does remind me of someone I spent some time with sometime later, who was charming and fun, and who I have no hard feelings towards, though I have no real desire to see them again.
(Photo by Harry J. Roth)
If any hit song has undeservedly and inexplicably been bludgeoned into pop culture oblivion by excessive overplay, it’s this one. Is it because it’s catchy and very slightly ominous, or just because witches are very trending right now? Nothing ruins a cool tune like hearing it repeatedly shoehorned into some shitty piece of entertainment completely removed from its original meaning and context. It’s at the point where being made into an entire full length Nicolas Cage movie is not even the greatest indignity. Donovan, of course, must be earning enough royalties to purchase the Scottish highlands in their entirety, and no one could possibly begrudge him that, but when your song is being featured in a live-action adaptation of an Archie comic, I don’t know, maybe stop and think back to 1966 and how much you presumably cared about not appearing to be a greedy corporate sellout.
Changing gears to an entirely different mood. Ladytron certainly creates a sustained atmosphere, and it’s a long way from chilling at the seaside. It’s sleek, hypnotic, distinctly continental, reminiscent of long nights specked with glitter and cocaine. If dancing and twitching all night in a faded-velvet upholstered nightclub is your happy place, well then, welcome to your happy place. Ladytron takes their cues straight from the source: European glam-rock, of course. It’s music that reflects a precise moment of inspiration. Original story: the dissident art kid who buys a Roxy Music album on the black market in Sofia, Bulgaria.
See, I’m still not done with my run of psychedelic folk music. Devendra Banhart is no substitute for the pleasures of Tyrannosaurus Rex, but then, nothing is, and the psychedelic pool is not easily refilled. I’ve been listening to Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon a lot lately, hence the flood of deep cuts, and it casts a nice spell, not least because it’s frequently not sung in English. A sustained sense of atmosphere is an underrated quality in a record, one that not enough artists shoot for, given that those who do often get called boring. But there’s a difference between consistency and repetition. Consistency means you can put on a record and be confident that your mood will be lifted and sustained for 72-or-however-many minutes.
Yes, life is indeed very much like a frantic carnival, and you are a helpless aquatic mammal with no legs desperately performing tricks to please a cruel and fickle ringmaster through no fault of your own. A good metaphor right there. See, this is why I’m a lifelong follower of Jethro Tull. The J-Tull fan will always be rewarded with clever phrasing and inspired imagery. Putting on a Tull record is like returning to a favorite book. It may be a sustained storyline or a series of vignettes or loosely connected theses but it will be a literary experience as much as a musical one.
Comfort-music is part of a much-needed psychological self-care arsenal, along with your tea, your macaroni-and-cheese-adjacent-substance, your responsible self-medication and your small furry animals. I think it’s very called-for in times like these, and even when times are good. So on that note we’re on quite a roll with the psychedelic folk music this week, and I’m warning you, it’s not about to end. I have a lot more coming up in a similar vein, so you might as well make it a playlist. Relax, fire up a bong or whatever it is you do to unwind, and let the #bigmood take you. Because Tyrannosaurus Rex well never not be what the kids call a ‘big mood’ for me. Marc Bolan’s voice just gives me a deep sense of comfort and well-being. Psychedelia and fantasy provides an escape from the grind of reality, takes the sharp edges off a little, makes the hours go by a little more smoothly. Reality just conspires to bring you down.