Maybe you’ve noticed that I’ve been digging into post-Zeitgeist Moby, and, you know, I’m digging it. Say what you will about the guy, I know he annoys people because he’s the granddaddy of every insufferable Brooklyn hipster, yeah, and you can say that what he makes music for wimpy kids or whatever. That’s what you get when a resoundingly uncool person accidentally becomes ‘cool’ for a minute. I just really want to listen to some chill music right now, and Moby is my chill music man. Don’t underestimate a nice atmosphere, man.
Did you know that Paul Banks is now 41? All of your alternative-rock dream boys from 2004 are middle-aged-ass men now. How does that make you feel? Aging, of course. Well, the pretty boys may have aged but their music has not. Interpol hasn’t suffered the years. They may have, in their early days, suffered from critics who compared them to depressing New Wave bands from the 80’s, but they’ve outlived any and all ‘being the next whoever’ hype. They never sounded like whatever was trending in the early 2000’s, and now whatever was trending in the early 2000’s sounds like a bad flashback, and Interpol sounds downright timeless.
Let’s come back to the Heathen years. That was, of course, David Bowie’s big post 9/11 album, written and recorded immediately before, during and after that historical event. Those were rough days for people with an already shaky faith in humanity. Was the whole world just descending into madness? Well, yeah, but no more than usual, as it turned out. What we can hear reflected in this music is the emotional contradiction that was so apparent at the time; the contrast between the incredibly inspiring display of individual human courage and compassion; and alongside, a bitches’ brew of religious fanaticism, institutional failure and political corruption that made a person not want to live on this planet anymore. It was a hard time to hold on to romantic ideals about the little human heart’s resilience. Heathen managed to be both bleak and uplifting, as if quixotic romanticism was the only redeeming virtue in a world that was already undeniably halfway fallen apart.
Moby is here with a simple lesson about cherishing your loved ones, and it’s possible that this may press some sentimental buttons for a few people. Those of you who get misty-eyed about the magic of family, for example. Family is the web of ties that makes us who we are, and if we don’t have that, then who even are we. Some people have shitty families, of course, and don’t find images of granddads twirling babies idyllic. Nonetheless, the message should still find a button to push. The people in our lives, whether chosen or born to, will slip away when we least expect them to, leaving nothing but memories and the vague nagging sensation of their absence. That’s life, inexorably. But you can at least try to appreciate your here and now before it becomes the sepia-filtered past. And, yes, appreciate your folks, appreciate your memories of them, appreciate that web that made you. There’s nothing wrong with getting a little sentimental about your friends and family, it’s just our human nature, even for those of us who’ve chosen to become the end of the family line.
Nothing is more underrated than early-2000’s David Bowie. David Bowie, of course, never flies under the radar, but it does seem like the material he put out in 2002 is due for a rapturous posthumous embrace. It may be because these are the Bowie records I grew up waiting for and running out to the store to buy. It may be my own attachment feelings. But I do think that Heathen, for example, is record that really needs to be held up. It has an atmosphere of sustained melancholy, and yet an uplifting warmth and grandeur. And, of course, iconic visuals. Sometimes I forget how much I loved this record in 2002. We’re always too busy listening to Ziggy Stardust for the fifteen hundredth time, but sometimes Ziggy is just too addled and wired. Sometimes the leper messiah comes in floppy bangs, reminding us to keep our heads warm, even though the world might be slowly burning.
Marianne Faithfull has for the most part left her gutterpunk mid-70’s persona far behind. She is a lady of class and gentility. But every once in a while that half-dead but foul-mouthed wraith still reappears. She who poured all her rage and her broken soul into lines like “Every time I see your dick I see her cunt in my bed.” In 2002 she made her most rock-oriented album in a decade, and it recaptured some the skin-tingling burning anguish of the Broken English years. She finally let it be known exactly what she thought of her longtime role as the ethereal muse, her iconic girlfriend-to-the-stars salad days; “suburban shits who want some class all queue up to kiss my ass.” It’s simmering with resentment for a lifetime as an accessory, a supporting character, a short chapter in someone else’s book, an icon for all the wrong reasons. Yet it’s also self-deprecating. She knows she got through on dumb luck and the kindness of strangers. She knows she went splat when she fell off the pedestal, but she’s still angry about being on that fucking pedestal in the first place.
It’s not very often when the remix outshines the original. On one hand, I am very pro remixes of things that weren’t meant to be remixed, like jazz classics. On the other, there’s nothing more annoying like gratuitous remixes of pop songs being tacked on to the end of albums, as if they were a very special bonus that people are supposed to be excited about instead of the exact same song with a slightly different tempo. And as for songs that were electronic dance songs in the first place already, the point just escapes me completely. It’s mostly just a cynical attempt by no-name DJ’s to ride on the coattails of artists who do have name recognition. But there’s exceptions to every rule, and sometimes the remix outshines the original. Two examples of remix albums that that more than hold their own against the original production are Kraftwerk’s The Mix and Goldfrapp’s We Are Glitter. Obviously, these are two artists who know their way around with production trickery. In Goldfrapp’s case, the songs all benefit from an up-temped more aggressively dancefloor ready mix, since Goldfrapp is sometimes given to put atmosphere over beats.