You can’t sanctify Mick Jagger, but you can give him a knighthood. The Rolling Stones have made an uneasy truce between their anti-establishment beginnings and their current position in the high echelons of society. Keith Richards would really rather still be pissing on gas station walls, but he’s yoked into this demented aristocracy too. The Stones don’t stand for anything except themselves, and they never really have, even at their most controversial. They’ve found that it’s not even really necessary to change and stay relevant when what you represent is hedonism. Fans want the glamour of louche living, unabashed decadence, expensive squalor, endlessly unsatisfied appetites.
Throwback to 1994, when David Byrne proved that you could totally grow out your hair as a middle aged man and still be impeccably cool (but only if you are David Byrne.) That was a good year and a good look for David Byrne and incidentally David Byrne is probably my favorite solo David Byrne album. (I’m excited for his new album but haven’t listened to it yet because iTunes is bullshit and the Pirate Bay is down again.) This song is actually not very sad, but it celebrates sadness. It is saying you should love and celebrate you sadness because it’s a natural part of life, which is a comforting thought, clinical depression aside.
This reminds me of when I saw Suzanne Vega play in a lovely church a few years ago. It was probably about four or five years ago, during SXSW. It was a very beautiful and unexpected venue and it was perfect for Suzanne. She’s not religious or even overtly spiritual in her music, but she seems like someone who would go into a church just to sit and think and observe people. Churches offer an interesting intersection of public space and intimate space, which has to be intriguing to a poet. It’s also an interesting juxtaposition for the secular art of pop music, which can’t have been lost on Suzanne Vega. She seems like she thinks about the balance of sacred and profane as it plays out in our daily lives. It’s a poet’s job to think about these things.
Today’s song is pure atmosphere that gives you nothing to think about. And that’s a good thing. Moby isn’t quite up to Eno levels of ambient mind-cleansing, but he’s damn near close. Creating pop music that gives you nothing to think about in the sense that it soothes the mind and fosters a meditative state, as opposed to giving you nothing in the sense of being stupid…well, that’s actually a pretty tall order and not very many artists fit the bill. And I would like to have my mind soothed sometimes.
Bill Landford & the Landfordairs sure didn’t know they’d be ubiquitous in 1999 when they went into Columbia Records’ studio to record some gospel songs in 1949. Those guys are probably all dead now, but their music is still alive, and I sure hope that their progeny are proud as pie. Moby worked some real magic here: he found something old and obscure and made it brand new again. This is a folk song that doesn’t have an author or a story about where it came from. It’s just always been around, changing shape and going by different titles like a mysterious drifter with a dark past, just waiting to be pulled into the 21st century by a sharp-eared curator.
Here’s someone I haven’t played in a bit: Eek-a-Mouse. I wonder what that guy’s been up to. From the last time I checked on him, he’s been incorporating more hip hop and going for a harder sound on his last few records. Trying to stay relevant, I guess. I thought it wasn’t the best transition. But I’ve been listening to U-Neek since 1991 and don’t care about anything else. It’s the Mouse’s masterpiece, and nothing else will ever compare. Which, at the time, was the perfectly modernized reggae sound; more uptempo, more dancehall, even more hip hop, but still recognizable. It was, I guess, very much of its time; just check out the trendy ransom-note cover font. It’s a nineties classic.
“Don’t believe the florist when he tells you that the roses are free”
I want to print these lyrics and hang them in every grey cubicle in every office, for the edification of everyone who needs a little uplift to get through the day. What could be more motivational? All it needs is a picture of a kitten in a tree. Ok, maybe the twisted humor of Ween is not for everybody. For some people it might just be the worst shit they’ve ever heard. For others, it’s music that speaks directly to their own weird souls. There’s not a lot of in-between; you’re either an acolyte of Boognish or you can’t press the stop button fast enough. For acolytes, however, Ween really are an inspiration. They’re two homely dudes who started out as teenagers making tapes in their basements and bedrooms, and somehow their mutual weirdness and in-jokes reached out and touched – in pre-internet times! – an awful lot of people who recognized them as kindred eccentrics, and they’ve maintained that connection over decades. Obviously being wildly gifted and able to play any kind of music helped them along, but you know, a lot of people are wildly gifted in the technical sense but still don’t have anything to say, and it’s a much higher calling to be eccentric in a way that touches people’s hearts.