Say When

Lene Lovich is from Detroit. For whatever reason, the former capital of American manufacture has been a locus for homegrown musical genius – and in this case, homegrown American weirdness. Lovich was also raised and educated in England and has Serbian ancestry, which adds whole new dimensions of weird and helps explain her gypsy-witch aesthetic. Lovich’s aesthetic is one that the pop world never really knew what to do with, though she was nominally packaged with the New Romantics. That was before every niche and subculture became a ‘market quadrant’ to sell to. If Lovich came along today she could reasonably expect to be marketed directly to the Pastel Goth demographic. I still like my unrepentant weirdos without demographic boxes or viral hashtag campaigns; people like Lene Lovich find their audience through alchemy. When you see that face and hear that voice you feel the presence of a kindred spirit. Or you feel very confused and irritated, in which case you know this music is not for you.

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Satisfy My Soul

What does it mean, in Bob Marley’s book, to be satisfied? He’s probably talking about love and ganja and good times. You know, the basic things. You would expect a political undercurrent or some more spiritual element, but I think it’s really that simple. Of course, that’s more than some people get on a daily basis. We’re all looking for simple things to satisfy our simple needs, and it’s pretty sad that it’s so easy to come up short. On basic human validation and basic creature comforts. So we never really get ahead or achieve anything of note because we’re underserved on every level of the needs pyramid. We live and die with our souls roundly unsatisfied. Who knew that a Bob Marley love song could trigger such existential malaise?

Safe European Home

The Clash have remained perennially relevant, and I’m sorry to have to say that. Their ongoing relevance means that the things made angry young people pick up guitars and put safety pins in their faces (and worser things) haven’t changed very much since 1978. The names and details have changed, but inequality, violence, corruption, poverty and oppression remain monolithic. The arguments of the European bourgeoisie about cultural sovereignty, ethnic birthright and economic largesse – a political conversation that was nearly identical a century ago – are trending white-hot again and it’s not encouraging. Maybe someday soon there’ll be a consensus of what constitutes a safe European home, and maybe the answer won’t end up being “Europe for the Europeans.” Maybe then there won’t be a market for punk rock music anymore, just like there’s no longer a market for dead baby portraiture.

Running Away

Bob Marley offers a plain and pithy truth: you can’t run away from yourself. End of story. That’s a truth that a lot of people are in denial about, and no amount of reggae songs or life experience will convince them to stop trying. If you know what’s good for you, though, take some life lessons from Marley. He has a lot of them to offer, about being a strong and righteous person.

Rover

This begs the question, why are dogs named Rover? I’ve never met a dog named Rover. It would be interesting to find out where that trope came from. Television, probably. Anyhow, here in this song, Ian Anderson uses a doggy metaphor to represent himself as both loyal companion, and a wild and free spirit. Which is not even all that doglike, making it a pretty weak metaphor. But it’s on point with Heavy Horses‘ animal and nature themes, which explore the tension between freedom and domesticity, and the trade-off of modern comfort vs. a harder but more satisfying un-industrialized life. The fate of lowly domestic animals is entwined with the progress of man, and while a few pampered mouses might enjoy the safety and comfort of modern man’s lifestyle, most creatures benefit from it far less than man does. Dogs certainly enjoy all of the comforts, if not more, the price for which being that dogs are as far removed from their wolfy heritage as men are from their monkey ancestors. Dogs are as neurotic, spoiled, helpless and diabetic as their human overlords. If any animal is the metaphorical symbol of the coddled and useless modern being, it’s the fat lapdog who barks incessantly at his own shadow and never sets paws outside.

The Robots

Kraftwerk

Although I’m technically young enough to have discovered electronic music through through something more contemporary, I still discovered in the traditional way; through Kraftwerk. And, fun fact, this was the first Kraftwerk song I remember hearing. I think at first I mainly liked it because parts of it are in Russian. But I was also intrigued by this new way of making and presenting music; Kraftwerk offered a narrative and an aesthetic that I hadn’t encountered before. They weren’t about what most fleshbag musicians were about. They didn’t take it for granted that love and physical desire were the most interesting and important aspects of the human condition. The most interesting thing about being human is being human. As opposed to being inorganic matter. And the question is, what even is the point of being a human individual in a world where technology has taken the place of spirituality as our primary means of understanding the world? The more pressingly relevant that question becomes, the more we don’t know.

Renegade

Styx is one of those guilty pleasure bands for a lot of people, but really, how could you ever feel guilty about something that’s this much fun? You can point out that their hair is terrible and their rock opera worse, but you are missing the point. You shouldn’t take them that seriously, though the question of how seriously Styx should be taken has been asked by the members of Styx, and their internal disagreement about the answer is what led to their eventual breakup. Apparently the ones who wanted to write rock operas couldn’t stop bumping heads with the ones who just wanted to play lots of guitar solos and not think about it too hard. This was before the discord, though, when the band was, presumably, all on the same page in terms of balancing their proggy conceptual leanings with their big dumb rock band side. And frankly, it’s the fact that they did lean prog and had concept album ambitions whilst also being kind of dumb is what makes them so delightful.