Polly

Sometime in the mid-1980’s, Kurt Cobain read a news story about a teenage girl who was kidnapped hitchhiking home from a concert; a pretty typical modern-day horror story, unusual only in that the victim managed to escape and went on to talk about her ordeal. Cobain was disturbed by the incident, which occurred in the Seattle area, and like any poet, dealt by writing a song about it. Obviously, some creative liberties were taken, but that is what makes it an interesting piece of work. The writer sees the relationship between perpetrator and victim as one of sick symbiosis. The condition of a man who would resort to the lowest depravity may just be a very extreme form of loneliness and alienation; he’s isolated and bored, so desperately out of touch with his own or anyone else’s humanity that only meaningful connection he can make is through violence. What about the victim, on the other hand? Here the artist takes a bold liberty, a controversial one. Is it possible that in her 14 years, being tied up and tortured by a filthy old man is the most attention she’s ever gotten? If someone is lonely, alienated, bored and ignored, then being a kidnap victim is the most interesting and important thing that’s ever happened to them. In a perverse way, they form a bond; they’re both experiencing the most intense experience they’ve ever experienced. That doesn’t make it not wrong, and it doesn’t make it worthwhile, but it does make it psychologically complex in a way that we don’t like to talk about.

Piri Wango Iya

Here is another Geoffrey Oryema song, which I initially considered skipping over for fear of redundancy. But then I discovered some good quality video of the artist performing at Woodstock ’94. That was thing, and I think it’s gone down as one of those ill-advised mildly embarrassing things from the 90’s, like hacky sack and No Fear t-shirts. But they did book Geoffrey Oryema to play in front of several thousand people, so that’s a positive. You would think that Oryema’s music is too intimate to translate well to festival stages, but it actually sounds surprisingly good. If the audience seems somnolent, well, I assume they’re all deeply, deeply stoned, and honestly, that sounds quite pleasant to me. I  mean, festivals are exhausting, and you get subjected to a lot of mediocre acts desperately trying to play to the back of the crowd, and opportunities to just sit back and enjoy some fine musicianship are actually pretty rare. So yeah, that looks like a good time to me.

Our Frank

Oh, give us a drink
And make it quick
Or else I’m gonna be sick
Sick all over
Your frankly vulgar
Red pullover

Let me leave you with this lovely chorus for a moment. Just really mull it over. Now raise your hand if Morrissey can come vomit on you any time he likes. Or not. He makes himself seem like a bit of an unpleasant dinner guest here,  but also, we can relate. Ever been with a dreadful date who wouldn’t shut up? That’s when you drink yourself into oblivion, and yes, possibly maybe get sick all over, which is the least charming and sexy thing you could do. Lesson; don’t give your valuable time to people who bring you down and have poor taste in pullovers.

On a Plain

The brief wondrous life and messy death of Kurt Cobain was one of those earth shaking, generation defining cultural phenomenons that maybe happen once in a decade. It’s one I’m just slightly too young to have fully appreciated, although people just older than me, or ones who were more culturally in tune at an early age, were devastated. The fact that we still remember and talk about it like it was yesterday rather than more than 20 years ago attests to the power of myth-making. Cobain’s biography could be subtitled The Making of a Martyr. I struggle to understand, and I can’t quite put my finger on what exactly it was that launched this particular band into iconic stratosphere. Besides that they were good; of course they were very good, but plenty of good bands aren’t assigned the job of embodying the voice of their generation right upon their debut. The question is, whose self-image did Kurt Cobain really embody and why? It’s a Zeitgeist I wasn’t part of, yet I witnessed it, and I still don’t understand. Maybe it just comes down to the simple things – Kurt Cobain was good-looking and sad, and mopey adolescent people like that and romanticize it, sometimes to their own detriment and certainly to the detriment of the person being romanticized. Cobain’s now-grown and admirably functional daughter has criticized the ongoing prevalence of romantic-suicide culture, shooting down the I-wanna-be-dead posturing of Lana Del Rey; mental illness, substance abuse and suicide are not dreamy, not aspirational, not something to fantasize about as you snuggle in bed. There’s a fine line between admiring a troubled cultural icon because their struggles genuinely reflect your own, and putting them on a romantic pedestal because you wish your struggles reflected theirs.

No Problem

I don’t see no problem with Eek-A-Mouse selling more records than Elvis, Michael Jackson and Beatles. He could be the emperor of Ethiopia and build castles for the homeless, too. There’s nothing comically far-fetched about his vision of a world where we can hear reggae on the radio. No problem with that. But it’s not Mouse’s world, unfortunately. 50 billion people are not buying his records. Mouse remains on the fringe, thanks to his comic weirdness. When he could be out there solving all kinds of world problems.

Mysterious Ways

I think this is actually the first time I’ve ever posted a U2 song. As you might have guessed, I don’t like them very much. Not because I have any particular animosity towards them or anything; I know some people find them annoying for reasons that are entirely non-musical. I honestly don’t care enough to be annoyed, and I think South Park pretty much had the last word in explaining how Bono can  appear to be such a total piece of shit, in spite of all his good-deed-doing. I think they were an alright band in the 80’s, who were relevant and made a couple of albums that qualify as minor classics. Then they just got boring, and that was that. Now it feels like their music is an afterthought; a small, not particularly important piece in the grinding machinery of the U2 Industrial Complex. I can’t understand why, at this point, anybody would want to be their fan, besides nostalgia, I suppose. (I’m aware that some people say the exact same thing about The Rolling Stones, and yeah, those people do have somewhat of a point.) Anyhow, despite my lukewarm feelings, I can concede the good bits. Achtung Baby was a good album, maybe even a great one, and it marks the peak before the long decline. This is a pretty fucking great song.

Meet Me In My Dream

Well, this is nothing if not campy. Circa 1991, Marc Almond decks the halls in the last dregs of 80’s excess. The shows he puts on today are very slick and big budget; only the best in S&M tinged choreography and scantily clad dancers. Meanwhile, back at the dawn of the 80’s Almond was briefly in a ‘supergroup’ with Nick Cave. Immaculate Consumptives existed for less than a week, but what more credibility does a guy need to show he was truly one of the coolest kids? Almond has worn many hats, image-wise, and throughout it all, he’s shown himself to be a very smart curator of camp culture.