Bryan Ferry evokes a touch of Old Hollywood with a tribute to the home of William Randolph Hearst. It sounds both sexy and slightly haunted. With the ghosts of movie stars past, of course, and the energy of the god-knows-what that went on at Hearst Castle before it became a museum. Extravagant luxury makes a great cover for filthy proclivities, and lest we forget, that’s been what makes Hollywood what it is since the days when people like William Hearst helped invent the concept of Hollywood. That’s a great fit for Ferry, who took a lot of inspiration from Hollywood sophisticates and their louche ways. In glamour lies danger.
A powerful singer can get a lot of emotional impact just from passionate humming. Moby is not that singer, but he knows where to find them. Finding great samples and bringing in great guests is how he made himself an unlikely household name. His albums are usually filed under uninspiring titles like ‘downtempo’ and ‘chillwave’ and the all-encompassing ‘electronica’. That doesn’t really do justice to the scope of an album like 18. Those 18 songs carry more depth of emotion than most of the earnest balladeers and wanna-be emo kids out there.
One day I’m going to be a sexy older dame, and I only hope to be half as sensual and edgy as dame Marianne Faithfull. There have been many, many songs sung about being old and weary, if anybody can claim to have seen too much, it’s Faithfull. She owns the persona of the rueful old street singer. The other side of that persona is the unrepentant sensualist who savors her experience and can’t wait to live more. Which is incredibly inspiring, for anyone who doesn’t aspire to curl up and die once they’ve passed their golden child years. Life is still full of adventure, even if you’ve outlived your usefulness as an ingenue. There’s the promise of late life romance, free of the shame and stupidity of youth. There’s the satisfaction of wisdom well earned, the pride of self sufficiency, the relief of leaving the young woman’s pedestal behind forever. Once you’ve lived it all and seen it all, the world is your oyster.
“If I like them because they remind me of eating bad bathtub mescaline in the woods and listening to Cure singles, well, that’ll do. You might like them for completely different reasons.” – Scott Seward, The Village Voice
Sounds about right. No, I don’t have that experience and that’s not the reason I like Interpol, but it’s a good point. Is there really anything wrong with liking things because they remind us of other things? That’s a tricky line, because nobody likes things that are derivative. You really have to be as good as your influences to pull off a good homage. Interpol, though, they get those backhanded write-ups a lot, because they’re so masterful at evoking things beyond their own time and place. It’s the sense of menace in their music, their disaffected tone, the cool-guy ennui; those things may remind some people of their own disaffected days, and if, for a certain generation, that always seems to evoke the ghost of Ian Curtis, so be it.
This sounds like classic Bryan Ferry, straight from the 70’s. But, nope, this one only dates back to 2002. So, clearly, the old glamour god can still bust out of his rut when he feels like it. I think you know what I mean when I talk about a regulation issue Bryan Ferry album, and this isn’t one of them. I love regulation Ferry, of course, because of course, but I love it more when he gets weird and reminds us of just how edgy cool he used to be. Not grand old man cool like today, but genuinely subversive cool, cool beyond category cool.
Moby’s 18 is one of my absolute favorite albums from the 2000’s. In fact, it was one of the first new albums of the 2000’s that I really fell in love with. Before that I was still resolutely convinced that new music was dead and nothing would ever be good again. In hindsight that’s kind of a dumb thing to have believed, but the 90’s didn’t leave me with very much faith in humanity. 18 was one of the records that gave me permission, so to speak, to leave the graveyard of dead rock stars. Now, of course, it’s old history too. As I’ve mentioned pretty recently, it shocks me that we’ve already cycled around to harboring nostalgia for the early 2000’s. Maybe because it’s just a thing that happens to you when you’re over 30, but I’m kinda feeling it a little. I mean, how can you not mist up a little, looking back at a time when ‘cyber-‘ still meant edgy? And – getting somewhat back on point – there’s a bit of irony in the image of Moby being a big man on the super edgy digital cyber scene of tomorrow or whatever, when all he really wanted to do was bring back gospel music. I’m told that Moby is now into composing ambient music for yoga salons or something, which either makes him the new Brian Eno or the ultimate sad aging hipster.
The Flaming Lips made the best album of 2002, and one of the greatest of the decade. That’s old news to everyone, I know. We’ve all listened to Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots from discovery to saturation and onwards into nostalgia. Enough years have passed, though, that we can comfortably look back at the 2000’s as a chunk of historical time and make a judgement about it as a decade. We can see now, in hindsight, what stands or falls as a matter of historical import. What has already been roundly forgotten and what’s been accepted into canon. We can grind our teeth and admit that Paris Hilton really was the iconic blonde of the decade, like she claimed all along; and the disposable trash culture Andy Warhol semi-ironically predicted has become the status quo, spilling out of the entertainment realm and all the way up into presidential politics. In fact, it’s hard to tell what’s trash and what’s culture anymore. Yeah, the world has changed since 2002, and musing about robot feelings has only become more relevant. We still don’t have the science fiction rock opera we deserve, but this may be close enough.