“Hello, I’m good for nothing, will you love me just the same?”
And now, a song about rampaging insecurity. Or the opposite, a song about expectations and frustration. Amanda Palmer writes about emotional ambiguity like none other. She slides from frailty to rage and back again in a couplet. This kind of theatrical intensity can be almost terrifying, especially for people who are used to the cleanliness of pop. But the Dresden Dolls built a singularly dedicated fan base because they appeal to people who want to see real blood, sweat and tears underneath the makeup. The intimate and confessional coexist with the performative; that’s where punk poetry meets cabaret. Say what you will about Amanda Palmer and her business practices, but she represents the triumph of the crazy independent artist in an era of corporate sponsorship. It’s good to know that it’s possible to keep a career afloat just be the sheer force of passion and charisma. Obviously, her global couchsurfing grassroots ethos isn’t for everybody, but it’s still inspiring.
Lucinda Williams’ album World Without Tears is a harrowing ride. It’s one of the most raw and emotional albums I can think of, just to put it plainly. It’s cathartic, or merely depressing. This song is one of the quieter moments, amid songs of rage and despair. I’ve always been a supporter of ‘deep cuts’ – the tracks tucked away in the middle or end of an album, that carry the mood, bridging between the hits. Some people think of those songs as filler, but I relish taking them out of context and examining them on their own. Very often, forgotten filler songs are really gems that have been outshone by louder tracks. I think this is really rewarding. Try listening to the track first, then listen to the entire album. It doesn’t exactly form a narrative, but it does flow.
“I guess one afternoon, you won’t cross my mind, and I’ll get over you, over time.”
Stop and think back to the last time you felt this way. How very, very hard it is to stop holding in your mind images of an old flame. It is slow torture. The assurance that one day you won’t remember their face is the opposite of comfort. Time heals all wounds, so they say, and this process is just the way of nature. Love leaches its way out of the body the same way alcohol does; like the toxin that it is, kicking and screaming.
Nobody has explored this territory more intimately than Lucinda Williams. She truly is the ultimate copilot for the battered heart.
If you haven’t seen it already, I heartily recommend the film Amy. The documentary shows a side of the late Amy Winehouse that may have been overshadowed by the sordid circumstances of her final days. Namely, her incredible talent, her wit, and the vulnerability that made her music so touching. One thing is clear – making it big was the worst thing that could have happened to her. She wanted nothing more than to be taken seriously as a jazz singer. Pop stardom derailed her so thoroughly she never recovered any semblance of stability. She also had the misfortune to fall in love with a violent, manipulative, borderline-sociopath drug addict who dragged her to hell – in front of the whole world’s prying eyes. Perhaps she could have dealt with either one of those things on their own – the pressure of fame, the pressure of a destructive relationship – but not both at the same time. The Amy Winehouse we didn’t know – so lovely, full of life and bursting with talent – that we are introduced to in the first half of the film just makes the inevitable downward spiral all the more heartrending. I’ve written a lot in the past about the destructive effects of today’s fame industry, which feeds on exploitation and tragedy, and takes sadistic pleasure in the downfall of young women. Amy Winehouse was victimized more than most.
ThouShaltNot has been no more for a while now, unfortunately. Someone needs to keep the spirit of 80’s goth music alive, but not these guys anymore, apparently. Who could blame them for breaking up, though, having made six great albums that nobody listened to. I don’t even remember how and why exactly I discovered this band, but it was definitely one of those random internet moments. They had a great old school sound, with a certainly dark romantic sensibility, which is just me. I’ve never once seen them mentioned in the real press, no surprise. But that’s what the internet is for, bringing things into your life when you don’t expect them.
New York Cares.
But it doesn’t, of course. Interpol adds to the canon of songs about the indifferent big city. They’re hardly the first to feel insignificant among the millions of lights, but that feeling is always relevant. Even for those of you who’ve only pictured it from songs. The feeling of lonely nights and alienation, so dreamily evoked here, is universal. Only being in an actual big city when you feel it just rubs irony into the wound. There must be something desperately wrong with you if you’re grappling with ennui in the middle of an adult playground. Loneliness in a lonely place if purifying; loneliness among infinite opportunity is somehow selfish. Decadent. A sign of jadedness. A symptom of illness. A failure on your part. And of course, it’s more romantic if it’s all of those things.
As you can see, Camera Obscura really has the hipster bait aesthetic down to the buttonhole. And, having formed all the way back in 1996, they genuinely were that studiously uncool before being studiously uncool became cool. There’s a lot of bands in that vein now, but still, nobody channels early sixties cocktail pop better than Tracyanne Campbell. She’s like an art nerd Nancy Sinatra. You could call the overall style ‘sunshiny melancholia’. It’s a genre now.