Sham pain for my real friends and real pain for my sham friends, as they say… Marina Diamandis, clever as she is, isn’t above using some corny-ass dad puns as vehicle for her social commentary, in this case about the perils of getting yourself blackout drunk. She also wrote a song called Hermit the Frog. She likes wordplay. And she’s totally in using it. Humor and absurdity go a long way towards leavening angst-ridden topics, and Marina uses both, along with heady doses of glam and glitter, to get her message across. Underneath the hooks and costumes, there’s some heavy angst, and serious observations about how wounding and hard life can be for women and how much of a charade femininity essentially is. Also, the weight of creativity and fame, don’t forget about that additional burden. Life is an uphill battle. Let us have our dad puns.
Here is a duet between David Byrne and Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond (who you may also know from her work with the Decemberists.) The record, of course, is Here Lies Love, the rock opera wherein Byrne gathers a winner’s circle of outstanding female vocalists to tell the story of disgraced political figure Imelda Marcos. Byrne himself is mostly missing in action, but he does take the role of incarcerated opposition leader Benigno Aquino Jr. Although I do recommend a quick brush-up on Filipino political history, it’s not strictly necessary. It’s a song about a man in prison and his spiritual struggle. He could be any man. But the history is fun to learn.
It’s a beautiful spring day and the very thing that I need is a morose drone. To dampen any excessively high spirits, you see. So I may just spend the next few hours listening to Interpol, who are a band best suited to the dark depths of a sub-arctic winter. (Are they very popular in Finland, I wonder?) I’ve always held that there’s no wrong time to revisit your own sub-arctic depths. Especially when you’re having the audacity to feel good about your life. That’s when you really need to balance the four humors.
“I may be bad but I’m perfectly good at it.”
There we have it: the definitive statement of purpose by Rihanna for unrepentant bad girls everywhere. Or the final commercialization of a formerly underground subculture. Take your pick. It could even be both. You can be delighted by Rihanna’s gleeful embrace of sexual transgression and still wonder just how transgressive anything really is if four million people are buying it. Perhaps there’s not much taboo left to fetish culture when it’s constantly in your face and at your fingertips. On the other hand, though, good. Let people be sexually liberated, empty out those closets, sweep open the dungeons of shame, stop clutching your pearls at other people’s pleasures. Girls just wanna have fun! With ball gags and Japanese rope bondage and puppy play and femdom and slashfic and cam shows and dd/lg and latex and friendly fire and cryptozoophiliac Patreon subscriptions and whatever other filthy things you didn’t know you were into until the internet brought them to your attention. It’s a great time to be alive and sexually active.
Here Lies Love is a record that rewards delving deep. (Why do you think I’m still writing about it so much?) Obviously, it should inspire an interest in learning the history of the Philippines. It’s also a treasure trove of talent to follow up on. Nearly every one of the 22 tracks feature a different vocalist. Some of them you are sure to know of: Cyndi Lauper, Tori Amos, David Byrne. Some were still obscure-ish in 2010 but later became huge huge stars, such as St. Vincent and Sia. Most, however, are under-the-radar artists who don’t get much press, but are worth discovering. This one is Canadian music royalty Martha Wainwright, who is a singer-songwriter in her own wright but doesn’t have all the accolades of her brother. (Hahahaha, see what I did there?) Worth checking her out!
Marina Diamandis sure knows how to make angst poetic. She’s dramatic in her lyrics, in her vocals, and in her image. She may have pop diva sensibilities, but they’re constantly in a balancing act with her emo side. Because although her music might sound ‘big’ her topics are intimate. She writes a lot about things that are interior in a way that most pop doesn’t usually touch. Lots of songs about insecurity, about not knowing who you are and what you’re doing. That’s an essential part of being young, of course, and dealing with those feelings in a productive way is an essential part of becoming less young. That’s why Marina strikes a chord with the young and the not so much. She’s a figure study in how to be vulnerable and creative about it.
Rococo is a good word for Arcade Fire’s musical aesthetic. They’re committed maximalists. Certainly, their ornate and ambitious compositions share a spirit with the gold embellished curlicues of Rastrelli. Intellectually, however, the Butlers and company seem to take a stance against materialistic excess, which they see as a downside of modern life. (They’re also not as radical or as deep as they fancy themselves. More on that at some later date.) The irony, of course, is that historically, some of the most materially excessive and politically inequitable regimes have yielded the most enduring art. The Rococo (and the Baroque, the Gothic, the Art Deco, et al.) art and architecture that thousands now crowd to see was funded by despotic kings and tithe-happy Popes as a celebration of themselves and a conspicuous display of their obscene wealth, at the expense of the poor and downtrodden, for which not a few of them eventually paid with their heads. Great art outlives the political context of its creation, which is a comforting thought when living through trying times. It also makes the stance of looking down on modern life – the “modern kids” and whatever they’re up to – a rather foolish one. It’s a pretension like any other, to think that our time, such as it is, is somehow inherently stripped, somehow less profound, somehow more excessive, somehow shallow. With hindsight the unprofound and vapid will fall away and the meaningful cultural artifacts will shine on. We ourselves may not live long enough to see that happen, but following generations will.