Friday, January 16, 2004

the killer the name of this song by greg dulli (and someone). it's my current favorite on the new twilight singers album, a slightly buzzed, pulsing tune that starts out as hushed anxiety/reassurance, builds to a near-symphonic crescendo, and then fades from earshot. but then i am currently riding a massive bummer, so this type of thing appeals to me.

i think we're lost, don't worry
i've been here before
i'm sure i thought i knew the way
out of here yesterday
dove cuesto, mi dolce?
your driver called, it's time to go
your driver's waiting for you

and i caught a fever
a holy fire
'til i was crawling on the ceiling
come out of your hole
i know you know
you know i know
i wanna go

such a pretty thing, i've never seen
someone so perfectly deceive
i loved her smile
and her beguiling way with me
she smelled exciting, i wanted some
your driver's gone
like everybody

and that's why i need ya
to catch on fire
i want you to burn me 'til i feel it
i know you know which way to go
i wantcha to show me
so i can steal it
where should we go?
where should we go?
i know you know that i'm
gonna need it
i know you know which way to go
i know you know
i wanna go

so it's my latest obsession, this song, and indeed the whole album, currently the thing i play over and over, on my way to work and back home again. "i want you to burn me 'til i feel it" is the line resonating most. a sense of feeling so numbed by ... whatever might be numbing you -- life, the universe, everything? sex, drugs, rock n roll? manny, moe, jack? -- that you need something to eat away at you before it even registers.

i don't really feel that bad, but sometimes of late i do feel alarmingly numb. some of my elders would tsk sternly and tell me this is because i don't take their advice about not drinking so much, eating better, sleeping more, etc. but all of them have ruined themselves on the rocks of excess, and i find it alternately endearing and irritating that they want to save me from the same fate. that's sort of beside the point, at the moment, however.

so ... the album. it's called blackberry belle, and it is quite a good piece of sonic art. greg dulli is the architect of it, and the songs are all tethered together, i think, by the pain of him losing a friend, filmmaker ted demme, who had a heart attack following a celebrity basketball game a while ago. before i knew the backstory, i viewed this mainly as another skunk-on-the-make album, more tomcatting tunes from the mack daddy of alt-rock/soul. his persona -- which, from what i know of him, extends into real life -- is that sort of self-pitying compulsive lover-boy who alternately agonizes over and revels in his evilness. fairly irresistible on record; doubtless a nightmare to deal with in reality. but, as someone once said, "half the records in my house are made by people i wouldn't let into my house."

on that simplistic level, songs like "teenage wristband" and "decatur st." work quite well. the music weaves together fat electric guitar licks, gorgeous piano riffs, lilting strings, dramatic horns, and ambient noises with dulli's breathy, even overripe, growls, whispers, and moans of intimation. it's one long plea for attention, for action, for absolution from baser impulses, alternately taking pride in the very vices being lamented.

but the more i play it, the more i hear between the lines a lot of despair, melancholy, maybe even some regret. dulli's work has always acknowledged the human toll vice takes on those held in its grip, but here he sounds weary of it all, if not quite ready to chuck it -- maybe uncertain of what else there really is, anyway. i will refrain from tired analysis of the inner workings of the man's mind: these things seem obvious in the mix, but they are also my own projections, i suppose. at any rate, what fascinates me most is the image of the aging playboy, all fucked up once again, numb to the point of begging to be burned (even metaphorically). it is the very antithesis of youthful rock n roll, and yet, of course, it's the flip side -- especially in this day and age where no one cares to die before they get old, or, maybe more accurately, to get old before they die. i don't think anyone even sees the use in it, and certainly the urgency of that sentiment so succinctly expressed by the who way back when has been lost in the frenzy of maintaining eternal youth. when mick jagger et al. go on pumping 17-year-olds well into their 60s, acting like foolish teenagers but appearing more foolish than any lad, who could be expected to understand that what's alluring and animal-attracting at 25 is appalling and repulsive when pushing 40? i mean, iggy pop, trying to be a troubadour a few years ago, writing songs about what a bummer it is to fuck 25-year-olds b/c he has nothing in common with them: oh, my, and boofuckinghoo!!

uhm, anyway, again with the off topic. but i think what i'm trying to say is that there is a lot of pain on blackberry belle, and it's actually quiet desperation. the album is quite stark, despite the use of varied instrumentation, and though it regularly sprawls out in blasts of the funky, visceral, hypnotic alt-rock dulli used to make with his band the afghan whigs, i find the calm-before/after-the-storm moments very compelling. the opening track of piano and gutturally wistful vocals, "martin eden," and the aforenoted tune whose lyrics i have pasted above ... these are the things moving his art forward. in their own way, they are fearless, although i sense fear in this album as well. i sympathize with it, because i think i understand it, after a fashion. greg and i are the same age: i think we are in what xtc's andy partridge described in a song as "the hinterland between young and old." it is a vast territory, unknown terrain that changes even as we approach it. i'm not even sure where the borders lie. we live in the shadow of the baby boomers, who, bless them, altered a lot of perceptions about what is and isn't a grown-up thing to do. (before they mostly fucked off to the suburbs to raise their kids in an even more protective environment than the one they rebelled against -- can't wait for this generation to grow up.)

so on one level, we do what we want, because they already broke the barriers, the mold, the fucking wall. we don't have to fight those battles. no one's paying attention to us, anyway. there's no road map, so let's just go. on the other hand, sometimes i feel like there's a "where the hell are we?" quality to my micro-generation's meanderings. those of us who don't go the conventional marriage/kids route, in particular, although i know that acting normal is no guarantee that you are or can become normal. (whatever that is.) on this dim landscape it's easy to get lost, and i wonder if part of the aftermath of dulli's friend's death was not only the feeling of loss from losing him, but also a sense of being lost, coupled, perversely, with a desire not to be found. questioning, but also resignation. not even a resolve to change...fatalism is in play here, too. or maybe weariness, a freakish peace with his choices, a bone-exhaustion that makes it difficult to contemplate life-overhaul except on the most superficial levels before taking another hit of whatever it is that gets you through the nights and days of vague discontent. i talking about myself or my perceptions of greg dulli now? not sure. how it relates to me, the fear i hear is my own: fear of never doing anything significant. as i play these records by dulli or joe henry, i think about how they have such strong voices and use them so well (albeit so differently). so seemingly confidently, also. i am impressed and a little jealous, although i have no desire to be a songwriter, per se. or to perform on a stage, god forbid. it's an overarching sense that i have been lax in being the architect of my own life. this is a common theme. relying too much on the whims of fortune, or others, for the direction my life takes. spending too much time wishing something could be so instead of making it happen. i sense that i am falling behind, but i only know how to work at my own pace, which is damnably slow. (good thing i come from historically long-lived stock. *knocks wood*) but, yeah, i have that feeling that i will die before i get everything done. the killer, i suppose, of myself: slow, painful, angry death.

hey, i said i was riding a massive bummer.

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