Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Syd Barrett - "Wouldn't You Miss Me (Dark Globe)" From the CD Opel and
Meat Puppets - "Lake of Fire" From the album Meat Puppets II

Syd Barrett Opel CD coverMeat Puppets II CD cover
In which we pass under the revealing Historia infrared two examples of naïvist artistry, each different, but somehow still the same.

"Dark Globe" was originally released on the Barrett album in 1971, but that one must have been recorded on one of Syd's manic days, and the nearly shrieked vocal performance makes it--without appearing to be insensitive to poor Mr. Barrett's mental state at the time--rather unpalatable.

The alternate take presented here was released on Opel 17 years later. I much prefer the sedate vocals you hear on the Opel version, as they limit the chaotic sprawl to comprehensible levels. Syd is either unwilling or unable to consistently count time, and lyrics end up getting crammed into the end of a measure, while guitar downstrokes are stuttered, bunched together, or stretched out, as the Madcap Barrett found necessary.

Yet it somehow works. I think that the more downbeat manner in which the song is sung allows the listener to focus on the odd time Syd is keeping, which, while always threatening to completely implode the song, never quite does.

Seems like the typical response to "Dark Globe" is to remark upon its sadness, but I think that's probably projection, the listener projecting his knowledge of Barrett's life onto the song. Which is not just an incorrect approach, I think, but also an unfair one.

Syd asks "wouldn't you miss me at all?" one last time, strums his guitar six more times, the song ends, and it seems nothing but charming to me.

Somehow Syd brought the whole thing home, you know? His achievement is similar to that of one of those people who build, like, a model of The Hermitage out of wooden matchsticks: no-one serious would use the raw materials they did, and they really had no right to finish, but somehow, through a little cussedness and a certain little obliviousness to the ways things are supposed to be done, they did.

"Lake of Fire" quite simply bleeds electricity; it sweats pulsed electrons, and when turend up loud enough, you can see how the excess current pools silver at the base of your speakers.

In that way, it's in severe contrast to the starkly acoustic Barrett tune. But, as Barrett does in "Dark Globe," Curt Kirkwood keeps only the most cursory time for himself as he warbles and meanders his way through "Lake of Fire." He crams his lyrics in wherever he's got a bit of space, ends his lines early, or starts them late, according to no real method I can discern. And when the tune finally does end, it seems to have done so successfully only in spite of itself.

Though the question remains whether Barrett had been capable of a more disciplined performance, I myself don't think the song could have turned out much better than it did on Opel.

The Kirkwood Brothers, on the other hand, despite their legendary appetites for debilitating chemicals, were both sane enough and capable enough to have produced a more orthodox delivery of their song. Given what we know about their early records, Curt made "Lake of Fire" hang together in the ramshackle way that it does simply to annoy those who expected something more normal.

But a more regularized performance would have been inferior, as anyone who's heard both the original from Meat Puppets II and Nirvana's cover from the Unplugged CD can attest. The cover not only doesn't bleed the electrical, it also don't stich the lines together like a crazy quilt.

It don't do that scrapyard naïvist thing, which, though seeming simple, or even retarded, on first listen, is upon repeated exposure, very special indeed.

Syd Barrett - Opel - 1 - Wouldn't You Miss Me (Dark Globe).mp3

160 kbps mp3, up for six weeks

File under: Psychotic Rock

Meat Puppets - Meat Puppets II - 10 - Lake of Fire.mp3

192 kbps mp3, up for 6 weeks

File under: Feeling Arizona