Thursday, June 21, 2012

Explosions in the Sky - "The Birth and Death of the Day" from the CD All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone

Explosions in the Sky All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone album cover
I posted something at my Tumblr about the Explosions in the Sky gig I went to last night, and by the time I was done with it, I realized the piece was long enough to post here


I don’t know about you, but there are really three places where I listen to music: on my 45-minute drives to and from work, while doing the grocery shopping, and while bopping around the house on a Friday night or Saturday afternoon.

The point is, always I’ve got time to kill when listening. I don’t mind your expansiveness of concept right then. In fact I welcome it, You wanna take 20 minutes to do your Impressions of the Revealing Science of God? Great. Want to stretch out and use 19 minutes to paint me a picture of Swastika Girls? Kick-ass, I’ve got time.

It may seem incongruous to describe Explosions in the Sky as driving music, but I think that’s exactly what they are. They start with this tiny, quiet smidgen of a lyrical idea, and then keep piling on to it. Fifteen minutes later, the band is indeed exploding.

But you gotta have that fifteen minutes. If you”re in and out of the shop, let’s say, like I am at work, you either catch the beginning or catch the end, but not both. And the beginning makes the end, and vice versa.

While it seems that much of the (very large) audience last night knew EITS’ music better than I did, I still noticed something interesting: the cheers, when they came, were typically not at the end of the songs, but rather at the end of the explosions. Many of their songs have quiet codas reprising the beginnings, and several times last night I couldn’t hear these soft endpoints ‘cause the crowd was going nuts.

To me, that says that the crowd was there for the crescendos. Hell, the crescendos were what I was there for. Their crescendoes are awesome. But I also found myself at times kind of waiting around for them. The buildups that seem like necessary world-building while I’m driving seemed kind of interminable while I was standing on my tired and achy dogs in the packed and sweaty performance space.

Nothing to be done for it, not really. That is the kind of music Explosions in the Sky makes. They can’t cut it down or edit it, at least I don’t think they should. They and we just have to live with it: The music’s integrity relies on parts that don’t translate as well in a live situation.

On the other hand: When they had it going, the racket they made was as powerful as anything I’ve ever heard in my life. I say that even though I’ve seen Sonic Youth three times. I once saw a unknown band named Polline’ open up for the Mercury Program and I had thought that the capstone to their show was as unholy a noise as I was ever likely to hear. Explosions equalled if not surpassed it.

And they are like Sonic Youth, because when they get going, you’re not sure that everything you’re hearing is actually there, if you know what I mean. Everything is swirling so quickly and so loudly that your mind is a little unsure of how to process it all, and sometimes it makes things up to fill in the gaps. It can be audio pareidolia: you hear bells and voices and whistles and other non-existent aural patterns amidst the buzzsaws.

Or maybe they’re there after all. . . .

Anyway, in a nutshell, put up with the boring soft parts, as the loud parts are fucking incredible with this band.

The other thing that needs to be said is that Explosions thrash around. Mightily. Nearly spastic Michael James was dripping sweat five minutes into the show. All three guitarists are out of control at various points, sometimes all three of them at once. It was a joy to see them so very much into the music, and let's single out Munaf Rayani as a man who Pete Townsend could take to heart for the abuse he dishes out to his Fender.

And yo, loved the Texas flag draped over the amplifier.

Explosions in the Sky - All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone - 01 The Birth and Death of the Day.mp3

File under: Driving Music

Friday, June 8, 2012

Fleetwood Mac - "Hypnotized" From the Album Mystery to Me

Truth be told, Fleetwood Mac and I have never really seen eye to eye. When I was growing up, at a time when Rumours was ubiquitous, the teenage metalhead and/or prog freak I purposely molded myself into wasn't part of their demographic. Not even close. And now that I more closely match that (older, white, politically liberal?) demographic, the ship that might have once done the soft California rock thing for me has long since sailed.

I may not hate them, but--with the one exception I'm getting to in my typically slow fashion--Fleetwood Mac's influence on my listening habits has been next to nil. "Rhiannon" and "Don't Stop" and the rest of the Mac's massive seventies radio hits have been like neutrinos, all around me, unavoidable, yet so wispy and insubstantial that they've passed through me inert and whole, colliding with nothing of myself, reacting with nothing at all I keep internal.

Words are funny things. Rotate them a quarter turn, and all their nuance changes. I dismiss Fleetwood Mac by saying they're "insubtantial," but 90 degrees away from insubstantial is "ethereal," and ethereal can produce a very nice feeling indeed.

"Hypnotized" is, I think, Fleetwood Mac rotated their own quarter turn.

It's the same kind of story That seems to come down from long ago Two friends having coffee together When something flies by their window It might be out on that lawn Which is wide, at least half of a playing field Because there's no explaining what your imagination Can make you see and feel

Seems like a dream They got me hypnotized

Now it's not a meaningless question To ask if they've been and gone I remember a talk about North Carolina and a strange, strange pond You see the sides were like glass In the thick of a forest without a road And if any man's hand ever made that land Then i think it would've showed

Seems like a dream They got me hypnotized

They say there's a place down in Mexico Where a man can fly over mountains and hills And he don't need an airplane or some kind of engine And he never will Now you know it's a meaningless question To ask if those stories are right 'cause what matters most if the feeling You get when you're hypnotized

Seems like a dream They got me hypnotized

Cadres of English blues fans and Peter Green cultists probably curse the name of Bob Welch for the band's detour into Yacht Rock after Welch arrived.

Fine. But to me, Welch's standing as one of the seventies' premier songwriters is cemented by this song and this song alone. And if it's Yacht Rock so be it. Van Morrison and Stevie Nicks and scores of Druid metal acts have attempted to shine a light Into the Mystic, but none, I think, have illuminated that foggy inconstant world quote so well as "Hypnotized."

what matters most if the feeling You get when you're hypnotized
Hell, there are books written on the subject that don't get it so right. I don't truly believe that Don Juan ever levitated or that space aliens created a lake in the Carolina woods or that a Mothman flew over Point Pleasant or that malign spirits ever crept over the sandy floors of the Chase Vaults.

But there's a little dreamy fugue we all enter when just thinking about these fantastical and sadly unreal things, isn't there? If these things are not real, at least they can give us this wonderful, fleetingly-grasped, dreamy fugue state.

What's remarkable about "Hypnotized," its music, its lyrics, is it's another transport in.

The fugue, the trance, it's just like the daydream reverie you feel when Bob Welch's atmospheric guitar fills fly by. It's just like the slightly unreal shimmer that Mick Fleetwood's triple-time beats can bring to things, and it's just like the mysterious soft keen of Welch's and McVie's voices combining, just slightly offtune, just slightly outside the sad and boring reality we're all forced to inhabit.

RIP Bob Welch