Archive for November, 2011

We Love the 80s

November 7th, 2011 No comments

As I sit here and listen to the latest album by M83, a so far stunning double lp release that needs an Atari 2600 present while listening to it, I am curious as to whether, the ghost of John Hughes will soon make his way back into the limelight.

This year has seen it’s fair share of albums that are 80s retro sounding. Depeche Mode, Cure, New Order, and every and any Flock of Seagulls wannabe. What is even more strange is that some of the kitschy sounds from that era – i.e. the sax solo have ended up in anonymous places and there are other bands like Destroyer (Dan Behar) and while I enjoyed Bon Iver’s new album, it’s final track is one of the worst examples for 80s campyness.

As these new albums start the retro craze of teaming themselves with the “Oldies” I am feeling old that the music that I grew up on is well, there is no better way to put it but ….old.

Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ is nearing it’s 29th year on this planet. This issue seems to be a more troubling aspect to me than the fact that I will be turning 40 next year.

I’ve tried to get my head around the resurgence of the 80s. While I believe that these rediscoveries are inevitable. What I am always curious about is why an artist will grasp an era of music. I only wish they dressed like them too. Women, don’t you want to go back and wear the shoulder pads? Don’t you want to make a disaster of a dress like Molly Ringwald did in ‘Pretty In Pink’?

Does John Hughes get any credit for this resurgence? Do his movies play a prominent role among the artists that grew up on watching these movies over and over again?

I have wondered whether it was necessary this year to come out with a Retro 80’s Album Listing, separating this from the rest of the albums, putting on my best Boy George impression while describing them.

I mention Boy George because there is one thing that many of these bands lack and that is the charismatic front person. The music exists but the full package doesn’t. Part of the flair of that era was a change in the way that music was being delivered to us. Back in the 80s it was the music video, a disaster of 3 minutes where bands would sail off to far away lands or perform some lip synching in a studio that was edited by Uncle Charlie.  All the same, Generation X ate that shit up and loved every delicious bite.  It was our Hostess Twinkee.

As I end my trek into the past and finish up the last song on M83’s new double length album I realize that it has felt odd and yet strangely appealing. I do have to say that I see visions of Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy and Anthony Michael Hall while listening to these albums.  But rock and roll is still young enough that it could have skipped a generation and never admitted to that time or era. The music was underappreciated. It followed the big bang of punk with a more fashionable futuristic model that flaunted for style points for possible demerits in substance.

At any rate, the music of today’s kids is copying that of my generation which should make some Gen X’ers take note.

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Helplessness Blues – The Song

November 6th, 2011 No comments

I figure the best way to start with this song is actually posting the lyrics:

Lyrics to Helplessness Blues :

I was raised up believing
I was somehow unique
Like a snowflake distinct among snowflakes
Unique in each way you can see

And now after some thinking
I’d say I’d rather be
A functioning cog in some great machinery
Serving something beyond me

But I don’t, I don’t know what that will be
I’ll get back to you someday soon you will see

What’s my name, what’s my station
Oh just tell me what I should do
I don’t need to be kind to the armies of night
That would do such injustice to you

Or bow down and be grateful
And say “Sure take all that you see”
To the men who move only in dimly-lit halls
And determine my future for me

And I don’t, I don’t know who to believe
I’ll get back to you someday soon you will see

If I know only one thing
It’s that every thing that I see
Of the world outside is so inconceivable
Often I barely can speak

Yeah I’m tongue tied and dizzy
And I can’t keep it to myself
What good is it to sing helplessness blues?
Why should I wait for anyone else?

And I know, I know you will keep me on the shelf
I’ll come back to you someday soon myself

If I had an orchard
I’d work till I’m raw
If i had an orchard
I’d work till I’m sore

And you would wait tables
And soon run the store

Gold hair in the sunlight
My light in the dawn
If I had an orchard
I’d work till I’m sore

If I had an orchard
I’d work till I’m sore

Someday I’ll be
Like the man on the screen

I have been stuck on this song for the last month or so.  What I find awesome was that I completely disagree with my review on the song (and my review of the Fleet Foxes) album.

It’s not that I am wrong (or that I think that I am wrong) but rather the song has amassed a meaning beyond that of a single narrative and yet carries enough weight with it to be, in my opinion one of the best songs of the year.

After seeing the Fleet Foxes at Pitchfork Music Festival this summer and re-inspiring my desire to listen to their latest album, it’s made some inroads up the Zimmermann Notes charts as one of the best of the year.  I complained in my earlier review about it’s lack of politics or social pursuits and I believe that my review shortchanged this just a bit.

As of late, it has been the Occupy Wall Street movement that made me refocus how this music will have a lasting effect as its title track is chilling as it explores the impetus of the generation making their case against the world.

I posted the lyrics as a whole because I think they need to be recited. Part of me listens to the first three stanzas of what has been written as Generation Y’s prelude to Occupy Wall Street.

However, it’s more this innate desire to return humanity to a more natural state but also a call to action.  It tilts the emotional scales with its beauty providing a sense of purpose and understanding for those that feel trapped in similar scenarios. The generation that distrusted corporations at the same time lives off corporations has to try to balance out the inequities of life and reevaluate their own. We hear the protagonist wish to work the land, to work in an orchard, creating their own fruits of their labor, feeling a sense of accomplishment and still able to appreciate the beauty in the world (‘gold hair in the sunlight’).

‘Helplessness Blues’ is a timeless treasure, one that will be redefined in my head for different causes and events, but a song that should be examined for it’s depth for the era that we are living in now.

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