The Church Of Me
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Kissing in the churchyard, I know a righteous woman

Monday, July 22, 2002

Currently playing: "Shore Leave" by Tom Waits. Possibly the best use of a trombone in popular music - up there with Milt Bernhardt's "explode-while-Frank-simmers" orgasmic solo at the climax of Sinatra/Riddle's "Got You Under My Skin." Muted, growling and prodding, while Waits' vocal alternates between hacked off Spillane and pleading Skip James. He talks of manhood but when he sings he's vulnerable "I CAN'T MAKE IT ON MY OWN" and ends the track by screaming "SHORE LEAVE" so indirectly it sounds like he's crying "Shirley" (cf. Bowie's approximation of "driving me Shirley Shirley Shirley oh" at the climax of "Subterraneans").

And let us not forget Don Butterfield's contrabass trombone on Mingus' Black Saint and the Sinner Lady, issuing its unique growl at precisely timed intervals (heh heh of course the whole work's about sex; CM won't say it on his half of the sleevenote, nor will his psychiatrist on the other half, but God does it permeate the album - climaxing again and AGAIN).

Better stop there before Mr Ascender comes along :-)

posted by Marcello Carlin Permalink
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The intro to "Losing My Feel" by LCD Soundsystem is one of the best in recent memory - the carnage before the actual war, a pile-up of rapidly sequenced, out-of-synch guitar/drum licks, rock history being compounded into a square and crushed - literally, scrap metal.

Then, straight into the straightahead DAF-style minimalist beat, but every dot on the aesthetic VDU being exquisitely placed. In many ways, this is a 1981 record from the sleeve downwards - slightly bleached white print on navy blue background with a central photo of what one presumes to be "James Murphy" - bearded, jumpered, sitting thoughtfully. Even down to the typography - very 99 Records/Rough Trade.

"I'm losing my feel," echoes the conscience of rock; the spirit who has lived through all the ages - Can in '68, Suicide in '74, Daft Punk in '96 - but now on the verge of becoming drowned by the oncoming wave of "younger, better looking people with better ideas - and they-they're-s-s-s-so n-n-nice about it!" (that stutter is a classic pop moment). Then the "I hear" encomium to the Bobby Gillespies of the world - trading their guitars for turntables, then selling their turntables and buying guitars - those who have every hip record ever made (This Heat, Scott Walker, Pharaoh Sanders, Pere Ubu, "the Soft Cell," the SONICS, repeated over and over!) but have never listened to a nanosecond of any of them.

The payoff? "We all know what you really want!" - i.e. love, life.

Instead of which Murphy signs off with a brief, ostensibly challenging but really resigned, "what?" (i.e. what do you think I want?)

The alienation through art agenda continues on the flipside "Beat Connection" all about "the saddest night out in the USA" (i.e. clubbing) and how "nobody wants to love" and "everybody needs a shove."

All very James Chance circa '79, of course (N.B.: this is a good thing), but that's exactly the kind of comment which this record rails against - stop putting us up against what you liked when you were 16. Appreciate the record for what it is - get INTO it and abide within it for a while.

posted by Marcello Carlin Permalink
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The trouble with Pet Sounds, and by extension with Brian Wilson, is that it cannot function as what it was originally intended to be – the simple outpouring, through complex means, of pure emotions; unhindered, unquestioned, honest – because it/he is weighed down by the burden of the label “classic status” and its close cousin “best of lists.” Which is why I by and large avoid making any. Apart from Escalator Over The Hill, the one record with which I would be glad to be buried had I the option only to take one, there is no need to catalogue or order works of art which are already in magnificent (dis)order. It cheapens them, sets them to base tasks to earn their keep on one’s shelves, reduces them to gestures, prisoners of an order imposed on them extraneously by well-meaning people who are desperately trying to obtain some degree of order/control/point with relation to their own lives.

I neither know nor care whether PS is thought the greatest 35 minutes of popular music ever – though one could usefully note that it is possibly the “whitest” of pop records, the one furthest removed from any notion of blackness. Is that why it is hailed the “greatest”?

But that’s irrelevant. What isn’t irrelevant is how I feel about it, as with anyone faced with a work of art. I have no great flag to fly in favour of the Beach Boys; no one I have known seems to think much of them, and my late wife positively loathed them, frequently issuing her most wounding aesthetic adjective: “ploddy.” And their records, or those of theirs which I had, sat on the shelves for years, waiting for me to get their point.

I think I have it now, even if I am yet again only transposing the emotions the work expresses and fusing them with mine. It IS a concept album, starting with newness, the joys of newly-found sexual congress (“Wouldn't It Be Nice?”) and gradually progressing/declerating through hymns to faith given to those not necessarily deserving of it (“You Still Believe In Me”) to vaguely dubious expressions of devotion (“I may not always love you…”) to desolation/bereavement at the death of the little death (“Caroline No”). That’s what it’s about. And musicians who played on it wept at what they heard (including the Mike Love “Jesus wept!” variation). It is a labyrinthine construction but a fundamentally fragile work. It needs to be discovered, perhaps at random, perhaps when some grievous event has required the necessity to seek spurious solace in music whose words might shadow your imagined key. It needs to be given time, to be nurtured with care – not shoved into the ground by the pressure of a “classic status” tonnage.


There’s this quote from Montaigne which says: “Lend yourself to others; give yourself to yourself.” Whether I agree with that depends on what interpretation I choose to take. It’s not in my nature, though if you take it as meaning you should allow yourself your life and not let other malevolent forces (work, whatever) take it over or take it from you, then it’s a valid point. I am trying to reclaim my own life at the moment. But when it comes to friends I cannot help it – I give myself to them totally, because they care about me and they offer me so much that I want to give to them too, give them my loyalty, my love, and it is theirs forever because they are such an important part of my life, inspire me to continue my life. I breathe them.


"Quit your jobs.
Don’t cross your fingers.
Don’t work for people you can’t trust.

Quit their money.
Leave their places.
Slam the door and don’t look back.

You’ve been here so long.
Don’t take the middle curse.
Don’t hesitate, it’s overdue.
Suit or revolt, it’s up to you."

("Middle Curse" by Lali Puna)


"Now is the time to set things right"
(Jimmy James and the Vagabonds)

If anything is going to change in my life, it is going to be this week. I can feel it in my bones.

posted by Marcello Carlin Permalink
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