Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Holocaust, by Big Star

Your eyes are almost dead
Can't get out of bed
And you can't sleep

The deep crater of the soul:

My dark pilgrimage burns out in the twilight: memories awaken me to remind me my own cavities. Happiness is quickly forgotten when we shared wounds with the remains of our breath. You: the thin carnal horizon to reveal that daylight was here. At his hour ghosts achieve their full meaning:

You're a wasted face
You're a sad-eyed lie
You're a holocaust.

Holocaust, by Big Star

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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Into The Mystic, by Van Morrison

Hay dos momentos fundamentales de la adolescencia que son de suma importancia en mi vida: John Keats y Van Morrison. Yo tenía 18 años. Había reprobado ocho materias en la preparatoria, razón suficiente para no salir con mi generación. Ese año me quedé solo. Mientras descansaba de las horas de estudio para preparar los extraordinarios me gustaba pedir libros de poesía al bibliotecario. Una tarde mis ojos leyeron por primera vez un poema de Keats y la luz del día no volvió a ser la misma: Ode to Autumn me dibujó la visibilidad de la gracia por primera vez. Lo recuerdo con toda claridad: dos días después escuché por primera vez el Moondance de Van Morrison y recuerdo que guardé un silencio reverencial cuando Into the Mystic sonó por primera vez en mi vida.

Al final de la segunda estrofa del poema de Keats, el verso:

Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours

me cautivó por el suave sonido de oozings encadenado a hours. En la canción de Van Morrison la línea:

And when that fog horn blows I will be coming home

no se queda atrás en su serena imagen de arena.
Van Morrison: el eterno troubadour de la mirada que recibe la felicidad del tiempo que nos pasa:

We were born before the wind
Also younger than the sun

Fuga del tiempo. Esse sustancialis que murmura las primeras imágenes de la creación. Una orilla que recomienza su fluir en su mortal calma a tus pies. Tus manos se apoderan del oleaje mientras el antiguo paraíso se agolpa en un imán de luz. Tu recurso esperado de agua suspendido en la medida del mundo: tu lenta mano que desprende los cantos de aves dispersas:

Hark, now hear the sailors cry
Smell the sea and feel the sky
Let your soul and spirit fly into the mystic

Into The Mystic, by Van Morrison

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Saturday, May 27, 2006

With God On Our Side, by Bob Dylan

So this is Bob Dylan's week.
When I was in high school, my history teacher told me: "Have you heard 'With God On Our Side' by Bob Dylan?" I answered, "No". She told me: "Would you listen to it and give us a sort of show and tell about it?" Why not? After all, I am a huge fan of Dylan. That evening I had an epiphany. By that time one of the few records I hadn't heard by him was The Times They Are A-Changin' (1964), which I consider to be his most political record. So I got home, downloaded the song (yeah, I know I did wrong, but some months later I bought the record) and checked the lyrics here. I think this one is the epic poem of the United States. The most honest, the most terrifying, the most brutal. The tone of resignation at the final lines ("So now as I'm leaving, I'm weary as hell, the confussion I'm feeling, ain't no tongue can tell"). Like "North Country Blues", it is so sadly present.

(as a recommendation, listen to the version included in The Bootleg Series Vol. 6 Live 1964. The Philarmonic Hall Concert, where Dylan sings it duo with Joan Baez).

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

North Country Blues, by Bob Dylan

I read the news yesterday.

Of all the depressing news about the state of the world, one strikes me the most: the front page features a photograph of the three children, aged 4, 2 and six months, two girls and a baby boy, who were abandoned by their mother in front of a Mexican nursing home, with a letter explaining she could not support them any longer.

I read the news yesterday.

Another picture grabs my attention: the wrinkled, grey hands of a Mexican migrant worker, crossing the desert with a crumpled picture of St. Judas, some lentils and a copper coin as his only possessions.

I've read the news, watched the newscasts about the situation of the miners all over the world, including the U.S. and Mexico. I have seen their faces, covered with coal and dirt, and that of their mourning families, covered with tears.

I am reminded of the first time I came to hear of these situations. Sadly, I begin humming North Country Blues, by Bob Dylan. The singer as narrator, gathering people around him, a story has to be told. And we will all learn something.

The true power of good pop music: to be relevant and memorable. To make an artistic, aesthetic, political comment about the world beyond the mere instantaneity of the present moment. To last.

Today, Bob Dylan turns 65. Thirty-five years ago, Charlie Brown famously said there was nothing more depressing than Dylan turning 30. I am damn sure there are much more depressing things. Even Chuck realized that.

Happy Birthday, Bob Dylan.

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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Dolphins, by Tim Buckley

I decided to stop listening to your songs for a while. Your voice and your words made me cry so much that I couldn't stand to hear them anymore. I cried and cried and felt pity for myself. There were days in which I couldn't work properly or even actually function after I heard the Song from Room 109.
Then I went to the mountains and had lots of time to spend listening to music, making bedtime stories, sleeping and getting the most awful cold. One of those days I had good internet conection so I decided to surf through the most fantastic thing I've seen in the last weeks. I was out searching for the Dolphins in the sea, and found them.
You had the gift. You understood things that I wasn't ready to understand.

This old world will never change the way it's been
And all the ways of war won't change it back again

But hey, when your world is turned upside down there's a resistance to think it's changed forever, to think there's no way back. In spite of the wars. In spite of the words. Once you lose the battle, you've lost it forever. You might win again one day, but that other lost battle will still be there.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

I Don't Really Love You Anymore, by the Magnetic Fields

There comes a moment in Everyman's life in which love reigns over you like a doomed cloud. You can't choose to run away from it, to leave it waiting at the bar, half a pint of Guinness going flat.

You have to love, an imperative that does not depend on will alone. Everyman imagines possible worlds, a fire in a little farm, chopping woods to keep her warm, joint walks beyond Hyde Park (where "everything is desert", as William Hazlit wrote), arm in arm, keeping her safe from harm, and when away, at that bar, listening to sad music and remembering every dress she ever wore.

But life teaches very hard lessons.

And suddenly it comes to you like lightning: Everyman realizes he does not have to love her anymore.

It is a liberating feeling: it comes with happy, yet profoundly melancholic music, chords and drums and a folky vibe, a sort of barndance track that resembles a fairy tale of heartache and loss. The voice comes deep from the chest, the voice of a bedtime storyteller, older and wise, but also selfconscious and with a sense of irony.

I don't have to love you now if I don't wish to.

One wonders, after listening to this song, if it's at all possible, whether one can say "I don't really love you anymore" truly and sincerely from the heart, and not just out of disappointment, resentment and pain. Love, freedom or doom, one wonders.

Because Everyman walks wounded. Everyman used to read her horoscope every morning at breakfast, until he gave up.

'Cause I don't really love you anymore.

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{This was this blog's 100th post}

Monday, May 15, 2006

Ode to Street Hassle, by Spacemen 3

It was my fortune with grace and equanimity and I discoverered the other side of sound: Spacemen 3.

Sonic Boom and Jason Pierce were the geniuses of this band. Ode to Street Hassle is a song of redemption which is not a epic of death (a la Lou Reed) Jesus is alive and catches the attention to prevent visions which can fetch you with gruesome stories. Jesus is there to prevent the horrors of the original Street Hassle. Hope is discovered in a solitary confinement: it struggles to think about the past, about death, sex and drugs: a glimpse of incomprehensible future.

So I just sat and listened
To what Jesus said to me
‘Cos sometimes you gotta listen, if there's things,
If there's things you just can't see

And while we were out walking
Once again he turned to me
And as I looked into his eyes his thoughts
His thoughts just came to me.

Well some people never listen
You know some people just won't see
But I can see and hear these things
These things have got to be.

Ode to Street Hassle by Spacemen 3

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Barrel of a Gun, by Depeche Mode

It is genuinely scary to feel backed into a corner, with no way out. The lyrics and, especially, the atmospheric music in this song, convey brilliantly the claustrophobic feeling of feeling both helpless to change and unworthy of your responsibilities.

What am I supposed to do
When everything that I’ve done
Is leading me to conclude
I’m not the one

Whatever I’ve done
I’ve been staring down the barrel of a gun

I think I associate this song most with my first year in college, even though it was released while I was still in school. I remember one of my sisters drawing my attention to the lyrics when it was playing in a club and, when I couldn’t really make them out, her writing them on a beer mat, which I think I still have somewhere. There is something about the plaintive appeal of the lyrics and the dismay and frustration in Dave Gahan’s voice that always affects me. Even if I don’t necessarily identify with him, it’s impossible not to believe him.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Street Hassle, by Lou Reed

The first time I started listening to classical music I was 16. In those days that was a dull experience: it meant nothing to me.My ears were ready to be smashed at 19. Those were the years for the real experience: I became acquainted with some great interpreters (Brendel, Barenboim, Casals, Kennedy et al) I remember the first time I listened to Bach’s cellos sonatas in Pablos Casals’ version. It was a new universe (particularly the third one): it was quite similar to read Heraclitus' fragments: wisdom was there...

Then Lou Reed came. Street Hassle is a melodic raw epic full of splendour and sadness with the most beautiful cello overture in rock history (name another?) A cello sonata divided into three parts where Reed's voice narrates perversely an epic of drugs, death, sex beyond redemption: a world that burns like hell in 11 minutes epic.

Street Hassle by Lou Reed

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Friday, May 12, 2006

The Last Day Of Our Acquaintance, by Sinéad O'Connor

The rhythm in a break up is contained in this song. First he/she will say, "We need to talk", and Sinéad says: "This is the last day of our acquaintance", in an almost inaudible voice playing her lonesome guitar in the same way she's singing. "I know you don't love me anymore", the voice and the guitar are louder. "I don't know what happened to our love", more audible. When she says: "I know your answer already" almost three minutes after it began, the song explodes; the drums kick in and so does the rest of the band. The "oh-oh-oh!" yells are part of the catharsis. And you see her/him walking away as Sinéad repeats: "I know your answer already". Or better yet, you walking away, repeating it, never looking back. Then it's over, abruptly.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Eros' Erotic Tundra, by Of Montreal

No puedo seguir viéndote. Creo que esto me está lastimando. No estoy preparado para una relación. Estoy muy triste como para estar con alguien. Quiero estar solo un rato. No me laten algunas cosas que haces. Estamos en momentos diferentes. Tú eres increíble, pero yo soy un desmadre. Me estoy volviendo loco. Necesito dedicarle más tiempo a mi trabajo. A mis amigos no les lates. Deberíamos conocer a más personas antes. Tengo que irme y no puedo quedarme por ti. Mis papás no saben que salimos, se van a enterar. Estoy muy enojado. Hiciste algo irreparable, imperdonable. Tengo miedo de que me pegues otra vez. Cambiaste. Ya no me prendes igual. No confío en ti. Las cosas con otro chavo se están poniendo serias. Estoy enamorado de alguien más. Tengo miedo.

Fade into You, by Mazzy Star

I want to hold the hand inside you
I want to take a breath that's true
I look to you and I see nothing
I look to you to see the truth
You live your life
You go in shadows
You'll come apart and you'll go black
Some kind of night into your darkness
Colors your eyes with what's not there

Tu mirada es comunión: expresión de la aurora donde el sueño se desvanece. Donde el universo sólo es un paisaje inexorable: un rito del tiempo que describe lluvias (esos instantes que nos hacen sustancia temporal) que intentan imitar la eternidad. Tu mirada es la permanencia de la geometria del fuego (vuelo agudo de luz) que no admite comienzo alguno. Insistencia de dicha sagrada que me desnuda para ser otro: tus ojos son retoños tiernos de la mañana.

Fade into You, by Mazzy Star

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Sunday, May 07, 2006

Monologue for an old true love, by Isobel Campbell

Scottish chanteuse Isobel Campbell gave a concert in the city of Bergen on Saturday. As I'm spending some days in the countryside of Norway I missed the concert. But I can't complain. I'll go back to Bergen tomorrow and I'm not looking forward to it that much. It's been lovely to be here, hyking in the mountains and drinking the fresh water that runs down the rivers.

I don't know if I had too much fresh air but I got ill today. So I have spent the day laying in bed, feeling homesick, feeling happy, going from one state of mind to another. Learning what it is to be loved again. And still...

And still your spirit comes to me
You were the one for life
You brightened up the sun for me
Even through all the fights

Thursday, May 04, 2006

One of These Things First, by Nick Drake

His is one of those voices that come back with that same force with which the cold wind hits you on the face when you are there, standing in front of the Northern Sea. There is no sand on those beaches: it's all stones and crab fossils and promenades, the light of the abandoned carroussels illuminating the still, quiet low water reaching your feet. His is a voice and a sound that has not ever been repeated.

His is the voice of the dead young man who could have been so many great things had he lived a little bit longer. But don't let me be misunderstood: he did great things, amazing songs, full of sentiment and aesthetic clarity. Nick Drake is one of those musicians/singers/composers that I cannot live without: his songs, like this one, speak to me with an honesty that makes me shiver everytime. In my imagination, One of These Things First is a brilliant testament, a message inside a sacrificed empty crystal bottle, thrown into the cold waters of the English coast. It is the wounding testimony of an impossibility: the painful awareness of what never was:

I could have been your pillar, could have been your door
I could have stayed beside you, could have stayed for more.
Could have been your statue, could have been your friend,
A whole long lifetime could have been the end.

I could be yours so true
I would be, I should be through and through
I could have been
One of these things first

These lines speak to me in such an intimate manner I can't barely express how the piano-and-guitar music, an almost autonomous, live entity in this song, becomes some sort of faded, yet still pristine-white wallpaper for the lyrics. The song speaks of the possibility of what was impossible: there is nothing more idle that imagining what could have been but is not; as idle and useless as the custom of composing songs of love and heartache on the table of your local pub, a cheap pint of lager casting a long shadow on two crumpled pieces of paper, maybe disposable napkins, maybe an old newspaper someone used to wrap greasy chips sprinkled with old vinegar.

Nick Drake could have been many things. He was many of them. A pillar, a door, a whistle, a real live lover, a book, a signpost, a statue, a kettle, steady as a rock. This is the musical translation of the profound sigh after realizing all that never was and maybe never will be.

His voice and his fingers speak to me from beyond. He forever walked away, and yet, he is still here, letting us know, reminding us. I could be. I would be. I should be. One of these things first.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Expo '86, by Death Cab For Cutie

I am waiting for something to go wrong
I am waiting for familiar resolve
I am waiting for another repeat
Another diet fed by crippling defeat

The whole of human physiology is so constructed that we should immediately flee or fight when we experience fear. And normally we do. But there are certain kinds of fears, so slow and quiet in their attack, that we are literally paralysed by them. They can remain for years, alternating between quiet and loud periods; sometimes they never go away at all. This is not a natural state for humans, and this fear is not a natural one like the fear of a predator, it is something entirely invented by the human mind. That’s why it’s so hard to explain, or to fight.

And I am waiting for that sense of relief
I am waiting for you to flee the scene
As if you held in your hand the smoking gun
It takes a certain kind of disposition to empathise with this kind of fear – the fear that everything good in life is by definition fleeting, especially the incomparable goodness of being with the person you love. The fear is that at any moment it will all be gone, and for no apparent reason. The upshot of this kind of paranoia is in any case a failure to properly enjoy the moment for what it offers. In a lot of cases, it can alienate the very person you hope to hold onto, and be a sort of self-fulfilling prophesy. I wish I could stop it, but I just can’t. This song shows that I’m not alone in this irrational fear.

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Monday, May 01, 2006

Ghost Town, by The Specials

I don't understand why the iPod plays this song everytime I go to pick up my girl. Every Friday around six pm, while I'm crossing the bridge infront her house the drums and the bass begin to sound. The mysterious choir is there. Once I stood up on the bridge, making time, smoking a cigarrette, watching the cars passing by, what if the city would become a Ghost Town? I couldn't be happier. I guess I'm not the only one. There are days, Good Friday for example, in which the city actually becomes a Ghost Town. Travelling all around the city becomes a real pleasure. Everything's closed, that's the part I like the best. Every door is closed. I imagine how people have died or moved somewhere else after they've dried the whole place. And they will dry the next one.