Sunday, October 22, 2006

Holes, by Mercury Rev



"I try not to believe in God, of course, but sometimes things happen in music, in songs, that bring me up short, make me do a double-take. When things add up to more than the sum of their parts, when the effects achieved are inexplicable, then atheists like me start to get into difficult territory."
-Nick Hornby, in 31 Songs



Nick Hornby wrote those words about Rufus Wainwright (a man I think, too, has had some kind of contract with a superior being, even though I also try not to believe in God, because God in my religion, tends to be an Old Testament cruel and blood-thirsty bastard), but when I read him I thought about Mercury Rev's Holes. I listened to it for the first time watching the painfully beautiful Panic, a film that left me cold for hours after having watched it, one of those films that leave you wondering about the divine-like role of individual creators -such as filmmakers and musicians- and their ability to make us question the very core of our existence. The intro itself, full of friendly ghosts, is both funny and terrible; misterious and full of that kind of light you get to see in places like upstate New York in the winter or England in the autumn, when the dense clouds get pierced by shy but powerful light blades. And the whole vibe of the intro is repeated throughout the whole song, only to be made more evident by the drums and the guitar, that in this case redefine the possibilities of what a ballad is able to achieve. (One listens to this song, especially in its live interpretations, and wonders why things like Coldplay's Yellow can be so popular, when there are such truly beautiful pop artifacts such as Holes out there). It is not easy to know what Holes is about: the passage of time, the meaning of dreams, the remembrance of an hallucination, the translation of what the heart feels after/during a breakup, the tragic essence of human finiteness, our fleeting passing through this world, but also, importantly, as all great bands do in their great songs, about the very nature of rock and roll, a self-reflexive interrogation of what a band is, or the rock and roll band as a metaphor for human existence, for the performance that life is. For me, this song speaks to me in ways I cannot properly define, but all I know is that deep down I know this song is a love song, an attempt at grabbing all that which is solid but melts into the air; in some strange way an interpretation of what the "ineffable" is, which is to say what the divine is: "distant gods/and faded signs". We will all die, like flies, seemingly unstoppable, so fast we can't really see their transparent wings move, miniscule yet ubiquitous. Like flies, we are just small creatures controlled by time, an expression of what is uncontrollable and therefore ineffable. "All those endless ends/that can't be tied": Mercury Rev have composed in Holes a celebration of the void, of emptiness, of absolute darkness, of the blank spaces that separate intention and outcome, the painful awareness of our inability to decide completely our futile destinies. An anthem celebrating impossibility, then, "those funny little plans/that never work quite right", like love itself, that we can never really control. And yet we plan, and dream, and think it possible: to last, to fulfill our dreams, to love, finally, and to be loved, until the end. Only to find out that whether it happens or not is not really up to us.

The whole lyrics can be read here.

There's an annoying lack of synchronicity between video and sound, and unfortunately the whole haunted intro of the original is lost, but it's the only version I found at You Tube:

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