Saturday, November 28, 2009

My Little Blue Window/Radio Silence

Recently, a lot of my listening has been taken up by one Mr. Elvis Costello, or as some of you may know him, "Declan MacManus: International Art Thief". I've been a huge Costello fan since high school, which may explain why I wasn't exactly a ladies' man, but it was also reassuring to know that there were other angry nerds out there. My Costello listening never really ceased since then, but for me, it's certainly more of an autumn/winter thing, and I've recently pulled out my EC discography from its digital crate.

It seems that whenever I pull out ol' Declan's records, I not only discover new things about the records that I love (which is most of them, but I'm certainly partial to his '77-'80 output, from My Aim Is True to Get Happy!!), but I usually discover a new record once a year or so. Apparently, I'd never cleaned my ears out to bother to listen to his 2002 "comeback", When I Was Cruel. it seems to be the weird, dark, seething record that he was threatening to make back in '91 with Mighty Like A Rose. The great thing about Elvis is that he's never really been pigeonholed by people who know his music. Sure the "angry young man" image sticks in people's minds, but he's always been as stylistically shifting as even David Bowie, he just changes shape within the "post-New Wave songwriter" boundary. Everything on When I Was Cruel seems dark and muffled, giving it a similar vibe, if not exactly sound, of groups like Massive Attack. That haunted, dark, angry sound is a welcome refresher to those of us who love Costello's razor-sharp wordplay. I've been on record since I was 17 as digging his Burt Bacharach collab, but that was a little sweeter - nobody can pen a put-down like Costello.

Back in '02, I was doing summer duty at a mall record store when I was home from college, and we were pretty restricted as to what we could play (thanks, GloboCorpMedia, Inc.), but When I Was Cruel certainly got lots of play from me, but I wasn't giving it a fair shake, cause I was young and angry, and it wasn't This Year's Model. So I've heard the record, but I'm 7 years late in getting to it's glorious, muffled anger - so what's your point, Mike?

My point is that I'm sick of the Day Glo, pseudo-cheerful 80's retroism of today. It's like people have fooled themselves into feeling things that they're not actually feeling. I'll freely admit that I don't understand why anyone would live at that surface level all the time, but I think that some of these people genuinely think that they feel certain things, but it's all ironic, and some of them don't even know it:
Teen2: Are you being sarcastic, dude?
Teen1: (shakes head) I don't even know anymore.

Maybe it's because we're coming out of a dark time, and some of the people in their late teens and early 20s weren't properly emotionally equipped to deal with being plunged into a paranoid era about 8 years ago. The '80s were pretty Day Glo and there was the constant threat of nuclear war. It's back again. But I was old enough to deal with it. And I'm bitter. Bitter at those people, bitter at the spirit of the era, bitter that nobody else seems to be feeling what I'm feeling. Ignoring it with solipsistic dance squiggles and silly haircuts doesn't protect you from fear - you have to fool yourself when all is said and done.

So I'm going to start writing some lyrics for the album I've got in the can. And they're going to be bitter. Because nobody else seems to be doing it with any articulation or conviction. Fuck this dance music. Things might be getting better, but bopping to reheated, rehashed Synth-Pop horseshit isn't going to make this any better. Duran Duran was bullshit then, and their progeny still are. You can't dance your troubles away when the world is falling apart. They say that those that don't know their history are condemned to repeat it, and apparently they've never heard the tale of Nero fiddling while Rome burned.

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