The Sadness of Techno

When I’m at work I like to listen to techno on Pandora. It’s not that I like techno. I don’t collect it or talk about it or get excited about it really. Techno does not turn me on or make me feel the artist’s emotional moods, like rock often does. Nor does it even relax me and put me in a good mood, like jazz does. But techno does have one property that I like – it’s good background music for computer programming. My flickering screen merges with the drum and bass and sort of downloads my brain effortlessly through web sites, google search boxes, terminal windows, multiple desktops, lines of code and even odd unix commands. I feel nothing. I am reminded of nothing. I just move and work faster in a flurry of beats and flashing and circulating windows and HTML layouts.
I feel nothing. Or do I? As I sat absentmindedly listening to Pandora today, it occurred to me that techno is very sad. Oh, it’s not intentionally sad like Lou Reed’s 1973 “The Kids” –

They’re taking her children away
because they said she was not a good mother
They’re taking her children away
because of the things she did in the streets
In the alleys and bars, no she couldn’t be beat
that miserable rotten slut couldn’t turn, anyone away

Now that’s sad, complete with children crying at the end. But it’s very literal.

And it’s not even sad like the early synthesizer songs, which sound sad to me because they are from a distant time when everything seemed hopeful and new and synth music seemed the key to a strange and perfect world.

Techno’s nostalgia is vaguer and more uncanny. It’s not the feeling of losing touch with one era, but with the entire history of human culture. All those tiny little beats and half-tunes and soulful but disembodied female voices work together to remind me of the entire history of pop music, fading slowly and collectively into the horizon. All those songs that remind you of getting laid or dancing in a club, or driving in your car, or getting stoned (or something else), or discovering some great new sound like punk or funk or rap that you think will set you apart from everyone at school and make you truly bad-ass. All those songs are leveled and reduced to one note each, millions of little bits-and-bytes in a futuristic digital map that pulls you in and then slips effortlessly and digitally just out of your reach. You can’t get a grip on it anymore, and that produces a strange longing for me at least.

The connection with recognizable songs is getting further and further out of reach too. In the 80’s when house and techno first came about, samples were longer and recognizable. The female vocalist sang whole songs, like “Gypsy Woman” with choruses and so forth. Or at least they sang whole sentences:

“I don’ want/a place to stay/get your booty on the floor tonight/make my day”.

Over time the samples became smaller. Now all you might hear is “make my make my make my” or even less…”ma-ma-ma” – but you’d still recognize the original song, or maybe you’d just recognize that it was once a song! The vocals are the saddest part of techno for me. The little barely audible bits still contain all the joy and pleasure – and therefore all the sad nostalgia – of the original disco divas who sang them but whose voices now seem to be on the verge of disappearing into the electronic sea surrounding them.

Techno is like being in a space craft and moving slowly away from earth. Like the continents, the samples become smaller and smaller and more unrecognizable. Finally you are left inside an almost entirely computerized environment looking back sadly at a distant impression of the human world that once surrounded you.

Of course the feeling of moving away from human music, or moving away from earth, does not need to be sad. It could be bright and hopeful, a fearless new post-human future on the horizon. Perhaps with time it will feel more brave and fearless. Then I will be standing bravely at the precipice of this spacecraft, moving toward my space destiny. But for now, I just feel too attached to the memories of all those sampled songs that are being left abandoned like empty buildings on the side of the freeway.

Grinderman

I am sorry to say that after the last Nick Cave release, I had kind of given up on him. He’d
lost Blixa Bargeld and seemed content just to wrap himself in pretty flowery ballads. Nick
does OK with a pretty ballad now and then, for example “The Ship Song” or “Alice”, but it is a shame when he neglects the rumbling chaotic hellraiser songs that he does so well.

Well, the hellraiser Nick is back and doing fine with “Grinderman” (the name of the band and the album). “Get It On” is great with the stark and mean spoken-word intro “I’ve got to get up to get down and start all over again. go down into the basement and shout/kick those mouse and black rats out”. I’m not sure how he intended this, but to me it’s a metaphor for his renunciation of delicate flowers, linen CD covers, and
return to coarseness. The call-and-response singing “He’s got some words of wisdom/I’ve got some words of wisdom” is a nice revival of the rootsy style heard in
“Kicking Against the Pricks”. There is nothing nice about the harsh guitars grinding guitars like the rumbling of concrete mixers on a construction site.

“No Pussy Blues” is the one we’re all hearing on YouTube, etc. It’s the
video with all those people hugging and kissing and taking off black Victoria’s Secret bras, or maybe they are from Fredrick’s. Nick’s voice rumbles and threatens with half-crazed dark delusions of a chronically frustrated man. “I thought I’d try another tack/I drank a liter of cognac/I threw her down upon her back/but she just laughed and said she didn’t want to”. Nice tension in the guitars which alternate between soft threatening and the sudden explosions.

“Electric Alice” – Man this one is evocative with an undulating beat and keyboards and maracas and a strange whooshing sound. “Electric Alice in the pale moonlight”. It reminds me of standing
under new electric streetlights in the turn of the century watching a desolate prostitute with children at home. She’s been there since the days of gas lamps and now she’s standing under the buzzing electricity, in the rain poetic and sad and negatively charged – “Don’t the moon look big and round”.

“Depth Charge Ethel” sears it’s way to your heart with mean guitars and a relentless chorus. The lyrics “Depth Charge Ethel/Is Something Special” don’t really interest me much so I won’t write much on the song.

“Go Tell the Women” is groovy, deep and cynical “We are magicians/and we are deceiving/we’re free and we’re lost/Go Tell the Women that we’re leaving”. I think it’s about all of the pleasure and feeling that is lost as we abandon our spiritual animal apelike selves in the pursuit of knowledge, technology, art and everything mental. A very wise and true song.

“(I Don’t Need You To) Set Me Free” is a slow rocking tune that reminds me of “Exile on Main St” – era Stones, as much of Nick’s work has lately.

“Honey Bee (Let’s Fly To Mars)” would never have made sense if I
hadn’t been in love. It could be about wanting to leave humanity and people and earth and bullshit behind make your own non-human world (on Mars). There are some cool buzzing sounds that remind me
of aerosol cans…or bees.

“When My Love Comes Down” is sort of a threatening warning about the impending storm of love and passion which is moving in on a poor pretty thing standing innocently on the corner with skin as white as the fallen snow who will (hopefully) not be rescued by FEMA or any other government agencies.

“Love Bomb” – A classic Nick Cave confessional. Here is Nick the distraught preacher spouting off about his desires and disillusionment. Here Nick lets his voice get really bluesy and damaged-sounding and strong, as only he knows how to work it.

Overall, this album makes up for Nick’s lost reputation. It’s got a great cover with a spotlit monkey holding his crotch and screaming in sexual agony and delight – the performing monkey as the artist giving the people what they want. Monkey gets carnal pleasure and money. Audience gets a cheap thrill. Lucky monkey. Leave it to Nick to prove that monkeys are more highly evolved than the rest of us “artists and mathematicians” who hold “extremely high positions”.

Garage Mania

Robby Russell – Radio Personality, garage music geek, bobblehead collector, hedonist….

Nurse Cheril – white clad acid queen, the beautiful laughing dancing sidekick, the woman with 1000 voices, hedonist…

Robby Russell's bar customized with original KACE sign

Together these two are the co-hosts of independent radio’s number one weekly garage rock show – Garage Mania!

Garage Mania/Psych Out USA is a weekly show which can be heard every Saturday at 1:00PM PST on WPMD, the radio station which broadcasts from Cerritos Community College in Los Angeles. News, crazy pictures, and archived information are available at the Garage Mania web site: www.robbyrussellshow.com

I caught up with Robby one afternoon in his lovely bobblehead-filled sunlit apartment in Belmont Shore section of Long Beach, where he gave me a tour and talked about his favorite topics – psychedelic and garage music, and Cheril.

Robby Russell - Man of Shadows

Robby grew up in Long Beach, Long Island in the 1960’s. He came to Long Beach, California in 1972 (he only lives in cities called Long Beach), as he heard that the rock music scene was better. He was right. “On the day I arrived in California, Jim Morrison was playing a free concert and the Illusions were playing that night at the Whisky”.

Seven years ago, Robby teamed up with Nurse Cheril after meeting her in Panama Joe’s on the shore. “She was dressed in all white, which is how you have to dress at Panama Joe’s. So we decided to call her the Nurse. I had been doing the show with another guy, but decided that it would be better to have a woman as a sidekick.” I asked Robby if Cheril appealed more to men or woman listeners. “Men, definitely” he answered without hesitation.

Their chemistry is obvious and they seem made for each other, at least in radio land, dancing in strange wigs and costumes even when they aren’t in front of the camera, partly because when they started out, they were.

The first version of Garage Mania was a video show taped in a studio in Northridge. Cheryl describes the show as “fun, because we could just dance and act crazy and do what we wanted on the camera”. But Robby was kind of bummed out at having to drive 1 1/2 hours each way to the hot stuffy studio, and schlep props in from the car.

some Kiss bobble heads

Five years ago, Robby and Nurse found WPMD, a radio studio closer to home, thanks to a tip from fellow L.A. DJ Steve Propes.

The radio show has become a wild combination of garage and psychedelic music, strange recordings, wacky news, stand up comedy and Nurse Cheril’s multitude of radio voices and personas.

Cheril's personas or Robby's Bobbleheads?

Cheril’s personas are an important part of the Garage Mania ritual. Luckily, Cheril called up on the phone and described some of her alter egos for me. Currently, there are about 5:

1. Mary Jane – a Marge Simpson-voiced old party girl. Mary Jane can be found wearing fishnet stockings, go go shorts, (or poinsettia pasties for Christmas). She’s from California but also is a bit hillbilly.

2. Little Margie – this is Mary Jane’s six year old protege. Margie likes to practice polka dancing in a short dresses. Lately she has been spiraling gently downhill, eating rum balls and smoking cigarettes. Margie’s future is uncertain.

3. Valley Val – Val is a classic old school Valley girl. She prefers the mall to the beach and really loves to shop!

4. Texas Tina – Tina is a sort of combination big haired Texas girl, with a New Orleans southern belle. She likes Texas garage best!

And the many faces of Cheril are perfectly complemented by Robby’s deep knowledge of 60’s music. Most of the garage I (the Princess Cornflakes) have heard has come from the Rhino Nuggets box sets, featuring bands such as the Seeds or the Electric Prunes. But Robby says that Nuggets are just the tip of the iceberg. According to Robby, there is an ocean of American garage music out there.

In particular, Robby mentions the 1960’s garage music scenes of Michigan, Texas, and New York. “The Michigan sound was hard with heavy guitars. There were bands such as the Tidal Waves, Rationals, Underdogs, Stooges, Bob Seeger System or the Pleasure Seekers. The New York bands had more organ sounds. There was a huge garage music movement in Texas with bands such as the 13th Floor Elevators (with Roky Erikson) or the Moving Sidewalks”

One of Robby’s favorite New York area bands were the Illusion, which he used to see in his hometown of Long Beach, Long Island. He also loves the New York Dolls and punk, but says that the Dolls are as far into punk as he goes. “We don’t play the Ramones”.

New York Dolls poster in Robby's apartment

Says Robby: “The show is two hours, but we could go longer. In fact, one day I’d like to just do a continuous nonstop show. We’d just go in to do our show and then occupy the station for about 20 hours. It reminds me of something done once by a D.J. named Happy Jack. Jack was a Philadelphia D.J. who did a 200 hour show. Eventually he went off-air. Next thing I heard he was lying in the hospital recovering.”

I think this is the way Robby would like to live out the rest of his days, happily dancing in the studio with Cheril by his side, wearing a flower lei with “I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night” or the Illusions blaring in the background.

hanoi rocks

The other night, after drinking too many vodka martinis at a bar, I came home and started talking about Hanoi Rocks with my sister. Back in the 80’s we loved them and had many other their albums. We had also loved the New York Dolls and Lords of the New Church, but Hanoi Rocks was kind of exotic as they seemed to be even more glam, better looking and had nicer kimonos and headbands. Anyway we had drunken fun watching this  and now I’d like to share it with you all out there in cornflakesland:[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ipcZr4ky8jo&rel=1].

Also, Robby Russell Garage Mania  is a great show if you like garage rock and psychedelic music. Hopefully I will be interviewing Robby and his sidekick Nurse Cheril soon….

Mountain Goats at NYU – the Goats are All Right

Last night I went to see The Mountain Goats at the NYU Kimmel Center – my first concert since Einsturzende Neubauten in 2003. As my husband and I stood there watching, we realized that everyone was about 15-17 years younger than us and they all had tight jeans on. Lots of people are talking about the “emo” kids – I guess today’s variation on goth. They make fun of their long bangs and overly sensitive ways. I just think they are young kids listening to new music, and we call them “emo” because we are jealous that we don’t look as good as they do in tight jeans. I don’t think that these kids are any more effete than we were at age 18-20.

Anyway, The Mountain Goats consist of John Darnielle on guitar and Peter Hughes on bass. They are one of a new category of what I call “half bands”. Like the White Stripes, the Mountain Goats only have 2 members who double up on instruments. Therefore John Darnielle sings, plays guitar and tries to keep the rhythm by slapping the guitar occasionally. Hughes just plays bass and stands there looking very cute in his 3 piece mod suit.

John Darnielle is also one hell of a good songwriter. He’s been through a lot in life and he’s heard a lot of music. He grew up in Norwalk, not far from my hometown of Long Beach, and claims to have spent his youth listening to Gun Club records that he picked up from some Hawaiian owned record store in a local strip mall. The Gun Club are one of the great under-sung bands of punk so if Darnielle’s story is true, it’s an inspiring tale.

Darnielle writes about his abusive step father, he writes about Kurt Cobain, he writes about speed users in Oregon, he writes concept albums about fictitious alcoholics rotting in old houses in Tallahassee, trapped by love and substance abuse to a trashy everyday of cheap gin and game shows. He writes well about these intense situations in a first person voice, alternating between profound metaphor and trivial moments that make the songs seem so lifelike, for example, “This Year”:

I played video games in a drunken haze
I was seventeen years young.
hurt my knuckles punching the machines
the taste of scotch rich on my tongue.

and then cathy showed up and we hung out.
trading swigs from the bottle all bitter and clean
locking eyes, holding hands,
twin high maintenance machines.

Yes, I know, that last line is a grabber. Darnielle has a damn fine knack for language.

He also sings his lyrics with passion. Sometimes his singing is soft accompanied by his gentle guitar strumming, sometimes he bursts into high gear with a sudden whiny yell, eyes closed, as if he’s possessed by some inner demon. At these moments he’s singing directly from the heart, no faking. Darnielle’s inspiration, Gun Club lead singer Jeffrey Lee Pierce also broke out into moments of true passion with his vocals, his voice literally cracking in songs like “Sleeping in Blood City” or “Like Calling up Thunder”, and Jeffrey never faked it either. But the reality of Jeffrey’s demons were just the problem. They killed him in the end. Darnielle’s demons are just in his imagination and in his memory. Had Jeffrey lived and “walked the straight path to the end of his days”, perhaps he would have learned to control the demons for the purposes of his music. But like Billy Holiday or Bob Marley, perhaps we prefer Jeffrey to be a legend.

And oh yeah, the NYU show….they didn’t play “No Children”, the crowd-pleasing singalong song that everyone requests. Perhaps they are trying to get away from this one. I’ve heard it too many time and am sick of it so that was fine with me. They played Tallahassee which was great. But I really wish they had played “Dilauded” a song that truly has “enough sexual tension to split the atom”, as Darnielle put it so well.

24 hour party people

I just saw this film about the rise and fall of Tony Wilson and the Madchester music scene. This was one of those films that did something to me. It was haunting. I think this is because it shattered my assumptions about the history of pop music as I knew it. For one thing, the film presented the early punk bands like Joy Division or Buzzcocks as just a step on the way to the madchester scene of Happy Mondays and eventually house/dance/dj music. I had always assumed that punk was more important and that dance music was just a passing trend, after this film I’m starting to think it was opposite.

In a way the film presented Happy Mondays as the last rock band. The narrator, playing Tony Wilson, even remarked in a scene in his Hacienda club in Manchester, the very moment when the audience no longer applauded the band, but instead applauded the DJ. This is a very important and very postmodern moment, marking the death of the author in a visible and historical sense. Punk may be more revered and fondly remembered today, but I think that the time will come when we will look back on the Happy Mondays, and the emerging club scene and realize the revolutionary importance of that music as well.

In fact it seems strange that Happy Mondays and the house and techno and rave music scene that they spawned are 17 years in the past. And what have we evolved to? War and the “fight against terrorism” and a world where all we care about is getting good ol’ American tax cuts and driving around the strip malls in our SUV’s (which are the biggest on the road) and where our kids must turn into little hard-working adults by grade 6 due to the “No Child Left Behind” laws. It seems like there is no more of the idealism about the redeeming power of music or communal love or even hedonism left from the hippie or rave scenes, just a boring materialistic world where all we can think about is how to protect ourselves and get home equity. But I’m not pining for the “good old days”, I’m impatient for the future. It seems to me as if we will encounter hippies and ravers at some point in the future, after we have evolved a bit more. They were only visiting before by some mistake in the time-space continuum.

But revolutionary importance and SUV’s aside, I’m just glad that the film reminded me of the Happy Mondays. They were an interesting band, equal parts drum and bass dance music, and equal parts rock. They sound at once like something you’ve heard before and like nothing you’ve heard before. And then they have Bez. Bez is their dancer, mascot, psychedelic guru. I’ve never heard of another band with a mascot who just dances and plays maracas. That alone makes the Mondays worth knowing.

Bands I Should Have Listened to.

As a former punk (of 1985, not 1977) it’s hard for me to write about the punk movement/era. Here I am, a comfortably-situated bourgeois mom enjoying her life in the USA. For me to reminisce about punk seems an indulgent, gratuitous form of nostalgia. Like the 60’s it never brought about any real political changes. On the contrary, people are less politically active than ever before and becoming less so. Global capitalism is more present than ever. And all that is left of punk is another “era” to influence retro fashion kids of our post-modern future.

And yet, I cannot forget. I can’t forget the punk era for initiating me to a political consciousness, however unpracticed it may be. though I wasn’t aware of this initiation 20 years ago, when I just wanted to hang out at the mall or dye my hair purple and listen to The Cramps or X. Punk also gave me a sort of buffer of personal freedom and expression. I didn’t have to follow the crowd. I could make my own decisions and design my own life and accept the consequences. It led me to follow my passion and major in art history, for example. The consequence of course was that I would have less job options than if I had majored in nursing or law or education. But I haven’t had a single regret.

Politics and personal expression are all fine and well. But the most important gift from the punk era for me was, and still is, a taste for music quite beyond the mainstream and off the charts. As a 15 year old with juvenile tastes, I listened to a lot of punk bands that I wouldn’t listen to today – the Cure, Love and Rockets, Bauhaus and yes, the Sex Pistols. But even immersing myself in the overly dramatic and somewhat juvenile sounds of Bauhaus gave me an ear for the weird and dark and poetic. Punk made me demand and look harder for and get more out of music. And that, over the years, has led me to some of the greatest musical discoveries.

For the past 10 years I have been happily “rediscovering” musicians which I never paid attention to the first time around – the ones with the less fashionable hairstyles that didn’t appeal to me at age 15. The first was Roxy Music. When I first listened to their early 70’s material (in 1996), I was overwhelmed. It was not made for mainstream radio, but was so full of smart, dark, poetic beauty that the extra time spent trying to understand it was very worthwhile. After 10 years I can still listen to “In Every Dream Home a Heartache” or “Sea Breezes”. More recently there has been Wire – with their choppy guitars and intellectual lyrics, not unlike British Marxist dance legend Gang of Four. I have discovered the strange electronic sounds of New York’s Suicide, or the sexy, kittenish hysterics of Lydia Lunch. I look forward to hearing Patti Smith eventually, and revisiting Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers.

But my latest “new old” discovery is the Stranglers. This is a band I paid very little attention to in the early 80’s, with the exception of their hit “All Roads Lead to Rome”, which broke through in the states. The Stranglers are quickly becoming an obsession for me. They, like Roxy Music, change throughout their career from early punk discord and chaos, with songs about sex and hanging out in the streets of London (Rattus Norgevicus), to a sophisticated euro-dance sound (Feline). There are also some albums which combine the two periods, like the wonderful Black and White. Both the early and late periods offer great listening.

I only own a handful of Stranglers albums, but I will continue to buy them over time. For now, they are my poetry. If I put on “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” first thing in the morning, I’m almost guaranteed a good day. “Toiler On the Sea” is the musical equivalent of DH Lawrence and I’m overwhelmed by it’s beauty. “Nice and Sleazy” is a deceptively-titled myth for the late 20th century, full of primordial symbolism. Then there is the album Feline, which I can listen to again and again. It is a slow, romantic homage to beauty and Europe. If Roxy Music’s Avalon is the musical equivalent to looking out over a glittering, endless sea from a Mediterranean hamlet somewhere, Feline is the musical equivalent to sitting in a 500 year old apartment on a dark afternoon in Paris, drinking wine, and admiring the city in a slightly sad mood. The album is all gentle sadness and longing and beauty.

I haven’t read a lot of poetry. I can’t seem to make it through the ones that are longer than a page. I also think that I require music to enjoy the lyricism of lyric verse. However, I think that the bands that I have discovered as a result of my initial interest in punk produce an effect on me that is similar to the effect of poetry. These bands – especially Roxy Music and the Stranglers, have allowed me to imagine beauty and ugliness and despair through words, and that is more than a person can hope for in a lifetime.

the lesser best of

Through no (or little) fault of my own, two new CD’s have recently entered my collection:

  • The Very Best of the Eagles (this got into my house due to circumstances beyond my control. Alas I cannot get rid of it
  • The Very Best of Talk Talk (this I asked for so it was my fault)

Anyway, the funny thing about both of these CD’s is that they are called “The Very Best of…(such and such).” This seems like a goofy naming scheme. I mean, “The Best of” is clear. It lets you know that this is the artist’s best material. But, “The Very Best of”???. Is that, like, opposed to “The Not-So-Best Of” or just “The Best Of”. Should the two former titles be cheaper?

My guess is that record labels think “The Best of” just sounds stodgy, like a Paul Anka or Peggy Lee album, and therefore not befitting of hipsters like Talk Talk or (shudder) Don Henley.

To me, “The Very Best of” sounds like a bread commercial: “We use the freshest butter, eggs, flour, and lard, the very best of the farm to make the very best bread…” yada yada yada. It sounds like food marketing. It sounds corny.

As Peggy Lee said on her 4-disc “Best of” collection, Is That All There Is? No, probably not. Because now that people can pick and choose the ….er….best songs from ITunes or their friends, why in the world should anyone buy a regular back-catalog album again? Why should anyone have anything but a collection? In short, kids today have no time but “The Best” from rock stars of the past.

This in itself is a shame, as it takes a lot of music out of context. The music fan depends on the record company to put together a collection of “hits” for him, instead of hearing the music in the order the artist intended, the order of the original album. Also, as with much entertainment consumption today, it’s too targeted. The rest of the text (or record) disappears and all that is experienced is “the best” song or the desired information. Well, the other lesser songs may have been good too. The listener will never know.

But still, we must accept “The best” just as we must accept searching for information instead of reading a whole book to find it. It’s all we have time for! But at least record collections could have better names. How about –

  • Ten Songs By
  • or just

  • Enough Songs to Not Look Like a Total Ignoramus

Penthouse and Pavement

I’ll admit that I’m completely enamoured by early 80’s synth music. Some of my favorite acts are: Heaven 17, the Human League, ABC, and New Order and Ultravox. This was music that seemed futuristic back in the early 80’s. In general, I like the 80’s postmodern new-wave version of the future – a cool neon-lit place with gigantic cities and skyscrapers where everyone rode on fast subway trains or drove scooters and video art was projected all over the walls – better than today’s future of catastrophic flooding and relentless heat and terrorism and total war. Perhaps it’s not so surprising that I hide myself in the neon dreams of that decade.

But back to music. In particular I’ve been listening to Heaven 17. I dug up an old tape of “Penthouse and Pavement”. The synthesizers sound so pure and strong, “planes” of electronic sound like planes of color in minimalist or abstract art. They are not broken up into a bunch of fragmented beats as in today’s techno. I think that the 70’s and 80’s pioneers often used synthesizers as a replacement for guitar or other instruments, which is why they sounded so strong. It is as if musicians were unapologetically rejecting the folkiness and organicness of the guitar, and daring to replace its exact role and function with something electronic, which is probably why all the rock and rollers hated new wave so much.

And the lyrics. Just take a look at this excerpt from “Who Will Stop the Rain” from “The Luxury Gap”:

A global affair in big house U.S.A.
A moving violation angels over Broadway
The next voice you hear will be the main attraction
The next time we love standby for action
Meet me tonight and love me for ever
Let’s be happy let’s be famous whatever the weather
The rain must fall and night time is calling
Golden boy and golden girl it’s a great day in the morning

I love the references to globalism and cosmopolitanism “meet me tonight and love me forever…let’s be happy lets be famous”, and optimism “golden boy and golden girl it’s a great day in the morning”. These are typical of early 80’s pop’s sophisticated ironic take on capitalism. All of the quality early 80’s pop musicians acknowledged and criticized capitalism in subtle ways. The title – “The Luxury Gap” is a criticism of the “have and have not” reality of capitalism. But lyrics about penthouses and nightclubs and skyscrapers and optimism acknowledge the temptations of wealth and pleasure. 80’s synth-pop bands realized the double-sided nature of life and weren’t satisfied just to complain and and issue vulgarities and spit on the rich, as punk bands did.

I just located some Heaven 17 videos online at youtube. It was great to see “Let Me Go” again, which it’s images of lead singer Glenn Gregory (a Draco Malfoy double if ever there was one) wandering through the streets of Italy dressed in euro-tailored suit and long coat, like a scene from a 1940’s Italian film. The video was stunning, but for some reason the version that played in my memory since watching it at age 13 was different. My memory version always has them walking along the edge of a freeway on against a gloomy sky on the outskirts of some bleak looking place, instead of along the well-manicured streets of an Italian town. I wonder, am I remembering another Heaven 17 video? Perhaps. I think my [sub]consciousness is well-stocked with clips from early 80’s music videos and I probably confuse them at times.

On Tony Smith

I posted that mainly because I myself enjoy the experience of driving on the Turnpike, past the futuristic concrete refineries and smokestacks. It is dramatic, a monument to the fossil-fuel era. Perhaps someday the Turnpike will be a ruin. It is also reality, which is always beautiful. I’d rather be there than some brand-new home development which tries to give the impression it is out in the country.