Issue 3.2

Trespass

By George Bishop

He and his live minnows
make their way to the private
dock not his own. A death (more…)

Music Review: “The Visiter” by The Dodos

By Aaron Chambers

"Visiter" by The Dodos

Visiter by The Dodos (French Kiss, 2008)

Often times I find myself thinking that rhythm (or a rhythm section) is merely a way to keep the more important pieces of a composition in check with a time signature. I am exaggerating to make a point, but I do have a tendency to reduce a rhythm section’s importance. Look at the location of the drummer and bassist in any band, consider the number of well-known drummers in music, recall the numerous drummer-mercenaries that gave their all and unfortunately died as members of Spinal Tap, and you will find that most of the time no one notices.

This is all to say that, for those of us that continue to keep drummers at arm’s length, it is impossible to manage such ignorance in the face of the Dodos newest album Visiter. Centered around Meric Long’s schizophrenic acoustic guitar playing (which ranges from delicate plucking to string-busting demolition), the Dodos give an exhibition on the versatility of rhythm over the course of these 14 tracks. “Walking,” the opener, is certainly the only song that seems to contradict all this drummer talk, with only a bass drum kick every measure to show for himself. Why does this song have such a strong rhythmic pull then, I ask myself. Meric’s accented plucking carries the rhythmic weight in this case, but nearly all the other tracks employ a noticeably involved percussionist who chisels out the shape of the songs.

Listen to the wild pulse of “Fools,” arguably the album’s standout track, and it’s clear the vocal and strummed pattern follow the frantic pace more than they lead. In “Jody,” another poppy standout, the drums literally take over the song twenty seconds in, transforming a delicately plucked guitar from a gentle trot to a break-neck pace.

I have thought the dynamics of the relationship between melodic and percussive elements to be the opposite of what I hear in the Dodos. Whereas I would normally assume the melodic element to be the dominant, attractive force of the music, I have come to recognize the irresistible rhythmic pull that this album has over me. Besides the guitar and percussion, almost all of the additional instruments (of which there are very few) seem to have less melodic impact than rhythmic. This is the kind of album that opens its listener up to new musical possibilities, and just like all great albums, it clothes its unique pop in a recognizable form. It’s not something new; it is something great.

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Music Review: “Little Wars” by Unwed Sailor

By Aaron Chambers

"Little Wars" by Unwed Sailor

Little Wars by Unwed Sailor (Burnt Toast Vinyl, 2008)

It depends on what we want. For some, instrumental music is an eternal bore. If we only look at the limitations of something, what are we really looking for? It depends on what you are after. The “no vocals = boring” is not a wrong answer, it’s a preference. For those that choose to dwell on what is missing from certain art forms, many fine writers, musicians, and painters will pass them by. My purpose is not to group this band with musicians or artists of far greater caliber and historical weight, but to put a helpful frame of reference around the new record.

Ten years have led Seattle-based Unwed Sailor to this: an album that brings together the pieces of their technicolor past. For returning listeners who have been patiently awaiting an anticipated return to the lighter, neck-dancing riffs that decorated 2001’s The Faithful Anchor, there is much to be excited about with previous guitarist Nic Tse joining in on the project. However, as the two closing tracks show, not totally gone are the lullabies of 2003’s The Marionette and the Music Box, or the more ambient drones of 2006’s The White Ox. The past has its mark on the present, as echoes of these albums can be heard throughout. This may be due to the fact that many of these tracks have had a three or four-year incubation period before this release.

Jonathan Ford has played in a number of indie rock outfits over the years, adapting his bass-playing style to fit a number of genres. On this album, he is, once again, lingering behind a foreground of mellowed guitar lines, subtly applying background moods and shifts on the melodious “The Garden.” A refreshing touch, however, is that a few tracks feature his bass as the dynamic melodic force it can be. See: the stadium-swagger of the opener “Copper Islands.”

It’s often the case when communicating an idea that showing works better than telling. Here, and in the case of many instrumental bands, the sense of the songs is open, ambiguous, and disseminating to occupy the mood of the listener – as opposed to the sharp, concrete aspect of lyrics. The sounds of this album have drawn their inspiration equally from the natural and the divine, fusing these into a moody, organic body of work that sounds both memorable and transparent. It depends on what you want to see.

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Of Milk and Men: Some Thoughts on Joel and Ethan Coen’s “No Country for Old Men”

By Bill Fech

No Country for Old Men

No Country for Old Men by Joel and Ethan Coen (2008)

Among the many memorable images in Joel and Ethan Coen’s No Country for Old Men is one that continues to haunt me months after seeing the film. Having found the trailer of the man he is tracking across rural west Texas – a man who, considering his pursuer, should stay missing – Anton Chigurh, a stoic drug mercenary with a bad haircut played by Javier Bardem, seats himself on the vacant trailer’s couch. As he holds a bottle of milk from the fridge, the camera cuts to show a television opposite the furniture. His head silhouetted against a bright window, one vaguely catches Chigurh’s reflection in the dead TV screen, sitting still and quiet. We can’t make out his facial features – he appears as a blackened, indiscernible structure – yet he threatens with his mere presence, a dreadful statue.

It is one of the most discomforting reflections in the history of the movies (although John Merrick of The Elephant Man fame probably sits atop that list), but, admittedly, the image at first appears cinematically arbitrary, as if cinematographer Roger Deakins had pointed out the visual allure of such a shot to the camera-savvy Coens. But a few scenes later, new vital meaning is given to the reflection when weathered County Sherriff Tom Bell, inhabited greatly by the rough Tommy Lee Jones, makes a similar visit to the trailer.

The bottle of milk still on the living room table, Bell sits on the couch and calmly pours himself a glass. He’s missed Chigurh by mere minutes. As he goes for a swig, the Coens again cut to the dusty TV, this time shown with a portion of sunlight vertically dissecting the screen to show the brief passage of time. What stands out is the reflection of Bell, again situated against the window, his cowboy hat and head darkened against the piercing light of the outdoors. The shot lasts only four seconds, but it immediately recalls the previous scenario with Chigurh, a deadly, diametrical opposite to Bell’s honorable protector of the peace.

On one hand, the recalled reflection is a visual reminder of the chase for Chigurh by Bell (though the word “chase” misleads, as Bell follows like a lax pursuer tired of the hunt), but on another, more existential level, the two reflections play into a broader theme of the film’s construction, namely, the inhabitation of space among the people of the country. The Coens are known for incorporating importance and consequence into the settings of their movies, a basic task of filmmaking that is becoming a rarity these days. Really, their oeuvre is a kaleidoscopic portrait of Americana and distinct genres: Blood Simple gave a neo-noir look to a classic betrayal case, Barton Fink rendered Hollywood life like the fantasy world it is, O’ Brother Where Art Thou? adapted Homer’s The Odyssey into a Depression-era road-trip, and Fargo, in several ways similar to their latest picture, blanketed us in white Minnesotan snow for its morality tale. But No Country for Old Men, while embodying the same awareness for locale, affinity for dialect, and odd-ball, dark humor in their previous films, represents an elevation of their storytelling craft. There’s a mature patience in the way the brother’s craft their suspense scenes and an understanding of audience reaction not that far from Alfred Hitchcock’s best work (see the nail-biting encounter between hunter and hunted in the hotel).

But the underlying terror of the film – and really, its message to begin with – is the notion of space, the idea that the country, once a place of relative serenity and comfort, is now occupied by violence and evil. When we see Bell situated in the same fashion as Chigurh was only moments before, it is somehow disheartening; the Coens have the cojones to have their very different characters occupy the same distinct space in memorable silhouette. The milk adds another point of irony and characterization. Often a drink associated with innocence, Biblical stories, or Saturday morning cartoon breakfasts, it appears awkward and out of place when Chigurh holds it, the flower in the hand of the Frankenstein (though Chigurh is no misunderstood creation). Bell, on the other hand, has the common courtesy to retrieve a glass from the cupboard, and when he sips the beverage (tellingly, we never actually saw Chigurh drink) we feel somehow more at home in his company, as if sitting at dinner with the man.

It’s this contrast within similarity that speaks to the inevitability of fate and circumstance the story clings onto. After escaping from the police at the start of the film, Chigurh pulls over a man on a desolate Texan highway. With his high-powered cattle prod air-gun device in his hand, he orders the man out of his car and to “hold still.” A second later the man’s body is on the road, a hole in his head. The Coens then cut to Llewelyn Moss, played by Josh Brolin, looking through his rifle’s scope at a herd of grazing antelope. “You hold still,” he says before pulling the trigger. By eliciting the same line of dialogue from the two men, the film again emphasizes the increasingly identical nature of our world. With this in mind, it should come as no surprise that, at the movie’s end, when the wounded Chigurh asks a bicycling teenager for his shirt to make a sling for his broken arm, it recalls a previous scene in which Moss, bloodied and beaten, buys a coat from an American youth in order to cover his injuries.

No Country for Old Men is maddeningly cyclical this way. I have a feeling Jack London and other naturalists would have loved this film, as it violently – but not gratuitously – depicts an evitable transformation of a real space in an accurate and disparaging way. “You can’t stop what’s coming,” a line of sobering reason from an old law enforcement friend of Bell’s, has become one of several catch-phrases from the picture, and rightly so; for as the film unfolds before us, we must surrender ourselves to its allure, its beauty, but most of all, its conviction that space is something to be invaded and shared by those who don’t belong, by those who make men like Bell age quicker than they should.

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Music Review: “Andorra” by Caribou

By Aaron Chambers

"Andorra" by Caribou

“Andorra” by Caribou (Merge Records, 2007)

Everyone has a “thing” that they find in music. This is why we listen. It is called a release, an escape, among other names. When a certain artist or piece of music is dialed into that side of a listener, one is hard-pressed to explain exactly what happens to the heart/mind/body. I find myself in a similar circumstance with Caribou’s newest, Andorra.

Dan Snaith, previously known as “Manitoba” for 2002’s brilliant album Up In Flames, is now plying his trade as “Caribou.” This being the second release under his current moniker, he finds himself morphing his sound further – this time towards more straightforward songwriting than his 2005 release, the sparser Milk of Human Kindness. Fans of Snaith are surely reveling in the moment, as an artist with this much creative momentum is finding his songwriting stride.

Caribou’s sound is an explosion of the colorful: big drums, pounding fuzzed-out bass, synthetic strings, and vocal tracks upon vocal tracks. On this album Snaith seems to exercise more restraint in the percussion department as opposed to the Up In Flames apocalyptical free-for-all drum fills. Woodwinds and flutes still dot the soundscape, and we hear more guitar work than before, but the soul of Snaith’s melodic core is as on point as ever.

“Melody Day” is a great first single. He has constructed a very nice melody with excellent mood shifting and sonic effects.The song really shows the raucous nature of Up In Flames in the second movement (difficult to call it a chorus) as the drums pick up speed and the voices climb. A seemingly softer number like “Desiree,” while a departure from other tracks, is eventually torn apart by a typical Caribou explosion of vocal tracks, cymbals, bells, harps, strings, etc. The closer “Niobe” is the most schizophrenic track on the disc, pulsing with synthetic noises and a near-techno back beat.

Snaith has made a wonderful record full of all the elements listeners have come to expect. The songs here are never less than vibrant. The feeling one gets is that this is an artist who knows the musical soundscapes he wants to create. On this album he is crafting them ever more clearly into some superbly moody and stirring tracks that anticipate an even more colorful future.

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Music Review: “Person Pitch” by Panda Bear

By Aaron Chambers

Panda Bear

Person Pitch by Panda Bear (Paw Tracks 2007)

I should have bought Panda Bear’s Person Pitch in the summer. I should have just let the excitement this album was generating for its Brian Wilson-ness propel me to the store. It could have been the best summer of recent memory. Noah Lennox, noteworthy for his forays with Animal Collective, is Panda Bear. His efforts here are just as significant.

I can think of few albums that are at the same time great works of aural art and immensely fun to listen to again and again. Friends and I have discussed our enjoyment of this album in terms of our happiness level before and after listening. It’s the melodies that are the most striking aspect. Many are sung in a lovely falsetto, bouncing from highs to lows with a kind of deliberate bliss. The vocal treatment comes straight from Beach Boys territory, and Brian Wilson’s name has been synonymous with the album’s reverb-drenched vocal qualities. The songs are compound units, as often two or three different “movements” are worked into the tracks that stretch as long as twelve minutes. Often there is a lot of nonsensical noise during these transition phases that may turn off some listeners, but that has been an important part of this avant-garde pop aesthetic.

The instrumentation is fairly sparse and very heterogeneous. Handclaps or tambourine suffice for most percussion, yet somehow the songs never feel under-worked in this area. A light dusting of world sounds works its way through many tracks – blowing wind, a distant conversation, crunching leaves. The lean towards more organic-sounding elements gives the album a world-worn humanness. It feels at once like an escape from and an embrace of the world, and can serve as both at different times.

As previously stated, the melodies are the foundation of this album, and they are never underwhelming in their whimsical delivery and stacked harmonies. Because of the cohesive nature of this album, it seems reductionistic to reference the individual songs that form the whole, but “Take Pills” deserves mention for its most foot-tapping second half. The breezy “Bros” has been a strong first single.The ethereal weightlessness of “Search For Delicious” perfectly primes the listener for the closer, “Ponytail,” and the happy sentiment contained within.

The nearness to the Beach Boys’ sound is nothing but a compliment. I cannot recall an album that has reminded me of them in such a way as this. How that could be a detractor I am not certain. Lennox has crafted a wonderfully nostalgic yet very distinct piece full of precious pop moments laid over a thin canvas of minimal instrumentation that only serves to highlight a superb set of melodies any decade would be proud of.

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Andrew Bird and Sufjan Stevens

By Aaron Chambers

Mr. Owl(As your writer I am bound to be very introductive of my column in this wonderful publication. Please bear with me as introductions are the most important parts and therefore most often picked apart parts [hey!] until they are bones without much meat left for your hungry brains. In the event that this introduction a.) makes too many superlative-laden, sweeping statements or b.) doesn’t do enough introducing of the objectives within, feel free to skip on ahead to the “body” as I refer to it [it’s one of my things]. Capisci?)

In the ever-evolving landscape of “have you ever heard of [insert band]…” rock, artists are increasingly categorized and pigeon-holed into niches or sub-genres in which they are understood to contribute. (You knew that.) Nearly all musicians will gravitate toward a style that suits them as music makers, but those held most high are the musicians who can fingerprint a sound as their own. (But that?) Be it production techniques, homogeneous instrumentation, or subject matter, an artist tends to make him/herself comfortable within their musical environment. This can be a blessed thing as a musician perfects a singular way of doing things, but it may stifle progression and keep one from reaching his creative potential (the writer thinks this is a really good point). Two artists who find they are treading these waters are Sufjan Stevens and Andrew Bird. Both are American songwriters who have risen to relatively high prominence in the music industry but still fly slightly under the radar of mainstream listeners: Stevens, a folk-y, banjo-toting storyteller, and Bird, a classically trained violinist and part-time mad scientist (nice, huh). One-line synopses such as these are made more difficult for these two by their multifaceted personalities and artistic demeanor, and the qualities we enjoy can run the gamut from musical to theatrical.

If one were to sit down and compare both artists’ music from a theoretical standpoint, it would be clear that Bird has a much firmer grasp on music composition – not to discount the knack that Stevens has for winding a few simple musical ideas together into a fully vibrant work that pierces just as deeply (run on?). Also, Stevens has cultivated a kind of eccentric irony (or sincerity?) whose end is not easily discernible, but which permits him a certain freedom to create any range of moods from open-heart confessional to campfire sing-a-long (both of which the writer recommends each reader to practice bimonthly). Bird’s personality and flair is understated but no less central to his appeal. His lyrical delivery reaches moments of intensity without losing his deadpan did-you-catch-that(?) subtlety. This characteristic also affords Bird leniency with his listeners because it is apparent we are to take his works only as serious as he presents them (this listener is only one of the above “listeners” but feels his opinion worth applying to others).

Lyrically, both artists work their way into religious, social, and political territory (big plus for article fodder). Bird is more a poet than Stevens, creating lyrical passages and images that read more like prose than the typical Stevens fare. But the aforementioned delivery of the artists gives them room to make such goofy sounding rhymes as Bird’s “over” with “Dover” on “Simple X” or Stevens’ cutesy singsong word play in “Decatur.” Stevens has evolved into a master storyteller who manages to get hold of the communicable truth that his stories impart, presenting it with candor and neutrality (the writer likes that sentence a lot). This way of Stevens’ is the explanation (IMO!) for why many are so reluctant to reject him on the basis of his seeming religious proselytizing: he never tells anything but the truth as he sees it – be it pleasant or not. Bird prefers more abstract themes for his songs, offering vocabulary lessons and obtuse English combinations. It seems trite to reduce any of Bird’s lyrics to politically influenced ideas (it never occurred to this writer that such ideas were present until very recently), but there are many examples to pull from “The Mysterious Production of Eggs” that allude vaguely to his ideology (let’s pigeonhole him!).

The live set is the arena where these qualities come unwrapped. Bird’s live act, while less extravagant than Stevens’ Illinoise Makers troupe, fully exposes every quirk and oddity that Bird hints at on his albums. Bird sets himself up as ringleader and main attraction, at once seeming standoffish and vulnerable. He brings a sense of theater to a stage where most performers are content to let the music do the talking. Bird, however, does the talking himself with intentionally dry delivery alternating with a strange, self-aware disposition (not unlike the tone of this article, the writer is well aware). Similarly, Stevens’ idiosyncrasy is on full display in the live venue.However, the tendency here is toward the stoic end of his spectrum – little eye contact, facial expressions, or other discernible human comportment.This circus is beyond pretentious: it is post-pretentious. So ridiculous it could not possibly be serious, and yet the cheerleaders continue to smile, Stevens continues with his downcast melodies, calisthenic chanting sounds without a cackle from the stage, and no one seems to notice for all the fun they are having that what is happening is some kind of neo-pretension (read: hyper-pretension).

(What does it all mean? I will tend away from the all-encompassing statement you want and see coming.) These artists are similar in the aforementioned ways (and certainly others too). They are musicians with a combination of self-aware irony and sincerity that deserves further analysis which will doubtlessly become more pronounced in the near future (not foreshadowing a series). (Hey! It’s been fun writing this piece. Music is fun! So is being ambiguously academic! So is breaking the fourth wall! Music criticism is dead.)

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Film Review: The Band’s Visit

By Bill Fech

The Band's Visit

The Band’s Visit by Eran Kolirin (2007)

Against the barren yellowness of the bleak Israeli desert, eight walking pillars of sky-blue traverse the lone roadway, towing luggage and instruments behind them. The men are Egyptian musicians (members of the Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra to be exact), and have gotten lost in Israel on their way to the opening of a new Arab Culture Center. In their blueish, buttoned-up attire, the bewildered ensemble wander through the very Jewish landscape, the incessant rat-a-tat-tat of luggage wheels on asphalt the only noise to be heard.

A more endearing and unlikely template for a comedy there could not be.

But Bikur Ha-Tizmoret (The Band’s Visit) is much more than an obscure laugh-fest set in politically-ironic surroundings, and applauding audiences understood this at the 34th Telluride Film Festival where the film screened in early September. I was lucky enough to attend the screening of the film, a Cannes Film Festival prize winner and international audience favorite

The praise is not misplaced. From the first creative shot in which the confused band steps off an airport van and stands motionless on the side of the road, it’s evident that first-time director Eran Kolirin has an eye for visual hilarity. Early on, the men pose for a picture in a bus depot. Before the snapshot can be taken, a slow-moving janitor walks across the frame, delaying for twenty seconds the taking of the picture. Such a style combines the deadpan humor of Phil Morrison’s indie-hit Junebug with the semi-theatrical presentation of Wes Anderson’s films. Whatever it is, it works on you in that way that is hard to describe, but is funny regardless.

Leading the octet of musicians is Tawfiq (the fatherly Sasson Gabai), the group’s reserved conductor bent on arriving in time to perform. With wounded eyes and a gruff demeanor, Tawfiq’s persona seems to hide a troubled past that he keeps buried in his orchestral work. He’s balanced by brown-eyed trumpeter Haled (Saleh Bakri), a young ladies-man with a quasi-afro. The two make a good duet, Tawfiq the stoic disciplinarian, Haled the goofy grinner.

Amidst the rising temperatures and tempers, the band comes across a small Israeli town. Dina (Ronit Elkabetz), a sassy and sexy local café owner, sizes up her new customers and offers to take them in. The men split off and share housing with the outgoing hostess and her friends, making for awkwardly-true dinner table conversations and comical trips to a roller skating rink. Whatever plot the film had meanders into hibernation here, mirroring the group’s unexpected stop. Talk of getting to the concert in time quickly turn to poignant musings of life supplied by Tawfiq and Dina, who hit it off as unlikely companions.

There is crying, there is laughing, but every note of this music-themed dramedy is authentic and powerful. Kolirin wisely underwrites the political seriousness of his set-up, letting his characters breathe not as Arabs and Israelis, but human beings – humans who, despite being surrounded by a vast desert, are not so much lost as they are in the process of being found.

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Film Review: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

By Andrew Stewart

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Julien Schnabel (2007)

Julian Schnabel sits in the empty seat next to his son. Relaxed and content, Schnabel rests his arm on the back of his son’s seat. The two share a brief but loving glance as the lights dim and the film begins.

Showcased at the 34th Telluride Film Festival, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly beautifully envisions the strength of one man and his desire to salvage ties as both father and son. As director, Schnabel tells this story with care and vision as the narrative structure is told through the perspective of the film’s brave protagonist, Jean-Dominique Bauby, played by Mathieu Amalric.

Based on the bestselling memoir of the same title, the film tells the story of French Elle magazine editor, Bauby, and his struggle to live with a rare condition known as “locked-in syndrome.” After suffering a crippling stroke, Bauby is rendered completely paralyzed with the exception of slight head movements, grunts, and the ability to blink his left eyelid. And yet therein lies salvation. Bauby’s mental state remains unharmed, and it is through the use of his blinking eyelid that Bauby comes to dictate his bestselling memoir, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.

The process by which Bauby and an amanuensis, Henriette Durand (Marie-Josée Croze), dictate the book is long and tedious. By repeating a frequency-ordered alphabet, Bauby would blink once for the appropriate letter and then again for confirmation. While the book took about 200,000 blinks to complete, the film’s pace never lags.

This effort is due in large part to the film’s master cinematographer, Janusz Kaminski. With the use of differing camera angles and a lapsed time effect, the audience can appreciate the tediousness of the process without ever feeling jaded. But the true genius of the film’s visual artistry is the way in which Schnabel uses the subjective viewpoint of Bauby himself. Light and focus are rendered beautifully, especially during the sequence in which Bauby first awakes after having suffered the stroke.

A second scene worth noting, one that achieves tension and utter involvement, depicts the subjective viewpoint of Bauby’s ineffective eye being sewn up in order to prevent infection.

But Schnabel doesn’t limit the film’s scope solely to that of process or perspective. At the heart of the story lies the struggle of one man coming to terms with a new limited form of existence. In an extremely moving split scene between father and son, Bauby dictates his love via telephone to his ailing father, played by Max von Sydow. The scene is self-paced, never rushed, yielding to a rhythm that achieves utmost tenderness and sympathy. In the scene both actors, Amalric and Von Sydow, attain a certain level of authenticity that resonates throughout the entire film.

Amalric never relies on caricature and never seems ostentatious in his depiction of Bauby.His embodiment of the role is so subtle and yet so powerful, the contrast between the former Bauby and his “imprisoned” state is truly tragic.In fact, it is evident that everyone involved in the making of the film insists on getting it right.

Schnabel didn’t set out to make The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. The New York native originally set his cap at adapting Patrick Süskind’s 2001 novel, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer. But as the house lights turn on, all eyes stare at father and son, arm in arm, staring at a blank screen. And it’s obvious, this was the film Schnabel was meant to make.

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Where’d It Come From?

By Aaron Chambers

The bon hairdos!It’s been a long time since I first decided that music interested me. This was before my fond memories with the recorder in fifth grade, before my eventual hatred of high school band (and consequently the baritone, along with all its high school angst), and before I ever thought of picking up a guitar.

It’s weird to think about listening to the “oldies” on the radio with mom and dad. Looking back, I don’t know what it was about certain songs that distracted me from whatever my sister was doing to annoy me at the time, but I recall some very distinct impressions that were made. For one, I remember finding a tape of the Beach Boys with all of their radio hits on it: “Surfin’ USA,” “Surfin’ Safari,” “California Girls,” “Don’t Worry Baby,” and others. I remember specifically loving the line “a bushy bushy blonde hairdo” from “Surfin’ USA” because I thought he said “bon hairdo,” and regardless of whether I knew what that meant, it sounded like a pretty cool haircut to me. The breakdown in “Barbara Ann” (where all the Boys talk and try to decide on the next lines before it all falls apart and they start laughing) was especially fun to listen to, mostly because I thought I heard a woman’s voice that sounded like Wilma Flintstone in the background.

My query, then, is where my musical tastes came from. Why do I like what I like today? I still love the Beach Boys; I could still lie on the ground in front of the stereo and listen to them over and over. What has changed, though, is a more “adult” appreciation for the music. The same goes for the Beatles. I loved and sang along to all the songs when I was a kid, but eventually they found their way into my adult life as well. The interesting thing, however, is that my reaction to these classic bands is founded on basically the same thing: the way the music makes me feel. One of my favorite songs as a child, The Association’s “Never, My Love,” is still at least a top five oldie for me because of the way I feel when I hear it.

The curious thing is to wonder when my adult appreciation trumped the childhood “liking” of a song or band. I do specifically remember in high school when, for the first time, the Beatles took that leap from childhood to adulthood for me. I was in a grocery store and “Good Day Sunshine” was playing. It was lovely music for buying fruits and vegetables, but besides that, I was struck by the simplicity of the refrain, wondering how the brightness of those three notes/words could actually breathe fun into my life at that moment. It was a strange couple minutes as I wondered why it had never occurred to me before that this music was worthy of my genuine appreciation, rather that the casual, “Oh yeah, the Beatles are cool. Paul, John, Ringo…what’s his name?”

Either way, liking music is something that almost anyone can claim. The question, if you want to ask more of them, then becomes why someone likes it. I, for one, don’t have a better answer than the one above, but I would really like to know if I would care about the Beatles, Beach Boys, and others if I had not heard them as a child. Could I still have that same moment in the store? Would I think “bon hairdos” sound super interesting as an adult? One thing is for sure: as my Flintstones viewing has rapidly declined since age six, I wouldn’t hear Wilma anymore.

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