01 September 2006

(one of the things that bothers me most is the sainthood given to the "insane," the nimbus that surrounds the entire output of artists as disparate as daniel johnston, syd barrett, brian wilson, and james carr, when even these fellows are lucid enough to recognize that some of their material is shit and there aren't enough prescription drugs in the world to make it seem otherwise (score one for the new critics). what bothers me even more is when this same mentality, if you will, is applied to the works of, say, obscure, intense religious types, like those making up the compilation good God! a gospel funk hymnal (buy); as w/ the praise of the mentally ill, it's a sort of exoticization that condemns at the same time as it elevates, i.e. "look at these crazy God people!" which always annoys me & makes me feel both protective & propietary, not the least b/c of my own amorphous undefined religious beliefs, which are beliefs, make no mistake about it; the more observant among you will have noticed that i can't bring myself not to capitalize "God"--& also my infrequent reference to my catholic upbringing.

so, as an "insider," i say that this compilation is pretty good, not great--best when it lifts popular r&b licks & melodies--and this to me is the best song by a country mile. it's a choir & a drummer, that's all. i fail to provide you w/ a title b/c i want you to make out the words for yourself. in parts, it might as well be greek (or latin, to rep for the western church), it's so unintelligible; even when deciphered, it might as well be greek to the outsider. what moves is the depth of conviction, common to so many gospel records; unlike many, esp. contemporary gospel records, though, it's the sense of awe & beauty conveyed by the simple lyric, the group vocal, the sparseness & low-fidelity of the track & not the tropes of the genre--sweat, buoyancy, wailing--that galvanize the listener. it's as mysterious as individual faith & as involving as shared belief.)


(& if that's not your bag, here's a link to a new decemberists song, one of two on the soon-to-be new album (pre-order) worth hearing. anthems for civil war reenactment types (more blue than grey), or drama kids too cool for queen--or "alt," as we said in my day. i have a constitutional weakness for songs about hanging one's head in sorrow : it's the nexus where real grief meets a learned pose. tom waits sings "hang down your head," but here colin sings, "i'll hang my head," breaking down some sort of wall, demonstrating near-unforgivable self-consciousness (like any drama kid worth his or her salt). but only "near" : it's so damn swelling & soaring, it covers a multitude of sins--or at least half-an-lp's worth. shame about the rest.)


jonas said...

(agreed on the exoticization of the religious and also of the insane, i think even if the old insanity-geniality connection has some truth in it, which I am not so sure about, it seems more that being a genius drives you crazy, then the other way around.

by the way, how does it feel now that the end of the blog have disappeared from the site. do you like the new, more free kind of blogging?)

fred said...

(jonas, yes, it's like the end never happened! how v. orwellian! but i do enjoy it. i feel like bowie declaring that he was perfoming his last show ever in '72 or like prince implying in '93 that he'd never record again or like dexy's releasing don't stand me down. or maybe it's more like i faked my own death. but there was nothing fake about what i said that day & this is indeed a different form of blogging for me.

it'll be even more different starting a week from today when my commitments at university begin. i have no idea how often i'll have a chance to update this here thing. we might be in another state of transition.)

Anonymous said...

I don't think you have any idea what this record is about. You don't know the producers or their motivations. It hardly seems like you read the notes at all, perhaps a cursory skim at best.

This is the big problem with the blog world. Any person with the ability to hunt and peck can puke out 300 words about something they have abssolutely no concept of.

fred said...

(... and another problem of the internet is the ability for folks to hide anonymously behind their computer.

first, this could be colin meloy for all i know, and you're discussing my put-down of the decemberists. that's the only thing that would make sense since i certainly did not impugn the motives of the compilers/producers of 'good God!' are you one of them? if so, i have nothing but praise for your getting this music out there; i would think, too, that you'd be happy that people were spreading the good word.

my problem is the reception, tinged w/ condescension, that works like these receive from, yes, the blog world & the major online review sites, trying to separate the music from the faith as if such a thing were possible.

if you are involved w/ the project, and would like me to take down the "buy" link, i'd do so. "abssolutely," as you say. now if you'll excuse me i have some puke to mop up ... )