Sunday, February 21, 2016

Gateway Drug

I have to be very careful about listening to music.  It can take over.  My brain plays it incessantly, my moods synch to the lyrics, my psyche gets entrained to its rhythms.

Fortunately I am not tempted to listen to much new music, as befits my age, and I can handle classical music and jazz pretty well, though I still get infected sometimes.

But once in awhile I happen on music that's new to me, and I can get in trouble.  That happened recently when I innocently clicked on an article in the New Yorker about a 90s band I'd never heard of, and never heard.  (I confess I looked at the article because it was by "Bill Wyman," but it turns out to not be the Rolling Stones' Bill Wyman.)

But the article made the band--called the Vulgar Boatmen-- sound intriguing so I hopped over to YouTube and began listening.  There's a lot there--songs off their 90s records, a few live performances (though as the article notes, the band is actually two bands, and the performances don't always match with the band that made the record) and especially the remixes, which are pretty startling in their clarity, economy and musicality.

So I listened to them all, and wound up disagreeing with much of what Wyman wrote that he hears, but I did get hooked, especially on this song, "You Don't Love Me Yet."  To me the lyric strategy is to throw in some names and observations but mostly assemble random sticky lines from other songs.  So at best they wind up with sort of mysterious but compelling lyrics along with this unique music (as on perhaps their best-known song, "You and Your Sister.")

 On "You Don't Love Me Yet" it's the guitar riffs that get me, and the voice (a little Paul Simony to my ear.)   I remember that riff from 1980s New Order (I think--their stuff on YouTube doesn't sound anything like it).  If I had a band, I'd be getting them to listen to this music.

Listening to it now I'm relieved that the spell is broken (I think--I'll know later if I can still think straight without hearing that riff), but I'm passing it on to you anyway.  Maybe you're one of those who can take it or leave it, you can quit anytime.

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