Monday, October 1, 2007

Dark Day, Television, and Musical Ignorance


Ah, ignorance — Google makes sustaining that state difficult, what with the ease of tracking down obscure bits of information these days (maybe that, too, will be an argument against the Ivy League in our Debate at Lolita Bar this coming Wednesday). And so it’s sort of exciting on those rare occasions when, for instance, you hear a snippet of lyrics from a band that turns out to be sufficiently obscure that even the Web does not easily confirm their existence.

So it was, for at least a few mysterious minutes today, with the dark-sounding punkish yet poppy band I heard being played in a bar last Thursday, with lyrics that, I believe, included the phrases “Have you gone down in the dark…troubled ideas…bubbling.” Our prime suspect appears to be the band Dark Day, judging by the lyrics to their song “No, Nothing, Never” (the most prominent on the page, which itself seems like a good sign, as Web music-detectives know, since that may well indicate this is one of their most popular songs) — and though the band appears to have no Wikipedia page (tantamount to being part of a lost civilization these days), this site dedicated to the band sure makes it sound like we’ve got our culprit at last, revealing as it does that the band was involved in the New York City “No Wave” scene that produced the likes of Lydia Lunch and Laurie Anderson circa 1980. A little more websurfing reveals Dark Day’s ties to the influential band DNA (a group that itself contained the younger sister of X’s Exene Cervenka) and alternative rock icon Brian Eno. Given the apparent predictability and sameness of my tastes — Talkings Heads, the Police, and the like being among the first albums I owned as a teen — we have a clear case for conviction, and I’ll have to buy some new music.


I’m reminded of how I first heard the band Television, at the embarrassingly advanced age of twenty-five or so, knowing only that the Mexican restaurant where my friend Ali Kokmen had gathered people to play Bingo was playing a band that sure as hell sounded like it (a) was good and (b) hailed from the early Talking Heads period, when there weren’t all that many bands around to sound like proto-punk/proto-New Wave types. It must be Television, I correctly guessed, knowing only that they were a band always spoken of in the same breath as Talking Heads and other early CBGB performers but never having heard them before.

I also have a good enough ear, if I do say so myself, to have made such correct guesses over the years as “Depeche Mode must have some personnel overlap with Yaz” and “Michael Stipe must have produced this band” and so on — but my friend Dave Whitney’s young sons will no doubt put me to shame one day, since they are far too young to have entered junior high, when I first started paying attention to music, and yet, he reports, can already tell you which Beatle is singing on a given song and constantly ask Dave to tell them which musician is playing which instrument when they hear a new band. Dave is breeding future musicians, I think. (And he doesn’t punish them when they get Clash mixed up with Big Audio Dynamite or anything like that.)


On another young-vs.-old note tailored for aging New Wave fans, I noticed this gem of a paragraph in the Wikipedia entry about British soul singer and White Stripes-coverer Joss Stone:

Stone joined Band Aid 20 on 14 November 2004 to benefit Sudan’s troubled Darfur region. The group, consisting of such luminaries as Coldplay lead singer Chris Martin and U2 lead singer Bono, re-recorded the 1984 song “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”, written by Band Aid organisers Bob Geldof and Midge Ure. Stone, born two years after the release of the original single, wasn’t initially aware of who Bob Geldof was. The media gleefully reported that she repeatedly referred to him as Bob Gandalf.

If Gandalf were actually on his way to rescue Darfur, the world would be a far more interesting place, of course.

My friend Laura Braunstein notes that the correct answer to the question “Do they know it’s Christmas?” is, of course, “Maybe, but since they’re largely Muslims and animists, they probably don’t care.” She also notes that MTV News’s Tabitha Soren once, during an interview with Bill Clinton, responded to his mention of a famous jazz musician by asking “Who’s ‘the loneliest monk’?” (Her older colleague, Kurt Loder is a wiser man — and libertarian, too, as indicated by his scheduled appearance as a speaker at a Reason event in DC later this month, so he probably would have had a much better question for Clinton.)


P.S. Speaking of young, female, British soul singers, I have been waiting for the chance to praise Amy Winehouse and note how hard it is to believe, listening to her, that she’s British and Jewish rather than American and black. It’s unfortunate she’s also apparently a very troubled individual, but as with Axl Rose back in my soon-to-be-recounted college days, the public reaps the benefits of private pain. Here’s her song “Rehab,” one of the best songs I’ve heard in years.

P.P.S. And speaking of White Stripes: I hope they never change, and this basically goes for rock bands everywhere, always, as I think we all intuitively agree. If we’ve become accustomed to, say, Bowie-as-alien, it’s obviously and quite objectively a rip-off to present us with just Bowie-as-guy-in-a-brownish-house, as he tried to do circa 2001 (then, of all years!).

Likewise, if I were the White Stripes, I’d stick with the Mondrian/De Stijl-influenced red, black, white thing until the distant day when I gave a concert and no one showed up.

But then, I’ve always thought that if I were lucky enough to be a star on a hit TV show, I’d never, never be one of those idiots who leaves the show too soon and vanishes into career oblivion. If you’ve got a good thing going, I say stick with it. I don’t care if that makes me undynamic. Down with New Coke, too. My promise to you: they cast me as a bridge crewmember on a Star Trek series someday, I’m there until they kill me off in the final episode seven years later or even until the spin-off movie if my agent can get a good enough deal. If I had an agent, I mean.

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