1. BECK: MODERN GUILT
It was one of those Berkshires weekends where the weather was beautiful and so were the people and the things they turned me on to.
My older son put Beck’s new—what do we call them now that they’re no longer CDs and haven’t been “albums” for a long time, and even when we called them that they weren’t, they were LPs still referred to as “albums” from the days when 78s were collected in what looked like photograph albums or scrap albums only with pages that were empty sleeves for 78 records to be slid into and out of, uh where was I? oh yeah—whatever on (from his iPhone to his car radio) and as soon as the first chord hit I thought this is Beck’s Brian Wilson project, and then when his voice cut in I thought, well, Brian Wilson meets Kurt Cobain.
There are other influences on MODERN GUILT, Beck’s latest collection of songs, all West Coast, mostly California based, the influences that is (I thought I heard a little nod, or not so little, to Jim Morrison e.g.). But Beck is one of those artists who, even if he really is a Scientologist, his work still demands attention, at least from me. It’s always thematically compelling and musically unique, if not entirely original.
2. SUNSET RUBDOWN
Later when my young son and I went to The Garden, the skate shop (skateboard shop that is) in Great Barrington, to get a new deck, because they’re going out of business and we won’t have that convenience when we’re up there anymore, or the pleasure of hanging with Steve, one of the skaters who works there and is also a stand up guy, a stand up bassist and amazing skateboarder himself.
And while he transferred the trucks from my boy’s old deck to the new one he played his latest passion, the music of a band called Sunset Rubdown.
Each selection was so distinct from the previous one, I kept asking “Is this still Sunset Rubdown?” But right from the first cut, I was impressed by the range of sounds they get from their instruments and trying to figure out what some of the instruments were even though they were mostly the usual.
I love these new I-don’t-know-what-they-call-them bands that are like a combination of funky folk roots hippie avant post modern kind of X game jam bands or something even more difficult to define (though I’m sure there’s a marketing term trying to bind them all into a movement or new genre).
There’s tons of them, all over the world, big combinations of traditional rock instruments and traditional folk instruments and avant ideas of anything goes combined with your grandmother’s ethnic folk roots gumbo. Whatever. I dig them. Like:
3. BELLA’S BARTOK
If you google them, there’s a YouTube video that’s not that impressive. But this afternoon, at the skate park in GB they had a Peace Day festival at which the latest incarnation of this band played, with our friend Steve on base. He’s good. And so were they.
There were a banjo player, an electric guitarist, a fiddler, an accordian player (the only female, the keyboard kind of box), the front-man vocalist, who also played some electric and acoustic guitar, a drummer (just snare, bass, high hat and cymbal) and upright acoustic bassist Steve.
The music sounded at times like it was in Yiddish or Polish or maybe Russian, but definitely Eastern European, with the front man doing the lead vocals and the accordianist backing him up, and man did she have a voice.
The video doesn’t do her justice at all, or else she’s just improved radically. But her voice was so strong she sounded like someone from another era, another culture entirely, who had lived a lifetime already and knew what it meant to face down death and sorrow.
The front man was almost comic in his vocals, delivering them like an old time Jewish comedian, but one who when not gesturing like Henny Youngman looked more like a rock star and could probably hold his own in an arm wrestling match. The odd mixture of old man gestures and young man good looks, especially with a voice that was unashamed of its power and theatricality, was missed, it seemed to me, on this beautiful afternoon, by the folks out to enjoy the weather and celebrate the idea of peace. But not on me.
Even if you don’t like what someone else tries to turn you on to, isn’t being introduced to any kind of creative output you either didn’t know about or were only vaguely aware of almost always touching in some way? It’s like there’s so much good work out in the world these days in the first place, because there’s so many more people (I mean population wise) and so many in our society have grown up able to devote a lot of their time and energy to the arts, there’s just more music and art and movies and videos and books and poetry and memoirs and all this stuff, a lot of which is really good, and some of which is amazing.
I know I’ve got pretty broad taste and unless something really offends me in some way, I’m generally impressed with at least the effort, and that goes for the effort to have the nerve to share something you really love, like Steve did, or I did about this local Great Barrington band, or my older son was doing with the new Beck collection.
It’s touching, to me at least, to see people still care enough, aren’t cynical or afraid to be seen as too passionate or not following the latest group think or whatever. That music and art and poetry and movies and all that can still get people riled up and standing up for their taste and preferences and caring.
I always say poetry saved my life, and it did, many times. So I take this stuff seriously. But I also take it lightly, in the sense that I try not to get bogged down in “schools’ and cliques and scenes and the competition for attention and the few rewards. The true reward is doing the work, and the perks are getting to share it and experience the work of others’ sharing theirs. At least when you dig it. But even sometimes when you don’t, caring about sharing that opinion seems to me to be its own reward as well.
I don’t wanna get all HIGH FIDELITY here, but isn’t that what made that movie moving and not just aggravating?