AWOPBAMBOOM, Volume 112 – Music News and Notes for Fellow Travelers
Hello, how low, and welcome to this week’s AWOPBAMBOOM internet citizens. This week, I’ve got Nevermind in review, Joji released a new track, and we remember John Prine.
With the lights out, it’s less dangerous…
Nirvana’s Nevermind is sublime in the true definition of the word. For those of you that have never heard of the “the sublime and the beautiful” dichotomy, the sublime is an ugly kind of beautiful, specifically, in the sense of sheer impressiveness or awesomeness. Think of the fires of Pompeii, think of wrathful gods exacting divine punishment, think of something so wonderful and amazing it inspires fear. Nevermind, the angst-afflicted monster, is sublime. The album is unafraid of showing it’s in pain; it cries out to you without shame.
“Smells Like Teen Spirit” is a grueling nihilistic satire of the very culture that champions the song as an anthem; and yet, it is an anthem of high-highs, low-lows, and self-deprecation and destruction. The subtly seductive opening guitar riff is like a siren’s call, leading you down into the deep drop-off of dark drumbeats. The song is torn between highs and lows like a teenage mood-swing. The guitar aches like a hollow heartbeat while the drums reverberate on the verses but—in a full manic-episodic explosion—the same drums and guitar work themselves up into a frenzy, clawing at each other, while the chorus is simultaneously cryptic and senseless. As for satire, Kurt Cobain’s lyrics reflect the perspective of a teenage punk: his “hellos” and “how lows” sound like “hollow” as he’s ultimately left; he demands to be entertained while he hides in the dark; and he’s in denial about the self-destruction of his entertainments.
Here we are now, entertain us…
“Gimme Love” by Joji was released on April 16th. The song starts out as a light-hearted tune; Joji’s vocals are fast but aching in front of a hot cycle of drumbeats and echoing synth. But suddenly, at the heart of the song, it slows and swells. Beautiful cascading voices overlap which recall echoing love in a ballroom, tender dancing strings—pulled violin, and plucked guitar— build golden-banister stairways, and the gentle piano floats through the air of the scene. The song isn’t only a sweet surprise, but a grand gesture in its execution.
Here we are now…
Two-time Grammy award winner and folk/country singer-songwriter John Prine passed away of COVID-19 last week. Perhaps Bob Dylan’s comment on Prine for a 2009 Huffington Post article best communicates the magnitude of Prine’s effect on the music industry and essence of his songs. “Prine’s stuff is pure Proustian existentialism. Midwestern mindtrips to the nth degree. And he writes beautiful songs. I remember when Kris Kristofferson first brought him on the scene. ‘Sam Stone’ featuring the wonderfully evocative line: ‘There’s a hole in daddy’s arm where all the money goes, and Jesus Christ died for nothing I suppose.’ All that stuff about ‘Sam Stone’, the soldier junkie daddy, and ‘Donald and Lydia’, where people make love from ten miles away. Nobody but Prine could write like that.”
His music is sentimental, witty, social protest, and deeply philosophical. Check out “In Spite of Ourselves”: the song is full of funny love.
ABOUT GUY JAMES
Guy James is the pen name of Guy DeMarco, a young writer on the rise. He can be reached with music ideas and story suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lead-In Image (Kurt Cobain art) – DINOONCAM / Shutterstock.com; Video Images Courtesy of Nirvana; 88rising; and John Prine.