Monday, July 28, 2008

Sleater-Kinney's Dialectical "Jumpers" and "Modern Girl"/An Elegy to the L.P.

I miss the LP.

No, I'm not one of those audiophiles hoarding records and hi-fi stereos because "the music sounds warmer" on LP's. Actually, I never owned many records (having been born too late or grew up too poor), but even in my cassettes and CD's, I could still feel the structural footprint of the LP.

Those old enough to remember the "LP" will recall how a certain formal structure solidified, somewhere in the late 1960s or 1970s. If at first albums were built upon a couple hits at the front and filler for the rest, at some point the album became a form in itself, in which each song fulfilled some part of an overall concept.

If I were to generalize this form, it would go something like this: one might expect a rousing opener, something to mix it up for the second song, a real hit on the third, and then, toward the end of the record, something a bit softer, maybe acoustic, maybe drumless. The album's ebbs and flows, at times, would be made even more powerful by stark juxtapositions between songs in the middle.

Sleater-Kinney's The Woods (2005), fuzzed-out post-riot-grrrl punk rock with no pretensions to "rock opera" concept album status, nonetheless benefits from such dialectics. Notice, for example, how "Jumpers," a song from the point of view of a suicide from Golden Gate Bridge, is followed by the most blissful of S-K's songs (though not without its own self-war), "Modern Girl."

"Jumpers" by Sleater Kinney

I spend the afternoon in cars
I sit in traffic jams for hours
Don't push me
I am not ok

The sky is blue most every day
The lemons grow like tumors
They are tiny suns
Infused with sour

Lonely as a cloud
In the Golden State
"The coldest winter that I ever saw
Was the summer that I spent..."

The only substance is the fog
And it hides all that has gone wrong
Can't see a thing
Inside the maze

There is a bridge adored and famed
The Golden spine of engineering
Whose back is heavy
With my weight

Lonely as a cloud
In the Golden State
"The coldest winter that I ever saw
Was the summer that I spent..."

Be still this old heart
Be still this old skin
Drink you last drink
Sin your last sin
Sing your last song
About the beginning
Sing your song loud
So the people can hear
Let's Go

Be still this sad day
Be still this sad year
Hope your last hope
Fear your last fear
You're not the only one
You're not the only one
You're not the only one
You're not the only one
Let's Go

My falling shape will draw a line
Between the blue of sea and sky
I'm not a bird
I'm not a plane

I took a taxi to the Gate
I will not go to school again
Four seconds was
The longest wait

Four seconds was
the longest wait. [4x]

Today, I can "rip" and "burn" and "download," but I miss terribly that old consumer experience of opening up a new album (or CD), with cover art, and lyrics pages, of sitting in someone else's sound/mind for an hour--nothing but pure immersion, no persons from Porlock to interrupt the composition. Call me old-fashioned, but what's art when no one has the time to return to a thing, to live inside of it, to slough off something of the self into it?

1 comment:

tyrone said...

As one old enough to have had albums (inc. a few I still possess, along with the unued but requisite turntable) I can relate to what you're saying, though I suspect fans of music today compensate for those absent liner notes and pictorials via YouTube and other internet resources...Love the Sleater-McKinney, the Mailread Byrne and the short film "Strangers"...Keep e'm coming!