33 And 1/3 Under 45: Track Fifteen – We Don’t Need To Whisper

33 and ⅓ is a monthly music column by Ryan Lynch, exploring the records that keep him inspired in a cynical world.

You can find episodes on frondsradio.com and be sure to subscribe on iTunes, Google PlayStitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. If you have any suggestions or thoughts, my twitter handle is @stoopkidliveson and I’d love to hear from you. You can find Ryan’s band, Premium Heart, on facebooktwitter, or instagram for upcoming releases and shows.

The original column was published on October 15th, 2019 and can be found below.

Do you hear me out there? I can hear you.
I got you, I can hear you alright.
This is so strange, I want to wish for something new.
This is the scariest thing I’ve ever done in my life.
Who do we think we are?

It’s always been really hard for me to feel like I truly belong. I always get close, but I always feel like I’m just outside the core people who deserve their place in the inner circle. Lately, I’ve really been trying to take that big jump into the deep end and stop feeling like an awkward observer but own my role as a central figure in my own passions. And one of the things that really helped me re-focus my efforts is one of my favorite albums from the mid 2000s, Angels And Airwaves’ 2006 debut, We Don’t Need To Whisper.

Leave your pain on the bedroom floor again, bring a smile to survive
And do you think that you have that in you?
If you’re here and you’re all alone tonight, then I’ll give you a free ride.
Take a chance ’cause I know you want to.

blink-182 was the first band I ever really loved. The first CD I ever bought, the reason I bought a bass, the first songs I ever taught myself, the reason I started my first band. There are plenty of pictures, videos, and recordings of me at 14 playing blink songs with my friends. Plenty of people fell in love with blink in the 90s and 00s, so this isn’t all that rare of a sentiment. But even among blink fans, there’s a lot of camps you can fall into. Those who consider them a punk band, those who call them pop, and the in-betweens. Scott or Travis? Is the Skiba stuff really blink? +44 or Angels? It goes on and on. But none are more pressing than the debate I hear more than any other. Mark or Tom?

For those who don’t know, Mark Hoppus is the bass player and one of the singers, and Tom Delonge is the guitarist and other singer. Tom’s the one with the voiceWhere are you and I’m so sorry and all that. I will always love them both, but despite citing Mark as the reason I play bass (and for what it’s worth, I do crib a lot of his fifth-based melodies and chord structures), I’ve pretty much always been firmly in camp Tom… and boy, oh boy, have I gotten a lot of shit for it. How much that contributed to my feelings that I was always just a little bit of an outsider, I don’t know, but it certainly didn’t help.

In 2005, when blink broke up, everyone blamed Tom. And then when Angels And Airwaves debuted, it was pretty divisive. It sounds nothing like blink, even with Tom’s voice fronting the record. It’s got these long, atmosphere-building songs, U2-inspired guitar sounds, lofty lyrics on war and grandiose takes on love. Tom took a whole lot of chances when he reinvented himself this way, and not everyone liked it. But man, I ate that shit up. At 15, We Don’t Need To Whisper was a permanent fixture in my stereo and quite a few of the songs made it into my band’s setlist. That June, I saw them with Taking Back Sunday and hearing Tom play the verses of “Down” by himself was the first time I ever cried at a concert. It was truly a defining moment for my teenage years.

The drops of rain they fall all over
This awkward silence makes me crazy
The glow inside burns light upon her
I’ll try to kiss you if you let me
(This can’t be the end)
Tidal waves they rip right through me
Tears from eyes worn cold and sad
Pick me up now, I need you so bad

But even then, I still had this… tinge of outsider. After the Angels set, people in our section, as well as the whole coliseum, stormed the floor to hop the wall and get on the floor. And I couldn’t. I just kept thinking, “wow, those people are so cool, I could never do anything like that. Those are real punks. If I did that, they would just think I’m some poser.” And this was a pretty common feeling for me, and to be honest, still is. Fast forward a little over a decade and I’m married to a girl who was also at that show and actually did jump over that guardrail! And she even had the same poster in her bedroom that I did, a very dramatic Angels poster from the liner notes of Whisper.

I’m frightened at night and the wind has a roar,
It seeps through the hall and from under the door
Like the shit that was said, I can’t take it that well
I give and I give and I give and I’m still lost and hurt and bone thin
From the love that’s been starved
I know it got close, but I’m sure it’s too far from the point of suspense,
We know it should be the end of that part of our favorite movie
When the guy grabs the girl and gives her his hand
Says take me away from this torturous land

But my struggles with this kind of thing needed more than just the coolest girl I ever met to tell me I wasn’t a loser (though that helped). Recently, I’ve had a lot of small moments really stand out as validating that the less uniformly popular things I liked and chances I took were the right ones. When a lot of my friends were full on mocking Tom’s new “super-serious” band, I was hyping up the record and burning copies for everyone. Just last month, an old friend I haven’t spoken to in years reached out, thanking me for all the music I gave him after school and how much that shaped who he became. What I thought was just me doubling down because I’m defensive about Tom Delonge ended up meaning a lot to both of us. We even saw Angels together on their second tour in 2008! As a defensive aside, Tom still gets a whole lot of flack for his weird alien stuff, but hey, he actually got the government to admit some weird Navy stuff was a UFO, so jokes on all of you. He was right and I was right to believe in him.

The ash set in then blew away. It’s getting lost into the sea.
I grew so close to all the thoughts I had to leave forever
I left the chill and voice of screams and kids and ran for shelter.
You know, I won’t say sorry. You know, I won’t say sorry.
The pain has a bad reaction, a blend of fear and passion.
You know what it’s like to believe?
It makes me wanna scream.

But even more than that, I’ve had a lot of my creative outlets feel a lot more real than they used to. I recently re-started an old collaborative relationship with one of my most beloved artistic partners. And even though our new material is very different than what we used to make, that familiarity has put our old work on my mind again. I used to feel like my ideas weren’t good enough to mention or push and that I was always part of some B-tier. But this time, I’ve really made an effort to express myself more openly and honestly and I’d like to think the work is better for it. And right at the same time, I have had several people come up to me lately and tell me how important our old work was for them and it shaped the types of songwriters and musicians they’ve become; adding how excited they are to hear what we do next. Something I never once expected and still don’t quite know how to internalize.

I should have turned back, I should have known better
Than to walk away defeated
I’ll say it tonight, I’ll say it forever
And this time I really swear I mean it
I think I like today, I think it’s good
It’s something I can’t get my head around.

When Angels And Airwaves released their first record, We Don’t Need To Whisper, no one knew what to expect and the hype was all over the place. Tom Delonge took a huge chance with it and I think it paid off. Angels showed he was much more capable and talented than anyone ever gave him credit for. I think there’s a lot we can take from that. As long as you’re willing to take that jump and do what you think is important to express yourself, who gives a shit if no one thinks you belong there? Fuck ’em. Take the chance. Who knows? Maybe you’ll meet some aliens. And maybe in the future, your work will have meant a lot more to people than you ever realized, even if the only person that feels that way is you. And as long as you think you belong there, you do.

I want to have the same last dream again, the one where I wake up and I’m alive.
Just as the four walls close me within, my eyes are opened up with pure sunlight.
I’m the first to know, my dearest friends, even if your hope has burned with time.
Anything that’s dead shall be re-grown, and your vicious pain, your warning sign,
You will be fine.
Here I am and here we go.
Life’s waiting to begin.

33 And 1/3 Under 45: Track Fourteen – Black Tie, White Noise

33 and ⅓ is a monthly music column by Ryan Lynch, exploring the records that keep him inspired in a cynical world.

You can find episodes on frondsradio.com and be sure to subscribe on iTunes, Google PlayStitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. If you have any suggestions or thoughts, my twitter handle is @stoopkidliveson and I’d love to hear from you. You can find Ryan’s band, Premium Heart, on facebooktwitter, or instagram for upcoming releases and shows.

The original column was published on September 15th, 2019 and can be found below.

Content Warning: this column deals with trauma, September 11th, 2001, and similar topics. All the heavy stuff is prologue to the column, so feel free to skip to the actual album review, starting with the fourth paragraph.

God is on top of it all
That’s all
We are we are we are

What’s the difference between a timeless legacy and a dated representation of the times? How do we decide what’s worth focusing on when we look back? It sure seems like a random and arbitrarily decided distinction. Sure, some are clearer than others. It’s easy to give credit for era-defining albums or days that live in infamy. Less noteworthy things, like one-hit wonders, are usually revisited as a nostalgia trip, not because they’re still relevant, whatever that means. Relevancy is such a nebulous concept and one that varies so much from person to person. Because of that, this column is going to be a little more divided than usual, focusing first on what’s on my mind leading up to putting this month’s album on repeat before diving into the album itself.

Just a few days ago, we passed the 18th anniversary of the September 11th attacks in New York City. I’m not going to get into my personal connections and memories with the event here, as I think they’re much too complicated to have as a backdrop to a music column. But this year felt… different for me than it usually does. Yeah, every year I see a lot of “Never Forget” posts alongside edgy jokes belittling it, the usual internet discourse ranging from deeply personal to the shallowest callousness and every level of no/half/full-hearted messaging in between. I was surprised, though, to see a lot of people talking about how it’s been so long, why do we still make such a big deal out of it, that it’s no longer relevant enough to justify all this attention. And this year, I saw an elevated level of animosity, which is, frankly, what I’ve come to expect in 2019. Some using it as an example of true American sacrifice, the day we were shown just how at risk the life we had taken for granted was. Others using it as the starting point of the modern American imperial era kicked into effect by the Authorization For Use Of Military Force Against Terrorists bill and the Bush Doctrine. Projecting it as the event that jingoists and fascists use to justify their politics. And while I don’t disagree with any of that, per se, I think there’s something deeply personal missing from that dichotomy, a focus on what parts of the event are still relevant and necessary to include in our thoughts on that horrible day.

I’m sure it’s because I’m a New Yorker, but I don’t think enough people give space for the trauma that it caused in so many of us. Yes, it is more important than ever to discuss the politics of the weeks, months, and years after that, especially now that people born after that day are now old enough to go fight in the wars that spun out of it. I was extremely lucky not to lose anyone that day, but knew plenty of people that did. When we look at such a catastrophic event as that day, we too often forget that the people affected are still affected and walk around with that weight every single day. First responders dealing with the mental (and physical) damage from being a part of it. People who were harassed, abused, and worse just because they looked like the people who did this. Children who were forced to confront so many things about the world, prematurely, that Tuesday morning. So many people lost something that day, and even though it’s been 18 years, not everyone’s found it yet. We all need to remember the real people that these macroscopic events touch, the micro reasons why 18 years isn’t nearly enough for these events to no longer be considered… relevant.

So what does that have to do with David Bowie? Aside from him playing “Heroes” and Simon & Garfunkel’s “America” at the Concert For New York benefit, not much on it’s face, actually. I was stuck thinking about the kinds of legacies that are left behind and how much weight we should give facets of more complex legacies. Whenever I’m stuck in a loop in my own head, thinking about some complicated or challenging feelings, there’s almost always a Bowie record that helps me focus. I think it’s because he reinvented himself so many times. Bowie is always relevant because he was always relevant. In the late 80s and early 90s, he was in a critical slump and a lot of people counted him out after he was unable to match his success of his early and mid 80s albums. But with 1993’s Black Tie, White Noise, he reintroduced himself and kickstarted one of my favorite eras of his career, his electronic house/industrial phase. Fresh off of his tenure in the band Tin Machine and beginning a marriage, this album serves as not only a revamp of what a David Bowie record sounded like, but a goodbye to the Bowie everyone already knew. From “You’ve Been Around:”

Where’s the pain in the violent night? I’m depressed by the grin.
I stay over many years. I should have thought of that.
For the love of the money. Like a black-hearted vile thing.
It’s the nature of being. It’s too many lonely nights
I can’t tell bad from wrong
I can’t pass you by, too exchanging
You’ve been around but you’ve changed me

The album has way more than just the lyrics to show the bridge between Bowie’s past and future. He considered it a blend of 60s pop melodies with 90s house music. Bowie brought back Nile Rodgers, his producer from Let’s Dance a decade prior, but made a conscious effort to distance himself from that sound. Bowie picks a few covers to include on this album, too, and those choices are very telling. He covers Morrisey’s 1992 track “You’re Gonna Need Someone On Your Side,” which itself was heavily influenced by Bowie’s glam rock era, not least of all because it featured Mick Ronson, Bowie’s guitarist from 1970 to 1973, most famously on Ziggy Stardust. Bowie covers the contemporary song inspired by his classic style, once again merging the past and the present. There’s a very 1993 version of Cream’s 1966 single “I Feel Free,” featuring Mick himself. This was their first collaboration in 20 years, but tragically, Ronson passed away from cancer only 24 days after the album’s release. The inevitability of moving forward is clear on the record, no matter how familiar it may seem on paper. From “Miracle Goodnight:”

Don’t want to know the past, I want to know the real deal
I really don’t want to know that
The less we know, the better we feel
Morning star you’re beautiful, yellow diamond high
Spinning around my little room, miracle

Bowie, more so than any artist I listen to, always managed to stay relevant while staying familiar. He always sounded like Bowie, even when what that means is so hard to describe. His catalog serves as a long narrative, with twists, turns, and losses that I find really inspiring. Every few months I do a full listen of his discography, chronologically, and I have different takeaways every time. Sometimes I love the Berlin era most of all, sometimes his early work, this time his 90s stuff. It always helps me to get clarity on complex issues I have, knowing that it’s possible to consider the multitudes and learn more as you revisit the complexities. You don’t have to completely understand every phase and growth right away, whether it be from an artist’s work or your own traumas. Someone like Bowie, someone beautifully expressive and honest, helps to shed light on my darkest thoughts and keep me company in my loneliest memories.

It’s hard for me to imagine a time when people thought Bowie’s career was over. But like all timeless art, his time came again, and he was able to reinvent himself and cement his legacy as someone with countless aspects. As we look back through the art we love, the people we idolize, and the events that shaped us, it’s important to try to look at them with the nuance they deserve. It’s always more complicated than it seems on the surface and bullet points rarely capture the whole picture.

They’ll show us how to break the rules
But never how to make the rules
Reduce us down to witless punks
Fascist cries both black and white, who’s got the blood, who’s got the gun.
Putting on the black tie, cranking out the white noise

33 And 1/3 Under 45: Track Thirteen – The Wall

33 and ⅓ is a monthly music column by Ryan Lynch, exploring the records that keep him inspired in a cynical world.

You can find episodes on frondsradio.com and be sure to subscribe on iTunes, Google PlayStitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. If you have any suggestions or thoughts, my twitter handle is @stoopkidliveson and I’d love to hear from you. You can find Ryan’s band, Premium Heart, on facebooktwitter, or instagram for upcoming releases and shows.

The original column was published on August 15th, 2019 and can be found below.

Just a content note, I’ll be talking about genocide, fascism, and political generalizations based on demographic trends, so you don’t have to yell at me if you’re “one of the good ones.”

Mother, did it need to be so high?

I spend a lot of time doing deep dives on music and I try to break open as much of what the songwriters are trying to say as I can, whether it be about themselves or the world around them. But it’s becoming more and more obvious that a lot of people don’t do that, even when they’ve been listening to these songs for decades and especially when they’re really popular. The more these songs are played out and diluted, the less real meaning they seem to have, like an album everyone seems to know, Pink Floyd’s 1979 album, The Wall.

I’ve been thinking about this in the context of older generations lately, after starting to really delve into the solo career of Roger Waters, the bass player and main songwriter for Pink Floyd, primarily Is This The Life We Really Want?, his newest record. I was searching through some reviews for it and came across this one:

2 people found this helpful

If you know anything about Roger Waters, you already know more than “Steve S,” but if you don’t, he’s pretty consistently written political lyrics. Even before the Pink Floyd album I picked for this month’s column, you can clearly see his politics shine through in most of his post-Dark Side Of The Moon work, both solo and with Floyd. Here’s “Sheep” from their 1977 record, Animals.

What do you get for pretending the danger’s not real
Meek and obedient, you follow the leader down well-trodden corridors
Into the valley of steel
What a surprise, a look of terminal shock in your eyes
Now things are really what they seem
No, this is no bad dream

The entire album is politically driven, from attacking capitalism, media censorship and “traditional values,” to blindly obeying a leader until you realize how far you’ve fallen. The issue we’re seeing today, though, is that so many people, especially when they’re privileged enough to be less affected by day-to-day policy fights, don’t realize they’ve fallen from their ideals at all. They think they’re on the right side of history, but if you were to supplant their opinions now relative to the oppressive power structures back just a few decades, they would almost certainly be the people calling Martin Luther King Jr. a dangerous radical and contributing to the almost two thirds disapproval rating that he had in 1966. They’d much rather just “keep politics out of it” and “talk about something else” instead of standing up for what’s right. King talked extensively about the dangers of these (white) moderates who sit on the sidelines in his “Letter From A Birmingham Jail.”

First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride towards freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Klu Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action;” who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a “more convenient season. 

Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

I’m bewildered by the present-day rejection of societal optimism and justice from the generations that viewed their elders as the evil traditionalists standing in the way of integration, civil rights, ending the imperialism of the cold war, alongside so many societal ills that have by no means disappeared. The hippies of the late 60s and the punks of the late 70s grew up and stopped caring about making the world a better place, choosing instead to stay complacent in favor of the status quo that now benefited them. Instead of internalizing the messages of their heroes and inspirations, they became the villains of their favorite stories. They act like children who don’t know better, whether it be by naïveté or ignorance, but refuse to honestly engage with the things that inspired them when they were young, learning all the wrong lessons, just like the generations they fought against.

Which brings me to The Wall.

It’s a rock opera, and like most narrative albums, the plot’s a bit murky, so I’m not going to get into the inspirations on which characters are based on what or the deep cuts behind it. But the main bullet points of the plot are:

A young boy’s father dies in a war.

Daddy’s flown across the ocean, leaving just a memory
A snapshot in the family album, Daddy what else did you leave for me?
Daddy, what’d you leave behind for me?
All in all, it was just a brick in the wall

The boy is left with his overprotective mother, who pushes him to isolate himself from the world around him. 

Hush now baby, don’t you cry
Mama’s gonna make all of your nightmares come true
Mama’s gonna put all of her fears into you
Mama’s gonna keep you right here, under her wing
She won’t let you fly, but she might let you sing
Mama will keep baby, cozy and warm
Ooh babe, Of course mama’s help build the wall

His school teachers’ harassments and cruelties add to his anxiety; they, too, are stuck in cycles of abuse

When we grew up and went to school, there were certain teachers
Who would hurt the children anyway they could
By pouring their derision upon anything we did
And exposing every weakness however carefully hidden by the kid
But in the town it was well known, when they got home at night
Their fat and psychopathic wives would thrash them within inches of their lives

As he grows older, after a back and forth of infidelities, a divorce pushes him even further into emotional isolation. 

Day after day, love turns grey like the skin of a dying man
Night after night, we pretend it’s alright
But I have grown older, and you have grown colder 
And nothing is very much fun anymore

Despite that, he becomes a rock star, has to medicate to even function through his anxieties, and imagines a world where he’s a fascist leader, who scapegoats minorities with extermination. 

Waiting to put on a blackshirt, Waiting to weed out the weaklings
Waiting to smash in their windows and kick in their doors
Waiting for the final solution to strengthen the strain
Waiting to follow the worms, waiting to turn on the showers and fire the ovens
Waiting for the queers and the coons and the reds and the Jews
Waiting to follow the worms
Would you like to see Britannia rule again, my friend?
All you have to do is follow the worms

Realizing the monster that lurks inside him, he puts himself on trial within his own psyche and confronts the characters that pushed him to build up his walls.

Good morning, worm, your honor, the crown will plainly show
The prisoner who now stands before you was caught red handed
Showing feelings, showing feelings of an almost human nature

But in the end he is “sentenced” to let himself feel real emotions again, and tears down his defenses, exposing his vulnerabilities to the cruel world around him, while the album hints at the cycle starting all over again when it ends with a loop that connects it to the opening track.

Since my friend, you have revealed your deepest fear
I sentence you to be exposed before your peers
Tear down the wall!

The politics of the album aren’t explicitly clear until the latter half, but Waters is saying a lot throughout. Our protagonist, Pink, is constantly blaming everyone around him for his flaws. His father, his mother, his teacher, his wife, eventually blaming anyone “impure.” But throughout all of his projection, empty sadness, and blind rage, he only finds actual growth and solace when he does some, albeit dramatic, self-reflection. He puts himself on trial, not because he’s forced to, but because it’s the only way he can exorcise his demons. It’s not anyone’s fault but his. Sure, he had external struggles, but at the end of the day, he was just an asshole who was turning his daddy issues, mommy issues, issues with women, etc, but most of all his fears into a force to hurt people. Honest self reflection and confronting the internalized trauma, usually ingrained from childhood, are the only real ways we can grow and develop into the people we thought we’d grow into when we were kids.

The people that always look for blame around them, especially when directing it at the most vulnerable, instead of the systems that enable the real villains, should remember what it was like to be that scared kid watching the world change around them, whether it was in the 50s and 60s, or just yesterday. To imagine how the people that inspired them would look down at them now, with disgust, as they’ve gone from the victim of the trauma to the perpetrator. Maybe as an absent father, or an overprotective mother, or a cruel teacher, or maybe simply as a person who’s adding just another brick to the wall. But it’s a much better story if we tear down the walls in the end instead of building even taller ones for tomorrow’s children to have to smash through.

And when they’ve given you their all, some stagger and fall
After all, it’s not easy, banging your head against some mad bugger’s wall

33 And 1/3 Under 45: The B-Sides – Carrie & Lowell

The B-sides was a spin-off column for albums chosen by patreon backers.

You can find episodes on frondsradio.com and be sure to subscribe on iTunes, Google PlayStitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. If you have any suggestions or thoughts, my twitter handle is @stoopkidliveson and I’d love to hear from you. You can find Ryan’s band, Premium Heart, on facebooktwitter, or instagram for upcoming releases and shows.

The original column was published on July 16th, 2019 and can be found below.

This album was selected by Will.

Spirit of my silence, I can hear you. But I’m afraid to be near you.
And I don’t know where to begin
And I don’t know where to begin

Folk music can be a real bummer. Indie folk? Forget about it. Sufjan Stevens? Well, I might as well grab some ice cream because I’ve been listening to his 2015 album, Carrie & Lowell, and it’s a doozy. I’ve only heard Sufjan’s earlier indie-folk stylings in passing, and years ago at that, so I had no idea what to expect when this album was picked for my first requested record. I’d heard he got really experimental with electronica music? Well, definitely not here because this is a real mellow acoustic album and, even with that, it has a lot of weight to it.

I should have known better, to see what I could see.
My black shroud, holding down my feelings
A pillar for my enemies
I should have wrote a letter, and grieve what I happen to grieve
My black shroud, I never trust my feelings
I waited for the remedy

When I was three, maybe four, she left us at the video store
Be my rest, be my fantasy

The album deals with some more complex looks at death than I was prepared for. Sufjan’s mother had just passed away and this record deals a lot with the difficulties he’s feeling, as she was not exactly the most… present kind of parent. But still, when someone’s gone, it has a sense of finality, regardless of whether we’re able to make our peace with them before they go. 

When I was three, and free to explore
I saw her face on the back of the door
Be my vest, be my fantasy

I should have known better, nothing can be changed
The past is still the past, the bridge to nowhere
I should’ve wrote a letter, explaining what I feel, that empty feeling

This album really made me think about my relationships with people and what it would be like if the current status quo was permanently set as the finale. The album is full of the kinds of solemn regrets that accompany them, but that in and of itself is not all that rare in folk music. The tone is really what sets Carrie & Lowell apart. Sufjan has this atmospheric and airy quality that draws you in and just kinda floats around your head for a while. Even when I wasn’t initially picking up the themes, the intent was clear. I generally gravitate towards much more full and upbeat folk, like The Decemberists, but I still found myself getting lost in the world he was painting, even when the song itself was deeply somber.

For my prayer has always been love, what did I do to deserve this?
With blood on my sleeve, Delilah, avenge my grief
How? God of Elijah

As fire to the sun, tell me what I have done.
How? Heart of a dragon?

One of the things that really stood out to me on this record was how specifically anecdotal Sufjan’s lyrics could be. A lot of folk comes across as “everyman” stories and universal truths, but here, Sufjan doesn’t steer away from specific locales and stories that help build his story as more personal, less universal and help build an irresistible ethos around his narrative.

Emerald Park, wonders never cease
The man who taught me to swim, he couldn’t quite say my first name
Like a father, he led community water on my head
And he called me “Subaru,” and now I want to be near you

Since I was old enough to speak, I’ve said it with alarm
Some part of me was lost in your sleeve where you hid your cigarettes
No, I’ll never forget. I just want to be near you.

Carrie & Lowell isn’t my usual style and I found myself drawn in a lot more to the lyrics than the more stripped down and slower musical stylings of the record. But sitting with them as I wrote really helped me internalize just how personal and poetic a lot of these songs are. After the first few listens, I didn’t expect to be so moved by the honesty that Sufjan shows about his relationship with not only his mother, but his stepfather who remains a very positive and important part of Sufjan’s life. The difficulties he went through, grieving someone who was not there for him, while still being supported by someone who’s life his mother chose to be a more active part of make Carrie & Lowell an album as complex as it is beautiful and one that’s definitely worth following along with as you get lost in the music.

So can we be friends sweetly, before the mystery ends?
I love you more than the world can contain in its lonely and ramshackle head
There’s only a shadow of me; in a manner of speaking I’m dead

I’m holding my breath, my tongue on your chest, what can be said of the heart?
If history speaks, the kiss on my cheek, where there remains but a mark
Beloved my John, so I’ll carry on, counting my cards down to one
And when I am dead, come visit my bed, my fossil is bright in the sun

So can we contend peacefully before my history ends?
Jesus, I need you, be near, come shield me from fossils that fall on my head
There’s only a shadow of me; in a manner of speaking, I’m dead

33 And 1/3 Under 45: Track Nine: Diamonds And Pearls

33 and ⅓ is a monthly music column by Ryan Lynch, exploring the records that keep him inspired in a cynical world.

You can find episodes on frondsradio.com and be sure to subscribe on iTunes, Google PlayStitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. If you have any suggestions or thoughts, my twitter handle is @stoopkidliveson and I’d love to hear from you. You can find Ryan’s band, Premium Heart, on facebooktwitter, or instagram for upcoming releases and shows.

The original column was published on April 15th, 2019 and can be found below.

Love say “Take my hand, it’ll be alright.
C’mon, save your soul tonight.”

I had a really hard time picking what album to cover this month and kept putting it off. But then I fell down an unexpected rabbit hole and ended up deep in early 90s Prince, which is a pretty great place to find yourself. It all started because our stupid president released his first campaign ad for 2020 and used some music from his favorite (probably) Christoper Nolan movie, Batman: The Dark Knight Rises and had it almost immediately taken down by Warner Bros. for unauthorized use. He has a long history of using music for campaign things without permission, but that’s neither here nor there. So I ended up dipping back into the only Batman soundtrack that actually matters, Prince’s soundtrack for Batman (1989), and decided to just continue on through from there.

All hail, the new king in town
Young and old, gather ’round

Since I last wrote about Prince, I’ve gone through his entire catalog, and can sincerely say there’s not a single album with his name (or symbol) on it that I don’t love. But a run of albums that really stand out to me are the early-mid 90s, specifically 1991’s Diamonds And Pearls. It kicks off with this huge vocal-driven gospel track, “Thunder,” that immediately lets you know that you’re in Prince’s church now. Even though this record isn’t one of his universally beloved or top 5 albums, it’s a really fascinating era for Prince. It’s his first with a full band lineup since The Revolution disbanded five years earlier. This time, The New Power Generation brings a real 90s party vibe with them. Every song on the record shines with the quirky production, hip hop beats, and rap verses that immediately take you back to the early 90s. And the album itself perfectly captures that tone. Diamonds And Pearls is a whole lot of fun, but hidden under the party are some deeper undertones. Even with that, though, the vast majority of the album is just about sex and dancing. And there’s a whole lot of real 90s slang. You know I eat that kinda thing up. Who couldn’t love deep metaphors like “Mack Daddy In The House” and “clocking a freak in the low pro?” Plus, the cover (up top) has one of those sick holograms!

Yeah, we gettin’ funky in the house tonight.
Doin’ the jughead
Come on, get stupid, get stupid

But even moreso than the new music styles Prince was embracing, this era is interesting because Prince was kicking his feud with his label, Warner Bros, into high gear to get out of his contract. (For more on that: I highly recommend his 1996 triple album Emancipation, his first release after he finally succeeded.) This album explicitly lays out the struggle Prince is having after the dopey dance track, “Jughead,” in a perfect example of the dichotomy of this record.

What you need is a manager” “For what? Money minders are like parasites. They pose as wheelers and dealers for your rights. And most companies say that you need em! Not me! But I’ve kicked back, observed, and watched ’em bleed ’em. Artists young and old. Where’d this unwritten law come from anyway? That years after the contract, you should still be getting paid? Boy, I go broke and hit the skids before I take care of a rich sucker’s kids. Hell, A contract ain’t got no pension plan. Years after this, my kids are still gonna make the grand.”

Moments like this really stuck out to me when I realized I only initially grabbed Diamonds And Pearls because of some jackass trying to steal someone else’s music to fearmonger in a propaganda video. There’s a lot more here than just catchy songs like the title track, “Diamonds and Pearls,” or singles like “Cream,” and “Gett Off.” It’s more than Prince fully embracing the 90s sound. It really is a time capsule for 1991, both for Prince and for the world around him. Immediately after “Jughead,” comes “Money Don’t Matter 2 Night,” which seems like a sexy 90s slow jam, until…

Hey now, maybe we can find a good reason to send a child off to war.
So what if we’re controllin’ all the oil, is it worth the child dying for?
If long life is what we all live for, then long life will come to pass.
Anything is better than the picture of a child, in a cloud of gas.
And you think you got it bad.

It got me thinking about the context of the world in 1991.  This album came out in between what I would consider the two defining moments of George H. W. Bush’s presidency. The first Iraq war had been over for just over 7 months and that imagery was obviously still very present in the public’s eye. And just over the horizon, about a year later, the first President Bush was about to pardon most of the people involved in the Iran-Contra scandal, to finalize the cover up of one of the biggest presidential scandals in American history. And who was the Attorney General who pushed this gross misstep of justice? William Barr, of course! The man who wrote the “synopsis” of the Mueller report. So maybe this fun trip to the early 90s was a bit less of an escape than I thought it would be. Nostalgia can be a great tool to dip into and get away from it all for a bit, but I’ve been trying to remember that a lot of the bad parts about the times I fondly look back on are still here and have only gotten worse. But like everything, it’s more important than ever to contextualize the whole picture. We still found reasons to dance and fall in love in the 90s and we sure as hell will now, too. Don’t let the bastards get you down.

Don’t talk if it’s against the rules? Just walk away and be a fool?
That’s what they want you to do.

Strollin’, Strollin’ We could have fun just strollin’.

33 And 1/3 Under 45: Track Eight: Marry Me

33 and ⅓ is a monthly music column by Ryan Lynch, exploring the records that keep him inspired in a cynical world.

You can find episodes on frondsradio.com and be sure to subscribe on iTunes, Google PlayStitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. If you have any suggestions or thoughts, my twitter handle is @stoopkidliveson and I’d love to hear from you. You can find Ryan’s band, Premium Heart, on facebooktwitter, or instagram for upcoming releases and shows.

The original column was published on March 15th, 2019 and can be found below.

I’m not anything at all

I’ve been leaning into some major escapism this month. Sometimes we all just need a break, you know? Mostly this means I’m reading a lot of sci-fi novels, but I almost always keep music on while I read, to really tune out the distractions and get lost in a world that’s got a better sense of morality than the one currently on the other side of my headphones. This time, it’s been a lot of St. Vincent, the musical identity of Annie Clark.

St. Vincent’s an artist I’ve only very recently gotten into, specifically with her 2017 record, Masseduction, after I was given it for a network Secret Santa from Falling In Love Montage‘s Helen. After going backwards through her whole catalog, Masseduction is still my favorite, but recently I’ve been gravitating towards her debut, 2007’s Marry Me. It doesn’t have the bombastic and explosive melodies of her latter work, or the complexity of some of her collaborations, like Love This Giant (with David Byrne) does, but Marry Me has really resonated with me beyond an album hiding in the background of my solitary reading sessions. Now, I don’t mean the album is best listened to passively, as it’s very strong on it’s own and certainly deserves your full attention. What I mean is that, unlike the rest of Annie’s catalog, Marry Me has a simplicity to the structure of the record that lets you forget just how brilliant it is.

While Jesus is saving, I’m spending all my days
In backgrounds and landscapes with the language of saints
While people are spinning like toys on Christmas day,
I’m inside a still life with the other absentee

The album has a lot of themes of the naive idealism of love from someone new to it, something I’m always a big sucker for. The overwhelming feelings you’re controlled by. The agency you give up to the other person, as you lie awake wishing more than anything that they feel the same way. Thinking, no, knowing, that this is the most important thing in the world, until you come up for air and realize it… wasn’t. Until it is again.

But you, you’re a rock with a heart like a socket I can plug into at will
And will you guess, when I come around next, I hope your open sign is blinking still
So marry me, John, I’ll be so good to you
You won’t realize I’m gone, you won’t realize I’m gone
As for me, I would have to agree, I’m as fickle as a paper doll being kicked by the wind
When I touch down again, I’ll be in someone else’s arms
Oh, John, C’mon

But albums about young love are not exactly the hardest thing to find. This album stands out above and beyond for a few reasons. Most importantly, the melodies and instrumentation are very good. It’s the kind of album where I struggle to pick what should’ve been the single.  There’s a lot of really great production, a lot in really unexpected places. There are 17 different musicians present on the record and it shows. Lots of strings, brass, and more help to layer the album, but the real shining star is Annie’s voice. I really love her guitar playing, too, but her voice ranges from choir backups (alongside the additional singers present) to some raw and straight-from-the-heart solo vocals over a simple piano. The record jumps from full string arrangements to the barest melody and back again without ever feeling jarring or out of place. The highs and lows of love are clear, not only in the lyrics, but in every aspect of the record. Her voice, alongside her writing, is so versatile that listening to her debut, you can clearly see why her records went on to be so unique. The dichotomy is here, bouncing between the simplest and most complex aspects of young love, embracing the overwhelming beauty of it all without ever ignoring the darker sides of it.

All of your praying amounts to just one breath,
Please keep your victory, but give me little death, It’s time, you are light,
I guess you are afraid of what everyone is made of,
So take to the streets with apocalypse refrain,
Your devotion has the look of a lunatic’s gaze

It’s these deeper and darker sections, like in “Paris Is Burning” or “The Apocalypse Song” that forced my ears to perk up and focus more on the music, even if it meant reading the same page over and over again. St. Vincent lures you in with simple melodies and catchy hooks, but her lyrics and delivery keep you coming back when the record’s over. Her other albums, specifically Actor, St. Vincent, and Masseduction, stood out as great records immediately, but Marry Me is more subtle and has been exactly what I’ve been looking for this month. The slow burn kind of record that you find yourself starting over more often than you realize, even if it’s just on in the background… at first. But it won’t be for long.

You say “Love is just a bloodmatch
to see who endures lash after lash with panache.”
In the spring, I’ll dust off my lute, stuff my suitcase full of blues,
and stir the dust underneath the thrust of my clicking heels,
C’est la vie, what me worry? I never do

33 And 1/3 Under 45 – Track Seven: Oliver Appropriate

33 and ⅓ is a monthly music column by Ryan Lynch, exploring the records that keep him inspired in a cynical world.

You can find episodes on frondsradio.com and be sure to subscribe on iTunes, Google PlayStitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. If you have any suggestions or thoughts, my twitter handle is @stoopkidliveson and I’d love to hear from you. You can find Ryan’s band, Premium Heart, on facebooktwitter, or instagram for upcoming releases and shows.

The original column was published on February 20th, 2019 and can be found below.

New York, release me from my strata

I’m back and so is Say Anything. This time, it’s all about 2019’s Oliver Appropriate, the final record in the era of Say Anything’s catalog kicked off by …Is A Real Boy. I really could write a whole column on every one of their records, but for now, I’ll be fast forwarding to Oliver, which serves as a spiritual sequel to the themes I talked about last time. Just a quick content warning up at the top, this album deals with a lot of sex, sexual identity discussion, and violence against partners.

Quick recap: …Is A Real Boy was all about that entitled and obnoxious mentality that almost always accompanies a suburban punk dude, explored through singer and songwriter Max Bemis’ first person narration. Rage at everyone who won’t give you exactly what you want. Screaming over everyone else because you don’t think anyone’s listening. Stroking your ego just to cover up how little you actually like yourself. Lashing out. Constantly. Really all the time. At everybody. Like this guy:

Wait, that’s me

Definitely not me. I don’t know why that’s there. Weird.

Yeah, Max. That’s who I meant. I swear!

Oliver skips ahead 15 years later to see what that teenage jackass is up to now. It’s a thematic record, so I really recommend listening to it as a whole, even if the plot isn’t the clearest narrative on the first listen. The story opens with the titular Oliver, narrated by Max, an older version of our Boy protagonist. His band’s broken up, which he assumes is a devastating loss to the public, and he’s living his life through an alcohol and pill induced haze. He’s conformed to the standard hetero liberal “ally” lifestyle, despite holding deep resentments for everyone around him.

They fade into the liberal bourgeoisie,
Their hatred now inflamed to stoke your daughter’s screams
And ramble about Trump over Stellas
And headline Coachella

He takes that resentment as some sign of his superiority. He’s miserable because he’s better than everyone and always has been. He only pretends to be one of them to fill some hole in his self worth. His flaws are what define him, but no one’s allowed to see them; Oliver himself barely acknowledges them.

And everything they told me was wrong is still in my heart to turn me on
My ego is built on all my pain. I’m your migraine.

Deep down his struggle with his sexual identity gets covered up in a way that may seem familiar to a lot of people who came of age in the “newly woke” era. Oliver “pretends” to be queer as a joke to hide his insecurities. He kisses men as a goof to show off how “comfortable” he is with his heterosexuality, but never pursues these relationships past the mockery phase. He’s satirically macho to the point that he falls into the same tropes that outward misogynists do. And that struggle with his identity manifests itself, not only in his sexual identity, but in a deep hatred of women, no matter what he pretends to feel.

I somehow became a feminist, when ten years ago I was feeding drinks 
To women I’d laugh at when they’d think amongst my friends
It’s such a lie

After we really get to know Oliver, his whole world changes. His facade slips and he actually lets himself go home with a guy, maybe as a joke, maybe not, but he crosses a line he never did before and starts to really fall for someone after the high of getting his band back together lets him actually show some honesty, played by the drummer and co-writer of the record, Karl Keuhn.

Is it funny when I fuck? Is it funny when I suck?

One night with me is bringing back the memories of that old room where you started fucking the fear
Two broad shoulders and two hands as big as mine, I bet you think, I bet you know the end is near
And maybe it is.
‘Cause people like your father don’t take it lightly when we kiss
So now you either follow, let go, or bury below
But you can’t escape the sinking feelings you don’t outgrow

And Oliver finds himself… himself for the first time. This guy has let him be Oliver. And then… it’s over. This character defining moment to Oliver was just some night. He’s in love with someone else and Oliver was just some fling. We’ve all had these moments that keep us up at night for years, people you can’t get out of your head. And those people probably don’t even know we exist. We end up defining ourselves by something that the person responsible thinks of as negligible, if they think of it at all. But most of us eventually accept and get over it, but how does someone as self absorbed as Oliver take no for an answer? Well, we’ve all met these kind of guys and they usually… don’t. So Oliver goes to his apartment and…

Never earned the key so I’m knocking and now you’re home
My liver tells me so, it demands moonshine to blind the truth
That I was fine before you made me know myself, I wish I could go back
What does he got that I don’t? 
All I know, you’ll never love me

And Oliver murders him, ties them together, and drowns himself in the East River alongside him.

If you should die in your own form, I’ll reinforce that (I’ll convince you)
I’ll slit your throat and leave you gaping, oh, the hardest part of being alone
I’ll leave you torn, I’ll leave you waiting, oh, the hardest part of being alone
You break our beating hearts wide open
You’re the hardest part of being alone
You break our bleeding hearts wide open
You’re the hardest part of being alone
Being alone, Being alone, Is that enough?

It’s a pretty hard turn in the plot, but it’s what makes the whole album work so well. If you’re going to take a cautionary tale of entitled ego and advance it 15 years to now, to the Trump era, to the incel era, you have to follow through with it. We’re in an era where horrible men are being empowered to treat everyone as less deserving. An era where we continue to give the worst of us the loudest voices and the most power, normalizing and amplifying their bigotry and violence. All because they can’t take no for an answer. They can’t even imagine a world where people exist outside of what they can do for them.

It makes me sick and I don’t know what to do about it. I’m as powerless as our character in …Is A Real Boy was and I want to lash out and scream at everyone. But isn’t that the problem? Isn’t that why we’re in this mess to begin with, and if so, why was I so surprised when it happened? It’s because I’m privileged. Absolutely, I am. When Trump won, I couldn’t believe it. But then I heard plenty of people saying “Of course he won, this is the America we’ve always known. You didn’t notice?” Of course Kavanaugh was confirmed. Of course this is the world we live in. Because men don’t learn the right lessons from anything. A cautionary tale becomes an empowering icon.

I wish I could go back to that angst-ridden, entitled, suburban asshole and slap the stupid smirk off his face and tell him to get better faster. Never let yourself be satisfied or complacent. Nobody owes you anything. Yeah, life sucks sometimes, but acting like this hurts people. People like Oliver kill people every day and the majority of us don’t say a goddamn word about it. We deem it inappropriate to even discuss it in an uncivilized way. So maybe a lot of us could benefit from taking a look back at who we used to be and really think “am I that much better now? Am I good enough yet?” I bet a lot of us won’t find a good enough answer. So come up with a better one.

So go ask your Chomsky
What these systems produce
The cracks in commandments
That we can slip through

God, I’m smart and I’m worth hating

Issue 115: Ultimatum – The Divisive Issues Series Finale!

We’re going out with a BANG!

It’s time! Our podcast is ending, and so is Marvel’s Ultimate universe! Jeff Loeb’s contentious ULTIMATUM serves as the Final Destination of our comic book critique, and we have a loooot of things to say about it—almost two hours of material! For this crossover event we pull our original host Joe out of the Speed Force to help us analyze this wacky, wacky story.

Thank you very much for supporting Divisive Issues all these years—we hope you’ve enjoyed listening to us as much as we’ve enjoyed stubbornly arguing with one another! Stay in continuity!

Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/flyingmachine

Come join our discordhttps://discord.gg/yzFT6sk

All of our past episodes and other projects can be found at www.frondsradio.com
Check out the rest of the shows and Ryan’s blog on the network at http://flyingmachine.network/
Join our facebook group: www.facebook.com/groups/oopsitalkeddivisiveissues
As always, Sly, and Darryl, and Ryan’s other work can be found at: novel-graphics.com, minorbits.blogspot.com/, and http://wgirny.libsyn.com/website

Trade Collection 5: Modern Comics – Tom King’s Redemption?

Obviously this was written before Superman renounced his US citizenship.

Our final Trade of Patreon episodes features mostly single issues of random modern comics that almost made it into our main show. Most of these were also released at the tail end of our Patreon’s lifespan so it’s only appropriate to end with them. We check out some weird holiday comics that were leftover from our previous holiday specials. We also check out a definitive Superman story and once again have a Superman debate with Darryl. On top of that, we also revisit Tom King not once but twice in this collection. Tom King finally produces something we like and it happens in the most unexpected book of all.

Issues Covered:
Tom King’s Batman 45-47: “The Gift”
Action Comics 775: “What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice, & the American Way?”
Punisher Holiday Special 3: “The Cold Land”
Detective Comics 826: “Slayride”
Batman vs Elmer Fudd: “Pway for me”

Trade Collection 4: Movies – Bleach, Man of Steel, and Titans (kinda)

Titans
Bleach is back, baby!

This Patreon collection features the episodes where we were too lazy to narrate comic issues. So we instead have talks about movies instead though some of these discussions are more general discussions about super heroes in general. We discuss Man of Steel, the Bleach movie, and more! We also have a fun skit from Darryl discussing the Titans trailer of “**** Batman” fame.

Films Covered
Bleach: The Soul Reaper Arc (Netflix Movie)
Titans (DC Universe Series)
Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel