Monthly Archive for August, 2006

Sweet Bird of Truth-The The

Some certifiable chazmonaut claimed that The The were deservedly obscure musically, not just unfortunately so due to their band name that is essentially unsearchable on our modern internet. Just kidding, Clif said that, but he was wrong. This track, circa 1985 or so is interesting due to its prescient picture of the middle east in f***king flames, but more so the American in the sh*t way. This song perhaps was echoing Beirut, or maybe predicting skirmishes with Iran, but it goes beyond that, it places the US right in the thick of something. What it doesn’t get right, is there remains something of satirized American swagger and macho nihlism to the track. I don’t even think a cynical bastard like Matt Johnson could have imagined the US laid so low. He was right about something on the Infected album, whence this track comes, what he thought was the UK truly has become the 51st state of the US of W. Other standouts include the title track and “Slow Train to Dawn,” a Matt Johnson-empty-sex-with-disinterested-loverweak adulterer-duet special with a yet to be in the where-is-she-now-file Neneh Cherry, “Slow Train to Dawn.” “Kingdom of Rain” from Mind Bomb featuring a stunning Sinead O’Connor is that other kind of duet.

Video for “Sweet Bird of Truth” here.

Dear Mr. Supercomputer-Sufjan Stevens

This is one of the sluttiest songs I have ever heard, and I can’t think of a higher compliment to give to any song.  By slutty, of course, I refer to its promiscuous use of styles and rhythms, stolen from other fantastic artists.  It is also potentially the only songs I know of that is primarily written in 7/8 time.  In this case, they syncopation is written in a 3-2-2 rhythm, so if you are counting the rhythm out loud (as I frequently do), you can follow the song by counting 1-2-3-1-2-1-2 for each bar.  Who the hell thinks of this?

First, listen to the track

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.  Then listen again.  Maybe one more time.  OK, now take a break, come back, and listen one last time.  Finally read on …

The track comes from the recent compilation of outakes from Illinois, titled The Avalanche.  In many ways, the outtakes, rather than being just throw-aways, represent a parallel and organized version of Illinois.  This is easily the best track on the CD, possibly better or equal to any other Sufjan Stevens song ever written.

What are the influences?  Here’s what I come up with.  The introduction, which is the only part of the song in 4/4 time (more likely 8/8 time) begins with a Philp Glass minimalistic theme.  You know the kind of builds slowly and moves fluidly in bladilaidabldialdlald kind of way until 10 minutes later and your brain has been beaten into submission?  Then the trumpets come in and play a very Stereolab rhythm, which incidentally was stolen almost verbatum from Imperial Teen (again, that’s a good thing).  The song abruptly changes into its highly syncopated 7/8 all Sufjan all the time song.  It’s sublime genius.  I get weepy listening to how good the song is.  A few abrupt tempo changes happen here and there with little mildly jazzy Sea and the Cake moments, but song always gets back on track.  The other amazing highlight in the middle is a moment where a robotic voice sings, “One two three four five six seven, all computers go to heaven” – a direct homage to The Beatles Abbey Road.  As can be expected from any Sufjan Stevens song, there are probably 15 different musical instruments in the arrangement, each more obscure and beautifully blended than the next.