4 Songs, 1 Hour: What Long Songs I’m Loving, 7/13/12
It’s actually 4 songs, 57ish minutes.
Now listen, I don’t scare easily. I mean, heights sometimes make me nervous. There’s the occasional bee flying too close to my face, not a fan of that. Cabbies that drive aggressively. Unexpected loud noises. Charlie Sheen. But besides those things, TOTALLY BRAVE. So it takes a lot to send a shudder through me.
So it’s on this Friday the 13th that I’d like to share something horrifying.
Something like getting onto a subway and, when reaching for a standing pole to maintain my balance, feel nothing but a slick, greasy surface. Chills went down my spine as my face contorted with disgust and worry, because you know that hand’s not doing anything until I get to a sink. I’m holding that sucker up in the air like I’m a surgeon who’s just washed their hands. OUT OF THE WAY PEOPLE, MYSTERY GREASE. How did it get onto that pole? And why was it as high up as eye level? These are the types of questions that keep could keep me up at night.
Now, the music.
This week, MGMT start us off with Siberian Breaks, a 12-minute track that I actually didn’t enjoy too much at first, but which grew on me over time. It keeps up the retro surfer-psych rock of the rest of the record, sweeping and varying just enough to keep the listener engaged for the entire ride. The first and third movements are probably the best. Siberian Breaks is probably a good representation of how the rest of the record sounds. It has its moments of straight-forward MGMT-branded rock, while it also keeps the listener at arm’s length, especially in the last couple of minutes.
Some (many) would argue (including myself) that of Montreal hit their musical height when they released Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? in 2007. It was after that record’s release that I was also probably the most into the Kevin Barnes-helmed outfit. He had not yet completed his transformation into a glam-rock faux-diva, and was writing lyrics that were far more self-referential and dark than the psychosexual fare he’d later make. Hissing Fauna is probably still one of my favorite albums ever, but it also had an excellent, albeit depressing companion EP, named Icons, Abstract Thee. Kevin was separated from his wife Nina when he made Icons, and the loneliness he was feeling at the time was reflected in about as on-the-nose fashion as I could imagine, even if the instrumentation wasn’t. He paired dark (read: almost a little too ‘emo’) lyrics with happy, pop-infused bouncy beats before, but in No Conclusion, it’s Kevin who’s looking directly into the mirror. He refers to himself in the first person when he self-directly begs, after wondering whether he should “destroy himself,” that
This darkness is just a suggestion,
Oh, don’t worry Kevin
He even closes the song, which would’ve fit beautifully onto Hissing Fauna if he’d have just changed references to Kevin Barnes to being to his alter ego Georgie Fruit, by repeating, over and over, that,
I never ever wanted to write this song,
I always thought things would change somehow,
And we would start getting along,
But it’s hopeless,
After Icons, Kevin and Nina reconciled and presumably got all freaky, since of Montreal would end up going in quite the perverted direction and never look back. And to think that she once “painted his prison.” That’s love, right? Sure?
By the way, it’s nuts to think that Hissing Fauna and Icons are only 5 years old. It feels like it’s been much longer, but that probably speaks more to how quickly of Montreal come out with new records (pretty much annually) than anything else. The band’s changed a ton since then.
Some years ago at Siren Fest, The Village Voice’s Coney Island-set free, all-day outdoor music fesival, I saw Broken Social Scene perform a great set which they closed with It’s All Gonna Break, their nearly 10-minute closer to their self-titled, 2005 album. They cleaned up some of the harsher early lyrics, but otherwise, as the kids say these days, “killed it.” It’s a bona fide rock anthem throughout, though not without its slower bits after the first couple of minutes. Once the original spark of energy dies down, the song ebbs and flows with alternating quieter portions and grand, large-sounding, horn-filled peaks (check out the 4:15 mark) that end a very good album in great fashion.
I’ll be frank. Impossible Soul by Sufjan Stevens blows my mind in all it’s whopping 25-minute glory. This ballad-cum-rallying cry opens with lines such as,
And all I couldn’t sing, I would say it all my life to you, if I could get you at all,
Before it drops down to whisper levels. From there, the build is slow (very slow) to its turning point at the 13:00 mark, where Sufjan (and a backing chorus) implore us all to, I’m guessing, make the most of a long life, because “it’s not so impossible!” I could listen to this particular part of this particular song all day, and not get sick of it. It’s hard not to get sucked in when Sufjan and friends cry out, together,
One two three four!
It’s a long life,
Better pinch yourself,
Put your face together,
Better get it right
Boy we can do much more together!
Better get a life, get a life, get a life, get a life,
And even this portion builds and builds until, again, horns join the fun. Me and horns again.
I’ve been wanting to post this song for a long while but couldn’t figure out when the hell it would ever make sense (pinning it at the end of a regular playlist would make that list last far too long). This list, of only 4 longer songs, finally gave me the excuse I needed. I love every damn second of this song. It’s a little nuts, really.
Enjoy, you hepcats.