Tuesday, November 6, 2007

A Sentimental Sinister Music

So I got (as a present, which was tremendous) a cd of the Psychedelic Furs. I had two Psychedelic Furs cds back in high school and listened to them over and over again, and then sometime in college I decided I needed to be cooler in my musical tastes (and I liked the Psychedelic Furs to much to think they were cool, plus nobody else I knew was really listening to them) and so I sold them at Amoeba for a Willie Nelson cd, and have regretted it ever since, although it is hard to regret anything that brings more Willie Nelson into your life.

A quick note about my musical life: I would get super-obsessed with particular bands and cds, and I would listen to the cds over and over again, but this almost never translated into buying more albums or learning more about the band, it just involved complete memorization of and devotion to those songs.

And what I loved about the Psychedelic Furs is that it was mostly sad music, at least according to my 17 year old standards ("and it feels like love, but it don't mean a lot" or whatever -- listen to the lyrics of Pretty in Pink sometime), but it had this sweeping love song feel to it -- it was a valorization, a romanticization, of the failures and boundaries of love and human existence.

Other examples of this feeling: the entire oeuvre of The Fire Inside by Bob Seger, Sleeping With The Television on by Billy Joel, Perfect Skin by Lloyd Cole.

I kind of want to argue that this was a more prevalent mood in the songs of my youth, but then I remembered that I don't know anything about current pop, so I could be totally wrong. Also, it's not like those things actually came out when I was young.

What I do feel is that we're instructed sometimes that only successful, meaningful things should be celebrated, should give rise to sweeping, romantic sounding songs. And there's something about songs that celebrate the weakness of human capabilities for love and affection, but celebrate them in a sweeping romantic way. Not a dry little ditty, but you know, a synthesizer fest. Where it could come on the radio and it takes you a couple minutes and some sustained attention to realize that it's not just a love song.

Because these aren't songs about rejected lovers, which there are lots of. There's the Cure for that. These are songs about not-quite lovers, about the ridiculousness of the search for love. But they make it sound noble, worthy on its own terms. It felt kind of dangerous when I listened to it at 17, and I guess it still kind of does. Deliberate sentimentality in celebration of triviality -- it's a mood that I would like to be able to sustain.

1 comment:

The Secretary said...

The photo is great and would make a very fine album cover. Or name for a band.

Happy Birthday today.