This will be the first time I post something for the Joup Friday Album that I am not intimately familiar with. And yet, Damn the Torpedoes, especially the singles, has surrounded me to greater and lesser degrees for as long as I can remember. Refugee in particular I have memories of as a child; a wee lad of three of four, cuddled up at night with the powder blue AM/FM transistor radio that I always insisted on taking to bed with me. Refugee‘s sound made an impact on me – although obviously molded from what we now think of as traditional rock and roll influences Tom Petty and his band did things a little bit differently and really, in some ways helped guys like Elvis Costello and U2 update the popular rock music charts with elements other than tried-and-true 50’s style rock. Released in 1979, Damn the Torpedoes has obviously influenced a lot of what came immediately after it, so again, it’s always been slightly familiar to me. But intimate? No; Petty’s catalogue was always music I took for granted, was never something I sought out and consumed 100%. That changed recently, and when it did, I found that his late 70’s/early 80’s work still sounded fresh as hell to me, even through the wonderfully nostalgic and very much “of-its-time” 80s recording stamp it wears so well.
Ladies and Gentlemen, although tagged by Tommy last week I, Shawn C. Baker will not be presenting this week’s Joup Friday album to you. Instead, I am using my turn to introduce the newest member of our rotation, the lovely, the talented Sara Farr!!!
My relationship with U2 began about the time that “The Joshua Tree” came out. It was the first time that an album seemed to resonate with my life, and I even remember calling the radio station in Fort Wayne, Ind., to request “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” when the boy I had a crush on moved away to a different town without saying goodbye. (In my defense; I was a very emotional 12-year-old living in a very rural Ohio town.)
A swirl of plunked synthesizer keys and distorted computer noises ooze and crash like cold, slowly moving tectonic plates, glaciers pushing against each other until the ice begins to crack, immovable giants locked in eternal conflict. Cold electronics. Icy beats. And a low and warm voice comes into play, slightly askew, slightly warbled, a protoplasmic element to warm this cold and frost laden mix. “Volcanoes (Slow Fade)” opens up the Eugene EP, the latest record from Brooklyn composer, producer, multi-instrumentalist, and electronic artist goste, and it sets the tone for what’s to come, a blending of the synthetic and the organic, a subtle and flowing mix of hot and cold sounds…digital folk…computerized Americana.
Covers are fun. There is something almost magical about listening to someone reinterpret another artist’s blood, sweat, and tears. What did that person get from the song that I didn’t? How will that person tweak and change things to make it his or her own? Will they be reverential of the source material, or breakdown and reassemble the work to make something entirely new? Will I like the covered version better than the original? Or will I feel that some songs are sacred and not to be trifled with? It doesn’t really matter. A good cover can be a fascinating artifact of pop culture, either as a reflection of the times or as something deeply personal to the cover artist. It’s also a wonderful signifier of how transcendent music can be, and how it touches our lives. In a way, it’s just passing down art, and stories, and dreams to the coming generations, a way to live forever. All music and art eventually become part of the cultural zeitgeist, part of the collective ether. It’s a way to communicate with our long lost elders, a bridge to the past, a tie to everything that came before.
For almost nine years I have told people in Los Angeles that the fabled LA traffic nightmare everyone considers so dire is actually nothing compared to Chicago traffic. I’ve clung to this statement, scoffing at traffic here in LALA land. For Five of those years it was easy – my daily commute rarely took me on more than about a three mile stint of the 110 Harbor Freeway, all down near its end, where the freeway becomes Gaffey St. Then, in the back half of 2011 I switched jobs and began a three year and counting relationship with the 405 Freeway. Still I clung to the idea that it wasn’t that bad – certainly not as maddening as commuting during rush hour in Chicago. I start work super early in the morning so my morning commute is usually fairly easy, and I get off at 2:30 in the afternoon, so again, for the first two years of this commute I didn’t deal with anything all that bad. Then, about a year ago the commute became noticeably, exponentially worse. 2:30 PM on a Monday or Tuesday usually still isn’t that bad, but Thursday? Friday?