Darkly angelic siren

Everything with me must be grave, emotionally burdensome, cathartic, immobilizing. I’m a serious guy. Always have been, to a fault. Levity is not my strength. If I attempt it, my act crumbles. In my mind, all art forms must be disconcerting and mortifying if I am to respect them. This is the reason I dislike most bubble gum pop crap. Music must rattle me. It must strike a chord deep in my soul. If music is insincere or formulaic, I want nothing to do with it. I will not waste my time on music like this. This essentially covers most modern pop music. Music is not a form of enjoyment. Not for me. Music must devour me from the inside out. Music must have something to say and say it well. I don’t care about the message per se, but I do care about the motives the artist had for recording the song. I believe there are some great love songs because the artists sing about love from a pit of perception that the typical crappy American Idolized puppet rehashing the same old song over and over can never relate to. I respect music that comes from the heart, music that is flagrantly unconcerned with profit or market share. I don’t like music that says nothing. I want music to be a grueling experience. Or why even bother listening?

Even if a song’s lyrics suck, the song can redeem itself musically if it ventures boldly into technique and mechanics that are groundbreaking and wildly unique. So while I may prefer a song’s lyrics to be poetic and insightful, it’s not necessary if the musicianship dares to make a statement by virtue of its form alone.

A song that can make me cry!

I live for this. I live for musical torment. What purpose is an experience that leaves you unblemished? Life is too short to spend it dwelling in the vacuous Billboard top 40. We must experience harshness and welcome the distaste. We must weep. Music should accompany us on this mortal journey of gloom. Otherwise it does me no good.

Moby has always been one of my favorite musicians. I’m not such a fanboy of electronica or techno that I detest his legacy as some seem to do. I like his music. I enjoy his melodramatic mixes and the way he lapses into occasional profuse waves of high-energy sampled insanity. And many of his lyrics are bitingly sweet. A few years ago he teamed up with alternative vocalist, Kelli Scarr, to record his album, “Wait For Me.”

The 10th track is called “jltf.” Moby’s doomed instrumentals coalesce after the song begins into a morose procession of apprehension. The music marches toward an impending finale that Scarr’s unapproachable vocal laments narrate for us. Her voice’s timber is ensconced firmly on the frequency wavelength that directly disrupts and upsets the foolishness of your placid heart. As with all thoughtful lyricism, “jltf” has two meanings. The superficial story of junkies counting out their remaining days. There is another level to be discovered to those earnest enough to spend mental energies scrutinizing the lyrics, as I am fond of doing. A deeper, oblique symbolism can be teased out if you allow yourself to delve more deeply than is healthy. Scarr’s voice is angelic, darkly angelic. She is the siren but she is bringing the doom to you. Stand clear but listen hard.

  • ski

    I bet you’d like Soviet rockstar Viktor Tsoi and his band Kino. I think Tsoi should be considered one of the best rock songwriters of all time, but since there isn’t too much interest in Russian rock or knowledge of the language outside of Russia, most folks don’t know about him.


    English lyrics:


    On the cold earth,
    Stands a great city,
    There the streetlights shine,
    And the cars honk,
    Night hangs over the city,
    And over the night is the moon,
    And tonight’s moon is like a red drop of blood.

    My house stands and light shines.
    From the window I look outwards,
    But from whence comes this sorrow?
    And life is basically OK for me,
    And I can basically handle it,
    So from whence comes this sorrow?

    And all around there’s cause to rejoice,
    But nobody sees it.
    And all around is beauty
    But nobody sees it.
    And everyone shouts “hurrah!”
    And everyone marches forward,
    And over all this, a new day begins.

    My house stands; the light shines.
    From the window I look outwards,
    But from whence comes this sorrow?
    And life is basically OK for me,
    And I can basically handle it,
    So from whence comes this sorrow?

    This is one of my all time favorites too


    Muraveinik/The Anthill

    A new day starts,
    And the cars are buzzing around,
    And if the sun doesn’t get up late,
    Then it’s easy enough for us.
    The anthill lives.
    Someone’s broken their paw– doesn’t matter.
    He’ll live ’till the wedding,
    And if he dies… he dies.

    I don’t like it when they tell me lies,
    But I’ve also been wearied by the truth.
    I tried to find shelter–
    They say I didn’t look hard enough.
    And I don’t know what percentage of the people
    Are insane at any given moment,
    But if we’re to trust our eyes and ears:
    More than a few.

    And we could start a war,
    Against those who are against us.
    Such that those who are against those who are against us,
    Can’t win without us.
    Our future is darkness.
    Our past is part heaven, part hell.
    Our money won’t fit in our pockets.
    Now it’s morning– wake up!

    I don’t like it when they tell me lies,
    But I’ve also been wearied by the truth.
    I tried to find shelter–
    They say I didn’t look hard enough.
    And I don’t know what percentage of the people
    Are insane at any given moment,
    But if we’re to believe our own eyes:
    More than a few.

  • Amy

    I have a similar bent when it comes to music–much of my favorite stuff is dark, or angry, or heavy on the pathos, or some combination of those.

    I know what you mean about either the music or the lyrics doing it for you. It’s rare to find music that doesn’t lack something. Often the music thrills, but the lyrics are stupid. Or the lyrics are clever, funny, poignant, thought-provoking–but the music is tedious. Maybe there‚Äôs a really catchy part in the middle, but I have to wade through the boring bits to get there. Or an album has two or three good songs but I skip over the rest. It’s so rare to find an album that’s good all the way through.

    But re: grueling pathos, I think of Warren Zevon singing “My Shit’s Fucked Up” as he’s dying of cancer, Johnny Cash’s cover of “Hurt,” pretty sure he was dying at the time, and the Scots-Gaelic “Alein Duinn,” which Annie Morrison wrote for her fiance who was lost at sea, before dying herself of a broken heart. Huh, do I detect a theme? Gah, I know way too many of these sorts of songs by heart.

    • David

      Exactly! Sometimes after too much gloom, I need some mind bleach, so I click on Katrina and the Waves :)

      • WOW! Going back to high school days. Amazing that now, 80s music is. . .oldies! LOL!
        @Amy. If you want good, traditional hymns, might I suggest the Episcopal Hymnal 1940? Or even the 1982 one is good. I know that it is not totally Christian, but one of my favorites is the Battle Hymn of the Republic. Every time I hear it, which sure is not often at my church, I just get chills. Especially knowing the story behind it.

      • Amy

        Ah, I don’t listen to all mopies or raging music either. Sometimes I just want to dance.


  • WOW! Such an uplifting post on depressing music! LOL!
    Well, I don’t know. Some music can be what you say. But I don’t seek it out.
    Now I do like classical music because it is at its core a gateway to the soul. Many of the great composers wrote about God. But it is the overall. The begining. The middle. The build up. And then. . .the close.
    Oh yeah, most great martial music is classical.
    Hymns are the same way to me. Here is one of my favorites: St. Patrick’s Breastplate: http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/s/t/stpatric.htm.
    The way it is played in church, the words. It is all very moving. And we will hear and sing it in chruch this Sunday as it is Trinity Sunday.
    It is one of the things missing in modern “worship” music.
    So, longwindedly (if there is any other way!), most of what I like about music is what moves me. Totally agree about “pop ‘music'” which most is dreck.
    It is why I like metal. Come one. Iron Maiden and their lyrics, the bass, I mean they were a show, right?! And most of what is now called alternative music, has to be hard, like Rise Against. Rage Against the Machine.
    Oh, the irony is that they think they are so agitprop yet now they have their dude in the White House. Not for long.
    Anyhow, this is actually a good post because it opens up the sore that is the dark hole in your “soul”.

    • Amy

      There’s something wonderful about singing as a group, especially when you sing in parts. But all the hymns I learned as a kid–they’re Christian Science hymns, so half the words are wrong.

      Most contemporary Christian music is dreck. Except some gospel music, e.g. “Wade in the Water” or “People Get Ready,” which actually aren’t that new come to think of it. Yeah, most contemporary Christian music is dreck.