Lately I’ve taken to naming an Artist of the Quarter, where I assign myself to dive deeply into one artist’s catalog over the course of three months. The first was Pink Floyd, and the second is The Fall.
To my mind the early Fall is hit and miss, with bold experiments in barbed pop sitting side-by-side with perplexing nonmusic. But they hit a real groove in the mid-80s, around the time Mark E. Smith’s wife Brix joined the band. The mid-to-late 80s Fall were tight as a belt on Thanksgiving, stunningly prolific, and perfectly balanced between accessibility and provocation.
The first Fall album I bought, 1988’s The Frenz Experiment, is still my favorite. All the songs are great, but something about this one stands out; only The Fall would match a riff clearly and shamelessly lifted from a Spinal Tap song (“Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You Tonight”) with a disturbing story about an East German athlete and his unfortunate brother, who “patriotically volunteer[s] to be sent on a labor beautification course of the countryside northwest of Dresden.”
In looking back over the history of Winter Solstice entries on this site, I was surprised that I had never actually posted this song, adapted by Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd from the Wilhelm/Baynes translation of the I Ching. It originally appeared on the Floyd’s debut album The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, which just turned 50. Still sounds pretty good to me, and whoever put this video together did a nice job:
Listening to a cassette tape of one of my old radio shows, circa 1987, I ran across this grimly humorous recording of William S. Burroughs from the Giorno Poetry Systems album Better an Old Demon than a New God. It seems chillingly relevant in today’s climate; see if you don’t agree…
I didn’t really intend to be posting this on Inauguration Day; I meant to have it done earlier. But I had to wait until January 1 to make sure no one else was going to die, and then it took a while to get things together. But now it seems entirely appropriate to say one last goodbye to the departed of 2016 as we say goodbye to a pre-President Von Clownstick world and inaugurate four years of…um…interesting times.
“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro,” said Dr. Thompson. I guess it’s time.
Today is the Winter Solstice, an important day in the calendar, when darkness culminates and the return of light begins.
The darkness has seemed particularly dark this year, so the end of this cycle is welcome. But before moving on I felt like taking a minute (or an hour) to wallow in it. Darkness, after all, is overcome by confronting it, not by avoiding it; in the I Ching, the “young light” emerges only after “darkness is increased by one.”
But of course, being who I am, I couldn’t resist adding some uplift at the end. It may take a while to arrive, but hold on, it’s coming. I recommend listening at dusk with a cocktail in hand, as I am doing at this very moment.