“If the whole human race lay in one grave, the epitaph on its headstone might well be: ‘It seemed like a good idea at the time.'” – British author, journalist, literary critic, and travel writer Dame Rebecca West
I’d been sitting on the significance of Lampshades on Fire by Modest Mouse for some time. Encountering West’s quote tipped this write up.
“One of my biggest wishes is that we could figure out a way to live with the natural world instead of on top of it.”
– Songwriter Isaac Brock in the audio commentary on the Modest Mouse song Coyotes from their album Strangers to Ourselves.
I share his wish to realign people and nature.
Here: a personal go at his artful articulation of the issue.
Music has once again restored my faith in humanity, which happens on occasion. The right recording at the right place at the right time can provide transcendence from the moment, from the ills, from the weights.
Beautiful, heterogeneous, smart, messy, multi-layered, demanding, colorful, complex. I could go on.
These are things that I found a couple afternoons back in an album crafted by a collective of more than a dozen humans.
They’re also things I enjoy and appreciate in my life, in my family and in my friends.
Rightfully, the title of the album is “You Forgot It In People.”
A few weeks ago, I was wandering around YouTube and came across a fantastic cover of a fantastic song.
A responsible approach to a cover involves a deconstruction of the song to identify its elements and its essence, to truly understand it. The cover itself is its reconstruction in a new form reflecting the covering artist’s perception of its elements and essence.
In this process, a song can be liberated from the conceptual bounds of the original writing and performance, including its original time and place. New life and style are invested into and hung upon the song-as-framework.
Back to the story: the song is “Ceremony,” written by Joy Division but perhaps more associated with New Order. It’s really the best New Order ever sounded – clean, post-punk, four piece, no keys. Radiohead absolutely pulls out all the strengths of the songs with their extremely respectful treatment.
If you’re not familiar with the relationship between Joy Division and New Order, a quick summary: Joy Division’s 23-year-old front man Ian Curtis commits suicide on the eve of the rising band’s first US tour. All original members, including Curtis, agreed to rename the band if any member ever left, so the three remaining members carry on as “New Order.” More history here.
The Radiohead cover inspired this post, which includes the cover, a live performance from 1981, a Joy Division recording (extremely low vocals), and the song set to film shot on Super 8mm 20 years ago.
First, the cover:
Second, a live performance from the Ukranian National Home in New York City from November 1981 (their 11th US show, a year and a half after Curtis’ suicide):
Third, a Joy Division recording of the song set to historical photos:
Finally, a fine tribute from Super 8mm film – beautiful color and architecture:
In general, I don’t much care about a song’s lyrics. In addition, I find most vocals mixed too far in front on most non-instrumental recordings. Regardless, here are the lyrics written by Ian Curtis:
This is why events unnerve me,
Define it all, a different story,
Notice whom for wheels are turning,
Turn again and turn towards this time,
All she ask’s the strength to hold me,
Then again the same old story,
Word will travel, oh so quickly,
Travel first and lean towards this time.
Oh, I’ll break them down, no mercy shown,
Heaven knows, it’s got to be this time,
What she heard, these things she said,
The times she cried,
Too frail to wake this time.
I break them down, no mercy shown,
Heaven knows, it’s got to be this time,
Avenues all lined with trees,
Picture me and then you start watching,
Watching forever, forever,
Watching love grow, forever,
Letting me know, forever.
Thank you, internet, for connecting me with all this material and allowing me to share it so easily.