Dead Flowers

Well when you're sittin back, in your rose pink Cadillac Making bets on Kentucky Derby Day, I'll be in my basement room, with a needle and a spoon. And another girl to take my pain away -Jagger/Richards

Thursday, September 29, 2005

final day in this session

Thom Yorke's original post:
everybodys wasted. expended i mean. energy wise i mean.
all in need of bowl of coco pops.
colins i s playing sleaz bass on mornin' mi lord..
its sounds very heavy. err phat. a freight train...
'the speakers ar e cracking'ths is the last day of the session.. we start again in a couple of weeks
good, i need to get away,
six days straight from 11 till late is enough for an old man like me.
need energy!
i dont know. what do people write in blogs normally?
i could write about how im finding it difficult to finish lyrics.
that there are giant waves of self doubt crashing over me and if i could allieviate this with a simple pill ...i think i would

although it is a necessary part of the procedure. but that would be dull wouldnt it?

i could write about watching V festival.. how i thought Dizzee Rascal stole it..

or ponder the imminent energy crises that awaits us even before our governments get their arse in gear over climate change.

or how amazing the sky is outside with the moon hiding behind fast moving clouds and the bats swooping close to your head.

which? hmm

i have absolutely no idea what i am talking about

Radiohead Start Recording

Radiohead-heads out there can start to rejoice: Guitarist Jonny Greenwood wrote a message on the band's website telling fans that Radiohead is back in the studio, recording a follow up to 2003's Hail to the Thief. Enigmatic as always, Greenwood only makes a quick nod to Radiohead's recording duties with the opening line, "We're back in the studio and all is well." He then proceeds to write several paragraphs about blue rat shit and dub reggae. The preceding post (on the website) by Thom Yorke is even more baffling, "I could write about watching V festival," York writes, "or how amazing the sky is outside with the moon hiding behind fast moving clouds and the bats swooping close to your head." Thom then closes his post saying, "I have no idea what I'm talking about." Neither do I.

Thursday, September 22, 2005


One event which signaled the end of the nineties, was the dissolution of the Smashing Pumpkins. With the Pumpkins gone, one of the most interesting, original and prolific phase in music was well and truly over. Now, as we gradually digest and drift away from the nineties, music aficionados have started to form two very distinct groups (at least among my friends). The Modernists and The Traditionalists (sounds arty, doesn't it). The former swear by the nineties and the latter (more vocal and dismissive) cannot take anything but the sixties!

For someone like me, who respects the Stones or the Beatles or Dylan as much as Radiohead or Blur or Jeff Buckley or Nirvana, this polarisation (or rivalry) seems a bit exaggerated and unnecessary.

It is a given that the sixties was the decade when rock music was invented and pioneered. Guitar distortions by the likes of Hendrix and Clapton or decadence of the Rolling Stones or the sheer popularity of the Fab Four, sixties was the epitome. Everything that could be done in the realms of rock n roll was done and perfected. But all this does not render the nineties irrelevant (or less relevant), as some people argue. From my point of view (and many would agree), the music that came out during the first half of the last decade was as original as anything. Whether it was the grunge rock of bands like Pearl Jam or Soundgarden, art - pop of Brit bands like The Stone Roses or Suede or something truly alternative as the Smashing Pumpkins or the Jesus and Mary Chain, they all were genre-smashing.

It's been only five years. Let us wait for a while, let the music age and see how it becomes immortal (remember The Velvet Underground).

My point of view might appear to be biased in favour of the nineties. I reiterate, that is not the case. It is just that nineties have been dismissed very early. Give those guys a break. Give them a decade, at least.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Dave Grohl: Escaping a Legacy

When Kurt Cobain blew his famously depressed and heroin filled brains out, he left behind a huge musical legacy for his two surviving band members to carry. A legacy which would be a prison for any independent musician. It's sheer size could easily bog down any musical endeavour. But Dave Grohl is no ordinary musician. He not only managed to emancipate himself, he did it in style. He formed The Foo Fighters.

In 2005, with the release of In Your Honour, their fifth album, Foo Fighters completed a decade of existence. Ten years of creating some really original and outstanding music. Formation of Foo Fighters was in no way an attempt by Grohl to exorcise Cobains ghost. As a matter of fact, Cobain still remains a big influence on Grohl's life and music. Frequent references of Cobain in Foo Fighter's songs is an evidence of this fact. It is also an acknowledgement.

Foo Fighters was an attempt by Grohl to step out of Cobain's shadow. To have his own musical space and freedom. Freedom so richly deserved.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Karma Police

With the demise of the original MTV and Channel V in the late '90s, quality western music and videos had all but vanished from our television screens. The first half of the new millennium was dominated by cheap remixed versions of Bollywood songs from the '60s, '70s and '80s. The two aforementioned music channels had junked English music in favour of recycled Bollywood trash. Needless to say, the trash was in big demand. But with the availability of VH1, one can now escape this anarchy of skin and incessant beats.

It was during the first half of the '90s (early teens) that I seriously started to dig rock music. Grunge and Brit rock band were making waves the world over. Music was once again an art form, reminiscent of the '60s. MTV was an out and out English music channel. Music videos of bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Suede, etc were not just videos. They were work of art.

I was witness to that magic once again yesterday. As I was surfing channels I chanced upon the video of "Karma Police" by Radiohead on VH1. It must have been years since I had last seen it. The video shows a man running on a dark road. A car with its headlight on is chasing this man. Throughout the video the car chases the man, while the man, in the process of running, gains weight, grows older and slows down. At the time of its release, I was just not able to fathom what the video was all about. The lyrics were equally abstract.

I wanted to find out what the video was all about. It was sheer poetry in motion. Sadly, there were no clear answers. It was left to the viewers' interpretation. The closest I could get was this:

The car represents a corporation (large, faceless entity), and the guy running is an employee. He is older, gaining weight, and his life's baggage slows him down. The car chasing him represents the corporation seeking continuous results from him. When he stumbles and falls and the car backs up, this represents the corporation mulling over firing him (in this case, running him over). The gas puddle is a weakness in the corporation that he exploits to bring it down!

An experience, both musically and intellectually satisfying.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

The Velvet Underground

The Velvet Underground. Is there a better rock band than The Velvets? There are a few who are as good , but definitely not better. Certainly not from my point of view. The band, to some extent, has attained a mythical status. And there are reasons. The Velvet Underground were reviled and ignored during their lifetime (1965-70), by critics and public alike. That same band and that same music was later hailed as one of the most influential in the history of rock music! Therefore, this blog is going to revolve around their music (and of many others), lyrics and who they were. It is just a modest endeavour to remedy the warped definition of rock music a majority of rock listerners have conceived about the genre in this country.

The songs on the band's four proper LPs are ageless, timeless, and flawless. From the first album with Nico (Andy Warhol's famous banana cover), to White Light/White Heat, to the self titled third record, and to the last studio record, Loaded, the band covered a wide range of musical and emotional states. From dark pop to freaky drug inspired noise wails.

In the sixties, Velvets made the kind of music which was totally disconnected from that generation's state of mind. This was precisely the reason why they never sold records during their lifetime. The realism in their New York sound (their hometown) was muffled by the peace and psychedelia found in the sound of other bands like The Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane. It was the Woodstock generation, remember.

The band has been referenced, covered and revered countless times, and still it is not enough. The world could always be doing with more Velvet credence. (Cue the music to "As Time Goes By" here...) And the band just keeps sounding better and better. Check back in another hundred years to see if any of these songs are dated, and turn up "Run Run Run" real loud and enjoy.

P S: My favourite Velvet song? This would be a blasphemy. But if push comes to shove - "Sister Ray" from White Light/White Heat. For many it is just noise, but for me it is 17 minutes of guitar screaming in ecstasy.

The Velvet Underground, Heroin and New York City

Here is something I found on that Velvet song - Heroin

"Heroin" is the most controversial and most often misunderstood song in the Velvet Underground catalog. Far from glorifying the use of drugs, "Heroin" is the internal monologue of a junky, exploring the psychology of personal destruction and drug abuse. In Lou Reed's horrifying vision, using heroin is really an attempt at a kind of perverse salvation, a relief or escape through death. "I have made a big decision", sings Reed over a slow, elegiac guitar and viola line, "I'm gonna try to nullify my life". Over a thumping, driving beat paralleling the pounding heart of a junky on his heroin high, Reed conceives the nullification of his life in terms of escaping from the city, singing:

Away from the big city
Where a man cannot be free
Of all the evils of this town
And of himself and those around
And I guess that I just don't know
And I guess that I just don't know

The narrator erroneously believes that drugs will liberate him from the strict confines of the city and the hordes of people surrounding him. As the song builds, the droning, electric viola becomes more harsh and dissonant as the beat gets louder and louder and Reed's visions of New York become more and more nightmarish:

Because when the smack begins to flow
I really don't care any more
About all the Jim-Jims in this town
And all the politicians making crazy sounds
And everybody putting everybody else down
And all the dead bodies piled up in mounds

The vital point about "Heroin", however, is that the song is not about drugs but rather about the natural desire to escape from all the pain and uncertainty of life. The site for this trial, this grand test of endurance and fortitude, is the street, is New York City. More importantly, Reed, the song's lyricist, paradoxically sings a long, elaborate, eloquent song about how much he doesn't care. The quest in "Heroin" may be literally away from the city, but in spirit is more towards a full sense of self and identity. Lou Reed never left New York City -- the grand spiritual quest must be played out on its streets, not on some imaginary "great big clipper ship" or in some fanciful, nonexistent land. In Lou Reed's imagination, New York City is the place -- the stakes are high and only the tough can make it. In the words of Frank Sinatra, "If you can make it there...."

The Velvet Underground's entire first album brims with images of the city, positing it as a rough, unforgiving place, as a site of experimentation and perseverance. "Run Run Run", a chugging, rumbling guitar track, operates in much the same way as "Sister Ray" -- it presents a cast of New York characters trying to make it on the streets. The key difference, however, is that "Run Run Run" steeps the degenerate street life in religious imagery of sin and salvation:

Teenage Mary said to Uncle Dave
I sold my soul, must be saved
Gonna take a walk down Union Square
You never know who you gonna find there

While a Guliani-era New Yorker may find it hard to believe, in Reed's time, walking down to Union Square was a dangerous, and hence exhilarating, activity. The sense of the unknown, the mysterious, the unpredictable, factors into Reed's conception of the city as the place where things happen, where Teenage Mary's soul can be saved. "Run, Run, Run" tells the tale of another salvation seeker as well, Beardless Harry:

Beardless Harry, what a waste
Couldn't even get a small-town taste
Rode the trolleys, down to Forty-Seven
Figured if he was good, he'd get himself to heaven

Again, New York, and not the "small-town", is where the down and out can strike it big. Whether or not this is true in reality is of no importance -- in his creative imagination, Reed envisioned the streets of the city of the place where such redemption is at least possible.