Friday, January 9, 2009

Thoughtless kind.

[this is not next time]

If you grow

The best things in John Cale's catalogue do not get the most releases or the most exposure. Or the best recordings, even.

If you grow tired

They might not cry out for attention. They might be buried under an avalanche of noise and aggressively push the listener away. They might be slathered underneath snickering and tape clicks and random keyboard twinkling. You might not realize for quite some time that those versions might be the best ones, the ones that most fully realize the possibilities of the song.

If you grow tired of the friends you make

You might start out with a live version (on Fragments of a Rainy Season, mostly). You might crave a hearing of another version, before being hit with the awful reality of the studio recording. In case you mean to say something else.

Other versions you find might get overly mannered and fussy, and lose some of the soul. It's hard to put your finger on it, but there's just something off. Maybe it's just an unreflective night for the artist. Say they were the best of times you ever had. The best of times with the thoughtless kind.


Or they might be sloppy and aggressively goony and full of drunken foolishness, and after the initial shock you might be surprised at how well they hit the mark. We dress conservatively at the best of times, prefer the shadows to the bright lights in the eyes of the ones we love.


Or they might hit the right balance of feelings: sentimentality and contempt. Nostalgia and nausea. Remembrances of past glory and the bitterness of irremediable mistakes. What we see, what we imagine. The eyes tell us nothing. The bright lights in the eyes of the ones we love will tell us nothing like the scars of imagination.


But when you get down to it, a song is more a possibility space than a specific set of words and chords (I mean, it's just G C Am D - not so far different from "Good Riddance" ferchrissakes in music or topic or live execution). It's the space defined by the way it sounds and the life experiences of the artist and the words and your own life experiences and the best and worst and most extreme performances of it, and the volume of that space depends greatly on the individual experiencing it.

And yet there are more of us who value, even treasure, those possibility space, than there are people to create them. Maybe this feeling of shared understanding or experience is an illusion, but it's one I wouldn't give up for anything.

The bright lights in the eyes of the ones you love will tell us nothing except we're the thoughtless kind. So if you grow tired of the friends you make, never, never turn your back on them. Say they were the best of times you ever had. The best of times were the thoughtless kind. The very best of times with the thoughtless kind.

1 comment:

Matt said...

My favorite Cale song of all time, bar none -- and that's including VU, bootlegs, classical, and drone works. Only John Cale could have written this song, and that's about as good a compliment as I can give.