Fury Road

The new Mad Max: Fury Road trailer just came out, although the movie doesn’t come out till next year.  I’ll miss Mel Gibson, but Thomas Hardy is a fantastic actor.  He is someone that can completely transform himself depending on the role.  His turn in Bronson is one of my favorite pieces of acting in recent years.  Watch him in that and the see if you can find a clip of him in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and you’ll see what I mean.  (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, although it featured some great acting, is not really worth watching in total.)  The new Mad Max film is also directed by George Miller, who directed the first two, and best, of the original Mad Max Trilogy.  

One of my favorite action movies is The Road Warrior.  It is totally batshit insane.  The sheer forward momentum of the storytelling is impressive.  It is completely relentless and completely entertaining.    It is full of unforgettable imagery and it is escapist cinema at its absolute best.  I am looking forward to the new film and the trailer makes me hopeful that Miller hasn’t lost his edge.  

Bronson (Who’s Mad Now?)

You can keep
Your peasant wages
Your false idols
Your dogs on the bridges

 I’ve already been to jail
And I’m not afraid of hell
Money don’t mean nothing to me
I sleep without it quite well

 Who’s mad now?

I don’t need your morals
And I don’t need you laws now
They’re just another way
To keep the poor down

 I’ve already been to jail
And I’m not afraid of hell
Money don’t mean nothing to me
I sleep without it quite well

 Who’s mad now?

Gonna carve myself in marble
Describe myself in verse
I’ll be here long after
You have done your worst

Who’s mad now?

When we were kids and first discovering the wonders of booze, we used to talk about how something was a good pool shooting song.  I don’t know exactly what we were on about.  We never shot that much pool.  Nor did this description necessarily mean that something was a good song in the sense that a critic would say something is good.  I think that we meant it had a certain swagger and  a good Friday night attitude to it.  It meant something was a good song for drinking beer, smoking cigarettes, and possibly getting into a scuffle.

On our new album, A Manual for Defeat, Bronson (Who’s Mad Now?) is our pool shooting song.  I wouldn’t probably even put it in the top five songs on the record, but every time that I hear it I find myself with a prideful smile.  And yes, I know pride cometh before the fall.  It’s got a Thin Lizzy shuffle which never hurts anything.  However, the real musical magic in the song is my Brother Ben’s exuberant guitar playing, which I can champion till the cows come home as I did not play it.

The lyrics are in part a tribute to Nicholas Winding Refn’s film Bronson, hence the title.  Refn is one of our favorite directors.  If you are a film fan and can stomach the violent and the strange, then you will certainly enjoy his films.  He is one of those rare directors that have an eye for visual poetry.

In the movie, which is loosely based on a real person by the same name, the title character gets a short prison sentence only to become Britain’s most feared prisoner because of his violent behavior during his time in the clink.  Even though he was only supposed to serve several months, other than a brief release, he ends up spending his life there.  Without hopefully spoiling the ending, at some point he begins to view his life as a living work of art. Nicholas Winding Refn paints his own portrait of the real Bronson, and we are taking it a step further drawing up our own version of the character.

The lyrics are simple and are some of the least poetic on the record.  Much like Morrissey’s You are the Quarry album, where the Mozzer ditches his typically poetic approach for something more direct, for a moment I wanted to dispense with any wordplay and say something in plain language.  I also always liked that Monty Python tackled the big three cornerstones of Western culture; as they addressed bureaucracy (jail), religion (hell), and economic issues (money), through comedy.  I suppose they were on the mind as well.

Anyway, as a writer I would be lying if I said that this song is at the top of my list for exemplary writing.  But hopefully some Friday night I can convince you to drink a beer to it.  It will all come together then.

Roads Still Yet to be Traveled

I’ve really become interested in electronic music lately.  Some bands that I’ve been listening to lately have been Kraftwerk, Daft Punk, OMD, and Book of Love.  I also love the Knife, though their music fits less moods than the others, as they are more abrasive and confrontational.  I also love the music on Johnny Jewel’s label, especially the band The Chromatics.  I’ve always loved synth pop.  I grew up on bands like New Order.

I’m interested in the idea of people getting emotion out of technology.  Also some of the best pop songs are in this genre.  Bernard Sumner from New Order can write endless melodies that never leave your head.

Although I grew up with bands like New Order, Electronic, and Depeche Mode, some of my current interest has been driven by the films of Nicolas Winding Refn.  He uses this music to great effect in films like Drive, Bronson, and Only God Forgives.  He understands that although this music is very synthetic on one hand, it is also capable of great emotion.

If country and folk music, which I also love, evoke pastoral settings, electronic music reminds me of the city at nighttime.  That’s not to say that electronic music can’t also be pastoral.  Brian Eno’s 70’s album Another Green World is an album that brings nature to mind more often than not.  Kraftwerk’s Autobahn album also has moments like this.  Although I love songs that have a message and am a fan of great lyrics, sometimes music is wonderful when it just creates space for dreams.

Haruki Murakami’s book After Dark creates a surreal dream like version of the city at night.  When I read things like this I often picture certain pieces by Kraftwerk and the Chromatics as being the perfect soundtrack to these worlds.

I grew up as a fan of the pop song.  More recently I’ve begun to be as interested in music that is non verbal.  Music that is non verbal has to create emotion and thought through pure sound.  This can be music that is instrumental or music that has the vocals obscured through production techniques.  Non verbal to me can even be bands that sing in foreign languages, where I can’t understand what they are saying, and the voice becomes just another emotional texture.  Often in electronic music, especially as you see with bands like Daft Punk and Kraftwerk, only a few simple phrases will be repeated throughout a song.  Even though you understand what they are saying it is open to interpretation when combined with the music.  The words become almost just another sound that feeds into the music and vice versa.

Although I write in the pop song format, and it’s still my favorite format, there is something to be said about music that is non verbal.  The human imagination is a powerful thing.  In the place of words we will often find that our dreams take over and place meaning into things that may or may not be intended by the artist.

I’ve mentioned before how David Lynch liked using grainy digital video for the movie Inland Empire, because he wanted the human imagination to fill in the space that the imperfect images left.  I think a lot of electronic music, the kind that is non verbal or almost non verbal, does this same thing.  It allows for interpretation and dreaming on the part of the listener.

Well there are many forms of instrumental music, many of which I love, the sounds created by electronic instruments create a different headspace.  Again it is often, but not always, more urban and futuristic.  Some bands like OMD, who write pop songs and instrumental pieces, create a retro futurism.  It’s like the sonic version of a film noir that takes place in the past and the future at the same time.  One of my favorite albums right now is their album Dazzle Ships.  It is an album full of mystery, ideas, and dreams.

Too often I think people let cultural or tribal things get in the way of exploring new worlds.  People are more open now to new musical experiences than ever before.  Sometimes though, there still exists a certain tribal instinct that gets in the way of people enjoying different forms, based solely on what they might find “cool” or acceptable in their group.   The human imagination can go anywhere and should be given as much room to roam as possible.  Don’t listen to anything but your own gut.  There are many roads still yet to be traveled.