Exploring the Back Catalogue (ctd)

September 29, 2020

ANOTHER LOOK AT THE HEAD ON THE DOOR

I’m on a slightly early teabreak, owing to The Head On The Door being barely over 35 minutes long.  I’ve listened again after putting it away for six weeks, and today’s impression was a bit more favourable than my earlier impressions of this album.

Frame of mind and whether you’re giving something your complete attention are just two of the things that can change the way we respond to something – and this morning, I was in “go with the flow” mode, and I was not giving the album my total attention – I was doing some weeding, a necessary chore during spring flush even if you’re doing weed-avoidant permaculture stuff.  Of course, weeding isn’t all-bad; it yielded a couple of tubs of livestock fodder, and quite a few tubs of organic material for the compost heap – bringing carbon back to the ground and getting nutrients recycled, while making oodles of compost worms happy.

It may seem counterintuitive, but not giving something your total attention can sometimes be helpful – for instance, as a teenager I noticed that doing art while listening to music and chatting with friends resulted, in my case, in better paintings and drawings than setting myself up in complete silence – distraction can actually prevent overthinking.  Being analytical has its place, but gets in the way of free-flowing creative stuff that needs other parts of your brain to work unsupervised.

When I listen to music, sometimes I give it my full attention, and sometimes I “background” it a little more – both approaches can be useful (and fun), and they’re complementary anyway.  For outdoors chores, the iPod is my friend – music and podcasts can feed your brain while your body is working.  This morning, I had an appointment with The Head On The Door.

For this appointment, I wanted to shake things up a bit.  When you want to look at things from different angles, rather than the just go with default or autopilot – when you deliberately want to see something from a different vantage point than you have before – there’s a number of techniques available, one of which goes by the acronym of PMI – plus, minus, interesting.  That particular technique is one of a number used in classrooms to break people out of the traditional “good or bad” black-and-white default thinking that’s pretty widespread, to get more nuanced thoughts and discussion.  I consciously wanted to approach it from a different perspective today, rather than just gut reaction and/or wearing my existing neural “grooves” on this subject deeper.

I also wanted to consciously listen more like one of our other forum members told me he listens to this music:

Personally I’ve probably thought about the meaning of the lyrics less than I might have over the years. I love the music and the lyrical flow, neither of which necessitate any insight into what Mr Smith is waxing lyrical about! (I mean, I’m also a big Cocteau Twins fan, and many of their songs are sung in a made-up nonsense language!)

Quote from: MAtT on June 25, 2020, 20:31:07

So, P, M, I – and those are personal responses, rather than attempts at objective evaluation – and they may grow with time as I add things on…


In Between Days

Pluses for me include that it’s catchy without being annoying.  This is musically charming stuff, just like this piece (from a totally different genre):

:lol: C’mon, tell me you don’t love it, even if in some deep dark hidden cavern in your brain!  Tell me you could listen to this all the way through and not smile!

Both tracks are distinctly impish feel-good music.   Shall we look at the science of the attributes of music that make it charming, funny, happy, upbeat etc, as opposed to melancholy, or wrist-slitting, etc etc?  There’s a lot of it documented already – effects of various rhythms, keys, tones, etc and worth going down some rabbit holes for, if you ever feel like falling into the Internet because you’re otherwise flat.  :angel

Minuses for me, for In Between Days, are that I periodically get annoyed about its lyrics.

Interesting for me, the composition of it, and that like a lot of music, it reminds me very much of the place I first heard it – which was my end-of-middle-school end-of-year camp, back in 1985, where it compared rather favourably with other music then on offer.

Interesting about the title – it has appeared “officially” in different spellings.  In Between Days, In-Between Days etc.  So – is this about being in-between days (for instance, when you’re supposed to be sleeping), of about “in-between” days as in, days with nothing much happening book-ended by days with exciting stuff happening?  Other alternatives exist, of course.  With my evil hat on, I’d be spinning this tune to panty liner manufacturers, of course… ewwww…  :angel  (…sorry – but I’ve never forgotten the horoscope in the Prosh paper that said, for Libra, “You’re not a star sign, you’re a tampon, you fool.”)


Kyoto Song

Pluses here for me include the “world music” elements (which is also something I really like about my favourite tracks from KMKMKM, The Top etc), and that there’s a puzzle in this song.

It would be a minus if this puzzle didn’t come together for me somehow – if it’s just an illusion.  That would feel like having a mirage instead of ice-cream.  I do personally find it a minus that this track sounds distinctly 80s, even though it’s quite “alternative”…  Oh yeah, and I really don’t like people going “you-hoo-hoo”… :1f635:

Interesting, again, the way this comes together.  (My main problem with PMI, by the way, is that P almost always has huge overlap with I, because to me anything interesting is also a plus…)

Before I go to the next song, just to get back to “you-hoo-hoo” and what it does to me, I think this clip sums up this very well, and lots of other pet hates I have about popular music.  Enjoy.  :angel :evil:


The Vlood :-D  (…was this written in Vloodivostok?)

Pluses:  The acoustic intro, the very Spanish guitar bit; the song moves along…

Minuses: :1f636: When I look at the lyrics up close after all this, will I find anything sensible?  I’m getting cognitive dissonance already…

Interesting: It’ll be interesting if I can get past that cognitive dissonance! :P


Six Different Ways

Pluses: I kind of like the rhythm, and the elven sounds made by things that sound like indigenous instruments, pipes, xylophones, glockenspiel etc.

Minuses:  See The Vlood

Interesting:  The keyboard parts at the very beginning for some reason reminded me of a Joe Cocker song, which I can’t recall much else of, and I’m not a Joe Cocker fan, just got him played at me a lot by radio stations…


Push

Pluses:  To me, one of the musical standouts of this album.  A song with distinctive phases, each of which is really interesting.  I love the complexities, the textures, and the intensely interactive / collaborative feel this has musically.

Minuses:  Can’t actually find any in the music.  Maybe someone else can help.

Interesting:  Is this a mea culpa?  I’ll have to get my microscope out and look more closely at the lyrics.


Baby Screams

This reminds me of the time I was ill and feebly in bed, and my then-prospective-husband said to me, “Why don’t I make you an omelette!”  And when he brought it to my bedside, I looked at it suspiciously and asked him, “What’s this?” (…just because it’s yellow and round and made of eggs doesn’t mean it’s an omelette…this was a sort of dehydrated egg disc, with egg as its sole ingredient…)

He still teases me about this incident.  As a matter of fact, he’s just said to me, “Anytime you’d like me to make you another dehydrated egg disc, just let me know!”  :winking_tongue

So, this song – what’s this?  ;)

Pluses:  Well, it has energy and madness in it.  It’s musically competent, sort of like Toad in the Hole is culinarily competent.

Minuses:  This kind of rhythm triggers migraines in me.  Too much bang-bang-bang, not enough space for my poor sconce.

Interesting:  What I can make out of the lyrics.  I’m intrigued to decipher more.


Close To Me

Pluses:  Madness and mayhem.

Minuses:  The breathing sounds a bit like a dirty phonecall made by a super-neurotic teenage virgin.  Also, the artificial handclaps are so 80s.

Interesting:  As a composition I do actually like this; there’s all sorts of weird things thrown together in this, not least of which are various nonverbal vocal sounds piled on top of each other, reminiscent of a tribe of pygmy Zulu cartoon people who have been transported to the Arctic circle and are now trying to do their tongue-clicking and other non-verbal musical effects while very cold and nervous.


A Night Like This

Pluses:  Nice song.  Lovely saxophone on the studio version.  C’mon, it’s a pandemic, one of these guys can surely take up saxophone in the interim so that this can be part of the regular live performance… (Brett says:  “I can only envisage one person in The Cure with a saxophone, and that’s Reeves Gabrels.  He’s the only one cool enough in that line-up to be able to play saxophone.”  :yum:)

Minuses:  There’s one line I can’t quite decipher and I wonder if I have actually deciphered it and just constantly get traumatic amnesia, over and over again…

Interesting:  In counterbalance to the minus, here’s something rather wise:  I want to change it all… I want to change.  …because the only thing we can really change is ourselves, and what we do and don’t do, etc.  This may then change other things, as a side-effect.


Screw

I don’t know if it’s just the mood I’m in, but I’m actually really enjoying this one, even though it could very well be featuring as the centrepiece of Playschool for Future Weirdos.

Pluses:  There’s something infectious about the guitar playing, the notes of which are strangely corkscrew-shaped actually, so well done with getting a sound to suggest a shape…  I’m assuming this is guitar; it’s so distorted it’s a bit hard to tell the difference between distorted stringed instruments and a synth effect these days…

Minuses:  Bit 80s maybe?  The doo-doo-doo-doos seem to be indicative of that.  It’s like someone imported those by the containerloads in the 80s…

Interesting:  I’m very keen to get my microscope out on these lyrics.


Sinking

Pluses:  Musically this is exactly my cup of tea, or should I say more accurately, this is exactly the sort of thing to be found in the assortment of diverse teas I keep in my tea cupboard for my enjoyment.

Minuses:  Pass.

Interesting:  Just the layering, textures, atmosphere of this thing.  The bass line is the backbone of this, as with so many of my favourite Cure tracks. ♥

So, that was The Head On The Door by PMI, by yours truly.  Now could someone please explain to me what a head on a door is supposed to be, because I’m still scratching my head…

I suppose this means the verbal-analytical hat goes back on next time, when the lyrics get pulled up as words on a page, may the force be with you etc… 

September 30, 2020

…and now, the lyrics.  Sigh.  This is the bit I’m especially struggling with, for this album; at least for the songs I’ve known a while off it (and by the way, I can see I’m going to have to look specifically at Bloodflowers one day as part of this thread, because that album didn’t present me with major difficulties in that department, or I’d not have become a Cure fan in the first place – the lyrics, along with the music and band as a whole, have clearly evolved in a direction that’s less problematic for me).

Let’s start at the beginning:

IN BETWEEN DAYS

Yesterday I got so old
I felt like I could die
Yesterday I got so old
It made me want to cry

Go on, go on
Just walk away
Go on, go on
Your choice is made
Go on, go on
And disappear
Go on, go on
Away from here

And I know I was wrong
When I said it was true
That it couldn’t be me and be her
In-between
Without you
Without you

Yesterday I got so scared
I shivered like a child
Yesterday away from you
It froze me deep inside

Come back, come back
Don’t walk away
Come back, come back
Come back today
Come back, come back
What can’t you see
Come back, come back
Come back to me

And I know I was wrong
When I said it was true
That it couldn’t be me and be her
In-between without you
Without you
(etc)

There’s a fair few songs about bizarre love triangles / quadrilaterals / pentagons / hexagons etc, and this kind of has the smell of one of them, and I don’t find that particularly edifying personally, although each to their own.  There is a lot of poor-me in this, which is OK-ish if the narrator is the one being cheated on (until they get over it, and it’s important not to let someone else’s bad behaviour affect your life for longer than absolutely necessary), but a total narcissistic joke if he’s the one doing the cheating.  Of course, they may all be cheating, or in agreement that there’s no such thing as cheating if you permit it, but then again this song doesn’t seem to be about ecstatic polyamory either – there’s definitely someone walking, whether in protest or to greener pastures.

On the source for these lyrics, there was an in-a-nutshell comment from a Heather (hello!  :cool):  “Still unsure if he’s a cheating backpedalling prick, or an accused lover…” – which are two of a number of unhappy possibilities… and this is not a happy song, even though it’s musically charming…

Also, I’ve never been able to parse this chorus, if it’s even possible to parse:

And I know I was wrong
When I said it was true
That it couldn’t be me and be her
In-between without you
Without you

I’m not an expert in parsology, so if anyone can help out, please do…

But yeah, this is a prime example of a Cure song which gets really annoying if you pay close attention to the lyrics, and that’s a theme for quite a few songs on this album…

SCENIC DETOUR:  LOOKING, AND LENSES

I wasn’t planning on doing more on this thread today, but I’ve just heard Waleed Aly on Radio National, talking about the lenses through which we look – reminding listeners that, for example, common lenses through which people are taught to examine novels include feminist, colonialist and political readings, and various other perspectives which help to uncover assumptions, social issues, philosophical and ethical problems and so forth.  Those lenses are ideally tools to help broaden perspective, and are ideally complementary – sort of like prisms set up to show up different wavelengths of light.

Waleed Aly was talking today about his concern that different lenses were competing for primacy, instead of being complementary – “the way” to look at something, rather than one of many ways we can and should look at something to get a broader and more complete picture.  (He thinks that right now, the lens of politics is overly dominant – that it’s hard to have public discussions about other realms without them being turned back into politics – just look at the politicisation of mask-wearing in the US, for instance.)

I thought that discussion was really topical to this thread, because this is open journalling, and I’ve always journalled in order to understand the world, and myself, better.  While you can explore and learn about different perspectives in private journals, open journals are so much better for that, in part because if you’re going to put something out in the public sphere you tend to think about it more critically and thoroughly than if you’re just writing something you’re going to lock into your cupboard.  But even more importantly, on an open journal others can jump in and offer their own perspectives, and that way, there’s more brains and eyes and experiences to go around, and the picture becomes more complete.  Also, it’s actually more fun to talk to other people than to write monologues – although extended writing is more than a monologue, it’s an exercise in learning to think better, and to express yourself better.

WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ART?

Just before Waleed Aly came on, I was thinking about my last post here and asking myself what it was I wanted from art.  I came up with three things I generally want to see in paintings, books or music:  Skill, thoughtfulness, and love – and not in that order actually; I’m always going to think love is more important than skill, and can make up for some rawness in that area, and be the primary driver for improving personal skills anyway.  To an extent, the same is true for thoughtfulness – that’s more important than skill to me, although it’s also a skill, plus it helps to improve your skills across the board.  And I think thoughtfulness and love go hand in hand.

And it’s really something I want not just from art, but from life more generally.  I’d rather eat food someone has made with love and thoughtfulness and skill than food that’s been mass-produced for profit; and when I make food for others (and also if it’s just me), it’s very important to me to do that with love, thoughtfulness and skill.  We’ve got this old carved wooden wardrobe we bought second-hand because of the love, thoughtfulness and skill that are in that piece, which you’re not going to get in a mass-produced chipboard-and-melamine piece.

I’m not a woodworker by any stretch of the imagination, but I made a simple hall stand from leftover beautiful materials – rustic architrave strips I’d cut that were a little too warped, or were the end piece I’d cut from the board; and some packing pine that had come with our roofing iron originally, and had weathered from an ugly orange into a soft driftwood grey, after a couple of years outdoors.

The level of skill in that piece is relatively basic, but the love that’s in it is considerable – for the beauty of the materials, and in the respect for these scraps of once living trees that could have gone on a bonfire – and with a little thought, they could become something, and this is now a much-loved and useful item of simple furniture that really suits our house.

Some people these days believe that graffiti is just as valuable as Shakespeare.  To me, usually it compares unfavourably in terms of the skill, love and thought that are in it.  I generally prefer Monet’s Water Lilies to modern and postmodern art, because it generally has more skill, love and thought behind it.

I was thinking about a hypothetical piece of art I could make:  I could throw up on a canvas, spread it around more or less artfully, let it dry, and perhaps apply a clear coat.  I wouldn’t want it in my house, but it might win a Tate Modern – that prize has been won by body parts floating in tanks of formaldehyde.  My canvas could be seen as some kind of sublime analogy for the state of the world, or the human condition in general, whether or not I intended it that way.  I might just be shit-stirring.  So, does the intention of the artist matter, or is it all in the eyes of the beholder?

I’d not have needed much skill or love or thought to make that hypothetical canvas.  Of course, if I intended it as an analogy, then that would mean more thought had gone into it than if I was just being obtuse.

Generally, I think skill, thoughtfulness and love are really important qualities, both in humans and in any of their work, art or otherwise.  With art though, it’s sometimes enough for me if it just makes me think.

How do you see that, in your life?

PS:  When I asked Brett that question last night, he said that what he wants out of art is for it to tickle the lobe of his brain that makes him go, “Oh, this is so cool!”  :cool

September 30, 2020

Next there was a discussion with another forum member on another way to position the interpretation of the lyrics. Looking back on this over a year later, to be honest I think both she and I were giving more thought to the “meaning/s” of the lyrics than their construction probably warranted – I’m sure that sometimes lyrics are basically just casual “placeholders” rather than carefully thought about in the writing process – and even very serious, intellectual types like MAtT who like writing about philosophy for fun don’t always pay that much attention to lyrics, but listen more for the sound than anything else. Even word-nerds can background their relationship with words to do this (and I was trying to do that in the first entry in this post). It’s good to experiment with different ways of encountering something.

word_on_a_wing:

I can see how certain lyrics may seem trivial and not very deep… but my feeling is it may be very well hidden.

In Between Days is a good example. Ok, objectively perhaps it is a tale of human relationships, however what I hear reaches much deeper and into vast and infinite spaces. What I hear is “here we are, woman and man, but without You we feel old, cold, lifeless. We can’t truly exist without You”. …so now I pose the question…
Could another mortal human being have such effects? If not… then who/what is he singing to?

I bet you could give me the most trivial sounding lyrics by The Cure and I’ll be able to interpret it in such a way as to show Robert Smith is an enlightened being (or my world shall fall apart) 🙃

(Ednote: What is an enlightened being? What is the strike rate of an enlightened being in its daily life? Do such entities have days off from being enlightened? And how does confirmation bias affect our view of such things?)

My reply:

Hello, @word_on_a_wing:)  It’s nice to hear from you, and also has been great to see the numbers finally improving in Melbourne – may they stay low this time.

I’m interested in whether you’re suggesting that Robert Smith is referencing a “higher being” in that song – are you?  Because every interview I’ve ever seen with him where the subject is broached, he says things like that religion is crap etc etc, and doesn’t go on to make a distinction between organised religion and any other form of spirituality.  This is not to say that he couldn’t possibly, just that I’ve never yet seen reference to it, not in interviews and not in any of the songs I’ve looked at – it seems to run the other way – for example, they were referencing existentialism early on in their careers, as an alternative to theistic world views like the Catholicism they encountered culturally at school etc (and of which they didn’t speak very highly in any interviews I’ve ever seen from them).  I’ve never personally seen any kind of religion referenced positively in the Cure songs I’ve heard so far; and one of their more mature-age songs, Where The Birds Always Sing, strongly suggests a non-theistic world view, and coming to terms with the limitations mortality imposes.

But if you’ve seen anything I’ve not, please send me a link.

Cure lyrics sometimes make reference to religious motifs, which is what you’d expect in a culture that’s got a long association with Christianity, and from people who went to Catholic school etc and had those motifs drummed into them.  The use of these motifs isn’t always synonymous with having religious beliefs – they’re cultural, not just religious.

On the other hand, various other artists in my personal collection often reference spirituality – U2 are fairly obvious about it, Mike Scott pretty consistently did that for decades (he’s a very alternative type) and may still be doing it, Hothouse Flowers and Big Country were shot through with spiritual ideas (which aren’t necessarily indicative of conventional religious belief), Sinéad O’Connor has pretty much always tinkered around with various types of spirituality; etc. And I really don’t see that in The Cure, after listening to well over half their total collection.  That’s not a criticism, by the way – I listen to music produced by people with a range of world views, from pretty full-on conventional religious to self-declared atheists and anything in-between, and as long as there’s a decent set of ethics in there somewhere, that’s all fine as far as I’m concerned.  :cool

Personally I’m post-Christian, agnostic, and married to one of those self-declared atheists who worship at the altar of Saint Dawkins.  :angel

word_on_a_wing:

Oh hell no I’m not referring to organised religion (perhaps the biggest scam ever conceived …convincing humans they are small limited beings and need a middle-man to experience something beyond this). Quantum physics is perhaps closer to what I was thinking about when I wrote my last post.

An interesting documentary, related to what I’m referring to:

My reply:

Ah!  :)  I like quantum physics, but don’t quite see the connection with spirituality myself – obviously various other people do (e.g. some religiously inclined physicists, such as Paul Davies).  Now I’m thinking about CS Lewis, and his book Out Of The Silent Planet, in which he invented a world in which the spiritual and the physical weren’t actually dualistic – the spiritual was embedded in the physical, if you like.  It was a really interesting book; what I loved the most about it is how totally unlike standard humans the three articulate social species on planet Malacandra were – they were so utterly reasonable and ethical… the protagonist (conveniently, a linguist, who’d been kidnapped by evil scientists to be offered as a sort of altar sacrifice to the natives who actually didn’t operate like this at all…) had difficulty even explaining what war and conflict were to them, in their language – because they just didn’t think like this, and didn’t have words for it.  You know, like trying to explain a linear view of time to Hopi Indians who had (/have) a cyclical view of time, and vice versa.  There’s this incredibly comical scene at the end where their Oyarsa (higher being) suggests the evil scientists have overheated brains in need of cooling, and wants to help them – when what “ails” them is really just garden-variety narcissism / anthropocentrism / a general sense of entitlement.  :lol:

It’s funny you talking about the middle-man etc.  That’s kinda why I was a mystic, once upon a time.  ;)  This morning my husband and I were talking about some common religious concepts of God, which are really interesting viewed through the lens of transactional analysis, because of the parent-child nature of the perceived relationship (never adult-adult, so it tends to be infantilising) – and it often seems to be a projection of a “super-parent” based on experienced “models” in family life – which in themselves are often dysfunctional.  So the Allah described by some (not all) Muslims doesn’t want people competing – only he is perfect, etc – which sounds like a classic narcissistic parent, who really doesn’t want you to get a higher university entrance score than them, and so on.  On the other hand, the Mormons have a God who actually wouldn’t mind if his “kids” improved on his performance – but this particular God has an underwear fetish… :yum:

If anyone at all wants to go side-track on this, or otherwise go off on tangents, please be my guest – that’s what this particular thread is for, as much as it is about the music of a particular band and all the different tangents that come off that… but tangents to tangents are also OK here… :angel

(…to be continued in the next instalment – but that’s way enough for one sitting…)

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