And [When] the Band You’re In Starts Playing Different Tunes… I’ll See You On the Dark Side of the Moon
If you’ve been reading these, you may have noticed that I try to title each one with a song lyric, usually from a band other than EA. I try to choose lyrics that are thematic, but sometimes nonsense works better. This one did not come easy, there were many choices that were scrapped, until this patently obvious one came to mind. It may be a little too on-the-nose.
Different tunes from the band notwithstanding (this show featured two debuts, the first new originals since Lugubrious Eggs, in Fall 2014), I think many of us can identify with feeling like we are suddenly living on the dark side of the moon. This is a strange time and place where the world feels upside down; the tenants of our society abandoned for dark-age, anti-intellectual, xenophobic puritanism. The kind of moral and political philosophy embraced by the weak and fearful, as so many of our conservative brethren have shown themselves to be—willing to sell their own freewill for dogmatic dictums and thousand-mile walls that harken previous failures of fascism. (Walls also keep us in!) And if I have been successful with this metaphor, then this is doubly cute as reference to one of the aforementioned debuts, “Metaphor” being its *actual* title. Let’s start there.
Metaphor is most certainly a different tune for Ellis Ashbrook, written by freshman Dan Keller, this is his first effort at material to be performed by the band. Musically, it’s highly progressive; loaded with abrupt time and rhythm shifts that disorient the listener in the best possible way. EA has certainly done this kind of thing before, but not this way. It’s definitely my thing—I love prog, and it seemed like many others did too as the reception was exceedingly positive. Lyrically the main arc is that many (all?) previous expressions of creativity in music and art are really just metaphors for drugs and sex. While I applaud Dan for the thematic effort, I wholeheartedly disagree with that assertion. I mean if that’s true, then what are these meta-metaphors about? What is the metaphor about metaphors a metaphor for? Maybe that’s where progressive music differs, as nothing is less *sexy* than Gentle Giant.
The other new tune is a resurrected John Barber composition called “Propeller”. Originally composed in the formative pre-Lowe era, it was never fully realized or performed as a band piece. A decade or so later, with the assistance of new blood, it has come together nicely. It’s a short but complex driving number that literally propels (not a metaphor). It’s lilting melody and cryptic (at best) lyrics are pure John Barber and echo many of the same sentiments that are hallmarks of his style, and the overall sound of his output in EA.; also, not (that) sexy.
Is this the theme of now? Is the sex appeal gone from this band? One of the magic things about EA was the undefinable quality Natalie brought, in addition to her bizarre music sensibilities, which often manifested with subtle hints of sexiness—obvious at the shows—but also implied just enough in songs like Off the Earth, So Simple, I’ll Be Around, Climax, Hard 2 B EZ, 22, No Please Don’t Watch, Unbreakable, Kan Eye Tuch U?, and of course our beloved Snakey. Even the prog funkiness of Skunk! and swampy sultriness of Mr. Anyone were influenced and affected by Lowe’s delivery. I’m not trying to be negative here, but this question needs to be posed: Is it possible for the band to build on all of that while moving forward without Natalie, or are we now on a tangent; (a misdirect?) akin to Biff’s 1985? It certainly feels like a new paradigm, where it is entirely conceivable that the government could sell Yosemite to build a gaudy Trump casino; catering to wannabes and the depraved… dark side of the moon, indeed.
Food for thought, anyway. Changes will undoubtedly keep coming; with that unflinching paradigm there is perpetual hope. In the meantime, while we’re living on the dark side, let’s enjoy the music and the clearer, brighter view of the stars… no matter what, I’ll see you there.
Next gig: April 26th, House of Yes, Bushwick.
Thursday, April 6, 2017: AMERICAN BEAUTY, New York, NY
Set: Good Time Blues, Slide, Propeller, When Will This End?, Therefore However and So Forth, Metaphor, On, Psychic Vampires