Tuesday, June 19, 2007

In praise of the local, pt. 2

"People let me tell you
about these kinda blues
All your friends have left
and you've got no one left to lose."
--Cheater Slicks, "Train of Dreams"

Let me come clean: I used to HATE the Cheater Slicks. In fact I hated them right up until about a month or so ago. It's the weirdest thing and I wish I could figure out what in my psychological makeup changed to make me go from borderline contempt for them to complete enchantment, and with such rapidity. It's possible that it has something to do with an increased alcohol intake, but of course that can lead to the enjoyment of any number of bands. Most of which I do not. Something just has to kind of click in your head with these guys, as my friend Kevin said the other day. It's like that with a lot of music but learning to like the Cheater Slicks is REALLY going down a certain rabbit hole, the very entrance to which you can't even see unless you're ready to take the plunge.

"Mother holds me in her arms
and she takes the pain away
Why'd she ever give me life
if she knew it'd end this way?"

Holy shit man. That's pretty bleak stuff. I never believed that any white man could really sing the blues ... I mean people obviously have tried and you either end up with some sort of constipated aping of black dudes (George Thoroughgood), or stuff that, while depressing, is just so ... y'know, white. Like Joy Division. Obviously that plumbs some sort of depths and that shit's pretty heavy, but not in the same way. JD's jittery punk side give the music a certain levity, not the mention the romanticism of songs like "Love Will Tear Us Apart." A quick gander at the track listing for one of my favorite Slicks albums, Yer Last Record, reveals the following list of lyrical topics:
  • complete, utter, unmitigated despair and resentment at the very fact of your birth ("Train of Dreams," see lyrical excerpts above)
  • complete, utter, unmitigated humiliation and loss of personal dignity ("Pants Down")
  • the futility of life and a resultant anti-procreation stance ("Stop Breeding"). When you hate life this much, you certainly don't want to create any more of it.
  • suicide recommended as a way to escape said loathesome existence: "Why try? Why cry? DIE DIE DIE" ("Just Do It")

And there's more where that came from, of course ... that's not even going into the devastating album closer, "Goodbye," where Tom Shannon wails, "everybody's lonely ... all that's between us has died ... let's just say goodbye."

Add to that the band's scrape n drone--somehow they get the guitar to sound exactly the way ALL guitars sound when you're (OK, I'm) hungover, i.e. tuned just slightly sour and brain-searingly jangly--and you've got a completely soul-poisoning, yet life-affirming, musical experience. That's pretty much the blues as I understand them.

Most of you are probably saying "no shit" right about now. Many of my Columbus cohorts were and are longtime fans of the Slicks, and of course the band is practically WORSHIPPED in many locales outside the Cbus city limits (when the Hunches, from Portland, played here with them a few years ago, they were transformed into giddy, snapshot-taking schoolgirls as the Slicks launched into their set). But I'm just stunned at how little I liked these guys mere weeks ago and how much I like them now. I guess what I'm saying is, even if you don't get them now, you might eventually. Don't give up. It's worth another shot. A few days ago I got retardedly high in the middle of the afternoon and laid down on the couch to listen to this album. I was so exhausted and fucked up I actually experienced sleep paralysis, you know when you try to move your body but you can't? At that exact moment the dour 7-minute dirge "Green Light" came on and a cold chill went through my body. For a minute, I actually thought I knew what it was like to be dead.

That's pretty much the highest recommendation I can give an album.


Anonymous said...

Awesome piece on the Cheater Slicks, listening to it right now...making me feel both so happy and so bummed out at the same time.

You guys are awesome.


Anonymous said...

I was druuuunnnkkkkk....