Sunday, November 15, 2015

Math & Science: Battles/Atlas


Why can't land speeders fly higher than five meters above the ground? Why does R2D2, despite being a droid, have feelings and a confidence suggesting the force is in him? How can anyone possibly say that Superman is stronger than Green Lantern when GL can simply make a cage of green kryptonite? Why does Prince Adam get tan after becoming He-Man and why can't anyone recognise him? And in Greek mythology, how can Atlas hold the world on his shoulders and still preside in that world? If he sneezes, does his body shake twice?  Does he also carry the atmosphere and space? I did poorly in science and math, but at least I asked the important questions.

These are questions that still entertain me as an adult, but I keep them to myself unless I'm lucky to find another child man who's been dwelling on them. When musicians mention gods, demi-gods and Titans from myth, I usually take notice. Often it's either sadly generic or so intensely honorific that it's unsettling. (Dead Can Dance's "Song of the Sirens" and "Persephone" do well, and of course Fleetwood Mac's "Rhiannon").  Battle's "Atlas" is more on the ambiguous side without referring to Atlas himself or the heavens, but it's a hell of a tune, stomping forward into thunderous hypnosis. A flinging guitar riff teases, and then a freaky childish taunt leads you to believe the song will unravel. However, like Atlas, spare a brief time when he passed the world onto Hercules via a trick, the beat is maintained except for one grisly breakdown.

Atlas must have been on the verge of going nuts with all that responsibility, or at least severely pissed off at times. But he was compassionate enough to never let go. Battles presents different versions of "Atlas" and its repetitive madness that could go on for another twenty minutes without tiring you. There are lots of live versions available. This take at the Fuji Rock Festival is one of the best.

text by Jake

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