Friday, March 11, 2016

Martial: Girl From Mars

Purchase: Ash, Girl From Mars

Last week I talked about my worry that in writing for a blog about music, I should do more to highlight unknown bands and songs. The relationships a music fan has with a band that no one knows, that he can lay a personal claim to, is a special one.  I have plenty of those bands in my playlists—been to their shows, bought their t-shirts—and I still feel a little territorial when someone says, “Hey have you ever heard so and so?” Of course I have! I still feel very protective of Philadelphia based rockers Marah—I was listening to them when no one else was.  If someone tells me about them, asks, “Have I heard …” I get that odd, big-brother sense of over-protectiveness.

Perhaps it’s more a possessiveness, wanting to keep something so good to myself, so it doesn’t change. So the sound isn’t corrupted. Isn’t that dumb, that sense we get of wanting to jealously guard our favorite music? It’s the need to be part of an exclusive club, private membership in a special fraternity.  And yet, in the same breath, I feel bad that a band like Marah hasn’t made it big, sparked a rock n roll revolution, become the superstars they deserve to be. They even had a guest spot from Bruce Springsteen (maybe you’ve heard of him? And, no, you cannot borrow my CDs…) on an album, Float Away with the Friday Night Gods, produced by Owen Morris, who was responsible for Oasis’ first three albums (You might have heard of Oasis, not really sure…). So, if Marah hasn’t made it, it’s not for lack of trying. You just haven’t been listening. Which, according to my own strange and selfish standards is how it's supposed to go I guess.

Why, though? I still haven’t gotten anywhere close to an answer for why we like to keep our favorite bands as our own thing. 

I’d welcome your comments on your own musical omerta for bands that you’ve been hiding.

So, on to the theme for the month: Mars, or some variation of that myriad meaning word. I was hoping to find a song about Marvin the Martian from Warner Brother’s Looney Tunes, but I pretty much kept hitting David Bowie’s Life on Mars. There’s been plenty written by writers far more talented than I about Bowie, and the powerful, sweeping and lasting influence he had and will always have on modern music. One can’t forget Bowie’s (or really, Ziggy’s) Spiders from Mars—if there is any positive at all about the icon’s passing it is that, personally, I was able to reconnect with that most brilliant album and take that long, analytical and nostalgic look at perhaps one of rock’s greatest albums. I don’t think I would have paid as much attention to the album had Bowie not passed away.  

That is a little strange, I guess, but it brings up another strange phenomenon—the way we glom onto a dead celebrities body of work in the turbulent wake of their leaving us. Spikes in album or book sales is  so commonplace to really need no mention as a result of one’s passing. Does it take someone’s leaving us to assert their value? Or is it simply that human truth that absence makes the heart grow fonder? That is an adage reserved to describe a separation of lovers, but I think it applies to how we treat the memory and work left behind when an icon passes. Sometimes, I think our newfound obsession is simply a human need to be involved and part of a story. But, it’s still hard not to find fault with people who use an artist’s death to proclaim their deep and profound love for their body of work or their cult of personality. It’s a little like all these teenagers I see wearing Kurt Cobain t-shirts, but then, it’s not really like that at all. Maybe more like all these idiots who took to Facebook to declare Whitney Houston one of R&Bs greatest of all time after she died…Or maybe, it’s just Facebook, and this sudden lack of privacy and the ultra ubiquity of…of everything and anything at all that gets broadcast as an endless feed of information, each trend, idea, oddity, stupid joke or new sensation, insisting upon its own importance, screaming too loudly for our already frayed and ruined attention?

I digress. Too much.

This month’s theme: Mars.

There’s a cool band called Ash from Northern Ireland, and while they may not be one of the “best kept secrets” I dare say their popularity has never really reached too far in America. I don’t know much about them, but I know people love them. They have that certain kind of cult status that comes to bands like I was talking about earlier.

Written in 1993, Ash’s biggest hit, a dirty bit of pop perfection, “Girl From Mars” was featured on their major label debut, 1977. A little grungy, a lot boppy, “Girl From Mars” sits in a perfect niche between all the sounds that the 90s produced, but it fits best in the overdrive-dusted guitar, verse chorus verse hymns of the late Brit Pop movement. A little—a lot perhaps—influenced by what Oasis brought to rock music, Ash, at least on1977, delivers a brilliant, car ride radio sound—drums, guitars, four on the floor rock, with the distinct British twist.

The song itself is silly little idyll about a love affair from the past and memories of “dreamy days by the water’s edge/…summer nights…/fireflies and stars in the sky…” Pretty standard stuff as far as the kind of love affairs we might write songs about go, until you realize that the singer is wondering why the love affair was unrequited (“I know you are almost in love with me”), and the reason is that the girl herself is from Mars. Maybe she wasn’t even there? Is it metaphor? Was she just his imagination, his ideal girl, the kind we fall in love with simply because the fantasy is so perfect we know it won’t ever be achievable in real life, with a real girl. Some of us fall in love with movie stars and their images moving across the screen. Some of us invent fantasies and chase ghosts trying to make those fantasies real. And some of us fall in love with girls from Mars…because sometimes girls from Mars are the only girls we can find…

Stay away from these girls, though...

Comments, please, on any of the nonsense I’ve put down here today. I’d love to know what you think—about your favorite unknown bands, or girls you’ve fallen in love with who might, or might not, hail from outer space…

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