Thursday, December 28, 2017

Seasons: Seasons, By Chris Cornell

Purchase Chris Cornell's "Seasons"

It's hard to believe that with all that happened in 2017, Chris Cornell hasn't been gone for even a year.  Such is the nature of consequential events in the blast-off news cycle where nearly everything is of some kind of consequence - it's hard to remember all that happened.

So, what to make of senseless loss, or to say? It seems words are a pale annotation to the volume of grief Cornell's suicide created for the musical world.

Our heroes will always let us down in the end, I suppose, whether they mean to or not, whether our feelings about them make any difference. Coming to grips with mortality - and the fact that sometimes, the ones we worship are just as flawed as we are - is as much a disappointment as it is a tragedy.

It's been a heartbreaking year. So many voices have gone silent. I'd like to think artists never really die, not if we keep listening. I'm still pretending Chris Cornell--and so many others-- isn't gone, and I'm still listening.

Written as a bit of a "joke, the song "Seasons" was originally found on the soundtrack for the film Singles, Cameron Crowe's love letter to the city of Seattle and the still evolving grunge scene. Cornell wrote and recorded five songs and gave them to Crowe on cassette, under the moniker Poncier. The title is actually the last name of Single's protagonist, Cliff Poncier, played by Matt Dillon. Cornell was originally offered the part of Poncier, but opted instead to do a dialogue-less cameo during one of the movie's funnier scenes. Poncier's character is clueless, hapless, a spot on representation of hipster, poseur silliness. Eventually, his band (the equally-not-real-but-still-famous, Citizen Dick), implodes and Poncier perseveres  as a solo artist, despite any lack of talent. The cassette tape makes its appearance here, as his solo demo.

And, here's where we get a little meta: the cassette itself was real, even though it was meant to be a prop. The song titles and the artwork were created by Eddie Vedder, Jeff Amet and Stone Gossard (they played the members of Citizen Dick). But Cornell took it one step further, as a thank you to Crowe for putting him in the movie and actually recorded five real songs.

Here's the scene, cut from the original film, where the cassette makes its appearance:

That's quite a wink wink in-joke, given how great the songs are--timeless pieces of early 90s grunge, minor chords and static, crunching rhythms. You can hear them all on the rereleased and expanded Single's soundtrack, and in various versions on some of Cornell's later solo releases. Go on the hunt--it's a fun bit of grunge treasure hunting.

The standout is "Seasons", a funeral dirge that winds glorious and hymn-like. It's a mediation on loss and voicelessness, on the fleeting nature of both life and the (lack of) control we have over what happens, despite our best attempts. It's a beautiful song, a sad song, and a strangely accurate at pinning down and defining the feelings of those of us left behind when so many beautiful voices have gone silent, with so much still to say.

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