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.

Seasons: Must Be Santa

 purchase [Christmas in the Heart]

For the last few themes, J David has been the brains, me: the brawn.
When I put up the Seasons theme, my imagination was that this would lead towards "seasonal music", but I intentionally left it fluid. Interesting to see that posts so far (looking back) have focused on the word <Season>.

I've spent the past week looking at un-conventional Xmas songs. I considered many. But then ... I finally came across one I couldn't pass up.

If you were to ask "Which musician best embodies "The Grinch", I bet you'd get a large number of votes in favor of my choice. Who, in their right mind, makes an issue [himself] of a Nobel Prize? Who appears to grump about every PR opportunity?

And who on earth would have thought that this musician would come up with a Christmas themed album!? The story has it that Columbia records and Dylan talked about the idea for some time before actually doing it. You can delve into Dylan's religious leanings, but ... the surprise isn't so much in his choice of "formal" religion as in his choice to make this an album theme: ever heard of  his 34th album called <Christmas in the Heart>? If you've bought it or even listened to it knowingly, you're one up on me.

Dylan is just about the last man I would expect to produce something along these lines. [then again .... maybe I'm wrong]

Heck ... he doesn't hardly even allow covers. The Grinch. At any rate ...
[ this link could go <poof> at any minute]

Tuesday, December 26, 2017


Well, he came, he emptied his sack and he's gone again. Shh, don't say his name but, if I am not mistaken, perhaps a first for SMM, this is the first time we have got this far with nary a mention of, you know. Is that good, is that bad? I don't know but certainly hope you had a good one, whatever that entailed. Today my aim is simple, a simple sonic blast of palate cleanser, to wash any lingering acid from your over-stimulated digestive tract. With Soft Machine...... Yes that Soft Machine, that impenetrable jazz-noodle-rock on your big brothers record shelf, beloved of mathematicians and men with moustaches. But dispel that bad memory. It is true, from whimsical and exasperating twiddly rock to complex geometric abstracts and jazzy atonals, the Softs are generally remembered in these two ways, yet, after sole original member, Mike Ratledge, left in 1976, they embarked upon a gentler last period. Although he appears on 2 tracks in the album from which this track appears, 'Softs', it is very much now the baby of Karl Jenkins, switching from saxophones to keyboards and writing most of the material. Guitar duties had been passed from Allan Holdsworth (R.I.P.) to John Etheridge, bass and drums accommodated efficiently by Roy Babbington and John Marshall respectively. On reeds, albeit only for a brief 6 month tenureship, was Alan, cousin of Rick, Wakeman.

It is no surprise that Jenkins, on the eventual demise of the band, moved into film and soundtrack work and is now one of UK's premier new classical composers, at least as far as the classical music "charts" would say. You may know him better, as they say on the Simpsons, as the author of this:

Adiemus. And that is Jenkins with the baton and extravagant 'tache.

At the time of writing Etheridge, Babbington and Marshall have revived the Soft Machine name and tour extensively, along with reeds and keys man Theo Travis.

It's boxing day and nothings loading. I'm sure you can source it should you so choose. And anyhow. But do.