Thursday, July 23, 2020

Masks: Girl Behind The Mask

Purchase, Screaming Trees, Girl Behind the Mask

So, apparently Gloria Estefan (I'm not sure if she brought the Miami Sound Machine with her on this) has re-recorded "Get on Your Feet" as "Put On Your Mask."

That's good to hear. Even if it's a silly pop song and wedding reception staple, if it gets people to stop politicizing a virus and actually act as if they care about others, I applaud the effort.

I'm not a fan of the MSS (those in the know, know...), but I'm grateful to anyone with a platform who is willing to advocate for good practice, common sense, and most of all, admonishing others to show concern and care for others. And to take responsibility and do their part. There will be a time in our future where we look back on these days, and we will be asked what we did to help, what our role was. And for those who can't answer that question without concrete evidence of contributing to the cause of the cure, or worse, can show nothing more than a few social media posts that help them brag about their strident political hobbyism, I do hope you can get it together and start being part of the solution. If nothing else, listen to Ms. Estefan, and Put on your Mask!

Perhaps the real problem is selfishness and our fetisization of individual freedoms, which is really just giving into our narcissism and indulging our worst instincts of self-satisfaction. Or self-satisfaction. We're a civilization of self-pleasers bent on achieving our individual mandates, regardless of the presence, needs/desires, or hopes of others. Don't believe me: drive a little too slowly in the fast lane.

I know not everyone is awful, but the world sure does seem to be full of assholes who equate happiness to achieving their individual happiness at the expense of others. Or those who believe in conspiracy theories because the bullshit is more interesting, or rather more easy to understand, than the reasoned out and rational truth.

I know I'm generalizing, and most of us are good people, all suffering from the same anxieties and pursuing the same satisfaction of the same basic needs, namely to be happy, safe, loved, and that our default mode is not really selfishness. But, it's really hard to believe in the best of us when I see so much of the worst of us in almost everything we do.

Freedom shouldn't be about making yourself happy or indulging in your own needs without regard for the rest; it's about coexisting with others and doing right by others so they do right by you. That's the golden rule, in so many words. It's a simple concept--do unto others as you'd have them do unto you. I've been hearing it since I was a kid, and it's the one lesson I'm thankful for having been subjected to an awful 10+plus years of Catholic school. I wish I knew how to teach it to everyone...

OK, moralizing--DONE.

Gives me a reason to write about Seattle's original grunge pioneers, the progenitors of the scene and the sound, far better than Mudhoney and some of the other noise/scratch rock outfits that get bigger billing.

Screaming Trees--a blues outfit that knew how to channel the metal gods that smiled down upon Seattle in those glorious days of the late 80's into the early 90's and gave us the blessed new anvil pounding symphony from Vulcan's blacksmithery, otherwise known as Grunge. I argue they were the inventors of what became most indicative of what the grunge sound is: metal and classic rock, with a healthy dose of the blues. These sounds are most evident on anything by Screaming Trees, and they are at their best when the sound it somehow comfortable  slipping into multiple timelines.

Screaming Trees hit a major radio blast with their single "Nearly Lost You" and their biggest commercial success, Sweet Oblivion. But Screaming Trees are a band that were a small blip on a big screen that deserve a much deeper listen. Led by Mark Lanegan, who in other times might have been a sage meant to be rediscovered and worshiped long after he was done, Screaming Trees were, to me, quintessential grunge: heavy, heavy rock, played in homage to the giants of blues and doom that came before them, channeling a vibe that spoke of darkness, but resounded with downtuned guitars and what might have been the real and true heavy metal thunder. But, they had pop sensibilities, too, and the sweetness filtered through heavy doses of drugs and getting lost in the woods gave them a sound that was unique. Screaming Trees had potential to grow into something a lot more interesting, had they given themselves the room and time to explore and hadn't been sidetracked by extra-curricular activities. Like so many of the Seattle bands, they were potential cut down well before their prime, ruined and dissipated and finished long before they had reached their potential. There is a good catalog here, full of promise and a lot of sonic what-might-have-been. Screaming Trees deserve a serious and enthusiastic listen. Too bad it didn't get past the excess.
Say no to drugs.
Be kind to your neighbor.
Wear your mask.

Oh, yeah: the song..."Girl Behind the Mask" is from 1987's Even If And Especially When, on the venerable SST label. It's a silly bit of pseudo-psychedelic rock. A love song about a mysterious girl.

I wonder how we might end up thinking about masks, given the metaphorical weight they've carried for so long, compared to essential importance we now give to donning one. Masks used to be something to hide behind on nights and times given over to wanton fun and celebrations. Or when robbing a bank. Or doing some downhill skiing. Now, it's all about saving a life, yours or your neighbors.

The girl behind the mask? The world behind the mask. I hope. Until we get through this. Look out for your neighbor; be responsible; take care of your fellow human being. Let's get through this. We are all responsible.

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