There. A proper Halloween theme. Happy, America?!
GET OUT OF CONTROL | Daniel Ash Known primarily as guitarist for Bauhaus, and singer/guitarist for Love and Rockets, and singer/guitarist for Tones on Tail, and singer/guitarist for The Bubblemen, and singer/guitarist for Poptone, Daniel Ash also has a non-negligible solo catalogue that I figured it’d be worth looking at today, with “Get Out of Control” as our ambassador. Like what I’ve previously said about Jack White and Danny Elfman, Daniel Ash’s musical signature steals the show in every project he’s a part of, although I think this manifests a little differently than those other two artists. I’m saying this as a Love and Rockets lover, but for as philosophical and poetic as their lyrics can be, I think they can pretty easily fall into being trip music or club music, and that’s great—I’d say they’re the masters of that sort of song (as this week’s Love and Rockets pick should prove). I guess I say that not to demean a lack of depth, but more to set the bar for “Get Out of Control”—a cut-and-dry goth rock gem that does exactly what it needs to. Though I think it lacks some of the psychedelic atmosphere that the full Love and Rockets band might bring, a trippy fog would only drag down such a driven song like this. With lyrics like “And when the moon is big and full / And look it’s made all just for you / You can’t go down down down down / You can’t go down again,” this song sounds geared to get the crowd roaring, but in goth fashion, it can’t help but twist the narrative towards the deviant, the creepy, and, well, the gothic—exactly what Daniel Ash does best.
HORSE LATITUDES | The Doors There’s not a lot of music out there that truly scares me, and I don’t say that to sound tough or something—you guys know how much I cry, no use hiding that. I only say that more because I know I can use a lot of hyperbolic language when I get excited about stuff, and how much I enjoy the chilling, the eerie, and also the outright horrifying, camp or not. This song, off of the Door’s classic album Strange Days, falls squarely in the latter party—truly hair-raising. It’s not the sort of thing I’d have expected from the Doors—they’re more kooky-spooky, which I’m all about, give me more of that organ—but I think it’s exactly the sort of thing I’d have expected from Jim Morrison, a certified scary dude, you know? Rest in peace and all that, but, y’know, when a guy like that whips out his spoken-word poetry mid-album, you know it’s about to go down, and my god, does it. “Horse Latitudes” gets its title from spaniard horse-shipping routes, some of which were pitted with doldrums so expansive that the animals onboard had to be jettisoned to preserve water. This comes through in terrifyingly vivid fashion, the ghost of shrill whinnying tainting the tingling pulses of organ that skitter in and out of the background as Jim Morrison brays a lament for the first animal overboard. From a purely poetic perspective, this thing is riddled with tattoo-worthy lines: “mute nostril agony,” “true sailing is dead,” “her sullen and aborted currents breed tiny monsters,” I could go on. With such hoarse delivery and a raving atmosphere, this song quickly makes me want to turn it off after about twenty seconds, and I wonder why I even put it on until it’s over and then I press play again. Like, this’ll put some Skinny Puppy level dread in a man, but they were doing Skinny Puppy before Skinny Puppy? Like, “Epilogue?” That’s just “Horse Latitudes” with spiky hair. I don’t know, maybe I’m overhyping it, but I think there are just some songs you can’t totally prepare for.
PLANET RIDE | Julian Cope So instead of preparing, cleanse when it’s over! In maybe the most dissonant transition I’ve written about so far (but I can do better, just you wait), let’s check out “Planet Ride,” a song I seriously cannot get over. Like, wow, wow it’s so good. Last time we talked Julian Cope, it was for a distinctly more britpop song, which, upon reflection, I don’t think “Planet Ride” fits into at all (which is crazy, because it sounds SO Julian Cope). If anything, it almost has a new wave cadence, twisted by some experimental (or just giddy creative) elements—almost in the same vein as Arcadia (“Election Day” has a shockingly similar momentum, tone, and atmosphere. I’m not sure I have the vocabulary to quantify it, but it’s there). It’s not exactly off-kilter, but it’s not exactly on-kilter either, though it’s infectiously delightful either way. Backed by a baseline that I am totally in love with, Julian Cope sings this one with charisma and pride; a winking, almost salesman-y swagger seeping in during the bridge. My girlfriend called me on my “I hate the 80s” hypocrisy with the lyrics here, saying that they sound just like the stuff I’m usually reviled by, but after some thinking, I feel like there’s a bit more of a genuine, imaginative fervor to behind the words here that just doesn’t gel with the overproduced, slick, and saccharine sheen over the rest of the decade. I don’t know, to be honest, but what I do know is that my girlfriend and I have also been quoting “I love you sweedeedee, I love you,” which is impeccably delivered right alongside “come and hang ’em on the line, next to mine.” It’s perfect, right? I won’t be taking questions.
RAINBOW IN THE DARK | Dio And since I’m already feeling so generous, I’m willing to indulge in a little cheese today, or a little more than a little. If any song here is a song I should hate, it’s absolutely this one. Everything about this screams tight, shiny pants, fluffy hair, and tongues-out metal, but sue me, it actually rocks. I think I’ve mentioned before how easily Ronnie James Dio wins me over every time, and that’s probably because I heard him first through his work with Black Sabbath. In that music, there’s cheese, no question, but it’s overtaken by the grim and the grime that Black Sabbath can be trusted to bring to the table, and though Dio steered them in a more epic, mythic, and maybe even theatrical direction, they were able to maintain a darkness that kept them anchored to metal’s roots. With Dio, though… oh boy, oh wow, yea, throw all that out the window, and why don’t we crank up the synth? That should age well. And you know what? It actually sort of did, for as dangerously close to Van Halen as it skirts. Rainbow in the dark, to me, is goofy fun, and it always makes me smile.
BODY AND SOUL | Love and Rockets And so, we’re back where we’ve begun, but if you’re listening to these with the assigned reading, then oh boy, you’re still nowhere near the end. At 14 minutes long, “Body and Soul” takes Love and Rockets’s trippy side to its furthest extreme, building a humming, whirring, shivering atmosphere from a breeze to a gale over the course of nearly seven minutes before the song even really starts. If that doesn’t sell you, this might not be your thing, but I’ll admit, that’d probably put me off too, so maybe just be patient. The riff that loops over those first seven minutes is hypnotic, bringing me back to the music from some old Eyewitness episodes (probably most like the intro to “Human Machine,” but I’m also sensing a little bit of my favorite, “Skeleton,” in there. There’s a deep cut for you. Truly genre-defining). To judge this song purely for its psychedelic factor, too, would probably be a mistake, because after such a colossal build, it tightens back up, launching into a focused, almost funky jam with low saxophone and still-entrancing percussion (this bit reminds me a bit more of Prince’s “7.” Man, I wish I liked more prince. Someone manifest a Kate Bush-style Prince 180 for me. I just can’t get over the sleaze, I almost feel embarrassed for him. I’m sorry! I didn’t choose this life). Fourteen minutes is a big investment, and though I’ve seen more squeezed out of a song in that time, I’m not sure transformation should always be the goal, though “Body and Soul” has plenty of that. Instead, I think this one is more supposed to be a meditation (substance-assisted, no doubt, but it works just fine without that); it’s a re-centering, as the name would suggest.
Finally, something probably not worth including in your trip experience: Henry Fuseli’s The Nightmare, circa 1781. Technical craftsmanship aside, I’ve never been able to figure out why this painting has been branded in my brain since the first time I saw it. I think it’s the lighting that’s so arresting. The way the apelike Mara (a folkloric explanation for the suffocating feeling post-nightmare) seems almost swallowed by the shadows perfectly captures the look of loose clothes across the room at night, doing their best monster impression. Even darker is the dead-eyed, sneering snout of a nightmare (mare, get it?), knickering behind a curtain I could never be talented enough to capture. As a kid, I was so focused on the monsters that I never realized the woman herself is bathed in an almost sourceless white light, maybe meant to symbolize some kind of purity, or maybe meant to contrast the parasite on her chest. I’ve only experienced sleep paralysis once—self-plug on my self-website, but I wrote “7870” about that—but this perfectly captures the hazy feeling of a half-asleep brain trying to assign its fears to something in the dark. Henry, if you’re reading this, I want the sequel where she wakes up and tries to get out of bed but her back is shot because she was posing in her sleep. Thanks.