So good to see Brian Fallon at Sixth and I the other night. Even better to have your wife singing this song to herself for days afterward.
Last Thursday night we met Jeff and Mollie at the Brixton after work.
There were drinks. There were full plates and then bellies. An egg on a burger can do no wrong. Then we were at the 9:30 Club to see Against Me and The Gaslight Anthem. The former was the best received opener I’d ever seen. They were happy to be there, and the crowd was happy to see them. The latter proved again its case for making my desert-island list. By the end of the show, you felt like Gaslight had played half its catalogue.
But when you looked back at the catalogue later, not true. Every song just felt right, recognizable, at home in your ears. The pit was filled with folks my age bouncing off each other. We were upstairs, but a big part of us was downstairs, in the pit, on the stage, hearing our music, the music the band had shared and made our music. I’d taken the next day off from work. We took our time heading home, talking about those songs all the way. “We sing with our heroes, thirty-three rounds per minute, never going home ’til the sun says we’re finished, I’ll love you forever if I ever love at all….”
I ran across a fan video from the floor that captured the night.
Joe Strummer, Johnny Appleseed, via No Depression.
Lord, there goes a Buick forty-nine
Black sheep of the angels riding, riding down the line
We think there is a soul, we don’t know
That soul is hard to find
Bruce Springsteen, Atlantic City.
Everything dies baby that’s a fact
But maybe everything that dies someday comes back
Gaslight Anthem, Break Your Heart.
And oh, my my, it would break your heart,
If you knew how I loved you, if I showed you my scars
If I played you my favorite song lying here, in the dark
Oh my my, it would break your heart
This week, I don’t even know. The first 60-hour one in a while. But, hey, still standing. Got a lot done. And now it’s weekend. It’s the exhausted, scratchy-voiced weekend. But still standing. Or at least pretend awake.
Chuck Ragan, Not Typical. I posted the album version a few months back, and this week I ran across a great live version from his label’s offices. So ragged, so good, just like this week. But you worry about future voice.
Non-typical, it’s really something else
When one is back into the call of what’s wild and raw
This video was among the automated suggestions in the rail of the Ragan video, and how often does an algorithm give you the cover you covered in the shower earlier in the week? I think I’ve posted a version of this cover before, but who cares. The Horrible Crowes, Teenage Dream.
Julia Louis-Dreyfuss and Seinfeld, in a 2000 clip the David Letterman vault posted this week, singing. I smiled the entire way through.
Last, one of my favorite music interview passages in a while, with Dave Bielanko, the singer from one of my favorite bands, Marah, talking to The Key blog from WXPN, one of my favorite radio stations, about Marah’s new inspired-by-ancient-logging-songs Mountain Minstrelsy album.
TK: It’s such a cool idea for project, digging into an old songbook for this century-old music. I’m sure you get this comparison a lot (and I apologize if you’re sick of hearing it!) but it feels like what Wilco and Billy Bragg did with Woody Guthrie’s music. They were able to get several albums out of that project – do you think there might be a Mountain Minstrelsy Volume 2?
DB: Thanks! “California Stars” is a great song, but here’s a thing…Woody MF’n Guthrie wrote those song lyrics…and there’s a good argument for him being one of the greatest song lyric writers we’ve ever known. (google “Talkin’ Hard Work Blues” if you think I’m lying.) Our source material was a bit more??? I dunno “spotty”? It took a lot of work for us to find a record hiding in there. This stuff came “whispered down the lane” from obscure hillbilly, lumberjacks and poor mountain folks so that gave our whole undertaking a very different underdog spirit, a punk rock feeling, it felt like we were maybe even doing something “good” for some pre-ASCAP uncelebrated forgotten songwriters. Ghosts. It also felt nice to not have Woody or Hank Williams looking over your shoulder as you worked. We were able to just be ourselves and just chase down whatever album it was going to become, keep ourselves present, see where it all would lead…nobody was fighting over these over songs anyway, it was just laying there to be done.
Amazon Music’s “Amazon Music Book Club” series talks to Brian Fallon about the new Gaslight Anthem record. The book club is a great idea.
I picked up Ezra Pound’s Collected Works and I picked up T.S. Eliot’s Selected Poems as well as Rimbaud. I was reading these three things at the same time and I can’t remember specific lines I read, but I remember what it was doing by putting it together. I was looking at it as pieces of a puzzle. I was very analytical about it. I remember reading the line “I became a fabulous opera” in Rimbaud. That’s different. And you understand that and you can picture it in your mind. But why does it resonate? Instead of thinking that I needed to take that line and put it in a song, I would think about why it resonated. It leads you through so many doors. And then you find out Arthur Rimbaud was 14 when he wrote that and you feel like a failure. T.S. Eliot was probably six and writing with a crayon.
The cowriter of a coming short film is The Gaslight Anthem’s drummer. The score comes from another Gaslight member and a friend of the band. What inspires the film is a song on their latest album. All these elements are nice for a fan of the band. From a movie-quality angle, they are all worrisome.
But then I read this description of the film, and I’m completely mollified. “… the film explores the romanticism of owning a physical piece of music and the impact, whether big or small, that it can have on someone’s life.” The movie could be good. Or it could be bad. But I know I’m going to like it.
Gaslight on a Sunday night, Kay Ryan on a Monday night.
Do you spend a long time revising?
When I do rewrite—a week later, a month, or maybe a year later—it’s not very much. I might have to add a little bit or turn two lines around or cut a little bit, change a word, or replace a line. I almost always fiddle around some more with the lineation. Sometimes I have to hold on to something for years before I have an ending.
The new Gaslight Anthem album, Handwritten, is a more raw effort than the band’s previous albums. It’s taken me some time to get into. But I’m at a point now where few days pass without one of its songs in my head.
My favorite is probably Here Comes My Man, and a rock-punk band writing from a woman’s perspective takes a chance. But the attempt lands well and has some of the album’s best writing. I’ve tried to decide my favorite couplet from the song and have failed repeatedly. Is it at the beginning…
Let the good night decide who she wants me to find
And I’ll never let you drop another tear in my eye
Or a little later…
So I packed up my things and I faced up my doubts
You know I think I will grow my hair back out
Or later still…
Maybe time will tell you
Why I got so much hell to sell you
The video is simple and direct, and the enterprise feels worth it.
“We watched ‘Talladega Nights’ every night for two years,” Brian Fallon told the New York Times recently. “That movie was the only normal thing we had.” As of tonight, I’d played Gaslight Anthem’s new album, Handwritten, about once a day every day since it came out. Friend Casey tweeted how it sounded like an album of men uncomfortably moving furniture. I wouldn’t dispute that characterization at points. But I did think the other day, out of nowhere: Even when you’re moving furniture, you’re thinking about stuff.
Casey was in town this weekend, and when the Daily contingent grabbed dinner last night, it was great to be around friends who made you think hard about music. You could like different sounds. You could disagree. But you needed to have your reasons. So, when I’d been playing the album last week, when my tickets to their December show in D.C. arrived today, when I loved this throwaway-but-kinda-badass poem in the New Yorker upon rereading it recently, I found my reasons. Even on the grittier days living served us, when I was lifting, sweating, grunting, and moving the literal or, more likely, figurative furniture for reasons no one would recall, grasp, or appreciate, I wanted wheels. Two minutes of howling? Yeah.