Monthly Archives: October 2013

Rock Bands

Despite my love of fairly obscure, fringe genres of music, and the fact that I always feel most at home at concerts of a couple of hundred people in small, dingy bars or basement clubs where the volume is far too loud, and the pit far from safe, I also harbor an enormous affection for popular music.

Especially popular rock bands that communicate across genre and language. I’m thinking of Led Zeppelin, Queen, Guns and Roses, Stone Roses, Waterboys… but there hasn’t been a band like that since the early 90s. Blur, Oasis, Pearl Jam, Queens of the Stone Age, Killers, and some of the post-grunge bands have tried hard to pick up the mantle, they never quite hit that 50,000 people screaming their name in a stadium level. Even today, I can’t think of a rock band that can hold an entire stadium in the palm of their hand with epic, soaring guitars and vocals.

However, in the 90s, there was exactly such a band in Japan, playing to sold-out stadiums and living as gods among men. I discovered X-Japan through anime during college, and they remain one of my favorite bands despite the fact that they broke up in the late 90s.

They’re very similar to a Guns and Roses sound, ranging from double guitar attack and soaring solos to rock-piano ballads and all the excess of the genre. Every cliche of late 80s hard-rock band can be found here, right down to guitarist Hide’s huge bright-pink hair. It certainly helped that the band was made up of downright gorgeous boys who were all accomplished musicians. They ooze rock-star charisma and saunter with the confidence of young men who know exactly who they are.

Of course, they broke up in 97 and have had a number of ill-advised reunions since then, but since Hide death after the break-up, it’s never really been the same band.

The ultimate experience of the band, I think, is their last concert, a 3.5 hour long feast for the senses called “The Last Live”. The full experience can be found on YouTube and is well worth a listen. From the explosive opening set to the melancholy ballads in the middle, and the hyperbolic melodrama of the weeping band-mates at the end as they play farewell songs – it’s a signature performance.

What makes it especially poignant I think is that theĀ  band isn’t winking at any point. They mean it, with every drop of energy and emotion, they aren’t cynical and this isn’t a show, it’s really an earnest effort, and that shines through the language barrier

If this band wrote English songs, I think they might have taken over the world, at a time when western music lacked any focus or direction. No, nu-metal, rap-metal and boy-bands were not a direction despite what the charts might tell you about the late 90s.

Rather than regret the lack of good music or muse over what might have been, just have a listen to what was, because it was pretty damned good. And we’re lucky to have a record.

Writing the Wrong Thing

What you want to write isn’t always under your control.

At least, that’s how it works for me. When the urge to write comes, it brings with it a certain mood and texture, a certain light and sound and smell that can produce only the unique product of its parts. To write anything else feels difficult and it becomes a struggle to wrestle the urge to write into a usable form. The words slip away, the feeling falls down, and the sky opens up into a void.

The cursor keeps blinking on a blank screen.

What to do, then, when the urge to write is for things that seem of little consequence? Right now, I want to write extensively about the game I’m playing, about the internal dialog of my character and the story of his own struggle with things. I wrote about him before, here, but he’s becoming more and more prominent in my head, talking to me, demanding attention.

He’s poking me with his scimitar and asking why I’m ignoring him when he’s right there, waiting to go on adventures across green ocean and Caribbean blue sky. And I have to keep pushing him off, say no, go away, I have other writing to do, serious writing, things I can send out to magazines but he doesn’t understand. It’s hard to put aside one’s own existence for the sake of the maker’s interest.

And that right there, is a telling and terrifying thought – perhaps a story to be found in exploring that sentiment. Hmm.