Saturday, January 31, 2009

Life Speeds Up

by fandorin

Another year again. Another birthday (I stopped celebrating). Life speeds up. A professor of psychology once explained to me it has something to do with your awareness of your life's duration. When you're small, four years old, a year is a fourth of your life. When you're 40, a fourth of your life is ten years. Fractions getting smaller, creating the illusion of high speed life. Milan Kundera wrote one of the modern man's major difficulties is how it's getting more and more difficult to make a difference on this world. I remember somehow like "there were far less people on this planet. Galilei was 1/500.000.000 of mankind, Brahms still 1/ Your part of the world is diminishing rapidly. Your concurrence is increasing while your individual importance is fading away".

So, our lifes are speeding up and our time share and our share of distinction is getting smaller and smaller. Neat!

The three words of the title always trigger those thoughts. Another feature of The Church I dearly love - to paint vast pictures with a few bold brush strokes, and it opens up before your eyes. Sometimes, one line is enough. "I saw this film about some people who lived in a dome", "On this very spot, a great city once stood", "Sitting in the shadows and the evening oscillating" - there is always so much going on in so little words, and you can fall asleep before it is over and dream of the end...

I remember the day I heard Life Speeds Up first. Must have been in early 1992. I had Starfish, Gold Afternoon Fix and Heyday. For some reason, i wasn't eager to explore any 10 years old stuff. Life hadn't sped up, so I thought I had all the time of the world. I hadn't heard any Church stuff before Myrrh then. I thought the old stuff can't be as brilliant as the new stuff, because the new stuff is new (esp. in comparison to the old stuff). Yes, I was young and stupid, alright? But then the day came when one of my best friends slipped a tape into mail, and few days later, it arrived. It contained (I don't have to dig it out) music, and it showed me within 90 minutes I had no friggin idea about music. There was Television, the Chameleons, Kilbey solo stuff. Willson-Piper solo stuff. The Replacements, Television Personalities and lots of rather offbeat music. And there was Life Speeds Up. I listened to the tape on my walkman, in the night, and I remember when Life Speeds Up started playing. My eyes getting wider and wider. I couldn't believe what I heard. I cursed myself for being a complete ignorant. This was prog!! Just that it was better than all my prog records. This was the kind of prog your King Crimson loving high school teacher would be scared of. Those tubular bells had nothing to do with the fucking Tubular Bells. Life Speeds Up vs. Larks Tongues In Aspic (or Tapir's Dick in Fine Jelly) was like white shark vs. sperm whale. The week after, I started to save my pocket money to buy the early records.

This is pure prog devoid of all the cheese that made prog bad in 1982. I guess somehow in 1982, Asia's debut was released. All that sucked about prog in 1982. Music sporting festering pimples for people who mistook complexity for quality, just there wasn't even any complexity left, just a mess. Life Speeds Up, just as its cousins An Interlude and Is This Where You Live provides a weird vision of slim, cool and sexy prog that noone could have dreamt up before. The cool throb of certain krautoid inventions paired with the passionate jangle of Marty and Peter, plus the youthful, energetic drumming of the very very yound Richard Ploog, focussed through a lense of someone who had absorbed everything that was really timeless and emotional in music. I loved Genesis' albums up to Wind and Wuthering, they were awesome until Steve Hackett left, but they didn't rock at all. I love lots of German 70es art rock, but it's devoid of sex and simple emotion. Now, on Life Speeds Up, we have a couple of young australian rockers with an incredible eye for the essence of greatness, removing all the blubber and paunch from That Special Kind Of Quite Complex Song Constructions Some May Call Progge. It doesn't even feature any warped chords like E flat major diminished/expanded 9-13-°procedere4.9 faculty 7, but is constructed - once again - around the easy possibilities your index finger allows you to grab around D. Once, not too long ago, I have had the honour to talk with Steve about a lot of records and sounds. Beware, his songwriting may seem the random work of a turned in genius wired to a random musical heaven, but the more I heard, the more I became aware of the role of Craft in his work. Experience. Training. Things that work and don't work. Combining elements of various ages of rock. Making up fantastically new things from old influences. Kind of high tech magic, looking easily, but you can be sure the man is perfectly aware of most of the nuts and bolts and wirings, relays, flanges and struttings of songwriting. And no, he won't show you the trick. And still deliver it with the superior friendly grin of genius.

How the song fades in, with that hurrying wave drums and the chord change of "D major" and "D slightly evilly diminished". No real intro but an ending summoning the bombastic ghosts of Beethoven and Bruckner (again, avoiding being obviously "Classic Rock" or "Baroque Pop". Though can you deny the very 18th century approach of Allegro - Andante - Allegro furioso?). And, HAHA, it could have been so easy to throw in a "speeding up" section, but no, just like in You Took, it's all done with increasing rhythmic density while mostly keeping the same pace, i.e. Richard's arms are drumming more and more stuff, while the speed remains the same. That's clever, isn't it? It's the same like in the days still having 24 hours when you're 35, but the fractions are getting smaller....

Lyrically, there are many Kilbey voices, but the voice speaking in Life Speeds Up is one of my favourite. Sharp as a razorblade, merging philosophy, great imagery and still being cool rock lyrics. Noone else writes like that. Changing narrative perspectives (addressing a "you", just talking, descriptions, phantasmagories), I'm no big fan of the "we"-perspective, as I usually feel annoyed by rock lyrics including myself in a "we"...I love The Joshua Tree to bits (catholicism, pomposity and large-arsed pretentions included), but Red Hill's line "so we scorch the earth, set fire to the sky" always irks me, as I don't scorch the earth, and I don't set any fucking fires to the sky except on, haha, New Year's Day (when all is quiet). Here, the "we" perspective is used in a non-annoying way, which is almost as rare as a great saxophone solo.

But I'm digressing.

What I actually wanted to say is


chrome3d said...

Are we supposed to expect even more? That´s a pretty comprehensive study of a b-side if there was one.

Leïlah said...

"White shark vs. whale sperm". Stefan, wild aquatic life allusion in a ROCK review? Your violent tide hits these apparently unmovable rocks we hear almost solidified by time. Life speeds up through these keyboards and other boards.