What the fuck?
What the fuck? This is a question I find rolling around in my head far more often than I’d like and I don’t think I’m in the minority. Anything can trigger this, from a stoplight taking too long to odd developments in personal relationships to learning that the whole country is running out of orange juice due to a hard frost in Flordia. It is hard to define as it’s so universally applicable, but its safe to say everyone has their own “what the fuck” moment. Many are associated with music due to the cathartic nature of listening to your favorite tunes to relieve stress.
What do I mean specifically? Those times when you feel like the world is out to get you and your response is “Well, what the fuck?” In times of more clear thought, most of us realize that shit happens and this is the way of the world. It’s almost certainly not a personal thing, but rather the randomness of existence. This can be easy to say but hard to actually accept all at once. In time though, at least in my case, I calm down and realize you have to roll with the punches.
One of the biggest uses of music is therapy in whatever form helps you the most. I can say from experience that listening to music and playing it is one of the healthiest ways to deal with stress of any kind. This is why we can be listening to something and say,“This is exactly how I feel”, like whoever created the music just built a door to your soul.. I know I have a lot of these moments and everyone else does too. Ideally, we would have other people contribute these types of essays to really show how music helps so I will try and offer a good model for future contributions.
Moment: It’s the beginning of spring and nearly everyone I know is either not working or working very little. Gas prices are shooting up and from my observation, if this continues, the economy will tailspin right back into the shit. I have a Master’s degree that is doing me more harm than good as I live in a rural area that doesn’t value my field and will gladly take someone with less education so they can pay them less.
Thus, I work four part time jobs that are all on vacation or super slow this week so I’m at home. I have been doing yard work but mostly seeking more real jobs and lamenting the state of the world and my lack of female companionship. Again, this has to do with my location and conceivably my financial situation: I am in my mid-twenties where it really does matter how much money you’re making for romantic purposes. Basically, what the fuck? Here’s what I’m listening to.
1. Aenima-Tool: This has been a song I’ve listened to almost every day for probably six months now. I always knew of Tool but didn’t KNOW Tool until this summer when I spent some time reading about them and what they are all about. My verdict is that they are a truly amazing band with a sound philosophy and not a whole lot of obvious rock star bullshit. Their name is literally meant for the purpose of people using their music for whatever purpose they see fit and the reason their lead singer Maynard doesn’t explain the lyrics to their tunes.
This song is pretty clear though as it takes some of its lyrics from a Bill Hicks’ album called Arizona Bay. Youtube that shit right now for sure so I don’t ruin it for you! To sum up without ruining it, it is a sketch about the idea of a massive earthquake breaking off California into the Pacific which would now wash up on the shores of Arizona. From my interpretation, the song mostly outlines how Hollywood culture has pervaded every aspect of our modern lives–the chorus states: “the only way to fix it is to flush it all away/learn to swim/see you down in Arizona Bay”. This is all done over a clever combination of looping bass and guitar lines backed up by Danny Carey’s pounding drums. ( He is probably the best rock drummer in our day.Just to clue you in, the rest of the band will be in 4/4 time during a song and Danny Carey will be playing around them in like 6/8, which to me as a novice musician is mind blowing.)
Anyway, I am feeling this song right now due to my own frustration with the economic situation and the fact that you can’t turn on the TV without seeing another shade of this “reality” bullshit. You want reality? How about paying bills and struggling for health insurance? How about borrowing money from a complete stranger to pay for milk for your kids which is a scene I just witnessed? Bleak, I know, much like the song, but maybe the only way to fix this whole thing is to flush it all away.
2. “The Ballad of Jim Jones” –The Brian Jonestown Massacre: I discovered this band, or rather rediscovered it, through the show Boardwalk Empire HBO. The theme song is another ill BJM tune, who are pretty awesome overall by the way, but this one just popped up when I was searching for different tunes by them. It sounds like a drugged-up Bob Dylan circa The Times they’re changing but actually able to hit the high notes. The song is a musical tale of the band’s namesake, the Reverend Jim Jones himself, his journey to his utopia and eventual mass suicide south of the border in 1978. He made everyone drink poison-spiked kool-aid in an attempt to prove to the world you can refuse capitalism and embrace socialism. Yeah I know, it makes little sense to me too.
Oh yeah, Jesus was in on it too, which only further twists this lunatic philosophy and created a nice verse for this song:
“I prayed to Buddha, to Allah, and to Jim
I turned to Jesus and I stayed there with Him
I fell in deeper and I learned to swim”
Now I don’t condone mass suicide or extremism of any kind, but I do suggest an exploration of all faiths as this has worked for me. I got it from my old man who used to read from the Koran, Bible, and the Torah on a daily basis, saying “They all got some good shit to say”. Jim took this the wrong way and I think it’s an example of the crazy things people will do when they are down on their luck. This why it occurs to me now as I routinely witness Pyramid schemes at the banquet hall where I work part time and the general sense of desperation it what an apparently failing economy. Also, it connects back to Aenima with the swimming line and I didn’t realize that until right now as I am writing. That’s fucking cool and deepens the links between the songs.
3. “Indoor Games”-King Crimson: I’ve been on a prog-rock kick for a solid couple of years now and it doesn’t seem to be waning. It all started with an afternoon spent in a Subaru Outback driving slowly around a field and listening to Emerson, Lake, and Palmer’s greatest hits. Although also a huge Yes fan, I think King Crimson is the most badass of the prog-rockers and the most eclectic. With the lead guitarist Robert Fripp being the only constant member, their sound rarely stays the same for long and their third album Lizard exemplifies this. From the more pastoral epic sound of their first two albums, this one is almost like jazz metal and is unlike anything recorded before it.
My crazy neighbor Fred, whom I will describe in a later entry, told me to check out this song and he’s never led me wrong. He also has tinfoil in his hat but, again, that story is for another day. “Indoor Games” means little to me lyrically as I can’t understand many words and even less as I just glanced at the lyric sheet. I like it more because of the wide variety of sound, even just the multiple uses of guitars from distorted dissonance to simple strumming. I listen to this tune everyday as of late and I keep hearing different stuff which is something I look for in music. Lastly, during the late nineties, King Crimson toured with Tool as they are a very clear influence on the band affirmed by the bandmembers. So yes, everything does link back to Tool….or does Tool link everything? What do you think?