New York seems like a wonderful and terrible place. It’s like a world-class vineyard, but the grapes are people. Not only are the grapes people, the grapes will defend to the death their right to be crushed underfoot on the basis that New York is the best vineyard in the world. It’s a city where the grapes are drunk on their own myth, and the juices of their siblings. That sounds even more disgusting now that I write it down.
I see the enormous appeal of pushing together a load of talented and ambitious people in a small area (never mind that people don’t really live in Manhattan any more), but it seems like an expensive, dirty, tiring, exhausting city to be in. It’s really running on the fumes of it’s own notoriety – if it woke up tomorrow to find it had been renamed Cleveland, people would wonder what the fuck they’d been doing with their lives and why they were putting up with so much bullshit. Which is pretty much what happens as you age – yeah, I like art and shit, but I don’t love the making of the sausage, if I’m an ingredient in the sausage. Or the wine. Or whatever grinder people are throwing themselves into.
When Trump got elected people said “at least we’ll get some good art” as if that’s a given, or a reasonable trade off. The art seems about the same so far. With Reagan, the US had a decade of hardcore punk; not a genre I love, but I do really really like Fugazi – it’s hard not to love that sound. I also thought about capitalism – and, to extend the wine metaphor, how the simple pleasure of a bubble rising up and popping serves no useful purpose, unless that bubble could be monetised, its energy harnessed and used. The popping of a bubble marks the useless release of energy.
Musician Jeremy Warmsley – who’s doing his own Year of Songs project, but is doing 12 and really putting a lot of effort into them being awesome and complex and things I didn’t really do writing 40 songs in 2018 – introduced me to Santo and Johnny’s Sleepwalk around this time – an amazing lap steel melody that you’ve probably heard and didn’t know you had – and having got it stuck in my head, I decided that I wanted to do something very melodic that involved very high harmonics. The melody is around the 12th fret, and the pinched harmonics happen at what would be about the 24th fret I guess, so they have that very brittle sound. I was really quite pleased with this song, and that something so ballad-y had “punk” in the title.
Next week, we take a trip to the Cascade Mountains – until then, you can preorder Year of The Bird Volume 4 – out in December.