The Birds of St. Marks

Jackson Browne, one of my favorite songwriters, has a new album coming out in October.  This is the first song released from the record, The Birds of St. Marks.  I’m glad that it sounds like he is in top form.  HIs last studio album, Time the Conqueror, was one of the best albums of 2008.  There are few songwriters that can match intelligence and emotion in equal measure as he has done throughout his career.  

Only an Expert Lyrics

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Now only an expert can deal with the problem
Because half the problem is seeing the problem
And only an expert can deal with the problem
Only an expert can deal with the problem

So if theres no expert dealing with the problem
Its really actually twice the problem
Cause only an expert can deal with the problem
Only an expert can deal with the problem

Now in America we like solutions
We like solutions to problems
And theres so many companies that offer solutions
Companies with names like Pet Solution
The Hair Solution. The Debt Solution. The World Solution. The Sushi Solution.
Companies with experts ready to solve the problems.
Cause only an expert can see theres a problem
And only an expert can deal with the problem
Only and expert can deal with the problem

Now lets say youre invited to be on Oprah
And you dont have a problem
But you want to go on the show, so you need a problem
So you invent a problem
But if youre not an expert in problems
Youre probably not going to invent a very plausible problem
And so youre probably going to get nailed
Youre going to get exposed
Youre going to have to bow down and apologize
And beg for the publics forgiveness.
Cause only an expert can see theres a problem
And only an expert can deal with the problem
Only an expert can deal with the problem

Now on these shows, the shows that try to solve your problems
The big question is always How can I get control?
How can I take control?
But dont forget this is a question for the regular viewer
The person whos barely getting by.
The person whos watching shows about people with problems
The person whos part of the 60% of the U.S. population
1.3 weeks away, 1.3 pay checks away from homelessness.
In other words, a person with problems.
So when experts say, Lets get to the root of the problem
Lets take control of the problem
So if you take control of the problem you can solve the problem.
Now often this doesnt work at all because the situation is completely out of control.
Cause only an expert can deal with the problem
Only an expert can deal with the problem
Only an expert can deal with the problem

So who are these experts?
Experts are usually self-appointed people or elected officials
Or people skilled in sales techniques, trained or self-taught
To focus on things that might be identified as problems.
Now sometimes these things are not actually problems.
But the expert is someone who studies the problem
And tries to solve the problem.
The expert is someone who carries malpractice insurance.
Because often the solution becomes the problem.
Cause only an expert can deal with the problem
Only an expert can deal with the problem
Only an expert can deal with the problem

Now sometimes experts look for weapons.
And sometimes they look everywhere for weapons.
And sometimes when they dont find any weapons
Sometimes other experts say, If you havent found any weapons
It doesnt mean there are no weapons.
And other experts looking for weapons find things like cleaning fluids.
And refrigerator rods. And small magnets. And they say,
These things may look like common objects to you
But in our opinion, they could be weapons.
Or they could be used to make weapons.
Or they could be used to ship weapons.
Or to store weapons.
Cause only an expert can see they might be weapons
And only an expert can see they might be problems.
Cause only an expert can deal with the problem
Only an expert can deal with the problem
Only an expert can deal with the problem

And sometimes, if its really really really hot.
And its July in January.
And theres no more snow and huge waves are wiping out cities.
And hurricanes are everywhere.
And everyone knows its a problem.
But if some of the experts say its no problem
And other experts claim its no problem
Or explain why its no problem
Then its simply not a problem.
But when an expert says its a problem
And makes a movie and wins an Oscar about the problem
Then all the other experts have to agree that it is most likely a problem.
Cause only an expert can deal with the problem
Only an expert can deal with the problem
Only an expert can deal with the problem

And even though a county can invade another country.
And flatten it. And ruin it. And create havoc and civil war in that other country
If the experts say that its not a problem
And everyone agrees that theyre experts good at seeing problems
Then invading that country is simply not a problem.
And if a country tortures people
And holds citizens without cause or trial and sets up military tribunals
This is also not a problem.
Unless theres an expert who says its the beginning of a problem.
Cause only an expert can deal with the problem
Only an expert can deal with the problem
Only an expert can deal with the problem

Only an expert can see theres a problem
And see the problem is half the problem
And only an expert can deal with the problem
Only an expert can deal with the problem

By Laurie Anderson.  I posted a link to the video of Laurie Anderson performing this song on David Letterman the other day, but I thought the lyrics were worth reprinting in and of themselves.  She has a mind like a laser beam.  

 

At the Doctor’s Office

At the doctor’s office
Warm earth tones
And serene posters
Try to distract you
From the intrusive instruments
Waiting to poke and prod
Muzak is playing
But it’s not Muzak
It’s the latest hits
From the top of the charts
No wonder we’re such a sick nation
When this less than meaningless
Benign clap trap
They call music
Is what the masses use
To sooth the soul
Is the recording industry
Run by the CIA
To deaden the will of the population
So that businesses
Have empty vessels
In which to fill with their slogans?
Or do people simply prefer
Vanilla emotions
So that they don’t have to question
The state of things?
My blood pressure goes up
And I feel more ill
Then when I entered

Austin, Texas 8/18/2014

Oboe Concerto

Many of you liked the unofficial video for Morrissey’s World Peace is None of Your Business.  Here is an excellent one for Oboe Concerto by Sharon Jheeta, who is the same person that did the last one.  I found this thanks to http://www.true-to-you.net, which is Morrissey’s official website.  Oboe Concerto is the fitting final to Morrissey’s excellent new album.  

P.S. I read that Richard Strauss was asked to compose an oboe concerto by an American soldier after World War II. 

Knockin’ On Mine

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Alright, you read common knowledge, stockpile your brain
You get burned in the sun, you get wet in the rain
What they teach you to fix, needs to be broke
I say, he who laughs first didn’t get the joke
Go on, untap your mind, quit knocking on mine

An English teacher from Vancouver
She asked me to write something for her students
I wrote knowledge adds, wisdom let slide
She says now really? I wanna tap your mind

Quit knockin’ on mine
Walkin’ on
Knockin’ on mine

Knowledge is power, got your books go read ‘em
Wisdom is ignorance, stupidity, I call freedom
Knockin’ on mine, get out

Comic books, the Bible, road maps, pornography
Anything you wanna read
Go out and sit in a field sometime

Quit knockin’ on mine
(Knockin’ on mine)
Quit knockin’ on mine
(Knockin’ on mine)

Power got your books go read ‘em
Wisdom is ignorance, stupidity, I call freedom
Quit knockin’ on mine
(Knockin’ on mine)

You read common knowledge every day
You’re as common as that newspaper you throw away
You get burned in the sun, you get wet in the rain
Won’t you ever change, won’t you ever learn?

Quit knockin’ on mine
(Knockin’ on mine)

Knockin’ On Mine by Paul Westerberg.  I remember hearing this song when I was around 13 or 14 and being surprised that there was a rock n roll song about reading, one that actually rocked no less.  I was used to the songs that were on the radio that were about having fun and partying all of the time.  As I grow older I realize that it’s ideas that are most subversive of all.  Anyone just singing about whiskey all of the time is selling you fake rebellion.  

How About I Be Me (And You Be You)?

I have been listening to the new Sinead O’Connor album today, but it is too complex of a record to absorb since its released last night at midnight.  The album, by the way, is called I’m Not Bossy, I’m the Boss.  I never really listened to Sinead O’Connor during the time when she was at the top of the charts.  I was off listening to whatever music a young male listens to back then.  She didn’t seem “cool” at the time, and that is my loss.  Luckily I have realized by now what a tremendous talent that she is.  

I discovered her best album first.  Her last album, How About I Be Me (And You Be You)?, is one of my absolute favorite records of the last few years.  It is one of those albums that manages to blend the personal and political, where the artist is able to look out at the world with both empathy and disgust.  The album is also first rate when it comes to music and melody.  Every song is well arranged and every melody is full of hooks that will stick with you long after you have listened to the record.  However, where an album that takes on so many topics and styles might appear disjointed if you hadn’t heard it, the production is simply top notch and ties everything together.   The writing, most of which is O’Connor’s, also has a lot to do with the unity of the record.  An album with so many themes works because you get a sense that you are getting a full picture of the artist as a human being.  The record sounds warm and inviting, it sounds current, without the digital brittleness of many modern records, and without any production tricks that will sound dated in a few years.  When I listen to it, I can’t help but think of albums like Born to Run, Achtung Baby, and Vauxhall and I.  These are perfect records that haven’t aged a day since they were released.  Of course O’Connor’s album won’t change the world like those records did, because her media light wasn’t shining at its brightest when it was released, but it is in their caliber.  

First of all O’Connor can flat out sing.  She is also an excellent writer.  The very things that got her in trouble, even though she was right on SNL if not always, is the very thing that makes her such a unique talent.  You get the sense that whatever she is singing is something that she deeply believes in that moment.  She may change her mind in the next minute, and infuriate people, but in the moment she is completely true to her convictions.  

This album is political, but not in a current events kind of way, unless you count the songs that still seem to hold a grudge for the religion that did her, and so many others damage in Ireland.  Her songs are too character driven, too personal, to be merely be songs that are ripped from the newspapers.  She writes a song from the point of view of a junkie, where despite the junkie’s obvious failings, and the song’s dark mood, you can’t help but feel empathy for the character.  This at a time when the War on Drugs is appearing more absurd then ever.  However, there are no statements made, just on characters story.  One of the most powerful songs on the album is the closing tour de force V.I.P.  In this song she tears down celebrity and religion in equal measures.  I know some of you may find the fact that a celebrity is taking on celebrity as too much to bear.  However, the passion and the intelligence in this song should silence any criticism.  

O’Connor writes about joy in love with all of the same passion and intelligence that she uses in her more scathing works.  Writing a love song that actually is infused with joy and love is a lot harder to do than one would think.  It’s hard to describe an emotion that is so often talked about in cliches with any kind of originality.  On several songs she manages this feat with ease.  Above I have posted a live version of the single for this record, The Wolf is Getting Married.  I dare you to watch that video at say that she cannot sing.  

If you are a fan of intelligent pop music and the power of song than this is a record that I can’t recommend enough.  She may not be as fashionable as she once was, but there she is, off on her own, with the same passion and conviction that she had when everyone was watching.