Thursday, January 22, 2009

Oh, Joy...?

Tuesday was inauguration day. The country reveled, getting all drunk on hope and change. And in spite of the icebergs that continue to pierce the hull of our great ship, they partied and danced into the wee small hours of the night. My stomach danced, too, but to a different tune, what I call the “That’s Not Rain! The Sky Really Is Quite Falling in Three-Fourths Time.” Ever heard of it? It just might be the next craze, a waltz that moves at the pace of a funeral dirge and is characterized by unsettling rhythms, abrasive squalls of electric feedback and distortion, harsh stabs of strings, violent horn squawks and a tribal beat that thunders like a mythical death rattle. And you don’t need a partner to dance to this number, just a belly full of worry.

I hate to poop on the party, but my outlook is not too sunny. I do not see a beacon of hope and prosperity on the horizon—just dense fog and gloom fraught with strife and struggle and the feeling that better days are nowhere near. Sure, I’m being pessimistic. But it’s difficult to be optimistic when all around you the reality of change is more like losing your job, shuddering your business, going into foreclosure, sinking deeper into oblivion. And so my dance card is full as I swing to this miserable waltz.

Meanwhile, over at this week, they’re screening Grant Gee’s rock-doc Joy Division, the 2008 documentary about, yes, Joy Division. The timing couldn’t be better. Nothing like a bleak story set in an eerie landscape of crumbling concrete and urban decay that typified Manchester in the late 1970s. And I thought times were tough here. They aren’t nearly as bad—at least in Seattle we have trees and shrubbery greening the grounds of our vacant buildings and closed warehouses and factories (although Manchester had better music than Seattle has now—sorry, Fleet Foxes). Anyway, the documentary is pretty good, but we all know how the story of Joy Division ends—with the beginning of New Order, of course. Oh, and Ian Curtis finally doing himself in (third time was the charm for him, sadly). And while Joy Division isn’t the life ring I should be reaching for, I’m certainly not gonna deny its company for a self-help book. I just want to wallow in the band’s anxious post-punk despair for a little while, and relish the grim brilliance of Curtis’s detached, cold moan over his mates’ jittery surges as they ride 1979’s Unknown Pleasures and 1980’s Closer into oblivion.

Soon, inevitably, the sun will finally make an appearance from behind the ominous curtain of clouds and fog and brighten my corners. At which point I’ll return my Joy Division records back to their rightful place on the shelf—right next to my beloved Wall of Voodoo records (talk about bleak—have you ever basked in the desolation blues of “Lost Weekend” from Call of the West?). That is until I lose my job or something.

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