Sunday, January 10, 2010

Now That's Damned Challenging To My Ears

Do you remember the Walker Brothers? "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore"?

I was feeling pretty droopy and spent part of Saturday afternoon watching "30th Century Man", the Bowie-produced film about Scott Walker, the voice of the Walker Brothers.


First, take a listen to Walker's later stuff and tell me that's not the sound that Bowie became famous for. The film struck me as Bowie's apology - "Sorry, Scott. I stole your sound but you're still my hero."

But keep listening. And prepare to have your mind splintered. It was interesting watching with a musician, as Walker's later music doesn't bother him in the least.

"I like it," KB said.

I can't say my reaction was that simple. Walker's music is to your ears what Jackson Pollack's art is to your eyes. It doesn't follow the rules. It's got nothing to hang on to, no familiar rhythm or structure that lets you relax and listen.

It's the kind of music that takes a category I refer to as "music for the mentally disturbed" to a whole new level. It's uncomfortable. It's compelling. I don't even know if I like it, or if I can like it, but I sure as hell recognize that it's a remarkable leap, a real effort to be innovative, to turn tradition on its head and smack its ass.

KB has also introduced me to Peter Hammill - and why no one's made a movie about him we don't know. Van der Graaf Generator? Ring a bell?

Hammill is also challenging, but a little more accessible. What he shares with Walker is that full tilt, blood on the microphone, nothing held back level of performance and a remarkable voice.

We saw him live at an intimate little setting in our town and I must tell you that his encore, where he simply stood on the balcony above us and sang an a cappella lullabye was one of the most incredible musical performances I've ever experienced.

I'd be interested - how does this music hit people? And what determines who loves it and who hates it?


Ruth said...

Oh I'm such a loser. My son would disown me. The only one of these musicians I know is David Bowie.

Susan said...

Not at all, Ruth. They're certainly not mainstream, either of them. You probably sort of knew the Walker Brothers, but they were far bigger in the UK than the US. so if you're in the US, you're even farther off the hook.

But now you know of them both - so go impress your son!