Current Obsession No. 3
Occasionally, a package from filmmaker Brian Ashby arrives in my mailbox at home. Inevitably, inside I find a mix CD wrapped up carefully in some protective material. I am remiss in that I rarely return the volley, much as I mean to. (Note to self: send Brian some fucking mixes.) I so appreciate these little gifts, often timed to coincide with some turn of season or loved/loathed holiday, because Brian turns me on to music I have yet to discover. I’m not sure where he looks, since I’m always looking myself, and he never fails to find something that has escaped my attention. I think he notices things differently than I do. Probably he has fewer blinders. That’s the best way to search – without preconception.
At the beginning of the winter, I got a mix that started with a song I didn’t recognize, “Happy Wasteland Day.” I listened, as I always do with Ashby mixes, in my car, and was immediately taken with the unfamiliar sound: dry snare drum backbeat and cool guitar riff versus squishy analog synthosaurus. This is normal/It’s normal now/(They said) it’s normal/It’s normal/It’s normal now, intones Open Mike Eagle, the maker of this galvanic music, checking reality in an unreal moment. When the king is a garbage person/I might want to lie down and die/Power down all my darkest urges/Keep my personal crown up high. “Happy Wasteland Day” is the track I’d nominate as the anthem of our current state of affairs. It’s so tender and at the same time so brutal. But the tenderness vanquishes the brutality. Here’s a rap that builds to a pique of anger, calling for action. Protesting I lost my sign/Standing up ‘cause they crossed my line/Gathered folks and they caught my vibe/If it wasn’t for y’all I woulda lost my mind. And he says, very simply and elegantly: Tell the garbage king: We don’t respect your crown. What an apropos image, the garbage king – believes in nothing but trash, flies the flag of expedience without regard for humanity, just gathering piles and piles of crap, relishing a future lived out at the junkyard. One day without violence/Can we get one day without fear, asks Open Mike Eagle, wondering aloud whether that’s too much to ask. Can we get one day they don’t try us/Just like one day the whole year? Now I have the 2017 CD on which this track lives, Brick Body Kids Still Daydream – mandatory, y’all! – and OME’s fantastic recent follow-up EP, What Happens When I Try To Relax. All of it, total obsession, ongoing. Because it’s normal/It’s normal now.
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