Sunday, December 16, 2007

Can I Help Who's Next?

Done with school! Well, almost. For this semester. I have one paper left to hand in - it's due tomorrow, so obviously, no need to rush. I'm writing about polyamory, specifically as it has been interpreted by the young and hip: which is to say, vaguely. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the term as "the custom or practice of engaging in multiple sexual relationships with the knowledge and consent of all partners concerned," but most folks I've talked to tend to stop reading just before "with." Seems to be a handy way to avoid commitment and simultaneously get credit for brave experimentation in an unorthodox lifestyle. But it's an unwieldy subject for a news article, that's for sure. I don't know what I was thinking. I guess I was thinking the "characters" would be strange and entertaining, but ... so far, not really. Anyway, you won't be seeing this one posted online. But it will get done. It's practically done already. (I don't feel tardy...)

In other news...I'm taking suggestions for things I should do in the city before the onslaught begins again. Let me live vicariously through you! It's not just a blog, people: it's your blog. (Glob, I mean. Not blog.)

Well, actually it's my glob. And I do have a couple of mini-outings to share, but am too tired and poly-grossed-out to report them entertainingly tonight. For now, a highlight: I went to see Marcellus Hall play at the Lakeside Lounge last Saturday. He has a cool name and uses it well. I first saw him in his old band, Railroad Jerk, which played Satyricon in like 1947, and I went with Gordon because the band was on Matador, which at the time was good enough for us. They were great. (The sarcastic bio on the Matador site describes RRJ as industrial folk, or gangster folk, or a "unique blend of traditional Irish folk, mainstream r&b, classical jazz, reggae, delta blues, '60s psychedelia, European techno-pop, Appalachian hillbilly, California surf and post-punk industrial wall-of-noise grunge dirge." I would dispute the grunge and the reggae and possibly the Irish folk, but the rest is pretty dead-on.) Marcellus Hall at that time was a tall and skinny red-haired Adonis-type figure who played guitar and harmonica and did the splits on stage. A full-grown man. The splits! Without ever once cracking his cool facade, and yet also without being a smartass who was making fun of us and/or rock and roll. He was a fine thing, and his song lyrics were brilliant, literary, wicked little poser-seeking missiles. But what I liked best about him was his pronunciation.

I saw his next band, White Hassle, in Stockholm four or five years ago. White Hassle started when the two main guys from RRJ got kicked out of their rental house and forced to live in the vacant lot next door, using only scraps of tin and buckets of nails to live. (The first album, anyway, sounded like that. By the time I saw them they were back to being pretty suave.) They had a great song involving Sophia Loren and two pals getting shanghaied onto a cargo ship to serve under a tyrannical captain. And one about echinacea. After that show, I was having a beer with their guest guitarist and Marcellus Hall was watching a Swedish girl write something scribbly on the wall. "It's her dissertation," he said. I never talked to him, though; too shy.

Anyhow, as of last Saturday, he looks the same as always. His songs are maybe even better, and not only because they make fun of things like cell-phones and email. ("We'll be turning our phones off," he warned the crowd, "so if you try to text us during the show...") The drummer in the new band is called Jimmy the Hat. Even the way Marcellus Hall pronounces Jimmy the Hat is cool. I read a review that said he did the splits during the encore, but I must've looked away at the crucial moment. Or maybe that person was just being metaphorical, because verbally at least, MH always does the splits, plus somersaults, backbends, handstands, you name it, if it's a gymnastic contortion, one of the lines in one of his songs has resembled it. He won't sacrifice a word for a rhyme; he'll just stretch and scrunch all the other words in that verse into crazy shapes until two words that kind of rhyme line up. It's always funny and it never sounds forced, it just sounds like the way he talks. Or the way he probably would talk, if a person would ever actually go up and try to talk to him.

Well, hopefully no music writers are reading this, because it's one of the worst examples of music writing I've ever seen. Sad, sad. Marcellus Hall deserves better, but he's not going to get it, or anyway not tonight. I'm off - more soon. Down with polyamory!

1 comment:

  1. Tough luck, Ohlsen! This is one music writer who just read your so-called "essay" about the musical life of Marcellus Hall, and I feel compelled to say one thing:

    Wasn't he the cool, bald black dude from "Reservoir Dogs"?

    You should tell him to ditch this honky blues crap and go back to saying things like "I'm prepared to scour the the Earth for that motherfucker. If [Bruce Willis] goes to Indochina, I want a nigga waiting in a bowl of rice, ready to pop a cap in his ass."

    That was way cooler than Railroad Jerk.


    PS: As for your non-academic downtime in NYC, I think you should spend it stalking Eugene Hutz and/or Tod A. That's what I would do!