For some reason the past two weeks in the lab were backed entirely by a Sunset Rubdown / Wolf Parade soundtrack, and I don’t really know what motivated that decision.
That said, I realized that for whatever reason the content on the blog does not really reflect my love for Krug-related projects, and so it seemed that a post was in order.
Of particular interest this week is yet another resurgence of interest in Sunset Rubdown’s 2009 effort, Dragonslayer, and the furhter fruition of my investigation into Wolf Parade’s backcatalog.
Beginning with the former: Dragonslayer a phenomenal work of art. Characteristic of that project’s past output, there is a plethora of mythical imagery woven into a densely layered narrative, the internal consistency of which remains to be determined. What I mean by that is simply that Krug’s lyrics obviously suggest some over-arching story, but it’s difficult to tell if it is done in such a way that the listener can even access such a story.
Even still, the artistic effect it renders does its job. A perfect example of this is the oft-posted but still relevant ‘Apollo and The Buffalo and Anna Anna Anna Oh!‘.
The song mentions that the narrator is the buffalo, but also that the buffalo was “rode into extinction.” This apparent inconsistency is even further complicated by the character of Anna, who “played guitar while the rest of us fell in love,” as well as changed her name, for some reason unknown to even the narrator.
The object of the song is referred to as “you hunter,” and the buffalo as a “prize,” which is curious because Artemis, Apollo’s sister of legend described in the song as “a Runaround Sue”, is traditionally associated with the hunt.
So you can see how there are a number of fun, intricate little connections to be made here, but it’s somewhat vague as to what, if anything, they mean.
This proves to be pervasive throughout the rest of the record. Every last song containing at least a few of these mythical or fantastic references, and each track is somehow linked to the greater narrative of the album as a collusion.
The previously posted ‘You Go on Ahead (Trumpet Trumpet II)’ is in truth the spiritual successor to ‘Trumpet, Trumpet, Toot! Toot!’ from the Sunset Rubdown’s preceding record, Random Spirit Lover, which I haven’t gotten the chance to spend much time with, but if history is any lesson, I will become obsessed with it and post something three years after the fact. But this song also puts on the airs of containing a rich backing history entirely inaccessible to the listener, which only serves to strengthen its appeal, albeit in a slightly frustrating manner.
Finally of note here is the closing track ‘Dragon’s Lair’, also linked in the previous SR post. First of all, it occurred to me only recently that ‘dragonslayer’ and ‘dragon’s lair’ are homophones, an effect that is perfectly utilized in the song’s ambiguous application of either term. This track, besides being trademark 10-minute aural-bonanza punctuating the end of most of Krug’s albums, is notable for the wide variance in tone between the dirge-like pace of the piano line and Krug’s increasingly bombastic vocals. This all bolstering a wide swath of rich lyrical content:
But my dear, oh my dear
I’d like to fight the good fight for another couple of years
‘cause to say the war is over is to say you are a widow
You’re not a widow yet!
There’s a swan among the pigeons of Barcelona’s floor
There’s a Samson with Delilahs lining up outside the door
If you are sharpening your scissors
I am sharpening my scissors,
And I am sharpening my sword
But I have navigated Iceland
I’ve laid my claim on Portugal
I have seen into the wasteland
Oh the future
Oh the future of us all
So you can take me to the dragon’s lair
You can take me to Rapunzel’s windowsill
Either way it is time, oh it is time
For a bigger kind of kill…
So go listen to that record more than a few times. It has more depth than the majority of music out there. Next up an even older record, Wolf Parade’s At Mount Zoomer.
I won’t even beat around the bush here: excepting perhaps the eternally radio-friendly ‘Language City’, the best song on this album is also its 10-minute finale titled ‘Kissing the Beehive’. I’ve omitted analysis here because I understand it even less than I do the SR material.
The only real ‘boring’ song on this album is maybe the opener, ‘Soldier’s Grin’, and that’s only because each of its peers on the album has something so distinctly unique to offer that you forget this passable track almost instantly. The songs get progressively more theatrical, but the one I’ve chosen to share today is the last ‘light’ song before the album takes a dark turn.
Again, I can’t really claim any insight into the meaning of the song, but it contains probably my favorite Wolf Parade verse:
So let the needle on the compass swing
Let the iron in your heart’s blood ring
Strike up the band as the ship goes down
And if it’s loud enough, they will erase the sound
Of one hundred thousand sad inventions
Let them rot inside the grey estates
Iron in one’s blood ‘ringing’ is a really cool idea to me, and the allusion to the band playing as the ship goes down evokes (even if wrongfully so) that famous story about the musicians on the Titanic. Finally, why we would want to erase the “sound” of 100,000 sad inventions ‘rotting’ inside of this “grey estates” is beyond me, but as before the mystery and ambiguity are what make the ideas so enticing.
After that, ‘Fine Young Cannibals’ and ‘Animal in Your Care’ leading into ‘Kissing the Beehive’ act as a progressive spiral in to the dim half-light that ends the album. It’s something that takes a lot of patience to really embrace, but definitely worth the ‘work’.
In the past two weeks, I must have listened to each of these records 8-10 times, and I’m still not bored of them. Even if Wolf Parade is done for the moment, I have high hopes for the next Sunset Rubdown album. Krug’s most recent solo album actually was just released, and even in the opening track we can trace the lineage back through his previous works:
Organ Music (Not Vibraphone Like I’d Hoped)‘s opening track, ‘Return to the Violence of the Ocean Floor’ mentions
Or the terrible glimpse of a shark
Within your idiot heart
pointing us to Dragonslayer‘s ‘Idiot Heart’, which in turn contains the line
If I was a horse I would throw up the reins if I was you.
A line directly from Shut Up I Am Dreaming‘s ‘The Men Are Called Horsemen There’.
If you dare to venture down the rabbit hole of the Spencer Krug metaverse you are almost certain to find something interesting. At least that much I can promise you.
I feel like “Apollo and the Buffalo and Anna Anna Anna Oh!” is about change. (It is my favourite song on Dragonslayer!) The buffalo are gone, rode into extinction. The narrator would like you to hold a picture of him, right before he got old, a time now unobtainable. (like a picture of a buffalo, of a gone but not forgotten time.) The old gods are the same, a time gone but not forgotten.
Also, best line, “My God, I miss the way we used to be!” In the time gone but not forgotten, when he and Anna and all the old friends were all together, but now they’ve all lost touch so much that he doesn’t even know what’s happening with Anna anymore. Why did you change your name, Anna?
I think. Maybe I’ll just go listen to it on repeat for the next hour?
You really could just put the song, or album, on loop for a few hours and try to soak up everything that’s there.
What I’d really like to see is some completely busted academic-style critical analysis of Krug’s work. I think that’d be neat.
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