In celebration of the second day of spring—one of those classic gray, dreary, rainy, half-chilly/half-warm days—here is a Chevron print that I screened last fall. It’s sky blue and powder blue on steel gray. Call it Wintry Mix or Rainy Day Blues if you want, ’cause the sky is looking pretty neutral today. Anyway, this was a quickee, spur of the moment, impulse thing. I wanted to try another version on a colored stock and this combo seemed to fit the bill. Not bad, not great, it just is. Perfect for a day like today.
Lately (pun intended?), we’ve been listening to Nite Fields’ debut album, Depersonalization. T. Cole Rachel wrote in a review on Pitchfork that the band had been absorbing and faithfully reinterpreting early 4AD, Clan of Xymox, Cure, and New Order (personally, I’d also throw in some Church and Death in June). And while it’s true to the source material—dreamy, echoey, lethargic, retro—listening makes me wonder if all of the revival/archival aesthetics going on out there generally is a good thing. Don’t misunderstand, as a nostalgic, approaching-middle-age music fan, I’m all about it, but I’m not sure it’s very productive in the grand scheme of things. You know, say, being a quasi early 80’s cover band versus pushing new boundaries. I suppose that’s a compliment that speaks to the band’s ability to recreate a certain sound, I’m just not sure how healthy the tendency of mere reproduction is. Going down that road tends to reduce the music (and ensuing discussion) down to nothing more than a laundry list of references and influences.
Then again, cribbing from previous styles is nothing new. Really, it’s been standard practice for ages. And amid all the retreads that such endeavors encourage, this is often where new ideas are hatched and permutated into something fresh. New life breathed into dead ends.
So there. I pretty much just turned my original commentary on its end. That, and we can’t seem to stop listening to this thing. When it’s good, it’s good. Embrace it. For now, let’s just zone out and enjoy the ride.
I usually don’t revisit artwork once it’s been retired. Last year, though, I was asked to reconsider and take another look at my Chevron print of 2012. While initially reluctant, I said yes (I’m apprehensive about delving too deeply back into the archive for fear of watering down—or extinguishing—that initial spark. I’m also inclined to keep pressing forward and letting the past speak for itself. There are so many ideas and so little time that I’d rather just work on something new). But, alas, I’m getting off-topic. In short, I’m grateful for the extra arm-twisting because it allowed me to see the work with fresh eyes and perhaps bring something new to the table. And lo and behold, inspiration struck.
The latest addition/edition from Fall 2014 was something that popped into my head fully formed: the chevron in green and gold. That was it. No fussing with swatches, no anguished sketching or scrutiny. It had to be be kelly green and metallic gold—right from the get-go. If pressed for some statement on inspiration, I’d say that these colors simply remind me of my hometown. That’s not a statement of longing (nor one of criticism, for that matter), it just is. It’s an abstraction of things in the air in that place—an apt representation that just feels right.
In celebration of Valentine’s Day, we discuss an album that Elizabeth and I agreed on, oddly, early in our relationship. While there were other more relevant bands and albums that we obsessed and connected over at that time, The Cure was another band further down the list that we could check in the common interests “yes” column.
But while we enthusiastically agreed on Disintegration as masterpiece, we coolly agreed on Wish as a half-great/half-terrible mixed bag. Yet we each felt uneasy holding the latter opinion. Not only because most everyone loved or hated Wish completely, but because choosing a vague “maybe, sort of” left things in a weird, gray area at home: you weren’t ready to relegate the disc to the local used bin but you also didn’t want to display it too prominently in your rack of discs. I was especially sheepish about calling attention to an album that carried a pop hit as massive (and happy) as “Friday I’m in Love.”
And yet these feelings of ambivalence still linger today. Talking about the record recently, I reflected that the collection of songs on Wish seem wholly uneven, the album an emotional roller coaster ride between happy and sad that dragged you up and down and back and forth with a complete disregard for continuity, pacing or structure. At least up until that point you could count on a Cure album as being completely up or completely down. But this one was all over the place. Liz even called some of the tracks boring, nothing more than incidental music.
So sad, because some of the tracks on there are excellent. For all the flack we’ve given Wish so far, there are some very strong contenders on there—“Open”, “From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea” and “End” among them. So yes, we gravitate toward the darker, angrier, moodier pieces. And, surprisingly, the album obliges with a handful of solid tracks in that vein. But taking those tracks meant also taking the shiny, happy tracks like “High” and “Doing the Unstuck”—some of their poppiest tracks to date. And at that time, without iTunes or a dubbed cassette to weed out the filler, you were stuck with the whole CD.
Now up until last week we each half-remembered Wish as vaguely, kind of half-good. So to dispel the myths and half-truths, we finally sat down and listened to Wish again in totality. We even made lists of our preferred tracks and regrouped to settle the score. And wouldn’t you know it? We were right. The record splits right down the middle: half happy, half sad. Or if you prefer, half good, half bad.
So to make it official, here’s our break down of how Wish stacks up:
The wintery weather and a recent trip to the Philadelphia Museum of Art had me looking back through the archives at some of my favorite polar scenes. These pictures painted in the 1800’s capture the spirit of adventure; of man’s exploration and dominance over nature, while also expressing its tenuous hold. Today’s world of digital devices and instantaneous connections makes it hard to imagine embarking on a tall ship for destinations unknown.
The first picture is my favorite. It has it all – tall ships, icebergs and an abundance of arctic animals watching the men on their well-coordinated fishing expedition. The narwhales, seals, walruses and polar bears take center stage, dwarfed by the tall ships and icebergs that hover nearby with domineering verticality.
This second one caught my eye with its quirky charm. Displayed in a side gallery in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, I was struck by the doll-like quality of the polar bear’s head, specifically his human looking eye gazing at the ships. The scale and flattening effect of the tonal range gives a sense of melancholy to the polar bear looming over his frozen perch while creating a sense of danger for the fragile looking ships in the distance.
In my search for the two paintings above, I found this other Raleigh painting from the National Gallery’s collection. The sense of danger in this depiction of a menacing attack is heightened by the use of saturated color and a composition that focuses precisely on the polar bear’s massive claw. The ship in the background echoes the seal’s struggle for life as it approaches an iceberg.