"I'm the only one left alive." - Scott Walker, 2006.
In these times of constant uncertainty, rapid and sudden technological changes, and the new world of 5-10 years ago already so obsolete, what does the present time and space hold for the state of rock and roll? This evokes three questions:
- Where are we going and where have we been?
- Where should we be going and why aren't we there yet?
- Where are we now and where does it all lead to?
Brian Eno said recently in the documentary 30 Century Man that popular music had yet to catch up to what The Walker Brothers achieved (either by force, accident, or apathy or all three) on 1978's Nite Flights (Hell, for that matter, rock and roll hasn't even caught up to the linear ascensions offered up by Tim Buckley on 1970's Lorca). If that is the case, does this mean that rock and roll has been stagnant for close to two generations, and that Joy Division's Closer (1980), Six Finger Satellite's Law of Ruins (1998), and Throbbing Gristle's Part Two: The Endless Not (2007) have no more worth and value than, say, The Very Best of Leo Sayer?
Part of the problem lies within repeated acceptance of sub par, nth generations removed aesthetics without templates, and guesstimations of quality based on lifestyle accessories and current hipness factor. Throw in the continued refusal to acknowledge this as a young man's game that has all of the staying power of a Virgin Mary glanced quickly on an aging slice of Wonder Bread, and one realizes these truly are disposable moments in the spectrum of modern culture.
For example, punk, for what it's worth, was nothing more than a mere recycling of the mid-50's through the early 70's, only harder (occasionally), faster (eventually), and nastier (literally). So much since then has been an endless regurgitation of that. The inexplicable and continued semi-popularity of so-called "garage rock" is nothing more than new bands reminding people of other bands who reminded them of older bands stealing from long gone bands... endlessly re-using the same fucking three chords over and over and over again.
So what then does any of this have to do with Communion by The Soundtrack of Our Lives? Everything and nothing.
Communion ideally would into one's hands as a double vinyl record purchased second hand and already well played, reeking ghostly of cigarettes, mold, and the remnants of past joints rolled on the sleeve an unknowable time ago. You could suppose that in this day and age when you can purchase pre-broken in pairs of jeans and new road-worn guitars, this transparent and soulless concept is not so far flung after all. That's just the point though—this album is already losing something via download, much like how classic Hong Kong cinema makes less sense when viewed on anything but the big screen.
Communion's massive slab of gorgeous rock and roll—24 tracks of a little bit of everything—is certainly consistent in quality amongst the quantity. "Thrill Me" is a great Bon Scott-era AC/DC nod, and "Flipside" is like The Pretty Things circa '68 covering Led Zep circa III. But why make such comparisons? It's The Soundtrack of Our Lives doing their best to save rock and roll music from itself, once again, as they have done throughout their entire career, and as some of them did before in the underrated Union Carbide Productions. Listening to Communion is like hearing the final gasp, the last grasp, and coming to a realization that it truly is all over. We came, we saw, we conquered... and then we overstayed our welcome, stank up the joint, and passed out in the corner, wetting ourselves. "Get fat and die" indeed. The band even declares in "Lost Prophet" (found on the second... um... disc? Batch? Record?) "There's nothing more to sacrifice/There's nothing more to realize."
Look, the kids don't give a fuck about rock and roll... that is, rock and roll as the readers of this publication know it, hear it, feel it, live it, and do it. So much has been reduced to pure bullshit and a repeated need to inject the fortunes of our past into our present to try and secure a bleak future that holds nothing in terms of culture and everything in terms of non-stop ADD entertainment. The more things change the more they stay the same, but the more readily and easily information is available to our fingertips, the more socially stupid the inhabitants of this place become. Don't blame the hipsters as they only know (and do) what they are shown and told.
However, more people than ever are listening to music. Live? No. Downloaded, streamed, spun, and watched? Yes. Is this hope? No. Is this a change? Yes. Does Communion have a place in all this? No idea, but one thing is for sure: it's a damn good record, even if it deserves a better and more receptive time in which to exist. Will it be heard? No idea, but certainly not as widely as the next Justin Bieber "single" or the next batch of cover tunes Rod Stewart dredges out. All the same, all 24 tracks on the album are worth the moments of your life that you will never get back again, at least for several full listens, if for no other reason than it has been beautifully recorded, lovingly mixed, and carefully mastered (plus there's not an autotune in sight.) Give this record a moment of your time because this is really the end... for now... [Telegram]
- Nick Blakey
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