Monday, January 31, 2011

It's Like Dr. Frankenstein Took A Knife, Edgy And With Electricity And I Think I'm Stretching The Comparison

I'm at the portion of Frankenstein where Victor returns to find William dead and his family broken from the death and the father says something to the effect of “rely on the justice of our laws, and the activity with which I shall prevent the slightest shadow of impartiality.” When I hear something like that, I think instead, man, you're looking the wrong way at it: You want the judges partial to you. You want them very partial to you.

Okay. I've read a lot, but having avoided Frankenstein, I feel like I've missed the original version of many things that I've read now that are playing off of it. In other words: I got to the scene where Frankenstein's monster is illuminated in the lightning and I wasn't terribly impressed when I first read it. I finished up the chapter and then realized: This is the one that started them all. This is the burst of lightning and I have seen it for the first time.

This is where they all come from. Ms. Shelley constructs it well, but man...I really want to be reading By Night In Chile, which I finally have in my possession. By Night In Chile is also about a realization in flashes of understanding, but that's really the extent of the commonalities of the two.

The other major "cover before the original" in my life is I'm On Fire, by Bruce Springsteen, or, should I say, I'm On Fire, by Hawks And Doves. Bruce's version, today, sounds tinny and stuck with an unfortunate synthesizer line, but it struck a chord in the 80's with its frank (dare I say earnest?) lust and its simplicity. Everyone, apparently, has covered it, from Kenny Chesney to Tori Amos to Johnny Cash and of the three (get ready for this), Ms. Amos' version ages the best.

But: The Chesney version and the Cash version both play up the earnestness angle of the song, leaving behind, almost entirely the undercurrent (and also main current) of naked lust. In other words, it does not have the vividness or terror of the original flash. It is a lesser reproduction of what came before.

Assuming that I understand the synthesizer line correctly in the original as something that is there and would be removed now, Hawks And Doves (former Planes Mistaken For Stars singer) gets it right. There are other instruments in the background, but mostly, its Gared with an acoustic and his gravely voice, which emphasizes the dirt, the sand, the grains, the fucking lust. (Finally, one of the few times I can use the word fucking and not have it be gratuitous and have it work, exactly, the way it is meant to. Vulgar, correctly.)

Now. The cover by Tori Amos is another story entirely. She uses the piano (like, obv.) to carry all of ideas and lets her own voice carry the lust for the song. And yes, her voice is lighter and is a little more fragile, but where it is supposed to, it carries that lust. Maybe it is the heavy breathing on the microphone that does it, but. It is pretty and also dirty, in a way that does justice to both.

Anyway. Point is. There is the original and then there are other things. In Frankenstein, I am getting an unadulterated dose of the original. It is terrifying, brilliant and fantastical.

Hawks. Doves. Fire. If you want to reverse engineer my love for Planes Mistaken For Stars, crank the amps as loud as they will go on this song and let the guy vocalize in a way that smiles, bawdily, through bloody gums and broken digits.

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