Leonard Cohen, "Tower Of Song"

>> Sunday, December 18, 2011






"I ache in the places where I used to play." Could be a kind of motto for me, it's one of my favorite Leonard Cohen lines and the kind of thing you increasingly understand, I fear, as your odometer advances. You awake in the morning and their are parts of your body you're pretty sure you weren't born with--their sole purpose, and reason for spawning within you while you slept is just so they can hurt in the morning when you wake up. Oddly, some of these incongruous body parts return to the unknown regions they originally emigrated from during the daytime hours, only to return the next morning when you're getting out of bed again, as if vampires returning to entomb themselves in your joints with the next sunrise.

I think I would like to blame aliens, now that I consider it: they abduct me while I'm asleep and implant me with incompatible parts. There's probably some kind of grisly experiment associated with it, or maybe it's just that they're aliens, motivated by some exotic, extraterrestrial, inhuman logic incomprehensible to beings from our world. It can't possibly be that we're all getting older.

Nick Cave, one of my favorite artists, did an absolutely terrible cover of "Tower Of Song" for some reason--I mean, I think there was a television program or something that paid him for it and/or asked him to do it; he had the sense not to release it more generally until he put together the B-Sides And Rarities boxed set, which makes sense (somewhat regrettably in this instance) because that's the kind of thing you put on a rarities album that's obviously targeted for the completists and devotees. Cave's grand concept was to take Cohen's fairly simple and straightforward (though lyrically elegant) song and turn it into a sort of actual tower of song, stylistically bouncing from verse to verse through different musical styles and genres like jazz and roadhouse country; this is the kind of idea that sounds sort of cool when you're bouncing it around but turns out to be a bit of a disaster when you actually try to implement it. One problem being the fact that "Tower Of Song", specifically, is to wiry and elegant a frame to load with that (if "Tower Of Song" were an actual tower, it would be the one Gustave Eiffel is famous for, spindly, classic and tapering to a fine point). Another problem being that few artists, if any, actually have the versatility to make such extreme transitions between genres work without sounding like they're either trying to hard or not trying hard enough (sometimes simultaneously); there are credibility issues. Cave may be a fucking genius, but when he tries to do a country riff, he ends up sounding like somebody who had Nashville described to him by a friend who knew someone who visited the place for a few days.


1 comments:

Megan Sunday, December 18, 2011 at 7:14:00 AM EST  

I was just, just, JUST thinking this.

We are at camp, and my grampy seems to become more frail with each passing day. I know this is not literally true -- he has good days and bad -- but there has been a slow, determined decline lately.

Grampy's worse off than the rest of us. He fell the other day and now looks like the Crips and the Bloods joined forces to beat him up. He needs three people to help him into and out of his wheelchair. It has been a shock for my son to see him this way. He certainly is not the tough, aloof guy I knew when I was a kid.

And we're all heading that way.

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