Friday, November 7, 2008

808/pacific state!

808/pacific state!
It's feast or famine I guess. Here's the second post in two days, a nice oceanic follow up to yesterday's piece.

I originally wrote this in December of 2006. I just dug it up and tweaked it slightly.

808 State- "Pacific State"--- 1989 Calming, water lapping feet, dolphins dancing. But also neon, strobe, taxi rides, subway trains, coffee, liquor, cigarettes, ecstasy, cocaine, sex, steel, glass, concrete, dense populations, rushing. Either way, a rush. It's kind of sad though with the alto[?] sax bringing melancholy, calling me a loser for not hearing this classic till 16 years after it hit the dance floor. The sax is also of the blues, lamenting the era that has passed that was actually very present when the cut was first blasted on high powered night club PAs. It's a blues in hindsight, because when it was first played, it was new, fresh, innovative. Now the sing-songy looping keyboard synth sounds dated, demolished like the Hacienda itself. You can't go home again.

It also sounds a bit sleazy; the saxophone (or is it clarinet? or a synthetic melding of the two?) and propulsive pounding beat recalls half-remembered, half imagined, always fuzzy porn movies. And the encapsulated sleaze was also very real in '89: the desperate dance floor outing, which leads to the desperate dance floor grind (cock into denim), which leads to the desperate salivating kiss, which leads to the desperate shared cab at 3:30, and the desperate shared bed, and the desperate grinding sheets. And the sleaze is not just pheromonal, it's also synthetic: roughly cut cocaine, and what is dancing with out pills? The song recalls the sleaze of dancing as a means to another end.

But the song sounds lonely, recalling the nearly empty dance floor perhaps on an off night near close, or 10PM when no one with self-consciousness has yet made an appearance. It recalls the sleaze of 80s excess (and timeless excess: Excess then! Excess now! Excess later!) but also the spirituality of the solitary dancer, out for the beat and not the hook up.

And it also sounds dangerously close to smooth jazz: the saxophone, a trapping of the true Blue Note, re-contextualized with a propulsive beat to become waiting room wallpaper.

"Pacific State" has both beauty and cheese, but it's the mix that saves it from the smooth pap. There's a hint of rawness in its sailing. It's dangerously close to smooth jazz, but danger can be beautiful. It makes the heart beat fast.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Ocean Blue Sunshower!

It's been a while since a song has grabbed me by the throat and made me fall in love with it before I'm even finished hearing it for the first time. But that just happened, now. (OK, actually exactly 12 minutes ago). I was dreaming in my kitchen with an internet radio station on and then all of a sudden this song hit:

Immediately I was headbopping. This was ecstatic pop with a UK lilt and a guitar riff straight out of The Edge's soaring, reverberant U2* playbook of U2's*. The song sounded both like an artifact of the mid 80s and a timeless droplet coming down from heaven through a hole in my roof. It had me turning up the volume and dancing around my kitchen.

One could call the song's sound "derivative," but what does that matter? It's made me deliriously happy.

And now I've found it online and have listened to it on repeat 5 times through. I'm enjoying the (apparently) American vocalist's wavering between British affectation and slightly off-key sincerity. It's making me nostalgic for some mid 90s high school love affair I never had. And the song's adding sun to this showering November morning.

I'm a sucker for upbeat songs about heartbreak. They're bittersweet. I can relate. "Bittersweet" seems a summation of my life. Joy and disappointment always seem to go hand in hand.

So who is it? What is it? The song is "Sunshower" by The Ocean Blue, originally released on an EP in 2004....I've never heard of the Ocean Blue before, though apparently they started in this part of the world (Hershey, PA--- the land of chocolate) and have been around since 1987. Now I'm debating whether to listen to more of their stuff or just keep blasting "Sunshower" on repeat. I fear I may have stumbled upon their best song first and am just setting myself for disappointment if I delve beyond this 3 and half minute pop gem.

*(while a rather lightweight fan of U2's catalog overall, the band's ecstatic soaring guitar debut "Boy" is one of my favorite albums of all time)