Monday, March 29, 2010

Constantines -- "Young Lions"

For the inaugural post here at Oh, Young Lions, I thought I'd begin by discussing one of our namesakes (posts forthcoming about the novel, film, and baby animal). This post will also prove Oh, Young Lions is on the CUTTING EDGE (of 2003) in discussing music and other media. Good luck finding another blog that does that, grandpa!

So, here we have a track from 2003's Shine a Light by Canadian laryngitis-enthusiasts Constantines. Bryan Webb croaks his way through the song on top of the band's typically belligerent percussion and thick, meaty guitars. The effect is something of the Springsteen-with-one-fist-in-the-air enthusiasm trademarked by Canucks of the mid-2000s (Arcade Fire, Wolf Parade, Broken Social Scene, and all those other bands your dad makes you listen to on NPR every afternoon, come on dad!). Webb's message, hoarse and cracking in all the right places, is one of a call to arms for youth and possibility -- "loosen the collar," he implores his listeners, "shake off the wire, / run like a river, / burn like a beacon fire." This kind of brazen sentimentalism and -- let's call it what it is -- love (yikes!) of life and one's ability to seize control of it shows the emotionalism that bands like Constantines brought back to an indie scene saturated with Casablancas-themed detachment and shiny leather. I like The Strokes as much as the next guy/waif, but if that band is about precision and meticulousness, Constantines do something totally different.

"Young Lions" barrels through its four minutes with purpose, the emphasis on the lower-end totally alien to anything on Is This It? or, for that matter, much straightforward indie rock of the 2000s. I don't know when bands decided to stop sounding like Fugazi, but that was a mistake. Constantines bring back a ramshackle heaviness to this brand of rock music, and it's a welcome change -- the bass flub at 2:05 preserved on the recording, as if the band didn't have the patience to pause the tape and try to recreate the genuine energy of the song. I don't mean to suggest that Constantines (or, Jesus Christ, Fugazi) aren't perfectionists or master craftsmen. Rather, the precision here isn't in engineering the perfect guitar sound, but in catching the right feeling. Forgive the italics there, but "Young Lions" and Shine a Light operate entirely in italics, with every word and note resonating with force and intent. "Oh, young lions: / this is your kingdom," indeed.


Monday, March 29, 2010

RE: Constantines' "Young Lions"

Something you should know about me and Corey: Corey knows a lot about music. I do not. It's something I've felt guilty about most of my life. Recurring scene: Megan slinks into shadow as potential indie boyfriend judges iTunes collection. I like music, of course. I just grew up with my dad's classic rock albums and never really expanded my knowledge. What that paternal influence did cultivate, however, was a fetish for rock-and-roll culture and a desire to board a tour bus like Penny Lane in Almost Famous, embrace my youth, and never turn back. So I appreciate the "embrace your youth" message in "Young Lions." This blog is my kingdom. I prefer the term, "lioness."

But I have to say that the "thick, meaty" guitar sound Corey points out becomes monotonous for me, and so seems incongrous with the kind of enthusiasm he alluded to. There is a fine line between being raw and being dull, and I think the video does a better job of embracing a rawness of emotion than the song does.

The collage style of the video reminded me of this exhibit currently at the Met: "Playing with Pictures: The Art of Victorian Photocollage." I haven't seen it yet, but you can see a bunch of images on the website. They are incredibly cool and incredibly modern-looking. The collages are all by women, and so have interesting implications for reconsidering the lineage of the modern avant-garde. Hopefully I will view it in person and be able to write a full post about it in the future. But for now, I think these collages capture the seriousness and texture of play and pleasure, which, for me, "Young Lions" only captures in the video. I like the song. But it's not going on my getting-dressed playlist.

Also, if the cover of Cate Marvin's World's Tallest Disaster was a music video, this would be it. Which is cool. And maybe will make me reread that book.

Dear Corey,

Your musical vocabulary intimidates me.



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