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Posts Tagged ‘Tom Waits’

Well, he’s done it again.

I’d be hard pressed to think of an artist who has released as many great albums as Matthew Ryan has in the past 12 years. His latest, Dear Lover, is no different. Written from an emergency room (hopefully everything is ok now, either with Matthew’s family or himself), it’s yet another album of hopeful heartbreak, of people with bloody grins after they’ve been kicked in the teeth, of people with no Reason to Believe waiting on Amazing Grace.

Matthew’s a hard sell, I realize; he’s raw, he’s unvarnished, he’s true. Whenever I suggest him to people (which I do less than I should), I always add a warning: “Well, he’s kinda dark.” And he is. Yet I find his music endlessly uplifting, in the same way I find Shane McGowan, or Tom Waits, or The Ghost of Tom Joad uplifting. They don’t bullshit you. They don’t have time for false hope and bravado.

In Matthew’s songs, people keep going, man, they persevere. There’s a beauty in that, a humble majesty. I think one of the reasons it’s tough to spread the gospel of Mr. Ryan, of just how good he really is, is that I really feel you have to suggest him to people who look deeper, who have somewhat of a refined pallette, someone who’s not going to go, “Wow, his voice is rough.”

Yep. Sure is. Ain’t it grand?

I used to work at a record store in Minneapolis, and when we were closing, we would either put on the Flaming Lips or Tom Waits, generally ’cause they’d shake the hockey moms on out the door. One night, a woman came up late night, and asked, “Who IS this?” We were playing Rain Dogs. “It’s hideous,” she hissed. Oh, how the record store snobs laughed. I would not suggest Matthew Ryan to that woman.

And yet, I suggest Dear Lover to everyone. It’s got a Kraftwork meets early U2 meets Springsteen vibe to it. It’s raw like a journal entry, brave like a rejected first kiss. My favorites at this point are City Life, We Are Snowmen, The World Is…, and The End of a Ghost Story. I’m delighted to have a version of Some Streets Lead Nowhere, which is one of my favorites of his, ever. Spark reminds me of what it was like to hear Missing by Everything But The Girl in wintertime London.¬† Your Museum is a stark stained-glass piece that evokes The Waterboys; a sublime waltz in an abandoned church, decaying and crumbling buttresses open to the night sky.

The World Is… really floors me. It’s just a gorgeous piece of work. Like a man getting up to go to work in a town like Detroit, kissing his sleeping daughter, grabbing his coffee, and going to work, hoping against hope that he won’t get laid off today. The fight is fixed, but he’s lacing up his gloves regardless.

I could go on and on, really.

In the liner notes, in Matthew’s dedication, he writes:

I would suggest that you rail against the things or events that daunt you and/or your dreams with every consonant, vowel, sentence, idea and muscle in your mind and body.

Or, as Winston Churchill said,

Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never–in nothing, great or small, large or petty–never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.

Thanks again, Matthew. Keep ’em coming.

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Brian+Eno+eno

Wired has a great little article from March about Brian Eno’s art school days here. A couple of things struck me about the article:

  • The deliberate introduction of randomness in Brian Eno’s life, and the idea of changing artistic and social roles to facilitate new and interesting art. Eno’s art professors would have the students assume characters that were out of their comfort zone, to elicit reactions that were of them “playing a role.” Much like the old Oscar Wilde quote (“Give a man a mask and he’ll tell you the truth”), if you give students a mask or role to play, they’ll create new, “true” art, that is, true to the role they’re playing.
    Reminds me of Prince and Tom Waits adopting characters to get themselves out of their rote songwriting modes. Also reminds me of long-form improv training, of getting yourself “out of your head” and comfort zone to spur yourself to new risk taking.
  • How much this pointed Eno in the direction of Oblique Strategies, which is a great tool for breaking yourself out of artistic ruts. (Great PDF of printable cards here.)

I had a great instructor in art school (“You want fries with that?”) who used to tell us, “You’re only doing your job as a creative if you are constantly on the verge of getting fired.” Which seemed imminently true to me at the time- the profs who were safe, and needed their jobs had the worst work. The ones who were devil-make-care were actually¬† selling work and working at ad agencies, rather than writing bullshit artspeak proposals for federal grants.

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