Friday, June 13, 2014

The Silver Jews' "The Wild Kindness"








1. Shout out in the Mild Brightness

Over the last decade, American Water has taken on a life of its own, yet I never really felt part of the virtual community that has formed around it, probably for the same reason that I played on it, and a bit part at that. But it followed me in strange ways. I get sent Facebook links to “Random Rules” where I get to see a cute blonde flapper woman miming my trumpet part. I avoid playing this song in my covers set, and save it for reunion shows with David. But, one night, I broke my own rule.

When Sidekick (And The Front People), did a few shows around 2008, the guitarist, Paul Korte (who was about 11 years old when we recorded “Random Rules”) and his girlfriend had recently broken up. Paul’s one of those amazing lead guitarists who didn’t like to sing, but for this one show, in which his ex was going to be in attendance, he wanted to do something special to let her know he’d like to get together again. He wanted to sing “Random Rules” in the middle of the set. To me, it seemed exactly wrong--- like in The Wedding Singer, where he sings “Love Stinks” or another airplane movie, The Wedding Planner, where the happy couple really wants “I Honestly Love You” as its song. But Paul was so sincere and earnest about it; and I knew it would mean a lot to her, and to him, so I said “Okay, for this one time only” and I even played the trumpet part. We sucked of course--all but to an audience of one; they got back together![1]

More recently, in April 2011, someone posted a video of “The Wild Kindness,” on the Pop Snob Facebook wall. This unofficial video featured a woman in a blue bikini slowly and sensually belly-dancing in what seems to be an amateur bedroom. She misses a beat here and there and the video does not show her face. I have no idea who this woman is, nor even whether she intended this video to go with this song.[2] Yet, even if the video is fully pirated, it made me sad to read the comment boxes and discover many fans of the band hating on the woman in this video,[i] as if she desecrates this song that features such lines as “oil paintings of X-rated picnics.” Certainly, Youtube doesn’t permit videos of x-rated picnics, but maybe that would have been less offensive to these haters of the PG or even G-rated belly-dancing video. Isn’t this woman (or even cross-dressed male), shining out in the wild kindness as much as the singer is? Isn’t this dance a little like falling leaves in a mirror so small you can’t see where they’re landing, just as we can’t see her face? Isn’t it also a closer example to the low-fi, low-budget ethos that drew so many to the Silver Jews in the first place? 

I don’t mean to sound unsympathetic to those who were clearly hurt by the video, since the song is often heard as a renunciation of the merely sensual, but the belly dancers I’ve spoken to tell me that the trance they get into does that too. The woman’s hidden face may not look like power to some, but this begs the question: why are we even looking at a Youtube video in the first place?[i] When “The Wild Kindness” was recorded, the audience was much more the solitary person in bed with eyes closed. One has to fight a little more for that kind of connection with a recorded song these days, but why go after the girl (while on the other ‘hand’ praising the beautiful sad image of “Russian prima-donna danc[ing] slow on valium”)? Even if David himself were offended by this video, I’d still feel compelled to defend it. I usually try to spurn giving in to the debates on such comment boxes, but this time I had to write:

If your eyes offend you, feel free to close them. The dancer makes me feel honored to have been a part of its creation.... The haters make me cry. It's spring now, and this is an autumn song. It's got a wisdom that makes much more sense in autumn, a wisdom I don’t need as much in spring, but should've remembered and held close to my heart back in late October (2010).”

On another occasion, I was checking out bands at Oakland’s legendary, but now defunct, Mama Buzz Café, and a NYC band that on first listen sounded like a cross between The Velvet Underground and Tommy James and the Shondells. I went up afterwards and asked the drummer, Laura Baran, what the band’s name was: “The Wild Kindness.”[3] I asked Laura to write about the song: “I take it as a love letter to nature. Nature is beautiful, violent, spectacular, cold, warm; it's a range…with despair and joy hand in hand, like a person and their pet. The song spans seasons and time for me, it feels epic and vast. It calls to mind the grace of existence; the delicate moments and the bleakest feelings. I take it to be hopeful.”

I like this reading. Her sister, Suzanne, who had also written liner notes to my first solo album, wrote an even deeper detailed response that also hears the song as primarily hopeful. The song:

implores deep listening… a few themes rise to the surface: being off the grid in the Emersonian sense, embracing your inner nature within nature and existing within different realms within dimensions….The song is an exploration…of the promise or mortality…. To be happy is to be empty… Berman illustrates this with an "empty" room and "wild silence." It's where feel free to go inside ourselves and explore our innermost world. It's where we find our truth and voice. We can see things from multiple perspectives. "Nature" continues to grow, just like our inner paralysis can be circumvented by perception.

For Suzanne, the coroner in the song’s last verse is “death's concierge… But death is a beginning. It is a rebirth into another Wild Kindness.” At the other end of the spectrum is Tony Montana’s reading:

Whether the narrator is living or dead doesn’t matter at this point. He’s where he wants to be, apparently. And when I think about the world and promises to live up to … well, there’s nothing. Tomorrow is most famously promised to nobody, and the narrator’s self-appointed task to make sure that’s the case sounds about right for a person who eschewed society until they O.D.’d (or didn’t) — intentionally or unintentionally.I think the narrator probably ends up dead in his hotel void with pink hair and one heckuva buzz.[4]

I prefer the Baran sisters’ interpretations because they focus on the personal uses they can make of the song rather than Montana’s use of the biographical fallacy. But whatever the fate of the “narrator” of “The Wild Kindness,” DCB did not die from an overdose, nor is asking him going to yield a necessarily more authoritative interpretation, especially from the vantage of 2009 in which David looks retrospectively over the achievement of “the Joos,” as “too small a force to ever come close to undoing a millionth of the harm [Richard Berman & The Center For Consumer Freedom] has caused.”[5] From this perspective, “The Wild Kindness” was an attempted refuge, hiding and fleeing through an “art portal.”

2. Three Notes In The Distance

I can’t entirely avoid the biographical fallacy either, in part because I can’t separate the song from all the drama in the studio, but in 1998, “The Wild Kindness” meant something like E-B-B-D-E-B-D-E-B-D-E. It’s only a moment, or 3:54, but a moment can be a monument if bathed in lateness and distance---at least for me it was, for better and worse. I’ve been told my riff is ‘genius,’ but more of that has to do with the way David structured the song.[6] It came to me like mercy and gave me a chance to “shine out” and I tried to put all my left-handed Piscean introspection into the three notes.

First and foremost, I thought of the song structurally—and whatever else “The Wild Kindness” can mean, or be, “it's also a subtle portrait of an effortlessly essayed pop song”[7] that comes dangerously close to perfection. Thankfully, meaning and music can’t be easily separated. Even “4 dogs in the distance,” relate to the structure. There are 4 verses to this song, and there were 4 other musicians in the studio. Suzanne Baran points out:

In basic numerology, four connotes stability, grounding, and invoking the grounded nature of all things. Fours represent solidity, calmness, and home. Seeing the number four may signify the need to get back to your roots, center yourself, or even "plant" yourself -- which is another link to nature. Four also indicates persistence.

The themes that Baran detects come from the musical structure, and feel, as much as from the lyrics. Structurally, the song is about 3 as much as four. In addition to the instrumental, there are three lyrical verses. In addition to the tight rhythm section of Mike Fellows and Tim Barnes holding down the low-end, there are three musicians vying for the melodic upper-registers: David & Steve (& me).

The 3 way subdivision of each part (verse/bridge/chorus) can be heard instrumentally. The keys dominate during the minor-key past-tense verses, Steve’s guitar dominates during the major key present tense bridges, and David and Steve’s harmonies take center stage in the chorus when singing about the future or stepping out of time. Their vocal counterpoints sound better here than any other song on American Water, and, along with the lyrics, are integral to the meaning, feeling and musical structure. Why even try to put it into words?

The three (or 4, depending on how you count) notes I play are in E minor. The minor key part scans like “Amazing Grace” with an extra few syllables thrown in. At the time, Lee Ann Brown and other NYC poets were fond of singing Emily Dickinson poems to the tune of “Amazing Grace.”[8] Sung to “Amazing Grace,” Berman’s lines would sound more like “zip-a-de-doo-dah” than the blues, yet the similarities with Dickinson at her most sublime, trippy and formal are clear. Not only does this song have a formal feeling that comes after great pain, but the verses, the parts I play on, recall Dickinsonian themes and settings like the Massachusetts autumn in which DCB & I had met 6 years earlier.[9] If Dickinson put her verses to music, many would probably work better in E minor.

E minor sounds better on an electric Rhodes than on an acoustic piano, or the Casio we scrounged up for the rehearsals. Yes, three notes in the distance, one for silence, one for lateness, and one for kindness.[iii] “The Wild Kindness” is a dark song, but it brightens. My keys represent the darkness and Steve’s guitar and voice the brightness—but more in a Taoist sense than a spurious moral dualism. “The narrator” is between, and around.

3. Another Letter Song

Set in late autumn, The “Wild Kindness” builds a “stage for autumn’s bitch” and helps explain why Silver Jews’ almost always released albums the closest Tuesday to October 15.The lyrics are tailor-made to navigate the contractions of winter, especially when the societal rituals designed to stave off the despair of the longest nights often make them worse. So while this song is certainly a solitary song, I can’t really agree with those who say it screams “this is what loneliness feels like!”[10] It’s a specific autumn loneliness; and just because the speaker is alone doesn’t necessarily mean he’s especially lonely. It’s both better and worse. Like Cohen’s “Famous Blue Raincoat,” it’s a letter song, but the letter is not written during the darkest week of the year, but in preparation for it.[11]

I wrote a letter to a wildflower on a classic nitrogen afternoon
Some power that hardly looked like power said, “I’m perfect in an empty room.”

Apparently the writing conjured the power into speech. “Some power,” the loudest, most inspired, phrase, requires the deepest breath of actual air (or classic nitrogen) to emote, and is the most active presence, or present absence, in this verse. The power sings in the present, and is successful enough to get the song to open up to an outdoor vista and a bright G-major chord Malkmusian bridge:

Four Dogs In the Distance/ Each Stands For A Kindness
Bluebirds Lodged In An Evergreen Altar
I’m Gonna shine out in the wild silence, I’m gonna shine out in the wild silence

While the speaker listened to the power’s words and wrote to the wildflower, neither the dogs nor the bluebirds make a sound nor listen. Their silent kindness goes with the distance, in contrast to the tamer cruelty or Mild Wellness of letter writing and speaking. There’s nothing to preclude that these dogs may just be what is present to the speaker, as the sad pit-bulls chained to a fence I hear barking right now--but even further in the distance, enough for the singer to edit out any torture so they appear more like the St. Bernard in “Party Barge.”[12]

Yet the dogs and the birds are not really examples of the power. Their primary function is to help define the presence of distance. Distance is no mere device but where the action is. While the “altar” suggests a religious vision, it also means that some things are being sacrificed,[13] which explains why this line is rushed as the song builds to the chorus. Neither the past, nor even the present, matters as much as what the narrator’s gonna do.

I’m Gonna shine out in the wild silence, and spurn the sin of giving in.

The word “in” is everywhere in this first verse, but there’s no contrasting “out” but an “out in.” Steve joins David on the chorus, as if this narrator is a “we” more than an “I.” Yet when the band quiets down, and Steve shuts up, David, alone for the first time in the song, moves to a moral conclusion---as “shining out” is clearly less of a sin than giving in is, but giving into what? More holes, and those who interpret “The Wild Kindness” more darkly usually emphasize the second verse over the first: In many ways, it’s the antithesis.

4. My Camouflage
Oil paintings of x-rated picnics/ behind the walls of medication I’m free.


This is the first time the narrator makes a statement about himself in the present. As he trades the perfection of the first verse for the freedom of the second, some say he’s giving in to some deadly sins, but at least he’s a little more embodied now, singing about his dick in the Dickinsonian mode. Yet, both high-art (like Manet’s Dejeuner Sur l`Herbe) and porn flicks involve sublimation that is the opposite of the unmediated “first thought, best thought” ethos.

Meditation and masturbation become two words for the same sublime process. The medication could be legal or illegal, and we don’t know if it’s natural, but while some medicate to feel more social, this speaker medicates to be more alone. The “medication” recalls the first verse’s “power” and the expansive meditation the empty room allowed, but now it’s more confining as the lens contracts to find the devil in the details:

Every leaf in a compact mirror (bye, bye, goodbye, bye)

hits a target that we can’t see. (goodbye, bye, goodbye)

The singer doesn’t focus our attention on the prettiness of the free-falling leaves (in words at least), but on the frame. None of the things in this verse are alive, but they are moving, as if you have to be dead to be wildly swirling and free. Against the backdrop of the minor keyboard riff, the leaves seem more violent than kind, or would were it not for the presence of Steve’s vocals, that imply that the leaves are saying “goodbye.”[14] The counterpoint rivals Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” with its juxtaposition of the gentle “let me love you” vocal with the more aggressive sounding “I ain’t gonna push”—and not merely aesthetically.

While Steve is gently, even sadly, singing “goodbye,” DCB’s leaves are trapped inside the compact mirror of a stanza or room, tensely reining in the ambivalences with a lot of pent up energy![15] The leaves come off like predator drones aiming toward blind targets that may even be innocent civilians. Yet, that’s just what it looks like in the compact mirror of distance, goodbye is what it feels like from inside, as Steve gives voice to the leaving leaves.

Grass grows in the icebox. The year ends in the next room.

It is autumn and my camouflage is dying …

Although this second bridge is musically identical to the first, it’s lost that transformative feeling. The idealist faith that “grass grows in the icebox” is severely tested when the pressures of both nature and culture impinge. Whatever relief it offers is short lived as horror rises, culminating in a feeling of social nakedness: “my camouflage is dying.” This is the only other time the narrator speaks of himself in the present tense, and, again, the bridge rushes through it en route to the chorus, the same way “Evergreen altar” did. It certainly shatters the medicated meditation on the compact mirror, as if the speaker realizes it’s his leaves that are falling, and that he’s a tree, a deciduous tree.

From the perspective of a tree, these leaves are certainly not spurning the sin of giving in to fall.[16] Unlike evergreens, deciduous trees have to deal with their dying camouflage and being called “bare” in winter. This admission is almost too much to bear, and the narrator enlists Steve again to help him conjure another transformation greater than any futile attempt to rip grass out of the ground and store it in his freezer:

Instead of time there will be lateness Instead of time there will be lateness
Instead of time there will be latenessand let forever be delayed,”

As an alternative to the dying camouflage, there’s no shining out in this chorus, yet it’s too passionate to be escapist and there’s a method in its very anger. Lateness is the form kindness must take if measured against time. Besides, time privileges the evergreen altars, especially this time of year. The pinch of lateness is no fallback position; he has to work himself into it. Take this shot of lateness, and see how you hold up, ye evergreens. Still, the abstract ambiguities seem contradictory. “Lateness” is out of time,[17] but “forever” is out of time as well; so if one may delay “forever,” wouldn’t that put him back in time?

The contradiction dissolves when we consider the role of the dual vocals. In a dramatic dimension, Steve and David together can cathartically work out the demon and get swept away by conjuring the lateness, enacting its promise of timelessness and distance and rock and roll beauty. But the chorus is “call and response” in reverse, as DCB catches himself and delivers the last line-- “and let forever be delayed” with a sly wink, not disappearing but shining out subtly alone, in a way that he couldn’t before the chorus began and he was bumming out about balding.[18]

The smallest word choices are significant: will vs. let. Steve and David really try to will themselves out of time while forever will be delayed without having to do anything about it. And vs. but: as words on the page, “and let forever be delayed” implies equivalency between these lines, but taking the musical elements into account contributes to the deeper feeling that it’s really saying “but let forever be delayed.” The singer re-enters time, quietly, almost under the radar, and that line is the song’s verbal pick up line.[19] Next time we hear a voice, it’s telling us, “I dyed my hair.” Clearly, he’s come a long way from the guy who cried, “My camouflage is dying.” In fact, most of the action of this song happens in between these two phrases, especially during the instrumental verse.

5. Steve’s Solo And David’s Drawing

“Let forever be delayed” also introduces the wordless gem of the instrumental verse. The instruments hit targets like leaves. The keyboard’s attached to a delay pedal to deepen time, as Steve bobs and weaves around it, then finds a note to use as a launching pad for a passionate solo that beautifully gropes for the sap of summer until some perfect power reminds it that it’s okay to yield to that drowsy feeling and hibernate![20]  Or at least, it knows mere meaning can mean being mean, as it gently dies during the “giving in” phrase, the final cry of the dying camouflage, and/or the sound of dying hair. Time wrestles with lateness: the days slowly lengthen even as they get colder, as if the last verse takes place at least a month after the others.

The instrumental gives the singer time to labor in the underworld, or at least get dressed for spring. It also gives me time to ponder the drawing beside the lyrics in the album sleeve, which look like an attempt to picture the events that occur offstage during the instrumental.

A tower that could alsoDescription: Macintosh HD:Users:chrisstroffolino:Desktop:Dreamgatesmall.jpgbe a deciduous tree is center stage, a more fleshed out version of the “snow rocket” pill next to the lyrics of “People.” At ground level, there is a locked door. On the second floor, a human being is standing with arms stretched at an open window (we can’t tell whether he’s facing us), and the third floor is made of brick.[21] At the top, is an American flag flying high and dry, straight and proud. Bare branches stretch from its sides, a little droopier than the outstretched arms of the guy inside it.[22] They look like they miss their camouflage. The singer could be the tree that lives in the distance, or the person who lives in the tree. This top-heavy tower tree is built on, or grows out of, the ovular, vaginal or Condom-like, dreamgate frontier.

“Dreamgate Fronteir” could be the name of the tower-tree, or at least the feminine counterpoint to the relentlessly masculine “motel void.” Almost everything in this picture can be taken at least two ways, but though there’s a lot of empty room and space in this tower there is no coroner, no Evergreen altar, no leaves, no wildflower, no bluebirds, no dogs and no target clearly in sight.[23]

6: Dreamgate Frontier and The Final Verse

I dyed my hair in a motel void,
 met the coroner at Dreamgate Frontier.

He took my hand said “I’ll help you boy (bye, bye, goodbye, bye)

if you really want to disappear.” (goodbye, bye, goodbye)….

Dying one’s hair in the motel void of the guitar solo replaces the passively dying camouflage, as if the speaker is now taking responsibility for killing, or even sacrificing, his earlier camouflage, or at least not relying on fickle deciduous leaves.[24] While any transformation may be qualified by the change from present to past tense, this dying nonetheless conjures the coroner. The coroner talks a lot friendlier than the impersonal talking power. Does the narrator really want to disappear? And how can a coroner help? After all, a coroner isn’t licensed to kill people, only to pronounce them dead. He can pronounce the leaves, or hair dead, but you don’t have to die to disappear.[25]

He can always dye his hair to change his appearance, but only a coroner can help him change his identity. In this sense, the coroner offers the speaker a new lease on life. Still, this coroner is an ominous figure, like the devil at the crossroads, and he wants something in return, and “Dreamgate Frontier” is like a tollgate. Even Steve’s vocals now seem ominous, as if the gentle “bye byes” have turned into “buy buys” egging him to take the coroner’s offer.

But, the narrator doesn’t really want to die; like the singer of “How To Rent A Room,” he “only wants to die in your eyes”---disappear. Besides, he had already done more in this song to disappear than any paper from the city hall could help him with. As my Rhodes hits its last note, I picture him running in horror from Dreamgate Frontier back to the safer grounds of silent dogs and grounded distance.[26] The major chords seem transformative again, as if the underworld journey has allowed both David & Steve to transform the silence into a kindness. Disappearance was never the ultimate point of this journey in the first place, shining is, even if you have to put “time in a candle” to do it, as in the final chorus:[27]

I’m gonna shine out in the wild kindness I’m gonna shine out in the wild kindness I’m gonna shine out in the wild kindness and hold the world to its word.

In the chorus, the dual-vocalists shine out, but the solitary poet is more interested in holding the world to its word. It feels more like holding out than shining out. The only promise in the lyrics was the coroner’s offer of disappearance, but that isn’t necessarily the world’s word, much less “the psychedelic promises G-D made to me in the dark” (as “Self-Ignition” puts it). Given the late autumn setting, it’s tempting to construe a moral in the world’s word: the wildflower, like my camouflage, will return in spring.[28] The “wild kindness” of the dead season is not forever, just a temporary absolute that will end by spring when “giving in” won’t be the sin it is now.

Nature doesn’t really promise that return; we could die any second. Culture’s, or people’s, promises are even more fickle. If the solitary singer’s resolve means to hold every other human being to keeping their promises before he comes out of his winter tower tree, he might be setting himself up for another fall.[29] On the other hand, Steve’s receding voice of otherness implies the world has no word but goodbye, but words don’t even get the last “word” in this song, nor is the word the mere Cartesian logos that comes before flesh.

Rather, like Cohen’s “Language Of Love,” the logos derives from  “the great formula of letters, formed by a voice, impressed upon the air, and set in the mouth in five places, namely: male and female created He them.” After a pause for wild silence, the song ends with a minor chord (“Om”). This wordless note could be the world’s “word” or message, so the ending leaves us with nothing but the speaker’s resolve to shine out, to hold himself-as-the-world to its word.[30]

6. “Perfect In An Empty Room?” (Perfection revisited)….

Nothing in the lyrics of “The Wild Kindness” suggest the lingering negative side effects of medication or from holding the power to its promise of perfection, but the first line of the first song on this album is “In 1984, I was hospitalized for approaching perfection.” While it’s possible the singer learned his lesson and is giving up on trying to approach perfection in “The Wild Kindness,” it’s also possible that he’s describing what happened just before the events of “Random Rules.” Since “The Wild Kindness” is approached by perfection, American Water can be a circle, and a vicious one at that, especially when the hospital bill arrives.

Jamie Stevens calls this song “the perfect encapsulation of the Silver Jews philosophy.” I’m just the piano guy, and E-B-B-D-E-B-D-E-B-D-E is probably the best I can hope to say about what that Philosophy is, but it might have something to do with building a little house deep in desert, living for nothing, and keeping some kind of record, in Cohen terms. I’d still rather live in its “motel void” than Leonard Cohen’s cold “Tower Of Song,” but I’m biased, as I’m one of the 4 dogs in the Evergreen Altar of David’s distance.[31]



[1] So in this we succeeded; still, never again (unless, maybe, it’s for a girl I’m in love with); it was very real, but I still felt I was pissing on the song; the band also featured Jay Whiteside and Sierra Frost.
[2] It’s very likely some fan of “indie-rock” combined this found object with a few of his (presumably) favorite songs--for the same video is used for Belle & Sebastian songs.
[3] I spilled my drink! Turns out I was a friend of her sister, who, like me, was writing for The Big Takeover at the time, and was a big SJ fan for a year, the line “romance is the douche of the bourgeoisie” appeared in every email she sent; and I knew “Pretty Eyes” had very special meaning for her
[4] http://tmontana.wordpress.com/2007/09/13/deconstructing-berman-part-the-second-the-wild-kindness/
[5] My Father, My Attack Dog
[6] another wrote, “you’re like George Harrison to me.” I wrote back, “not even Billy Preston, my friend.” At least he got the Pisces thing!
[7] Suzanne Baran, personal correspondence
[8] House of The Rising Sun, Amazing Grace, and Gilligan’s Island theme are also interchangeable drunken party games for the musically challenged, but The Blind Boys Of Alabama lend a gravitas to it, and “The Wild Kindness” is musically more like “House Of The Rising Sun” than “Amazing Grace,” at least when sung in that Judy Collins fashion
[9] “The power that hardly looked like power” like Dickinson’s God-Fly in “I Heard A Fly,” and the coroner is as friendly as sociable as death in “because I could not stop for Death.,” etc
[10] Montana
[11] though, as we shall see, it is written about that time; please don’t try to sing this to "house of the rising sun"
[12] As SB puts it, “dogs are the guardians of ephemeral domain and often serve as spirit guides in non-physical journeys.
[13] as if the flying, singing birds in “We Are Real”  are sacrificed to the ‘shot of sugar like snow dumped in the blood.”
[14] Sure, Steve’s “goodbyes” could represent the inner monologue of David’s voice, underscoring that he is leaving the social world, but they are called “leaves” after all, as if their essence is goodbye. It’s no mere pathetic fallacy!
[15] Contrast “hits a target” with Leonard Cohen, in a similar suspension song, can sing “a falling leaf may rest a moment in the air,” and gently compare children to “arrows with no targets,”
[16] Which explains why Steve’s voice did not join DCB on “and spurn the sin of giving in.” It’s not a sin if you’re a leaf.
[17] (like the double meaning of anachronistic), he’s not running out of time, but hoping every one else is late too!
[18] the quickness of this transformation may better Dylan’s “you lose yourself, you reappear, finally find…”
[19] Just as spurning the sin of giving in concluded the “perfect” first verse, this concludes the “freedom verse:” freedom’s just another word for delaying the ‘midnight execution’ of forever, even if you have to open the window to do so.
[20] Heather Larimer was present when Steve aid this guitar solo down, and mentioned that it made her fall in  love with him.
[21] The walls of medication, as aspirin comes from a tree bark, and the tower of song
[22]  unless the tower’s just blocking our view of another tree’s trunk.
[23] (except for some of the mysterious doodling, which seems like a ‘pubic beard’ dangling from a masonic eye or two, or the pedestal for the Buckigham Rabbit upside down
[24] Winter is not dead but barely alive.; a motel void is cozier than an evergreen altar.
[25] dying may not even guarantee disappearance without a coroner to pronounce you dead.
[26] I almost expected this third bridge to sing something like “ice thaws in the backyard,” but luckily he returns to the dogs.
[27] the first time the title appears in the song,
[28]  “the darkest hour is always before the dawn,” or  “live each moment like it’s your last.” Truisms that use their power and pathos as they proliferate in phrases, or The Angry Samoans, “Lights Out.”
[29] after all, if spring comes, another fall won’t be too far behind)
[30] (and music). In this song, he is both the “I” and the kindness. Out/in. Off/On
[31] And Dogs, as Suzanne Baran reminds me, can stand for many things (including perseverance).



[ii] The rise of Youtube, especially after the fall of MySpace, as the primary way in which songs are shared, has significantly changed the ways people experience music in the 21st century. In 2012, if people want to share songs, more often than not they take their portable laptops to a public space, and find the song, new or old, on Youtube like a pizza box board game 2-5 ”kids of all ages” can play. On the tiny little MacBook speakers blares “The Wild Kindness” while we sit dumbfounded looking at the screen; whether, it’s a still of the album cover or a belly dancer, the attention to the visual rises and the attention to the musical (if not necessarily the verbal) diminishes. This is not an argument against visual spectacle in performance or the potentials of the video as an art form. Certainly even The Silver Jews were not an imageless band, and Youtube is popular because it is the closest model to terrestrial radio these days.

[iii] This symbiosis of David’s concept and the embodied arrangement still made room for on the spot improvisation. My charge was to create a sound that was between worlds . We needed it to sound live rather than mediated by the board, so Steve plugged the Rhodes into an amp, while Nicolas Vernhes put two mics about 3 or 4 inches away from the speaker. As Steve stood next to me, playing with the reverb levels, he asked me to do the riff we had rehearsed. I’d try it with one sound, then another. Then another riff with the same sound, and so on. We both knew when we got it, and it doesn’t sound too much like Strange Days. Steve was smart enough to stop me when we found it, or maybe David yelled it from halfway across the room first. Turns out we settled on a line similar to what we had rehearsed, but what had bored me on the Casio now came alive with an added depth. David at his most complex is complemented by me at my most simple, so finally my piano had “poetic” significance precisely in its lack of verbality!

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