Last Night On Earth
Help Me Out A Li'l Bit Here:
Lee Ranaldo--vocals, guitar, bells, vibraphone
Alan Licht--guitars, bells
Steve Shelley--drums, bells, shaker
(Originally written on 5/2/2014)
On October 22nd, 2012, the calamitous storm that would become known as Hurricane Sandy began life as "Tropical Depression Eighteen." By the time of its dissipation in early November, Sandy would cause billions of dollars worth of damages in seven countries, on its way to claiming 286 casualties; of the 24 states affected, New York and New Jersey received some of the most devastating damages. In Manhattan, Lee and family were relatively lucky to only be without power. Unable to do much else, he stayed inside and, by candlelight, played guitar. And played some more guitar.
From these sessions of sorts would come two songs that eventually made it onto Last Night On Earth, including the heart-bracing title track. That's what creative people do. Uncertainty and upheaval do not quell their urge.
"Lecce, Leaving"--Lee Ranaldo's second singer-songwriter style album in two years retains the emotionalism of its predecessor while eschewing relative pithiness for sweeping experimental classic rock. A considerable chunk of Lee's appeal is his voice, which is why as much as I love the tempestuous likes of East Jesus, verse/chorus/verse is a great look for the man who I would call the George Harrison of Sonic Youth if a thousand other unoriginal bloggers hadn't beaten me to the punch and spiked the hell out of it. His tenor curls 'round sound, hitting the air like extruded gossamer, adding a measurable resonance to any song.
How 'bout my song, though? "Jenn, Returning." The fearless soul fights on and thus never perishes. Much like the Dust's kick-up, a tune eager to beat me to near-death with my own heart, but hey, I was the one who removed it and handed it over to begin with.
"Key/Hole"--So far, so solid. Thermal conduction is the energy transfer of choice today. Connection, and reconnection, is so vital for me, for all.
I've been planning much, and planning to fail besides, so anytime I am led to yet another door, I still feel my heart jump inside my chest (I put it back when the last song ended) and I can hear the blood whirring in my ears. Because what is behind that door is a new room. Hopefully one with holes cut into the walls for me to look beyond.
"Home Chds"--What's home, though? Is it something you share? Can a person be alone and still be home?
The song chooses to sidestep such pointless existential queries and go right for the inspirational gusto: You know what you are capable of achieving. Get it out. These are non-fatal blows you're absorbing.
"The Rising Tide"--Blissed-out prismatic reaction stands in sharp contrast to my reality. Staring outside the window of my room is like checking out the same old stock footage, day in night out. Apartment buildings to the left, obscured by several large trees of almost-absurd overgrowth. Below, parking spaces, some filled and some not, all matched with coin depositories jutting up from the pavement. Across, more brick buildings with holes cut into their sides. Despite the distressing lack of variety, I can't help but gaze and gaze during breaks from patching up my skiff (the one item I absolutely could not allow to languish in a storage unit).
"I don't want to let you drown."
Even walking outside has become tedious, and I've only been at it for a month. I do it for several reasons: it helps with losing weight (nearly 50 pounds since last summer), the dog demands the exercise, and on occasion, stepping purposefully around this redneck haven does actually spark my imagination. Mainly the sounds are what do the trick--the bleats and scurries of the local park life; the splashing as said life makes its way hither and yon where my kind dare not tread; hell, even the exhaust-belching cars and obstreperous children can give me useful ideas. (By "useful" I of course mean anything that does not at some stage involve picking a brat up in a fireman's carry and throwing them through a lattice fence.)
"Last Night On Earth"--For my last night on the planet, I hope to spend less than ten seconds total gazing out of a window. Why not climb to the top of a church masonry spire, shooing away all the birds so that I and I alone may appreciate the limitless sky? Why not recline on sidewalks raised from age and flip through my special, "sprocket holes edition" photo album?
I'm scared that I would do nothing extraordinary, thanks to my circumspect nature. (Delay before gain, you'll never get your hands dirty that way.) In a universe of instability and insanity, the last thing I want is to know exactly when the lights go out for good.
"Life is so short....Don't try to make it on your own."
I am ashamed of what I have become. A fundamentally good person, who has much to offer, but who is nevertheless an abject failure rejected by almost her entire family. I would spend my last night on Earth apologizing to the people who do love me for ultimately proving unworthy.
"By the Window"-- Time gurgles on. Grind on down.
The songs here so frequently start out struggling with the built-in autofocus. Acclimation is the key, see.
Lee gives well-soaked glances at the present, rather than ogling at the past.
"Late Descent #2"--The plunge is continuous; slow and turbulent. The extent of the agonizing declension defies all attempts at measurement.
So why not just immerse yo'self in the Ren Faire vibe happening? Never would you hear that on any SY wreck-hard. Just picturing Lee decked out in a feathered bard's hat, green silk vest and binding leather trousers is enough to get a person through a day and a half.
"Ambulancer"--Scratching an itch can feel so goddamn satisfying.
Okay, for all my intellectual blunderbusses who find themselves surrounded by cap guns, pay attention, 'cause the fuzzy power trip I'm currently on has me in the mood to share some wisdom.
There is no such thing as a lost cause--only one that has been misplaced.
Where one hears a wolf, another hears a lamb. So if you need to cry out, cry out.
Believe in the compassion of others and the passion inside yourself.
Mankind is a remarkably supple beast.
You are the hero of the scenario.
"Blackt Out"--Black doubt warps the mind. If only "riptide resister" were a paying position! Wage gap narrowed considerably.
At eleven and a half minutes, "Blackt Out" is the Snuffleupagus of Dust Street: large, hirsute, a bit moody but ultimately sweet-mannered. It is, furthermore and most importantly, a brilliant way to go out.
As for me, well, I'm finished with flipping myself ass over teakettle trying to make people understand my situation. How many different ways can a person explain that they don't want to die, but after two years of diminishing returns, they've lost the ability to imagine a tolerable future for themselves?
I require no lectures about the value of life. I have spent many hours in awe of the value of life. Of its brevity and its intensity. Of the shame that is wasting life.
The key is to be less concerned about receding power and more in tune with the power inherent in recession. Then, one can hope to improve their station.
Can I do that? Can I really do that? Is it possible this whole time I've been fearing the worst, I've actually been preparing myself to burst through the chrysalis? Kinda...late, isn't it?
I ain't exactly psyched to die. I am struggling to remake the mess I have made. Through art, we are shown the infinite possibilities inside of a finite life. With maximum effort and the willingness to risk all, present tension can become past tense. A life of greater distinction can be lived.