I’ll explain everything to the geeks
Herberto Hélder is one of my favourite poets. I must’ve read his writings hundreds of times, quoted from them dozens, wrote an essay on them for a literature class. His life of seclusion appeals to my anti-social side - which, I must say, is the leading side in my damaged brain -, his almost-surreal writing style appeals to me as a lover, not only of literature but of women, and it is a pity non-portuguese speakers can’t have a taste of it, for as far as I know, there are no known translations. But let me give it a try:
This hand that writes the burning melancholy of age…
And I stop right there, for I can’t manipulate his words over the fear that it might be considered blasphemy. The same way that to compare his works with The National’s lyrics might. I will try to, anyway: both Herberto Hélder and Matt Berninger’s verses are filled with a tenderness that can only be found in old, well-lived people, who have already cried and laughed everything there is to cry and laugh, who have found love, lost love, forgot love exists, rediscovered it in a small moment during sunset - adults at long last, not people who aged and remain as children, a rare feat in today’s society. They are our elders, our sages. They are here to guide us through either their pen and their pain, their voice and their voids. Because it is impossible to meet Hélder, hidden as he is, I met Berninger; The National didn’t sell out Lisbon’s MEO Arena, but had a flock of sheep waiting for their shepherd, a bearded, spectacled, not-so-drunken-anymore man from Cincinnatti.
An hour and a half where I met all of my demons. I’m going through an awkward phase, after all. And I have so many of them. Because I am a child, and sages teach us through the wonders of tough love. All I didn’t do was cry. Why bother? It’s not like anyone or theone would notice anyway.
I wouldn’t say I am the biggest National fan there is. There were people around me who knew the lyrics to all of the songs they played, who jumped, clapped, generally felt happiness at every second during their show (and one of them was probably Rui, who also writes for Bolachas). All I could muster were a few singalong attempts during Afraid Of Everyone, Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks, Graceless and, of course, Mr. November. And yet, even if I don’t know the songs, they speak to me in ways very few songs do. I wouldn’t say, though, that I love their songs. More like I fear them. For their truth, for their meaning, for their emotion.
So this text is probably a way I found to overcome my fears. To each his own medicine.
I used to be carried in the arms of cheerleaders. This very spot where the concert took place was special, in a way. The last time I was here I experienced one of the saddest moments of my life. A cheerleader left. Not that I can blame her: who would keep up with this miserable, pathetic excuse for a human being? The same kind of human who takes to the Internet to talk about himself in a stupid teenager kind of way. But I digress. It was sad. And I am sad, so bear with it for a while.
I almost never cry while listening to a song - so far, only Saint Etienne, Caribou and the Magnetic Fields managed to do that to me. The National almost accomplished it when I heard the first chords of I Need My Girl, but I felt it wasn’t time to cry. I might consider it later, tomorrow, next week. Right then there was something preventing me from crying, and I know it wasn’t shame, because I’m a guy who spent the entire Paredes de Coura festival with a panda hat on my head. No shame, nor fear. Something bigger. And I feel terrible for not crying, because The National - God, existing, bless them - deserved some tears. And the cheerleader deserves some tears, too.
Maybe it was empathy. There were simply too many people feeling an enormous amount of joy during this gig. When Matt came down to meet his audience during the encore, they ran like hell just to catch a closer glimpse of his face or, who knows, touch him lightly. It’s only rock n’ roll, and people love their celebrities. Despite rock n’ roll not being music for old people, Matt is most definitely a rock n’ roller - it is also this paradox which intrigues me. They are rock both for old and young people - what other indie rock band can say that? Arcade Fire? Amazing, but still too youthful. The Shins? Teenager-lite pop/rock. Tame Impala, Vampire Weekend or any others standing in the line between underground and mainstream? No, only the National write songs for those past 35, which I reckon is the age where we start worrying about more mundane things like the gas bill and the electricity bill and whether we’ll be able to feed our child instead of worrying at 25 about getting old and having a job and a future and wishing every second death would come take us and spare us all the bullshit. A while ago a portuguese journalist said rock was finally dangerous because of the themes present in High Violet. I disagree - they’re not exactly dangerous. To be dangerous they’d have to start a rebellion. And no one rebels past the age of 25.
When we grow old and have kids the same age we have now, should we live to even have kids, and they start feeling the world is collapsing around them, we’ll probably show them our National records and tell them in the most paternalistic voice we can manage: «this helped me when I was your age. It will help you, too». And so the National cult will keep going and growing, and Matt’s words will echo during a long, long time - which is what usually happens with poets’ words. Even with all those guitars around them (were I a music critic, or someone who understood the minimum required to talk about music, I’d say The National at their worst are U2 with better lyrics and at their best the greatest fucking band in the world), his words are absolutely necessary for the soul, as pungent as good poetry should be.
I should leave it alone but only a band like The National could force me to write this absolute piece of crap and sap, something I started thinking about while on the train home, reading a SMS which shouldn’t be and smoking cigars out in the rain - I was just soakin’ my head to unrattle my brain, eh. I should mention the final moment, where everyone present sang Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks like they were a football firm or an evengelical church (or a mixture of both). I should mention the full setlist but you’ll google it and find it for yourself. I should mention this was one of the best gigs I saw this year, but if it wasn’t, I wouldn’t even bother to write about it.
Much like the cheerleader, The National were for one night the blood knot that suffocates me.
Herberto Hélder. I wonder if he has ever listened to the band and sued for plagiarism.
And I wonder if she’ll read and divide by zero again.
!!! your booty
Now that LCD Soundsystem is buried under a pile of old age and self-loathing (a.k.a. all thanks to James Murphy, 40-year-old hipster), !!! (it’s pronounced chk-chk-chk, much like The XX are pronounced The xx) are set to become the world leaders in dance-punk (whatever the fuck that may be and disregarding The Rapture’s renaissance [pun?]). THR!!!ER may not be the best album the Sacramento band ever wrote, a title which goes out, indisputably, to 2007’s Myth Takes, but it most certainly delivers a healthy dose of funk, upbeat pop and shake-your-ass-on-the-chair-while-listening-to-it-at-home-in-a-dark-room-like-the-internet-troll-you-are rhythms; in an otherwise somber year where there aren’t many records which have captivated our ears - and no, MBV doesn’t count here, it was only to be expected - this (supposedly) Michael Jackson tribute is capable of sending away the clouds and the black metal kind of vibes which have haunted us and make us feel life really is worth living, at least until you realize “One Girl / One Boy” is actually a really sad love song and your mood goes down the drain again. Oh well. We’ll always have the sun and these delicious guitars. If you mention Nile Rodgers one more time because you enjoyed “Get Lucky” over its “freshness”, swear to God, I’ll fucking kill you in your sleep and dance the night way on top of your grave.
Starting next week, our beloved friends at Coronado will be going around Europe for a nice end-of-summer vacation. Well, not all of them, only the ones that matter, meaning math rock juggernauts Equations and post-rock-in-2013 stalwarts SAUR. And because SAUR live near me, I spoke to them about what Europe can expect from them. Which is not much. I’m kidding: if you live anywhere near these places, go check them out so you can tell your hipster friends yeah, currently I’m checking out the portuguese scene, Awesome Tapes From Africa got too mainstream.
Now that we’re slowly spiraling into the cold season again, do you remember how life seemed so amazing three months ago? Temperatures rising, holidays creeping up on the horizon, heavy drinking sessions with friends (except for poor ol’ me, dealing with antibiotics at the time) and Optimus Primavera Sound for those lucky enough to be there. We catched your happiness on film (with a smartphone, but still) so you could go back in time whenever you want.
Pop is the opposite of pop
Let us, for a moment, forget that the Swans are, in noise rock territories, a huge spectre hanging around everyone’s heads when we think about aggression, when we think about power, when we think about rawness, violence, bloodlust - all those wonderful qualities that lie around in our minds, hidden from society -; let us forget the new-yorkers practically invented and perfected the genre, even if there are plenty of wonderful bands who took their palette and turned it into something equally valid; if we erase Michael Gira’s antics since 1984, we’d come to realize Pop. 1280 is probably the most ferocious band in activity right now, something we realized last year when their debut album, The Horror, came out, blasting layers of noise and punk energy and great fucking tunes all around. Imps Of Perversion, although toning down that aggression for a bit - there’s no immediate and murder-prone tracks like “Bodies In The Dunes”, for instance, and there’s a more folky side to it (especially “Riding Shotgun”) -, still stands as one of the most rage-filled albums we’ll hear this year, the year rock is mostly dead and pop cuteness hangs around like annoying eye floaters. Where’s the music for people who hate other people? Where’s my knife in the shape of a 3-minute song? (It’s actually seven minutes, and it’s called “Nailhouse”.) Pop. 1280 came, saw, conquered that magic place we call “the riff”, made another album that’ll spike up our adrenaline levels and propels us to believe Sacred Bones will save the world. Or destroy it. Either way, it works.