Thanks to a few kind people who have left comments on this post about Patrick Flegel’s work post-Women, I found out about his new band, Androgynous Mind. I actually don’t know if this is a brand new band, or just a renamed version of Fels-Naptha, but whatever it is, it’s wonderful. Anything that features more of his singing and guitar playing is worth paying attention to, and Androgynous Mind’s initial release, Nightstalker, has a lot going on. The first two songs, Bobbi and Good Friday, are almost Blood Brothers-esque thrashers, in the same vein as something like Guitarmy or Feed me to the Forest (short, brutal). The other three songs, one of which is Knock On My Door, are more relaxed, and all have weird, languid melodies, and the kind of sharp and brittle arrangements that came with most of the songs on Women and Public Strain.
Knock On My Door is gloomy and slow, Flegel sings most of the verses like he’s half asleep, dying, and he’s joined by a female vocalist echoing a few of his words, inconsistently, in the background. I think one of the things that’s most impressive about Flegel’s songwriting is the way he can turn a song from being dim and dour–pure cloudcover–into something that opens up suddenly and brightly. Some of his best songs are like little engines of possibility: all the elements are there from the beginning, you just have to wait for them to express themselves.
So there are physiological reasons why some noises appeal to us and others do not. Or why some noises ‘feel’ happy and others sad. How did this evolve, though–that’s what I want answered. I need some definitiveness in my life, and it might as well be in the field of evolutionary psycho-acoustics. Am I afraid of Steve Perry’s voice because some atavistic part of me equates his tone with that of a swooping pterosaur? (I know, paleontologists, let me cut you off right there). Do I love the full sweet sound of woodwinds because it stimulates the part of my brain inherited from my ancestors, who were surely some kind of pale, cave-dwelling tribe who lied awake at night listening to the wind blow through the fissures and vents of their home? I don’t know, but I would like to know, preferably before I die.
I say all this because “Galuchat” incites a million different feelings when I listen to it. It is elegiac, sinister, comforting, disturbing, and sweet. Sometimes it seems like a battle song, and at other times it could be a song you’d play for your sweetheart. There’s a struggle to speak, to say something, I think, in this song. I don’t know what it’s saying though. It’s just the sounds of words, not the words themselves.
Ada’s cover of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Maps” has long been a favorite–even though I love the original, I think Ada’s version is more affecting. The music is definitely ‘cheerier’ in a way–the chiming, tinselly bell sounds woven into the track take some of the edge off–but I think the way Ada sings Karen O’s lyrics is devastating. Ada has a voice that’s not quite as superficially interesting as Karen O’s, but her take here is so, so resigned. Where Karen O might have been yelling to someone, “Wait! they don’t love you like I love you!”, Ada is saying all that to herself, after that person is well out of earshot, like a reminder, or like the way you’d quietly protest a shitty state of affairs (“this is fucked,” whispered many times).