Monday, August 14, 2006

Bought low and sold for less

Pawn Shop, Wendover, UT - Don Baccus
Pawn Shop, Don Baccus

Pawn Shop On Fire - The Wingdale Community Singers

"Pawn Shop On Fire" makes me think of that dry, curious phrase much beloved of police spokespeople and community newspapers, "neighborhood incident." With its cynical veneer of neutrality, neighborhood incident brackets everything from aborted petty theft to domestic violence to something that happened last week here in Chicago: A driver unintentionally hit a girl and a group of witnesses pulled him from his car and beat him half to death. That's a classic neighborhood incident, involving, as it did, afternoon heat, idleness, (likely) long-simmering rage, (almost certainly) booze and broad community participation. "Fire" isn't so current--the song has a Depression-era New York outer borough vibe--but it's got the bodies and buildings packed tense and tight and those augers of minor pathos: money trouble, drunk husbands, wives at wits' end. It's performed so artlessly, as if for a church talent show, you might think these Wingdale Community Singers are jus' folks and not, in fact, David Grubbs, Hannah Marcus and Rick Moody. In a moving, authentic execution, Marcus sings solid and solemn; Moody backs her in flat, moaning harmony. It's a heart twister.

From The Wingdale Community Singers (Amazon: US, UK, eMusic)

Cash America Pawn - Alina Simone

If "Fire" sketches the big city as blustery but parochial, "Cash America Pawn," draws the small town as a long vista of listless, shambling, silent sorrow. (Incidents, yes. But little neighborhood.) Alina Simone--sounding like a more lucid Chan Marshall--details the topography. The titular pawn shop, lonely park, church spire, car broken down on the access road. Lest her recitation become too narcotic, the song has an amazing midpoint frisson, a series of brittle handclaps that cut through choppy guitar strum and say, Listen, listen here! This too is important.

From Prettier In The Dark (Amazon: US, UK, eMusic)


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