Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Monsters in our midst

Image: Global Graphica

Werewolves In The City - Viking Moses

It would be easy to dismiss "Werewolves" as the paranoid rantings of another acid-scarred beardo with a psychedelic dream and a beat machine set on "stun." Viking Moses, aka Brendon Massei, doesn't do much to discourage this notion. His official bio claims "many balls-to-the-wall musicians adopt a bohemian persona to fit their music, but Viking Moses is the real deal," adding that the guy hasn't owned a permanent address for almost a decade. Then there's the fact that the musicians he tends to play with, folks like Will Oldham, Chan Marshall and Devendra Banhardt, aren't typically held up as paragons of sanity or stability. Oh, and he likes to cover Jeff Mangum (
video of "Holland 1945").

So to hear "Werewolves" as a genuine protest song, one that deserves to be taken seriously as a well-considered position on the physical vulnerability of the disenfranchised in 21st century America, may seem like a massive misreading. But witness Massei's opening salvo: Fuck the Riverside PD with their helicopters shining lights, and its clear echo of the old--and relatively legitimized--gangsta rap "fuck tha police" sentiment. Or the chorus (movingly scream-sung in the final round):

Werewolves in the city are a big problem
Why don't you get out of the sky and stop them
From tearing up children, children in the night
Last night I found a kid's head on my bike.

And then put yourself on that bike (perhaps your only real possession) on the riverbank or sleeping rough on the street, and crane your neck up, up, up and squint to spy these predatory winged machines with their blinding lights and deafening roar, fighting the "war on drugs" maybe, or perhaps fighting some other imaginary, but officially recognized, monster. But certainly not protecting you from the human predators who pick off street kids and the other unlucky-to-be-exposed. Now, from this vantage point, through this distopian (but really pretty realistic) lens, ponder the meaning of monster.

From Werewolves In The City single (eMusic). Viking Moses' Myspace.

Werewolf - Cat Power

The Werewolf Song - Michael Hurley

We have this long tradition of exorcising undesirable feelings and afflictions by displacing them on invented monsters--in effect, dividing our selves. By some accounts, werewolves arose from an anxiety over the disease lupus. The howlin' hairy beasts also often turn up as metaphors for some of the icky, unmanageable transformations and moodswings of adolescence. Chan Marshall knew this, I'm sure, when she chose to cover Michael Hurley's "Werewolf Song." Media reports suggest she's recently ended, or has found a wayside on, what's seemed like a very painful and public journey toward a kind of wholeness. But "Werewolf," which appears on 2003's You Are Free finds her mid-march ... in a slow, shivering trundle-gait, picking shards of broken mirror off the forest floor.

Hurley's version, an early one, is, if possible, even more fractured and unknowable.

From First Songs (eMusic). Michael Hurley fan site.

Cat Power's Web site.


Blogger Ekko said...

pretty weird, A. pretty f-in weird stuff.

8:49 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

C'mon, Ethan! It's not that weird, just like, justifiably odd. And yes, I'm feeling reminded that I owe you something and will get to it very, very soon.

9:41 AM  

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