As I’ve listened to NdV-era Spock’s Beard, I’ve been reflecting on words, meaning, their problematic relationship, and how music swirls around that relationship, clarifying but never really clarifying. Some things begin to come together as I listen again to the opening of the eponymous album (2006). “Perfect Day” in the song title reminds me of Lou Reed, which in turn reminds me of a viscerality in rock music without which… I guess I’d say: without which not. That’s all.
And that viscerality is here, as much as on its predecessors. Sure, I can hear the proggishness, but damn, it’s wonderful rock music. Alan’s guitar leads on this album as much as Nick’s vocal, with a confidence that breathes. I can feel the respiration, like I might notice the breathing of a companion, reminding me forcibly in a needed moment of the companionship even though nothing is said
But as I’ve been noticing, there are things that are said. The words, I’m hearing here, are for another time. YES! Of course they are for another time. A more “perfect” day, whatever that might mean. Their meaning is deferred, but is not any less meaning for that. It’s as though I do have the meaning, even though I don’t really have it, and may never have it. Still, I have it.
And now I can read back the viscerality more clearly, read it back into the respiration that was Feel Euphoria and Octane. Yes, I have to admit it, though I hate to… There’s a profundity and an ecstatic cohesion to those two prior efforts that has retreated a bit here. I lean in the direction of disappointment, but I’m surprised by how slight is that leaning. Why? Because, damn, this is wonderful rock music! One of the things I remember about my seventies-self is the expectation I developed that there should be something sustained over the course of a whole album. It became such a strong expectation that even the albums coming closest to perfection in this regard (many of which were NOT “concept” albums) were not without a pinch of that disappointment, a little of that leaning.
If there is something that the eponymous album does for me at a deep level, it is reinforce the viscerality, the album-long sustenance, of which these guys seem so consistently capable. It makes the previous two discs shine even brighter across the current landscape of my listening.
“So, you’re saying it’s not quite as good as the last two, then?”
You could take that to be what I’m saying, I guess, and you wouldn’t really be wrong. But I have to say it again…
Damn, this is wonderful rock music!
(Special mentions: That exquisite transition, all piano, from the fading dischord at the end of “Wherever You Stand” into “Hereafter.” And the very much up-to-snuff suite, where the textural high points of the album seem especially to lurk, beginning with the irresistible “Dreaming in the Age of Answers.”)
And this brings me to a scary place in the journey with SB. One more studio effort with NdV (whom I’ve already shyly followed onto his next Train). What will I think of that? Yes, there’s the latest release too, and I WILL do SB the service soon of getting all the way to that place. My resolve is still strong to remain something of a heretic, and wait a while yet before I go back to a serious sojourn with the earlier recordings with Neal. I will get there, but I will risk irritating the true believers by refusing to hurry.
With Spock’s Beard, I very much recommend avoidance of hurry.