-An Experimental Work inspired by Interpol’s El Pintor–
By L.S. Goldwyn
You DO NOT listen to music anymore. This is what you tell your “brother” when he pesters you over and over, practically begging on bent knee an obscene amount of times, for you to listen to Interpol’s El Pintor. This is an impressive event to see a man, you’ve known since college, whose personality practically—almost tragically refuses to transform, out of the spitefully wounding and endearingly wounded, quietly-loud extrovert fucking introvert who used to tilt his self-proclaimed skinny athletic black tech-geek, math/science loving metal head crown atop his head, just to show the world he was a great man of stature—even amongst the disheartening circumstances that allowed him to be groomed in a household of ex-junkies and “hoodrats” in the isles of barbarous rule; of warlords and warriors that lived and died under bladed box-cutters and guns. The flawless lawlessness that both sparkled, dazzled, enraged and raised the razor sharp wit and cunning you both possess. The South Bronx circa 1990’s. Ah the 1990’s, the era that gave birth to the humble beginnings of cell phones, and the Internet. A time when you felt that the golden age of sex and creativity once again rose from its dusted slumber of the 1960’s and returned refreshed, renewed—and hell it only took 30 years or so.
Sure back then vinyl wasn’t the “it” thing. And you were slow on the shuffle when it came to Compact Discs. Tapes and nostalgia were more your thing right? But still this was an amazing time where the city was peppered with record shops of all kinds. Tower Records. Virgin Records, but not the one on Times Square, no you loved the one at Union Sq. (only tourists went to the one on forty-deuce; and of course you did to—secretly, once in the blue only when truly desperate and bored. Which at times you were back then more than you care to admit even now). And the mom & pops! Oh! Words cannot—can never describe the joy, the radiant jubilance that leaped from your bones, worked its way through your veins and arteries, bursting through your capillaries—powered your fingertips and hands as you searched row after row for new albums, new songs, new talents and sounds. Words. Lyrics. Mysteries and worlds—majesties of people and places and things far beyond the cage you were living in. Islands that echoed delights that of which you couldn’t explain to damn near everyone you knew. Except your brother and that’s truly why you became close—because you could trust his word; his ability to keep your secrets. To keep that side that you never showed to 99% of the world safe, sound. And yet you never spoke those words of gratitude to him. You meant to; but you were a self-professed pragmatic coward. Which suited you not as fine as you wanted to believe. But talked yourself into believing more than you cared to admit just because you felt that everyone that matched your name to your face, your carpet to your drapes that that you were. So you not only took on that role, you “Meryl Streep’ed” the fuck out of that shit! Smiling always smiling. Never looking back at the darkness behind you; you knew nothing was there anyway but sadness.
At the sadness that was a whole hollowness inside of you—one you never managed to fully fulfill, but also one that in time you were learning to sooth. Day after day, pearling the string, one after the other—for every moment of your life. And as each pearl softly struck the other, within each muffled, whispering clack their lied a song. And as the pearled string blossomed and bloom you could hear the melody within each note—those played and not played; the lyrical flow of melodies without words. Where everything you ever felt and could feel was uttered before your existence even began or ended. It stayed there entrenched in that universal rhyme, floating to your eardrums in rain droplets; little by little, bit by bit, song by song. To you all albums are art; and art itself is masterful. It requires patience, a depth—dedication, concentration, frustration. Release, gratitude—and most of all the happy accidents bestowed to you via your will and the blessing of Providence. Ideas banged, and pulled and drilled out of the tissue of your aching jaws; desire bleeding your dreams arid; an offering of your tender flesh, your naked soul in order to bring a force into this realm. Through sacrifice the artist is an alchemist spinning lead bricks into golden bars.
All of the emotions that the artists would not could not show the world; but they could to you. They could be naked and you could be naked and the rage and sadness could and would be silenced for awhile. But could you live the enforced changes now? The onslaught that came with media/corporate approval? The cattle-prod transformation from tapes to CD’s? Of course you could get more info on a CD verses from a tape? And yes the tape ribbon was consistently unreliable as a source to feed your need. Well not completely unreliable. Just known to self-destruct when pulled ever so slightly out of the little openings when tangled. Or pop when the plastic thread sheet had reached its limit of elasticity. Or worst of all pull off the greatest imitation when shoved inside of the tape player “improperly of The Exorcist’s green-pea vomit scene. And don’t get me started on your sisters, who always taped over your favorite shit, even though you told them DO NOT USE MY HEADPHONE SET WHATSOEVER!!!! No, they never listened to you. But still you were not to be easily swayed. No, not at all. Nope, not one bit.
Eventually, you caved in; not because everyone did it—No! You always waited to avoid what “sheeple” tended to do—such a fucking rebel you were. No, you decided to wait for a few reasons: the most practical being that of money—feast or famine was truly your deal and hell it still is more times than you care to admit. The second to see what you can creep into your neighborhood, your house, your room without those overbearingly ig’nant Christian feathers of your mother always seemed to have ruffled or excited, to which she always had a snarky reply. “God don’t like ugly…” when it came to your newly potent love for bands such as Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails and Hole—now those where bands! Antichrist Superstar, The Fragile, Celebrity Skin—now those were albums! But the third, the most of import was the simple fact that it was the sound. The sounds that CD’s could replicate in those damn songs. The notes, the lyrics—the picture those songs, those albums could paint. The doors that would open in your mind…the hearts transported through that stupid piece of circular plastic. That absurd multilayer of plastic protective covering that stood between you and ecstasy every goddamn time was worth it in your mind. Why? ‘Cause these were ALBUMS!!!!
So you were crushed one day when Childish Gambino aka Donald Glover aka Son of Kanye, etc., etc., etc. had said on Power 105.1interview with The Breakfast Club “Music is advertisement for a brand…album (snaps fingers) doesn’t mean anything. Music, doesn’t mean anything—it means as much as you put into it, and we don’t have time to put anything into it. So I don’t see the point of making albums…” when promoting his album—oh I’m sorry his “world” Because of the Internet. There were other things that he said that both turned you on and pissed you off simultaneously, but that comment about albums? Now that fucking hurt, and it was all because of something you would not have cared to admit. Because it came from the place where your love for music started Hip-Hop. But you knew deep inside, down in the deep, dark cold waters where the 90% portion of icebergs intend to still exist—where they still beckon to be kissed. He was right; he was ABSOLUTELY FUCKING RIGHT.
And when you admitted that truth, well something inside of you just died. Flat out, fell to the ground and shattered. And so did you. Because you felt the one outlet, the place in this fucking, complicated, contradictory, contrite bullshit world had not closed itself to you—oh no! This was far, far worse than that. It had been murdered. It had been tortured, brutalized, and decimated. And you just sat and watched—and did nothing. Just like before, when your mother stopped speaking to you, saying your name for 6 months, when you decided to drop out of college—and give up on HER dream of becoming a well-spoken black woman attorney. You were the last hope of redeeming the family, the smartest of her poor black children—and yet you knew what she would never say. She hated you for that. And that hate burned, and buried itself inside of you—until it became one with you and you began to produce it yourself. So you ran from those feelings into the Army, and the Desert and war. And war is never what the history books tell you; it is never as glamorous or exciting—or as mundane and monotonous as advertised. Sure, there were bands of brothers throughout that time, just as there was when you lived in “’Da Hood.” You knew you weren’t one of them in either spaces. But music, albums? They were always there. And here this little shit head had to fuck it up. But in reality you knew more than you cared to admit that it wasn’t his fault. He was just a herald delivering the news that was fit to print, but never liked when read.
So like all times before you built your fortress of sound, buffering the presence of the present out. You decided—ingeniously to follow the advice that good ol’ Dead Presidents gave to the masses: you gave up on radio—you turned off that bullshit! You numbed yourself to this society, this world built upon false hopes and mischief. The “haves” greedily sucking the marrow from the fragile bones of the have-nots. “Fuck that! At least I got Paul Simon’s Graceland. Fleetwood Mac’s The Dance. I’ve got REM…I’ve got, I’ve got…” And with every album, band, singer and songstress you fathomed, you convinced yourself that you still had yourself; that you were not lost in this world where everything was before—and therefore you had absolutely nothing. Again, you buried that truth too. In the spaces and crevices that you cared not to look. And pretended that that disappointment in life itself didn’t exist. It existed within you more than you cared to admit.
But when your brother spoke to you about El Pintor? Well…you just HAD to listen. Simply because something in his eyes was luminous when he spoke about it. And it was good to see that the light was still alive somewhere—in somebody’s eyes. Even if it wasn’t yours. So one night in his Throggs Neck project apartment, while your daughter was asleep and while he went to bed preparing for the exhausting bullshit day of work he had to endure in order to pay the bills and keep afloat in this godforsaken city you said you’d listen to the album. Front to back. Songs 1 through 10. And the moment you hit play on the Windows Media play, the melodies sprang to your ears like the magnificent, magnanimous Yellowstone geysers they were. Every song brought back the flow of feeling twice as hard as the first.
You couldn’t run from the expounding, sonorous serenade vibrating through the air, rushing towards you—threatening to crush your small meager body. A great tidal wave of lyrics, marred to the ancient ways of song. El Pintor, Interpol exposed the foul fallacy festering in your brain. Changing its frequency layer after layer; they were to music what Modigliani was to painting, conjoining feeling and want as muse and horizon, that never could be caught, but always made you follow it anywhere. Like any great artists they knew how to bring all of the emotions out of you. And the disgust that came with not having this comfort near you. They brought all the rage back home.
But this you did not mind, you had to admit. The feelings of despair and want now coupled with your omniverted spirit. For to never have it; to be numbed to the loss of it instead of raging and mourning—that was a permanent hell for someone like you. Someone who love music; someone who puts work and loyalty into the things that she loves most. Because that what you do regardless if—no especially if it is a dying art. You don’t make lightly into the new age. You curse it for kill off your light. With every breath you have—you scorn it. Because small things like creating albums—investing love into art and feeling, mean everything that you can reap out of it. And for another day, it could be the reason for existence in someone else’s life. Therefore this album isn’t an album. It’s a much needed life vest. Much, much needed.