Simile - Another World

  • Simile - Another World
    POSTED Apr 27 2016




    First the Starman, and now the Purple One. The most heartbreaking musical departures of 2016 have been drenched in well-deserved superlatives, compliments that swirl ever upwards until they exit the stratosphere, a chain of adulation that always terminates at ‘otherworldly.’




    It’s a word that has endured some heavy wear in the music press this year. But in the case of Bowie and Prince, ‘otherworldly’ is more than just an adjective for mourning writers to dine hungrily out on. Despite the volume of its recent use approaching the point of platitude, but the reason for its use makes sense, given the subjects at hand. One was a musical polymath with a perennially futuristic dress sense who, for a period, converted his own name into an unpronounceable symbol. The other wrote a dozen classic songs about extraterrestrials and starred as one in 1976’s The Man Who Fell To Earth. Not to mention his infamous penchant for occult literature and diet in the mid-70s that consisted of cocaine, milk and red peppers. Suddenly ‘otherworldly’ doesn’t seem like such a lazy descriptor.

    Not Quite Human



    The idea of pop music’s most flamboyant and impossibly creative minds being more than just regular people is, naturally, a popular one. The 27 Club—the age at which Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and more died—intimates something more about the lives of musicians, something mortally irregular. Classical music had it’s own fatalistic fantasy too—the ‘Curse of the Ninth’, supposedly afflicting Beethoven, Dvorak, Mahler and Schubert who died shortly after the composition of their Ninth symphonies. These theories and other widely scattered fabrications (like Elvis, Jim Morrison and Tupac still being alive) all help elevate certain musicians to a level of ‘otherness’ outside the grasp of regular humanity.

     

    Walk, Rule and Get Embalmed Like An Egyptian



    And it’s an idea that’s persisted for a long time. Long before the theory of Keanu Reeves’ immortality arose or Bob Dylan changed his name and tried to bury his beginnings in a cloud of troubadour mystique and long before Prince Philip was declared a God by the Kastom people of Vanuatu (for real), there existed a fabulous superpower that you may know, called Egypt. Here, the Kings were called Pharaohs and considered gods who walked the earth. They were spiritually fused with revered animals like vultures, hawks, ibis and cobras and a satisfying delivery into immortality would protect their people so they were buried with a whole lot of very expensive stuff. And often their servants, who must have been super helpful, sitting with a corpse and some rotting food in the dark before they expired. Pharaohs were a total nightmare. As far as celestial guests go, they seem like the worst. Give me a curious, yearning David Bowie any day of the week.

     

    Superman’s Real Home Is, Of Course, Earth



    But not everyone has been so eager to explain away the most exceptional and revered as unearthly beings. In his landmark 1885 book Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Friedrich Nietzsche laid out his idea of the Übermensch, or Superman. You may know this one. A very bad egg indeed appropriated/mutilated the idea to suit his anti-Semitism in Germany circa 1939. But the central idea is of ‘This-worldiness’ (as opposed to the ‘otherworldliness’ of organised religion) with humans setting the ultimate goals for humanity, rather than gods. The concept was reinforced in Neitzsche’s later work—whose claim “God is dead” highlighted that values derived from man, rather than deities. And as much as we love our ethereal heroes, reverence of people totally (even vehemently) defined by their earthly place is stronger than ever. As I write this, I think instantly of Compton in southern Los Angeles. Over the Coachella weekend just gone, the surviving members of N.W.A performed live together for the first time in 27 years. Now if Dre, Cube,  MC Ren and DJ Yella aren’t Supermen in the Neitzschien sense, then I don’t know who is. Growing up in an area possessed by crime and unemployment and ever-haunted by police brutality, Dr Dre and Ice Cube now have a combined net worth of $880 mill (most of it Dre’s to be fair…) And they’re about as antithetic to the word ‘ethereal’ as possible. They’re from Compton, and make sure people know it. Fellow Compton alumni Kendrick Lamar joined them onstage, guest Übermensch,—equally defined and indebted to earthly struggle.


    It’s tempting to think of the geniuses of pop as visiting others, and not just because of the music industry’s proclivity for alien encounters. Maybe we just really like the idea of them visiting again. Sadly I don’t envision a day where Prince will once again stalk the earth, melting hearts with every footfall. But I’d be delighted to be proven wrong.



    -Paul Cumming

     

    Simile is a weekly series by Cool Accidents fave/regular Paul Cumming aka Wax Volcanic that unravels current moments in music and follows the threads to some strange and strangely familiar places.

     

     

RELATED POSTS

Submitted by Site Factory admin on Wed, 27/04/2016 - 10:43




First the Starman, and now the Purple One. The most heartbreaking musical departures of 2016 have been drenched in well-deserved superlatives, compliments that swirl ever upwards until they exit the stratosphere, a chain of adulation that always terminates at ‘otherworldly.’




It’s a word that has endured some heavy wear in the music press this year. But in the case of Bowie and Prince, ‘otherworldly’ is more than just an adjective for mourning writers to dine hungrily out on. Despite the volume of its recent use approaching the point of platitude, but the reason for its use makes sense, given the subjects at hand. One was a musical polymath with a perennially futuristic dress sense who, for a period, converted his own name into an unpronounceable symbol. The other wrote a dozen classic songs about extraterrestrials and starred as one in 1976’s The Man Who Fell To Earth. Not to mention his infamous penchant for occult literature and diet in the mid-70s that consisted of cocaine, milk and red peppers. Suddenly ‘otherworldly’ doesn’t seem like such a lazy descriptor.

Not Quite Human



The idea of pop music’s most flamboyant and impossibly creative minds being more than just regular people is, naturally, a popular one. The 27 Club—the age at which Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and more died—intimates something more about the lives of musicians, something mortally irregular. Classical music had it’s own fatalistic fantasy too—the ‘Curse of the Ninth’, supposedly afflicting Beethoven, Dvorak, Mahler and Schubert who died shortly after the composition of their Ninth symphonies. These theories and other widely scattered fabrications (like Elvis, Jim Morrison and Tupac still being alive) all help elevate certain musicians to a level of ‘otherness’ outside the grasp of regular humanity.

 

Walk, Rule and Get Embalmed Like An Egyptian



And it’s an idea that’s persisted for a long time. Long before the theory of Keanu Reeves’ immortality arose or Bob Dylan changed his name and tried to bury his beginnings in a cloud of troubadour mystique and long before Prince Philip was declared a God by the Kastom people of Vanuatu (for real), there existed a fabulous superpower that you may know, called Egypt. Here, the Kings were called Pharaohs and considered gods who walked the earth. They were spiritually fused with revered animals like vultures, hawks, ibis and cobras and a satisfying delivery into immortality would protect their people so they were buried with a whole lot of very expensive stuff. And often their servants, who must have been super helpful, sitting with a corpse and some rotting food in the dark before they expired. Pharaohs were a total nightmare. As far as celestial guests go, they seem like the worst. Give me a curious, yearning David Bowie any day of the week.

 

Superman’s Real Home Is, Of Course, Earth



But not everyone has been so eager to explain away the most exceptional and revered as unearthly beings. In his landmark 1885 book Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Friedrich Nietzsche laid out his idea of the Übermensch, or Superman. You may know this one. A very bad egg indeed appropriated/mutilated the idea to suit his anti-Semitism in Germany circa 1939. But the central idea is of ‘This-worldiness’ (as opposed to the ‘otherworldliness’ of organised religion) with humans setting the ultimate goals for humanity, rather than gods. The concept was reinforced in Neitzsche’s later work—whose claim “God is dead” highlighted that values derived from man, rather than deities. And as much as we love our ethereal heroes, reverence of people totally (even vehemently) defined by their earthly place is stronger than ever. As I write this, I think instantly of Compton in southern Los Angeles. Over the Coachella weekend just gone, the surviving members of N.W.A performed live together for the first time in 27 years. Now if Dre, Cube,  MC Ren and DJ Yella aren’t Supermen in the Neitzschien sense, then I don’t know who is. Growing up in an area possessed by crime and unemployment and ever-haunted by police brutality, Dr Dre and Ice Cube now have a combined net worth of $880 mill (most of it Dre’s to be fair…) And they’re about as antithetic to the word ‘ethereal’ as possible. They’re from Compton, and make sure people know it. Fellow Compton alumni Kendrick Lamar joined them onstage, guest Übermensch,—equally defined and indebted to earthly struggle.


It’s tempting to think of the geniuses of pop as visiting others, and not just because of the music industry’s proclivity for alien encounters. Maybe we just really like the idea of them visiting again. Sadly I don’t envision a day where Prince will once again stalk the earth, melting hearts with every footfall. But I’d be delighted to be proven wrong.



-Paul Cumming

 

Simile is a weekly series by Cool Accidents fave/regular Paul Cumming aka Wax Volcanic that unravels current moments in music and follows the threads to some strange and strangely familiar places.

 

 

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