After I got a little box for ripping vinyl onto my laptop, I started pulling out music that had been gathering dust on a custom-built shelf thirteen inches high and situated above the door in little elf’s room. Soon after that, supermum got nervous about the sheer weight of solid black petroleum by-product sitting above the frail little body of our princess and my records were promoted to a book case opposite our bedroom door which, coincidentally, happened to have shelves thirteen inches high and thirteen inches deep. Every morning, I stagger out of our of our room and can – if I choose – contemplate some thirty three years of my life compiled randomly into a space about five feet by one foot one by one foot four.
Note that long playing records spin at thirty three rpm.
The fourth or fifth record I copied was Built To Spill’s “Perfect From Now On” and the first song is called ‘Randy Described Eternity.’
It starts tentatively with a frail scaffolding of a riff, or a suggestion of a riff, and a slightly queasy offbeat that gathers itself into something more decisive without letting go of that odd lack of balance. It’s a riff that perfectly and appropriately evokes the sense of someone endlessly falling into a void. The bass takes the lead and starts to push this little riff into something approaching grandeur. But a tentative grandeur, grandeur in the dark carefully placing its feet one small step at a time.
Finally, the singing arrives. It’s like a steadier, even more nasal approximation of Neil Young’s whine. The melody is almost a chant. Doug (the singer is called Doug) sings
Every 1000 years
A giant metal sphere
10 times the size of Jupiter
Floats just a few yards past the earth
The off-beats become more decisive, the scaffolding weaves into a regular silvery Guggenheim. There’s more than a feel of Crazy Horse developing but this band are more limber. Throw something at them and they’ll duck as one.
You climb on your roof and take a swipe at it
Hit it once every thousand years
With a single feather
`Til you’ve worn it down to the size of a pea
So now we know it’s Randy telling us a story. This is how long eternity is, he says. The music is weightless now and the guitars, layer upon layer, are taking off.
Yeah I’d say that’s a long time
But it’s only half a blink
In the place you’re gonna be
Where you gonna be?
Where will you spend eternity
There’s a threat here. Do you ever think about eternity? Are we talking to the Bible salesmen at the door, the Zen monk on his mountain or the regular at the bar? What was the name of that man in ‘Cheers’? This is what he’d say. Or Homer Simpson.
I’m gonna be perfect from now on
I’m gonna be perfect starting now
stop making that sound
stop making that sound
I will say I forgot but it was only yesterday and it’s all you had to say
Stop making that sound. The song that seeks to silence itself. After the last line, there’s a little hush and a few bars of plangent guitar, joined by a reedy little organ. Then a wah solo starts to build from the heart of the mix. But it never arrives. Instead, things move into a kind of locked groove, layering and layering like the ribbons on a maypole but widening.
The word I’m probably looking for is ‘gyre’.
‘Cliff’, that was the guy’s name. Here’s a life performance.