Blog entry

CRAB is a KOAN

song of the day: CRAB / WEEZER
word of the day: SITZMARK / an impression made by a skier falling backwards in the snow

"Crab at the booty,
'taint gonna do no good..."

i have it on fairly solid authority that the lead singer of Weezer is a meditation practioner. but i don't want to meet him. why? cuz to me, the song CRAB is a koan. i've never heard the word 'crab' used as slang this way and i like to imagine that it's a metaphor for clutching, grasping- like a mopey, self-pitying delusion where you just want some pussy, getting yanked around by your base impulses. i don't want to meet this dude and then find out it means something else. i like it when an artists uses a word in a new way (to me, at least) and you have to figure out what it means by context, vibe of the delivery, and what you can piece together about their background / history as a person. but hell, artists don't necessarily know what they're singing about. sometimes they tap into deeper shit with their creativity than they can articulate or even interpret with their head after the fact. i remember when i first heard lyle lovette sing:

if i had a boat
i'd go out on the ocean
and if i had a pony
i'd ride him on my boat
and we could all together
go out on the ocean
me up on my pony
on my boat

and i thought: EXACTLY fucking right. i have no idea why, but i just got an immediate hit, a feeling from it that had so much release, freedom, and emotion to it. a bittersweet emotion, sweet, tender, but with some ache. right away i loved that he sang "we could all together" even though it was just him and his pony. people love that song, and yeah it's kinda weird and silly, but it's so much more than that. it's this kinda weird Dali-esque perspective that we so seldom get from country / western / american artists. i really have to give credit to an artist when they get hit with a whif of this kind of inspiration and they stay with it, instead of going "wha? that doesn't make sense, i wouldn't take a pony out on a boat and..." no, fuck that. you WOULD take a pony on a boat and ride it around and feel the love of the world and the miracle of life, you would if you were living from your pure heart, your first thought, your innocent discovery.

i loved it SO much the first time i heard Ben Folds sing

Good morning, son
I am a bird
wearing a brown polyester shirt

and it was such a beautiful, vulnerable melody and voice he was using. i was immediately pulled into the song cuz i was like "what, he's a 'bird' wearing a brown polyester shirt?" but it was obviously not a funny song, not ironic, totally exposed and sincere. it was clear he was singing to his son, and then later in the song the first line made perfect sense when he sang

You'll try and try
then one day
you'll fly
away from me

and my heart cracked! tears, right there, because he'd set up the song with that strange, vulnerable opening line "good morning son, i am a bird", later on when he sang "you'll fly away from me", i just lost it. his voice, the melody, the production, all worked together to this great moment of honesty and hurt. to this day that song just hits me in the stomach. Ben Folds really has a gift for writing that i don't think we've seen since Randy Newman. they seem to share a certain rare kind of gift for writing in first person from unusual perspectives, combining bizarre, funny, unsettling, and incredibly beautiful, sincere content and music all together at the same time. very hard to do. these kinds of writers are masters of melody, arrangement, production, and language. usually you get one or two from an artist. if you've ever heard Randy Newman sing this song:

In Germany Before The War
There was a man who owned a store
In nineteen hundred thirty four
In Dusselford
And every day at fine o nine
He'd cross the park down to the Rhine
And he'd sit there by the shore

I'm looking at the river
But I'm thinking of the sea
I'm looking at the river
But I'm thinking of the sea

A little girl has lost her way
With hair of gold and eyes of gray
Reflected in his glasses
As he watches her
A little girl has lost her way

I'm looking at the river
But I'm thinking of the sea
Thinking of the sea
Thinking of the sea

We lie beneath the autumn sky
My little golden girl and I
And she lies very still

there's no doubt left in your mind he's an extraordinary composer / poet. the music to that piece alternates moment to moment from major to minor, the orchestration of the strings creating a a haunting combination of eeriness and beauty, equal measures of sweet warmth and ominous foreboding. an extremely difficult state to describe, much less capture fully, but this song has hit me the same way every time i've ever heard it, it's that moment in your life where you pause, swept away by a curious stillnes, and an underlying sense that something is wrong- but it's ok. Randy Newman is a guy (and I'd say Ben Folds is too) who's always known what NOT to say with his lyrics. i also love the way he moves from 3rd person in the verse to 1st person in chorus. i always get the sense Randy has given as much of the content, the interiors to the music, the melody, the production, as he has to language. i'm talking about his great stuff here, like In Germany Before The War, not his shitty pixar movie / disney stuff. i'm not talking about Short People. i'm talking about the whole Sail Away album.

for so much of the early part of my career as a songwriter i was fixated with TELLING people something. i wrote songs that had a mission, a statement, and i knew what it was, what it meant, and i didn't want it "misinterpreted". these were the Only Changing Drugs kinds of songs. and those are fine. but then, things happen, life goes on, and my life with art really changed. about the time of Kid Mystic i became interested in not-knowing what it necessarily meant, or at least having room for multiple interpretations. i started to like the idea that there would be more than one possible perspective / interpretation of a song. i think it's noteworthy that this time (1995 / 1996) coincided with my taking up a spiritual practice. as Kid Mystic, Bright Apocalypse and the subsequent albums came out, it wasn't that i wouldn't or couldn't write songs with meaning / content- they all have that, you can't sing lyrics and not have that, but they just kinda morphed.

if i look back over my repertoire, my favorite songs are the ones that are mysterious to me: Glass, IS, What, Your House, Drown, Bell, Dresden. don't get me wrong, i love the rock stars and models, sexy messiah, etc, but i notice that the songs i still enjoy playing ten years, say from an album like Self UN-titled, are toward Universe Communion and Someone Else's Ears, and not so much Only Changing Drugs. it's not a black and white thing. i still love playing Stephen's Exhibition, Atavistic Viking- i was back playing Ani I Adore on this last tour, and still find that song interesting. i have a feeling i should rediscover Kaleidoscope, i also had added Markers back into the set, which works so well next to Smoke that you'd think they were written at the same time. or maybe you'd think all my songs sound the same...

i remember writing Babies and as it was coming out (i was writing it on a synthesizer actually, not a guitar) my mind was watching / listening to it thinking "what the fuck is this thing coming out?". i was just getting fragments of it at first, lines like

If you need a baby
then when I die
I will find your belly
and crawl inside

and

I stole this body
to make this trip

and

I am a baby
inside this dream
where demons laugh
and angels scream

and part of me got scared, like "am i gonna die now? what is this?" the experience of writing those kinds of songs is very distinct from that of say, Rock Stars And Models. when i was writing Babies, i was discovering the song, i was learning what it was as it came through me, and it was a feeling of surprise and not knowing what's around the corner. when i was writing Rock Stars and Models i knew what it was gonna be like (pretty much) after i came up with the concept of the song. both songs are fun and cool, but there's something more resilient for me (as the one who sings them 100's of times a year) in the kinds of songs that are discoveries. the song Babies changed for me again when i became a dad, even more relevent.

anus-ways, now i love artists that paint kind of impressionist pictures with words and music, as well as those that are more explicit and plainly apparent. i mean, i know what all the Abba songs are about, and they still fucking rock- yeah, i think Dancing Queen is about a...dancing queen. the lyrics to Duncan Sheik's Barely Breathing might as well be pulled from Jewel's poetry books, but i don't care, the production on that song makes my BODY MOVE, and i'm pulled into it to it every time it comes on. and there are songs like Blur's Song 2, that whole song is "Woooo-Hoooo!!" and it's one of the best songs ever, if you hear that and don't start moving, you should visit a clinician.

today, CRAB by WEEZER is my Koan. what is it to CRAB? who CRABS? what is CRAB typing on computer? what is CRAB walking on leaves in the yard? CRAB eating watermelon?

~?~

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