Sunday, November 07, 2010

"Someone Told Me" / Marshall Crenshaw

Three reasons to do a Marshall Crenshaw post:

1.  I saw him perform last Friday night at the City Winery.

2.  Earlier in the afternoon, I had an interview with him at a record store in Greenwich Village.  (Here's the link to the Blogcritics article.)

3.  It's his birthday next Friday!  (Happy birthday, Marshall!!!) 

Of course, I don't really need a reason to write about Marshall Crenshaw.  He's right up there in my Gang of Guys, the half-dozen musicians whose records mean the most to me. Like all my guys, he's had a few hits over the years, but the deeper you go into the catalog, the freaking better his stuff gets.  While most listeners identify Marshall with infectious jukebox tunes like "Some Day, Some Way" and "Something's Gonna Happen," the songs I love the most are the darker, more complex, jazzier numbers from his more recent albums.  If you haven't heard these, then you owe it to yourself (being the sort of discriminating listener I know you are) to hustle right over to wherever you buy your music and start sampling his wares. 

"Someone Told Me" is as good an example as any. On my very first listen to MC's astonishingly wonderful 2009 album Jaggedland, this track -- the third on the album -- immediately sent a shiver up my spine; when he sang this last Friday, chills went up my spine all over again. Forget the knee-jerk classification of Crenshaw as "power pop" -- here's a song with edgy syncopation, downward plunging chord progressions, and premonitory key shifts, way too moody and complex for simple pop.  And the lyrics build on that haunting melody, offering almost existential musings on the unbridgeable distance between human beings. "Musings" is too mild a word for it, though -- there's an undercurrent of frustration, impatience, and rage running through it, intensified by the eccentric melodic intervals and restless, jumpy rhythms.

This song simply smolders with suppressed anger, a thinking person's reaction to a world that is still baffling, still unfair, still wrong.  With age comes some wisdom -- you don't just flip out anymore when you encounter opposition. Could be a Tea Party loudmouth, could be your stubbornly independent spouse, could be some random driver who cut you off in traffic; could even be (ahem) a dumb-ass heckler at a concert -- alas, the world is full of people who can make you blow your top. The point is, you don't stop getting incensed by things like that, even though you're supposed to be all mature and reasonable. So you go off pondering the imponderables, about gaps in human connections -- "Will we ever meet on common ground?" -- but the rage still boils beneath the surface.  You just know it does, right?  Yet I don't think I've ever heard it expressed before in a rock song.

This is Music For Grown-Ups, folks; even better, it's Music For Thinking Grown-Ups.  And I'm here to tell you that there's just not a whole lot of that kind of stuff around -- better grab it whenever you can find it.


Though this is not usually something I get hung up on, perhaps I ought to add how amazing Marshall's guitar playing has become over the years -- I was completely mesmerized, watching him play the other night, even on songs I've known for nigh-on thirty years.  Okay, okay, 29 years.  But that 30th anniversary is coming up next spring, folks, and -- here's a scoop -- City Winery is planning to celebrate by giving Marshall a well-deserved couple nights' stand.  I am so there.


Anonymous said...

Hey Holly, nice interview with Marshall...was sorry I missed the CW show but was the teaser on the upcoming CW shows for Marshall...can you provide any more color? Thanks...Mike C

Gusty said...

This is such a spectacular, flattering article of Crenshaw! He really is just one of the best. I'm so jealous you saw him! I love his self titled album and Field Day, both I which I own on CD and vinyl and you have really intrigued me into checking out his more recent stuff. Thanks!


nat said...

Gang Of Guys. I love that.

I heart Crenshaw, and have for a long damn time. Great to see that video of him!!

Lucky you to have seen him.

Gary said...

The song from "Jaggedland" that sends chills up my spine is "Passing Through." Sometimes it also makes me tear up. Marshall's done several going-back-to-a-former-home songs, and I love them all.

Holly A Hughes said...

Ay-yi-yi, so glad to hear that so many of you are already on the Crenshaw bandwagon. Gusty, you're way past due for an MC update, and I think you won't be disappointed. Gary, I'm go glad you mentioned all the going-home songs -- it's true, they are instantly poignant.

Mike, I'm hoping we can pack the house and get the Winery to do a three-night for Marshall. He said he'd like to do a track-by-track performance of the first album -- would that not be a night to remember? - and then a second night of various other cuts and covers. Three nights is not out of question,l either, not with a catalog as deep as Marshall's . I tell you, how ever many night the Winery wants to devote to Marshall, I'm buying a ticket to every single evening of the run....

Anonymous said...

holly...oh that would be very good news...will stay tuned and will also be at every show also...thanks for the update!!!
ps...whats with mc's website?...i can't access it

Holly A Hughes said...

It's very annoying; MC's management isn't keeping up the website. I don't know what could be done to bring it back. Incredibly short-sighted, IMO. How will they sell those singles if they don't have a website to take orders?

I'm thinking that a Marshall Crenshaw week here is long overdue!

Anonymous said...

you have my vote

Anonymous said...

i dont understand that are we supposed to keep up with show announcements, etc...i am not on facebook, myspace or any of it that expensive to run a website?...i am a complete neanderthal when it comes to this stuff, are you going to follow marshall's movements?

Holly A Hughes said...

It's a mystery to me. I have a website, and it just isn't that expensive. I'm wondering if it isn't time for us to launch an unofficial fan site, just so we can get tour dates up there, etc.

Anonymous said...

jeez...i'm kinda disappointed by the whole thing...what about jeff...he ran that website for so many years.. wouldn't have a clue how to do any of it...i'm kinda hopin it pops back up but it sounds like you know different...anyway, if i hear of stuff i'll let you know this, mike