Dispatches for Luna & Max (#08)

  • An editor of a magazine I used to write for posted this song to Facebook or Twitter seven or eight years ago. I am pretty confident I’ve played it at least monthly ever since.
  • The song is something of a personal lodestone, pulling together three different musical threads I’ve come to better understand in the almost-decade since hearing the song.
  • Simply put, other than hearing their names, I didn’t know the music of Neneh Cherry or of Suicide and this track was the entry point into two discographies that continue to be rewarding for me. The Thing was entirely new to me and they have kept the skronky free jazz flame burning.
  • There was a quarter or two when I was an undergrad at UCLA that were largely soundtracked by the two newish Radiohead albums, Kid A and Amnesiac, as well as Albert Ayler’s Love Cry. I’d play that album on repeat (and almost always on headphones). It opened me up. The Thing get close but there’s always a back-of-the-head itch to just put Love Cry, or Spiritual Unity, or Bells on instead. Or even just briefly revisit Ayler’s cleansing eulogy at Coltrane’s funeral.
  • That is to say, I can’t do much else when I’m listening to Ayler. The music’s too everything everywhere. In contrast, The Thing, older classics from Sun Ra, Sanders, Coleman – I find those really good for writing. My prose gets to drift on that cacophony.
  • And a word about Suicide. Like with free jazz, reams have been written while afloat the sheer, terrifying racket of the first two Suicide records.
  • And another word about Suicide. It was inevitable that “Dream Baby Dream” became the closest thing to a hit for the duo and the thing most people will know them for. It’s a shame considering what else is there. But the song is too goddamn catchy, in its original form, for folks not to consistently cover or evoke. I remember being aghast that Springsteen was covering the song… and then appreciating that it becomes the Springsteen-iest song in his hands. I remember the band Priests vamping on the track during an opening set at Red Rocks shortly after Alan Vega’s death. And I guess the cover/homage/thing that is this LCD Soundsystem song works nearly entirely because it’s Suicide living in the circuits of that track’s wiring.
  • Back to Cherry and The Thing: At about 4:40 when the song just … goes. It feels like Neneh Cherry relinquishes control or—perhaps—gives permission to The Thing’s saxophonist, Mats Gustafsson, to blast off before she re-reigns the galloping mass a minute or so later.
  • The final seconds of plodding, plucked bass. The band has moved elsewhere as the bassist says adieu.
  • The album this song comes from is a pretty beautiful product to think about as a whole: Cherry’s first in more than a decade and a half, jamming and setting versions of other people’s songs free alongside The Thing.
    • And the moment of obvious serendipity: Cherry, the stepdaughter of free jazz pioneer Don Cherry, playing alongside The Thing, a band named after the third track on Don Cherry’s 1966 album Where is Brooklyn? A merging of lineage, homage, and spirit. Dreams being dreamt out loud.

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