Normal History Vol. 569: The Art Of David Lester

Every week, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 36-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

They say 20/20 is hindsight. And indeed there is a certain amount of looking back as we prepare for some of the largest and most significant shows we’ve ever done when we open for Bikini Kill next month in Olympia, Seattle and Victoria.

“Frozen Rain” from Sitting On Snaps (Matador, 1995) (download):

Normal History Vol. 568: The Art Of David Lester

Every week, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 36-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

This song always reminds me of our live shows in the 1990s, probably because we have seen footage of it when we played it in Holland at the Fast Forward Festival. Speaking of fast forwarding, we are totally excited to be playing shows with Bikini Kill next month!

“Crimson Dragnet” from Sitting On Snaps (Matador, 1995) (download):

Normal History Vol. 567: The Art Of David Lester

Every week, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 36-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

“He’s bound to a sense of structure walking down the streets of power.”

“Something To Be Said” from Sitting On Snaps (Matador, 1995) (download):

Normal History Vol. 566: The Art Of David Lester

Every week, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 36-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

As a culture, we seem to be getting close to accepting that people, ideas and art that is “old” is irrelevant or bad, yet frequently political art from the past is relevant in irregular cyclical patterns. Some anti-war protest songs from the ’60s still resonate and others resonate again after some sort of break we’ve lost track of. Old songs pop into our awareness when their idiosyncratic content offers a voice for current situations. All of these things happen.

In this instance, the very specific details of Neil Young’s 1970 song about four young people being shot at Kent State University in Ohio would relegate it to the past as a current-events piece, but the opposite is true. The song fortifies a politically charged perspective to a similar degree as the Plastic Ono Bands’ very general “Give Peace A Chance,” with both songs achieving unique positions beyond the status of iconic in terms of historic longevity. They both move people. Emotionally and politically within the powerful entanglement that only art can, and of all the art forms, songs are less fraught with the violence Hollywood is determined to convince us is normal. The punches, the shots fired, the blood, the dead. The visceral nature of cinema perpetuates destruction where songs are from the heart, and the heart is about love.

“Vacant Night Sky” from Sitting On Snaps (Matador, 1995) (download):

Normal History Vol. 565: The Art Of David Lester

Every week, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 36-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

There is a sense that as creators we should let go of work that isn’t successful right out of the box and move on to creating new work. We can pin our hopes on the next batch of songs, but most artists cannot financially afford to be releasing a near-constant stream of new work to keep their names in that narrow, time-sensitive window of potential viability. In many instances, worthy and even important work—and artists—are pushed into the past to reduce, invalidate and otherwise obscure gains made on many different fronts. Rights, freedoms, major issues.

“Museum Of Open Windows” from Flood Plain (K, 1993) (download):