Normal History Vol. 564: 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 both knowledgeable purveyors and consumers of social-media content, we are highly intuitive judges regarding the motivation for everything that gets posted. I doubt there is an assumption that everyone posting their own work is trying to get famous or make money from doing so, but maybe this should be better examined simply because it is an activity in the margins of more traditional social-media behaviors. Being relevant is not the same thing as being current, but posting one’s own older work can feel awkward. Maybe it isn’t even as frowned on as I’m suggesting it is.

“Texada Warns Me” from Flood Plain (K, 1993) (download):

Normal History Vol. 563: 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.

Let’s boldly divide artistic content into political and not political. Both are utterly fraught with sketchy motivation, so this is not a good vs. bad scenario. I’m simply positioning myself to instigate the idea of posting one’s own work—cultural activism—on social media. Older work.

In the music industry, you are not supposed to promote your own work because you run the risk of having people see your motivation: greed, imitation, selfishness, cynicism, arrogance, etc. The urge to avoid being uncool in this way results in a lot of cloaking and posturing. It’s huge. It’s the overarching theme of the entertainment industry—a money-driven construct where agents, publicists, managers and stylists are hired to prevent journalists, fans and employers of stars from seeing what kind of person any given star actually is.

Political art doesn’t appear to be as governed by the same rules. It can be referred to by anyone in any generation utilizing the broad reach and longevity of the internet, and rather than it being diminished by nostalgia, it has potential to be used in ways we may not anticipate. All this clamoring for the next new, young, different thing is industry-generated scamology to keep money flowing into the kingpins’ pockets.

“On The Row Of Dials” from Flood Plain (K, 1993) (download):

Normal History Vol. 562: 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 35-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

Mecca Normal has always been a combining of forces in terms of how we agitate as political artists. As the curator of this weekly column, I tend to put more ambiguous material with very direct work rather than matching conceptual intensities. For instances, the walls being walked in the song lyrics might be those of a bad relationship, a prison cell or a job. It isn’t clear. It becomes clearer in the proximity of David’s whistleblower art, but his use of language here doesn’t feel exclusive to that situation. In fact, the whistle could be more about daring to make a loud noise to attract attention.

Last week I was thinking about how women’s organizations might include a whistle on a key ring as part of a branded swag opportunity. The reference being: This whistle might save your life, might get you home safely without being raped or killed. Giving a whistle to a guy is a whole other thing. He’s more likely to think, “Wow, I can make a loud noise and get attention!”

This is one of my jobs. To deconstruct and re-articulate. This is one of the spaces I work in. Hello!

“Walking The Walls” from Flood Plain (K, 1993) (download):

Normal History Vol. 561: 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 35-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

The character in “Straying To Summer” feels like the same one in “Rigid Man In An Ice Age,” a song written some years later. Neither of them are based on anyone I know, per se. They’re fictional stand-ins, manifestations of a male mindset that hinders social progress. Quintessential assholes, if you will. Self-absorbed know-it-alls stuck in their regressive ways. Immobilized. Summer here is freedom, which is not just another word for nothing left to lose.

Tunnel to the sun from the hermit’s house
Cross brown winter fields

Black-red block of thought

Never yearning
Never straying
Never yearning
Never straying to summer

Never wanting wanting to begin
He’s standing here in the past

Never
Never straying to summer

“Straying To Summer” from Flood Plain (K, 1993) (download):

Normal History Vol. 560: 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 35-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

We’d seen one song from this Jabberjaw (L.A., 1994) show before, but now, for whatever reason, the whole set is up. On its own, it’s a fairly haphazard document. I think the power went out briefly. I recall the stage being somewhat unstable, which can be disconcerting when you’re the kind of singer who is inclined to pitch themselves around. Then again, beer was involved, and a good singer shouldn’t blame the actual stage for nearly falling off it. 

Somewhere else online, I rediscovered a kind of review written by a K Records staffer that brings a degree of credence to the live document.

“Waiting For Rudy” from Flood Plain (K, 1993) (download):