Normal History Vol. 491: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, 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 34-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

Listening to this, transcribing the lyrics (for a book of all my lyrics), I’m in awe of Peter Jefferies’ drums and David Lester’s guitar.

The song is about community borne out of necessity, working together unexpectedly on projects of great magnitude and staggering importance. Individuals organizing themselves, like ants in convoluted mazes, breathing in the dark. A unified force against tyranny.

I sometimes wish I hadn’t opted for ambiguity at the height of our powers, but …. one thing about a poetic sensibility is that it makes it easy to re-frame the meaning at a later date. Like today for instance.

The song even references “listening to another world’s future” in which we say as loud and clear as ever: Unity Defeats Tyrants

Breathing In The Dark
Have you ever tried to dig straight through
to the other side of the world
lost before I knew it
passing the ones who stopped at the oddest times
others stopped halfway

Listening to another world’s future
breathing in the dark

Who is behind you
on the way?

Who is behind you
on the way?

Translators aren’t sure they understand this language
listening to another world’s future
breathing in the dark

Who is behind you
on the way?

Breathing in the dark

“Breathing In The Dark” from The Eagle And The Poodle (Matador, 1996) (download):

David Byrne And Brian Eno Released “Everything That Happens Will Happen Today” 10 Years Ago Today

10 years ago today, David Byrne And Brian Eno released Everything That Happens Will Happen Today. Byrne was wrong, because the next day, he released Big Love: Hymnal. Read Peter Bjorn And John in MAGNET on Byrne …

From The Desk Of Peter Bjorn And John: David Byrne

… and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah in MAGNET on Eno:

From The Desk Of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah: Brian Eno’s “Another Green World”

From The Desk Of Peter Holsapple: Plush Amplifiers

It makes sense that since Peter Holsapple has long been the go-to guy for musicians such as R.E.M., Hootie & The Blowfish, John Hiatt, Indigo Girls, the Troggs, Juliana Hatfield and too many others to name here that when he needed assistance on his first solo album in 21 years that he would turn to, well, himself. Game Day (Omnivore) is a solo record in the truest sense of the word, as the dB’s co-founder pretty much did everything himself on the LP. Holsapple will being guest editing—for the second time—all week. Grab some beer and some pizza: It’s game day.

Holsapple: The iconic Kustom amps of the 1960s and 1970s are not the only rigs with tuck-and-roll naugahyde covers. Plush Amplifiers combined the best technology of Fender’s pre-CBS amplifiers with Kustom’s bright and squishy look, and even now, they’re among the best sounding amps I’ve ever played through.

I own a midnight-blue Plush P1000S that I had 12-inch speakers installed to replace the factory 15-inch oness, making it more adaptable as a guitar amp. Ultimately, it’s a twin reverb; the gentleman who sold it to me was afraid I was going to cannibalize the Plush for its transformer and other parts. I assured him that I’d been waiting to own one since I was old enough to know the Jeff Beck Group used ‘em on their U.S. tour. With their Buick-like portholes, Plush amps are still reasonably priced for vintage amps, and their sound is strong and pure, just how I like it! And pretty, too!

Harp Samuels Makes MAGNET A Mix Tape

Harp Samuels wears all the hats on forthcoming album Breathe (out September 14): singer, songwriter, producer, multi-instrumentalist. So we thought the Melbourne-born Samuels—who’s also a filmmaker and photographer—would be able to turn us on to some cool tunes. And we were right. You can do a lot worse than checking out his killer MAGNET mix tape right now.

Damien Rice, “Delicate”
Whatever I’m working on, I keep coming back to this song. The rawness, the storytelling, the delivery. It’s proof that there’s so much perfection inside imperfection. Damien Rice is one of the great troubadours, and he inspires me in the way that he boldly bares his soul. There’s no hindrance, shame or sense of consumerism in his music or approach to music. I draw from that and am grateful for him.

James Vincent McMorrow, “Red Dust”
I consider Post Tropical by James Vincent McMorow to be a perfect album. It has a beautiful and similar feel through the whole thing, ebbs and flows as one piece, but it still gives you the sense that each song is individual. When I stumbled upon this song years ago, I almost broke the “repeat” button. The melodic hook, “Sometimes my hands/They don’t feel like my own/I need someone to love/I need someone to hold,” wrecks me every time I hear it. Amazing vocals, too.

Asgier, “King And Cross”
I first heard this song on the radio, driving through Melbourne in peak-hour traffic. It’s refreshing, original, unique and totally thoughtful. This song means a lot to me because it reminds me to innovate and break the mold. The twisted harmonies and bizarre solos call me to mess with chords a little more and to be less conventional with harmonies and sounds.

Jónsi And Alex, “Happiness”
Recently, as I was mixing my upcoming album, I sat with my sound engineer in the SSL room of Sing Sing studios in Melbourne, and we blasted this track through the most incredible speakers to get in the mood of the song we were working on. It’s just sounds—sounds and nothing but. It simply is. It does what it wants. The dynamics are amazing. It’s the kinda thing you want to listen to when you want to feel but not think.

Sufjan Stevens, “Should Have Known Better”
I’m a massive Sufjan Stevens fan. This track, from his record Carrie And Lowell, set the tone for my debut album, Wanting. The simplicity and stripped-back nature of the song really grabs me. There’s this little instrumental part toward the end that I simply adore. Love the mix, the vocal performance and the flow.

Foy Vance, “Guiding Light”
I was introduced to Foy Vance by a couple of Irish lads who I was kicking it with the first time I ever visited California. I pretty much slammed his records and got stuck on this track. “The road is wide, waters run on either side/My shadow in the fading light, stretches out toward the night.” One of the most beautiful lyrics ever. This song is like an anthem for me.

Labrinth, “Jealous”
Man, this guy can sing. This song is new old school. They sure nailed this one. It was on mainstream radio in Australia, and people loved it. It’s dee and beautiful, and it desires to connect and succeeds. I especially love the bridge. As a musician who plays by ear, it’s exciting to hear something that you can’t instantly figure out.

The Last Dinosaur, “All My Faith”
This band is my latest musical crush. It’s simple and complicated at the same time. There are few words and many layers. The vocals are perfect, the mix is full, and it’s overall warm-and-cozy vibe takes you to a different place. I often read about tracks that I love, to find out what they’re about, but with “All My Faith,” I want it to remain a beautiful mystery.