Normal History Vol. 289: 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 30-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

In this week’s column, I continue to compare songs on Calico Kills The Cat with songs on our new album, Empathy For The Evil, from start to finish. See notes from Sept. 6, 2014.

5. “Ancient Fire” (Calico Kills The Cat, 1989) The image this song creates in my mind is theatrical more than cinematic. The incident described seems to be happening on a stage more than in real life or a movie. The smoke from the ancient fire in question is a metaphor for male entitlement. The woods the woman is running through is permeated with the smell of that smoke.

5. “Normal” (Empathy For The Evil, 2014) The lyrics are directly out of “The Black Dot Museum of Political Art” in which museum curator Nadine MacHilltop cures narcissism based on her ability to understand abstract expressionism. In the song, her quirky family is revealed in idiosyncratic snippets hinged to her older brother’s urge to be normal. It is through his tantrums that Nadine understands that being different poses a threat to some people’s sense of identity.

Both songs demonstrate the oppressive nature of male entitlement. The men talking around the fire might harass women on the street or exhibit power and privilege by other methods—methods they feel they are entitled to employ because they are male. In the case of the male child in “Normal”—he believes he’s entitled to be part of a family that eats Cheez Whiz on Wonder Bread with glasses of Tang instead of steamed clams dipped in melted butter with a Caesar salad made from a recipe out of Life magazine.

“Ancient Fire” from Calico Kills The Cat (K, 1989; Matador, 1991; Smarten Up!, 2003) (download):