Normal History Vol. 409: 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 33-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

In mid-December, I used an unreleased Mecca Normal song (one that we’d kind of forgotten about) as a soundtrack for my currently available $100 paintings. I’d been looking through random sound files when I came across “Critical,” which turned out to be from the same sessions as our most recent album, Empathy For The Evil, which we recorded with Kramer in Miami Beach in late 2012.

After editing and posting energetic live videos of our shows with the Julie Ruin in October, it was a great departure to find such warmth and clarity in Kramer studio production on a song we’d forgotten about. Also, after so much scrutiny and evaluation of the meaning of recently performed material, trying to keep the political and especially feminism front and center, “Critical” hangs on the one word with very few other lyrics involved, most of which I’m not sure what they are as it was totally improvised. The song features our recording engineer Frank Falestra (a.k.a. Rat Bastard) on guitar near the end.

We performed this week’s song “Beaten Down” in our set opening for the Julie Ruin in Portland, where we had a slightly longer set. It’s a strange sort of nose-thumbing poetic prophesy that I always find particularly satisfying to sing live. “Maybe some of us will and maybe some of us won’t all grow up to be beaten down.” —Jean Smith, 1984

“Beaten Down” from the album Mecca Normal (Smarten UP!, 1986; reissued by K, 1995) (download):