A couple nights ago, I had a strange dream/nightmare where I was trapped in a large building. It was one of those weird dream combination locations: a hotel, a cruise ship, a large store, who can tell for sure? The “story” of the dream was vague as well, but a post-apocalyptic theme was certainly in evidence, where you never knew if you were going to run into good friends (Sven was there for a while) or something less than welcome (zombies just outside the door!). Of course, whatever I was trying to do or accomplish in the dream was always just vaguely impossible to do.
I can usually figure out where the images in my dreams come from, and this time, I had to blame Gorillaz. I had just spent that night watching their videos online and doing a bit of exploring at their post-apocalyptic-feeling homepage. Most of the elements from my dream came directly from there, though I know for certain, in that dream-like way, that the unseen zombies were not “Clint Eastwood” gorillas.
Gorillaz, if you are unaware, is a virtual group, a commentary on the fakeness of modern music. Think of any of those fabricated boy bands, and there you go. The creators of Gorillaz thought, well, if you’re going to go through all the trouble to create something artificially, why not go all the way? Why have any real people in the band at all? The end product is a band made up of cartoon characters. Not your “Josie and the Pussycats” or “Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels” kind of cartoon band, but something more along the lines of Akira meets Miyazaki.
Gorillaz was revealed to me as, sadly, most things are these days: through Apple. An iPod ad used a catchy riff from Gorillaz’s new single. (Aside: How does one go about properly punctuating a rap-inspired misspelling of the possessive?) Exploring the iTunes Music Store, downloading “Feel Good Inc.,” and viewing the video for said single, I was hooked immediately.
Now I own their first album and the just-released follow-up, “Demon Days.” The first album is fine, but “Demon Days” is infesting. The songs are dark in tone, but incredibly catchy and layered, and there’s something more playful about the Gorillaz darkness than, say, Radiohead darkness. The cartoon band members may be grungy and dark, too, but, hey, they’re cartoons. They are approachable bohemian low-lifes.
Yesterday, I decided to not listen to “Demon Days.” I didn’t want to get tired of it, and other fun stuff like Radio Paradise and the new iTunes with built-in podcasting was just waiting to be played with. But it turned out to be a dark day. A perfect storm—or, perahps more accurately, a slightly-flawed storm—consisting of job ennui, relationship vacancy, sexual inactivity, self-criticism, laziness, and frustrating tidbits of everyday annoyance flung me into a dour and unpleasant mood. My humor, which normally remains intact during such bouts, was 85% disabled, though I was able to use the remaining 15% to good effect during a business lunch.
Inevitably, after lunch, I pulled “Demon Days” out of the cedar chest it had been relegated to for only half a day.
I thought that perhaps the album and the associated grim imagery of the animated videos was helping to cap my unapproachable mood. Music can deeply affect. It was therefore my decision to listen to something that was perkier, something I knew well and could sing along to, when I finally left work and hit the 134 in my Civic. I chose “Afternoons in Utopia” by Alphaville. Yes, I like Alphaville. Your taunts will not hurt me, as I have wholeheartedly embraced this flaw in my musical taste. Alphaville’s idea of a sad and moving song is something like “Lassie Come Home,” which, considering my state of mind on the 405 once it got jammed at Sunset, was a ray of bright sunshine.
Last night was my first real rehearsal for the play I’m in, Antigone. It has been a year and a half since I last did any acting. Proof of my currently shiftless demeanor resides in my choice to audition for Antigone instead of the two comedies that go up right before and right after the Greek drama. Antigone runs for only two weekends instead of the three for the other shows, and the less my summer is interrupted, the better. This indolence, however, is offset—perhaps even cancelled out—by my choosing the Greek drama because I wanted an acting challenge. I can do comedy blindfolded, but true drama? Classic, hard-to-get-to drama? Wordy, expository drama? The only demonstration of the limit of my talents can come if I do something like this that scares the crap out of me.
Alphaville allowed me to sing in the car, in traffic, Culver City-bound, but the strangest thing happened once I got to rehearsal. “Demon Days” kept leaking into (and out of) my head. Vocally, I was thumping the beats from “Kids with Guns” for others to hear. But I was not brooding or unhappy or even cognizant of the mood I was supposed to be in. I was happy and humming.
Most of the night was spent learning dance moves for the opening of the play. The moves are primal and not meant to be precise. It was so much fun, my sense of humor returned 100%. During breaks in learning the dance, I got to start working with John, the fellow cast member with whom I will be battling to mutual death using six-foot wooden poles. There is nothing not to like about swinging and striking with a blunt weapon in the name of fun. The clack of the poles colliding was fantastic.
Dancing and moving and fighting with sticks. All the time, Gorillaz rhythms and refrains thumping through my head.
“Demon Days” was not making me feel down. I was down about the things in my life I have been wanting to change and have not had the guts to change yet. I was down because I’ve been feeling alone, falling for guys who are too wrapped up in their own worlds to show me any concern. I was down because I could care less about most of my “work” work. I was down because this is not what I thought I’d be.
I allow all these things have more weight than they deserve.
The balance of the “must” and the “want” were—still are—off. When I am not being creative, I feel it. When I remain staid and stagnant, doing only what I am “supposed” to do, I can feel a pressure, slight but intense, infesting me. I can feel zombies just outside the door, trying to get in. When I do not rebel, when I do not speak out, when I do not make waves, when I do not make others take notice, when I do not MAKE, I am not being me.
I went to bed last night listening to “Demon Days” in my headphones. I listened not to the darkness of the songs, but to how they are crafted. The sounds and words and artistry that were all involved in making the album feel so rich. The music absorbed into me until I fell asleep somewhere in the middle of track number 7, “El Mañana.” I don’t remember my dreams at all.