Blood of My Blood
There is something ritualistic about shopping for records, the shambling routine that takes place when one steps up to the bins, adopts their preferred stance, and begins to mentally and physically sort through stacks of music. It can be a meditative act, working your fingers across the tops of the record sleeves, quickly noting the titles, the artists, the artwork and making split-second judgments according to the very basic rubric of “want” or “don’t want”, stopping for the records that require further investigation before they can be set into the rubric. Fingertips collect dust and become coarse. The soft thrumming of the shuffled records becomes rhythmic and measured. As records are cataloged into the diametric, anticipation sustains the seeker. Eyelids lower and razor-sharp focus drowns out stimuli from the surroundings. Wanted records flash up from the bins like revelations; epiphanies gathered into a small pile on the adjacent record bin.
The ritual continues when we collect our take and head home, where we might disseminate the teachings of music in the privacy of our living rooms. The ceremonial implements of our rites plugged in and turned up, the whirring of internal fans cutting the silence before a needle touches a groove, the glow of stereo faces and bouncing equalizers casting a soft light on the scene. We unwrap and examine our holy texts. We read liner notes and lyrics, quickly scan the “thank yous” for points of reference, run our fingers over the artwork looking for meaning and purpose.
As such, we are members of a greater congregation, the devout and the faithful who receive the sacrament of music just as fervently as Catholics receive the Eucharist. It is certainly no surprise that religious analogies are easy to come by among music fans, no surprise that attending a concert is commonly referred to as “attending church.” The correlations with spirituality are evident in the way that music lovers recognize something outside of themselves, greater than themselves even, in the ability of one person to hold a beautiful harmony, in the majestic manifestation of Jungian synchronicity borne out by a group of musicians who can lock step into a tight rhythm and switch directions as quickly as a darting school of fish.
The fervent among us seek out the company of apostles from whom we can glean the wisdom of the ancients. Much of what I know and hold sacred I have found through readings of The Gospel of Big Bad Bob, The Gospel of Patrick, The Gospel of Mary, The Gospel of Kuker, The Gospel of Nelsen, The Gospel of Pilmer, The Gospel of Barrett, and so on. I know how each of these apostles accepted the life-affirming power of rock and roll into their hearts, I know the old tales of famine and war, of lust and of once and future kings. I read these texts because they come with great soundtracks, and a collection of records that show the history of their own spiritual path.
This week’s Backlog features a reading from one such text, The Gospel of Georgina, a friend and apostle who blessed me with a mint condition copy of Translator’s 1982 debut album Heartbeats and Triggers. Georgina was relinquishing her record collection like an act of self-immolation at a dinner party, and allowed her friends first swipe at the collection before handing it off to a record store, a scattering of ashes. I feel a great reverence when getting to leaf through the record collections of old friends. There are so many stories in each collection, so many personal markers – albums that are kept like scars, albums that are nestled away like childhood toys, albums that gleam from the stacks like prized possessions, albums that are shown proudly like medals of achievement. What I know about this record as it relates to my friend is it’s personal significance in her own pious studies.
What I know of the record otherwise is that it is a near-perfect slice of post-punk from San Francisco circa 1982. Translator had a minor hit with the first track off of the album, “Everywhere That I’m Not”. Translator’s influences shine through on the track, in which vocalist Steve Barton adroitly pulls off a Jonathan Richman-like delivery, singing in eulogistic yelps a tribute to the recently murdered John Lennon, and a punchy rhythm section propels the song buoyantly along.
The Modern Lovers – Dignified and Old
Elsewhere on the record, you can hear touchstones of their post-punk and new-wave contemporaries: the staccato vocal delivery of Gang of Four, the shimmery guitar work of Television, the existential angst of The Police, and the romantic bravado of Echo and The Bunnymen. You can also hear prescient tones of alternative-bands-to-come, seeds sown for bands like Creeper Lagoon and Ladyhawk to cultivate and hybridize.
Echo and The Bunnymen
I know that we have something to learn from thorough readings of each others record collections (or lack thereof), and that we are each of us indebted to the apostles we follow, be it Pitchfork or Brooklyn Vegan or the dude who lives down the hall who has all of those great bootlegs of The Band. I offer up Translator’s Heartbeats and Triggers because it deserves to be played loudly from atop Mt. Sinai, and because I want to show off the page I tore from the Gospel of Georgina, a page that I will nestle into the stacks of wax with all of the other sacred texts I’ve collected. Enjoy!
[audio:http://godonnybrook.com/home/media/Translator/01%20Everywhere%20That%20Im%20Not.mp3,http://godonnybrook.com/home/media/Translator/02%20Necessary%20Spinning.mp3,http://godonnybrook.com/home/media/Translator/03%20Everything%20You%20See.mp3,http://godonnybrook.com/home/media/Translator/04%20When%20I%20Am%20With%20You.mp3,http://godonnybrook.com/home/media/Translator/05%20Nothing%20Is%20Saving%20Me.mp3,http://godonnybrook.com/home/media/Translator/06%20Sleeping%20Snakes.mp3,http://godonnybrook.com/home/media/Translator/07%20Favorite%20Drug.mp3,http://godonnybrook.com/home/media/Translator/08%20Everywhere.mp3,http://godonnybrook.com/home/media/Translator/09%20Dark%20Region.mp3,http://godonnybrook.com/home/media/Translator/10%20My%20Heart%20Your%20Heart.mp3|artists=Translator,Translator,Translator,Translator,Translator,Translator,Translator,Translator,Translator,Translator|titles=Everywhere That Im Not,Necessary Spinning,Everything You See,When I Am With You,Nothing Is Saving Me,Sleeping Snakes,Favorite Drug,Everywhere,Dark Region,My Heart Your Heart]
Translator – Heartbeats and Triggers
1. Everywhere That I’m Not
2. Necessary Spinning
3. Everything You See
4. When I Am With You
5. Nothing Is Saving Me
6. Sleeping Snakes
7. Favorite Drug
9. Dark Region
10. My Heart, Your Heart