|LtoR: Lana Del Rey, Gaby Rogers, Candace Hilligoss|
Once I heard how far down in the mix she sounded I was hoping for a moment like the one in Road House (above) when Ida Lupino sings her first song at the lodge, the whole cast of regulars and staff eyeing her with concern as her frail voice, barely above a whisper and without a mic, clings like Grant on Lincoln's nose at the end of North by Northwest to the melody, a ghostly after-effect of pure will and brassy, nicotine-stained courage. Nope.
As I wrote earlier, I like Del Rey for her hand-crafted post-noir persona and its relation to American Horror Story, but that persona hinges on intimacy, which SNL lacks. Rey's a post-digital artist meant for late night headphones and tear-stained iPhone screens, not sound stages and fancy lighting rigs and an audience keyed up by comedy. Thus we're presented with the same conundrum that sinks Manhattan nightspots I visited in the 1990s, or real estate 'hot location,' the mainstream snapping at the lonesome artist gentrifier's heels and punking out our small good things into their oversize crap. Some stuff can't just automatically make the jump. I've seen the best bands of my generation destroyed by bottom line AOR guys who brought them up too fast, from Nightingales to the Meadowlands with no stops in between, and dropped them from the Humpty Dumpty wall when their 15 minute egg timer clicked crack time.
In the end the mainstream wants all the things it takes from us to be good, never considering whether or not we invited them to even taste a sample. Thus we make ourselves deliberately bad to scare away success, for success means having to be surrounded at all times by douche bag entourages and clingy fans and thus be unable to hone our craft in the isolated anguish cocoons. So our sophomore album is bloated, and the AOR guys throw us to the cut-out bins and now not even Nightingales wants us back.
Then there's the movies: I finally bought and saw Criterion's Kiss Me Deadly (1955) blu-ray. which lived beyond expectations. It's a whole different movie on blu-ray, like 3-D without the glasses and now Mike Hammer's jazzy bi-level apartment seems to stretch deep inside the screen at odd, skewed angles, and the sexy girl bare feet seem bigger than life, the treacherous west coast hills down which flimsy stairs carry tumbling thugs now recede deep down into the screen. The two blonde girls who bookend the film are now extra insane so that you can see the thin layer of sweat over their faces: when Gaby Rogers gets all glazed-eyed lunatic at the climax you can practically smell the laudanum coming out of her pores; before that you can smell the sexual heat and traces of sodium pentathol pouring off Cloris Leachman, and later the toe-tingling chlorine and perfume aura of Marian Karr as the gambling kingpin's nympho poolside sister.
In the beginning/end of Kiss Me Deadly, Hammer is drugged, beaten, and driven off a cliff with his first lost blonde (Leachman), and maybe he's still dead at the bottom of a sandy ravine and the girls around him the delusional Candace Hilligoss Carnival of Souls gender equivalent of the weird white skinned zombie guy with the crazy hair. And maybe the big whatzit in the box is an atomic Skynet variation of the Hitchcockian mcguffin, suddenly aware of its abstract unimportance to the mise en scene and so deciding to change the game, to swallow the universe whole and run it backwards only in dreams.
(my take on it here). The snake, having swallowed its own tail first continues unkowingly along, its radius tightening, and only as it speeds up to the infinite point does it begin to digest itself, does memory finally catch up to its 'this is where we came in' crux apocalypse. Death is from here on out more a dawning awareness than a traumatizing finale, and a parting word to those who will be forced to watch the black hole close around us seems prudent. Thus, Christina Rosetti's (left) poem "Remember:"
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
If we feel the darkness closing around us, is it at all possible that we'll remember it and thus are immortal after all? Maybe we who will die in the coming floods will not our deaths remember but rather still live in a landlocked world where no further burgees unfurl but for the brief cocktail steward span that bridges sleep and death--that fluttering spasm of alertness, the forgotten hand that clutches once and having clutched drops its eternal bong --and watch will we instead as the blackened water's through the carpet soaked and gone? Soaked...
... and gone? As Mike Hammer says when giving up the key to the whatszit, "I didn't know... I didn't know..."
He didn't know he's been dead all along and the same girl twice has died him in a drag race (left). As J.J. put it in Sweet Smell of Success, "You're dead son, get yourself buried." Mike Hammer didn't know he really was pulling a Lazarus. Right. Thing is, no one ever does.
So remember to "forget and smile" when the waters are rising higher than any hit count and our apocalypse year begins endlessly over with one January after the other, never reaching the dreaded December 21, 2012; all time slowing down like a black hole's infinite approach. And remember what the fortune teller said when Lisa Simpson asked if there was any way to avoid her grim future, "No. Just try to look surprised." All else is... Silencio... and conqueror worms that just won't give it up... for Lana Del Rey!