Cataldo: Signal Flare

My favorite poem by Bertolt Brecht, called "Motto," reads,

In the dark times
Will there also be singing?
Yes, there will also be singing
About the dark times.

I linger in the space of these verses often; it is a place in which language is subtle and yet, somehow boldly self-conscious, where the enormous weight of darkness is almost crushing and, yet, there is a courageous chorus of voices articulating an authentic, painful, affective experience while enmeshed with the sad and beautiful idealism of what could be. Every sung song inks the air in shimmering, dark gold.

Occupying this place is always elating but becomes immensely satisfying when the song that you hear is one that speaks a language that only you and your aural interlocutor(s) seem destined to understand. Cataldo's Signal Flare finally made it to the top of my listening pile today while I was in exactly this place. There isn't anything particularly revolutionary here--both in the productive sense and in the Brechtian. Somewhere, though, the earnestness of an album so well composed and crafted crosses over from the poetic to the mythical, and at the threshold of that crossing over, shimmers magically. I have listened to the album three times in the last hour, and still find myself stuck in the daze that I entered about halfway through "Tendon Skin."

The last time I remember feeling this way was on the first spin through Holiday, which, similarly is a collection of songs that emerge gloriously (but with tinges of irony) from a tragic darkness with which you would have to be familiar to even decipher the traces of. It is the darkness from which a song like "6'6"" emerges: "I'm taking all my underwear/and sewing up the flies like they were tears./What does this brain wonder? What does this head care/ if it's lower body isn't even there?"

I need to mull over this one awhile longer, given the blogging massive backlog (have I even seriously written about Realism yet? I can't even remember). But, I will tell you that when I read the liner notes, where a special thanks extends to Stephin Merritt, I almost cried. In a brief exchange a few weeks ago, Eric told me that he borrowed a lot of production ideas from 69 Love Songs, but I feel like this album is lyrically closer, if anything else. Can't you imagine Stephin writing something like,

"'The Past' are just two words
for things we can't undo.
So when they're fixed the old it becomes new.
I won't be obtuse:
it feels like you got an acey from a deuce,
to make the grayest skin turn chartreuse."


"My fingers trace your back's outline,
No tattoos, just clean skin on which I can write
thick letters, an X you don't have to sign"


"We were burning boys and girls
with sweaty hands and sticky hair in disarray."

Before I gush to the point of embarassment, I will also say that Tim Kasher should officially cover this entire album. Or amend The Good Life's Album of the Year to at least include the Cataldo song, "Signal Flare."


Blogger heather said...

this is a lovely post that really gets at the goodness of Cataldo. thanks.

1:13 AM  

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