Wednesday, October 28, 2009

“The stage is set to rip the wings from a butterfly…”

I meant to write about this earlier, but for once procrastination actually paid off… The subject is Matthew Shepard. For those of you who have not heard of Matthew Shepard, he was killed by two men who offered him a ride home from a bar in 1998. According to witnesses during the trial, he was targeted because he was homosexual. Shepard was a twenty-one year old student at the University of Wyoming when Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson tied him to a fence in Laramie, Wyoming and robbed and pistol-whipped him, leaving him tied there overnight in freezing conditions. He was found the next day in a coma by Aaron Kreifels, who mistook him for a scarecrow. He was taken to a hospital in Colorado, but died five days later on October Twelfth.

Okay, I know that’s all really depressing. Makes me want to cry, honestly, but this trial was a great turning point in the passing of hate crime laws in the United States. After all this, Matthew’s parents fought very hard for national hate crime laws for LGBT victims. But now to why procrastination is a good thing in the case of me writing this…

Well today, President Barak Obama finally did something POSSIBLY notable for a Nobel Peace Prize. He passed a Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Bill disguised in a 2010 Defense Authorization Bill. This bill is meant to protect victims of crimes motivated by sexual orientation and gender identity. Since I suppose marriage for gays will not be legal for a long time, this was the least he could do… although it is a bit ridiculous that this took ten years to pass. Matthew’s mother released a statement shortly after, which can be viewed in an article on The Advocate’s website.

But ANWAY, I’m just speaking politics when this is supposed to be about art. What I really want to talk about is the post-punk, independent screamo band, Thursday. Their frontman, Geoff Rickly is really into Equal Rights and one of their songs is actually about Matthew Shepard. The video below is the song “M. Shepard” with footage from a movie based on the crime and trial called “The Laramie Project.” Hope you enjoy it!

P.S. I’m also going to post the lyrics, because it’s a bit difficult to understand all of it, but it’s beautiful nonetheless.

"M. Shepard"
The stage is set to rip the wings
from a butterfly.
The stage is set, don't forget to breathe,
between the lines.
If the whole world dies,
then it's safe to take the stage.
These graves will stretch like landing strips ----
hospitals: all dead museums,
we won't have to be afraid anymore.
The crowd is growing silent
with the gathering storm.

When the curtain falls,
and you're caught on the other side
(just trying to keep up the act),
we'll lie in the back of black cars,
with the windows rolled up,
joining the procession of emptiness.

If we say these words,
it will be too late to take them back,
so we hold our breath and fold our hands, like paper planes
(and we're going to crash).
We don't have to be alone
ever again.
There's a riot in the theater.
Someone's standing in the aisles,
yelling that murderers are everywhere
and they're lining up,
carving the M in your side.

Pull the curtain back.
Kill all the houselights.
Pin the dress with lotus flowers.
The silk is spinning
around and around, with the ceiling fan.
I'm disappearing into the spotlight.
I'm on display,
the butterfly
and the scarecrow.

With smiles like picket fences,
you tie us all up and leave us outside.
"That voice is silent now, the boat has sunk..."
We're on our own,
but we're not

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

“Let the camera linger on yr. perfect skin…”

For those of you who have seen the film Pieces of April with Katie Holmes, you have probably also heard the work of one my all-time-favorite songwriters, Stephin Merritt. For those of you who haven’t seen Pieces of April, you should! It was directed by Peter Hedges (About a Boy, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?) & not only does it star Katie Holmes, but also Patricia Clarkson (Jumanji, Lars & the Real Girl) & Sisqó (that guy that wrote “Thong Song,” strangely enough…). Stephin Merritt does the entire soundtrack for the film, under his own name & also with two of his various projects: The Magnetic Fields & The 6ths.

The 6ths is a project of Stephin Merritt’s in which he asks other various artists to sing songs that he has written both musically & lyrically. It is commonly thought that Merritt created this project after noticing that no one had ever made a tribute album for him, so he made two himself: Wasps’ Nests & Hyacinths & Thistles. The name of this project was chosen, because it is impossible to say without a lisp, as are the names of both of these albums. Some of the most notable singers that perform on these albums are Dean Wareham of Galaxie 500, Lou Barlow of Dinosaur Jr. & The Folk Implosion, Bob Mould of Hüsker Dü, Marc Almond of Soft Cell, & Gary Numan (& yes, that is the guy that sings that catchiest song of all time, “Cars”).

Hyacinths & Thistles also includes a very unlikely duet of blues/folk singer Odetta (often referred to as “The Voice of the Civil Rights Movement”) & author Lemony Snicket (A Series of Unfortunate Events). In “As You Turn to Go” from the video below, Scottish singer Monus performs the vocals. That’s the guy that rephrased Andy Warhol’s quote from my previous post. Weird, huh?

“Let the poets struggle to describe yr. heart,
Yr. art of love & yr. love of art.
Well if you ever loved me tell me so,
As you turn to go.”

Damn, those are some good lyrics… & Monus’ vocals go beautifully with Merritt’s music. That song appeared on the Pieces of April soundtrack, but really all of the tracks on this album are great. However, before Pieces of April, the 6ths wiggled their way onto the American children’s television station, Nickelodeon. Merritt’s works appear many times in The Adventures of Pete & Pete, which also featured guest appearances from many notable figures, such as Iggy Pop, Debbie Harry, Michael Stipe, & LL Cool J. The video below features “Falling Out of Love (with You)” with a collage of footage from the television show. It is a proud testament to when children’s television series were actually cool…