Sunday, July 4, 2010

I'm Not Moved by Your Artful Display

Another Alternate-Universe Superstar

In another 20 years, the phrase "wait by the phone" will seem as antiquated as crank starters for horseless carriages. When the phone goes everywhere, there's no waiting. And when the caller ID pops up all the time, there's no surprise about who might be on the other end. But even when that happens, "You Can Still Ruin My Day" by Jon Brion will be a great song.

I don't wait by the phone like I used to
I don't hope for kind words you might say
You don't prey on my mind like you used to
But you can still ruin my day.

The call comes, he tells me.

If you wait long enough, it always comes.

And you think enough time has gone by. You think the feelings aren't there anymore. You think you're over her.

But sooner or later the call comes.

And he pauses, sucking deeply on the cigarette he shouldn't have been smoking. Looking up at the ceiling and as if the meaning of life could be found there.

And it seems innocuous. Because by the time she makes the call, she's fine.

And maybe it doesn't matter for her.

He slides his legs out of bed. Determined to go outside. Willing the decades of cramps and pain away.

But the feelings never go away. You can't destroy them. It's like an emotional law of physics.

The feelings, they lurk around in your brain or your gut.

Waiting for the next time they can jump out and knock you for a loop.

If you're lucky, they change. Transform into something else.

If you're lucky.

He puts on a sweatshirt. Grabs the cane. Then shakes his head and carefully tips it up against the wall.

The ironic thing is you think you want the call.

You dream about it for months, years, decades.

Then, when it comes...

And he gestures with his hand. Some old-fashioned gesture that maybe meant something 50 years ago, maybe means something now, and maybe is the only thing to do when there are no words.

And I follow him out into the hallway. Out towards the sunshine of the terrace.

Not saying anything. Watching him grimace in pain. And knowing the pain in his legs is easier to bear than the pain in his heart.

In an alternate universe, Jon Brion is more popular than Madonna and Justin Bieber combined.

Here, he's known and loved as a record producer, songwriter, aficionado of melodic pop music. His Friday-night gigs at Cafe Largo in L.A. were legendary even if his own music (especially 2001's amazing Meaningless album), production work (for Aimee Mann, Fiona Apple, Elliot Smith, Robyn Hitchcock, Of Montreal, etc.), and film scoring work (Magnolia, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and many more) failed to make him a household name.

In this world, we've got to settle for the occasional song that squeaks through on his film work, his great live shows, and the hope that he'll someday get around to releasing the follow-up to Meaningless.

By the way, I'd be much obliged if anyone from the alternate universe where Jon Brion is a superstar could slip me a live recording of the shows he must have done with the supergroup he must have assembled (which most likely includes Robyn Hitchcock, Don Dixon, Scott McCaughey, and Marshall Crenshaw). Thanks.

Bonus: "Walking Through Walls," another great song from Meaningless, this one co-written with Grant Lee Phillips (and featuring great call-and-response vocals and a dash of profanity). Listen here.


Holly A Hughes said...

The very thought of that supergroup you just outlined renders me speechless....

Mister Pleasant said...

That is one fine song. I know of Mr. Brion mostly through his excellent production work. If you have ever heard the original version of Fiona Apple's Extraordinary Machine then you know that one of the greatest travesties of the 21st Century was committed when his work was jettisoned from the final release. His sountrack work for Magnolia is close to magnificent.

Anonymous said...

I've gotten those calls.

Nice song, by the way.

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of "Follow You All Over the World" by Marti Jones