“I’m just not used to being out and about this early on a Sunday. My body doesn’t know what to do.” – heard in conversation outside Twisted Pepper on Abbey Street whilst waiting for the fantastically devised stripped-down Why? matinee set, not so long after noon.
Thanks to the manoeuvres of LitSoc (who like Joni for his poetic lyrics), DURNS (whose RN stands for Rock Nostalgia, leading me to believe that they were drawn in by the MOR rock of Gemini Song), Analogue (because Bren was in a position to make the calls, and because Why? are our official collective ninth favourite band*) and Bodytonic (who I assume opened their new venue at a strange hour so that people would know it was there), this genuinely exciting prospect came to pass. There were probably somewhere a little above fifty people there, all seated, and they saw something pretty unique.
Are lyrics poetry? That can’t be answered with a yes or a no because the definition of poetry isn’t static, and the nature of lyrics is also pretty varying. If I was to be anal about the whole thing, I could mention that almost everything that pop-culture considers poetry is actually lyric poetry, from Shakespeare to Ginsberg. But I won’t. I’ll do it by experiment.
To inhaling crushed bones
through a dried up
white out pen
and riding the backwards racer
in hot June rain
in a matching blue and gold
plastic bag / poncho / raincoat.
It’s a wooden coaster
with a medium hill height mean,
high hill to flat ground ratio
you know I’d sell my shingles
for a thimble dip of snow.
Back then I’d've sold my single
for a fingertip of glow.
That’s the form of the first verse of Crushed Bones from the liner lyrics to Elephant Eyelash, by the way, I didn’t just space it out so it’d look like that.
I personally think what Joni Wolf does is more lyrics-set-to-music than a contiguous rock and roll song type of thing. All of the lyrics (excepting maybe the few songs that are actually sung straight through) heave with internal rhyme, with perfect measurement and judgement so that there can always be a lot of syllables if there needs to be, without there ever being too many. These songs (they are definitely songs, even if you concede that they could constitute poetry) would stand alone. Take away the careful guitar and keyboards of Alopecia and Elephant Eyelash, or the bedroom fuzziness of Oaklandazulasylum and you would still have the skeleton of something genuinely excellent.
It might even be better.
Some of the time it was. The Fall of Mr. Fifths (off Alopecia) in particular came off amazingly, stripped of its organ and the cushion of reverb. The sight of Joni, microphone left on its stand, rhyming to the backing a single drum, conjures images of San Francisco beat gatherings to me. It’s almost mesmeric.
I asked him awkwardly about this while I tried to jam the synth that I had to inexplicably provide back into its case after the gig had finished. He must do it often, I said. In exotic places like Oakland, coffee shop Anticon gigs must be the order of the day. He looked vaguely pitying and explained that he wasn’t part of “that scene”.
Another convenient imagined reality smashed. But really, that just made the Twisted Pepper set even more unique.
Some day, Those Geese, I will write an unreadable, 5,000 word post on Why? as poetry using academic standards. There’s so much. The recurring obsession (or identification?) with Christ and Christianity in general. Bones, whether raped, snorted or inhabited. The bizarre images in general. It will be done. No it won’t. Oh well.
*This statement is not true.
**This picture was nicked off the Analogue blog, and was taken, as far as I can tell from the Properties, by the magnificent ivebeentired, whoever that is. Nice picture, yo.