Thursday, May 28, 2009

World's Worst Mother: Happiness is a Sad Song

This post is dedicated to my friend Marty, who passed away May 21 from a serious illness. He was my age-ish (young!). We shared a deep love and respect for the awe-inspiring talents of Porcupine Tree and its alchemist, Steven Wilson.

(This post is referenced at the Love Thursday feature of

When my three (and a half!)-year-old, Pumpkin, gets picked up from a hard day at preschool, he can be a bit tired. Of course this fatigue tends to manifest itself as whining, or crying over nothing. If he's whining, crying, or otherwise kvetching and there's no pain or threat to him, I've been known to react to such conduct by ... laughing at him.

I picked the kids up yesterday, and as I was buckling them into their car seats, my six-year-old, Einstein, asked for macaroni for dinner. Pumpkin had already begun whining about something so I thought I'd egg him on. "I was thinking of making you a big bowl of mud. With worms! Yummmm!" Pumpkin, who was most certainly not in a joking mood, responded with an emphatic "NOOO!"

"Oooo ... and maybe some beetles!" I said, smacking my lips. "They crunch when you eat them, yum, yum!"

"Nooooooo!" responded Pumpkin.

Behind me in the car, Einstein made this a conspiracy against the scowling tot. "How about some tasty grasshoppers?" he suggested.

"NOOOOOOO!!!" The tears were starting.

At this point, the CD in the stereo started playing Porcupine Tree's "Lazarus,"1 and if you play the video below you'll get the idea of the atmosphere created thereby. I heard Pumpkin say "Mama, this is a sad song." He's a sensitive kid and minor keys are something else that can make him cry. (It is, in fact, a sad song, but a lovely one, in contrast to PT's heavy full-rock-out material and their spacey stuff.)

Einstein was touched by the song's mood as well. After 30 seconds or so of driving, during which Pumpkin seemed to completely calm down, I heard Einstein say, "Mommy, look, I'm holding [Pumpkin]'s hand."

I looked.

He was.

I'll never forget it.

1 I realize that Lazarus was a New Testament character, but I'm in denial about this, just like I have always denied that C.S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia are about Jesus. When my mother called them "Christological" I decided that she meant "Crystal-logical." Why not?


Shtuey said...

A very touching story, but I can't get past the fact that Porcupine Tree is a terrible terrible name. When are bands going to realize that they need to hire me for this sort of thing.

Porcupine Tree, you are now Artesian Afterbirth.

There, that's much better.

Is that a Terry McInturff Zodiac guitar? I think it is. All the more reason to change the name of the band to Artesian Afterbirth. A great guitar deserves a cool band name.

12tequilas said...

Most likely a Paul Reed Smith Custom.

Hey, it just doesn't matter. Artists of this caliber can call their bands whatever they want. If someone is deterred by the name it is their loss. My mother was completely shocked when she found out what the Grateful Dead actually sounded like, having judged the band by its name for years.

I'd recommend the entire album (Deadwing) to you, as well as others (In Absentia, Fear of a Blank Planet, Stupid Dream, Lightbulb Sun, not in any particular order). So, here's my money-back guarantee. You download any Porcupine Tree and you don't like it, I'll reimburse you plus 10 percent. Nothing to lose. This goes for all readers.

Shtuey said...

Too bad. TCM's guitars are far superior in every respect.

With a name like Artesian Afterbirth you could afford a TCM.

12tequilas said...

Well, I will most likely be seeing them in Philly in September, and I'll pass on your suggestion. I'll probably just jot it down on my panties before I throw them onto the stage.

Shtuey said...

I took a listen and it's not really panty throwing music, at least I'm not throwing my panties. I don't think I should comment as you typically take my opinion on these things as a personal criticism of your taste in music, which you shouldn't. That's why they make chocolate and lark's vomit flavored ice creams.

With a few exceptions, i like things stripped down and straight ahead musically speaking. The honest brokers are still the best.

You never did buy any Nields albums did you? Order yourself a copy of Gotta Get Over Greta. I have to replace mine because it's so good someone stole my copy.

12tequilas said...

How would you know if I ever bought any Nields albums? Why would you make that assumption? The Nields are great, everybody. It's folk music. I'm a big fan. I'm pushing Porcupine Tree right now because it came up in a bloggable moment, and because it was Marty's favorite band (and he's not around to tell me which guitar it was, which I'm sure he would know). The fact is that it is hard to turn anyone on to experimental music because it has to be listened to a few times before it can be appreciated. Most don't have the patience for that, but once in a while someone discovers that they've been missing something.

Usually, I don't even try.

Shtuey said...

It's not folk music. It's Nieldist.

If I hear something and it doesn't grab me the first time, it's not getting a second listen. That's just how my brain works. It's not a patience issue for me. Some music is so bad I get an involuntary reaction like tremors, or diarrhea. I did not get that with Porcupine Tree. It was just this is not doing it for me. I admit that I didn't listen to every song, about half a dozen. Same reaction. That doesn't mean there is nothing in the catalogue I will like.

Richard Thompson is a good example of this. Gollum tried repeatedly to get me to like him. The albums she had, which his devoted fans consider to be brilliant I thought sucked raw bird, and his lyrics though biting, didn't do much for me. But he put out an album in the late '90s, Mock Tutor; I think it kicks ass. And though most of his music is not my bag, he is one of the most underrated guitar players on earth.

But that's as maybe. Artesian Afterbirth is still a better name. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

12tequilas said...

Back in 1992, Thomas Dolby came out with his "Astronauts and Heretics" record. Talk about underrated. Dolby had a number of guest musicians on this work, including a certain B. Weir and a certain J. Garcia, who provides a monster guitar solo on the final track.

I first heard the song "Eastern Bloc," featuring a certain E. Van Halen on guitar, on the radio and went out to grab the CD. I never heard the song on the radio again. But I thought it was a great song, an instant hit type of thing, and I set out to enlighten the world. I remember playing it in the car for two of my friends (who shall remain nameless), telling them they just had to hear it because it is just that good. They didn't even pay attention. My boyfriend kind of shrugged over it. I couldn't believe it. I still crank this song as loud as the speakers will go.

All of this to say, at least you listened. Thanks.

Shtuey said...

Dolby was groundbreaking in ways that a lot people didn't perceive beyond "She Blinded Me With Science," which is a great song if for no other reason than the jocularity. He's an artist that I think I would revisit for no other reason than I liked what I got, but didn't investigate as deeply as I should have.

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