(from “Backflip,” by Nathan Bulmer, 2012)
Monthly Archives: April 2012
by Chris Randle
I was originally planning to write about the sequence below for Back to the World’s idiosyncratic year-end lists. Their chronic lateness is partly a joke about the mania for publishing 50 Best Albums declarations ever earlier on the calendar, but mine became so delayed that it didn’t seem funny anymore, certainly not when my comrades Carl and Margaux got it done. Then the Eisners, the best-known award in comics (which puts them roughly on a par with untelevised Junos), passed over what might be the greatest story Jaime Hernandez has ever drawn. So I got a new angle.
A multi-part serial concluded in Love and Rockets: New Stories #4, “The Love Bunglers” felt not just like a culmination of that thirty-years-and-counting series but a extraordinary moment for comics in general. (Of course, at this point, how can one talk about the medium at all without eventually mentioning Love and Rockets?) It focuses on three central characters of the younger Bro Hernandez: his long-running ex-punk protagonist Maggie, her friend and occasional lover Hopey, and her more frequent but never quite devoted lover Ray. Hopey is partnered with a kid by now, but Maggie and Ray remain compelling fuckups, failing to amass the money for a garage business or breaking up with a life model in exhaustion. Then events begin to draw them back together, and something terrifying happens to Ray, and this doubled spread appears:
When I first saw it in person, my eyes irised outwards, as if attempting to take in the entire image, all those mirrored fragments. That was hopeless. They show two eventful lives alternately intersecting with and sliding past each other, the spaces between panels alluding to countless unseen moments of rupture and disaster. Grazed knees, reddened cheeks, bloodied breast. “The Love Bunglers” doesn’t suggest that Maggie and Ray were fated to end up together; only that, standing in the wreckage, they realize how their dents and snags have come to interlock. Turn the page. Hernandez signs the last one with a heart.
by Carl Wilson
Babble: Songs for Lonely Lovers is a concept album (based on or the basis of a musical) by the late British rock songwriter Kevin Coyne and German singer Dagmar Krause (perhaps best known as a member of Slapphappy), recorded in 1979. It’s the depiction of a relationship for which the word “troubled” would be much too mild – Coyne intimated here and there that it may have been inspired by child-murdering lovers Ian Brady and Myra Hindley, though I don’t think it needs such macabre embellishment to do its work with a chilling sparsity and intensity of purpose – to evoke the perils of intimacy at their most harrowing.
Given that, it’s not entirely surprising that the album’s been adopted as kind of a cause by another bard of brutal closeness, Will Oldham, first by covering a couple of songs on a Portugese single, then in an appreciation for Mojo Magazine, and finally with a full-blown tribute band, The Babblers. (You can hear their vocalist Angel Olsen cover “Come Down Here” here or watch them do it starting at about 1:30 here.) His most powerful cover is probably of the album’s opening track, “Are You Deceiving Me?”
But nothing can eclipse the original Babble, despite its obscurity and general neglect. It should be alongside Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks, the Thompsons’ Shoot Out the Lights and the Mountain Goats’ Tallahassee as records that throw into serious doubt how wise it is for humans to get to know each other too deeply. As Oldham put it, “the transference of horror (at ourselves) into music has not been done so well. It’s a record that fully reverberates the fear.”
by Margaux Williamson
On most mornings, for the last few months, I’ve had the good fortune of having to walk through an exhibit of Goya etchings to get to where I was working. As I pass through, I think, “Goya”.
There are no other painters that I’ve been so consistently sympathetically in love with (or in love with at all). If anyone ever asks what painters I like, I think “Goya” while thinking to remember, before I speak, if I’ve learned anything more about the world since I was 15.
I finally took the exhibition in more carefully and slowly last week before it closed. It was at The Art Gallery of Ontario and was curated by Brenda Rix. The exhibit combined prints of Goya’s with prints of Gillray (who was doing similar political etchings around the same time in England while Goya was in Spain). I had somehow managed to completely ignore the Gillray prints for two months.
As I walked around the exhibition last week, after my lunch, lingering over the nightmarish Goya etchings with warm feelings, I was pretty surprised that I had trouble looking at the Gillray prints without wanting to throw up.
Art (and its very often revolting subject matter) very rarely makes me want to throw up so I was pretty curious about my genuine physical trouble focusing on Gillray’s prints. It was interesting to think of these two artists together, drawing such different feelings in the way-future audience, these two artists who were both sort of doing the same thing – using humour and metaphors and satire to talk about those who abuse power, probably both with earnest intentions.
It’s been in my head since last week – what was so different between these two men from similar times with similar subject matter and medium. It reduced me to thinking about the differences between the different kinds of lines they made – something I never think about. I thought of Goya’s lines – the consistency of regret and empathy that maybe he couldn’t help but to include (or wouldn’t know why not to) in every mark he made. Is that possible? these empathetic and regretful lines that make up both the villains and victims of the usual human tragedies? the impossibly frustrating (therefore hopeful) harmony between Goya, villain and victim.
Maybe it’s the opposite in the Gillray prints that made me feel sick – a thousand times sicker than the nightmares that came out of Goya’s time and imagination. Is there really such a remove and hatred inherent in Gillray’s marks? A cloud of his vision that he intended (or couldn’t help) – a remove and hatred for the villains and victims he depicted in his etchings? The characters that are more like lunatics from the other side of the moon – etched with professional consistency from the left side of the page to the right with no space in between.
It made me think more about why Goya’s nightmares (or daily perspective) are so strangely comforting. Nightmares can last for a surprisingly long time and it is always a little bit of a confusion what our horrible role in them is – the audience, the artist, the victim, the villain. I guess it is reassuring to think that someone like Goya would be there (is there), alongside, trying earnestly to make some gentle sense of it.