Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Most Defining Album of the last decade: Bobby Conn - The Golden Age

Now that the season of "best of" lists is over and there is no pressure to make them, I've had time to really think about it and have a better idea of what albums affected me most in the last decade. One keeps coming to mind and, as it is criminally overlooked, I'd like to give it a little spotlight here and argue it's case. The album I'm thinking is truly the most defining and important work in my subjective opinion is Bobby Conn's The Golden Age.

What Bobby did was make an album that is equally dark, funny, sad, and above all unselfconscious. In my mind (which may be a little warped) the songs and lyrics capture a lot of the painfully mediocre emptiness of suburban adolescence without romanticizing it or taking an elitist and condescending tone about it. I am not a particular fan of lyrics and it really takes a lot to get me to remember and pay attention to what a singer is actually saying. Bobby tells stories on this record. Sad ones, Funny Ones. And sometimes you can't tell which are which.

Thirty-three! We made it, baby, let's take our helicopters for a ride
Oh, this land will be so pretty once we push these peasants into the sea
And we'll be golfing for our charities
Playing bingo with our memories
They always kiss your ass when you live in the past
And we're lost inside the best years of our lives!

Whenever the lyrics get too clever and cynical the music comes along and pushes it out of the realm of the bitter and adolescent fuck everyone attitude and into an ambiguous and bizarrely emotional area.

I hate writing about music because I can never express how a song sounds exactly to me. Also it is to be expected that since this album came out when i was 18, I had no hard time relating to it. It really spoke to my cynicism and angst at the time but backed it up with stories and narrative impulse and above all - this weird, creepy, charismatic sense of humor.

The album also captured something else that appealed to me at 18 - a transgressive sense of sexuality that I could relate to. I had just discovered Dennis Cooper and Jean Genet. Growing up in a place like Marietta in the mid-to-late 90's, I was desperate to identify music and art that could confirm I was not insane and alone. Bobby Conn's narratives excited me because the idea of someone singing about what he was singing about was exciting and dangerous.

You've Come A Long Way Baby (Lyrics by Bobby Conn)

High school sleep over under my bed
And when the conversation stops you offer head
But I only tease you, I don't know how
So you took Jimmy in the ass, I'm so confused
You've come a long way, baby, you've come along
You've come a long, long, long way down
You're father's a hero, he's doing time
He held the knife up to your throat when you were three
You're mother's a beauty at thirty-nine
She took me downstairs for some dope and blew my mind
You've come a long way now, baby
Skin popping heroin under your desk
In New York City you lived in the closet and I wore the dress
In San Francisco you got my luggage but I got your gun
Back in Chicago that was the last time we had any fun
Are you still alive?

A Taste Of Luxury (Lyrics by Bobby Conn)

You said, "The higher we fly, the farther we fall
But there's a place in the sky where there's no weight at all
And if we can make it we'll finally be free
Totally helpless, without gravity."
But I fell back in the cul-de-sac for a little history lesson
It was '83 and you were working me to fight off the depression
Throwing pills at my window sill so we could go shoplifting
You had a preppy look for a petty crook
You were never wanting for a
Taste of luxury

The Pumper (Lyrics by Bobby Conn)

You into ecstasy? You wanna try?
Get in my Cherokee; it's a ten-minute drive
I can get you high, I can get you high
I got one leg, and a twelve-inch stump
I use a crutch, but I don't got to use the pump
I can get you high, I can get you high
Power exchange!
You feel your balls tighten up; you don't know who I am
'Cuz you've never been to Texas, boy, alone with a man
I can get you high, I can get you high
Power exchange!
I know you got my life in your hands, I know you got my life
Kick me

I hope you will check out the best album of the last decade (in my opinion) if you haven't already.

- bradford