Sunday, 2 December 2012
I used to know this record, like all of Green On Red's albums, like the back of my hand. The more I think about them in hindsight, the more puzzled I am by their choice to chronicle psychotic scenarios in the most homely and traditional "heartland rock" style. I suppose the polar opposite would have been if Big Black had decided to sing about first dates, faithful dogs and impressing the football coach.
The nearest band to them thematically were I suppose The Pixies, and it's interesting to ponder why the Pixies were so much more successful. Certainly it wasn't to do with talent, as nobody could say that Green On Red were bereft of ability. Certainly The Pixies had a more modern edge to their sound, were more dynamic, but I think the crucial difference was in how they framed their depictions of psychosis. In couching psychotic themes within traditional Americana, Dan Stuart could be interpreted as suggesting that psychosis was an innate part of the American psyche, that it was as American as the proverbial apple pie and motherhood. In fact, "Clarksville" explicitly makes this claim. Black Francis would appear to agree with this assessment, but as with his hero David Lynch, he framed his observations in irony, and this distancing effect contained its own meta-message - that psychosis is innately American, and because it is innately American, it therefore must be a pretty cool thing.
And people like to buy cool stuff.