Thursday, 26 July 2012

Gifts for boot heels to crush

How do people live without Jeff Buckley?

I come back to him again and again. He's like red velvet cake - his voice, his songs, the production, those keeling, swooning melodies; the first taste is like total immersion - you know that sort of 'crumple' gesture you make when you bite into the most beautiful cake you've ever tasted, and sort of collapse with satisfaction? But it's so rich that after a certain point I'm gripped by the urge to turn it the fuck off and never listen again, my taste buds saturated, my brain sickened by gluttonous consumption. And a week later, I crave that voice again. When he sang Lilac Wine, he might as well have been describing his own voice.

There's just no-one around like him. I remember the early 00s when, alongside the New York new-new-new-new-wave stick insect invasion, there was an unfortunate infestation of winsome singer-songwriters who, intentionally or otherwise, held up Buckley as an influence.

Singing in a falsetto and plying their heartfelt, male fragility like recycled loo paper didn't make them like Jeff. No one is like Jeff.

There's something so sly, creepy, sold-your-sold-to-the-devil about his melodies - they swoop down on you, then sneak behind you and surprise you again. This is a man who could spin out a faithful and convincing - !! - rendition of Nina Simone's The Other Woman. He thundered, vengeful and tyrannical, through Nightmares By The Sea and Dream Brother, he slumped in decadent, drunken self-pity in Lilac Wine, and Morning Theft, the song that popped my Buckley cherry, gifted to me on a compilation ten years ago... shit, man. What a song. A full and unflinching breakdown of the end of a relationship - self-recrimination and love declaration, all entwined together.

There are other songwriters out there who work the whole male-ego/desire-vs-shattered-masculinity thing - Matt Berninger is a very good example, though what he does is aesthetically far more conventionally gruff and male. But no-one swandives with such elegance, such glittering, bewitching, guileless style. The thing I loved best about Jeff Buckley was that although he told all these stories of doomed love, intoxication, prostration at the feet of the one he adores, and seething fury at the world around him, he always seemed to come across as a guy who would just be fun to go for a beer with. None of this shitty Pete Doherty method singer bullshit, getting snapped tangled around the bottom of lampposts in a heroin stupor and using one’s 'job' to justify being a fucking idiot. He didn't die from an overdose or snort all his talent up his nose. He just fucking drowned, died way too young, and it was sheer bad luck.


eric said...

Think your article expresses an accurate and perceptive viewpoint. It illustrates how Jeff's appeal is so encompassing, cutting across many divides: sexual, generational and cultural. Always happy to come across a fellow Jeff fan!

Charponnaise said...

His appeal is fantastically diverse. You can't assign any musical tribalism to his work really - he was so broadly interested in music, something that shows in the other artists he chose to cover, from Nina Simone and Leonard Cohen to his stunning take on the Corpus Christi Carol.

lehcar82 said...

Well put. The cake metaphor is EXACTLY what I go through. I have to turn it off at some point because my stomach gets too queezy..but yet I crave it again and again. I miss him more than I should miss a man that I never met in person. I love all of his songs, maybe it's selfish of me..Today would be his 46th Birthday. Such a fucking tragedy.