I found myself standing next to Weird Al Yankovic today while at the La Brea Tar Pits Page museum. We were both watching the animatronic sabre tooth cat try to feed on the animatronic sloth. Weird Al's hair looked just as lustrous as it always has. I was so tempted to be like, "Dude, me and my brother used to study the lyrics of "Like A Surgeon" for hours," except the move seemed the wrong note for that moment-- us, in silence, watching the fake animals duel, sharing a sort of unspoken weariness about the dog-eat-dog nature of the world, and then me forcing him into the old, "Thank you, thank you, thank you, so kind" routine. On the way home in the car, Vanessa Carlton's "A Thousand Miles" came on the radio, and from the backseat The Baby said, "I think this is a kid singing," which I thought an insanely astute critique. I have a feeling she would say the same had Jessica Simpson's new, cooey single come on next.
I've been meaning to say something about David Mead's new CD, which came out at the end of May, but that intended post kept on slipping away from me due to cancer and Vermont and writing a sentence in the previous post that pissed off the editor of an anthology I was supposed to be in so much that he kicked me out of it. I owe a lot to David, seeing as how he was the muse for both of my books. I wrote Panda after hearing the song "Robert Bradley's Postcard" off of his first album, The Luxury of Time, which is one of the top three albums that completely changed my life. Then I came up with my character, Elodie, from Stuff after listening to...um, "Elodie," off his album, Mine and Yours. I wrote a semi-review of David's newest album, Tangerine, for him, and I'm putting it up here with the sincere hope that it will encourage readers to get into his entire oeuvre, which is nothing less than magical.
by Andrea Seigel
I used to dance topless to David Mead’s first album, and perhaps I should quickly clarify by adding that this was not professionally. His songs were so anthemic that they required the tearing off of the shirt; I needed full wingspan. And when I say anthemic, I do not mean the “home of the brave” type of anthemic, where you’re being microphonically vibratoed that you are one of the “brave” when you’re really just wanting Whitney to trim that final note so you can sit down and eat your hot dog. I mean the kind of anthemic that unfurls from beneath you, closes over your scalp, creates its own magnifying force field, and for three minutes or however long, captures momentousness in the act. That’s David Mead.
It’s always been obvious to me that nostalgia is the color orange. Orange is that elusive photographic magic hour right before sunset that nobody in this world does not like. It’s the color, in different shades, of A) pretty much every carpet that shows up in my childhood photographs and B) the color the corners of those photographs are starting to turn from time and improper storage. Orange is (I’m willing to guarantee) the color of the light that fills at least ninety percent of your all-time best memories. So it is with Mead’s album Tangerine, which is an aural testament to those things, like the present, that are always already gone, but you can’t help keeping warm anyway.
The title song, mostly instrumental, is like the theme to a TV show that will change your life forever, then get prematurely canceled. “Hard To Remember” has the long lost quality of a nursery rhyme, a merry-go-round soundtrack for big people with turning, churning, obsessive memories. And with Mead singing “as long as you remember me” like it’s his most dire living wish, it’s also a song about the need to be a memory worth obsessively returning to. When you reach the chorus of “The Trouble With Henry,” the track unfurls into the decadent Love Boaty swirl of the nights of your yesteryear, stars bursting apart, raining down glittering dust on the notes. “Chatterbox,” my absolute favorite song on the album, puts me so in love with its stomping rhythm that it makes me wonder where I’ve been all my life.
By the middle of this album, I swear, you’ll already be missing it. That’s the way it is with all things good—they house a bittersweet undercurrent because you can’t help but imagine the cost of their leaving.
There’s a part of “Fighting For Your Life” that sounds just like that move performed by little girls in tap recitals, when they bend their backs and cris-cross their hands over their knees. And then after that part, those little girls go into a full-blown Fame dance-off, spinning madly, trying to get their insides out (and at some point, ending up topless in an apartment, swinging their arms, listening to David Mead). “Sugar on the Knees” is leaves falling because they’ve turned too red. Amid Halloweeny theremin, “Suddenly, A Summer Night” has Mead singing like the benevolent ghost you wish would come haunt you. And the closing number, “Choosing Teams,” tries to convince a love that “I think we’re old enough not to be sweatin’ that playground stuff,” but from the sounds of Mead’s voice, I hear him suspecting that we’re never old enough. The optimism is there, though. Pretzel-like, it twists itself into faith in another person, someone hopefully closer than all other memories.
I don’t get people interested in actively striving for inner peace. Nothing sounds worse to me than a calm immunity to those past moments in which your heart tried to punch its way out of your chest, those future ones that have the potential to rock the shit out of you. Orange, tangerine: that’s the state of always keeping those time bombs near and dear for the simple fact that they matter most. Which means thanks to David for another great album that proves the gorgeousness of a life lived riled up.