It's a kind of ... synaesthesia?, I guess.
But before I can explain what I mean by that, I need first to make a confession about how perennially late to the party I am.
See, I only just this past month or so finally twigged to the full flowering of the fiery genius that is Faith No More and Mike Patton.
And — double dose of irony incoming — it was touched off when I heard "Epic" blasted out in the car courtesy of the local "classic rock" outlet. THAT'S RIGHT, FAITH NO MORE IS "CLASSIC ROCK" NOW, AND BY THE WAY A GOOD TWO-THIRDS OF YOUR CHILDHOOD HEROES ARE DEAD, TOO, IN CASE YOU WEREN'T KEEPING SCORE THERE EITHER.
Some part of the back of my mind knew, in a passive way, that FNM were worth far more than one-hit-wonder status. I owned The Real Thing, but that was the limit of my experience with them, and I was starting to realize I might have been missing out heftily. So I got cozy with Spotify for an hour or two and got caught up with everything else since.
Two-and-a-half things came from such an experiment. The first was a clutch of great-to-outstanding songs from the FNM fold that I hadn't known about before. I have a hard time getting into new (old) music of any kind — it's easy to fall into ruts when you already have literally thousands of albums in your music library — so any time something cuts through to my ears the way sunlight smashes through the trees and warms the face, I listen up. And when tracks like "Smaller And Smaller", "Midlife Crisis", "Ashes To Ashes", "King For A Day" (god damn is that song ever prophetic/relevant now) and so on stepped up and made themselves known, I did more than just listen up, I listened in.
It's been said that everyone has at least one book in them, and I'm inclined to think the same goes for every band. Listen to enough of any band that has a voice of their own, impossible to mistake for any other, and you'll hear something irreplaceable. This goes beyond the way (as Chuck Eddy put it) all you have to do is take in the first two bars of any song by Led Zep or X and you know whose company you're in. After a while, with such a bad, you're not just hearing music, but what sounds like the soundtrack to a story, a specific story with a specific point of view.
It's a kind of synaesthesia, like I said. Maybe it's also like reverse engineering: If this is the soundtrack, what was the movie like? And again, not just because things sound a certain way, not just because something fast-moving and exciting implies an action sequence, but because the choice of sound + lyrics + attitude + insight implies how the world is seen. And it's by way of a specific seeing of the world that a story comes to be.
Every book I've created has its own playlist. With some bands, the sum total of their music scatters so far and wide I end up picking and choosing from their repertoire across multiple works. Skinny Puppy songs end up on most every playlist for most every book I write, although in every single case, to totally different ends. But FNM is ... well, singular, for lack of a better word. Their whole body of work begs to lend itself to a single story.
So what kind of story? I'm not sure. I leave that door standing open freely for now, to let whatever may walk through it come in and make itself at home. Maybe by the end of the year I'll have had enough kitchen-table conversation with such transients to form an idea of what
One other band I've had this kind of singular an experience with: Killing Joke. As with FNM, I have some tentative door-ajar plans for how KJ's worldview could coalesce into a narrative, but nothing specific. But the impulse is there. Hear what the music has to say in its own words (and music), and translate that into a narrative. A kind of synaesthesia. One of the best kinds.