he’s always alone, even with someone he loves

January 24, 2010

So I was standing in my kitchen, making lunches for the week and listening to the newest Guy Clark album* and thinking about how much I love his voice. And then I started thinking about how I can’t really describe it, the mental pictures I get from his music. It’s sad and spare and sometimes kind of wistful. It makes me think of empty landscapes, of grey skies and open prairies and long drives when you’re all alone. It’s music for outlaws and loners and others on the edge of society.

And then I started thinking about our images of the West, about opportunity and disappointment, boom and bust, sunshine and darkness, glamour and grit. I thought about how for every story of striking it rich and reinventing yourself, there’s a story of the sad loner, of the doomed outlaw, the starlet who never made it.

And then I thought about the noir genre, so much of which is located in Southern California. I’m certainly not the first to point out that while noir was partly a response to post-war America, it was also a response to Hollywood. It rose just after the first true gilded age of the movie business, when Los Angeles became home to the modern Gold Rush. Noir is about darkness and grime; when set in L.A., it’s about the dirt underneath the glitter, about has-beens and failed starlets in a town that thrives on celebrity.

I don’t really have a point here. Mostly just thinking out loud to see what came of it.

* Which is excellent, by the way, and not just because he specifically mentions whiskey in three separate songs. Also not just because there’s a song called “Eamon” and I’m a known lover of Gaelic names. Sometimes I really do judge things on their merits, okay?


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