Monday, April 23, 2007

A cat in a bag and a flickering streetlight.

In order to properly convey my sentiments regarding this musically narrated snippet of my life, it's necessary that I give a little bit of context. It had just gone from dusk to night time, I had hopped off a bus and was walking briskly homeward. The night's chill was proving to be more intense than my light cotton hoodie was designed to give me protection from. I had in my ears Andrew Bird's most recent album Armchair Apocrypha, and was listening for the first time. I had in my arms a large coarse brown paper bag, containing a smaller blue vinyl bag of mine, which in an unrelated incident had broken earlier in the day. Finding that my earphone cord would not reach my ears if I held the bag by its handles, I hefted it up into a position in which I was cradling it. At approximately the same time, the streetlight I was under at that moment for whatever reason began to flicker, creating one of those sublimely clich├ęd cinematic moments in which you know the subject of the film will soon be entering a slightly paranormal or metaphysical world and state of being. Such a thing did, in fact, happen, to the accompaniment of the 6th song on the aforementioned album, Dark Matter. (It should be stressed here that the version in question is that found on the aforementioned album, not Fingerlings 3.)

Andrew Bird - Dark Matter

The music was unmatched for the situation and the thoughts presently running through my head. The song opens with a mildly haunting whistle, quite stark, particularly when juxtaposed with the closing of the preceding song. The bag I cradled in my arms was of about the weight of a small cat. The situation reminded me of one evening in the October school holidays of 1994. My cat had been behaving oddly for the day leading up to it, and had reached the end of her dignified life. I was taken, holding the cat, to my vet-uncle's surgery to find out what was wrong with her, and, as it turned out, to have her put down. We returned home with her body, packaged in a large coarse paper bag similar to the one I held. Needless to say, I, a child closely attached to his cat cradled the bag with her within.

The package I held reignited these memories quite thoroughly, all within the opening 30 seconds of the song. Shortly, mildly tribal, heavily Joy Division influenced drums entered, accompanied by Bird singing the lyrics "When I was just a little boy/I threw all away all of my action toys." These lyrics rang somewhat poignantly with my then present train of thought, that of dead childhood cats.

The drums, guitarwork, pizzicato violins, whistling and vocals continued to waver their way around one another, stark and rich in such quick succession it is difficult to separate them from one another within the song, creating the illusion of their simultaneous yet opposite existence. The song crashes in places with the violence and abruptness of a dead pet, and haunts with a sad childhood memory all the while forging a smooth organic and heartfelt collection of sound. The irrelevant cinematic aspect aside, walking home at night, reminiscing is well accompanied by Mr Bird.

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