golden feelings

I like New York best when it's quietly epic, when the F train rattling across the elevated tracks in Brooklyn falls silent and everyone stares out a different window, watching rooftops. I like drifting alone down busy streets, the bridges and the hazy sunsets, seeing a yellow dress left hanging over a fourth-story fire escape. As often as my feet itch and my dreams plague me with forests and fields, I will always love those particular city-things.

Bands like the Strokes and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs wind up on magazine covers under headlines dubbing them "the New York sound," but sometimes the retro-thrash rebel-yelling puts me in mind only of those things I hate about New York: the fashion parades, the rushing, the jostling, the crashing din between my ears. I think, why can't the New York sound be more... quietly epic? Why don't we dethrone everyone in tight trousers and hand the key of the city over to F.M. Cornog?

Cornog, better known as East River Pipe, makes beautifully cinematic pop songs that never stray into the Pretentious Zone. The emotion is palpable but restrained, and while Cornog records most of his work by himself at home, you'd hardly know it. One listen and you can tell you're dealing with a master craftsman.

While most of East River Pipe's songs are laden with melancholy, they're somehow not depressing. Perhaps it's the gorgeous synthesizers, or the soothing drum machine, or the soaring yet simple melody lines. Perhaps it's F.M.'s voice, tinged with weariness but also with strength and authority. I've been around, this voice says. Let me tell you. Much has been made of Cornog's past (for several years he was homeless, sleeping in subway stations); he met a woman who helped him get back on his feet and into a home recording studio in Astoria. A native of New Jersey, an interviewer once noted that the only decor in his studio were old postcards of Asbury Park, itself a fertile ground of beautiful decay, nostalgia and hope. In another interview, Cornog summarized his past battles with alcoholism and homelessness by quoting Bob Dylan: "It's possible to be so defiled in this world that even your mother and father won't know you. But God will always believe in your ability to mend your own ways."

Therein, I think, lies the East River Pipe philosophy - existential despair (urban existential despair particularly) cannot be denied. But there's a light at the end of every tunnel, and millions across every bridge.

Epitonic has a fine East River Pipe page.
Find East River Pipe releases from the friendly folks at Merge.
F.M. prefers the Tascam 388.

Songs to seek: "Make a Deal with the City" from Shining Hours in a Can; "When the Ground Walks Away" from Poor Fricky.

ps. F.M. has also played with those wacky Lambchop-ers, but all I know about them is that they bill themselves as "Nashville's most fucked-up country band."



Blogger Marta said...

this is a beautiful post. clap clap heart heart...

11:18 AM, July 19, 2005  

Post a Comment

<< Home