Saturday, January 29, 2011

Artists as canaries in the coal mine

This was one of Kurt Vonnegut's phrases from his later years. But I've realised that it has a major flaw: 'artist' is a much misused word.

My own favourite artists in music are Tom Waits (check this clip for a wonderful mixture of vid and aud), Bob Dylan, Chris Rea.

If you look at Dylan's 'World Gone Wrong' cover notes from 1993, my take is that he spotted the coming shitstorm and nailed it in a few characteristically obtuse phrases, ostensibly about the music. Same with Tom Waits - Bone Machine and The Black Rider, also from the same period. Chris Rea - Road to hell or Expresso Logic.

All these guys sensed something in the atmosphere, and reacted in their own ways. Not necessarily in a form that could be consumed instantly, or even comprehended at all. But in the 20/20 basilisk stare of hindsight, man, did they all make sense.