“Massive Attack’s ‘Teardrop’ is the Best Song Ever and it Might Be about, Uh, Something…”

I just got a nice little anecdote on Facebook yesterday that we’ve come now to the 20th anniv. of Mezzanine, all the more commendable for benchmarking a reissue that isn’t VINYL. The exact reasons why I disdain the vending of vinyl records these days are many, some of which include the facts that the most vital urban American music today is produced digitally, including of course trip-hop, as well as that I personally am a working class type of mutha (typically vital artists don’t reside in high rise apartments overlooking South Beach, I’ve observed) and those suckin’ records are expensive, similar to how PBR went up in price when it became a hipster staple. Also, I don’t really care what color the thing I put into my music player is. Maybe I’m insensitive.

Well, that’s ironic, because Mezzanine happens to be this awesome orange CD I got about 10 years too late, or 10 years ago, by virtue of having seen it on Pitchfork‘s “Top 100 Albums of the 1990s” list, I must confess. As an overall listen, it’s definitely patchy in my opinion and I did not include it on my own ’90s top 100, but on the other hand, I’ve never witnessed anybody taking in “Teardrop,” the album’s third track, and not becoming completely enrapt in its aching, flustered beauty.

Perhaps related to how the album doesn’t necessarily provide consistency as its forte, it almost in a sense seems like a case of “too many cooks in the kitchen,” with I BELIEVE three different vocalists all assuming lead roles in one of the first three songs. By number three it’s Liz Fraser’s turn. Liz Fraser, so I just found out from a friend today, is Scottish in origin, the main woman behind the vocals of the Cocteau Twins. Like I said before, the level of completely effervescent transcendence is absolutely undeniable with her. It’s a disarming musical document which doesn’t necessarily lend itself to the semantic analysis of what the song is “about.”

Nonetheless, and I’m definitely not talking about me here, but I definitely meet a lot of government spies in the world who just HAVE to know what every little thing is about (they would have made great Spanish Inquisition clerks)… well I’m here today to say… it doesn’t matter what it’s about! And this is not one of my dopey pardon-the-artist, give-them-the-benefit-of-the-doubt proclamations either, though I am certainly prone to those. The reason why it doesn’t matter what it’s about is that nothing, no object in the spatial realm of the universe, truly exists. Everything, every car, every person, every meat packing warehouse, will one day dissolve, whether it’s under erosion, or if the earth pummels through a black hole in outer space or whatever — nothing exists in a permanent sense. And just as this very phenomenon isn’t truly understandable, isn’t truly graspable, by our mortal minds, neither is the celestial beauty of “Teardrop” — you can track it in terms of meter, of phrasing, of structure and notes, but by the time you’ve become to do this, scientifically within time, it’s already evolved. It moves along out of the speakers like a spherical ball with perfect purpose, never stagnating or truly declaring itself to be anything at all in terms of how we typically know “things.” It is great for the very reason that its luster resides beyond the mechanisms of our mundane comprehension as humans.

I once saw a great movie called Manic where one denizen in the teen psych ward articulates at one point that “I’d be so fu**in’ dead without music” and then another time goes “I’d rather feel awesome as fu** once in a while and shi**y the rest of the time than just ok all of the time…  fu** mediocrity.” And not that I necessarily agree with him or recommend this volatile mindset to the unseasoned, necessarily, but he does I think to a degree hit on the phenomenological approach of a great piece of music like “Teardrop.” There is a sense of danger in there — of the transcendence of time, like not knowing what’s around the next corner. Sometimes that’s all you have.

Leave a Reply