The Houston Music Blog section of the Free Press Houston.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Imagine VS Let it Be

posted by Free Press Houston @ 9:01 AM


A comparative analysis of their philosophical differences
By Omar Afra
Illustrations by Shelby Hohl


Alas, the never-ending battle between ideologues and utilitarianism pervades every bit of our world. Do we strive for an unattainable utopia or should we let go and find a happy ‘complacence’ in our dark world? Perhaps these are over simplified, out-moded strains of thought but the question remains: Can we achieve a perfect world or do we just make a happy collective sigh and say ‘fuck it’. Well, in my silly head, Lennon and McCartney were discussing these polemics in Let it be and Imagine. The dichotomy of their thinking is not only indicative of their ideological differences but their personal turmoil as well.

The two songs were written just a year apart during and after the tumultuous break-up of the Beatles that was preceded by the conflicted Get Back/Let it Be sessions. Let it Be, written during these sessions in 1970, and Imagine, written on Lennon first solo album in 1971, could easily be interpreted as a dialogue between the two on their diametrically opposing worldviews.

Imagine is a treatise of optimism for a quixotic, illusory world void of war, famine, religious strife, and probably void of McCartney as well. Lennon personally described the song as “virtually the Communist Manifesto.” The song is ardently anti-religious, anti-capitalist, anti-nationalistic, and have course, anti-McCartney. It is very easily interpreted as an extension of Plato’s Republic where the beauties of society reign supreme and there are perfect social, political, and spiritual orders. . Nonetheless, others would argue that the song does not advocate an ‘answer’ or ‘solution’ yet merely encourages the listener to ‘imagine’ these things.
Critics of the song characterize it as nothing more than the grandiose ramblings of an insulated rock star that was sitting on nearly 100 million dollars. English journalist Robert Elms said "Imagine" was written by a "multi-millionaire with one temperature-controlled room in his Manhattan mansion just to store his fur coats." Deluded or not, Imagine has had an enormous influence and impact on modern culture that reaches beyond shitty classic rock radio. President Jimmy Carter once joked that the song is played about equally with national anthems around the world

Let it Be has had a profound cultural impact but in a very different way. Many Catholic’s have adopted the song as an anthem based on a misinterpretation of the intro lyrics “ When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me.” The reference is not an ode to the Christ’s Mother but rather to McCartney’s mother who died of cancer when he was 14 years old. Stress over infighting among the Beatle’s during album sessions, McCartney had a dream where his mother visited and told him “It will be alright, just let it be.” Nonetheless, there is no denying the theistic elements of the song. Let it Be pictures a flawed world where we exercise little control other than to find acceptance and resignation. We are told “there will be answer” yet are not told what that answer may be. Just wait. It will fall from the sky. Oddly enough, the English translation to the word ‘Amen’ is ‘let it be.’ Paul bemoans that “When all the broken hearted people living in the world agree, there will be an answer.” Does this mean that the ‘answer’ manifest itself once and for all upon the moment of all ‘broken hearted people’ finding some kind of consensus. This, however, leaves me ultimately with more questions than answers. Let it Be also does a surreptitious job of capturing the spirit of The Serenity Prayer where one is encouraged to ask the Lord to “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. “ However, Let it Be relies heavily on not only Judeo Christian thought but has Buddhist tendencies as well. The song espouses detachment just as many Buddhist and Hindu doctrines prescribe release from worldly desires and expectations. Critics would call this viewpoint apathetic or even dissassociative, Lennon was not a fan of Let it Be either. He once said that McCartney was “ just trying to re-write Bridge over Troubled Waters” and that Wings as should have recorded the song opposed to the Beatles. Harsh words indeed.

Ultimately, Lennon and McCartney present strong cases for their particular world-views. Lennon typifies an idealistic yet naïve hope for a world that lacks the presence of all the stratifying differences that cause us so much strife and turmoil. We can no doubt ‘imagine’ such a place but must conscious of what are immoveable forces in our universe. Personally, I more readily subscribe to the McCartney-esque detachment put forth in Let it Be but hope the world fills up with more Imagine sympathizers. There are just way too many jaded pragmatists like myself.

Editors Note: Dating and chronology are open to dispute as journalists and Beatle’s themselves rarely share consensus of what is factual and what is merely mental residue from LSD.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Hearts of Animals

posted by Ramon Medina - LP4 @ 12:01 AM

Photography: Theresa K. © 2007

It’s a bright Saturday afternoon in the Montrose. The Westheimer block party has just begun and the larger crowds that will eventually pack the area have yet to arrive. As you step into Numbers, the darkness envelops you until your eyes adjust. On stage is a woman behind a microphone holding a guitar; a Macbook sits atop a folding chair to her right. She reaches down - punches a key. A drum machine echoes though the cavernous room. She begins picking notes on the guitar and she sings. The songs she sings evoke a loneliness and weariness earned through experience: bright poppy melodies that ring of hope and beauty with an undercurrent of sadness. If pop music is intended to be trite and disposable, in the hands of Mlee Suprean’s Hearts of Animals pop becomes something more – through her lyrics, sense of melody, and rich textures – it becomes literary.

You could argue that music is in her blood. Her father’s a talented bass player whose hook-filled work graces a few Hearts of Animals tracks. Her mother’s side of the family were talented West Virginian folk musicians and the family still retains old scratchy records of family members performing Appalachian songs. Mlee retains that organic approach to music. She graduated with a music degree (half of a double major) from HBU yet, to her professor’s frustration, she resisted music theory; “It was like re-wiring my brain. I play by ear, so it was very difficult learning and applying the math of music. I let my emotions write my music instead of trying to force my technical learning into my songwriting.” Her latest EP is a perfect example of her writing from her gut. “I was going through a separation, I was ready to move on, and I’d never acted on that before.” It had been a year since she had written anything then “one night that summer I sat on the balcony and wrote three songs.” She later followed up this spark with four more songs that appeared on the Hearts of Animals debut EP Lemming Baby. It’s an EP rich in emotion and immediacy. Stars Say No, for example, deals with the realization that the one you are with may not be the right person. The song plays on a Big Audio Dynamite song; in response to Mick Jones’ Mr. Walker saying, “We’re heaven made”, Mlee’s Mr. Walker concedes that the astrology is all wrong. Twenty Questions’ bouncy bass line and sweet melody are belied by the nastiness of being confronted by a lover’s suspicions. It’s all pretty heavy stuff for a pop song but not all of her debut is all dramatic soul searching. Take Underwater Staggie’s psychedelic pop which puts you next to Mlee as her friend Stagner discusses 2012, giants, astrology, and Houston’s eventual submersion into the Gulf of Mexico. The songs lyrical content is playful, the melody is gorgeous, and the attention to texture, instrumentation, and arrangement is nothing short of masterful.

Hearts of Animals’ current incarnation was something Mlee arrived at through an evolutionary process. The project became a personal challenge to prove to herself that she could indeed hold an audience’s attention, “By nature, I’m antsy. If I get bored with a band, I leave. Last summer I was playing at coffee houses then, I threw-out beats and people freaked out.” Beats and volume are hardly a coffee house staple but she followed her instincts and audiences loved it - volume and all. The physicality of volume is something Mlee relishes, “With a show, I want ears to hurt a little bit otherwise I’d be at home listening to the record.” The use of prerecorded tracks came a bit later as she initially felt it would be “cheesy” but after some prompting she gave it a go and, again, the risk paid off.

Beyond the rich melodies, textures, and performance, what holds audience's attention is Mlee’s ability to write songs that are universal and yet very personal. The songs are not mere melodrama but are honest and conflicted internal dialogues where the narrator remains unsure and hesitant because, in life, choices have consequences. Mlee then takes that tension between fear and hope within the songs and grounds them in a particular sense of place – take the recurring seaside motifs for example. These sprinkled settings create a very real and tactile world yet there is a haze between what is literal and what is metaphorical and between what is said and what is unsaid. “I think there is a skill in expressing something without saying it. I like a story with lots of color, where I give them a window, but where people are left wanting more. I don’t want people settled; I want them engaged and intrigued. It’s like the end of Lost in Translation. What does he say?”



Hearts of Animals performs at the final night of The Texas
Gone Garage festival on Sunday December 16th at Rudyard’s. For more
information see http://rudyards.s425.sureserver.com/TGG/.


====Additional Web Links and Information===


Hearts of Animals plays with the Dimes and Sunset at Sound
Exchange on Friday 07 December 2007 (Poster)


Also, there is a nice Houstonist article on Hearts of
Animals that was juts posted today that is a nice compliment
to this article.

See: http://houstonist.com/2007/12/07/interview_mlee.php


Hearts of Animals on Mysapce


MleeMarie on Myspace

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