Thursday, November 10, 2011

chasing the dragon

Undiscovered pop gems are a double-edged sword for me. Few things in life give me more pleasure and satisfaction than turning someone I care about on to something they’ve never heard before, especially if they really dig it. But it’s also frustrating when it’s so clear that an artist deserves so much more than cult status amongst a small handful of maladjusted pop geeks who live for nothing so much as familiarity with things that are otherwise hopelessly esoteric and obscure. This is precisely how I feel about the late Tommy Hoehn. I love it when his great LP, Losing You to Sleep, is playing in the background and a friend says, ‘wow, who is this?’ It’s happened on more than one occasion. But then I feel sad for poor Tommy. If only things had played out a little differently, he might have received the love and respect and adulation he so richly deserved. He’s another one of those artists with whom I have to tread very carefully at the moment. He has a beautiful if also quite unusual voice, high and magnificently expressive. His songs are tuneful and hooky as can be, but the hooks convey an undeniable pathos, and when you combine them with his voice in that upper, yearning register, it leaves you with a sense of unrealized dreams and deep, painful sadness. His work is another example of beautifully tragic music, and putting this type of thing within my grasp right now – and perhaps at any time – is akin to giving a junkie a roll of tin foil, a lighter, and a two-pound bag of Persian White. Chasing after that elusive moment of transcendence is a risky proposition, one that’s bound to lead you down some dark corridors and potentially into the abyss. And yet on some level Hoehn’s music is reassuring. It’s likely to make you sad, but in doing so it confirms that you’re alive, that you’re not sleepwalking through life, and that you’re not a member of the living dead. Its music for those who are blessed with the capacity to feel, to love, to put it all on the line and maybe get hurt, yet who also know that at some point they'll draw the Ace that makes all the bets that didn’t pay off completely worthwhile. OK, with all this talk of Persian White and pulling Aces, this is starting to sound like some Garcia-Hunter dreamscape, not that that’s necessarily a bad thing, just not quite the vibe I’m going for here….The Tommy Hoehn selections on Youtube are quite limited. It gets to that negative aspect of undiscovered pop gems I was just talking about. So I hope you’ll forgive me for re-posting a tune I already talked about a few months back. On the plus side, it’s a fantastic song, with its big, dramatic sound and intense emotionality. When the tambourine kicks in and Hoehn sings ‘say goodbye’, you might feel a little overwhelmed if you’re at all like me. But be brave. Collect yourself and let yourself feel. It’s life. It’s worth it…

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