Thursday, March 28, 2013

van duren

I know I’ve used this line before, but it’s especially apropos in this case.  So here goes: When people ask me what kind of music I like, I tell them I like Van Duren… There. I repeated myself. So sue me mothafuckah. But seriously, Van Duren is a fascinating cat. The information readily available on him is fairly limited, but he strikes me as a guy who fashioned himself as Memphis’ answer to Warren Zevon. Of course, if you take Warren Zevon out of LA, he ceases to be Warren Zevon, at least as we know and love him, passed out with his face down in the pavement outside the Troubadour.  Nevertheless, Zevon and Duren have similar sensibilities, which I would characterize as a compelling admixture of acerbic wit, romantic fatalism, and the kind of weirdness that could only grow out of the bizarro cultural soil of the 70s. And their actual melodies, arrangements and riffs overlap as well. Christ, they even looked similar back in the day, though Zevon was obviously the more visible of the two on the national stage.  And that’s another thing that makes Van Duren so interesting to me.  He provides further proof that white power popsters from Memphis have always been doomed to obscurity until well after the peak of their artistic productivity has passed. In the mid 70s, Duren existed within the same orbit as the Scruffs and Tommy Hoehn (with whom he subsequently recorded a few critically well received but otherwise largely unheard albums), and he even tried out for Big Star after Chris Bell’s departure. In a more just world, one where people wouldn’t have such bad taste, Duren’s debut solo record, Are You Serious?, would have made him a huge star. The tunes are undeniably poppy, but there’s a singer-sonwriter-ness to his approach that makes the music a little more difficult to pigeonhole. He wouldn’t have been out of place, necessarily, opening for Tom Petty, but neither would he fit in comfortably back stage with the Heartbreakers as they snorted lines off the firm and flawless tushies of all their young groupies. Part of it is that Duren’s music, while hooky and pleasing, is atypical. You have to work a little harder before the infectiousness sinks in.  And there’s an aspect of his whole vibe that seems detached and even a tad misanthropic.  It gives one pause, for instance, to hear him sing a line like and now the older I grow, the harder I find it to really love. It's not your garden variety pop music sentiment or something you’d be inclined to drop into casual conversation. I have that same thought all the time, and the feeling gets stronger in me every day, but I’ll be damned if I’m gonna share it with anyone other than the trained professional I pay $150 per hour to sit quietly and listen to all my dark shit…

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this. New album out--interested?