Poison Me Against the Moon (Mother)

Mother (1992)

Mother (live, 1992)

Mother (live, 1996)

Mother (live, 2005, official bootleg)

Mother (live, 2007, official bootleg, Tori Set)

Mother (live, 2014)

“Mother” unfolds with strange formality, opening with a minute-long instrumental prelude in Cm before the song proper begins in Gb. (The official sheet music omits this entirely, beginning at the start of the main piano line.) It’s scarcely the only time Amos will use an approach like this—she’ll use the same trick next album on “Icicle,”for instance. But it grounds the song more in Amos’s classical training than anything else on Little Earthquakes, giving the song a strange and almost ritualistic feel when compared to anything around it. 

This fits the strange confrontation within it. “Mother” is structured around a relationship of authority—it opens in the imperative: “go, go, go, go now / out of the nest it’s time,” and with instructions to “tuck those ribbons under / your helmet be a good soldier.” But Amos is in no way content to play the submissive underling. The song’s narrative voice bleeds from mother to daughter, shifting midway through the first verse. And the daughter is far from compliant, keeping secrets and plotting her escape.  ...

A Ghost Story for Samhainn

Calder's Room

 

Thomas Calder, a lieutenant in the 1st Surreys, was sent back to England in autumn 1917 after being injured during the Battle of the Somme.  He spent a week or so in a conventional military hospital in France, but his wounds were primarily psychic rather than physical, so he was sent back to England, and to Sandilands.

Sandilands had by that time come under the directorship of Dr. K. J. Ravichandra.  Ravichandra was marked out by his universally acknowledged skill, and by his advanced and humane ideas.  Before his advent, Sandilands had effectively been a torture chamber for men who were considered weak and cowardly, in need of being shocked or bullied back to obedience.  Whatever our modern opinion of Ravichandra’s approach, there can be little doubt that his informal and conversational style represented an improvement on treatment through freezing cold water, or electric shock, or cigarette burn.  The men who came under Ravichandra’s care at Sandilands - an Elizabethan manor in East Anglia, bought by the government and converted for use as an Army psychiatric hospital - generally showed great improvement. Calder turned out to be something of an exception. 

One ...

Love Isn't Forever (Leather)

Leather (live, 1991)

Leather (1992)

Leather (live, 1997)

Improv/Leather (live, 2003)

Leather (official bootleg, 2005)

Leather (TV performance, 2005)

Leather (official bootleg, 2007, Tori set)

Leather (live w/orchestra, 2012)

Leather (live, 2017)

The confessional mode of songwriting is full of pitfalls for a critic, and “Leather” offers us opportunities to topple into all of them. The song creates as aggressive an intimacy as is possible: “Look I’m standing naked before you,” it opens, immediately making its singer vulnerable with regards to the listener. From there we plunge into debasement: “don’t you want more than my sex? / I can scream as loud as your last one / but I can’t claim innocence.” There is an immediate sense of knowing more than we should—a feeling that we’ve been brought into a space we do not belong. 

It’s a trick, of course. To state the obvious, Amos is not standing naked before us. The line is a sly game of medium. “Look,” Amos proclaims in an entirely auditory form. “I’m standing,” she says on a recording that was already two years old when it was released to the public. “Naked before you,” she declares from a ...

I Don't Speak German, Episode 34 - The Grift Question

This week, we look at a bit more Nazi infighting, and talk a little bit about some reactions we've had...

Content Warning.

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Show Notes:

"This Podcaster Dug Into the World of Neo-Nazis. Now They've Put a Target on His Back." https://www.thedailybeast.com/i-dont-speak-german-podcaster-daniel-herman-exposed-neo-nazis-now-he-has-a-target-on-his-back

"In early September, Harper and his co-host released a pair of episodes that focused on the adherents of an obscure neo-Nazi author named James Mason. A book Mason wrote has become a bible of sorts for terroristic neo-Nazi groups like Atomwaffen Division, and it has helped spawn a new wave of so-called accelerationists—people who believe societal collapse is the quickest way to create an all-white ethnostate.

Many of those adherents flocked to Telegram, the encrypted messaging app, in recent months after getting booted from other social media platforms. And they’ve created their own enclave there, which they refer to as “Terrorgram.”

It was there, in the Terrorgram community, that the threats against Harper took shape.

On Sept. 11, an anonymous post appeared on one of the Terrorgram channels, telling people to send Harper “fan mail” at his address in Michigan.

The following day, the same channel published a video ...

The Tiny Pressure of My Thumb, Enough to Break the Glass, Would End Everything

Boys in Their Dresses will be around later this week. For now... something new. You may find yourself wanting a link to my Patreon for this...

A critic once, in a moment of naiveté that hovers between sweet and pathetic, once asserted that "as long as there are stories, there are Doctor Who stories. When the stars go out and the universe freezes, around the last fire on the last world, there will still be Doctor Who stories to tell. And when we are done telling them, at long and final last, in the distance will be a strange wheezing, groaning sound. And out will step an impossible man, and he will save the day." Perhaps it's true that Doctor Who will last until the end of stories, but the reality is that this threshold is very likely a couple of decades away, and will happen right here on this planet as manmade climate change triggers a civilizational apocalypse. In which case there's really not a lot that an imperial adventure hero with a busted-up time machine is going to do for us.

Nevertheless, Doctor Who provides a fascinating record of the fall. The 20th century, particularly the ...

I Don't Speak German, Episode 33 - Nazi Infighting (News Roundup)

Daniel updates Jack on the latest round of infighting among the fascists.

Content Warning

Permalink / Direct Download

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Show Notes:

Southern Dingo, "I Don't Speak Bitch," https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LHdv8JsbhQM

ABC News: "FBI arrests Army soldier who allegedly discussed plans to bomb major American news network" https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/fbi-arrests-army-soldier-allegedly-discussed-plans-bomb/story?id=65802902

Jarrett Smith indictment: https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/6431405-Jarrett-William-Smith-indictment-September-2019.html

Christopher Cantwell, "Reponse to Motion 20190925." https://christophercantwell.com/2019/09/25/response-to-motion-20190925/

"The Accelerationists believe that all is lost for White America, and that the only hope we have for salvation is to bring the existing system crashing down by helping the Democrat Party and engaging in shocking acts of terrorism and mass murder. Their thinking on this is roughly that once the system is collapsed, the citizenry will welcome the iron fisted rule of Nazis who will restore order by force.

Though they make a compelling case, I differ from their view on this. I support the President of the United States, they do not. I support the Republican Party, they do not. I want to save America from collapse, they do not. We are part of rival factions, and ...

An Empty Cage Girl (Crucify)

Crucify (live, 1991)

Crucify (TV performance, 1991)

Crucify (1992)

Crucify (music video, 1992)

Crucify (single mix, 1992)

Crucify (Top of the Pops, 1992)

Crucify (TV performance, 1992)

Crucify (TV performance, 1993)

Crucify (live, 1998)

Crucify (TV performance, 1999)

Crucify (TV performance, 2002)

Crucify (live, 2003)

Crucify (official bootleg, 2007, Tori set)

Crucify (radio performance, 2009)

Graveyard/Crucify (TV performance, 2015)

There is a teenage girl, though she doesn’t know it. I don’t remember how she came to Little Earthquakes. More likely than not, it was recommended to her by someone at CTY, the academic summer camp she went to and met all the other awkward teen weirdo nerds, no small portion of which, it turned out, were self-closeted queers just like her. That or she just saw mention of Tori Amos online in discussions of other music she was into, which, alongside a smattering of the contemporary alternative scene, was mostly female singer-songwriters.

Sitting in her bed, she presses play on the CD. It’s immediately clear that Amos fit the bill of her taste. But it’s just as immediately clear that there was more to this than merely being “her thing.” The first forty-five seconds of “Crucify” are an ...

Butterflies Don't Belong in Nets (Mary)

Mary (1992)

Mary (1992, live)

Mary (2003)

Mary (2003, web concert)

Mary (2007, official bootleg, Clyde set)

Let’s begin on January 11th, 1967, in London, where the Jimi Hendrix Experience went into the studio and to cut “Purple Haze.” With twenty minutes left in the session, they decided to cut a quick demo of a newly written song as well, “The Wind Cries Mary.” Written by Hendrix following a screaming fight with his then-girlfriend Kathy Etchingham (Mary being her middle name, which Hendrix would use to annoy her) over whether her mashed potatoes were too lumpy, the song is a downbeat R&B number with lyrics that can be best described as a sad man’s psychedelic whinge. 

A quarter-century later, Tori Amos stepped into a Capitol Records studio with Davitt Sigerson to pen a response of sorts. “Mary” is no straightforward response song reimagining events from Etchingham’s perspective—indeed it’s not even about her in any sense. Nor is it hostile to Hendrix to any real degree—he’s invoked on a chummy first-name basis in the second part of the chorus by way of reassuring the eponymous Mary that “even the wind cries your name.” 

Amos, instead ...

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