The very lonely man is trying
to make his new apartment nicer
with a glass end table.
As he sets it on the ground outside
by the pool- to clean it-
the tabletop shatters,
not into large, manageable pieces,
but rather, into diamond-like
particles that turn his hand
into a bloody mess as he picks them
up one by one because
he’s new here, and doesn’t have a broom.
He thinks about how it’s forty degrees
where he’s from, and also
how they’re planning ahead.
Cool the air down, suck some
carbon out of the atmosphere,
and he’s wondering about his faults.
He wonders what he actually
wants to do when he’s done,
as if he could ever answer that question.
Being this lonely is new for him:
he dreams of cobblestone streets
and Mardi Gras.
No one blames the very lonely man.
He doesn’t want to take the glass
as a sign. He won’t.
Or maybe, something positive:
That when you break the whole
you may not have an end table,
but you get a chance to sit outside
and get a closer look at the ground.
You may cut your hands up,
but you get a better sense
of going slow.
Steady is Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad’s White Album, a point in their career when they neither stick to the routine nor break into an unpalatable artsy mode. Instead, they harness the absolute power of Simplicity, using musical conventions to their advantage, developing concise, poignant, beautiful songs that flow together and also span a great number of themes and styles.
For years, Giant Panda has been forerunners in contemporary roots reggae, rejecting the fancy for the flawless. Their songs always utilized keys and syncopated bass rhythms in a way that, if you didn’t know better, you could have guessed the songs were covers from class reggae artists.
It took them years to get from Slow Down to In These Times, but it didn’t take so long for GPGDS to team up with Easy Star Records- the masters of contemporary reggae production- and to come out with Steady, a more fun and party-centric album than In These Times is. Where In These Times touched on social and political issues, Steady is full of love songs, songs about family, travel, and the power of reggae music.
What bears more comparison to The Beatles is that Dan, Dylan, and James all share lead vocals, and they work together with drummer Chris to forge delicious harmonies and backing vocals. They risk some rock beats, fiery harmonica (care of the since-departed bandmate Aaron Lipp, who leaves his legacy on this record), and dances with blues and soul, but mainly they keep to roots.
A few songs have been fan favorites in the live arena for years. “.45” finally gets the studio treatment, as does “Solution”, but in all honesty every song is downright excellent. This is one of the best reggae albums ever made.
The best song might be “Nice Feeling”, offering a perpetual summer vibe. The easy skank is ridiculously heartwarming and the harmonies are inescapably gorgeous. Dylan Savage takes lead vocals, offering, “Don’t ever let this feeling/go away.” It doesn’t ever take him many words to get his message across; the lyrics are always simple but spot on and poetic. The leverage is in the band’s ability to rise and fall within the confines of the style, their breakdowns and build-ups possess the emotional connections. Here, it’s the keys solo, playing little more than the main melody, but the slight dub behind it and the quality of the recording make it memorable.
Dan Keller, although at this point a longtime member of GPGDS, really makes his mark with “Home”, a song whose lyrical construction is perplexing. The near-rhymes and flipping of lines is not conventional, but neither is it confusing. He offers, “Sing for your lovers/ sing for your enemy/ It’s time to go home.” The banjo flourish is reminiscent of John Brown’s Body circa “Forward Always”.
Steady could end up being the best reggae album of the year. The young band that a decade ago hit the road with an idea and love of the idea of modern reggae have become the wizened masters of the craft. Steady is just that, supremely balanced and forward moving.
You’ll love it.
Alone, for the first time in several days,
offers a welcome thought: I go where I want.
A rainy day- reminds me
of the mountains, in fact.
I fill my grocery bags with goods.
Now I can cook things.
I add new music to my repertoire.
I take a wrong turn, but that’s okay.
I’m led to the beach, a downtown
gray beach and its calm waters.
Empty because it’s nasty out. I see
the burger place that saved me last year,
when I was too hungry to drive
And this new home now has a bed,
now a bottle of bourbon. Now I’ve woken up
here and seen how silent the mornings
can be. Albeit, this is not Home,
not like I want it to be. It is more
like a dream, like slide guitar-
a sound not like original fingerpicking,
but you know, serves its purpose.
I will miss many things while I’m here,
but last night I went to a club without walls.
Just a pond in the middle with a bridge.
Everyone was smoking. Dancing.
It was a long way from Home, but it felt nice.
And money is an issue.
When isn’t it, though. I want to share this
place with you. I don’t want to be here
on my lonesome, with not but my mind
to talk to. Although, I bought organic soap
and will start a compost pile soon,
so you’re here in my heart. In the silent morning.
In the cusp of something more,
as rain collides with pavement and the beach
becomes not so far away.
And I think to myself, You’re going to get this
right. Maybe not at first, but you always planned
on coming in third, anyway.
It’s another lovely South Florida day. Here, the clouds are a welcome respite from otherwise unencumbered sun. At 79 degrees, with the breeze; however, sitting outside beneath one of the area’s thick, wiry trees is meditative. I read a license plate yesterday that read “The place of endless summer”, and indeed, there are no dog days and no Indian Septembers. The weather is weather-less, for the most part.
My four-year-old niece has a fever, so I’m at my sister’s place watching her while she and my brother-in-law work. Little Leah is adorable, even when sick. She sloths about the house, curling up periodically in the rocking chair with the green blanket engulfing her.
Meanwhile, I’m not well. Five weeks ago when I moved to Florida I was lively with the quest for a new life. Back to school to get a degree in psychology. I know I’m meant to work with people, to help them- and as someone suffering from Anxiety and Depression myself, I recognize the power of the Talking Cure, the hope of therapy, the need to pay attention to mental health.
My program is small, at a tiny university. I found out about Lynn because after a party at my old apartment on Pitkin St. a hooded sweatshirt was found. It was from Lynn. We asked around, but no one took ownership of it. I was considering school and looked up the university, only to find out that it’s in the same town where my sister lives. Craving a change from the monotony of Vermont roads and the crushing blows of winters in February and March, I attempted a move to a sunnier place.
Honestly, I love Florida. The people are friendlier than their stereotype. The beaches are beautiful, the water warm. The architecture, flora, and fauna are unique and worth your contemplation. I like the school. The people and professors are incredibly kind and informed. However, I am not well.
Sadness and Depression rage inside me, which people find interesting because I’m such a happy person. What most people don’t consider is that depression is independent from happiness. They do have some of the same roots, but depression is both a chemical imbalance and a loss of resilience. We get that loss of drive. Leaving, eating, sleeping, talking: these all take too much effort for the depressed person. But I’m quite happy. In love, a good family, an education, security, options… No, I’m plagued by anxiety, by the inability to make a decision. That anxiety leads to depression. I’m so exhausted by the mere thought of decision that I lose the ability to decide anything.
So I sit next to my sick niece and notice how pretty she is, and I feel terrible that she’s not feeling well. I am grateful that my niece and nephew are both intelligent, considerate, and creative people. I’ve no doubt they’ll grow up to be the same way.
Because I can’t decide on anything, I’ve been asking other people, but of course they have biases, their own problems, their own anxieties; leaving me with more fret than decision. So I consider Leah, who is just learning to grow up ever so slowly, and she’s just learning what it means to be yourself, to have your own morals and opinions, and I think that someone this pure must be enlightened, and the blissfulness of childhood must be able to bring some wisdom to my inquiry.
So I ask, “Leah, would you stay in school and miss Brooke terribly, never knowing if you’re really meant to be a psychologist?”
“So, would you move back to be with the woman you love and miss, even if it meant giving up some opportunities?”
But when I ask her what she’d do instead, because to me these are the only options, she looks away, coughs, and closes here eyes, falling asleep.
I sit down to write this blog and hope the wisdom of her eyes closing brings me some relief.