WOWEE ZOWEE (21)
May 23, 2018
One in a series of enthusiastic posts, contributed by HILOBROW friends and regulars, on the subject of our favorite albums of the Nineties (1994–2003). A new installment in this series will appear each Wednesday during 2018.
MEZZANINE | MASSIVE ATTACK | 1998
Somehow I did not visit Los Angeles until 1998, when I was already in my mid-40s. Perhaps to compensate for this, the sainted editor who sent me there on assignment fixed me up with a rental Mustang and her favorite room at the Chateau Marmont. (I got stuck so long on the rush-hour freeway that they gave away the room, compensating with a closet in their basement, but whatever.) I was excited that the car had a CD player, a novelty for me, so I went to nearby Tower Records for a soundtrack and there spotted Massive Attack’s brand-new Mezzanine. I’d never heard them, but the cover, the mandible of a hugely magnified insect, compelled me to buy it.
And I wasn’t wrong. The thing immediately engulfed all space, from the car interior out into the streets, coloring everything I looked at. The syncopated clicks, the ricocheting effects, the crashing cymbals, the sepulchral synth tones, the surround-sound bass — and then the yearning, sacramental singing by the great crooner Horace Andy. Mezzanine occurs on a vast plane, a stage many city blocks wide, sparsely populated by instruments made all the more definitive by their separation. Enthroned in the center is a voice — preferably Andy’s or Elizabeth Fraser’s or Sara Jay’s — which pours human feeling on those highly polished surfaces.
As I drove on Sunset, on Wilshire, on Pico, on Venice, on Santa Monica, all the nightime boulevards became a single long echo chamber, the percussion rendered as roadside lights, the bass supplied by the engine, the melody unfolding at throat level, one face at a time appearing just beyond the windshield in the dark, pleading or complaining or giving notice, looking directly into my eyes. The music, made by people from Bristol, out of dub by krautrock and postpunk — or something like that — became and remains for me the expression of a vehicle traveling in a zigzag pattern across megalopolis. Every cylindrical high-rise is preserved in its groove, along with every strip mall, every bailbonds shack, every barbecue stand, every cyclone fence, every police action, every invisible star.
WOWEE ZOWEE: Stephanie Burt on UNISEX | Anindita Basu Sempere on UNDER THE PINK | Mark Kingwell on DUMMY | Bill Nericcio on AMOR PROHIBIDO | Sherri Wasserman on HIPS AND MAKERS | Mimi Lipson on THANK YOU | John Overholt on BEN FOLDS FIVE | Jordan Ellenberg on GET LOST | Chelsey Johnson on PERSONAL BEST | Marilyn Snell on MAXINQUAYE | Dan Fox on DIFFERENT CLASS | Devin McKinney on IF YOU’RE FEELING SINISTER | Alice Boone on MTV UNPLUGGED (ALICE IN CHAINS) | Rob Wringham on SPICE | Joe Alterio on BEATS, RHYMES AND LIFE | Jason Loeffler on SECOND TOUGHEST IN THE INFANTS | Rick Pinchera on EITHER/OR | Josh Glenn on THE LONESOME CROWDED WEST | Jennifer Krasinski on SUPA DUPA FLY | Sara Ryan on DIG ME OUT | Luc Sante on MEZZANINE | Molly Wright Steenson on I CAN HEAR THE HEART BEATING AS ONE | Franklin Bruno on ENGLAND MADE ME | Michael Campochiaro on IS THIS DESIRE? | Adrienne Crew on CALIFORNICATION | Drew Daniel on I SEE A DARKNESS | Veda Hille on THE SOFT BULLETIN | Vanessa Berry on TEENAGE SNUFF FILM | Tom Kipp on GET SKINTIGHT | David Hirmes on DOPETHRONE | John Hilgart on YORK BLVD. | Deborah Wassertzug on JOURNEY TO THE END OF THE NIGHT | Adam McGovern on INVINCIBLE SUMMER | Brian Berger on TIRED SOUNDS OF… | Michael Grasso on MUSIC HAS THE RIGHT TO CHILDREN | Jen Collins on HURRAH | Flourish Klink on THE TEACHES OF PEACHES | Judith Zissman on TALLAHASSEE | Lauren Oliver on SOUND-DUST | Jason Cohen on IS THIS IT | Matthew De Abaitua on THE RAINBOW CHILDREN | Jenny Davidson on TIME (THE REVELATOR) | Crystal Durant on LIVE THROUGH THIS | Gordon Dahlquist on GARBAGE | Erin M. Routson on WASHING MACHINE | Carl Wilson on TEMPTING | Jessamyn West on ALL HAIL WEST TEXAS | Kaleb Horton on STREETCORE | Tom Nealon on BAZOOKA TOOTH | Erik Davis on DOPESMOKER | David Levine on FEVER TO TELL | Deb Chachra on MASS ROMANTIC.
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