March 2012

Real Life
Rock Top Ten

A Monthly Column
of Everyday Culture
and Found Objects

by Greil Marcus

(1) Roots, Undun. Even if you catch only a phrase here and there, the story this shape-shifting album tells is plain. Just through the feel of the music, you know you are following the story of a single person, as he slowly pulls himself out of simple questions and simple answers and into a sense of self that throws off anyone else’s idea of who he’s supposed to be, even if he’s drowning in confusion, conflict, voices hammering in his head, all answers to any questions far behind him. The voices telling his tale continually change—on “Lighthouse,” the sound couldn’t be more toothpaste, but it’s also a relief from the street life swirling around it. There’s a reason the Geto Boys’ “Mind Playing Tricks on Me” is quoted early on: the same humility, the same sense of struggling to know what you don’t know, runs through the songs like a river to cross. The rapping is close to ordinary speech—the bravado, the sneer, that makes so much rapping one-dimensional and tiresome isn’t in this music. But the more you listen the more you hear—stray echoes of Dion & the Belmonts, Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise,” the ambition and the willingness to slow down, not to rush, of Sly and the Family Stone’s There’s a Riot Goin’ On. You don’t want this to end, and not only because of dread at what the ending will be.

(2) A Place to Bury Strangers, Onwards to the Wall (Deep Oceans). From New York, the spirit of Joy Division—until the riptide of the title song, when the band all but changes places with New Order. But New Order never had a singer like Alanna Nuala—a.k.a. Moon—who as she rides through the middle of the number could be a horsewoman riding a ghost.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

To read the full piece, please visit our store to purchase a copy of the magazine.

Greil Marcus is the author of Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century, Mystery Train: Images of America in Rock ‘n’ Roll Music, and The Shape of Things to Come: Prophecy and the American Voice, and other books. His column, Real Life Rock Top Ten, runs monthly in the Believer.

News on Facebook Photos on Instagram Stuff on Pinterest Announcements by RSS Sounds on Soundcloud Exclusives on Tumblr Updates on Twitter

Subscribe to our mailing list