THE INSIDE OF MY HAND
by Sean
Please note: MP3s are only kept online for a short time, and if this entry is from more than a couple of weeks ago, the music probably won't be available to download any more.

 

Today I want to talk about three things that come to me by way of the sporadic but often excellent Grizzly Bear Blog. (This is the blog of the rock-band Grizzly Bear and not, unfortunately I admit, a blog about grizzly bears.)

The Crystals - "He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss)"
Grizzly Bear - "He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss)" [live on KEXP]

This is (i think) the first song that we have ever posted (i hope) which is in at least some ways a celebration of domestic abuse. The creators might claim it takes place in extenuating circumstances: the singer's been "untrue" and so when the partner takes a swing it's 'proof' he loves her. "If he didn't care for me / I could have never made him mad / but he hit me / and I was glad."

I'm not an apologist for the song - especially in the context of a girl-group like The Crystals, singing a song written for them by others (even if one of those others was Carole King!). But more interesting than this familiar critique is an exploration of the song's deeper tension, there in the distressed wall of sound that swings between Handel's Messiah and a prison march. If there's a question at the heart of this song then the answer is S&M - and not just in the cludgy, misogynistic "violence is sexy" way. Yes, the track's chorus & title are swathed in pretty, pretty instrumentation, the violence made beautiful in strings and coos. But there's also the taste of a correllary: not just roughness as love... love as roughness. Hear it in the final, triumphant line: "And when he kissed me / he made me hiss."

When Grizzly Bear take on the tune they play with precisely the same flavours. It's a more complicated reading - it's a band of men! and they're queer! - but still the voices weave in a near-hallelujah chorus, and still something sharp stalks in even the tenderest moments (hear that electric guitar, hear the brisk roll of snare).

Magic Arm - "Outdoor Games". If you could pack a fireside into a backpack, carry it with you on all your adventures, this might be how it would sound. Stop on the New Mexico highway; unpack your fireside. Pause in the English heath; unpack your fireside. Stomp through the Siberian snow; unpack your fireside. There's warmth and friendship and sweet liquors, here. There's acoustic guitar, synths, piano, hand-sounds, harmonica. There's spiced blending voices, the stuff of The Beta Band, Sleeping States, Akron/Family, Grizzly Bear, or even The Bees. There's a question over and over: "Do you have the will to end?". It's an odd question in a song as kind as this. Why make that dare? Why ask people to answer that? Unless it doesn't mean what it might. Unless it's not "Do you have the will to end [it]?" and instead, friends, "Do you have the will to [make it to the] end?"

Do you? I do.

[MySpace]

Posted by Sean at April 2, 2007 8:34 AM
Comments

i can't seem to get these to download. maybe it's something i'm doing, but you guys might check on things. lovely post, though.

Posted by karen at April 2, 2007 3:38 PM

Seconded!

Posted by Patrick at April 2, 2007 3:44 PM

I've got a post drafted and lined up about Magic Arm to - it's really interesting to read a post about a song that I've been thinking about and mulling over for the last 7 days from a writer that I enjoy.

I've felt the whole "Why make that dare? Why ask people to answer that?" thing too from this song.

The downloads are working for me Karen.

Posted by Miike at April 2, 2007 5:25 PM

Great post!

Posted by Karin S. at April 2, 2007 5:38 PM

An interesting tangent: "She kissed me (and it felt like a hit)" by Spiritualized. Discuss...

Posted by boris at April 2, 2007 5:53 PM

This song was also covered by Parenthetical Girls. Look into it if you don't know it.

Posted by Brian Nicholson at April 3, 2007 1:13 AM

i recently created my own 'metal' version of this song, though i'm not entirely sure the original wasn't intended as a critique. my myspace page is Hammerslut if you're innerested. i like to think of it as being a sonic conversation between the girl and her abusive hittin' boyfriend.

Posted by Hammerslut (esther splett) at April 3, 2007 3:31 AM

Read the wikipedia entry for that Crystals song. It's interesting stuff. I think King and company probably meant it to be every bit as disturbing as it is. It's useless speculating though.

This song is weirdly tied in my mind to Antony's "Fistful of Love." I prefer Antony's take on the them, but boy is this song spooky.

Posted by dc at April 3, 2007 7:11 AM

I thought of Spiritualized, too, Boris. Any chance one was inspired by the other?

And "Fistful of Love" was covered by Devendra Banhart for a Believer music edition...

Posted by Tim at April 3, 2007 10:12 PM

All the lyrics sites I find of this transcribe the last line as "he kissed me / and made me his", which is a bit of a different take on it.

Posted by Resa at April 11, 2007 1:19 PM

hei!
great post... so simple in words but so great in expression!
but could anyone post the lyrics of "Outdoor Games"?
Thanks!

Posted by effi at May 19, 2007 12:21 PM

Great website. Thanks. Listening to them both over and over. Haven't heard this Crystals song since it was "pulled" 2 or 3 weeks after it was originally played. I always liked the chord progressions and arrangements. Again, thanks.

Posted by kate at May 23, 2007 10:39 AM

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Sean Michaels is the founder of Said the Gramophone. He is a writer, critic and author of the theremin novel Us Conductors. Follow him on Twitter or reach him by email here. Click here to browse his posts.

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