Song Of The Day: Big Black "Kerosene"!




"This is a song Jerry Lee Lewis wrote before he killed one of his wives."

And with that, Steve Albini began scraping at his guitar, squeezing out a riff that, to this day, always reminds me of a Kenny Loggins song I refuse to name. By the time the rest of the band comes in, there is already a tension in the air that builds throughout the song, unrelenting like a piece of industrial machinery with a broken "OFF" switch.

Where most conventional pop hits provide the listener some sort of release -  an "ebb and flow", if you will - "Kerosene" is the furthest thing on the planet from a a pop hit, having neither the time nor the patience for such tomfoolery.

In Albini's hands, the song's protagonist (or antagonist depending on your POV) could just as easily be the next kid to walk into a school with a loaded automatic weapon. motivated not by a cause or a belief, but by boredom, plain and simple.

See, unlike a Ray Davies, who is widely regarded as a genius at painting lyrical portraits of everyday people living in screaming silence that are somehow quaint and familiar, Albini sings unflinchingly of real-life characters stuck in shithole towns where death and dismemberment are the only thing keeping the town alive.

Kurt Cobain sang of boredom, too, but never saw outside of himself. While Albini sings in the first person, you never actually get the feeling that he's singing about himself, that he is merely reporting on that which he has seen. Even so, there is no detachment from the subject, but a sort of thoughtful empathy that resonates like a punch in the face.

Never has violence seemed so real, yet so futile in its punishing resilience. The song may reach its musical conclusion, as all songs do, but there is no convenient wrapping up of loose ends. Instead, we are left with this lingering, nagging sense of having been to places where a song like this is a reality for some. We pass these places on trains and in cars and, when we do, we are always reminded of this song.

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