Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Lance Hahn is dead

just heard some really fucked up news, which is that Lance Hahn from J. Church died on Sunday of kidney disease. it seems petty to write myself into this story, but i was just listening to the band yesterday at work; i even poked around for some info on what they were up to and heard about Lance's illness, but man, nothing about this...

i don't know what to say about J. Church (which, for all intents and purposes, was Lance, with whomever he happened to be playing with at the time)... they were one of my favorite bands in high school, one of those bands that seemed to completely transcend the genre they were tied to. i guess you could call them "pop-punk" but this music was just so much more real, honest, intelligent, etc. like there was a time when i would've applied those adjectives to Bad Religion, but i've long since outgrown that phase. not so w/ J. Church, who still sound real to me.

Lance's lyrics were incredibly personal, incredibly poetic... i always liked this verse, from "Foreign Films":

"She comes around on a Thursday night,
With a six pack of Becks and a lot on her mind,
I’ve got to work tomorrow at eight A.M.,
I find two glasses that have not been used,
She follows me into my room,
She plays that same R.E.M. record again"

it doesn't look as good typed, and might even appear self-consciously arty or whatever. but there was just this sense listening to J Church that you were listening to the sound of someone sort of scraping by, getting through. and not in a woe-is-me way: actually sort of celebrating the marginal aspects of their existence.

Lance was always very upfront in his songs about the almost gravitational force that work was in his life. he wrote about it often, as in the song "Bottom Rung," which really captured the ecstasy and despair of the five-day work week, something of which i knew nothing when i first heard the song, but which now makes almost too much sense:

"Friday night I went out for a drink.
Saturday and Sunday I was free.
Free to sleep.
Free to read.
Freedom from security."

jesus, amen. on a similar theme, there's a really interesting little treatise on that topic here, which seems to amount to a reversal of Hahn's earlier position. in that blog entry, he claims that "I sort of feel all musicians should also have a day job." he describes a period when he was only touring and how he felt sort of guilty or useless. maybe it's just that without the daily grind, he didn't have much to write about. he wasn't a mope, but existential despair was pretty central to what he did.

beautiful singer, beautiful melodies, extremely literate, always rattling off philosophy and free-jazz references in an extremely nonperfunctory way (check out the Hahn review of Bill Dixon's Odyssey that's archived here--it's listed as "In the J Church Listening Room"), definitely a classic punk-rock lefty--he wrote for Maximum Rock & Roll and was not above scene politics. but he always took a feminist stance that was very appealing: a sticker on his guitar read "overthrow cock rock and idolize your girlfriend."

anyway, speaking of work, that's where i've gotta go, so i'll leave you with two of my favorite J Church tracks:

Tide of Fate
[meditation on futility: "I can sleep under open skies if I'm back at work by Monday / Swim against the tide of fate if I'm back at work by Monday." whew...]

Contempt for Modesty
[beautiful minute-long relationship parable]

J. Church forever. thank you so much, Lance. peace. Great American Artist for sure.

[lots of great J. Church info is here, as it always has been. i strongly recommend the albums "Prophylaxis," "Arbor Vitae" and "The Precession of Simulacra."]

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