Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Read mind, cheated blind

in my haste to recap the tour on here, i made a major omission. i guess it makes sense that i would leave out the most significant musico-emotional discovery of the experience--maybe subconsciously i knew that it merited its own entry.

driving down Sunset in early December, it came on the radio. placid, jazzy, almost Yacht Rock-ish, but with deeply yearning, almost Peter Cetera-esque hooks that instantly seemed familiar. "I am the eye in the sky / Looking at you / I can read your mind." what the hell was it, all in the car wondered? i quickly jotted down all the lyrics i could make out.

googling around at our destination, i quickly nailed it: "Eye in the Sky" by the Alan Parsons Project. shortly afterward, i found the band's greatest hits on the budget tape wall at Amoeba, and we were equipped. no single song received more play in the van.

it was everything i remembered. a slow, gently trippy first verse with squarely "hip" jazz chords. a presumably cuckolded man telling off his mate for the last time:

"Don't think sorry's easily said
Don't try turning tables instead
You've taken lots of chances before
But I'm not gonna give anymore"

there's a calm, almost nerdy resolve in the delivery--the "I'm fed up" doesn't bite as much as it should. after another verse, though, the tension bursts, and you didn't even realize how much had built up. the harmonies soar, cold light rushes in:

"I am the eye in the sky
Looking at you
I can read your mind

I am the maker of rules
Dealing with fools
I can cheat you blind"

even if you've heard that last stanza a million times, nothing prepares you for its sheer vicious egoism. it's a totally creepy, godplaying statement; it's not an exaggeration to say that it sounds like the outburst of an insane person. it's one thing to tell your woman you've had enough, but it's quite another to cast yourself as a kind of unmerciful god, capable of "cheating [her] blind."

there's something very special about a pop song that goes to these sorts of scary emotional lengths. the extremity of the sentiment, its power to shock, reminds me of the rawness and emotional desperation that Steely Dan can touch on, but this Parsons tune doesn't give you the comfort of irony. it creeps along and then it bites. its placid resolve is terrifying.

we would play this tape in the van after shows. in a way i felt like i was unwinding, but i don't know if that's what it was--i just craved the weird mindset of this song. i remember one night drive down a misty highway in Houston. i was going faster than i was comfortable with, trying to keep up with the guy who was leading us to where we were going to crash. the drive had a Michael Mann feeling--that on-the-outskirts-of-the-city brooding--with hazy lights and speed and soft, spare, overproduced music that spelled "cool," or some mythological version of cool, and made you feel like you were in some kind of urban cocoon. the drive was key, but i think the song alone can get you most of the way to that place of sublime postmodern solitude:

The Alan Parsons Project - Eye in the Sky (1982)

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