Psychotic Waltz – A Social Grace
1990, Rising Sun Productions
Can it be that the sun has risen and set for over a fortnight into the new year? It seems that where others have been propelled forth into action with new purpose, I have already started sinking into old patterns – confusion, introspection, contemplation – once again trying to find myself, and where I fit into this uncertain world.
And in this mournful haze of self doubt and raging PMS, I reached, as I often do, for all the usual suspects – wine, chocolate, and my duvet. But burying my head in the sand brought me no comfort, only a strange wakefulness of the mind, and fatigue of the body. So I reached for an old friend, one who knew me well, one with whom I had already shared all my facets without shame or fear of repercussion.
This was my first introduction to one of my biggest musical heroes – Devon Graves (aka Buddy Lackey) – and came to be mine with the Mosquito/A Social Grace boxset from Metal Blade in 2004. Written with what seems like the weight of the world on his shoulders, A Social Grace remains one of the most musically complex and lyrically insightful albums I have ever known.
Aggression is laid bare in the technical, thrashy sections which stand as stiff peaks, whilst more melancholy moments meander through the troughs in this uniquely intricate album – and I always feel it all really kick in at Another Prophet Song – so beautiful in its layered harmonies and dreamy lyrics of otherworldy escapism. When I first listened to I Remember, it was as if someone had held up a mirror to my soul, and in the telling of a great story, had splayed open my own great fear of being meaningless and forgotten. The normally delicate flute is employed almost brutally, in this tribute to Ian Anderson, and I have never heard anything quite like it.
A Psychotic Waltz, with its simple, plain piano introduction, is perhaps one of the darkest points of this album – ‘close your eyes/ feel the sweet, sweet symphony of sighs’, such a tantalizing invitation to succumb, the entire track toeing the line between life and loss.
I think perhaps the most profound and majestic moment of the record is the closer, Nothing. So naked, so stark in its truth-telling:
Turn your back on this misconception
That the body is the temple
It’s just a tool of the soul
The brain is only the house of the mind
And soon you’ll have to give back
Everything you’ve borrowed for this lifetime
They say misery loves company, so I met with my old friend, and we spent an hour to ourselves, wallowing in our pain, in our confusion. Did it bring me joy? Or clarity? No. So why do I listen? Why write? Simply put, I think, because there is something about music. Something that creates an emotional surge far more powerful, more intoxicating than the strongest ale, more beautiful than love, more painful than isolation. Something, which when shared with anyone as seduced as myself, brings a deep catharsis. And something, like the snapping of a rubber band on a wrist, or the singe of a blade on a forearm, that reminds me that I’m alive.