I can always tell when October hits, even in a state with no seasonal differentials. Growing up with the seasons in the Midwest the Autumnal is etched into me, so that even here where it’s freakin’ 90 degrees in October, my mind switches to match the introspective and generally more creative vibe that accompanies burning leaves, cool thunder showers and the coming of Halloween.*
Another way I can always tell the fall is coming is I start listening to slightly different music. Sure, the staples are always there, but I generally lean a bit more in the direction of a darker atmosphere and subject matter. Less Frank Black, more Black Sabbath.
And Type O’ Negative. Lots of Type O’ Negative.
So that’s what I’m doing. I’m sitting here listening to Type O’ Negative and I am, for probably the thousandth time while listening to this band, struck by just how amazing they are. I just got home from work, caught a buzz, and while sitting here on the couch trying to work on my book I keep finding myself pulled into this lush, vivid world of images and color, built by the structures and performances (not to mention out of this world production) they lay down for us every couple years when they release a new album.
I’ve been a fan since first hearing Christian Woman run straight into Black No. 1 back on Saint Xavier University’s 88.3 FM. At the time I was, shit, maybe seventeen; high and driving back from my girlfriend’s at probably three or four in the morning. We lived South Side, in what amounts to a community carved out of a forest preserve, and traveling the long, desolate stretch of LaGrange Road from about 95th Street to 123rd at that time gave you nothing but trees and fields to look at. In fact, I’m pretty sure it was foggy and lightly raining that particular night. My window was down, and I heard what I thought was one long ass song so steeped in mood and imagery I’m sure I probably drooled at some point, so zoned out and in trance mode as I normally was making that drive in those days. I think I sat in my car for a while after arriving home, waiting for the DJ to say who he had played. I found out the name and went out a day or two later to buy the disc – I think at Rock Records on a trip up North with a friend.
I’ve loved Type O ever since.
The digipak version of BLOODY KISSES is still what I consider their best, but the masterpieces continued after that as well. OCTOBER RUST came again in the fall a few years later and it was quite the unexpected step in the band’s evolution. A bit more polished, a bit more mature (not to sound like a cunt, although I’m well aware it’s unavoidable with a comment like that). The band who once molded a song around the chorus, “I know You’re fucking someone else” now seemed to be blending almost equal parts Disintegration-era Cure and Abbey Road-esque Beatles with the highly electric, cynical mythology they assault and honor the world with. This evolution continued on WORLD COMING DOWN. They’d become half bang-your-head-and-shout-along-with-their-choruses and half drown-your sorrows-when-she-breaks-your-heart, and that was a little weird at first.
But weird in a good, ‘I’ve never heard anything quite like this before’ way. And this direction was enduring to a barely 20 year-old kid who spent some of his time exploring forested cemeteries at night, some of his time slipping on a perpetual social banana peel and some of his time playing the guitar and dreaming of having a successful band. For that guy, who’s become, via a long and odd evolutionary road, this guy, Type O was one of the pinnacles of what I wanted***. They still are, even though the music has been put on the back burner to make room for the writing.
And their latest two albums, LIFE IS KILLING ME and DEAD AGAIN have only deepened my resolve as a fan, with Life… being, if not their greatest album, probably my favorite.
But they get me every time: the layered, often Gregorian chant like vocals, the fuzz on the bass, the downright eerie liquidness of the guitars. Then there’s the shadowy delay on everything, building literal waves of sound that emanate from the speakers. The guitar chords hang in the air like thick, haunting memories and the tom rolls make it sound like decades are rolling by in the distance like thunder in another country.
It sounds sooo good.
In the first episode of Six Feet Under, just before Claire decides to take a hit off the meth pipe Gabe offers her, he tells her ‘it’ll make everything burn a little brighter’. Maybe the context is jilted, and so the metaphor is a bit of a stretch, but I’ll be damned if that isn’t how I would describe Type O’s music.
* Wow, that sounds very melodramatic doesn’t it?
** This is what I refer to as a ‘Lebowski’. Let me explain that. The Cohen Brothers’ film THE BIG LEBOWSKI is easily my favorite by the
brothers Cohen, but it is almost as if it is so good and iconic that it
exists on a plane outside all their other work. Thus, I will commonly
refer to BLOOD SIMPLE or NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN as my ‘favorite Cohen
film’ without mention of The Dude – it’s immeasurable so I work around
That’s how I feel about that version of Bloody Kisses.
*** Mr. Bungle probably being the other.