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Wisdom of Solomon

A street preacher helps crack the meaning of the Sleepy Jackson's Lovers

"Well, fools are also full of words," the Preacher allowed.

"Damn straight, Preacher. But how should I feel about this record?" Far down the line, I could see the train's headlight. "One of the reasons I took this job was that I hoped I could one day help bring about something truly new. I hoped I could be on the cutting edge of some kind of musical revolution, like Legs McNeil was with punk, or Nelson George was with rap. I want to be able to pontificate on VH1, dammit. But virtually every rock record I've heard -- no matter how much the music media says it's some kind of landmark album -- sounds exactly like something I've heard before. Even crunk music just sounds like Cameo on steroids and crack!"

Eccles chuckled. "The thing that has been, it is that which shall be, and that which is done: and there is no new thing under the sun."

A boy, his bichon frise and his eight girlfriends: The Sleepy Jackson's Luke Steele in heaven.
Andzej Liguz
A boy, his bichon frise and his eight girlfriends: The Sleepy Jackson's Luke Steele in heaven.

"So my fate is to just play 'spot the influence,' to endlessly point out that the first Strokes album sounded like Television and the Velvets and the second blatantly ripped off the Cars? Am I doomed to endlessly think back on what I've heard and prattle about Thin Lizzy affectations and delusions of Joy Division? Wouldn't it have been better if I had never been born, or at least had been born in 1950 or 1960? Then I could have lived through the '60s or been a teenager at the birth of punk."

"Say not 'Why were the former days better than these?' For it is not from wisdom that you ask this."

"Then why do I ask this?"

"Vanity of vanities," the Preacher said. "All is vanity."

"No it's not," I fired back. "I think you're overstating her importance. After 'Nasty Girl' she was finished, though she was pretty smokin' in 52 Pick-Upand Action Jackson. Isn't she a born-again Christian now or something?"

The Preacher chuckled. "Yes, she is a follower of that descendant of mine, but I speak not of the erstwhile concubine of the one they call Prince, but of the great snare: too much pride."

"But what does all this have to do with the Sleepy Jackson? How should we feel about bands that make pretty good music but sound just like a bunch of other stuff? Does an increase of musical wisdom only bring about sorrow? Sometimes I despair of all the labor I have taken under the sun…Maybe I'll run off and join the Polyphonic Spree or something."

"Dallas fucks," the Preacher muttered. "Con artists. Don't believe the hype. We don't."

Who was "we"? I wondered. But I didn't have time to ask. The train was getting closer. I thought about other things the Preacher had told me.

"It's better to go to a funeral than a bar," the Preacher said suddenly, seemingly apropos of nothing. I thought for a few seconds, and his comment started to make some sense. But only a little.

"Sorrow is better than laughter," the Preacher went on. "By sadness the heart is made better."

"So listening to bands like the Sleepy Jackson is good for us…The sorrow they bring reminds us of the circle of life -- the one verifiable scientific answer to all metaphysical questions…The immutable fact that nature abides and man is transient. Music is nature, and if it's good, it too abides."

"Yes, my son," the Preacher replied.

Just then the train arrived, and I got on. The Preacher stayed on the platform. When I found my seat, I turned to wave, and he was nowhere to be seen.

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