Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Lead or Radiation Poisoning?: Ink Spots

With descriptions of Bon Iver’s self-titled album forthcoming (word is: you should listen to it if you haven’t) I’m wondering what to recommend. Or whatever it is that we do.

In all truth, I’ve sort of lost my hipster-cred since working overseas. What am I listening to, then? Ink Spots. 1930s-50s Radio fuzz. Maybe it’s M. Ward’s fault that the AM radio sound is so perfect. Or maybe it’s the fault of the Fallout video games.
Can you believe the apocalypse sounds like an old-timey radio group? I’m totally serious here. If there’s one thing the designers got right when dismantling Washington D.C., it’s that they threw American culture back to the days of lead-based paint and white picket fences, to Stepford wives and golly-gee schooldays.

My obsession with Ink Spots may also stem from my grandparents’ fiftieth anniversary earlier this summer. I found myself in Iowa, in charge of putting together a slideshow of old photos of my grandma and grandpa, a book-keeper and truck-driver who have made their house a kind of central meeting point for my family. Whenever we’re in transition, we seem to end up back in North Richland Hills Texas, for a little while or longer. They’re an amazing couple, and I’m in awe that they’ve stayed together for so long.

All that said: Ink Spots was all over that slide show. They’d put together a mix of their favorite songs and sent it in (under some ruse—they had no idea we were putting together an event). Seeing them, surprised, in a railway-house-turned-party-hall, with that music, with pictures of them young, aging, growing, was something special.

Having grown up overseas, I’ve lived in a world where TV was far away, where furniture was decades past its prime, and sat around reading racially-insensitive comic books from the fifties. I can just imagine turning on a radio years back to hear Bill Kenny’s soft voice drift out and turn the world to a hazy yellow. I can see parents I might’ve had dancing in the kitchen in slow time to this music. I can see a whole other world where time mattered less, where life unfolded at a less frenetic, less worried pace.

Of course, I can also imagine myself tramping across radioactive wastelands fighting for survival, with nothing to keep me company but a lonely radio with 3-Dog and the Ink Spots. Same difference, right?

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