This Train: Boyfriends and Girlfriends

I love you. I don't love you. I love you. I don't love you. I might love you - I need time. One night last year, I was having a beer at my neighborhood bar & grill when My Favorite Waitress in the World joined me. We talked about what she'd done since working there, school, books we'd like to read; I was introduced to the guy seated beside her, a drummer in some local band. Later, an intense exchange went on between them; he got up, shot me a look, and stormed out. "What was that all about?" "We just broke up - "I'm sor - - for the third time this month." She proceeded to describe their tortuous romantic path and its attendant warning signs. "He does what?!" I was getting sick; it all reminded me too much of someone in my life - too smart to stay, too scared to leave. I heard her out, though. She was talking about how she knew it was her fault for letting herself be treated badly, and even expecting it; change had to begin with her. "Sounds good." "Yeah. We're through - absolutely." A few months later, I'm at Grither's CD release party and there she is, my Favorite Waitress in the World, lip-sticked, high-heeled, sequined-dressed, velvet-jacketed, and stoned out as the Perfect Rock 'n' Roll Girlfriend. Her inspiration? The same slimeball. "I thought - "Yeah, well, you know, it's cool, it's OK - he's changed a lot - "Have you?" "?"Grither has this song that gloriously upends the ambivalence of the flaky drummer type: "I need time," guitarist Mike Allmayer sings, but "all your time" is the next line. That's falling in love for ya. Recovering from an awful opening verse, Allmayer conveys through a series of disconcerting images just how hard it is to get with this woman, and what it's doing to his head. When it appeared in the fall, "Time" gave off the golden hues of a top-down classic, its hook and elongated guitars capturing not only frustration, but that burning assurance that love's as close as a passing leaf. Elsewhere on The First Man On The Sun Allmayer sings of two people so damaged from their previous romances that anything beyond mere perception of each other seems impossible; "I can't be coming 'round/I can't be coming back" he drones, trying to follow the rules imposed by their inertia. The song is a Replacements-like pounder; Mike recites in his best Westerberg croak, "I don't want to take you away/Don't want to move on in," the trio playing more than the expected number of measures between lines to create a hopeful tension. But his expectations for himself and his object d'amour remain pathetically low: "You know too much about me, to ever really want to help me." Throwing his parka hood up on a cold February day, he thinks, "Valentine? I don't need no Valentine." This is why Baby Gopal is such a refreshing listen. Oh it's a meaty, beaty leg in the Go-Go's legacy all right, with pert guitars flashing dirty grins, but there's none of the usual cynicism that passes as ennui in the face of committment these days. The closest it comes to the "fuck 'n' run" outrage currently the rage with female vocalists is lamenting "Why is it always boys against girls?" to complete a chorus that begins "Manipulating me ... you're really mean and you made me cry." Otherwise, the concerns expressed here are those of someone looking at life with a Vedic perspective and addressing its delusions with conclusions, from "Lust [is a] weakness" to "I like tofu." Think of the group's singer Sri Kesava as a punk-rock Christopher Isherwood, conducting a sincere search for God while embracing a most worldly art form, bringing to both a sense of play and disclosure; she can chirp "how desirable to get a birth in Vraja," or after stripping herself before the deity cry "I want to know who You are!" Over the band's rumble comes: "Of flower-bearing seasons, I am springtime." Beautiful. I don't know who her teacher is, but Isherwood's Swami Prabhavananda got him to leave the rigors of Hollywood and go monastic for a while; the impatience in Sri Kesava's lyrics portends renunciation while she's teamed with three tough musicians to make her yearnings praiseful and practical, giving the lie to that attitude which says aggressive sounds can only cover aggressive subjects. Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.

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