David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 53: The Breeders (Blues At The Acropolis)

June 18, 2020

Is there a point when art and history can no longer provide much needed comfort? I haven't given up on art even if I have on history with its twisted (and toppled) monuments.

The loss of a dedicated sense of either history or art is a frightening thought. Our ignorance of either acts as a better indication of the impending apocalypse than missile silos, nuclear warheads, and unrest in the streets. Art provides outlet, art creates pause in human action, and art makes beauty out of chaos. History chronicles heroism, history bludgeons darkness, and history makes sense out of the present.

The Breeders close their incandescent 2018 CD All Nerve with a succinct summation of a world where art and history are lost and irrelevant, "Blues At The Acropolis." The song drops us immediately in the artistic and philosophical epitome of ancient Greece: "I'll mourn over the marble steps," singer/songwriter Kim Deal sings after distorted opening guitar.  Her lamentation is for a world of art and humanity lost, maybe forever:

"Junkies of the world lay across the monuments/

I climb and blister on the mount/

Drunks take a piss where heroes once bled out." 

Sister Kelley Deal's lead guitar reverberates in the vocal pauses, while Josephine Wiggs' bass punches through the bleeding guitar.

Has there ever been a more distressful opening stanza for a song? Things don't get much better as Deal cries out to her "Capital sister, I cry and blister on the mount/Gods offer beer and hope where heroes once bled out." It's tempting to think the "Capital sister" line references, in addition to the piece of a Greek column, the Million Women March in 2017, a year before this CD was released, a depressing statement that even all the sisters in the world can't save what the men have given away. However, there is a live version of the song from 2014, so the timeline doesn't work as well (obviously a 1997 Million Women March can still work). Given The Breeders' own history, the song is still a call out to sisters everywhere to start doing it for themselves.

"I got the blues at the Acropolis," Deal sings, so depressed that she "kick(s) up dirt/The men stop and hiss." As the song winds down, the perspective slightly changes. In the opening, she captures a present moment, as the junkies lay across the monuments.  That present state of disregard for the history and architecture of the building feeds a perspective of Deal remembering how she "got the blues at the Acropolis." By the end of the song, the junkies are now permanent fixtures "draped across the monuments," as permanent as the reliefs on the frieze; meanwhile, Deal experiences her blues as something very current: "I've got the blues at the Acropolis."

All Nerve begins with a curious reference also to a sister, "Nervous Mary", with "Madrid Nose/black lung in my hand/West, by God, Virginia in my head." That sister can't escape her present: "she runs for the exit/but she never got away." Between that opening and the closing "Blues At The Acropolis," The Breeders cast the bleak options of living for a woman in 2018. Two years later, and the bleak options face more than just capital sisters; they also embody the brothers of the shaft, and the whole base of modern society.  God help us all, even if God gave us Breeders.

"Blues At The Acropolis."  All Nerve. The Breeders. 4AD. 2018. Link here.

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Day 54: Aretha Franklin "I Say A Little Prayer." ->

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