Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Grunge Binge #2: Taught Slackers

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Stills from the music video for "The Crooked Place" by Glass Eye (circa 1989).

Start with the image, and the simple goal of capturing the essence of "grunge" or whatever. The indefinable aesthetic essence of a time in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Find the video, which smacks as exemplary of this running definition's core. The video being "The Crooked Place" by Glass Eye. Welcome to Austin, Texas in the late 1980s.

"The crooked places may be made straight but the heart longs for the crooked place," sings Kathy McCarty donning a priest's collar. While singing this phrase her mouth transforms from stolid and effete to this sinister, beautiful smile, and then cut to the fairgrounds of some slacker carnival while these staccato guitar chords punctuate the chaos and cigarette smoking beauty of it all. Ah grunge.

And if this video feels familiar, perhaps that's because the Austin milieu from which this band and video came, is intrinsically tied to one of the town's most prominent cultural figures, filmmaker Richard Linklater. See, McCarty, along with other members of the band, appeared in Linklater's epic, free-ranging indie masterpiece Slacker. And that's McCarty singing a solo acoustic cover of the Daniel Johnston song "Living Life" at the end credits of Linklater's exemplar film Before Sunrise. Point being, this Glass Eye video, which I urge you to watch, is like the grunge holy grail, gravelly and emotionional (both the song and the video), dirty and disheveled and sleazy and full of motion, then haltings, then motion. Watch it:

PS. For a little bit of a "where is she now," you can read Kathy McCarty's personal history of her time and place (she's still making music) in the Austin scene. She wrote her account in this article from 2005 for the Austin Chronicle. Notably:
Long ago, I was in a local all-girl band called the Buffalo Gals, and we were sorta famous. I was the dorky one. Then I was in Glass Eye, here in town, and we were quite popular. That band was together for 10 years, and we won lots of awards and drew huge crowds. We made albums and the critics loved us. We were on MTV.

Like many a critics' darling, we never hit the Big Time. Big labels considered us "Impossible to Market," and perhaps that was true – if you're a slimy piece of shit label yes-man with crispy ashes for a soul. Or something. Either way, after 10 years of superhuman striving, we got all worn out with being fucked around, and broke up. It was sad. OK, I was devastated.

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