Here Be Dragons
I started to resent Alan Chapell. Why? Glad you asked. Alan Chapell has the gall to ask that music be listened to. With his new album Love in the Summer of Trouble he blends musical styles the way drag queens blend genders; the way a Jiu Jitsu black belt will turn your own energy against you.
I’m convinced that Chapell likes to break things. Pre-conceptions, stereotypes, genres, music, he just smashes them. When everything you think you know about pop music lays shattered on the floor; fragile and broken, he looks at you and says, “what else you got?”
I know this because that is what Chapell did to me.
I like to understand everything about a piece of music the instant that the needle hits the record. In my media consumerist world that’s considered a worthy characteristic. Being able to sum up everything about the artist, the message, the audience, faster than everybody else in the room will get you likes and shares. I’m good at that game. I’m an ass kicker, I’m a bar room brawler. I’ll toss in a couple of obscure but clever references, Smile smugly. Move on to the next one, leaving behind a hole in the spot where someone’s happy place used to be.
My grandfather would say, “You’re being a wise ass. Nobody likes a wise ass”. That’s why I started to get annoyed with Mr. Chapell. In his music I heard my grandfather’s voice. In the music are voices that expect more from me. Voices I don’t want to acknowledge.
Every time I cleverly categorized the style of music, the targeted audience, the message, Chapell just kind of smiled and rope a doped my smug wise assery. Case in point: on first listen, the title track “Love in the Summer of Trouble” was as a poppy little love song listened to by theatre majors. But wait, what is he saying? It soon dawns on me that this is not sugary frosting. This is a fighting song; a revolutionary rallying cry. I saw Tom Joad’s promise hidden in secret codes, embedded in poppy tunes.
Throughout the album, each time I thought my gifted mind had Chapell’s music pinned down he would effortlessly slip out of my deadliest hold. Songs like “U Gotta Go” and “Let Them In” are a call to arms; blood stained dispatches from the front lines. The music is a warning to oppressors. We’re not beaten, we’re not afraid. We’re coming for you.
In martial arts the sensei doesn’t’ beat you, they help you see your ignorance so that you can free yourself from it. It became obvious that Chapell wasn’t playing my game, he was showing me its flaws. It’s never easy to look into that mirror.
There is a message in the music.
Because I wasn’t being lectured, shamed and blamed, I listened. I’m won’t explain the message I heard. It’s mine, not yours. I’m not the Artist. I’m TS Elliot’s pair of feeble claws scuttling across floors of silent seas. Your message should not be formed by what you think of my scuttling words. I’m the middleman. I break it down, add cut, pack it into dime bags and put my stamp on it. I’m an insult to the artist and the reader.
If you’re in the NYC area you have the opportunity to get it straight from the source. Undiluted. Chapell plays City Winery on Aug 16. The blends he brews will show you doors where before you saw only walls. It’s up to you open them. Or not. Your choice.
Listen to Love in the Summer of Trouble. You will hear your message. It will be easy to find. On your inner map it’s the unknown territory marked with the warning “Here Be Dragons”. That warning will fuck you up. That’s all most people need to know. They ain’t about messing around in unknown territories and facing dragons.
They don’t have the courage or imagination to even consider it. Don’t judge them, just say, “There but for the grace of god go I”.
Many fearlessly sail into that territory. They bask in the treasures they find, chillin’ with dragons. For others there is no choice, the dragons come looking for them. That can be some scary shit.
I was deep behind the castle walls when the dragons came. I didn’t choose to face them. I was pretty happy where I was. Sure, it was dark and cold, but hell, it was easier than the whole free your mind thing. But one day, there they were. Fire breathing dragons blowing up my world. Stripping away all of my shoddy defenses. #NBD.
Alan Chapell has a dragon. Love in the Summer of Trouble is the fire. Don’t let the fact that he’s blowing away your castle walls scare you. It’s not a castle. It’s a prison.
The rewards of letting your feeble walls crumble, letting the light shine in is freedom from your own bullshit. When that weight is lifted you soar into the sky, mind freed, ass following. That wasn’t something I was born knowing. Chapell certainly wasn’t’.
Chapell’s themes resonate because it’s not something he learned on a motivational Instagram page. He’s gone to where the dragons lurk. He’s walked the walk and he’s come back to tell you it’s time to move.
I’ll let him explain what happened.
“I feel like I’m discovering myself as an artist in a way I never could have earlier in my life. For too long, I bought into the notion that I couldn’t become a successful artist much past my 30’s – and it was liberating to recognize how foolish that was. The most invigorating thing is that I don’t feel I’ve written my best song yet. I know who I am now and I am excited that I am nowhere close to my peak as an artist.”
Mind free, ass following.
Scott is a Brooklyn NYC based hillbilly psychonaut who loves to soak up the luxury of flying Economy Plus. He is a “known associate”, accused of being an a writer, a traveler, an artist. He took the fifth. @BrooklynCaveman