I can’t wait for things to get back to normal. Although my hip operation went well and I’m able to walk a couple of miles without crutches, there’s still some pain so I’m looking forward to the time when I can walk five or six miles in a day without discomfort.
It won’t be long now before we can all learn to live with COVID. In fact, according to our trustworthy and honest government, we are in that world already. I’m still wearing a mask in shops and on public transport but, despite two of my friends recently contracting the illness, it won’t be long now before we can return to normal. All restrictions are lifted, so it’s all okay now.
The human race has survived and prospered, in part, due to advances in science. Medical developments have prolonged life expectancy and there’s no doubt that human ingenuity will solve the problems of the climate emergency and avert the destruction of the planet. For example, a process known as Solar geoengineering involves constructing a stratospheric aerosol layer around the planet to reduce the surface warming caused by increased greenhouse gasses. Very soon, climate change will recede into the past as if it were just another scare story, like the millennium bug.
It’s good to know that the sanctions employed against Putin will soon be so effective that he will be forced to surrender and leave office. Bombing a children’s hospital in Ukraine is the last straw and soon the war in Europe will be over.
Excuse my language but, if I believe any of the above nonsense, I must be fucking mad.
This has all been made abundantly clear to me by listening to one of the most powerful songs I’ve ever heard. It’s called “Endless Time” and it’s from Tamara Lindeman’s stunning new album, on which she, once again, uses the moniker, “The Weather Station”. The conceit of this song is that we are coming towards the end of what we had all considered to be an endless time. The “normal” that I foolishly hoped could be restored has gone forever. There’s no going back. “It’s only the end of an endless time. They don’t put that in the paper. You won’t read it on the news. You have to use your eyes and it’s so painful how everybody lies.” The album was recorded in early 2020, before the pandemic but, to me, “it’s only the end of endless time” is a sharp reminder to me that “the good old days” are gone forever. Whether that’s due to climate change, COVID, World War III, or just me getting older, isn’t really the point. I must stop thinking about “getting back to normal”. The line “it never occurred to us that we’d have to pay” is heartbreaking.
What makes this song and, indeed, the whole 32 minutes of this album, so powerful is the understated instrumentation and the restrained vocal performance. There is no percussion on the album which creates a timeless feel. All ten songs were written in 2019 and recorded live over three days in March 2020, which was after her last album, “Ignorance” was recorded, but before it was released. “Ignorance” was UNCUT’s album of 2021 and was more up tempo and busy than “How Is It That I Should Look At The Stars”. This album sounds beautiful but the overriding lyrical message of the need to look closely at the world around us and appreciate what we have, is thought provoking and upsetting. Obviously, Tamara Lindeman recorded this album just before the pandemic and two years before Putin’s atrocities, but the beauty of great art is how personal experience can form a resonance with it that wasn’t part of the creator’s intention.
“Stars” describes a visit into a desert at night and her appreciation of the million suns she can see in the sky. She imagines that none of them contains the beauty of Earth and yet so few people seem bothered about the imminent destruction of the planet. “Nowhere up there is a place like this. Not one waterfall, not one river mist. I felt dizzy. My chest clenched cold and tight. It’ll be 2020 tomorrow night. From Salton City, I hear fireworks go off. As though they’re celebrating all another year has cost. Or is it carelessness? I swear to God, this world will break my heart”. Feelings of isolation, both physically (because she’s in a desert) and emotionally (because so few people share her anxieties) lead to an overwhelming sense that everything is spinning out of control and she is powerless to stop it.
“To Talk About” is a duet between Tamara Lindeman and Ryan Driver and is, ostensibly, a straightforward love song in which they both take pleasure at being together after working hard all day. However, the last lines are “Sometimes it feels like (love) is the only thing people want me to speak of. Nobody wants to drag themselves through the endless ruins of all there is in this world that is not love”. As much as she’d like to be able to forget about the world’s problems, as much as she’d like to believe in endless time, she can’t ignore her worry, anxiety and overwhelming sense of foreboding.
This is a beautiful album, with stunning music, that leaves me with feelings of dread and despondency.