Dylan Cloud Can’t Honestly Be Like That…Can He?
This is the story of a song.
Wrote some lyrics—didn’t take very long.
And they sound so good in paragraphs. And then we absolutely dug’ em.
When they try.
Dylan Cloud dropped a single. “Straight On” is a genre-bridging track. It inherited some fuzz from funk. Some of its edges got sharpened, then scraped jagged, from stripped-back punk. He threw some wit into it that he stole from the garages of rock duos with cheap cleverness. Then he glued it together with some get-up-and-groove from reggae. Over the top he poured some noise from his metal side. Then, because I don’t think that a rock and roll musician can escape Robert Johnson (and Dylan leaned into it on purpose), “Straight On” has more’n a little mud and dust from the delta blues mussing it around the edges.
Taken altogether, “Straight On” is the kind of track that, if you wanted to, you could use it as a history lesson, and learn something about what rock and roll is, if you can figure out what rock and roll is, which I haven’t yet.
At the same time, like all the best tracks like that, you can forget about the analysis and just bop along to it without thinking about anything at all.
Garage Rock Could Not Have Been Invented in Spain
Rock and roll needs a swift kick in the pants every now and then. The most dramatic example of same is U2: a punk band who got too much money and turned into…well, into U2. Nothing else like them, and some of us aren’t sorry.
A zeitgeist evolves when artistic types get the resources to “realize their vision.” That zeitgeist can be discouraging to talented musicians starting their careers without much in the way of, like, cash. That production-value sound can suggest a bar of entry too high for your just-trying-to-get-by starting out musician.
In that zeitgeist, Dylan did what young musicians have been doing since the beginning of music: inventing garage rock.
Garage rock may have a specific sound. It MAY. I think that the “garage rock” sound is an illusion. It’s a lame box to put a sound in. It’s a far less lame box, though, to store an ethos. That ethos being one invented by literally any band who, at the beginning of their careers, needs cheap rehearsing and recording space.
A garage is a symbol, in this case. It’s a symbol for figuring out how to make good with the tools you’ve got. The reality is that Dylan couldn’t actually invent garage rock. There aren’t a lot of garages in Barcelona, he says.
The idea is the same, though. Limited resources, when used with cleverness, create cool stuff.
An Evolved Couch Jam
In this way, you can’t quite call “Straight On” the bastard love child of the work of Robert Johnson, The Black Keys, and the Queens of the Stone Age…but you almost can. Dylan heard that, since he was playing by himself, Robert Johnson figured out how to play his guitar so it sounded like two guitars—so Dylan did too.
The Black Keys rocks hard…but they’re only two dudes—which was like permission to reach far without worrying about needing a big band. Queens of the Stone Age guitarist and vocalist Josh Homme often uses his small, cheap travel amp because he likes the rough sound, and he’s doing okay for himself.
You get the idea. Dylan was messing around with his guitar and his travel amp, and he was just messing around having a couch jam.
After a bit he lands on something and thinks to himself, “I might have something there.”
Then, like a pro, he took a shower. He took a break. Pros take breaks. That’s how you can tell they’re pros. If he could remember the riff after his break, well, that’d tell him something.
Stories are in Interaction
Poetry is cool because it has two meanings
The first is the meaning the poet puts into it. When Dylan got back from his shower, he had a few lines of a first verse. He took that as a good sign. He wrote the first verse out of id. It’s poetry with the meaning you bring to it. The second and third verses have more of his person in them. Dylan tells me the song carries a thread of an adventure he had with his kid brother, Tiernan. Sober Dylan knew exactly where the next bar in the hop was, you see. It was just straight on—straight on. A thing that drunk Dylan knew with just as much confidence but much less accuracy. Particularly in Barcelona, a town composed entirely of crossroads.
That’s a brief version of the story. Ask him yourself.
The other meaning in poetry is what you bring yourself. That’s the beauty of words. They mean a lot of things. I’ve got my own feelings about what “Straight On” means. Whatever “means” means. I like my take too.
It’s just a cool song. It rocks and grooves and it’s all fuzzy and buzzy. We like it.
When You Know, You Know…
It took Dylan less time to tell me all this than it’s taken you to read it. It took Dylan the same amount of time to tell me the story of the song as it took to listen to the song. Not because he talks to fast either, and not because the story isn’t good. It’s just a straightforward story of things clicking.
It started as a couch jam, and he had the lyrics within a couple of days. He needed them too, because two days after he wrote the song he performed it for the first time. He performed it against the advice of another musician. But he performed it anyway, because, in his words, fuck it. Why not?
Honesty Above All
Happy New Year, Happy Valentines' Day and Spring Time is here, youse guys.
I wrote this on Halloween: the most honest holiday of all time, because it’s the day when everyone puts on the mask embodying their usually hidden wishes.
It looks weird to us because people spend a lot of energy hiding, second-guessing, worrying about appearances. When people act out their genuine feelings, most of us get confused, since most of us don’t know how to do that.
Dylan’s like that. Halloween is a good day for this big celebration of “Straight On.” The track’s an exhortation to be true to yourself and your intentions, for one thing. For another, Dylan’s the kind of dude who’ll leave you with the question, hey, man, are you for real? Because he is for real. He’s very for real. We’re just not used to how weird people are when they’re genuine.
’Cause when you are lost just go straight on.