Critical Trilogy

a critic's millennial journey

JAMES MADDOCK’s SPRING AWAKENING: “WHEN THE STARS ALIGN”

Genius appears in the most unexpected places…

James Maddock in the band room of Danbury’s City Ale House

I made a St. Patrick’s Day sojourn through the backwoods of Connecticut to find the bard sitting all alone in the band room of an Irish bar on Danbury’s Main Street.  I knew he was supposed to be there, on a billing with three other acts, because I found the engagement on his website.  I just didn’t understand why he was there.  In fact, when my friend Kria Brekkan, formerly married to David Porter (Avey Tare) of Animal Collective, called me on her way from Iceland to Austin the night before, I asked how it happened that I could expect to find a rock star in a Connecticut dive?  She simply said: “It depends on the manager.”  But I know, from my tracking of Kria’s 2008 rise as a mystico-feminine rocker artist (now performing in museums), how the Bloomberg regime has shut down the clubs, making it nearly impossible for any new scene to emerge.  So, it was my good fortune to find Maddock here in my former reviewing ground of Connecticut.

“What are you doing here!!?” I asked.

He shook his head.  “I don’t know.  We fired our agent today.”

But I had a feeling we shared the same vision: as above, so below.   I knew his story:  he was tapped by a record company a decade ago — and afterwards a fated turn of events in his life prevented his star from rising.  As I have previoussly written on this blog: the genius emerges when the times demand it.

He invited me to sit beside him for a chat.  I told him that his voice stopped me in my tracks when I first heard it.  Literally.  I was in a parking lot, immobile because I was so riveted by interview on National Public Radio.  Afterward, they played his music, which made me late for my appointment.  I sat there, absorbing the greater importance of this phenomenon appearing with a readymade prophecy in an incredibly catchy tune, a.k.a When the Stars Align. From there, it was just a matter of flow to the convergence required by this present experiment in overcoming “Applying the Heisenberg Principle to 21st Century Art,” the topic of my paper delivered at the AICA conference last fall.

In fact, as conscious observer of my own experiment, I proceeded, somewhat unconsciously, to enact the lyrics of his song by asking for his number.  Not his phone but his birthday.  He gave me the date.  And why not? He had the intuition, the courage, to construct his own destiny…I only wanted to play my part by confirming he was the unexpected phenomenon crystalizing under the alignment of stars of a very fated Spring Equinox.  Before leaving him in the band room, I purchased two CD’s and he placed another in my hands.  Only later did I notice the title: Strategy for Life.

In tune with the cosmos!

Engaging with the band’s remarkable performance a half hour later, I understood how every woman listening to his music for the first time could feel the way I did. That is his genius — to sing for the masses an intimate and sincere self-revelation that makes them feel they are the only one listening…

Spring Equinox 2010

Yes, having seen his stars compared with the chart of the Spring Equinox 2010,  I know that James Maddock is the voice of Change, ushering New York City into a Spring Awakening after the slumbering silence imposed by the Bloomberg regime.

Nearly a decade has passed since The Strokes enlivened the scene with their catchy 2001 release that seemed to leak out of every doorway:  Is this It?

Now, there is Maddock’s Sunrise on Avenue C, as prophetic as it is memorable.  

Configuring his new CD into a specific time and place  — the edge of the East Village known as Alphabetland at the Paradigm Shift — establishes the universality of his lyrics within the context of a holistic grassroots movement.  The poetic vision of his lyrics invites his listeners into the phenomenon of finding the ordinary in the extraordinary and the extraordinary in the ordinary:  “…the Village is a symphony.”

Dana Mitchie, Maddock's biggest CT. fan, with her friend Sherry

“It’s a song.  It’s a catchy song.  It has a point to it,” exclaimed a newly converted Connecticut fan after hearing Maddock perform for the first time.  He had no idea who he was and was mystified by the lack of billing; he explained that he just happened to be in the bar because his daughter opened the evening.

James Maddock at the City Ale House in Danbury

It seems that rock, at least in Bloomberg’s New York City, had to die a difficult death in order for it to be resurrected into a New Paradigm.  What does the music of this pioneering singer, songwriter and musician consist of?  Emotional vulnerability, for one.  Lyrics clocking an evolution from the emotional projection of early rock (“She loves you, yeah, yeah” was really about “I love her, yeah, yeah”) for another.  A vocal clarity underlining an active assertion — and relinquishing — of ego alchemically transmuting into the androgynous Self.

James Maddock with his band

If you may doubt either Maddock’s sincerity or ability to declare a new momentum in rock, just listen to his words.  They are chock full of psychological insights clothed in engaging, deceptively simple hooks.  In one song, you hear  I don’t change repeated so many times that you rhythmically follow when the words turn into their opposite, making change the engine of Maddock’s melodies.  Again, one need only to examine the words — how they vary with repetition to make the paradigm leap across the abyss:  Don’t get lost without me.  Let’s get lost together.

James Maddock with his band in Connecticut

It is a brilliant strategy of integrating consciousness with the unconscious, made all the more effective because of his articulate Gemini connections between the opposites.  Light and Dark.  Male and Female. Once publicly stated, a personal negation of feeling transforms into a universal quest for unity.  A delicate balance flows through his lyrics.  Inward examination is countered by an expression of concern for the public good. This is rock in the very process of evolving into a new paradigm of global interconnectedness imbedded in the integrity of emotional structure.

I just found out my wife is a man. Such audacious imagery sprinkled through the lyrics is the purifying salt to the hermetic transmutation of emotions.  A potent brew of build and release embraces a Truth which is nearly shocking, simply because there is so little to be found in our culture of dis-ease.  On one level, he sums up the patriarchal society through the gender archetypes; on another level, he transcends these limitations by inviting his audience to participate in his transmutation of these opposites.

I’ve got nothing.  With you I’m something.  I think you would call it a chance.  Three brief sentences summing up the grail quest of our times.  Words so simple, it takes genius to execute it into art! He might be singing about a relationship.  But he is also speaking directly to his audience, inviting them on his journey.

Gina Casetta at the City Ale House in Danbury

A rocker’s authenticity cutting to the soul is beyond the tools of both the marketers and the “gatekeeper” media – what’s left of it anyway (disclosure: I was the art critic for Tribune Newspapers in CT until the papers were sold in 2006).  My friend Gina–a country girl who grew up down the street from Bloomberg’s daughter’s horse farm in North Salem – has long been my radar for the authentic.  She was so joyously delighted by Maddock’s performance that she spontaneously went right up to tell him how much she loved it afterwards!   This reminded me of the warning that set me on my path: the new achetype – the hieros gamos –can only come from the people, representing the body, which means that, paradoxically, the intelligencia will be the last to experience it.  Maddock performs the neat trick of defining in his simple lyrics a new hip reflecting  extraordinary ordinary people like my friend Gina.

At what cost to the nurturing and growth of this universal archetype is the mainstream pursuit of fame and fortune in America?  Maddock’s artistry exposes the folly at the foundation of our perverse culture of dis-ease: the outward pursuit of “success” causes us to lose a connection to the very spirit we feel entitled to embody as a product of this extremely futile pursuit!

How simple this Strategy for Life seems when etched right into the titles of his songs.  Hollow Love is about the choice between the heedlessness pursuit of  fame at the expense of a more considered, conscious existence.  Maddock has obviously learned a great deal about life since his chance at fame was pulled out from under him a decade ago, and he is sharing it with this remarkable CD.

The extraordinary in the ordinary.  Dionysius descended and  I danced!

As the sky grew dark that night on my way to the Ale House, I saw Jupiter rising under the Crescent Moon.  In two days, Venus will finally pull away from her alignment with the Sun that kept her from human sight.  The brightest light in the heavens will appear in the west as the Evening Star…fulfilling the prophecy:

You see the world in a new light

Prove yourself right

When the stars align

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March 21, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , ,

2 Comments »

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    Comment by shutterfly discount code | July 23, 2013 | Reply

  2. Brilliantly insightful

    Comment by Pam | November 2, 2013 | Reply


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