Wednesday, February 11, 2009

33 Greatest Albums: Billy Bragg & Wilco - 'Mermaid Avenue'

I'll never scoff at a gushing parent again. In fact, I may start some sort of a political action committee designed to stamp out scoffing at baby-struck parents.

To me it is the height of cynicism to view a parent in the throes of new baby love as anything other than the perfect articulation of all that is potential in the fruition of billions of years of DNA. We are supposed to lose our minds in love. Some of us wind up mistreating, beating, even killing our own children, so it seems to me that the new infant love train is one that ought to be cultivated, encouraged, celebrated.

Now, full disclosure. I probably wanted to be a parent more than I wanted anything else. So I am one predisposed to this sort of emotional response. And to top it all off, my kid was so cute people wouldn't let me pay for my morning coffee. Connecticut Muffin on the southwest corner of Prospect Park in Park Slope consistently gave me the 'cute baby' discount, giving Cashel and I free coffee and bagels repeatedly over the years we lived there.

So if you are one of the converted I am preaching to, hello. If not, if you are one of those who smirks when they witness a parent cooing over a little bundle I just feel sorry for you. And I look forward to the day when you have your own kid and you have to look at yourself in the mirror and inwardly apologize to all the people you slighted with your scorn.

In any case, this album is intricately intertwined with my son's childhood. It is a collaboration between a Socialist bi-sexual pop star from England and an eclectic American roots rock band. Woody Guthrie's granddaughter found all these old song lyrics and wanted to pay homage to him. So she gave EVERYTHING in the vault to Billy Bragg who called Wilco. They recorded two albums of material. 'Mermaid Avenue' and 'Mermaid Avenue, Vol 2'.

My wife (soon to be ex) gave me a copy of the album. I'd not heard of it at all so I was shocked at the triple combo. I popped it on the stereo in our little apartment right off the park. My son, under 2 and in diapers, immediately started dancing.

I have film of him on all fours bouncing his rump to the strains of 'HooDoo VooDoo'. The look of delight on his face was almost too much to bear. Kids have a direct line to joy. They chase it relentlessly. When they find it they surrender completely. We hide our pursuit, we temper our release.

Unless we're holding our newborns. Then we remove the obstacles. Then we say, 'Nothing will stop my joy.' And some of you have a problem with that?

Shame on you.


Sheila O'Malley said...

Tears!!! Every time I hear those opening chords, I think of little Cashel in his striped onesie!

Brendan O'Malley said...

how cute was his little butt bouncing up and down to it on all fours? what a cutie!