I just can’t stop listening to it, it’s like a corridor linking the external world of hedonistic hopes, sweet dreams, ventures, the post-modern, post-cultural avant-garde, with my apathetic world of traditional promises and middle-class potential. You see, Channel Orange is ice-cold, and we’re all lukewarm, comfortable, without struggle but not carefree. Frederick Douglass once said: ‘Without struggle, there is no progress’, well Fred, ask Frank about struggle, he won’t tell you about progress.
Now, in contention, it’s not right to say it and I don’t agree with the idea, but struggle, struggle is cool. It’s the shit we all crave, the mind behind the mind is really all about feeling sorry and disheartened at our failed efforts of providing reality to the simplest of truths. And thus, in our over-complication of honest ideals, we shine like glitter – in the right moment, in the right light. We are enlightened, unafraid of stage-diving, getting lost, and balancing the steak-knives of our dispositions, all within the enclosed complex of our domesticated paradise. The pyramid of fear – to the tip of pleasure we climb.
Frank Ocean had me slow down for like two weeks before C.O. came out. Digesting, over-zealous, fanatic at the mentioning of the name. Every conversation that dropped a little Frank, I swam to it, clutching Nostalgia-Ultra in my arms. We were hitched like no other man-mixtape relationship. I remember I got the ‘Stanley Kubrick, Eyes Wide Shut’ references, I grew up on the Eagles in my Dad’s car, Street Fighter and Goldeneye on my cousin’s Nintendo, Soul Calibur on my PS2 and I didn’t have a problem with the MGMT renovation. It hit me like a Santana solo, a little hymn from the West-Coast, had my full attention – ‘Yikes’.
But the album, like a cold mountain mist, covered us track by track, week by week, yet all the while ubiquitous. It wasn’t a platonic paragon, labeled under ‘Frank the Cool’ and followed respectively, but instead, truthful. Channel Orange got at everyone in its own way, you attached it to your friends, your hopeless flings, your aspiration to a venture in the Orient, while so dependent on the culture adopted. The Hollywood daydream, the boulevard and valley, scenery to your imagination and desires. Let it hit you, and sit there eyes wide open, keepin’ it surreal.
Late night, shuffle gave me Crack Rock, Frank Ocean’s ode to the addict. A little difficult for the Britisher to grasp, considering our crack scene is a little underdeveloped, and hasn’t been illuminated in Spike Lee fashion, but I got the drift. I loved the line ‘your family stopped inviting you to things, won’t let you hold the infant’ - I couldn’t help but think what if I was only a few class A’s away from total detachment. But it’s the slow beat with the edgy symbols, and the church-style organ slides, complimented by the hotel lobby piano piece that really works. A classy instrumental for a track about crack, crooked cops, glass dicks, the whole cinematic deal. Followed almost paradoxically by the staple song, Pyramids. With the current, electro feel, and the subject matter Cleopatra, as opposed to the throwback beat on Crack Rock with the problems of today. Pyramids has you thinking back to all those school lessons you had about the Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt. Then somewhere in the middle of the 10 minute session Frank slows the pace down and brings you right back to today, and then you remember that ‘she was working at the Pyramid tonight’, yeah she’s a stripper, with skin like bronze and hair like cashmere.
Stay with the drug theme for a minute, Lost – the mule, the kingpin (Frank), and the diamond-damsel caught under the spotlight of the business, and all its perks. Taken on a trip through all platforms of culture and excitement. A real life Pablo Escobar, and his mistress, to which the account is made and she had a great time Frank, she really did. Exploring the identity of these hypothetical women had us all aboard the Maharaja Deccan Odyssey, passing mountains, plains, tribal-pleasures. Monks, a guest appearance from the African girl who speaks in English accents, and the Indian girl who sleeps above the Temple, with a run away blueprint – all in search for nirvana. Shiny, attractive to the mind, the concepts, ideas - otherness, it had me thinking about Edward Said (strange first thought, I know), and the deep-rooted libidinous taboo that is present in the Orient, to which the Western male traveler must sincerely be obliged to explore, exploit, but never settle with.
I have to finish with Bad Religion as a reflection, not just for poetic justice (or injustice to some), it completes the album, without it you’d say the album didn’t provide any stimulating seriousness (as if it was needed to complete your listening pleasure), but reality sinks in when Frank does what he did with Bad Religion. He was the voice to many, asking the questions that needed to be asked. The statement to submission being unreachable to a man with struggles, inhumane reality, humane fantasy. Twenty-first century problems don’t coincide with your monotheistic tradition, not to mention the labyrinthine formation of our psyche, it’s all in need of a little love don’t you agree? Oh but it’s unrequited love, thankless, a continuous state of statu pupillari. The remedies for such dependence, away from autonomous nihilism, have a solid foundation in cult activity. Jim Jones and The People’s Temple, a hopeless collection of promises, with a metaphorical instrumental a bit like Crack Rock. Vintage, throwback, all in the dimensions of love, or at least in the search for such dimensions. Here’s where it gets clever, he says ‘God is great’. We have been travelling down that avenue for eternity and to Frank’s disappointment it ends with a further eternity to be promised. What else? A new-age humanistic love, developed by one another, and ending in the cyanide filled styrofoam cups. Oh what a Bad Religion it is when you put it that way.
In your total understanding of reality, whatever stage you think it’s at, it won’t get any more real unless you put it to the test. It has to be an existential challenge to mankind, to the formation of our thoughts, processes, desires, passions, consciousness and self-consciousness. What it cannot be is a passive submission to authority, leadership, hierarchy, and all the shit that comes rolled up in that package. The journey Frank took me on was a gateway to the former, but reality sits in the latter. It comes second to the ticking clock in between our ears, and the jewel on the left side of your chest.