F. Scott Fitzgerald once remarked that life is a process of small ruptures that lead to a tremendous final crackdown. Fitzgerald was one of the gigantic voices of reason in the Jazz Age, an era that many scholars simply remember as “the gaudiest spree” in American history. Like it or not, his insight will always stand in that selected place in which truths that are purely forceful in themselves are found.
What I think, however, is that it is conceivable to look at everything from a different angle. What if life were also a process in which one goes through small significant moments that let him finally discover the definitive moment he wants to be in? I am sure it is not far-fetched to think that a person can form his own perception of anything like that.
Personally, I think I can remember the first time a music performance truly moved me. It was the night Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova won the Academy Award for the song “Falling Slowly”. That was the central piece from “Once”, a musical ingrained in reality that didn’t deny the deep value of dreams for a single minute.
And what struck me really hard was not only the way they played that night, and the radiant chemistry they displayed onstage. It was the words they spoke as they were given their Oscars.
Marketa said “Fair play to those who dream”. Glen simply remarked “Make art… Make art!”.
That night, it dawned on me that if two independent musicians could take on giants like Melissa Etheridge and Disney and walk away victorious, then maybe it would also become possible for Uruguayan musicians to stand up in non-Spanish speaking markets and succeed on their own terms.
Sure, Uruguayan singer/songwriter Jorge Drexler had won an Oscar himself in 2004 for the song “Al Otro Lado Del Río” [Across The River], but it was a bittersweet moment. He was not allowed to take the stage to play the song. Antonio Banderas and Santana played it, with lots of energy but not a lot of precision. When Jorge was awarded the coveted accolade, he sang a portion of “Al Otro Lade Del Río” accapella. I couldn’t help but wonder if that did nothing but highlight how submissive he had had to be to reach that podium that night and walk away with an Oscar. It all felt a little childish, like a girl who kicks a friend in the shin while his parents are holding him, telling him off for something he had done to her.
But that night in 2007, as those two virtually unknown European musicians had left everybody at the Kodak Theater mesmerized with their interpretative skills and integrity I stood as energized as I could be. If there was ever a moment I felt a sense of true possibility materializing, then that was it. I felt (nay, I knew) Uruguayan musicians would one day be able to stand up on their own two feet, and present their art uncompromisingly to the world.
The independent artist I want to cover today has got me thinking about that, along with the best bands currently active in the Uruguayan scene such as The Bear Season and Casablancas. Doorman is an electronic outfit that takes after the name of its frontman, Gustavo “Jack” Doorman. He writes everything and sings the lead, while the remainder of the band comprises Federico Recarey (bass), Ariel Scarpitta (sequencers), Hangel (drums) and Oscar Naya and Lucas Kanopa (guitars).
The band has already issued an album (“Supermal”, produced by Daniel Anselmi) and it stands as an entrancing mixture of buoyant rhythms and lyrics that are mostly hedonistic, although there is also room for contemplation and sheer regret, as in the song “Sad Situations” (one of their most rock-oriented numbers, and a personal favorite of mine).
Doorman savagely sings “Undress me while I’m crying/Undress me while I sing this song/Your twisted vision/I love to dry your eyes/Let’s play with my reflection/And laugh at sad situations” as the band flexes all its muscles and turns the whole song into something uptempo that is hardly ever upbeat. Something that keeps you moving, but that does not necessarily make you go forward. As Gustavo himself reckons on the song, “We run with no direction/And laugh at sad situations”. And songs like the title track and “Cool Like James Bond” provide an even readier chance for a cathartic dancefloor experience, with their pyrotechnic beats and choruses that boom and crash from one extreme to the other.
For its part, the single “Cerdo” [Swine] is specially remembered here in Uruguay for its accompanying video, which was shot as the Swine Flu paranoia had heightened. In the clip, Doorman is seen parading around Montevideo accompanied by a little porcine friend on a leash. I am surprised he managed being arrested. Frank Abagnale Jr. has obviously got nothing on him…
If anything, the best moments on “Supermal” are nestled right between what Joy Division and New Order did. Songs like “Just To Kill The King” and “Kissing Stoned” represent music that is vital in nature, although there is a predestined sense of moodiness that can never be shaken off. The lyrics contain a very deep element of truth that you are kept from appreciating by the unremitting drive of the music.
Ultimately, that sense of being able to become immersed in negativity and somehow laugh it off is the most emblematic aspect of Doorman’s music. Some say that one stops being happy the moment he asks himself if he is really happy. Or to put it in even clearer words: ignorance is bliss (or ecstasy, if we want to be accurate with our metaphors here). The music found on “Supermal” will have you treading the line that separates conscience from devil-may-care abandon, balancing between extremes with your eyes closed, knowing that you might irretrievably fall to one side and break your whole body in the process. And savoring that thought every step of the way. Danger will always be one of the biggest, dizziest motivators around.
I introduced this review by writing about these moments that define one’s own perception of possibility. You know I was disappointed the day I listened to Astroboy. You know I became more enthusiastic when I discovered a band like Soundays. Now, acts such as Doorman (and others I hope to cover soon like The Bear Season and Casablancas) have convinced me that worldwide recognition in an integer way is not something unattainable for Uruguayan artists.
The time is ripe. It has to be.
We have laughed at sad situations for too long.
This is Doorman’s MySpace profile.