I saw Imogen Heap a few weeks ago in concert and Ben Christophers was one of the opening bands. He’s a singer/songwriter type, which is something I usually loathe — here’s looking at you, Paolo Nutini, and for the last time, everything will not be all right if I find a new pair of shoes because I wear size 12 in women’s and do you know how hard it is to find cute pumps in that size? IMPOSSIBLE — but his clear, high voice, haunting and ethereal melodies and all-around glistening craftsmanship made me fall in love, which is something usually reserved for hunky actors playing vampires. (Not you, though, Ethan Hawke. Get lost.)
This is a live version of the song “Hooded Kiss” that I saw him perform and the entire theater was silent until he finished and then erupted into applause. It was one of the very few times when I was sad to see an opener leave the stage to allow the main act to play.*
A deep river flows of weathered sins and weathered souls
A kiss, a hooded kiss from the seeds of desire
So grief, heavenly grief, my love you’re bringing to me
But you’ve got shipwreckers eyes and all, a cutting stingray smile
First of all, I have a passion for anyone who can do something really well. (That’s a quote from The Master and Margarita. I should just give myself a nickel every time I mention that book in a day. I would be broke. And rich at the same time. Schroedinger’s Millionaire!) This includes, but is not limited to, people who can sing well and play the guitar well at the same time, men who can sing higher than I can,** and Rachel Weisz. Now, I’m not sure if Ben Christophers can juggle chainsaws, but he’s got two outta three. And two outta three ain’t bad.
Like The Builders and the Butchers, Ben Christopher’s self-titled album is littered with beautiful images that are steeped in symbolism. Any time a river is involved, I immediately think of Edgar Allan Poe and the sorrow and ever-marching erosion of memory that water, for him, represents. The inclusion of “weathered sins and weathered souls” in the “deep river” is like a lazy river for the damned, one that spirals around and around, not going anywhere, but like Lethe, seeps the memories from our veins until there’s nothing left but shells of what we once were.
It’s the “seed of desire” — or destruction, if you’re Hellboy or happen to have a right hand of doom — that first slip into sin that causes “heavenly grief” and the beginnings of the descent into damnation. Describing eyes as “shipwreckers” is one of the most poetic lines I’ve come across recently and the idea that someone’s stare can be as soul-crushing and self-destructive as something that can break a ship into dissembled parts — or, you know, Jaws — is a powerful and tempting lure into the darkness created by the monotony of the guitar part.
A hooded kiss is something secretive, a drifting into a furtive and illicit relationship that will end in nothing but a stinging sense of “lonely roads” and “sullen clouds.” And a mouth that delivers a hooded kiss can turn into a “cutting smile” just as quickly. Danger lurks but nothing can be done to stop the ship once it’s headed into the iceberg.
This song truly encapsulates my obsession of the week, but also is a delve into an emotion that’s rather important to my novel. In a lot of vampire novels, temptation is a salient theme, but I didn’t want to make Gwennie a steel-toed warrior who has the Iron Curtain for her will, but someone with major flaws who occasionally gives into temptation. This song is perfect for that slinky seductiveness that a person — or in Gwennie’s case, a bleeding jugular — wields as a weapon. It’s a continual power struggle of base desires against rationality and civility. And gore. Lots of it. Like, tons.
*It was not one of those times when Juliette and the Licks opened for Muse. In fact, we clapped the loudest when she said, “This is our last song!”
**I’m an alto, so this isn’t so very hard, but still rather impressive. My friends and I play the “Can I beat this dude up simply by listening to how girly he sounds?” game and the
people I can totally beat up winners are Thom Yorke from Radiohead (I’m sure that’s how he got his wonky eye), Darren Hayes from Savage Garden, Brian Aubert from Silversun Pickups, and any dude who sings the melody in a barbershop quartet.