Alex Van Pelt

Alex Van Pelt

Mind out of time

Fresh tracks and timely insight.

Island People, “Loneliness Has a Purpose,” II (Raster)

“Loneliness Has a Purpose” by Island People

When I think about how all of this began, it’s like that scene in some classic disaster movie, just before whatever happens, happens: a sunny spring day, kids playing in the park, laughter on the soundtrack, in the distance a dog barks, all of them oblivious to impending calamity. Cut to 15 months later. Disaster struck. And yet, everywhere you look, people are already dipping their toes back into what we once called “normalcy” — getting a fresh haircut; eating in a restaurant; sharing a joint with a double-vaxxed friend; getting arrested after a hockey game. 

Two thoughts strike me: 1) Isn’t this all happening just a little too fast? Ahead of schedule in some instances? One must always be wary whenever a crisis is averted ahead of schedule. And 2) Are haircuts and hockey riots really the be-all-end-all of normalcy? Wasn’t there something more to all of this? Is it simply the act of doing that’s important, of going through the motions, or is there some greater fulfillment at stake? What we have forever lost is the ability to be oblivious, to not anticipate the next calamity, to be content under Kodachrome skies.

Nene H, “We Wait,” Ali (Incienso)

“We Wait” by Nene H

Navigating reality is constantly complicated by temporal pressures. We are prompted to act and react quickly in contemporary life, both by technology and biology, and often against our better interests. Time itself propels us exponentially faster into an increasingly uncertain future. But anyone who knows the fable of the tortoise and the hare knows that slow-and-steady wins the race.

I’m a proponent of deliberation to the point of procrastination. And there is evidence to support the social value of delay. In his 2012 book Wait: The Art and Science of Delay, author Frank Partnoy writes: “The best professionals understand how long they have available to make a decision, and then, given that time frame, they wait as long as they possibly can.” Like with filing this column, for example, a lot of the best music and ideas tend to come in just under the wire.

Shackleton, “Something Tells Me / Pour Out Like Water,” Departing Like Rivers (Woe to the Septic Heart!)

“Something Tells Me / Pour Out Like Water” by Shackleton

An update on my post-pandemic hair: the last time I submitted a report, we were sitting at Neil Diamond on the Hot August Night album cover. Since then, it’s only gotten wilder, morphing from Christian Slater-in-Heathers to Dennis Miller’s late-era Saturday Night Live Weekend Update do. For a moment in mid-February, I looked like the consummate caricature of a yuppie in 1991. But the mane kept growing. By April I was sporting the difficult to replicate Christopher Walken-on-hiatus look. It especially worked if I slept on it and didn’t shower for a few days. And at this moment, I am dangerously close to the obscure coif known only to aficionados as the Kevin Corrigan-in-Illtown. I look like a B-movie actor from a film no one has seen. Although Kevin Corrigan in my opinion is highly underrated as an artist. His appearance in Trees Lounge with Michael Imperioli made me think he should have been a character on The Sopranos.

Ann Margaret Hogan & Karl O’Connor, “Temporary Thing,” Let the Night Return (Downwards)

“Temporary Thing” by Ann Margaret Hogan & Karl O’Connor

I feel sorry for Conan O’Brien. After an already enviable career as a comedy writer, he inherited David Letterman’s NBC show, Late Night, when Letterman moved to CBS. And having made it even crazier and more successful than ever, O’Brien was first in line to take over from Jay Leno after Leno quit The Tonight Show. But things didn’t go as planned. Leno didn’t quit, and O’Brien was Plutoed down to Jane Fonda’s ex-husband’s little nickel-and-dime network. I seem to recall he was doing some internet thing for a while. During his tenure, Conan was the funniest, quirkiest nighttime chat show host, and was rewarded for his efforts with diminishing returns.

Now that O’Brien has graduated to HBO Max, it feels like late night television as we once knew it is done. I am old enough to recollect not liking Johnny Carson. I remember when Letterman and Leno were jockeying for Carson’s gig. (Too bad it didn’t go to Garry Shandling, although Larry Sanders was a far better outlet for Shandling’s brand.) I can’t stand the Jimmys. Colbert was better as Colbert. And Corden is a clown. In all the vying for the afterhours viewer, these hosts have forgotten the most important aspect of helming a talk show: the art of conversation.

Alex Van Pelt, “Broken Heart,” Global Crush (Kidderminster Records)

“Broken Heart” by Alex Van Pelt

There are some wounds that time doesn’t heal. In fact, time creates many more problems than it solves. If something is broken — a heart, for example — time only extends its brokenness. Broken things take significant time to fix, and even if and when you do fix them, there is no guarantee that time won’t come along before much time and fuck up your shit again. Time ain’t no doctor, and it’s very difficult to doctor time.

Time doesn’t take sides, but whatever side you’re on, it’s not on time. Time and tide wait for no man. Not women either. Whatever your pronouns, time doesn’t identify with you. There are so many time-sensitive clichés that it would take a lifetime to retell them all. There would scarcely be time enough to talk about all the times that time obeyed the clock but not the heart. What time does instead is it marches on. All in due time. ■


This feature was originally published in the July issue of Cult MTL. To see previous editions of Play Recent, please click here.