On Our Radar: Jody Glenham's "War On This World" a tribute to power of modern dance and positive thinking
One of the truly fascinating things about modern dance is the way it often says something profound without saying anything at all.
That can be refreshing at a point in time that’s all about constant information overload. Admit it—more often than not you use nothing but Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, and Rachel Maddow to make sense of the world. (No one is blaming you for Rachel Maddow, who remains a gold-star reason to turn on your television. As for the other three, as a wise person once said, “Stop scrolling through that endless mindless shit, put down the fucking phone, and go do something.”)
On the do-something front, that's often easier said than done. Jody Glenham might be able to relate to that. It took the veteran Vancouver alt-pop survivor a while to follow up her last full-length, Focus Pull. And by that we’re talking a little over 10 years.
Think about that. That's an eternity in a world where every day seems to bring a fresh outrage that's forgotten the next.
Flashing back, the year 2009 not only gave us the birth of Jack White’s Dead Weather, but also the formation of Sublime With Rome, Surfer Blood, Diarrhea Planet, and.....um, well....at least there was Dead Weather and Focus Pull.
Back to the present, this fall has brought us Glenham’s new and exceedingly lovely album Mood Rock. As a piece of art it feels entirely right for these troubled times, the album starting with the world-weary neon-glow "Barely Alive" and ending with the bright-eyed melancholia of "Fuckers". (You want lyrics that sum up this year with razorblade precision? Start with "My sinking heart has hit rock bottom.")
There’s no point trying to sugarcoat things—this year has totally fucking blown chunks. Gauzy and reflective, Mood Rock isn’t going to make you feel like the sun will shine eternally in the coming months. Or that it’s the right time to book springtime-in-Paris accommodations for 2021, making sure to include a daily stop at the fabulous Stohrer baker on Rue Montergueil. But it will make you feel like, maybe, someone out there knows where you’re at when the days are hard. And sometimes that’s enough.
With the caveat that attending and dissecting dance shows tends to colour one's interpretation of reality, the idea of finding something beautiful in bleak times runs through the video for “War On This World”. Roughly seven seconds in, the screen is filled with six performers that look like neon-coloured ghosts from the late-great Anna Wyman Dance Theatre.
The backdrop—blue Port-a-Potties, dirty-white garage door, nondescript grey cinderblock wall—is as depressing as 2020. The dancers—some celebratory, some pensive, some silently joyful—are goddamn gorgeous for no other reason that they suggest there always beauty in ugliness.
Just over a minute in, things go from frozen in a time we'd all rather forget to inspirationally uplifting. Inside a warehouse, no costumes needed, a totally in-synch troupe moves effortlessly as one, sending a message that, really, we are all in this together.
And then, following a series of quick-cut street edits that suggest maybe Vancouver isn't totally—as often suggested—a really ugly city in a crazily beautiful location, "War On This World" goes full bloom. The drums roar in and a soft-keys and hushed vocals meditation becomes an uplifting anthem. And yes, the modern dancers return, making a kaleidoscopic transition from the safety of the warehouse to the ugly outside world with its Port-a-Potties and cinder-block walls.
What's the message? Stick around until the end for a reminder that 2020 truly does blow chunks. And after you have, marvel at the fact that the greatness of modern dance is that it's all about what you bring to a performance as as a human being as much as it is about the perfromance itself. No words necessary. Except the ones in your head.