Handsome Furs Travel Across Asia and Live to Write About It

09/30/2010

So hip it hurts, in Asia.


Handsome Furs: “What We Had”
[audio: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/11609852/Handsome%20Furs%20Cannot%20Get%20Started]
While doing my not very regular but somewhat periodic scan of the indie labels websites I respect I came across the travelogue of Handsome Furs’ duo Alexie Perry and Dan Boeckner, who happens to also be in Wolf Parade and married to Alexei. The two of them make for an almost stereotypically attractive edgy rock couple ( kind of like Lost in Translation but without the pretentious sense of ennui). The travelogue consists of Dan’s photos and Alexei’s prose. Without knocking Dan’s photos, I thought Alexei’s descriptions were on the whole more interesting, for instance:

We dine on pho, slowly carefully painfully and then, finally able-bodied again, we walk through the winding city streets. Hong Kong is one of the only cities I have been to where it is brighter during the night than it is during the sun-drenched day. All signage screams in fluorescent and dusty little restaurants are suddenly pulsing with colour and fire. Street lamps are abuzz in bright yellow and taxis whirr down every alley with flashing lights.

In some cases her observations venture nimbly past rich descriptions of the quotidian into more intimate, charming moments, like this one that happened after their show in Shanghai:

On stage, while packing up, I accidentally punch Dan in the eyeball with the oversized ring he just gave me for our anniversary (note: I’d beat him to the punch of asking him to marry me and then I’d went ahead and designed our wedding rings so he’d never had the chance to bejewel my fingers until this recent gift) and so he forced me to make out with him for forgiveness. Win win. Except for Dan’s eyeball.

Gems like this are woven in with journalistic observations of the social, economic and political sort, including an almost surreal brush with danger in Sepang, an illegal show in Burma and other more prosaic events. In an era where the pseudo-shocking twitter post is apparently newsworthy, this kind of candid and honest self-exposure, without the underlying shrill tones of self-promotion and narcissism, is refreshing:

We lug our gear two doors down to our hotel. Too exhausted and dirty and hot to move, even to shower. We chug water before climbing on top of scratchy sheets and pass out from the utter chaos of the day. Winded (if there had been wind) by the heat and humanity of this insane town.

It’s a reminder that artistry without the tawdriness of celebrity can be a beautiful thing and one particular passage speaks to the almost brilliant universality of their experience:

I have survived falling through thick ice and my own dumb drug n drink choices and frequent foolishness and the medieval-seeming hand foot and mouth disease, undiagnoseable breathing problems, inexplicable chronic back pain, ileo celiac inflammation and unidentified gastro-intestinal woes, depression and suicidal tendencies, a car bomb, a car fire, a car crash, a sting ray love nip, angry wild dogs, lively crackheads, someone else’s murderous rage, jail, cliff jumps and now a gunfight. I’m not trying to exaggerate the situations. These are the ones I’m willing to really laugh and talk about (there are others I’m still grappling with). I’m identifying them solely because I feel lucky to have such good stories, such a full life. I have learned that despite having backwards heart valves, I have a very strong heart. Despite my inability to breathe well, I breathe deeply. And what I felt during “Gun Trouble in the Rotten Tropics” is that “Dan is the man for me. We have so much more to see.”