The Doors – The Doors
The Doors is among my favorite albums and bands, but god, what a fucking terrible name for a band. I’m glad that the blandness is so terribly misleading.
The Doors is the perfect mixture of psychedelic rock and fuck you. It’s Rolling Stones for the acid crowd, with an implicit sneer that cascades across kaleidoscopic keyboard fills, skanky finger-picked Gibson SG guitar licks, delicate hi-hat jazz drum kisses and, of course, Jim Morrison’s bourbon-soaked, Native American death shaman parading this cavalcade of chaos down through death’s doors of perception on their way to transcendence. It’s like a Bob Dylan nightmare going on one seriously bad trip through the desert. It’s fucking awesome.
The tension of Flower-Power Psycehdelia, and Harsh Humanity is utterly compelling, and bleeds through every aspect of the cut. At once straightforward, sexy and shameless; but also heady, high-strung, and oblique, the record is at war with itself on Freudian scales: Id and Superego; Eros, Thanatos; sex and death. Morrison dips into the shadows, with his lyrics: seven mile long snakes; getting high in back-alleys; the crystal ship of death, looming on the horizon; going on an epic whiskey bender; Oedipus, the many-faced assassin. The imagery matches the chaotic underpinnings of the music itself.
While a straightforward Rock album, and one that cuts deep, the Doors accomplishes so much because of those moments that are Jazz-y or very un-rock; they’re not so much elegantly married as forced into a chaotic union. The Drums are straight out of a Bebop record, with “Light My Fire” and “Break on through (To the Other Side)” being particularly notable, in this regard; Robby Krieger very actively recalls the works of Django Reinhardt, as he fingerpicks his way through “20th Century Fox” and “The End”. The lack of a bass is made-up for by Ray Manzarek’s omnipresent classically influenced keyboard.
But it’s Morrison, that singular baritone voice that sits right on the edge of sanity, that seals the deal. His voice drifts between manic-highs and tragic, drunken lows. The aura that followed him almost visibly in life sits on him in this record. It bleeds through the songs, touches your tongue, grabs your hips, shakes you violently, and leaves you wanting more.
It’s like a Bob Dylan nightmare going on one seriously bad trip through the desert. It’s fucking awesome.
And then, of course, there is “The End”: one of the most apocalyptic songs I’ve ever heard, and has stuck with me in my gut since I first heard it 10 year ago. It’s meandering Drop D guitar line, the poetry of Morrison’s goodbyes. It never feels like 10 minutes; and it could feel very out of place, being so long. But in the context of this record, it feels just right. It’s kind of dirty,and spiritually influenced; but there is something so enthralling about Morrison unabashedly singing about being a motherfucker – without any shame -- surrounded by such jarring imagery. The unconsciousness of it all is beyond me.
And for most people, that is enough to love this record. But for me, this record was the right kind of dark, at just the right time in my life. It made my shadow acceptable. It showed me that my shadow was not a demon, but essential to my existence; and that if I embrace it, it is a powerful companion.
Until I break on through to the other side.