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Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Dos: Day 246
Saturday. Sept 15, 2012

“Cross Bones Style”
Cat Power

1998

“♫ Cause you
have seen some
unbelievable
things
♫”

I’ve been on full on Chan Marshall mood, lately and late last night was no exception. I went back to Cat Power’s now classic back catalog and re-experienced the best songs from Moon Pix and You Are Free. The one track that hypnotized me with its poetic greatness was Moon Pix’s “Cross Bones Style.” In Elizabeth Goodman’s biography Cat Power: A Good Woman, Marshall herself described “Bones” as “the real dance song” on Moon Pix. Claiming it was inspired by Madonna, Marshall filmed a video tribute of the Material Girl for “Cross Bones” in the style of “Lucky Star.”

Unfortunately, “Cross Bones” came to Cat Power in the most haunted way. Marshall described the events in the fall of 1997 in Goodman’s book when she said, “I was in South Carolina by myself for an entire month. There are no sounds or lights, just crickets and darkness. It’s an old house, and if you’re in a bad state of mind, you sometimes see things that aren’t there and you go crazy. I got woken up by something in the field behind my house.”

Poor Chan, I’ve been there inside of a house that felt haunted. My parents had this casa that was a model house and everything inside was made for children. The light switches, the wallpaper and there were so many windows that would shake during storms in the South. I would get so scared alone in the house. I saw a few spirits in that house. I once woke up and saw a little boy, glowing in red lights, cowering with fear in the corner. It so frightened me, looking back I have to believe that old house was one of the reasons I ran off and moved to New Orleans. It felt like those good spirits kept me safe for years.

Unfortunately, Chan’s terrifying experience did not end there. Marshall explained what happened, that fall in her house in South Carolina, next when she said, “The earth started shaking, and dark spirits were smashing up against every window of my house and I started praying to God to help me. A voice was telling me my past would be forgotten if I would just meet him—whoever he was—in the field. And I woke up screaming, “No I won’t meet you!” And I knew who it was: it was a sneaky old serpent. My nightmare was surrounding my house like a tornado. So I just ran and got my guitar because I was trying to distract myself. I had to turn on the lights and sing to God. I got a tape recorder and recorded the next sixty minutes. And played these long changes, into six different songs. That’s where I got the record.”

Through Marshall’s darkness she created the light of Moon Pix and my favorite song “Cross Bones Style.” Someone who also loves Cat Power is former Nirvana drummer and current Foo Fighters front man Dave Grohl who once described Marshall’s voice as “the most satisfying orgasm I could imagine.” Grohl recounted to Uncut UK Magazine the first time he discovered Cat Power’s music when he explained, “I was in New Zealand. My friend had a mix tape going in the van and ‘Cross Bones Style’ from the Moon Pix album came on. I turned it up and asked, ‘Who the fuck is this?’ I swear, nothing else mattered at that moment. Not the sun. Not the sea. Or the perfect summer day. Her voice was chilling. Her guitar was beautiful. Her words were so pure.

Grohl’s right, there’s something spellbinding and timeless about Cat Power’s Moon Pix music, especially “Cross Bones Style.” Even though “Cross Bones” was created in such an eerie manner, the result is Cat Power’s search for lyrical salvation. Sliced with hints of hopefulness, “Cross Bones Style” is the sound of Cat Power facing her demons. Chan Marshall is a survivor and her super alter-ego creates beautiful music. Cat Power’s songs are her lyrical scars for all us to explore and honor. For those coming to Cat Power with new ears, I highly recommend Moon Pix and especially “Cross Bones Style.” From hell and back, Marshall’s songs are the light that will keep our own inner demons away while lifting us within the sounds of Cat Power’s deepest lyrical fires.

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