Katie Von Schleicher is a writer and musician who performs under her own name – her new LP Shitty Hits is out July 28 on Ba Da Bing Records. Her deft poetic voice seeps through her review of “Big Car,” a 2016 cut from slinkily soulful songwriter Sam Evian, who will be opening up for Schleicher at her record release show at Union Pool on August 4.
Katie Von Schleicher: Sam Evian’s “Big Car” taps into a thread of writing I’ve become obsessed with, the evocation of humanity through its counterpoint with machines. There’s Fritz Lang’s 1927 German expressionist classic Metropolis, a thundering fever dream, and there’s the psycho-regressive relationship I have to my laptop, but lying in perfect balance between the two, we have the car song. The perfect within-the-car song is epitomized by a masculinity I can only view from afar, and is perhaps best demystified in the writing of a woman. The song’s delivery must be nonchalant, the stakes very high. At its heart, it’s an unplumbed well of emotion within a structure that feels nothing and has the propensity to kill: a man in a car. It holds this potential, a kinetic energy that somehow, through the right song, suggests eternity. If you’re thinking I’m an asshole right now, perhaps the car song’s poetry can’t be put into words.
I’ve been trying to write this song, but Sam beat me to it, or rather, he added to a very specific cache of gorgeous tunes. My favorite is “Big Black Car” by Big Star, a laconic skate on a precipice maybe only the listener can see. I spend a happy eternity with the verse: “Driving in my big black car / nothing can go wrong.” Leading up to the chorus, the chords get mildly exciting, just enough to drop me in a complete static as Chilton sings, “Nothing can hurt me / nothing can touch me / why should I care? / driving’s a gas / it ain’t gonna last.” It feels like intimacy, nothing can hurt me, but it disappears quickly: it ain’t gonna last. It’s akin to a moment when someone opens up to you, just briefly, before they close in upon themselves again. Why is that beautiful? Why is it sorrowfully so? Reminds me of Rebecca Solnit’s writing on sad songs, her generosity toward them: “There is a voluptuous pleasure in all that sadness, and I wonder where it comes from, because as we usually construe the world, sadness and pleasure should be far apart.”
Last time I was at a Sam Evian show, as he sang the first line of “Big Car,” “I remember / when I started to let go,” my friend turned to me and said that he’d already been had by those words. It’s a brilliant opening, an optimism that persists until it doesn’t, until the refrain catches me on “is it over now?” Then you remember the finite stuff you’re made of, reflected back at you from a hunk of metal surging down the coast. Why a car? Maybe because of all the things we can do in them. It’s one of the more conscious ways we can run away from something.
Listen to Katie’s new track “Sell it Back” below and get tickets to her August 4 show with Sam Evian here.