With Bill Callahan‘s deadpan delivery, these words don’t elicit much empathy. Instead, they operate in a normalised, everyday context, an idealised Smog world celebrating the commonplace, where being new is but one point in an ongoing, repeated cycle of living and reliving, just as it is.
Under Gil Scott-Heron‘s interpretation five years later, those same words take on very different meanings. Stripped of their comforts, they sound slightly upsetting. Who didn’t you want to be? What had you become? What are you doing here? For Scott-Heron, turning around isn’t about returning, but becoming something, someone new. There is redemption, and hope of true transformation, just like his own.
I was skeptical about Jamie xx‘s remix, but my intuition couldn’t be more wrong. Was a remix of a cover necessary? Clearly not, yet it shows itself to be the most surprising. The audacity of sharing that ‘newness’ with Scott-Heron and rearranging his lines seems to actually render that transformation complete, going as far as making redemption the sweetest thing, just as we like it. – Dan.
mp3: Smog – I’m New Here