What is Friday Afternoon? Is it an open bar, or leaving the workplace at 4:30 (instead of 5:00) to jet off to Florida or Michigan or wherever the hell people leave cities like Chicago for when the weather starts to go gray? Is it #TGIF and “working for the weekend”? It’s all this bullshit, if you have a certain center to your life.
Throughout the second half of 2009 and most of 2010, Friday afternoon was just another day for me. Between freelancing and adjuncting at a community college, there was neither dread at Monday arriving (I rarely did anything on that day) nor relief at Friday descending from the heavens. TGIF? I would be writing more “Top 5 Schools for a Psy.D in the Midwest” mini dissertations then, just like I had been on Tuesday.
The weekend is a bookkeeping trick; you need a “week” that is somehow less than ideal for the “end” of it to be in any way distinct. As we know it in 2016, the weekend was crafted by the organized labor movement and it is being undone by the long reach of email, the iPhone with Good or Slack on it, and – for a far larger audience than the white-collar Twitter power users who have succumbed (in many cases seemingly with glee) to the last two – the unpredictable service industry schedule, under which Starbucks cashiers, for example, hurry to the mall at the last minute to fill a newly assigned shift.
“Lack of entertainment…”
Superpitcher’s second album, Kilimanjaro, was released in 2010, following up 2004’s “Here Comes Love.” Superpitcher is the artist name of one Aksel Schaufler and a mainstay of the German house music record label Kompakt.
Kilimanjaro plays out like two halves of a Friday night; it even has a song called “Friday Night” that concludes the album’s upbeat first half. This half is filled with images of being “too drunk,” with Schaufler insisting in the song (and first album single) “Rabbits in a Hurry” that with so much alcohol “you’ll get used to the confusion,” but at the same time “too drunk to fuck.” Elsewhere, in “Friday Night” he unspools a tale of it being “Friday night, and I’m not dancing,” which gives him free reign to imagine a potential acquaintance doing cocaine without him, leaving him with a “lack of entertainment.”
On top of these hedonistic hypotheticals, he tells a tale of being a “country boy with blood on my teeth” (“Country Boy”) and asks an unnamed second person “why do you why do you why do you voodoo?” (“Voodoo”). There is an intersection here between a mythology that Schaufler’s character has bought into in the album’s first five songs, and the banality of”Friday night” in particular and weekend culture in general. The voodoo-curious, superhuman “country boy” with a taste for blood ends up walking down to the beach all on his own, with the orgiastic scenes of “Rabbits in a Hurry” lamely playing out (replaying?) in his head as he wrestles with the idea of his own confusion, imagining that everyone else will be just as misguided if they drink as much as he does.
The “Friday afternoon” of Kilimanjaro is a burst of glory that is imagined, played out, and rejected in rapid succession. It is Friday afternoon as conceived by someone without any of the social structures – a white-collar job with “professional” colleagues, more than anything – that could make it a predictable, enjoyable respite from the stupid-ass 9-5 grind. The Kilimanjaro narrator is grinding all the time, weekend or not. Even the album’s first track, “Prelude,” provides the context of church bells, suggesting that the images of a weekend escape – the romps of “Rabbits in a Hurry,” the drug-fueled ecstasy of a song actually entitle “Friday Night” – are not being entertained on a dreary Tuesday evening, but in the heart of the weekend proper.
I remember sitting around my dusty Pulaski Rd. apartment in 2010 around the time Kilimanjaro came out, and having similar fantasies of an “escape” from my part-time jobs and precarious situation at all times. It wasn’t the precise structure of the weekend I looked forward to, but the possible, sudden arrival on any day – a sunny Wednesday afternoon, or a Monday morning – of news of some new opportunity that would end the doldrums. But with everyone else working on those weekdays in particular (which were meaninglessly different from weekend days to me, but not to them, I imagined), the counter-narrative of me continuing to miss out would rise up right away as an antithesis to my magical thoughts.
“Had a rough time, had a tough time…”
The middle song of Kilimanjaro is “Moon Fever,” an instrumental that uses vibes to create a wintery vibe. It is also a transitional number, marking the end of the energetic delusions of the first half and the start of the empowered depression of the second half.
Once it finishes, we get “Give Me My Heart Back,” a song that would seem to be doomed by its ridiculous title, but which manages to split the difference between country and house somehow, with plenty of guitar to go with Superpitcher’s typically lush sounds. From there, the album wanders off to a shadowy hookah bar, a studio apartment lighted by a single pole lamp, a dance hall on the cusp of closing – any place to which someone might flee to escape from the archetypal weekday grind, in “Who Stole the Sun?”
This song is effectively the album’s title track, with its bewitching whispers of “Kilimanjaro” throughout the intro. The samples and subtle guitar – again – seem dark and smoky to me, making me think vaguely of the venues I cited above, but even more so of a rundown Providence apartment I visited in 2008 while on a tryst worthy of the first half of Kilimanjaro. The front door was a broken screen, the steps the same colors as the walls, the room on the second floor a sunless box with black curtains.
Schaufler’s character is now reduced to wandering around such a space, with his thoughts in tow, wondering where everyone is while he has been through “a rough time….a tough time.” Yet the sinister confidence of the vocals here and across the songs in the second half, as compared to the more skittish and impressionistic takes of the first half, reveals someone who has in effect seen through the weekend myths long ago and has been keeping up the edifice of a normal 9-5er/weekender only with difficulty and at no real benefit to anyone.
The comfort of the “darker” second half persona is obvious in the epic “Black Magic.” Schaufler unfurls a thick, dancey baseline and and adds a Spanish language vocal from the great Mexican techno artist Rebolledo about black magic. The myth making of the first half – “Voodoo,” “Country Boy,” “Rabbits in a Hurry” – is made more inscrutable here (to an English speaker at least) and yet much more aggressively sensual, with the words oozing and dripping. It’s one of my favorite Superpitcher vocal performances.
“Joanna” brings back some upbeat tunefulness, although its words – here highly specific, as compared to the nameless abstractions who populated the scenes imagined throughout the first 5 songs – are not uplifting. “Holiday Hearts” has a jarring beginning and then proceeds to end the album with an echoey, bizarro Beach Boys outro.
I listened to it this album all the way through many times in 2010 and 2011 while I was winding down the nightmare of my immediate post college years. The two-faced structure and the vocals are its calling card, but the way it tackles ideas of the weekend is what has kept me returning to it, especially as work-related burnout sets in and makes me alsmot nostalgic for the times when all 7 days of the week “had no feel” to them.