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Born in the Desert

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Looker: Great Expectations Meet Reality

Looker: Great Expectations Meet Reality

Born in the Desert

  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Tuesday's Pick

  • Song: "Born in the Desert"
  • Artist: Looker
  • CD: Born in the Desert
  • Genre: Rock
Looker 300

In "Born in the Desert," the New York rock band Looker sings about trying hard and falling short. courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption courtesy of the artist

Just because Looker's "Born In The Desert" doesn't have roaring power chords, a simple 4/4 backbeat or explicit aggression doesn't mean that there weren't plenty of songs like it that were categorized as punk during the late '70s. The do-it-yourself aesthetic of the time resulted in many different musical approaches, even if the quick codification of the canonical sound forced everything else underground to either die or eke out an existence long enough for "post-punk" music to arrive and make sense of it.

Perhaps that's why the synth whir and the chilly dispassion in Nicole Greco's vocal tempt comparison with new-wave instead. But there's immediacy to the harmonies and Morse-code guitar of "Born in the Desert," a seeming need to capture the noise in its purest form that draws most of all from first-wave D.I.Y. punk.

The song's momentum, on the other hand, is carried by the lyrical hook that starts it off: "We should know better, better, better / But we don't." It's not a chorus so much as a refrain that never quite goes away, and it identifies the song as addressing politics, whether geopolitical or interpersonal. Given the means and opportunity to do something positive, Greco sings, we're destined to fall short. Looker's victory lies in staring that fact dead in the eye — and, like the punks they are, singing right back into its face.

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