It's taken me long enough, but I have finally got into the brilliant sound and lyricism of Alt-J (∆). 

The British four-piece met at Leeds university, and after a couple of previous, less Google-able names, settled on the command on a Mac keyboard used to produce the Greek letter Delta. According to guitarist and bassist Gwil Sainsbury, 'In mathematical equations it's used to show change.' 

Ah, the thinking man's pop band. 

Initially making success with suitably geometrically-titled single Tessellate from debut album An Awesome Wave, certain tracks have grown in internet stardom. My favourite, the beautiful Taro, has spawned an extremely moving National Geographic style video.

It's more moving when you understand the premise of the song: Like several tracks on AAW, Taro tells a somewhat tragic story. In this case, the love story of famous war photographer Robert Capa and revolutionary journalist/photographer Gerda Taro. (I previously posted about Robert Capa's photos, truth in media, etc, in THIS POST mostly concerning Susan Sontag's critical essay Regarding the Pain of Others). 

They met during the Second World War, often publishing photographs under the joint name Robert Capa. They became lovers. Towards the end of the war, Taro was killed in a battle in Spain. Reportedly they were engaged at the time. Capa never married. Years later, he was killed by a landmine in Indochina. His work, which was highly provocative at the time for showing the truth and horror of conflicts such as the Spanish Civil War, the Second Sino-Japanese War and WWII, inspired a generation of photographers and journalists and has left a powerful legacy. A few years ago I went to an exhibition at the Barbican featuring and inspired by his photographs and brutal, sensitive images of war. 

The lyrics follow the moment Robert Capa is killed, thinking how he will soon be reunited with Gerda Taro. It is so refreshing to read/hear such moving lyrics/melodies that exist in fairly mainstream pop music, which are so un-egotistical. This story is not about the singer, the band, their image, etc. It's about the connection they feel to this story, to these remarkable people who were separated forever by the life they chose to live, doing what they felt was right. (Put that in your pipe and shake your arse to it, Nicki Minaj). The video is of course extremely appropriate given their professions, nicely edited to the song. Well done mysterious Youtuber. 

I've read that a writer is only a reporter for what they have lived. In the previous post, the journalist becomes the story - part of the message. Perhaps a musician can be a camera, rather than a photo. 

by ALT-J

"Indochina, Capa jumps Jeep, two feet creep up the road
To photo, to record meat lumps and war,
They advance as does his chance – very yellow white flash.
A violent wrench grips mass, rips light, tears limbs like rags,
Burst so high finally Capa lands,
Mine is a watery pit. Painless with immense distance
From medic from colleague, friend, enemy,
foe, him five yards from his leg, From you Taro.
Do not spray into eyes – I have sprayed you into my eyes.
3:10 pm, Capa pends death, quivers, last rattles, last chokes
All colours and cares glaze to grey, shrivelled and stricken to dots,
Left hand grasps what the body grasps not – le photographe est mort.
3.1415, alive no longer my amour, faded for home May of '54
Doors open like arms my love, Painless with a great closeness
To Capa, to Capa Capa dark after nothing,
re-united with his leg and with you, Taro.
Do not spray into eyes – I have sprayed you into my eyes.
Hey Taro! "

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