‘The Naked and Alone’ by Apostle of Hustle
From the album National Anthem of Nowhere (2007)
I listen to a lot of Canadian music, and I’m attempting to wind through to the beginning of October, when an album that I hold very dear turns ten, utilising only Canadian artists. I don’t see this as much of a challenge, in fact I’m probably going to have to leave a few fully deserving bands out, such is the breadth of talent that continues to emerge from the country with the world’s longest coastline (classic Trivial Pursuit question).
My first foray into Canada for this pseudo-series comes from a personal hero of mine, Andrew Whiteman, a man I have seen live and met on many occasions, tending to ask him in depth about the meanings of his songs and when his next release will be. Whiteman is probably better known as the guitar maverick and a continuous member of Broken Social Scene, but he also has fingers in a few other pies too, including AroarA and Apostle of Hustle, the subject of this article.
Apostle of Hustle serves as Whiteman’s vehicle for his countless influences outside of Broken Social Scene, focusing mainly on Latin American music; especially Cuban, as seen on Apostle’s first album, Folkloric Feel, and Brazilian, as I will allude to in this article.
The synth/organ that underpins ‘The Naked and Alone’ has something sinister about it, something that I have never been able to escape. It is a song for the nighttime; unavoidably hypnotic, despairing and (I hate to use this word) trippy. The title hints at a fragility (and, to me, a fear) that is only further compounded by a cursory glance at the lyrics. The opening lines of;
I can’t forget your face,
Yours was like a mansion
Long hallways in your eyes
With portraits of your masters
and an expansion to the lyrics of the second chorus;
Alone before the one you love
Naked is as naked does
speak immeasurably to this reading of the lyrics. The increase in pace and subsequent breakdown into almost spoken word after the first elongated chorus and the complete opposite after the second, when the song spends over a minute winding down with disparate instrumentation only serves to add to the sinister feeling around this song. A literary theorist reading of this song would point to the concept of othering, however instead of taking an Imperialist grasp over the ‘other’ (the ‘you’ in the song), the narrator prostrates themselves before the other, they are together, yet he is the subservient ‘naked and alone’.
The natural partner to this song on the album is ‘Justine, Beckoning’, which I’m pretty sure Andrew Whiteman once told me was about a vivid dream he had about a devil inhabiting a rural town somewhere in South America. We could spend ages speaking about binary opposites in this song too, but I will resist the urge and allow the listener to make up their own mind about meanings in Apostle of Hustle songs.
Expanding on the theme of meanings (again), the thing that I love about the whole of National Anthem of Nowhere is that every song makes me think, imagine and dream. The music and lyrics are so evocative that I am easily swept off each time I listen. Whiteman’s South American influences take me to places in my head that I could never imagine going normally, and it is unsettlingly brilliant every time.