This Israeli Band's New Songs Will Be Burned Into Your Mind

Girafot is an endangered species in Israeli music, a vestige of a bygone world

Girafot.
Ronen Lalena

“Mi Shelo Holem, Ko’es” (He Who Doesn’t Dream, Is Angry), the title track of Girafot's (Giraffes in Hebrew)  latest album, is a rare song. Not because it’s good; there are many good songs. What makes it rare is its usefulness, the sense that it’s entered people’s everyday speech. I know it has entered mine. A few times lately I found myself speaking the words of the title in conversations, and not (only) in order to sound cool. For example, when a woman asked me, “Are you angry with me?”, my answer was, “No. He who doesn’t dream is angry.”

That rejoinder immediately shifted the conversation from the personal-petty plane to a more general-conceptual one (either that or she simply didn’t understand, maybe she hadn’t listened to the radio recently and wondered why she was being spoken to in unfathomable sayings).

It’s great copywriting, but the song doesn’t remain at that superficial level. It says something. It formulates an idea using a small number of words that are wrapped in supportive lyrics and a helpful soundtrack. That’s why it gets burned into the consciousness. We live in an era when most viral pop songs succeed in burning short, meaningless sentences into the consciousness. “He who doesn’t dream, is angry” is a virus with meaning.

Endangered species

It’s far from self-evident — in fact it’s a pretty sensational surprise — that what injected the virus into the current Israeli soundtrack is a band, four men with guitars and drums. The band is an endangered species in Israeli music, a vestige of a world that no longer exists. Girafot is relevant mainly because it isn’t a standard rock band. It never was. Its mouth is too big for its body, and through that mouth the unconventional stream of consciousness of Gilad Kahana, the band’s lead singer, bursts out. At its best, the band’s members give the Kahanite consciousness free rein, while also ensuring that the music doesn’t become just background noise. Sometimes Kahana’s consciousness generates impenetrable meanings that make the listener ask, “WTF, what does he want from me?”

The good version of Girafot — freedom of consciousness and music with substance, together with a low WTF factor — characterizes the band’s new album, or at least most of it. “Tzarikh Lisgor Hakol” (Everything Needs to Close), their last album before “Mi Shelo Holem, Ko’es,” came out after Israel’s summer of social protest in 2011 and it joyfully shattered meanings and conventional song structures. The new album takes a more constructive approach. It’s rounder, more flowing and unifying, expressed musically by the fine blending of the guitars and keyboards with Kahana’s voice and lyrics.

After a marvelous sequence in the first three songs the cohesion becomes slightly frayed, and the songs in the middle part of the album acquire a not entirely desirable form of question marks. But it’s only in the last two songs that the thread snaps and Girafot loses me. In light of the title song’s penetration of the fabric of life itself, there’s no reason to be angry at them for the weak conclusion. The question is whether he who is not angry, dreams.