How NOT to write about music – 41. The B-52s

the b-52s

This is so what I want to hear now. Music that bounces and prances. Music that struts and sidesteps and makes weird bird noises every few seconds. Music that’s funky and music that’s chunky. Music that does not make you feel like a flunky. You can taste the sweat, feel the pressure on your feet. You move cos you got to move. Ecstatically, clumsily, wonderfully alert and on edge. Nerves jangling, but at ease. Music that yowls, prowls and sideways scowls. Music with brass, music with class, music that knocks you straight on your ass. Infectious beats, strange rhythmical haircuts. Bongo breaks and sax solos that rightly refuse to stray from one or three notes. Oohs and aahs. Sweat then stretch. Sweat then stretch. Repetition in the music and we’re never going to lose it. Lose it. A cold sweat. A hot flush. A star turn. The B-52’s ascendant and in all their glory. Lost in music. Caught in a trance. Taut, taut, taut. James Brown? James Brown. A song for future generations.

Move along now. Nothing else to see here.

Thanks to Scott Creney.

(Scott comments: “I can’t help hearing the bird in the song as a harbinger of death, and as a result, I find this song terrifying. The first AIDS vigil in the country occurred two weeks before this performance. The New York Times ran its first front-page story on the crisis two weeks later. At the time of this video, RIcky Wilson had less than two years to live.”)

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How NOT to write about music – 40. Gwenno

gwenno

Let’s see where we go with this. (Nowhere. My brain is too tired. My body is physically exhausted. I can barely function but somehow I do. Somehow I still push through. Last night I had a dream I’ve had several times before where I am effortlessly flying above the streets and fields, just me, not in a plane or anything, clothed, natural, free from any potential harm or attacks, but able to view everything as it is. Not places I recognise, I’m not flapping my arms or anything. I’m floating but moving. I have control. I can dip down low and fly up high. I can encourage others to do the same, and learn.) This music is soothing, at least it would sooth me in all its sparkle-infected glissando harmonics, in its dreamy somnambulist haze and casual sprawl of beauty, but I am too tired for even soothing to have an effect. (My body is fatigued. Is this what fatigue feels like? I have no way of judging because usually when I work hard it does not feel like work. I feel myself dislocated, disconnected, idly wondering how long I can go on like this before I break down. I cannot remember yesterday. I do not recall having conversations with friends. I wander how long this state of being will last. Floating in my dream tank feels wonderful, but the state probably only lasts one or two seconds in reality. Maybe it’s Nina the cat, the way she likes to snuggle middle of the night. Man, I would love to snuggle middle of the night.) It’s beautiful, yeah – soporific, but in no bad sense. Beautiful. Sparkly and magical and possessed of alien intoxication. Like travelling slowly over Sunderland Bridge just after twilight, like that secret dead pond in Bedford, like the state of being rested, content. Is this what it feels like, not being stressed, being in company, happy? I have no way of judging. (Slip-sliding along, slip-sliding along. Companionship is a wonderful thing, please do not dismiss it so lightly. I view myself almost with dispassion wondering how long routine and sleeplessness can continue to keep me functioning. Last night I slept for five hours. That felt like cheating. Usually, it’s far less. Often the grey doesn’t just overwhelm; it’s all there is left. Unless, those one or two seconds where I fly/float effortlessly. Unless, these four or so minutes where I listen to Gwenno on a loop, more and more familiar. Yet still it fails to comfort the fatigue, the mental unrest.) Psychedelic, baby. Yeah. (In my dreams, I am the one wearing the red dress.)

[Ends] [Does not end].

I’m using all the wrong words.

How NOT to write about music – 39. U.S. Girls

us-girls-in-a-poem-unlimited

I cannot get a fix on the following, it has disorientated me.

The descending cadences, 2018’s fondness for squeaky-high voices, the proliferation of words and its latent underlying anger… if I wish to show my age, I could say it reminds me of this. You may care to disagree with me. You may decide the fluid elasticity and spiraling afterthoughts do not match, although you could hardly deny the left-leaning focus. We are all born in flames (not true) but some of us grow up screaming, some shouting, some dancing… and some just do not fit in. To this day I have no idea what Meghan Remy looks like, and to this day I have no desire to break the taboo. Her music is about rhythmical intricacy and the splendour of isolation and collaboration, and I see no reason to fuck with that. She is like a grown-up MGMT but I do not mean that in a negative way, quite the opposite.

One publication titled a profile on U.S. Girls as The Entire History of Female Pop Music in One Woman I consider that signposting reductionist and patronising (would anyone term a similar male profile that way?) and untrue, so much so that I cannot be bothered to provide a link. (She also gets called eccentric – wow! – and compared to David Lynch if he was Madonna, which is fucking stupid.) Her music is prog, ain’t it? I have never had the same problem with female prog as I did with male prog. Gender does matter.

I am late to the protest. The Guardian has compared her to “classic 60s girl group and disco-era Blondie” but that is so simultaneously true and not-true it makes my head spin.

For a start it makes U.S. Girls sound incredibly accessible. U.S Girls are so NOT incredibly accessible.

In the same way Animal Collective once sounded like the “skipping-CD Beach Boys” – like someone spilled some coffee on a CD of The Beach Boys’ greatest hits and so every time it was played it again it was doomed to repeat the one cracked and warped loop, so U.S. Girls are to the above-mentioned. Or something. Your call. I couldn’t give a fuck. As I say, I am late to this party. I like the way she sticks one finger up to authority, pisses on male uselessness.

YouTube recommends Billy Corgan, The Doors,  Garbage, The Temper Trap, Maroon 5 for me. I find this odd. YouTube does not recommend U.S. Girls for me. I find this odd, also.

How NOT to write about music – 38. Christine and the Queens

christine-and-the-queens

She shimmers with passion.

I do not go too far into the depths of what she’s communicating – if her second album is about her newfound obsession with sex as she has claimed elsewhere then I think I will start running scared because if there is one thing lonely 57-year-old men living in Haywards Heath do not understand and cannot even begin to comprehend it is the illusion of attraction, the carnality of desire, the rules of the game – but I understand this one simple contention. She shimmers with passion, you can almost hear her shaking with lust on Chris. She shimmies across the dance-floor on spikes and sweat. She is self-contained, assured. This is very attractive to lonely 57-year-old men living in cold Haywards Heath watching reruns of Fargo and mainlining Ribena, although frankly any step in the dance of seduction is very attractive lonely 57-year-old men living in cold Haywards Heath watching reruns of Fargo and mainlining Ribena if I stop and give myself time to consider it, which of course I do not, too concerned with playing out my performance of being a…

Yeah, you got it.

I say this, not for sympathy (there are far more attractive ways of gaining that) but for clarity.

I do not know why I am starting off by talking about passion, about desire here. This is not how I hear this song. To me, this song is a beacon, a full-beam headlight steering me away from the ever-looming rocks – or maybe it’s towards, I cannot tell – a ray of hope, of understanding, that even as the grey and tumble of detritus threaten to overwhelm me, remind there are still Voices out there that can aid, inspire. Her music has feline elasticity, supine grace. Oh no… wait. I mean the opposite of that.

I understand what it’s like to strut around the house in platform boots, singing. I understand what it’s like to have never come to terms with your own gender. I understand pain, confusion, passion, sex. I just choose to try not and think about them, s’all. I sure as hell know what it’s like to feel vulnerable, and not in a good way.

Broken.

Broken.

How NOT to write about music – 37. Clean Bandit

clean bandit baby

Oh, fuck.

I feel like I’ve slipped over the edge of the vortex. It’s dark here, and full of unfamiliar smells. (Is this what cultural appropriation smells like? The smell of pine disinfectant?) Clean Bandit belong in the same category as Dua Lipa as Calvin Harris and Jess Glynne, the anonymous pop stars who have risen without trace. Found yourself stuck in a loop listening to the same 90-minute segment of Radio One over again, unable to differentiate between any of the music being played (or banter, or jokes, or “human interest” pieces, or competitions)? Blame these artists: pop Polycell designed to clog up any living, breathing arteries: there to muffle the not-silence and blare of headlights streaking towards you down darkened West Sussex country roads; the smile is not on the face of the tiger. The rise of sad pop. Not melancholy, just sad.

And yet. And yet. And yet…

Reasons to hate Clean Bandit 1: that beard.

Reasons to love Clean Bandit 1: the presence here of Marina singing like a Welsh Mariza. (That makes it sound like I do not appreciate her performance here. I LOVE her performance here. I am just trying to point out the obvious for those unfamiliar with fado.)

Reasons to love Clean Bandit 2: the presence here of Marina. She is so wonderful, has always been so. (Stupid to compare her to others.) The way the tune modulates, and its whisper of flamenco guitar. It’s very Eurovision. You’re looking at me like that is a bad thing. How is that a bad thing? That is not a bad thing. A love for Eurovision indicates a love for cutting loose from common boundaries of decency and taste. Nothing wrong with cutting loose from common boundaries of decency and taste. Marina sounds pathetic. Not bad pathetic but sweepingly gorrrgeous beautifully pathetic. I love Eurovision when it sounds like this, when it cuts into the abyss and hastens my descent. Oh my fucking GOD. I am recommending a tune that features Clean Bandit. Kill me now. Please. Kill me now.

There is pointed heartbreak in the hook. As the lady sings before being counterpointed by a Spanish swooner, “Hard to say it’s over, but I’m already someone else’s baby”. Not right that something so trivial should be made to sound so earth-shattering.

Reasons to hate Clean Bandit 2: they’re no Ariana Grande. But what is, right now? What is?

Rolling Stone sums it up reasonably:

Singer Marina (formerly Marina and the Diamonds) explores heartbreak and a new sound with the help of a UK electro-op duo and a Latin-pop superstar.

I didn’t know electro-op was a thing.

I’ve slipped over the edge of the abyss. I am praising a song Clean Bandit are involved in (but of course, they are only the conduit, the enablers). And I don’t give a fuck who hears me as I scream.

How NOT to write about music – 36. Rosalía

rosalia-malamente

I have never viewed it as my task to do research for other people. If I carry out research, it is either for my own benefit – because it enables me to understand music some more: throw a light into the grey: it is amusing – or because I have been paid to do so. I like the music of Rosalía. It seems an age since I stumbled across her (it was in an end-of-the-year list; it was not an age, just a few weeks ago) and now I am content to know that I enjoy her music, and that it soothes me. And that is enough.

Flamenco and R&B.

That’s it. She’s from Catalonia in Spain, she’s 25, she has a grace and style that I find bewitching, she spends a lot of time in hotel rooms doubtless, dreaming. The music sounds steeped in tradition. Interesting it should feel like that (to me). Signals and noise. I first encountered flamenco singing on a visit to Athens, Greece in the 1980s – the heat was oppressive and the noise and fumes even more so. I was tasked with uncovering the English-speaking Greek rock music scene when all I wanted to do was listen to flamenco at open-air concerts and watch the flames flicker, the dancers shift. I know little of the tradition it encapsulates and am content to be watching on the sidelines still, the dancers shifting shape and form around me, ribbons fluttering. The music here is not overstated.

I have little more to add. I wanted to post this up before the end of 2018 because then I could include it within my round-up of 2018 but now that 2019 has rolled in I find myself with little or no interest in writing same. My favourite music last year was silence. (Favourite is not an appropriate word to use here.) Silence. Always silence.

Many people have written eloquently and movingly about their own depression and isolation. I find that when isolation takes you it is easier to write nothing.

How NOT to write about music – 35. Buzzcocks

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What if you’re looking for authenticity in music, what then?

What if you’re confused, lonely, feel ostracised, can’t even begin to understand the unspoken social protocols of boy-girl, boy-boy relationships and teenage love, and you’re looking for ways to interpret and understand your own day-to-day life?

What if you understand that while music may be a performance, it is a performance that cuts far deeper and goes far closer to the heart of its audience than any similar medium (film, television, written) because often it feels like there is no separation between the performance and the performer?

What if music feeds directly into your sense of identity, gives you a reason to carry on – and not just a reason, but it also inspires you, confuses you, lifts you higher than any drug, takes you to another universe?

What if you treat music like a spurned lover?

What if the main time you encounter music is in the bedroom you share with your three brothers; sat next to your tinny, tiny Dansette mono record-player, with the coloured vinyl and beautifully designed record sleeves sprawled out on the floor next to you, hidden away in your own secret world?

What if you are so tired after battling with people and school all day, so burdened by your lack of actual human contact, that your favourite sound to listen to when you get back home early evening is soulful sensitive acerbic cutting two-minute pop songs?

What if you grew up believing there is no difference between pop and punk because of one band, and one band alone?

What if the reason you like or dislike music is not because it is “manufactured’ (what’s that?) or ‘inauthentic’ (what’s that?) or has that special half-second echo on the kick drum or the size of the marketing budget but because of the BEAUTIFUL BRUISED FUCKING GLORIOUS POP MUSIC ITSELF?

What if music is your life?

What if you are seeking diversion and understanding of the sort of fragile relationships you have no hope of entering into?

What if you have long thought that Pete Shelley is way more courageous and imaginative and talented and PUNK ROCK than any of his more feted macho male colleagues?

What if you grow up believing that stars don’t exist, just people – but simultaneously you have Secret Best Friends, people you can ride with out to the heavens?

What if you figure it’s OK to escape to reality, long as you can avoid the nastiness and incessant bullying?

What if you understood that growing up is doing nothing of the sort?

This performance feels real to me, but so the fuck what. Maybe I just love the sight of folk having a good time.

This entry is supposed to be read in conjunction with the previous day’s blog entry.

Favourite male punk band? There was no other.

Related posts: Pete Shelley R.I.P.