How NOT to write about music – 28. Noah Cyrus, MØ

Noah Cyrus

An anthem for our times. Thank you to Ringo for sharing.

I posted:

So, to summarise:

Brexit is fucked.
The government’s fucked.
We’re all fucked.

And he posted:

Damn straight.

That’s it. Show over. Nothing else to see here. Yes, she’s Miley’s sister. Yes, she is in the English version of one of the coolest kids’ movies of the last 10 years (Ponyo). Get over it. Just listen to the damn music.

As she told the NME:

Was there a particular event, or moment in your life, that triggered you to write this song?

I’ve experienced cyberbullying my entire life, due to just having a last name that people knew. I think it had to do with me mainly. I would have been 12 when I started on Instagram, and then people were just so terrible and there was just so much cyberbullying going on. The words that they thought were OK to say to a twelve-year-old girl made me think ‘OK, this is alarming’.

At the time, I thought that all my validation comes from social media. As a twelve-year-old girl, I thought that I was only pretty if the people on social media told me that I was pretty – and they weren’t telling me I was pretty. So I didn’t think I was pretty and I was really down on myself and I really was sad with myself. But social media doesn’t give you validation or make you pretty. You make you pretty. You can look like you and be pretty and you can dress like you and be pretty. If you have the same style as the girls on Instagram, cool! But as long as you know in your heart that you are you and that you don’t have to look like anybody else.

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Everett True’s advice for aspiring music critics (late 2018 version)

Everett True, Courtney Love

(See photograph above – interesting that a website I have never visited should attempt to claim ownership for a photograph that they have nothing to do with.)

1. Do not ever attempt to apologise for holding an opinion.

This is a fundamental. The clue is in your job title. You are a music critic. So criticise. People will disagree with you. That is their prerogative. They are also wrong. Others will be able to out-argue you, out-describe you, be more eloquent and informed and passionate in any way you can name. It does not matter. What matters is this: your opinion. The writing follows.

1a. There is no such thing as good and bad music, only good and bad listeners.

Ask yourself: why would other people want to read my words? Do you add another layer of understanding SLASH enjoyment SLASH interpretation SLASH context to the music? There is an assumption of authority through the act of writing music criticism that you should neither ignore nor be cowed by.

2. 400 words good. 800 words horrible.

Self-explanatory really. The extra 400 words will be flimflam discussing how you showed up to the concert late because the police pulled over the car in front of yours, or lengthy excerpts from the press release, or re-writings of the Pitchfork review. (You want to really push the boat out? Steal from a second source as well.) Don’t take it to Twitter lengths, though. Do not think that just because you can understand what the hell you are going on about in 280 characters, and you get all your references and context and shorthand and such, anyone else will. Music criticism should not be crossword compiling.

3. Most musicians are dicks. (Most people are dicks.)

So you should not feel sorry for having a go at them, if required. Occasionally, I am asked to lecture media students about music criticism. I used to tell them that what I do is a craft, an art, and a thousand times more creative than the music I write about. It must be, because I make that dullest of breeds – the musician – sound interesting. Now I just tell them to get out there and do the damn thing.

3a. Do not abbreviate.

Just one of those short cuts you need to be aware of. Do so, if you are good at it. If you have problems with apostrophes however, why not avoid them altogether?

4. The music industry is not your friend. Unless you choose to make it so.

Do not be fooled into thinking that just because folk are nice to you when you are starting off, and flood your mailbox with free CDs and offers of free concert-tickets, they are your friends. They are not. They are simply trying to figure out how much of a soft touch you are. Of course, this can cut both ways.

4a. Play to your strengths, not those of other people.

Make them a feature. Enjoy swearing? Then swear.

5. Do not forget to place value upon what you do. If you fail to do this, why should anyone else?

This is important. You cannot become a critic without establishing authority or determining identity. If you do not give a crap about what you are writing, find it boring – rest assured, your readers will also.  Music criticism is a monstrous game of bluff, all smoke and mirrors, but do not feel downhearted about that. So is music.

6. Having the ability to turn an amp up really loud does not make you an interesting person.

It is incredible the number of people who believe otherwise.

7. The Rolling Stones ruined music for every generation. Discuss.

This is not a criticism levelled at The Rolling Stone per se – more at the canon of rock music that has developed because The Rolling Stones existed, and took drugs, and had beautiful girlfriends, and liked to piss against garage walls. Classic rock. Ugh. The same charge could be levelled – less accurately – at The Beatles. Less accurately, because at least The Beatles had some decent songs. That were their own. In other word (and fundamentally), question everything. 

7a. How to Build an Argument, Part 1.

Start with a contentious statement which you then need to justify through use of point and counterpoint. Bring in previous research (articles, music, sound clips). Bring in some prior knowledge, often obtained through immersion in music culture. Look to outside context (social, political, cultural). Look to genre. Look to examples that you value. And so forth.

7b. Music criticism, not rock criticism. (Unless that is what you do.)

Words are your weapons and your lovers. Please treat them with appropriate care.

8. Do not overuse adjectives. One is usually more than enough.

This rule particularly applies in the days of Search Engine Optimisation. It used to be the place of music critics to describe the music they were talking about; part of the service, alongside giving your windows a once-over with a dirty rag and cleaning the spit off your loafers. No longer. We are in the days of the Internet, folk. Your readers are perfectly able to search out and hear the music for themselves: all they are mostly seeking from you is validation and, of course, a little direction. Fact: sales of thesauruses have dropped 1,200 per cent among music critics in the past five years.

9. Do not confuse research with the ability to parrot press releases from memory.

Not when there is the Facebook page and Wikipedia waiting to be pillaged.

10. No one gives a fuck what you think. Get over it.

This is true. This is not true. It is one of those central… damn, what is that word… crucial to the craft of the critic. I mean, it is obviously true and it is equally as obviously not true. (Why would they be reading you if it is not true? Why would they be reading for you if it was not for the music you are discussing?) Depending on which grimy rung of which grimy ladder you are currently grimly holding onto.

11. Your principles mean shit if you did not have any to start with.

Ask Bono.

12. 10 words good. 50 words pointless.

The single most important lesson I had in English at school was on the art of the précis. Those extra 40 words are only going to be filled with useless stuff like the full name of each band-member, reasons why you showed up to the concert 30 minutes after the main band started, adjectives, and shit you nicked off the Facebook page.

We all do it. Do not be ashamed.

12a. How to Build an Argument, Part 2.

Introduction (most commonly a hook that lures your potential readers into reading on). A paragraph or two follows the introduction, justifying it and fleshing it out and making it…ahem…readable. Only then do you start to provide the background context, the information, the detail. The trick with building an argument is to make it feel like you are not building an argument. Unless that is your intention. Synthesise all those way-important details. Pay attention to the details. This is what separates you from the herd, helps confer authority.

13. Do not ever try to describe the music.

See above. Unnecessary. Impossible, mostly. What you should be attempting to do is trying to describe how the music makes you feel. The way musicians look and act is usually way more interesting than the music. The way audiences behave and feel is usually way more interesting than the music.

13a. Of course you have to try and describe the music.

You dolt.

14. if you have to resort to lists to make your point, you probably should not be writing.

This blog entry is not a review. Or an interview. It is a list. Do not confuse the three. It does not stop it being any the less disheartening to realise that, 99 times out a hundred, the idiots who click on stuff to read on the Internet (or watch on television, etc) will favour a list over a non-list.

14a. Pay great attention to your headings. 

This is all most people will see of your words. FACT! Eighty per cent of people who share links on Facebook do not read the articles attached first before sharing. FACT! Just writing the word FACT! before a sentence does not mean the sentence is true.

15. You should not care. Not in public, anyway.

If you show that you care you open yourself up to attack from all those master-trolls like Toby Young and Donald Trump and Katie RefuseToTypeHerName. Do not open yourself up to attack. You are a God. You only have power if people believe in you.

15a. How to Build an Argument, Part 3.

Hook. Introduction. Context. Background. Information. Point. Counterpoint. Description. More description. Analysis. Comparison. And so forth.

Order as you will.

16. Record companies and press agents do not always tell the truth.

Surprising how few writers realise this. Next week’s shocker: newspapers and TV channels are not always honest.

17. Do not write for magazines/websites you do not read.

Everyone does. Even me. Especially me. Fucking hacks. Do not worry about it. It is the editors who suffer.

18. Write because you have to, not because of your career plan.

Do not ask if you can submit. Write. Permission is not necessary.

19. If you do not have a clue why you are doing it, do not do it.

Have a clue before you sit down to write an article or a review: have a clue before you spend 10 minutes on the phone with the former drummer of Oasis: have a clue before you start accessing Pitchfork and NME looking for other reviews to rip off. Trust me. It will make your life way easier. And if you do not have a clue? Get lost. Trust me, it will make life of everyone else way easier.

20. It is not sexy. It is not glamorous. And it certainly will not get you laid.

I was once featured in three different items in Spin Magazine’s cover story, the Top 100 Rock And Roll Roll Moments Of All Time – twice as the main focus of the story. Each one centred around some alleged moment of debauchery: mostly sexual. My favourite was the one at Number 89 which stated that, in return for writing the story that broke grunge to the world, Sub Pop Records supplied me with a variety of press agents who orally pleasured me on flights to and from Seattle. I think I was also involved in a threesome with Evan Dando and Courtney Love. (That one made the Top 10.) What matters here is not the truth. What matters is what has been written.

21. It is not over. It is never over.

There is a rumour going round town that Pitchfork had a clause inserted into their writers’ contracts a couple of years ago stating that under no circumstances should a review be more interesting than the music it is discussing. Which, given the quality of most of the music Pitchfork likes to promote, is quite some task.

22. Fuck hyphens.

And fuck apostrophes too, while we are here. Keep it direct, entertaining, informative.

23. Think a band sounds like another band? You are probably right but so what?

See also the point about not making lists. Just because you can do it, it does not mean you should. This is a lesson you wish you could teach a six-year-old.

23a. The platform is way more important than the critic.

Obviously. (Unless it is not.)

24. Never trust a writer without an agenda.

A writer without an agenda is like Tom without Jerry, Donald Trump without any Russian friends and kinky sex life, an umbrella without rain. They can exist but you ask yourself: why?

25. Your editor will always value your ability to time-keep way over your ability to wield flowery prose.

This was the single most re-Tweeted line when I originally posted this series up on Twitter.

26. It is nice that folk want to send you free stuff. Get over it RIGHT NOW.

See also #4 above. Has it ever occurred to you that the free stuff might not be the most interesting?

27. A 10-minute rehash of the press release on the telephone does not constitute an interview.

Above all else: preparation. Research. Background knowledge. Or… failing all that, get trashed on your mum’s secret Jagermeister stash and spend the 10 minutes insulting the musician in question. And then make the whole thing up anyway. Seriously, who is going to care?

28. No one gives a fuck you once made out to an Ed Sheeran B-side.

Not unless it is for embarrassment value. What were you doing listening to Ed Sheeran past the age of eight anyway?

29. Having the ability to use a keyboard does not automatically make you a writer. See also #6.

Ah, for fuck’s sake. How many times do I have to say this? Everyone is NOT a critic – unless you are also of the opinion that if you have ever bashed a table-top a few times, sung along to Katy Perry in the shower or blown down one of those cute little nose-tickler things that come in Christmas stockings, you are a musician; if you have ever drawn a line across a piece of paper, you are an artist; or if you have ever taken a drunken snap of your mates covered in vomit, you are a photographer. It is true, technically. True, but a pointless and useless way to define the words in any sort of social or cultural or professional context.

30. Be candid. Be yourself. Be aware. Be yourself. Be entertaining. Be yourself.

Where is the clause in your contract that states all music criticism has to be dull?

30a. It’s not a career choice. Trust me.

Heard about the music critic who lived happily ever after? Me neither.

Buy the book, Ed Sheeran is Shit and other Major Musical Malfunctions. Buy two books at once for a £5 discount

WORLD EXCLUSIVE! Live review of ‘fake’ metal band THREATIN at Camden Underworld

In recent days, the metal blogosphere has been buzzing with the story of  ‘fake’ metal band THREATIN. What no one has managed is to file a report from any of their shows: no wonder when only three people showed up to the Camden Underworld…

threatin_underworld

Surely, this is of interest? We were there. “Three people show up and one of them’s a music journalist! Jammy bastard! What are the chances of that?” Quite high, actually. It’s what we do. As keen metal fans here at How NOT To Write About Music, we posted this report a couple of days ago – but no one paid attention. So here it is again: whether the band is ‘real’ or not is not of importance to us here at How NOT To Write About Music. To us, they were real when they played. What is far more important is the question: does the band rock? And trust us, like you’ve never trusted a music critic before: this band… well, read for yourselves.

ADDENDA: Apologies for the shortness of the review, but we did not realise that the show would become as notorious as it has. Also, if anyone wants to reprint this review, please can they send us money first?

THREATIN
Camden Underworld, November 1, 2018
Poodle rock and hair metal are two distinct genres, and ones not easy to master either. Singer and guitar god Jared Threatin smartly keeps a foot in both camps: the mysterious atmosphere of classic poodle rock bands such as Quiet Riot, The London Suede and Twisted Sister, and the more emotional nature of hair metal (Triumph, The Auteurs, Whitesnake), but without the self-pitying melodies of the latter. So it is of considerable disappointment to me that when i show up at the venue there are less punters than it costs to buy a pint of beer (in pounds). Surely, a band with this much of a YouTube following should be able to find fans, even in such a notoriously un-rockin’ spot as Camden? But no: when the band ask us “London, are you ready to rock” the only sound that can be heard is that of my colleague’s cellphone as he taps in “get me OUT of here!”. A shame, because it is the band’s ability to alternate in this way that keeps poodle rock delivered alive, with all the technique and structure that makes songs like the classic ‘Living Is Dying’ so distinctive and expressive.

A really good band, but not much atmosphere. 7/10

How NOT to write about music – 27. Television Personalities

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I am playing a show in London on Thursday, a benefit for Dan Treacy – the singer of Television Personalities. Dan is not well, has not been well for a long time.

I am feeling nervous about it. There are a lot of uncertainties involved. These days I prefer (wrong word) to sit in my house in Haywards Heath and mindlessly play basic computer games on my iPhone. I do not speak to people outside of my work, and my children. I do not go out to shows (although in recent months I have attempted to book myself into some speaking engagements and gigs, in an attempt to break this cycle). I do not go out to the cinema, to the pub, for meals. Sometimes I will watch old tv shows – Bewitched, The Simpsons, Sabrina The Teenage Witch – and the (very) occasional Jacques Tati film. Let the others who want to struggle, struggle. I would not say I am content or happy in my isolation, in my self-enforced loneliness – far from it – but I seem to be haunted by demons. Regret, perhaps. The state of not knowing. A near-suffocating sense of loss. Depression, if you want to call it that – although the past few months, teaching at BIMM London, have been both excellent and fun, if you can remove the ridiculous four hours daily travel. Tired, I cannot pity myself. I suffocate gently in my sleep.

I am feeling very nervous about it. Not because I feel I will be unable to perform…

That is not the reason. Far as that goes, I am performing as strongly as I have for years: crucially, I COULD NOT GIVE A FUCK whether anyone else thinks this music holds value or not. I know it does, and enough people I value (from Stephen Pastel and John Robb onwards) think that it does for me not to care. Indeed, I sometimes find myself humbled at the people who think my music holds value. Live, I understand the importance of space, of architecture, of the audience. I have been incorporating Television Personalities songs within my set for years, particularly ‘Happy All The Time’. Unpopular released a 7″ of two of my live renditions several years ago now. I contributed a song or two to Television Personalities tribute albums, one featuring my four-year-old son Isaac. I have enough confidence remaining as a performer (as The Legend!, as Everett True) to be able to fall back on silence, on spoken word, on old gospel or music hall songs, on improvised profanity, whatever it takes.

My performance is not the reason.

Here is the deal. I have  – both deliberately and undeliberately (alcohol blackouts) – engaged in a process of wiping the past from my mind throughout my life. I do not know when this process started. Perhaps it was a result of being bullied relentlessly at Junior School for four years, turning my innocence and hope and happiness into fear. Maybe it was a result of too many asshole drunken outings, or an overload of information and stimulus and good times: betraying my own ideals before I even knew what they were. Two weeks ago, I broke one of my great taboos. I got back in touch with an old friend – someone I haven’t spoken to for at least 30 years. I did so, partly because I am so fed up of not having friends, or at least friends I can speak to – I did so partly because I am fed up of friends dying before I get back in touch. I did so, partly because I am lonely. I do so, mainly because… Dan sang it best, with Television Personalities.

I am still looking for a sense of belonging.

I have been aware for as long as I can recall that music has provided me with a sense of belonging, a sense of community and sharing, give and take. And if that no longer exists then surely that is my fault and no more and no less than I deserve. Music scorns me like a former lover. Back when I knew Alan McGee and Dan Treacy in the early 1980s the music provided a palpable sense of belonging, clubs like (Alan’s) Living Room at the Adams Arms and (Dan and Emily’s) Room At The Top (Chalk Farm Enterprise) providing a living community of outsiders, bloaters, the braggarts and the bullies, the shy and the emotional, the Sixties obsessed guitar freaks and the psychedelic losers. Alan gave me Dan, Dan gave me Marine Girls and so much inspiration in his own personal, heart-torn songs – no separation between performance and performer, much as Dan attempted to insert some. Amazing fucking pop songs.

Songs that you can play with just the bare rudiments of musical knowledge, songs you can sing without even any backing at all.

I’m not sure I have ever paid the due respect I should have to Dan. I think this is mostly because I have been in hiding from my past for – what – 30, 40, 50 years now? This failed retreat didn’t just start when Kurt killed himself. Dan was the primary inspiration for all of us back then – and by that I mean Alan primarily, but everyone else just followed what Alan did. (Obviously, we had our own individual influences and inspirations, but I am talking about the community here.) We recorded the first Creation single at the old TVPs’ studio in West London, quite deliberately. I recall feeling angry that we only managed to record and mix 10 song in four hours; it felt like we’d been slacking. Dan, so clumsy and shy and beautiful and funny, mixing in wry humour with painful awareness with always the gorgeous poptones. The last time I ever saw him perform – Brighton, mid 2000s – I had to walk out, it was too painful. Everyone was laughing at the funny drunk fucked-up man. It wasn’t funny. It really wasn’t funny.

I can’t speak for Charlotte, but I know who I named our second son Daniel Thackray after – Dan Treacy and Daniel Johnston, the two greatest male poets it has been my privilege to know.

—————————————————-

Melody Maker 30th April 1994

SINGLE OF THE WEEK
TELEVISION PERSONALITIES
Far Away & Lost In Joy (Vinyl Japan)
Television Personalities have been England’s great forgotten band for too long. The four songs’ concerns here are more of the usual : loss of friends, embarrassment, betrayal, lack of desire for life, fear, observation of a loved one from afar – sung with weary resignation over an endearingly clumsy, slightly numb, sweetly sad and slow backing. Pop music, I guess, but this music is truly magical.

I love the way everything Dan does sounds so unfinished, so human. I empathise directly with his voice, his phrasing, the way he stumbles when he should run… and what does music come down to in the end, if it ain’t empathy?
Everett True

How NOT to write about music – 26. Kristin Hersh

Kristin

I want to write about the new Kristin Hersh album Possible Dust Clouds but I am not sure my words are equal to it. Hers are:

“Sometimes the most subversive thing I can do musically is adhere to standard song structure, sometimes the creepiest chords are the ones we’ve heard before, twisted into different shapes, and sometimes a story is lived a thousand times before we can ride it like a roller coaster. Nothing wholly unfamiliar is gonna make you look twice. When you can describe a record as being ‘deceptively’ anything, you’re hinting at the sociopathic nature of music. Something I love. Imagine truly buying your own sunshine and charm, but also your darkness and violence; the two sides of your psychology showing each other off in relief. Songs can do that…we can’t, really. Darkness we’ve seen. Dark sunshine? Still cool.”

I want to write about the new Kristin Hersh album Possible Dust Clouds but it’s late at night, I have two children sleeping upstairs, the washing has reached its final cycle and soon-come sleep is painting a mist across my eyes. If I was on my sofa I’d be fighting off unconsciousness by now – and unsuccessfully.

I want to write about Kristin’s new album but the music keeps intruding, in a way music rarely – if ever – does when I am attempting to write about it. Full immersion. The way the music and guitar lollops and loops and curves, and throws off sunshine and charm (NB: stolen from press release), the way her voice sounds wise beyond understanding, the way a pink birthing ball is resting over there by the torn-out fireplace, the shallowness of my breathing, the tears splattered across my car’s windscreen… I find myself unequal to the task. She’s not:

“I usually play all the instruments on my solo records – essentially the sound of having no friends – but sociopaths can’t realize their potential without people to work out their grievances on and this record is a freakin’ sociopath. So I invited my friends to the party I wanted to hear. Not a live record but an alive record.”

I think the reason I do not listen to Kristin Hersh as often as I might (and file her away under “to be admired” rather than “to be loved”) is that her music, not needlessly and certainly not callously, reminds me so poignantly of my own shortcomings, the same way this is one of the greatest lyrics I have ever encountered

My diplomacy, my security, my hope and my ice-cream
My tomorrow and my temperature, my lips and my selfishness
My cigarette, my uncertainty, my penetration
My notebook and my limit, my importance and my glycerine
My customer, my function, my lawlessness, my charm
My hunger, my refusal, my tissue and my vodka
My ommission, my ability, my telephone and my holler
My relaxing, my distress, my bedroom, my cassette
My dictation and my pulse, my fortune and my death
My flake and my restlessness, my headache and my dirt
My paper and my charity, my rose and my pallor
My guess and my closet, my light ‘n’ my time
My worry, my perversity, my transgression
My temptation and my polythene, my gunshot
My jealousy and my water
My demands ‘n’ my angels ‘n’ my waiting ‘n’ my distance
My death, my curtness, my insulin, my memory
My partner ‘n’ my sadness, my story, my wantonness
My wish, my despair, my erasure, my plantation
My white chocolate, my thoughtlessness, my gracelessness
My courage and my crying, my pockets ‘n’ my mistakes
My body and my sex, my gaze and my helplessness
My letter, my sugar, my homework, my walk
My records, my smile and my struggle
My reflection, my eyelid, my fragility, my discretion
My hair, my austerity, my tattoo, my demise
My fooling and my terror, My problem and my judgement
Oh my disguise, my tongue
My ownership, my formula, my property, my thought, my razor
My blessing and my silence, my lust and my practise
My sincerity, my penicillin, my window and my androgyny
My mother, my recorder, my pity and my posing
My light, my carelessness, my drummer, my drummer, my drummer, my drummer
My tenderness ‘n’ my car, my undoing and my history
My bottle and my drugs, my drugs, my drugs
Tomorrow, my temperature, my lips and my selfishness
My cigarette, my uncertainty, my penetration, my notebook

And so forth.

This new album – her 10th studio album, it says here – is so full. So fucking full I cannot begin to muster the energy required to equal it with words (thereby failing RULE NUMBER ONE OF MUSIC JOURNALISM: always be more entertaining than the music you write about). Everything claimed for her former 4AD soulmates The Breeders, obv – but without the cosy familiarity that helps so often when confronted with casual genius, the intimate stranger. Brooding. Broody. Squalling. Squalled. Mysterious like Lyra Belacqua. I am just pleased that I am not the only one unable to measure up here.

Exhibit number one: the press release

Feedback and phasing gyrate from simply strummed normality, imagine Dinosaur Jr and My Bloody Valentine cranking up a Dylan couplet.

I love the simply strummed normality bit, but… you what? So much wrong contained within these final dozen words: devaluing the very artist they set out to praise by throwing in random selected assortments from indie rock’s rich canon (a canon that should NEVER be taken for granted, ALWAYS be questioned). Why not throw in Joy Division, Nirvana and The Beatles and be done with it? It’s a bit like saying Joni Mitchell is almost as good as Bob Dylan, with implicit gender preference thrown in. Kristin Hersh is an artist in her own right, easily the equal if not superior (if we MUST turn music into a competition) to the aforementioned… the comparisons are the wrong way around. She’s not Courtney Barnett, you know.

Hell, though. I understand the PR’s problem though. How to put Kristin into words that she hasn’t written herself? Let the lady speak:

“Because a lot of live records don’t sound live, just poorly recorded. And self-conscious musicians can’t let fly. I wanted to recreate the impact of a show. Unpretentious, with a muscular song body running through the room. This entailed seriously messing with both extremes of the sonic spectrum: the fundamentals (basics, rhythm section, roots) but also with the detail (percussion, high end, effects). These two strata asked to sound eccentric: atonal and arrhythmic. So when the song body runs through the room, it’s not wholly unfamiliar, just dressed oddly enough to make you look twice. Dark sunshine, still cool. Hopefully, anyway.”

She reminds me most of… ha. You ain’t gonna catch me like that. Let the lady speak:

“My friends helped me make a nice party noise, a goofy sociopath. Everyone who stopped by the studio was asked to make some noise and they pretty much did. A party that lasted for a few years, it’s only now dying down. A friend called this morning asking when the bus was leaving. A rickety, squealy, squeaky bus…none of us want to miss it.”

Peerless.

She still sounds better because she leaves much to your own imagination.

How NOT to write about music – 25. Salad

Salad The Selfishness of Love

I have long noticed the debilitating effect time and distance have upon my critical facilities.

A few years back, my resistance to 1980s soft rock finally crumbled and  – freed of the encumbrance of tribal allegiances, Mod style and distaste towards the male form (this is a lie) – I spent many a happy month wallowing in the sounds of Foreigner, Rainbow, Boston and Ellen Foley. I say ‘happy’ but as these months coincided with the start of the divorce process, you will have to imagine the myriad emotions associated with the description. Some could argue that my fondness for Nirvana’s Nevermind was rooted in a similar musical love but I ain’t having that. My fondness for Nirvana in the early 1990s was absolutely rooted in a sense of identity. There has been a gradual shifting and erosion of my identity in recent years, from one rooted in a more belligerent defensive template – witness the way I would get up on stage to swear floridly at strangers in the 1980s at a time when I could not even look friends in the eye – to one which is… I wouldn’t say comfortable (I have never been comfortable in my own skin) and I hotly deny any charges of ‘given up’ (to such an extent that I start to worry)… not so eager to defend lines that to all intents and purposes were imaginary in the first place.

There again, life itself is a construct.

Last night, I found myself enjoying the rasped R.E.M. sounds of Minneapolis’ Soul Ayslum over the closing credits of Clerks (another media that has accrued emotional pull for me over time). The debut Soul Ayslum album was OK I recall, being in thrall to the same thrall Dinosaur Jr and Sonic Youth and pals were in thrall to, but not by this point – surely?

Whatever.

I will even listen to Supertramp and Kate Bush these days.

So, Salad then. A band that passed me by, back in the early 1990s. Don’t think I disliked them, just didn’t notice them. There was too much other stuff going on. (Alcohol and blagging and self-pity, mostly.) Perhaps if they’d grown to be as big as Echobelly I would have ended up interviewing them, but… they occupied a similar place as Sleeper and… duh. No idea. Dubstar? If they’d lived in Brighton maybe we’d have been mates but they didn’t so we weren’t. Probably preferred Frantic Spiders but then, old territorial me would say that, wouldn’t he?

Not anymore. These days, it is highly possible I do not expose myself to even 5% of the music I once did (this alters my perceptions) but damn this new song sounds great. Sparky and nervous and full of slightly restrained energy and belting harmonies and a BIG CHORUS… if I had heard it without knowing the name, I’d have gone for it sure. A little bit Pulp perhaps. A little bit Aussie. Some menace, some beautiful grating guitar, not old and cantankerous even though that’s the way many of us turn, but alive and alert to the possibilities of love… goddamn it, meant to type life there but love makes more sense anyhow.

Where are we now? This is silly-good catchy. This is Elastica good. Also, it reminds me of my long-term Worthing sweethearts La Mômo… and that makes me happy. Don’t know why the following is only a short preview, but why the fuck not. First new stuff since 1997 apparently, but … uh … not that I’d know it. So catchy I wanna go back and listen to the old shit, see if I did miss something first time round.

I’m just happy to be here.

How NOT to write about music – 24: Morrissey

British singer Morrissey performs during

This is reprinted from Collapse Board, 2012 – wherein I was merely trying to prove that there is  more than one way to review a show. Of course, there are more than 17 ways to review a show as well – interpretative dance, political, unseeing, seductive, podcast, ranting, haiku, whistled, choppy, sculpted, dress-making, self-centered… the list goes on and on. And on. Can all these be counted as music criticism? Depends on how narrow you like to set your parameters.

Couple of notes:

  1. Since this was written I find my 2018 self in violent disagreement with my 2012 self and section 15, particularly in regard to Morrissey and racism. So much so, I have thrown in a bonus rant (drawn from Ed Sheeran Is Shit) at the end, to counter the goodwill. The idea of reprinting this blog entry and the rant is not to draw attention to Morrissey however, but to try and alert people to the endless possibilities contained within music criticism – especially in the wake of Dave Simpson’s well-meaning but perhaps misleading Guardian article about the health of the music journalism that chose as its visual a magazine rack full of covers that only featured white male musicians over the age of 35.
  2. In section 14 (comparative) I cannot find links to all the music originally played so I have had to guess a couple. Unfortunate, but a good reminder of the transient nature of the Internet.
  3. I have added comments where I have deemed them necessary. Frankly, this shit should be shared and taught across every country where folk consider music journalism to hold any worth – but of course it won’t be. The folk most vested in music journalism’s value also have the biggest stake in music journalism not changing. Plus ça change.
  4. I still fucking LOVE that clip of ‘Everyday Is Like Sunday’.

17 reviews of Morrissey @ Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre, 17.12.12

The show took place on the 17 December. So I thought I’d print 17 versions of the review.

Version 1: Literal

SET LIST FROM BRISBANE EXHIBITION CENTRE 17.12.12
1. Shoplifters Of The World Unite (The Smiths single, 1987)
2. You Have Killed Me (single from the 2006 Morrissey album Ringleader Of The Tormentors)
3. You’re The One For Me, Fatty (1992 solo single, later released on Your Arsenal)
4. Alma Matters (single from the 1997 Morrissey album Maladjusted)
5. Everyday Is Like Sunday (second single from Morrissey’s debut solo album Viva Hate, 1988)
6. Speedway (final song on 1994 solo album Vauxhall And I)
7. Ouija Board, Ouija Board (1989 solo single)
8. One Day Goodbye Will Be Farewell (eighth song on the 2009 solo album Years Of Refusal)
9. How Soon Is Now? (B-side of The Smiths 1984 single ‘William, It Was Really Nothing’)
10. I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris (first single from the 2009 solo album Years Of Refusal)
11. To Give (The Reason I Live) (Frankie Valli cover)
12. Meat Is Murder (title track from The Smiths’ second album, 1985)
13. Let Me Kiss You (single from the 2004 solo album You Are The Quarry)
14. Still Ill (sixth song from the first Smiths album The Smiths, 1984)
15. Irish Blood, English Heart (single from the 2004 solo album You Are The Quarry)
16. Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want (B-side of The Smiths 1984 single ‘William, It Was Really Nothing’)
17. I Know It’s Over (third song on the third Smiths album The Queen Is Dead, 1986)
18. November Spawned A Monster (1990 solo single)
19. The Youngest Was The Most Loved (second single from the 2006 Morrissey album Ringleader Of The Tormentors)
20. Sweet And Tender Hooligan ( B-side to ‘Sheila Take a Bow’, 1987)
Encore: 21. First Of The Gang To Die (second single from the 2004 solo album You Are The Quarry)

Version 2: Abstract

Invoice for u/c
Exercise 5: Towel exercise
Sally Breen
470.65
525.03

abstract_art_masterpiece

WHY AREN’T THESE PEOPLE MY FRIENDS?
WHY AREN’T THESE PEOPLE MY FRIENDS?
WHY AREN’T THESE PEOPLE MY FRIENDS?
WHY AREN’T THESE PEOPLE MY FRIENDS?
WHY AREN’T THESE PEOPLE MY FRIENDS?

Version 3: Pedantic

I can take or leave Morrissey. I’m ambivalent way more than obsessed. Never liked The Smiths or (it would be more accurate to say) never liked the idea of being seen to be liking The Smiths. Indie? Pah. Sometimes, I think he’s a one-trick pony. Sometimes? I mean, often. On Monday night at the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre I find myself bored 32.1 per cent of the time, charmed 5.3 per cent, thrilled 3.87 per cent, spirits thoroughly uplifted 8.2 per cent, and entertained 64.9 per cent. I believe that adds up, and if it doesn’t that’s because it shouldn’t. I don’t like rock bands that think like rock bands. I like rock bands that rock. On Monday night, the only time Morrissey’s band really get into their stride – from my perspective, high in the stalls – is when they’re whipping up a howling vortex of noise during the PETA film, leading on from ‘Meat Is Murder’. I write, howling. I write, vortex. These words aren’t to be taken literally. You should never take anything literally, especially Morrissey and reviews of Morrissey. Unless, of course, it’s more entertaining to behave that way.

I’m not sure how I split on the songs. I’ve created my own “Morrissey, live in Brisbane 2012″ playlist and some of the songs on that are already more memorable than they were on Monday night, particularly the blousy ‘You Have Killed Me’.

And some aren’t.

Version 4: Irrational (fan-lust)

I love Morrissey. I’ve only seen him live once, but that’s more than most people. It was the most amazing experience in my life. Why? Not only because seeing him live just made me feel so euphoric, but because he took off his shirt and tossed it into the crowd. I was lucky enough to get a piece and I swear to you, it smelled so sweet. Drinking my favorite beer, Blue Moon, on this lovely Wednesday night while listening to him has reminded me how much i love him. This is a special frame with the piece of his shirt. I have it hanging in my house ever so proudly. (SolarV, Tumblr)

Version 5: Visual

smiths-salford-boys-club

pregnant-princess

battery-farming

FWRO

fishing-wide

the clash

Version 6: Imaginary

IMAGINARY MORRISSEY REVIEW
by Jake Cleland

Out trudges Moz, his face the picture of graven sadness – or at least, I think so. I can’t really see from a hundred rows back. But let’s just say that the aura of this sadsack LEGO man stomping around half a football field away is one of gloom. “The Queen, bad,” he says. “Capitalism bad. Marxism bad. This heat bad. Our impending collective deaths, good.” Each statement is punctured with a round of cheers. “This is not going to be a typical show. You’re going to get much more than your money’s worth and I hope you’ll appreciate it although I think for some it might be too much. That’s OK. What’s important is we’re all here now and we’ll all go through it together. OK.” I didn’t know it then – I couldn’t have – but what Morrissey had in store was a trip to hell and back. Travel time: 16 hours.

The First Quarter
“I’d like to introduce a special guest tonight…” he motions stage left. The curtain parts to make way for whichever sap was pulled in to be his gimmick tonight. No doubt some member of the Australian rock vanguard. Timmy Rogers? Paul Kelly? No, this guy’s got dark hair. The excitement ripples through the crowd from the front row like the vacuum preceding a nuclear explosion. “I believe you know my mate Richey.” The fandom detonates. By some miracle, Morrissey’s revived the Britpop prophet of blank, emotional exhibitionism. He’s brought out Richey Manic. I start pushing my way through the crowd to get a better look. “A few guests, actually…” The curtain parts again and onto the stage shuffles Damon Albarn and a typically dapper Jarvis Cocker. A lot’s been made in the past year about 90s pop revivalism and the cynicism of reunion tours in Australia – it felt especially inevitable following the popularity of Simon Reynolds’s Retromania last year – and yet how could anyone be cynical about this? Sure, it was backwards-looking navel-gazing like all nostalgic tripping but shit, for the kids who weren’t there the first time, this simulacrum of a historical moment is just as good as the original. The set begins strongly, sprinkling covers of the guests’ songs between two decades of hits and treasured deep cuts.

The Second Quarter
The hits and covers done away with, Morrissey and his mottled crew hand off their instruments and come down off the stage. “It’s time for a break. Flex the muscles a bit.” Security staff begin circulating through the crowd, carrying an assortment of sporting equipment. Tennis gear, cricket bats, footballs of every kind. Even a ping pong table, set up in front of the stage, although this quickly turns into a round robin tournament of beer pong. Despite the sensitivity, Moz still draws the lad crowd. The band begin mingling. “Fancy a kick, Moz?” I ask him. For an old feller, he’s pretty spry, dodging and weaving like the ball’s glued to his legs. We set up a small area, maybe 5×5 metres, fans vs band. Moz’s a deadly midfielder but Richey’s cadaverous goalkeeping nudge the fans ahead.

The Third Quarter
Requests and crowd favourites. Security gathers up all the gear – even the ping pong table, which some had had the bright idea of using as a stage of their own [actually, in its original incarnation, my old regular venue in Brighton UK, the Free Butt, would set up the pool table as the stage – Ed] – and furrows it away as the band take their original positions. “So, what shall we play next, my darlings?” asks our fearless leader/lover. “Khe Sanh!” one shouts. They play it. “Cattle And Cane!” another shouts. They play it. “The Wild Ones!” yet another shouts. They play it. “Wonderwall!” The crowd goes silent. Morrissey’s stare freezes the culprit to the spot. “You’ve asked for it now.” Richey, standing in for Noel Gallagher, begins strumming the opening chords. And he strums. And he strums. And he keeps strumming for what feels like half an hour as the rest of the band stands poised as if they’re about to come in but it seems like they never will. Finally Morrissey enters. “Tooooooooooooooo-” it drags on. He slides up the scale and back down again. Then he starts syncopating. All on this one “oooh” sound. He drags it out, twisting and contorting it in every way imaginable, and just when it’s sunk so deep into the psyche it seems as natural as the sound of the breeze on a spring morning or the cars along the highway at night, he switches into “Dayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy-” and on and on. Finally it dawns on me, but the realisation makes it no easier to bear. A three-and-a-half hour long version of Oasis’s ‘Wonderwall’. By the end there are folks huddled on the ground, while some just stare blankly ahead, thoughtless, except for a kind of existential stillness, an emotional paralysis. He’s hurt us. Like any abusive lover, at this point it seems the only hope he offers is to make the cruelty that much more satisfying.

The Fourth Quarter
That hellish nightmare endured, Morrissey gives one more surprise. “This is the final one, I swear, but please welcome to the stage my dear friends, the original members of S Club 7.” The crowd muster a feeble moan of approval but can’t even get it up enough to appreciate the spectacle of Albarn and Cocker mimicking their choreography with rehearsed precision. The hits go by with rote energy. ‘S Club Party’, ‘Don’t Stop Movin”, ‘Bring It All Back’. It doesn’t matter. Who cares? I’m defeated. The entire world seems grey. Wait, is that it? Oh Morrissey. Morrissey, you sly dog. I finally get it. The last sliver of my conscious mind grasps Morrissey’s genius. “We’re all here now. We’ll all go through it together.” My god, he didn’t mean the show, he meant life! The optimism followed by the crushing pessimism which evolves into jadedness. I doubt many here could understand but Morrissey’s just replicated the experience of human emotional growth, from the boundless curiosity and hope of children through to the bleak limit of reality one discovers as an adult. Torture, yes. Fairly sure everyone here could be considered prisoners at this point. And yet, we’d all been offered the most real glimpse into Morrissey’s psyche as any one man could ever provide. In that moment I understood exactly what made Morrissey who he was, and exactly what I could do to stay the fuck away from it.

7/10

LOVED: The complete deconstruction of Morrissey’s metaphysical nature.
HATED: The beer was a bit watered down. For $8 a cup, I expected better.

Version 7: Street press

The following is taken from The Australian:

Back on the road with no new album to support, the Mancunian front man took to the stage looking like a well-aged matador. Opening with The Smiths’ Shoplifters Of The World Unite, Morrissey’s five-piece band swung in to action behind him.

You Have Killed Me was next and the troupe had a full head of steam by the time You’re The One For Me, Fatty came around. Morrissey’s voice sounded, for the most part, as good as it ever has, although there were moments when the quaver wavered. Speedway was rough around the edges but that was part of the appeal.

John Lennon, towards the end of his life, referred to David Bowie as rock’s last great original. A few years later, Morrissey came along

Version 8: Poetic

Morrissey.
Oh Morrissey.
You mean little when you’re separated but sometimes you mean
The night to me

Version 9: Note form

We were in the seated section to the right hand side of the stage, as you look at it.

Charlotte asks me what I take notes about at a concert (it’s very rare that I do). Usually, it’s just the song titles (although strictly speaking this isn’t necessary in the age of set-lists being available on the Internet the following day – e.g. here) and some general observations: the stage banter, as that’s what is unique to this night alone. (Some artists repeat themselves night to night, but I can’t imagine for one second that Morrissey, who prides himself on his capriciousness, does.) Lighting arrangements, number of musicians. Whether I enjoy a particular song or not. The mundane stuff. Stuff I forget. Also:

Did the crowd chant his name? (Yes.) Were fans pulled on stage? (Yes.) How many shirt changes? (Three.) Were the lights blinding us in the stalls? (Yes.) Was a giant image of Himself projected onto the screen behind the stage so we could see nose hairs in detail? (No.)

The following are my notes, word-for-word, typed into my mobile phone during (and before) Morrissey’s set. Quotes signify Morrissey speaking (or a lyric).

Jean Genie
Salford Boys Club
football chant of “Morrissey”
never turn your back on mother Sparks 1974
new york dolls looking for a kiss

“let me spit it out”
“well, look at it this way, this bottom therapy”
You’re the one for me Fatty
always was a Clash fan (and that’s a difference between us)
mic lead
security monitor every move as he touches hands
“this is my life to destroy my own way”… I like this one (song 4)
big gong behind drums
“you’ll be horrified to hear we had a fantastic time in New Zealand and whether Australia can compete, I don’t know”
Every day is like Sunday (“It couldn’t be much further from Queensland, this song” – Charlotte)
bows (mention way the band looks when they come out)
“in my own strange way I’ve always been true to you” – with ‘Funeral Pyre’ drums (song 6)
guitarist with his arm in a sling
Ouija Board has vague carnival signifiers, gong at end
“I had a shocking experience last night…. Rock Kwiz…’name a singer whose name begins with “m”… someone said the obvious one, someone another obvious one…six down the line, I wasn’t even mentioned…”
no costume changes yet
“I’m human and I need to be loved/just like everyone else does” – theatrical end with Morrissey in foetal position, and banging on major drum (song 9)
“You’re feeling weary now, you’re thinking about tomorrow, there isn’t one… prozac, prozac”
next song like ‘Eloise’ singer Barry Ryan (song 11)
“I’m very pleased to see such a movement in this country against factory farming… until it’s gone, humans aren’t humane”
footage of chickens and turkeys
“and the turkey you festively slice/it’s murder” – band almost coming into their own (song 12)
“Will and Kate. Bag. Of. Shit”
“close your eyes and think of someone you physically admire”
strips off shirt and lobs it into the audience, returns in green Johnny Cash top (costume change!)
into Smiths song, very messy. ‘Still Ill’, voice cracking a little
Meat is moider, “brave English heart”
A plant in the audience… “thank you for your great courage and compassion”
stands still, encourages audience participation
Please Please Please… done subtle with keyboards (song 16)
ties shoelace
Also gentle, ‘I know it’s Over’

“Oh, you’re bored stiff, I can tell”
….
Shouting on “etcetera  etcetera” lyric repeated (song 20)
same venue as citizenship ceremony, seemed big then
another costume change, and a bow
“You have never been in love… first of the gang with a gun in his hand” – pulling fans up on stage

Version 10: Musical

The songs I enjoyed particularly are as follows:

  • Alma Matters – score! I don’t believe I’ve heard the song before, but it has a lovely circular guitar motif that cuts in every so often across, enhancing Morrissey’s deliciously playful croon
  • Everyday Is Like Sunday – score! Charlotte memorably remarks halfway through, “It couldn’t be much further from Queensland, this song” and later revealed she would listen to the song in the car on the way to Southend, on a Sunday. Utterly charming. Couldn’t believe it wasn’t a Smiths song, when C informed me of the fact. I thought only Smiths songs possessed this lightness of touch – as opposed to bludgeoning force. Wrong.
  • Speedway – it’s muscular, sure. But it’s pleasingly muscular.
  • Ouija Ouija Board – what sets the great Morrissey songs aside from the merely ordinary or mundane is the choice of phrase, often. For example, this song here. (‘One Day Goodbye Will Be Farewell’ rocked reasonably hard, what with those tempestuous drums but didn’t have a phrase. Or a melody.)
  • How Soon Is Now? – oh yes. I mean, really. This is the song the entire early mythology of Morrissey and The Smiths is built upon, right? The one The Stone Roses hark back to (which is why they could be MASSIVE while Suede only ever aspired to ordinariness as they took ‘Shoplifters Of The World Unite’ as their template). Lyrics lyrics lyrics… but of course not only. The band aren’t Johnny Marr. Only Johnny Marr is. It didn’t matter. And it was sweet to see Morrissey stray away from his standard dance move of twirling the microphone lead around to curl up in a foetal position in front of the drum kit as the noise droned on and eerily on. Lyrics lyrics lyrics.
  • Meat Is Murder – memorable, certainly. Awful song, but memorable.
  • Irish Blood English Heart –  yeah of course.
  • Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want – oh, it’s such a relief when he drops the volume for a couple of songs, and lets us all breath again. This always was a wafer-thin delight of a song (thrown away with the other great Smiths song on the same B-side), recognised long ago for its sensitive touch, and it’s always a pleasure to be reacquainted with any version that doesn’t feature bland indifferent female vocals.
  • I Know It’s Over – see above, and triplicate. Score! A Smiths song I really wasn’t on speaking terms with, reclaimed – subtle and playful and wistful.
  • First Of The Gang To Die – the only encore. (The crowd can’t say Morrissey didn’t warn them. He kept warning them!) Absolutely the stand-out of the night. Storming chorus, storming phrasing, storming storming. Loved the way he played up to the idol worship, pulling outstretched hands up onto the stage, security all crouched and vigilant in case the play-acting became too real. (Which of course it was.) Wonderful way to end the night. I could forgive him any number of faults for this one song alone, and indeed do.

This doesn’t mean I hated the others, more that I was indifferent.

Version 11: Conversational

Conversation One:

“Went to see Morrissey play at the Exhibition Centre the other night…”
Oh yeah? How was it?
“Well, I wouldn’t classify myself as a fan…”
No?
“No. It was pretty good actually. I objected to the way he semi-shouted several of the numbers, and I didn’t really like the band, but there were enough moments to make it worth the trip…”
Oh yeah? Did he play any old Smiths songs?
“Seven, actually.’How Soon Is Now?’, the one Smiths song I’ve always had a soft spot for. And ‘Everyday Is Like Sunday’, which everyone thinks is a Smiths song anyway.”
Yeah? Good, was it?
“Yeah, great. And he closed the show with an absolute belter, ‘First Of The Gang To Die’. Absolute stormer.”
Yeah? I haven’t heard that one.
“No, neither had I. Remind me to play it to you some time.”
So. Did you speak to him afterwards?
“Morrissey? Are you kidding me?”

Conversation Two:

“He was a lot more jovial than I expected” – Charlotte, on the way back to the car

Conversation Three:

“We consider ourselves the Morrissey and Johnny Marr of Brisbane. There are fights over who gets to be Johnny Marr, because no one wants to be Morrissey” – Gentle Ben Corbett, on the songwriting process between him and Dylan McCormack, 2008 (interview by Shan Welham)

Version 12: Cynical

He’s no David Bowie.

Version 13: Lyrical

I am the son
And the heir
Of a shyness that is criminally vulgar
I am the son and heir
Of nothing in particular

You shut your mouth
How can you say
I go about things the wrong way?
I am human and I need to be loved
Just like everybody else does

There’s a club if you’d like to go
You could meet somebody who really loves you
So you go and you stand on your own
And you leave on your own
And you go home and you cry
And you want to die

When you say it’s gonna happen “now”
Well when exactly do you mean?
See I’ve already waited too long
And all my hope is gone

You shut your mouth
How can you say
I go about things the wrong way?
I am human and I need to be loved
Just like everybody else does

(‘How Soon Is Now?’, The Smiths, 1984)

Trudging slowly over wet sand
Back to the bench where your clothes were stolen
This is the coastal town
That they forgot to close down
Armageddon – come armageddon!
Come, armageddon! come!

Everyday is like Sunday
Everyday is silent and grey

Hide on the promenade
Etch a postcard :
“how I dearly wish I was not here”
In the seaside town
…that they forgot to bomb
Come, come, come – nuclear bomb

Everyday is like Sunday
Everyday is silent and grey

(Everyday Is Like Sunday’, Morrissey, 1988)

Version 14: Comparative

Most of these are Morrissey’s own comparison points, drawn from the music and films played before the set on Monday. I threw in Barry Ryan, mainly for the Frankie Valli cover, and I can’t imagine Morrissey would object. If I was feeling real mean here, I’d compare some of the set to the lesser bands that came after Viva Hate (which is my favourite of any of Morrissey’s albums, with or without The Smiths), but I ain’t feeling real mean here, just comparative. Oh, wait. That means I should.

Hence the Suede clip at the end.

Version 15: Vitriolic

This section is halfhearted because I ain’t got no call being vitriolic towards Morrissey. My feelings for him veer from indifferent to admiring and, on occasion, glad that he’s around. Do I think he’s a racist (to answer one popular call)? No. Not vaguely. I think he likes to think he’s challenging.

Also: it ain’t his fault the shit his music has inspired… OK, maybe some of it is (Easterhouse, anyone?) but not all of it.

  • ‘Still Ill’ has always fucking sucked and it STILL FUCKING SUCKS
  • As does ‘You’re The One For Me, Fatty’
  • ‘Sweet And Tender Hooligan’ should never have been afforded a release. The “etcetera” lyric sounds way better in its original form, “You’re my pride and joy/Etcetera”.
  • I wouldn’t remove my shirt, looking like that. Oh no. What does he think this is? 1992?
  • If I’d wanted to hear someone bawling his way over graceless noise I could have stayed at home and listened to Isaac and Daniel fighting, thanks.
  • Meat means dinner. Always.
  • He’s a bit Tony Bennett, all this reaching out to the crowd.

Version 16: Conflicted

Ah yes. Should I ‘fess up now after all these years? That I only ever hated The Smiths because everyone else so overrated The Smiths when all they simply were was an occasionally brilliant rock band with a lot of chaff attached?

Doing research for this review, I saw plenty of examples of (overwhelmingly male) music commentators making irritating and outrageous claims for Morrissey (the Second Greatest Living Englishman, according to a poll conducted a few years back). That he’s the Last of the Great Pop Stars. That he’s the World’s Greatest Living Lyricist. Etcetera. Etcetera. Bugger that. All they’re doing is trying to reaffirm their own place in the world, one rooted in nostalgia and a yearning for times when they still understood half of what was going on around them.

The Last of the Great Pop Stars? To paraphrase Bill Naughton (The Goalkeeper’s Revenge), I buy and sell pop stars, they’re two a penny to me.

I like The Smiths but I don’t like The Smiths. I don’t like The Smiths but I do like Gene, The Sundays, The Stone Roses, even (very) early Cranberries…

Fundamentally, because I’m old, I can still remember independent music in the U.K. before The Smiths’ champions (and Creation Records) got their teeth into it and turned it all retro and put paid to myriad of the possibilities. This is the prime reason for never being a fan, but that’s ancient history now and it’s 2012 and yes I’m glad Morrissey is up on stage tonight. I can forgive almost anything for one, just one great song.

On his day, Morrissey can handle a phrase, that’s for sure. And he struts with a certain insouciance befitting of the former president of the New York Dolls fan club. He ain’t half rooted in a different world to mine though (one that seems weirdly indifferent to his sojourn in Los Angeles). He’s known for his sensitivity and wryness, yet attempts to browbeat us into awed compliance half the time with an arena rock band interchangeable with dozens of other arena rock bands.

I like the fact he’s petulant, still cares enough to wind up folk he sees as the foe. I dislike the fact he’s petulant, doesn’t really care enough to wind up folk he knows are the foe. I am not a Smiths fan, but I do really like about six of their songs (same as with Roxy Music, Sparks). I am not a Morrissey solo fan, but Bangs alive several of those songs really came alive for me tonight.

Version 17: the Spotify playlist

Bugger that. Create your own, you lazy fuckers.


Morrissey is shit (2018)

There I’ve said it. Happy now? Morrissey is shit. Of course, I don’t really believe that. Not really. He’s a diarrhoeic stream-of-consciousness twat whenever he opens his mouth these days, he doesn’t think before he opens his big fat mouth… or perhaps he does? Maybe that’s the problem. But back in the day, he was great… wasn’t he? Well no. Never felt that either. A pleasing enough diversion, but I didn’t grow up in buttfuck USA. I knew of plenty of alternatives already, many of whom weren’t so obviously performing sorrow and integrity and sensitivity the way he did. Nothing wrong with performance of course, not per se – but to me, back then? Fuck yeah there was. Still, The Smiths (and Morrissey solo) released a good couple of songs and several albums of mediocre imitations and approximations of same. So blanket shit, like Chris Martin? Hell no. ‘Course not… unless you happen to believe he is.

Hell, I’m not scared of my own taste, but I don’t believe you should be either. Got n’owt against him as a performer. Puts on a damn good show sometimes. But nowadays? Fuck man. Nothing feels like shit more than someone people once placed their trust in, their belief, and formed their identities via. No one can stand up to that pressure, that spotlight. Imagine being Johnny Rotten for 40 years. Imagine being Morrissey day in and day out, and not being able to switch off. Bad enough being Everett True. The other day I had a student tell me that she liked DailyMailfuckwadwriter’s name, cos at least she’s being honest. Here’s the thing, though: is DailyMailfuckwadwriter being honest or is she being selective? Perhaps she, like us, eats Oatibix in the morning, but she doesn’t Tweet about that, does she? Nah. She Tweets shit like, “An entire city of monkeys: see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. Blind. Deaf. And dumb.” Not about her Oatibix at all. Just the stuff she knows will rile people. She’s a professional twat, a Troll of the First Order, thriving on fear and hatred and everything that is low and scummy about life. A bottom feeder on the bottom feeders.

Morrissey isn’t a Troll of the First Order like that… and he’s not as bad as Bono either. But he is a twat, isn’t he? Maybe he always was, and we just didn’t care (or know) back then. Maybe he’s changed, or our demands upon how he should behave have changed? He says stuff to provoke, to get people thinking. That’s the defence. (Is it?) What, so you like people thinking what a racist piece of shit you are, Mozzer? Nice. ‘Course you don’t need to defend yourself mate. This is art. All you need to do is call other races ‘subspecies’ when you get upset. Not individuals, mind. Whole races.

Claims to love animals, bans all animal products from his shows: Wears leather shoes, so I’m told. (Who knows? I’m no expert. I’m down with the alternative reality brigade, just not the alt-right scumbags.) All he does is sing the same melody from the Dominant 5th to the major 3rd of whatever key his songs are in… so I’m told. Behaves like an impoverished rejected outsider when he isn’t. (Is that a crime? Well, it explains Trump.) And he looks like a Tory MP these days. Flag waving ex-pat. Still, he’s got a nice voice, don’t he? Lovely voice. (‘less you don’t like it, of course.) Shame The Smiths only had about eight good songs. Still. That’s eight more positive contributions to humankind than that fucking DailMailfuckwadwriter has managed.

People who have always been shit don’t disappoint. Not in the same way.