How NOT to write about music – 74. Parsnip

parnsip the shifters

I jumped the shark a while back.

I turned my back (once again) on the community I helped create and nurture, and instead foraged out wildly by myself, flailing, friendless, still not understanding the need for support while all around me, everywhere, the argument against loneliness, against isolation, is so apparent. My life outside my work and my children does not exist. I float from sleep-state to sleep-state, not picking up the phone, not sending messages, not (heaven forbid) arranging to meet anyone or wander outside (if I do go outside it is to stare blankly at rows of meaningless goods in Sainsbury’s). Not watching TV, not reading books, not writing about music, not listening to music. Tell you what I will do.

I will try and counter that. One reason I rarely ask for recommendations from friends is: what do I do with this profusion of music, this outpouring of delights? How many times can I sing praises into a darkening sky? Should you still perform after the room has emptied, save for a bartender disinterestedly polishing glasses in the corner? How many references to the past does one throw in before  no one takes any notice?

I want to write about Parsnip. I love the warm burr to the voices and guitars, the way their songs put me in mind of Dunedin on a rainy day in 1999. That sounds so fucking long ago now. I want to write about Parsnip, the way this clatter of female harmonies and warming keyboard remind me of meadows somewhere outside London with my friends Twelve Cubic Feet three lifetimes ago in 1982, set out another few darkened treasure trails for no one to follow. I want to sound optimistic and happy that somewhere out there the community still exists – back then, we could have expected one Peel session, maybe two – I want to reach out and dance. I want to reach out and dance. Please dance with me.

Hello?

This could be from Hobart, or Melbourne. This could be from 2019 or 1979. This could be blissful dreaming or futile hurling. This could be your life. This band has always been your life. This could be Whaaam! Records or some Continental or Japanese label I will never know the name of. Heart Beach. The Wendy Darlings. Keen. The B-Girls. This is my community.

And no one knows my name.

 

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How NOT to write about music – 73. Otoboke Beaver

otoboke-quv5

Overwhelming consensus demands that I feature this extreme noise terror from Japan. I do not have the slightest problem with that, indeed can only stand a few feet back from the action in a respectful daze and applaud with all my might.

They are fun. They are furious. They are in places quite disturbing. Several years back, I would have been moshing hard down the front and parading them around on my shoulders – yes, it was a thing – but these days the distorto-party takes places firmly within my head and the occasional twitch of an arm. It would be tempting to put this up against decades of serious white boys with their serious white beards pretending that an ability to shred is an ability worth getting serious over, but fuck it. Otoboke Beaver shred so hard they don’t have time to take it serious. Not when there is more serious enjoyment to be had and lines to cross. Fuck the sound, the performance, the song. Dynamics. That’s what this all about. Mistressful use of dynamics. But hell yeah! What great sound, performance, songs too. Both these videos are serious genius fun. Demented. Deranged. Dee-lightful. Mischievous. Maddening. Maverick.

Magic.

Makes me want to go listen to my favourite band I saw at ATP in Mount Buller (let’s leave The Laughing Clowns out of this for a sec). Not cos the music is the same – it ain’t. Just for the rampaging wrongness and righteousness of it all. In some ways Otoboke Beaver play Boredoms to Afrirampo’s Acid Mothers Temple but… jeez, you anal fuckwit, what an asinine glib comparison to throw in just when you thought the going was getting good and you could get outta here.

Bang fucking bang. The mighty fall.

How NOT to write about music – 72. Tropical Fuck Storm

Tropical-Fuck-Storm

Whiny, maleficent malcontents. Bruising, beautiful brawlers. Out of tune, out of time, dissonant and a glorious sprawl of ugly loose-ends and shimmering dissonance. Anger, isolation, fuck you attitudinal beauty. Drug-fueled inertia. Disgust and disillusionment given vent in a way no male American rock band has managed in two decades now. Jesus, this is so good. Jesus, this makes me feel so homesick – no not for fucking Brisbane but for my core city of Melbourne with all its rain-washed grimy streets and sun-burnt rock formations in the middle of the fucking beyond. Jesus, this makes me want to tackle that fucking right hand turn single-handed. Jesus, this makes me want to drink and brawl and fuck and fight and argue loudly with whoever the fuck comes into the vicinity, and go twirling round numerous beer-soaked dance-floors and laugh at that fucking excuse of a beard on your face. Jesus, but this is glorious even if the dweebs do round off the song about 10 minutes too early, just as it’s getting going and becoming Coloured Balls epic. Fuck death and depression when there is shit like this still happening, still being created out there in the world.

This is Gareth Liddiard and Fiona Kitschin (of the Drones). I don’t want to say this, but what a pair of fucking ledges. What. A. Pair. Of. Fucking. Legends. And yes of course they have released 15-minute battles of wills before now.

At one point, I was even talking about how I was missing gigs in the mainstream press:

Damn it. The Drones’ fourth album – the melancholy, incendiary Havilah – came out a couple of months ago in Australia (it’s out worldwide in January), and the hipsters and the diehards, the drunks and the seafarers have been foaming at the mouth ever since. And rightly so. New single, The Minotaur, contains the insouciant swagger and intricate guitars that have been so sadly lacking of late from Australian rock. Not for singer Gareth Liddiard the self-serving histrionics of a Daniel Johns or the laddish “charms” of a Powderfinger. He sounds possessed, the way all great rock singers sound possessed, as he beats the shit out of a stray vowel. The song is brutal, brilliant. Drums crack like Lewes firework displays, beats stutter to a halt among bruising repetition. You don’t need to understand lyrics to understand emotion.

Interview with Liddiard here.

How NOT to write about music – 71. Jarv Is

jarvis cocker

Note to self: do not mention the backing vocals.

There is no reason not to love this. The evolution of a life in a six-minute pop song. The evolution of the universe is less than six minutes. A musical version of all those written versions that have come before. A little mystery, some spookiness. A pounding bass. Do not mention the backing vocals. A voice questioning, searching, chiding. Slipping into gentle slumber. Slapping on a few limbs and a cloak of awareness. Broody. Brooding. Mostly explanatory though. A history of a life form in less than seven days. A foray into hope. A foray into deprivation, the deaf nation… growing quieter, more reflective, more mysterious, knuckle dragging, rave erupting, the primordial beat pounding, the primordial beat pounding. Building, building. Growing, growing, faster and faster, faster and faster… a series of mini-epiphanies, a climax of endurance. Do not mention the backing vocals. Endure this. Endure yourself. The song does everything a song should: it delivers a plot, it surprises, it feels its way to a denouement, it slows down and speeds up, it pulsates and pounds and feet send signals to the brain. The song does everything a song should. It has a woggly synth line. Out of the rubble, a noise. Some fire. Some fizz. Let’s get physical. Storytelling has always been the province of the storytellers.

What reason is there not to love this? Unless you are a child, and not into inebriation. Unless you are a parent and not flirting with authentication. Unless you are a cunt and too built on world domination. Unless you are a wizard and have no need for sophistication. Unless you are a water-gatherer and realise the futility of masturbation. Unless you are a sheep in search of mastication. Unless you are a rabbit caught up in fornication. Unless you are a chat show host built on degradation. Unless you are a Time Lord set loose on some deep space station. Salvation. Intoxication. Menstruation.

There is no reason not to love this.

I could continue like this for years, but I only had six minutes.

ADDENDA (in response to a colleague who I respect immensely and asked whether my review was some form of double bluff and repeated a question asked elsewhere, “Why would anyone take this seriously?”)

I’ve never had a problem with the stumbling amateur. I love this song because of course it’s bumbling pish but simultaneously it’s total fun and it’s got some hilarious one-liners among the self-flagellation, and killer squidgy synth. I am surprised that others are inclined to take it seriously however: it does not feel like a song that merits being taken seriously on any level.

Bringing in all back to context, for a second. I am fucked up with ‘flu but unable to rest because I have insane deadlines at work that cannot be ignored under any circs. So most of the time I am bunged up, slightly hallucinating and manic.Three days (and more) ago I went through the worst depression I’ve suffered since the last bout. Across my desk where I am sitting right now typing these very words usually sits a man who is intimately involved in the new Jarvis single (and indeed sent me across the link yesterday). He also happens to be in a remarkably similar place to me – work-wise – right now, but comes to it after several hours of rehearsing with Jarv Is. I played the song. It made me laugh out loud. I love it for that. Not because it is a great work of art. Because it amuses me.

And it has a great bass.

I have not seen the video because I do not interact with music that way. I wrote my piece in the six minutes it took the song to play out. Why would anyone take music seriously?

How NOT to write about music – 70. Robert Forster

RF-flowers-credit-Bleddyn-Butcher

I know I have shared this once already, but it makes me so happy.

This is how I remember Brisbane. This is how I remember The Gap. Such beauty, such greenery, trees crowding round your massive lawns. Sheltering from the summer heat, dreaming of the spring rain, dreaming of ice, cowering from the morning’s heat. Sleeping naked in bed but still tossing and turning unable to rest. Not wilderness as such but next to any suburban town you care name in Southern England, total wilderness. The jungle is coming right up to your door. Thunder and lightning electrical storms that you watch from your decks for hour upon hour, stopping only for another tinny. So beautiful, so gorgeous outside – go on holiday for four weeks and you end up staying for seven years with an irretrievably broken-down marriage and three gorgeous kids as your heritage. Dreaming of under-show house gigs, illicit parties, wide empty turning roads that buses bomb down with no thought for their passengers they just want to be in out of the heat. On every hillside more greenery, more trees. Snakes squirming across roads and rearing up in your back garden. Massive trampolines made invisible by mega gardens. The kids getting up before you on a Sunday morning just so they can hurl paper planes off the deck and then chase down the roadside hill after them. Mowing endlessly. The grass is always a disgrace. Let me out. Let me back. Let me out. Let me back in. Please.

How NOT to write about music – 68. The Regrettes

the-regrettes

I was reading a couple of entries I made on my old Brisbane blog: so lively and full of ready comparisons and touch points. A riot of imagination and enthusiasm. Some of the time, the references even made sense. Something about outdoor living (even if the closest you get to the outdoors is opening up all the doors onto the deck of your Queenslander so the sunlight is streaming in and you can hear the wind tumbling through the numerous trees right outside your house). Now, I glance out of my window in Haywards Heath and note the phone wires vaguely blotting the sky, my neighbour’s van parked outside and the fact that – for the first time in over 25 years – I am not living in a house on a hill. Subsumed. I wanna let go of that – and sure, when I am with colleagues and students at BIMM London I am not dwelling on that, although the fact my life is in a constant state of flux, always travelling on the way to somewhere, alone, is unavoidable – but often find it impossible.

I no longer sit at my computer in the evenings, instead watching old kids’ movies and wishing my kids were there with me.

So. Pop music. A few years ago, I was all over this band – loved them, enraptured, a music crush for sure, swimming in the clouds and dancing among the trees, the rasp in the voice, the laughter in the guitars, the sheer Go! Violets factor of it all (their song ‘Teenager’ remains one of the greatest pop songs of the past six years) – but now when I search for what I wrote about this kick-ass LA pop band a couple of years ago, I cannot even find anything.

Played ’em to death on the way up to Guildford, I did.

That’s Guildford for you.

This new song is not as gleeful as that fucking INSPIRED Christmas cover but… what is?

What the fuck is?

it still kicks ass and wobbles my belly.

As I wrote then:

Polished. Too polished? Right now, no such beast exists. Tightly wound. Coiled. Plays the obvious cards in its hand. N’owt wrong with that. “I’m not like anybody else/So you can just go fuck yourself,” the ladies spit before reverting to sackcloth and surf guitar. Good form.

Or alternately:

Think of me as the lonely backwards uncle you never wanted to know. I venture out-of-doors determined not to miss Bent before I leave town and then discover I’ve compounded my crime. (Crime? If loving music is a crime then lock me up and throw away the key. And other such meaningless cliches.) MotherFUCK. Er. (name left blank) create the sort of raw, untrammeled, dissolute, claustrophobic, depressed, repetitive, surging, hopeful, bittersweet, dissonant, melodic, beautiful raw, beautiful cool, beautiful dispossessed, beautiful minimal, beautiful beautiful punk pop music I’ve ALWAYS loved, and I was but 50 minutes (and a resultant 10.2 km walk back) aware from witnessing it in the flesh. I’ve just discovered they’re from Sydney. Fer fuck’s sake. Do you think if I get down on bended knee I might be able to convince them to come back down to Brisbane before the end of June just to play a set for me? Just me and a two-pack of kitchen roll to catch the saliva uncontrollably drooling from my ears. I mean mouth. I mean ears.

Yeah, that was me then.

And this is my now. I love this new Regrettes song possibly more than even this. Savage.