How NOT to write about music – 16: Porridge Radio

prrodge radio

Three exhibits today. Three examples of an old man railing at clouds.

Three shows of weakness, of the reason why music criticism can be such a futile occupation sometimes. (Are Porridge Radio Adele? Are Porridge Radio Sam Smith? Are Porridge Radio Jess Glynne? Am I Piers Morgan?) This is self-evident, except the final exhibit got repeated at several different points in time (named “the greatest band in the world” by Everett True on the strength of half a song) in Brighton and London and Amsterdam to help keep a few bedraggled punters away doubtless.

Apologies for the rerun device, but I have been watching the entire run of Bewitched with a mania doubtless driven by my single parent status, and early as series 2, they’re making with the reruns. The entire programme, but with a different title and calling it a ‘new’ episode. 

I have seen Porridge Radio on several occasions since the initial 30 seconds: last time around with Aus sweethearts Terry at the Green Door, where I had just performed myself (as ever) to a dwindling crowd of sorts (as ever). Dana is constantly changing, constantly creating – again, in her mania, she reminds me of (a far more talented) myself. In Brisbane, I recorded over 300 songs with The Deadnotes. Her solo music is frequently very insular, softened on cassette tape: sad, melancholy, bittersweet but WOW! she can be abrasive and punk with her full-on fucking greatest band in the world. Last time I saw them, I was waylaid, beaten down and did not have a chance to watch them even though they were inches away, god fucking damn it but life is not consistent or fair and I know I can always return to this music, to this special place that Dana and her friends have created for me.

This is a strange bewitchment indeed.

 

EXHIBIT A
Does Jerry Thackray like porridge radio. That is the question. If he does then that opens a whole new level of music to exploration and dissection. I never was good at analysis. I just want to share some porridge radio with you on behalf of my old mate Everett True. He would have liked them for sure. They are startling: florid, open, given to exhaustive repetition and a determination to see the thing through whatever that might entail. The song titles give the game away. The four tracks on the new shared cassette say more to me about my(?) life than the entire back catalogues of The Flaming Lips, R.E.M. and Sebadoh combined. This is partly context and mostly content. Or perhaps the other way around.

If this band were from Brisbane they might be called Bent, or Scrabbled. <-<- man, what a crap thing to write.

I am not exhausted of this sound. I will never be exhausted of this sound. I want this sound clogging up the nation’s airwaves next to Jenny and Kanye and the rest of the rotten bunch. This is my own personal Taylor Swift, my own backstreet Wire.  The reason the singer sounds out of breath and near comatose by the end is because she is pouring all of herself into the moment. And if you think that is not more than enough for me, then you ain’t been reading me, sister.

EXHIBIT B 
On tape, Porridge Radio are all intense this and intense that: acoustic and frail and fragile and presumably suffering from the same sore bear-head that many sore bears have suffered from already. On tape – brashly and sadly (not in the pejorative use) and female – they remind me of a traumatised Sentridoh (Porridge Radio actually cover ‘Gimme Indie Rock’), so beautiful and fresh and unrepentant. Songs about loneliness and hope and scary clowns encountered one too many times. Dana uses repetition and silence like she understands the concepts. So fragile, so worried, so strong. So beautiful.

Live, Porridge Radio (as a band, as a loose-knit collective of friends and dreamers and misfits) are having way too much fun to sound like that. Instead, they mutate into a full-on rock Sebadoh circa 1998 (I do not want to labour this point). More to the point, considering where I saw them first, they remind me and the fellow standing next to me, gently swaying in the mood and maladies, of Blank Realm: the way there is a warped, woozy, drunken beat backing them, the way Dana stretches out her vowels and consonants and whatever else tricksy devices she uses. Live, this is dance music for fucking the world to, dislocated delirium to dangerously dig around the past and present in.  The music in the studio is Marine Girls special: the music on stage is like a full-throttle cunt-out Television or Happy Mondays.

Go figure.

I think perhaps Dana and colleagues – and man, a shout-out to that lady cutting a rug and smiling for no apparent reason beyond the fact she clearly loves to cut a rug and smile; and man, a shout-out to the psychedelic guitarist; and man, a shout-out to that astonishing bass-player and the loose-limbed, too-awesome drum god; and man, especially a shout-out to Dana levelling all her colleagues’ antics and abilities with a tough-eyed vulnerable stare, a shiver of stardust on guitar – I think perhaps that they may be playing a trick on me. I mean, up the road are The Ethical Debating Society and pals, fermenting feminist punk righteousness and here is this band, this inexplicable punctuation mark of a band ploughing their furrow and sounding all hopeless and melodically stunning on tape, out-feministing and out-punking EVERYONE. I have not seen such intensity and honed shouting on stage since… god, I do not know… Ian Mackaye perhaps (and I never even liked Fugazi).

And she/they is/are having fun.

It occurs to me that perhaps Dana changed the entire tone of the set seconds after seeing my miserable performance and then I slap myself across the face for being so presumptuous.  But I reckon she has the ability to do that.

Such Mary Poppins magic. Such an embarrassment of embarrassments. A cosmic love-bomb. On no level do Porridge Radio disappoint. On every level, they exceed any pallid expectation and drivel imagination I may have had about them before tonight. I had only seen 30 seconds of their music before. (I lied about the extra 10 seconds.) Tonight was like being let in on the greatest secret in the world, so great because there is no way – NO FUCKING WAY – that anything I type comes close to capturing the essence of Porridge Radio, and they will probably have mutated and changelinged and turned into something even more separate and other in the time it takes me to type this thought.

If only this was Adele.

If only this was Sam Smith.

If only this was David Cameron.

EXHIBIT C
I watched 40 seconds of the greatest band. I pretended I had watched 40 minutes when I spoke to them later because hell it’s embarrassing to have watched 40 seconds of the greatest band just as the “thank you’s” kick in and then enthuse to the band how wonderful you think they are and can they play a show with you in Worthing in November, please please please. I asked the promoter too. It is my new way of mating. See 40 seconds of the greatest band and then turn on the 54-year-old charm. Someone had whispered “Raincoats” downstairs and I scorned and they looked embarrassed too, because they were downstairs and so if it was true why were they there and if it was not true why were they saying it, and so I took the steps three at a bound only to discover 40 seconds of the greatest band, and not only was it both true and not true but it was wonderment, magic, sparky nervous magic. Whispering as if it was an orchestra, and so special. I am a git, frankly. 40 seconds I watched, and 40 minutes was there for the taking like a manifesto: the key to the newest treasure chest was in my hands and I failed to turn the lock until just so close to being so late. WHAT ELSE HAVE I MISSED IN MY MANIA?

Read not my words. Read my words and weep for my future. Read not my words, and listen. Five or six of them on stage (I did not have time to count) and they were in the groove, lost in music. Caught in trap. More intimate than the sexual act (not that that is saying too much, really). A call to hugs for the lost and flighty. Ivor Cutler distilled through an alternative lens and alternative reality. Marine Girls re-imagined by a generation that has their own beachcombers. A cosmic love-bomb. Psychedelic whispering. I took all of this from 40 seconds, easy. I have that ability. So lonesome, so awkward. So beautiful. I relived the 40 seconds over and over in my head for weeks afterwards. It feels like weeks since I last felt their touch. (It is days.) You will not understand. You will understand.

Love.

This is yours, if you just stop talking and listen.

———————————————-

Note to the stragglers: Do not write about music this way. Never write about music this way. Do not invest yourself personally in the music, do not make the emotional connection, do not tread in the crunchy brown leaves, do not fall in love, do not ever wear your worry shoes. Do not turn up late to class, do not question the ticket collector. Do not fall for the bewitchment, for the magic, for the power of music. Do not hold too close, do not let go. Do not face the crowd. Stand down.

Don’t stand me down.

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