How NOT to write about music – 38. 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.



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


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.