How NOT to write about music – 141. Cornershop

Cornershop
Filmed in Moulsecoomb

As a garden gate to the album ‘St Marie Under Canon’ starts the walk sounding upbeat in nature, and gracious in chorus, praising St Marie for all of our battles that she has overseen and adjudicated, ending with the modern day warfare of the public address sound system: amplifier, echo chamber, microphone and speaker. Music through the sound system is the weapon (or should be). Taken from the forthcoming Cornershop LP ‘England is a Garden’. Pre-order link in the format of your choice: http://bit.ly/CornershopLPpreorder

It feels highly appropriate to link to this, the return of Cornershop, on the day the UK leaves Europe, the juxtaposition of a representation of much that is wonderful and inspiring and life-affirming about this sometimes beautiful, often battered country of ours against the embarrassing, pathetic, divisive, transparently self-serving actions of our leaders who are acting in no one’s interests save their own.

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Brexitwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the BoJo bird, and shun
The insidious Moneysnatch!”

He took his cultural sword in hand;
Long time the woesome foe he sought—
So rested he by the missing tree
And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Brexitwock, with eyes of greed,
Came whiffling through the Farage wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The cultural blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

“And hast thou slain the Brexitwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
He chortled in his joy.

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

How NOT to write about music – 140. Hinds

Hinds

One of the greatest reviews I wrote since my return from Brisbane in 2015 was of Spanish band Hinds when they played Brighton in 2016. So great, it directly contributed to the break-up of my marriage (alongside several other pieces of writing) – but what the fuck. You don’t become a great music critic by caring for yourself or those near you; having friends; having any sort of self-respect. Also, in fairness, it wasn’t this review and the other reviews per se that caused the break-up of my marriage but my behaviour at the time.

As Hinds singer Carlotta Cosials put it, “I am flirting with this guy/Just to pretend I’m fine”. And of course I am anything but fine now and I never flirt anymore.

And now, way way too late, I realise that of course I would rather have friends and a marriage and a life than be considered any sort of a music critic.

As Carlotta sings below, “I’ve been riding solo, riding solo/Doesn’t feel okay/Make it go away”.

How NOT to write about music – 139. Foo Fighters

Dave Grohl

I have cracked. I have grown to like Foo Fighters through osmosis.

Osmosis: the process of gradual or unconscious assimilation of ideas, knowledge, etc. “By some strange political osmosis, private reputations became public”

It happened yesterday morning, on the way back from Brighton after dropping the children off at school. Idly flicking the radio on, turning down the country roads of Sussex, 10 Minute Takeover at 9 am, someone’s choice was this, from the 2007 album Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace.

I found myself furious, emboldened, thumping the dashboard and throatily singing along with the chorus and meaning every word.

What if I say I’m not like the others?
What if I say I’m not just another one of your plays?
You’re the pretender
What if I say I will never surrender?
What if I say I’m not like the others?
What if I say I’m not just another one of your plays?
You’re the pretender

Worn down by exposure over the years, trapped by compartmentalisation and the routine of The Daily Commute (approaching 18 months now), no way out, no way forward; I could relate to Dave Grohl’s words absolutely. I had become precisely just like the others, trapped in an Orwellian nightmare present, the social media dystonia, the online bubble we never break free of… converse to what Dave is bawling here, I have said I will surrender, I have said I am just another play. His voice is fake, I can hear that. A little kid still trying on big sister’s shoes. Doesn’t matter.  My interpretation is enough. The song represents an outlet, a way out from an intolerable situation that I see no way out of. Hence my discharge of anger, my empathy.

My interpretation, not his intention.

I could never feel this with Foo Fighters before, not past the first two albums anyway when me and Dave were angry about everything post-Kurt’s death and we hadn’t sorted shit out. Then, his music made sense to me… but he started becoming more and more powerful and me less and less so and so I stopped relating. (Why would I? Surely I do not despise myself so much, to consider myself just like the others.) Two reasons: his band have always been paint-by-numbers – a little from Column A (Wings) here, a little from Column B (Led Zeppelin) there – and while that is sometimes fine for me, our shared history makes it hard for me to take. Also, Dave himself – he ain’t part of the common herd, he doesn’t suffer The Daily Commute, he is a fucking rock star. That is him. That is what he does. He is not us. These lyrics mean shit.

But but BUT!, the critic screams to himself, rock music has never been about truth but trust – the interpretation, always. I wouldn’t level the same criticism at Gorillaz. Why would I? It’d be meaningless.

The song makes a lot less sense away from my car: it is not designed to be listened to on headphones but live and LOUD.

At least they’re not the fucking Smashing Pumpkins.

FULL DISCLOSURE
I was asked by The Guardian in 2015 to cover the Foo Fighters’ Suncorp Stadium show: I warned my editor there was a possibility my report could be unfavourable. My editor replied she was aware of it. I took a professional approach to the assignment that belied my years of being Everett “not” True, and listened to the Foos’ Greatest Hits compilation several times… and realised there are indeed a handful of Foo Fighters songs that I do not find mediocre. (Including in all likelihood this one, as it is very McCartney-esque and that is an aspect I like about Grohl’s songwriting). The review was not to be, though.

Foo Fighters’ management heard I was down to review the show and banned me from the arena. This set in play a hilarious sequence of events which unfolded like this…

What I did tonight instead of seeing Foo Fighters play live

Sometimes forgettable, always horrible… Foo Fighters live in Brisbane

When nice people make horrible music | the collected Facebook Foo Fighters vitriol

Well done knob gobbler | The homophobic wit and wisdom of Foo Fighters fans

Do not mess with the critic, deutschbags. The critic is always right

 

How NOT to write about music – 138. Lankum

Lankum

Goddamn. I am loving this band so much.

Back when I helped helm magazines such as Plan B and Careless Talk Costs Lives (all though the 2000s, in fact), there is no way we would have passed over such rare talents as Dublin’s Lankum. Such emotional, deceptively simple music. The sound of a drone, constant and unsettling. The sound of a drum, slowly beating. Heartbeats. The sound of raw, beautiful voices singing tales of rawness, of beauty. There is so little to dislike here, it throws the rest of life – of your fucking culture – into sharp relief. And not in a good way. Lankum make you appreciate that yes, there are still people out there who care, who can sing, who understand the dreariness of the mundane and the ecstatic pull of the soil. They recall Young People to me (the unknown band we made cover stars of the penultimate issue of Careless Talk: I used the feature as a way of trying to come to terms with my father’s impending death). There’s something unbidden about this music. Just gorgeous. They recall Brighton’s Hamilton Yarns to me, the clarion call of the trumpet. Distant, unbidden.

Just recently I have been enjoying the twin peaks of televisual splendour: The Detectorists and Worzel Gummidge, and it’s the attention to detail, the small things, the minutiae that I so rarely feel these days… the heart, the warmth, the friendships, the companionship, so much of which is missing from my life these days and yet I know that I have but to reach out my hand and grab it. This is what Lankum remind me of, most of all – the secret ways, the fading maps – and this is why I love them so dearly.

Lankum: Dublin folk miscreants. That is a reasonable way of summing them up.

How NOT to write about music – 137. My Bus

My Bus - Our Life In The Desert

Don’t talk about the process.

Don’t talk about the detritus.

Don’t make references to the past.

Don’t make references to what might never happen.

Don’t get personal.

Don’t repeat yourself.

Don’t linger.

Don’t attempt to describe the music.

Don’t attempt to engage with the music.

Don’t give up.

Do reinforce key words. My Bus. Our Life In The Desert. My Bus. Our Life In The Desert album review. Onomatopoeia Records. My Bus – Our Life In The Desert, a new album out now on Onomatopoeia Records and available via Rough Trade Records, among other places.

Do not lie.

Do not repeat. Do not do what I am about to do:

My Bus are Joe Cassidy and Gary McKendry. As Butterfly Child and Papa Sprain respectively they were restless parallel adventurers in the early days of UK dream-pop. They released EPs for AR Kane’s label H.ark! and then for Rough Trade. They blazed radical trails for music, burned bright and then faded away. Now they have combined to form My Bus. Our Life In The Desert is one of the richest and most emotional dream-pop entities of any era. They combine Gary’s love of dissonance and Joe’s love of melody/composition. It is a deeply nostalgic record born out of love and a friendship across decades.

Do not be ambivalent in your praise.

Do not leave your readers in doubt as to your opinion.

Do not attempt to match the metre of the music in the metre of your prose.

Do not leave spaces for others to fill in.

Do not leave these spaces.

Do not leave those spaces.

Do not give up.

 

How NOT to write about music – 136. Kim Petras

Kim-Petras-2019

Soft rock by any other name.

I do not have a problem with this: a good song is a good song; if you give me a couple minutes more I could nail the songs below remind me of; maybe it could be a capsule game for you instead – write in and join the community!; any problem I have with the idea of  power ballads and soft rock long since evaporated and I feel all the happier for this; my aesthetic choices do NOT need to define me as a person, not if I choose not to let them; her lyrics are sung so straight-faced it begins to feel like parody (c.f. Legally Blonde 2) which I am sure is part of the intention; her synths are squidgy; as are her videos; post-Billie Eilish her music seems to be taking a more Poppy-ish turn, which sounds to me ill-advised cos she ain’t no fucking Goth that’s for sure; maybe I should not be using my Pat Benatar filter here but; just great, great pop. Doesn’t everyone want to live out their fragile Disney princess fantasy? I am not saying this to try to reinforce hetero-normative standards.

(This next part lifted from YouTube.) In a recent interview, Petras said that she doesn’t want people to flock to her due to her identity — she wants them to flock to her for her music.

“I just hate the idea of using my identity as a tool,” she told HuffPost. “It made me the person I am and that’s a big part of me, but I think music is about your feelings and your fantasies and it goes deeper than your gender or your sexuality.” The singer added that she is proud of her identity and wants to bring more visibility to the transgender community, but she has something else that she wants to prove as well. “I think the ultimate goal for me is if a transgender person can be known for anything but being transgender,” she said. “There are still too many people who think being transgender is very freaky. And they think you can’t live a happy life and try to tell their kids not to transition because they’re afraid their life will be harder.”

(better)

(newer)

(Older, and the most wonderful – Madonna’s ‘Material Girl’ for the Millennial generation.)

There again, I always felt Paris Hilton was vastly underrated as a musical and style icon. Uh, this statement shouldn’t be examined in any depth… I suspect it could be torn apart in a nano-second.

Here. Have some Robyn.

How NOT to write about music – 135. Porridge Radio

Porridge Radio

Wow.

I think that from now on, I am only going to write about Porridge Radio on this blog – fuck everything else, it all pales into insignificance next to Dana and her merry band of mischief-creators and her impetus. I refuse to be sidetracked by mannequins and remembrances of dolewave, Alison Moyet covering songs from Grease or past feuds with musicians who long ago forgot my name. We are on the eve of war, my friend. We are on the eve of war. This is my vow, my pledge of allegiance and if by necessity this means simply repeating everything I have said before when I was far more erudite and revealing (now my joints creak and my bones wane and I do not flex charm) then so be it. I have no fresh words for you, no ways of extolling enthusiasm and wonderment and desire beyond one word. Wow.

Wow.

Wow.

Wow.

I do not choose to live my life viscerally and am still holding on to the idea that at some point I may not need to but right now I need to. Her line, “My mum says I look like a nervous wreck because I bite my nails right down to the flesh” – who hasn’t lived that? Her line, “And I used to ashamed until I learned I love the game and I slowly move away from everything I knew about me” and her line, “You will like me when you meet me (x4)/You might even fall in love” – who hasn’t lived that. This is how I have been feeling for so many years now, feel right now, probably will always feel – mainly because I refuse to believe anyone could ever love or even like me. I am charming! I am sweet! STOP THE FUCK IT.

I am living viscerally.

This is Brisbane and this is Brighton and this is a reality and this is everything, all captured in just under four minutes and all I could do it hit repeat and all I can do is hit repeat and all I want to do is hit repeat and all I ever do is hit repeat and all I do is think … the difference between 1991 and 1995 was a lifetime, but the difference between November 2015 (when i first saw Porridge Radio) and January 2020 (now ) is 1460 nights in.

I notice something increasingly about my coverage of Porridge Radio:

  1. It becomes more impenetrable by the sentence.
  2. I focus on the words. But I NEVER focus on the words.

What the fuck is going on here?

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.

ESHBIT D

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.

ESCHBUT E
“I want us to be kinder to ourselves/and to each other/I don’t want to get bitter/I want us to get fitter/I want us to become good to ourselves and each other” she laments over and over again on this, the greatest song you will ever hear whether you live to be 21 or 203…

….and I had to hide my feelings because I was totally spooked by her performance because not only did it feel like every song she hiccuped and waisailled her way through that night was aimed at me AND ME FUCKING ALONE, OK? even though I k

new that clearly could not be true but it also felt like I was the one up there on stage not her singing those half made-up all incredible songs, me in my glitter size 10 high heels, placing the song on repeat, repeat, constant repeat.

I am stuck. I am stuck. And I have no idea what to fucking write.

EXHIBIT F
I think that from now on, I am just going to write about Porridge Radio and Porridge Radio alone on this blog – fuck everything else, it all pales into insignificance next to Dana and her merry band of mischief-creators and her impetus. I refuse to be sidetracked by mannequins and remembrances of dolewave, Alison Moyet covering songs from Grease or past feuds with musicians who long ago forgot my name. We are on the eve of war, my friend. This is my vow, my pledge of allegiance and if by necessity this means simply repeating everything I have said before (because I was far more erudite and revealing before; now my joints creak and my bones wane and I cannot flex charm) then so be it. I have no fresh words for you, no new ways of extolling enthusiasm and wonderment and desire.

EXHIBIT G
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 H
Greatest show of 2018, no denying.

My thoughts are disjointed, even for me. How do you capture moonlight in a jar? Semi-linked observations clutter my semi-consciousness: half the crowd dancing like they’re dream-walking through a Kate Bush video to Suburban Death Twitch; a random comment on Twitter (“That’s all the thoughts I had last night. I was too busy being aware that I could see Everett True dancing to process any other information”); The Legend! band described as “bonkers” by a passing piano-teacher; a female comedian outside raving and raving about a semi-improvised shouty sweary number detailing disgust for train rides performed on stage; Chris pointing out that the singer of Vital Idles looks like Lauren might when she grows up; noise and clatter and what-how; another (less random) observation from the same person on Twitter (I’m nicking this one because it’s a good ‘un): “Suburban Death Twitch: if Victoria Wood and Tamsin Greig formed Belle and Sebastian in 1982″; Emily from SBT telling a killer anecdote about how she came over all faint when she spotted Dana from Porridge Radio in the club earlier because “I’ve literally played her album every day for the last year” and stating how she’ll never be dismissive of someone being thrilled at the sight of Paul Simon leaving a hairdressers (check) again; entranced watching Dana so casual and intense and in control and questioning and brilliant and looped and (reminding me of myself) dark during her performance; Suburban Death Twitch magical and blowsy and theatrical and full of songs disenchanted people of all ages can relate to and lose themselves within, killer choruses too, especially the sea-shanty one about “you can take all your clothes off/if it makes you feel younger/if it makes you feel stronger” (check) , not just people my and their age (they are much younger than me); watching so many people dancing and loving watching all these people dancing; Vital Idles sharp  and angular and angry in a passive-aggressive way, five times as loud as everyone else what with drums and all, the bass Devo-questioning and the guitar clipped and truncated and ow!; one dude from the Scots band saying earlier we’re the best three bands they’ve played with all tour (damn straight, I mean… seriously? Who the fuck could compete with three of the fucking finest four or five bands in Brighton?); The Legend! band (Chris, Maria: sax and violin and loops) is about the serious moonlight and the modern dance, the softest numbers are the angriest and the most offensive the quietest… and,..

EXHIBIT J
The problem here is the bar.

The bar is insanely high, No, not for them you dunderhead. For me.

I do not know. Honestly, I do not know where I can go from here. Never known. That remains consistent, but… no. I do not k