How NOT to write about music – 130. Kanye West

kanye-west-jesus-is-king-1

I have changed my mind. That is my prerogative. I have changed me mind. I cannot get enough of the new minimalist gospel from Kanye West.

I have listened to the blue vinyl and cassette Jesus Is King on a loop, stuck on repeat, on train journeys to Clapham Junction all this week, find myself sitting bereft because his sweet mellifluous tones are not gently chiding me and poking fun at Christianity. Seeking my fix. Only happy when I have got my fix. Jesus Is King is the crack cocaine of 2019 hip-hop, over so fast but oh such a sweet fix.

Even the Kenny G sax solo makes sense now. How could it not? It is both beautifully framed and truncated.

I do not need to believe that Kanye believes in Jesus or religion or however he views it. So he sings 11 songs in 27 minutes, and for this we are meant to view the album as unfinished somehow? The exact same criticism was leveled at the first Ramones album (wonderfully, Sire Records sent the songs off to be copyrighted, and the authorities returned them unsanctioned claiming them not to be songs but segments). Since when has brevity been bad in music? My way of reading this is that Kanye is not being lazy. He ain’t being mean, he’s just focused.

Kanye is attracted to religion for the same reason many are attracted to religion: as a diversion, as entertainment, as another way of spreading the message. Hell, might as well be Jesus is King. Or Kanye is King. Or whatever. Round and round the album ricochets in my head, a constant leap from one moment to the next, on a loop, songs never too long that I become bored, always searching for the next attraction, the next titillation. Does not hurt that I appreciate minimalism in music, his way of forceful rapping, human voices raised in sweet harmony, sped up vocals. Does not hurt that I love the way ‘Selah’ ends like a ‘Trapped In The Closet’ episode. The rhythm, the melody, the harmonies… these do not hurt either.

It does not hurt that he is still self-obsessed but supremely not self-aware. It does not hurt that the beginning of the deeply profane ‘Closed On Sunday’ reminds me of the spooky school choir from Harry Potter (always greatly undervalued). It does not hurt there is a…

All of Jesus Is King now works so hard, hurts so bad for me I am astonished that for even one minute I was an unbeliever. This is awesome. Album of the year and all that. Whatever. I don’t give a shit either way.

This track is the one that kills me, every time. Every time, it kills me.

Tomorrow I am sure it will be something different.

How NOT to write about music – 129. Beabadoobee

Beabadoobee

I have been aware of Beabadoobee before, partly because she wrote and sang the one song I would never dream of performing myself – punchline here – and partly because I am always intrigued when the mainstream pretends to embrace (what the mainstream calls) the lo-fi. I will never get the Scott Pilgrim reference, whether it be good or bad, because I have no way of knowing who the fuck Scott Pilgrim even is although I secretly suspect it (he?) has something to do with what I am talking about above, the intersection where clothing chains choose to market their wares with DIY and DIY loves it because who the fuck wouldn’t love a little extra spending money? Credibility counts for everything. This is pure 1990s except for the point where I start wondering why they’re playing Kitchens Of Distinction on the Radio One Breakfast Show, oh wait that was the 1990s. I mean, except for the point where my attention drifts and I wonder when they’re next gonna play that one insanely catchy song that sums up 2019 in sped-up monochrome, that the DJs yesterday afternoon were being snide about, saying it’s only been Number One for 12 weeks because kids have been streaming it and they were laughing at the idea of kids streaming music, you STUPID FUCKWADS, the kids love music way more than you can ever appreciate. Wait. I mean, up to that point and then I just want to go Billie Eilish Billie Eilish Billie Eilish Billie Eilish Billie Eilish Billie Eilish Billie Eilish Billie Eilish Billie Eilish Billie Eilish Billie Eilish Billie Eilish Billie Eilish Billie Eilish Billie Eilish Billie Eilish Billie Eilish Billie Eilish Billie Eilish Billie Eilish and I have an entire blog entry worked out pointing out Billie Eilish’s greatness in the context of Joni Mitchell, but that can wait right, cos now we’re back to listening to Beabadoobee and she’s wrong and delicious and so in thrall to the past it is a wonder anyone pays attention except of course to those who have grown up since those years the past is not even worth discussing and then the guitars go “felt”? and I go FELT! Fuck me! FELT! I’d swear I was listening to Felt except this is the Radio One Breakfast Show.

And that is where I stop.

You know she’s gonna kick everyone’s ass.

How NOT to write about music – 128. Porridge Radio

porridge-radio-lilac-secretly-canadian-press-photo

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

now. Ever since those heady few months after my/our return from Brisbane and it felt that momentarily life was going to be OK and new friends were announcing themselves  and I was able to speak to people and I wasn’t stuck, I wasn’t uncomfortable and I wasn’t stuck. I knew how to make you feel better, so it seemed. In fact, I was buzzing and I was flying and for the first time in years it felt like I could still achieve anything and I saw 40 seconds of the greatest band

And then it stopped.

Not right then. But that was…

…and that was FOUR YEARS AGO fuck has my life gone into reverse, not just decline reverse and for 22 months now I have been stuck. A quagmire. A deluge. A sticking point.  (And sat here, typing these words, this is the 1%… you do not get to see below the surface. It is not possible.) I have been stuck.

And I honestly do not know what to say. The culmination of those 40 seconds of madness, of calamity, of tragedy, was that I formed a book company and for a few weeks I was not stuck, I was not stuck, we did get better, we did get kinder, we did get better, we did manage to…

not be stuck.

And the culmination of those months of horror of never-dawning realisation (now, it is not real: now, I do not need to interact with anyone so I can pretend is is not real: now, I can have breakdowns and crying jags and floor collapses and public/private fantasies because no one FUCKING NO ONE pays attention) was that I ended up playing a series of shows with some incredible people, musicians who encapsulate everythi

ng I believe to be pure and true and troubled about live music – and especially Maria and Dana, and now here they are together and I really do not know what to say.

wow.

fucking wow.

What bothers me most about Dana’s music is the way she uncannily seems to sum up, emody, articulate my stuck emotions but in a way that others can relate to, swo

on over, appreciate. Oh wait. 1) of course, prolific and always examining, always moving along. 2) the uncanniness. And now here she is with Maria on violin. Wow. This is what…

yeah, I remember those heights.

how could i forget

I had to hide my real feelings last time I reported on Dana playing live – and man, it feels that her band is near the ONLY band that have existed for me in – what? – four fucking years.

“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.

I have written many times already

and now ace U.S. label Secretly Canadian

have signed them and there is no disconnect, it is still the same people – still bruised and hurtling and caring and musical and inventive and challenging – and Maria is there as well. O

ne of the fiercest rows I had before the divorce was connected with a review I wrote of Maria and her band: and all I was attempting to do in my own humble haphazard hubris way was to express how passionate how alive how full of wonder the music made me fe

e

l.

I can understand now if it was open to misinterpretation but really, that was not

.

And now? Now? You know what. I really would go fucking out snaps fingers to see this band play anxiety and depression or no. I avoided watching them last year or whenever it was because they made me feel totally inadequate, impotent – but listening to t

his song over and over in my glitter high heels, I realise that – as ever – it is me who has missed the point. You know the greatest thing about Porridge Radio in December 2019? For a few glorious minutes, they make me feel adequate again… and that is the greatest magic of all.

I am.

My body’s so uncomfortable.

So talented. So aware.

So smitten. Is it OK that I finally type the words “I have a crush on the singer with Porridge Radio”? I am only talking music here. I AM ONLY TALKING ABOUT MUSIC HERE. Fuck’s sake.

Everything.

#EveryfuckingthingthatIfuckingcherishandloveandadoreaboutmusic

How NOT to write about music – 127. Purple Mountains

Purple Mountains

ah, this was the side of pavement i always preferred. with the double darkness lyricism of david berman. i did not get round to listening to the album before david died and now he is dead listening – like much of life – seems futile. most weekends i spend wondering how old my kids need to be before i can die without anyone noticing. most days and evenings are spent dreaming of sleep. lush and orchestrated and opulent and still this music cannot keep the darkness at bay. all his happiness is gone. how many times did he need to tell us before we started believing? i ain’t accusin’, ain’t finger-pointin’. the strings sound beautiful but strings usually do. the intro should last forever. that would solve something surely. yes i do. i too would like to create beauty before i die but i too see the ultimate futility in this. as the man from the guardian writes with tangy irony, “is berman’s relish in his vocal delivery, and the robust instrumentation, his way of telling us that he’s actually doing ok underneath it all? Hopefully. Cries for help have rarely been so clear, self-aware, and funny.” does it matter whether this is david’s finest music or his worst? really? what do you base your assumptions upon? i’d suggest losing yourself in this but where is the point in losing yourself in this. “is the album of the year a suicide note,” asks one cipher. uh, duh. i have no words of false comfort to offer here.

i’m not trying to make sense of anything.

And as much as we might like to seize the reel and hit rewind
Or quicken our pursuit of what we’re guaranteed to find
When the dying’s finally done and the suffering subsides
All the suffering gets done by the ones we leave behind
All the suffering gets done by the ones we leave behind 

How bands form (warning: humour attempt)

bat for lashes

I found this early attempt at online humour while trawling through old Twitter posts, probably inspired by Mad magazine. It was during the same series of Tweets that I came up with the concept for 101 Albums You Should Die Before You Hear.

1. Animal Collective
“Fuck! You’ve spilled beer over my new Pet Sounds CD.”
2. Vampire Weekend
“Am I the only one around here who thinks Graceland is a classic record?”
3. Bat For Lashes
“Nastasha! I’m warning you for the last time. Stay out of Kate’s make-up drawer.”
4. Queens Of The Stone Age
“What we going to do tonight, man?” (Sound of dude deeply inhaling.) “Duuuuuude.”
5. Radiohead
“Thomas Edward Yorke, you stop your sulking right now and come downstairs and say hello to your friends.”
6. Rage Against The Machine
“You be the singer.” “No, fuck you, you be the singer.”
7. Fleet Foxes
“Mu-u-u-u-m. Christian’s been hiding the hair clippers again.”
8. Adam And The Ants
“Adam, for the last time, stop biting the strap of your satchel.”
9. U2
“Paul David, you come away from that cliff there right now.”
10. Silverchair
“Will you kids quit miming to those bloody Nirvana records.”
11. Guns ‘N Roses
Band wanted to play with misogynistic, needle-dick narcissist. Women need not apply.
12. The Dirty Three
“Warren, Warren! Bath time! Warren… where is that boy?”
13. Blue Cheer
“Could you just turn that record there up a notch, Jerry?”

How NOT to write about music – 126. FKA twigs

fka twigs new album magdalene

That’s a deep bass. That is smart use of silence and tease. That is smart use of distance. More to admire than love. You can taste the tension as she pulls back on the joystick. It’s all about the visuals, the imagination. The reaching for the unobtainable. The withdrawal from loneliness, from despair. It’s all about the visuals, the occasional acknowledgment of what may be going on in the outside world. That is one deep bass; one startling counterpoint. It’s all about the soaring. More to love than admire, surely. Wait, is it starting all over again? This is smart use of the stark, of the unnerving, of the Voice. I can feel the disconnection, the cerebral, the isolation. I can feel the effort, the drop, the art.

I still have no idea how I feel about FKA twigs, but I am grooving on this – slowly, smartly… sweetly. Gotta love anyone who makes this much effort to be viewed as separate. I cannot even begin to imagine what the live show is like, the acoustics, the immense effort that must be required from her audience not to intrude, not to break the magic.

People also ask:

What does FKA stand for in FKA twigs?
What nationality is fka twigs?
How tall is fka twigs?
What genre is fka twigs?

What fucking stupid questions. How tall is FKA twigs? Wow.

Wait, there’s more.

Who is fka twigs dating now?
What is fka twigs networth?
Who is fka twigs dating 2018?
Is FKA twigs single?
Who is Shia LaBeouf’s wife?
Who is married to Robert Pattinson?
Is FKA twigs vegan?
How old is Suki?
Why did Rob Cantor make Shia LaBeouf?
Who produced fka twigs?
How much money did the Twilight series make?

Sigh.

On live TV, FKA twigs stripped off a medieval gown and pole danced on a grand piano.

Calm down, boys. It’s music, performance.

On her new album MAGDALENE, FKA twigs tempers her ferocity with a radical sensitivity.

Calm down.

How NOT to write about music – 125: The Raincoats

Raincoats nails

This post has little or nothing to do with The Raincoats or their music. If you are looking for a report of a recent show Rock Gods The Raincoats played to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the release of their first album, you could do far worse than read this Vice article. (I wrote it.) If you are wanting to hear their first album again – or for the first time (lucky you!) – then you can hear it here. If you are thinking of purchasing their first album again – or for the first time (lucky you!) – perhaps to replace the one you bought on cassette tape four decades ago, then you can find signed copies here.

As I say, this post has little or nothing to do with The Raincoats and their glorious inspirational life-defining not-so (but oh-so) music.

Instead, this post is a list of acknowledgments. The previous week, I had failed to see Tropical Fuck Storm play in Brighton. This hurt me grievously. I determined that I needed to address the circumstance under which I could hurt myself in such fashion. I needed to go to a gig again. The comments I made here on the occasion of my last outing (in June!) apply, always.

I miss my community. I have never really known what my community is, am aware that it is continually shifting, but I miss it still. I cannot live up to expectations. When I posted on Facebook last night how I was shocked to find myself in Brixton against the odds, I was surprised at how many friends took it for granted I would be there. Well, duh – right? No duh. I try to never take anything for granted. I did not know I would be in Brixton last night (nerves, isolation, loneliness). At midday, I did not know that a few hours later I would be dancing next to Jon Slade in the aisles at the Brixton fucking Academy to the sight of Tobi Vail bopping at the mic. More than my community, I miss my friends. I have never known who my friends are, just that they continually shift and disappear. When one of Jon’s super-cool friends remarked last night how I would be enjoying myself later, I retorted that I was already enjoying myself. It was true. The stuff people take most for granted – being able to converse, laugh, relax – that’s the stuff I view as most special right now.

Scrolling through my social media feeds, I noticed Kristin Hersh and The Raincoats were both playing in the next seven days, the latter in Brighton. No excuses, surely? So I  began to set up a series of obstacles so I could excuse my lack of engagement when it inevitably happened.

  • Contact the band. They won’t contact me back. So I won’t go.
  • Find someone to go with. (I cannot go by myself.) I won’t find someone. So I won’t go.
  • Ask if I can review the show for someone. No one will be interested. So I won’t go. (I need to feel like I am contributing when I attend shows.)

All the above fell into place; indeed they fell into place so neatly that when I found myself sat upstairs at Brighton’s Komedia halfway through the show, 10 minutes before The Raincoats were due on stage, I did not leave as I would otherwise have done (don’t ask me to explain why, it is a gut feeling) but stayed – and had a wonderful time – because I was reviewing the show for Vice.

So, this is the acknowledgments section.

Thank you to the following:

  • Gina Birch
  • Ana da Silva
  • Karlyn King
  • Emma Garland
  • Hattie Cooke
  • Magazine Brighton
  • Heidi Berry
  • The lady from Hastings who said she thought I must be a music journalist because I was “so enthusiastic”
  • Simon Rivers
  • Nadia Buyse
  • Jon Slade
  • Lucy Cage
  • The Raincoats
  • Everyone who danced

Nails courtesy of Nadia Buyse