How NOT to write about music – 164. The Distractions

The Distractions - Nobody's Perfect

The last six mornings now, I have been listening to the two CDs that make up the reissue of The Distractions near perfect 1980 debut album Nobody’s Perfect.

Comfort music.

Despite the fact the reissue boasts 34 extra tracks, The Distractions didn’t actually have that many songs beyond the album – there are a handful of magical singles (including one of the three greatest singles ever released on Factory Records) and loads of alternative mixes (all worth lingering among) and early stuff (one song sounding wonderfully like Kleenex), a rather sparky attempt to engage with the early 1980s new cool (brass, etc), some needless reggaefied zeitgeist mixes…

Comfort music. I have several other albums currently wrestling for my attention on the morning train to Clapham Junction – most notably these two, and this one – but none fill the peculiar need I have right now for comfort, for reassurance that some stuff remains constant, that life continues unabated no matter what fear is disseminated among us, and you can still draw solace and joy and hope from it. These are strange times, the smell of fear all around is palpable, and we need to draw comfort where we can. Last week, some Course Leaders experienced an unusual spike in attendance in classes at BIMM London – and we suspect it is because students are looking to draw solace from certainties, that stuff remains constant, even that – despite the best efforts of our leaders to prove otherwise – leadership can be a decent thing,  that…

Same reason I enjoy eating my way through a box full of Maltesers at five am, and am binge-watching my way through seasons of Sabrina The Teenage Witch (and also love the new Taylor Swift album), I suspect.

Comfort music.

On the reissue, there is even a new stereo mix of the album included (a labour of love, clearly) that aims to capture the band as intended – and why  not? It is rare indeed that something this pure and magical and unsung comes along, and some of us have been waiting for near four decades for this album to be given the treatment it deserves.

It is hard to pin down highlights when near everything is a highlight, when near everything is supercharged comfort music. There is the Chelmsford-devouring debut 12″ You’re Not Going Out Dressed Like That … a record that I first heard when I was 17 or 18, a record that to this day I cannot listen to without being reminded of a) the radiogram in my parents’ living room, b) leaving the house late morning to sit the first of my ‘A’ Levels, c) hope and awkwardness and an uncomprehending ability to cope on any level of social interaction at all, d) a darkened room staring out into a courtyard waiting for friends to knock on my door but they never do.

They never do.

Chelmsford, 1979
I had a summer job at Cundell’s Corrugated Cardboard factory, a 20-minute bike ride away from my parents’ house in Rothesay Avenue, where I shared a bedroom with my three brothers. I preferred the morning shift, starting at 6am working through to 2pm. I was used to getting up early, due to my paper round of seven years. Mornings were fresher. All you did for the job was stand at the end of a conveyor belt, one other bloke stood opposite. You’d wait until about 43 sheets of cardboard had come down the chute, counting patiently, stack them neatly, and shove them down the belt to another bloke, who’d throw them on a palette. Within days, my hands were a welter of paper cuts. We’d smoke just to keep ourselves awake: frequently only the burning stub of a cigarette between our fingers would remind us of where we were. I’d sing along loudly to The Jam’s ‘When You’re Young’, tears of frustration running down my face. I’d been turned down by eight universities, the new term had already started. I thought I was stuck there for life.

I still loved my punk rock, my pop music. I still dared to dream that romance existed, that there was a future outside the 9 to 5. I had to believe that. I would play my vinyl upstairs on my Dansette when my brothers weren’t around, laying out all the seven-inch coloured vinyl on the floor (I stole to finance my habit). I played my 12-inchers and LPs downstairs on my parents’ 70s radiogram, a monstrous, cheap, ridiculously tinny affair – but at least you could stack them. I devoured the music papers with the zeal of a late-come fanatic. All of them, every week. (I also had a day job at a newsagents.) I bought records on the writers’ say-so, and because I liked the covers.

The Distractions’ ‘You’re Not Going Out Dressed Like That’ 12-inch on TJM was one of my favourites. The four songs had such energy, melody, enthusiasm, awkwardness – it was The Undertones, but somehow more on a level I could relate to, no tongue-in-cheek ironies here. I loved the rough, clearly unfinished production, the way it made the songs seem way more human and personal. The lyrics spoke directly to me.

“Well, I won’t miss you when you’ve gone/And I won’t talk behind your back/The time will come when you look back and see/If the time should come when you have a reason to come back/Well, do what you want, it doesn’t bother me,” Mike Finney sang in his trembling Mancunian accent. (Most of the songwriting, but by no means all, was managed by guitarist Steve Perrin.) Man, I so wanted to say those words to even one person – one girl – that might have some sort of regret because they’re didn’t notice me… trouble was, I couldn’t even find one. So I kept playing the music regardless, imagining myself into situations that were entirely unobtainable. Guitars churned and spun, the drums rattled and thundered in their own intimate way, and throughout those damn melodies soared and hurt and twanged at my heart strings…

“When I saw you last night/I got too close again/Though we stayed apart/I clung to you like glue/And though I tried so hard to prove to you I wasn’t giving in/I forgot to give you time to prove it too,” The Distractions sang on ”Nothing’, before a minimal guitar solo as great as anything even from the Buzzcocks or The Jam – damn, I knew how that felt. There was such jubilation present, too: impossible to hide on the rampant closing song ‘Too Young’ that soared and burnt and scoured and ran wild with the  exhilaration of being young like even anything from way up in Scotland (Restricted Code or The Scars, for example). These, for me, were my pop star gods – it didn’t matter whether they sold 100 or 10 million records. These were my pop star gods.

It was the music alone that kept me going through that long hot, turbulent, deeply troubled summer.

Song of the day – 200: The Distractions

Then there was this – with quite honestly (at 1.52) the single greatest drum part in the history of recorded music.

Bit of detail

The Manchester band were label mates with Joy Division in the late 1970s before they were signed to Island Records by legendary A&R man Nick Stewart (he signed U2). Nick is actually putting out this reissue on his own label which brings the story full circle 40 years on. Nick remembers it well:

“In 1979 I went up to Manchester to meet Tony Wilson of Factory Records, with whom I forged a firm friendship. Joy Division weren’t interested in signing to Island Records, so Tony suggested I check out another local band who’d just recorded a single for Factory called ‘Time Goes by so Slow’… I loved it from the moment I heard it… and quickly struck a deal for The Distractions to join Island. My first signing!”

The band split in 1981, and released a wonderful follow-up a few years later in 2012.

I wrote about that here.

In the months since I was sent an advance promo of End Of The Pier, it’s found its way onto my iTunes playlist several times – shy and unannounced like a former drunkard of a friend – and each time, I stop what I’m doing momentarily and listen, surprised, caught unawares again, wanting more, wistful, wishing that I could stop this relentless chase, this thrill of the new when no one nears me gives a fucking second glance at what I do. The music I make this days, when I make it, is clearly me: this hesitation, this clumsy renewal with the heart of pop music serves The Distractions well, very well.

Comfort music.

How NOT to write about music – 163. Gaye Su Akyol

Gaye Su Akyol

Random shit from the Internet.

Love random shit from the Internet, but as always it is good to have a filter applied. No time to sift through random shit on the Internet? Step right this way! Your very own tried and tested source, the one, the only, the nefarious… Mr Everett True! This day presenting some blissed-out psychedelic trance music from Turkey, full of hidden couplets and teasing rhythmic cadences, subtle and surprising and sensual. The kind of stuff you wish would soundtrack a few more of your dreams, the ones where you luxuriate, revel in a singular sense of being. The illuminated lightness of being. Consistent fantasy can well be a reality. As Pitchfork explain, “Her voice is a mesmerizing thing, deep and plummy enough to shake trees and stir hearts.” Not sure about the misspelling of mesmerising and the random comparison to Björk – yes, they both are female and not English – but there you have it. Her voice can shake trees and stir your heart, if you let it. I know it has stirred mine often enough in the past couple of weeks.

Obsession. Let it never die away.

Gaye Su Akyol: Istikrarli Hayal Hakikattir review – Turkish star deserves big things

How NOT to write about music – 162. Slum Of Legs vs Porridge Radio

Brighton_Pier_at_dusk

Two bands have dominated my musical existence (community? taste? listening?) since my return from Brisbane five years ago. Both are from Brighton. Both have/are releasing albums (one their second, the other their debut) right now. One is going slightly above the parapet and is being written about in effusive fashion in a variety of places – Pitchfork, NME, The Quietus, the regulars. One isn’t – or not so much. Both should be everywhere, all the time. I do not love both bands equally because that would be insane, see patronising. Equal but differently.

I want to use this moment to record that my brain is currently imploding from the sheer musical wonderment of it all, especially as I got sent both albums the week I discovered the debut Roxy Music album 45 years on. I simply cannot process all this magik all at once. Give me space! Give me space. It is enough for me to know that others are taking note, others are feeling as enthused and confused and wired and charged as I have been by this splurge of music and awkwardness and humanity and passion over the last five years. This is music that is not just my heartland but that which defines me. I cannot imagine life without either, and it makes no sense to engage with…

When you’re sad, you’re invisible
A flicker at the edge of an eyeball
When you’re sad, you’re invisible
A flicker at the edge of the disco
At least we are not a painted
Macabre French
Sensation
Benetint & Malevolence 06:49

Collectively, I have written about the two bands on at least 20 occasions… and NONE of those for the mainstream (or even alternative mainstream) press… and yet I am not listening to either album from either band, just revelling in the knowledge they exist and they exist and they exist… this behaviour is similar to the way I way I reacted in the early 1980s when I never actually listened to the first two Birthday Party albums or UT on vinyl because I DID NOT NEED TO, I had the wonderful unpredictable charged unfocused focused live experiences to buoy me, to charge me, even (with Slum of Legs) if it’s been several years now.

My musical memories have never been at fault.
It’s just everything else.

GO DIY GO DIY GO DIY GO DIY GO DIY GO DIY
GO DIY GO DIY GO DIY GO DIY GO DIY GO DIY
GO DIY GO DIY GO DIY GO DIY GO DIY GO DIY
GO DIY GO DIY GO DIY GO DIY GO DIY GO DIY

My mum says that I look like a nervous wreck
Because I bite my nails right down to the flesh
And sometimes, I am just a child, writing letters to myself
Wishing out loud you were dead, and then taking it back
And I used to be ashamed until I learned I love the game
And I slowly move away from everything I knew about you
And my mum gave me this pen, she said it lights up when you press it
And you are still so depressed, and I like that you need me
You will like me when you meet me
You will like me when you meet me
You will like me when you meet me
You might even fall in love
Sweet 03:44

Members of both bands have given me support at crucial moments: and I want to thank them now because I know I ain’t always so good at communicating away from my Other Self.

GO DIY GO DIY GO DIY GO DIY GO DIY GO DIY
GO DIY GO DIY GO DIY GO DIY GO DIY GO DIY
GO DIY GO DIY GO DIY GO DIY GO DIY GO DIY
GO DIY GO DIY GO DIY GO DIY GO DIY GO DIY

Someone commented recently, “do you know how hard it is to keep the same group of six people together for five years?”

GO DIY GO DIY GO DIY GO DIY GO DIY GO DIY
GO DIY GO DIY GO DIY GO DIY GO DIY GO DIY
GO DIY GO DIY GO DIY GO DIY GO DIY GO DIY
GO DIY GO DIY GO DIY GO DIY GO DIY GO DIY

Now, I am cross with myself. How dare I devalue one band by mentioning the other? There are links: some obvious, some not: but that is not the point. Listen to this. Listen to this. I just want to say this to you.

I was thinking of a compromise
When I saw the beauty in your eyes
It heightened something in me so I’ll say so

Now I just want to say this to you
Listen to this, listen to this,
I want to say this to you
You never know, oh oh
(Here we go)
I love you, I love you
I love you, and it’s true and it’s true and it’s true

Listen to This – Dexys Midnight Runners

With its looming ferris wheel and wooden pier, Margolin notes that Coney Island loosely resembles Brighton, the college town on England’s south coast where she met her bandmates and formed Porridge Radio in 2015. What began as Margolin’s lo-fi solo project has evolved into a fierce wrecking crew fueled by unvarnished angst. On the group’s lurching new album, Every Bad—their first release for esteemed indie imprint Secretly Canadian—Margolin is a snarling antisocial who’s constantly at war with her body and mind.
(Pitchfork)

Since emerging with a three-song tape in 2013, Brighton’s Slum Of Legs have maintained the same six-strong lineup, and do you have any idea how hard that is? (In this specific instance, neither do I, but statistically speaking one expects a limb or two to drop off now and then.) Their self-titled debut album, on Nottingham/Bristol label Spurge, is their first release since 2015, but Slum Of Legs’ component parts circa singles ‘Doll Like’ and ‘Begin To Dissolve’ – Krauty/proggy discord, post punk jags, indie pop froth, feminist rhetoric equally exaltatory and condemnatory – remain in place on these ten numbers.
(The Quietus)

Somewhere, I think this fits. Awkwardly. Don’t force it.

They’re loud, they’re smart and they want us to be better people. Porridge Radio are about to conquer the planet with their breakthrough album ‘Every Bad’, a record of art-rock mantras that betrays their towering ambition and cocksure spirit. Matthew Neale talks to singer Dana Margolin about being hailed by Nirvana’s best mate, the dread of being branded a political band and why it’s important to make a difference.
(NME)

 

How NOT to write about music – 161. Jarv Is

Jarv Is House Music All Night Long

Beautiful bit of irony at 2.45
Beautiful bit of ironing at 3.50
Who needs music critics when you can have articulate commentators?

Beautiful bit of foot work at 2.59
Beautiful bit of Kraftwerk at 1.45
Who needs articulate commentary when you can have pop-up punditry?

Beautiful bit of 70s disco at 4.40
Beautiful bit of O_KAN_U_GO at 5.24
Who needs pop-up pundits when you have Jarv Is and his icebox band?

Beautiful bit of musical insulation
Beautiful bit of interior decoration

“House Music All Night Long” isn’t quite as self-deprecating as “Must I Evolve?,” the first single that’s a call-and-response reaction to modern rhetoric. Instead, “House Music” is a dreamy dance track that imagines the club genre as a background for domestic routine. His lyrics are just as snarky and innuendo-laden as they were in Pulp, but at 56 years old, he’s “fully grown,” and now he’s creating house music for his fellow Gen X’ers, who might prefer to listen to it in their plush living rooms than out at a rave.
Song You Need to Know: Jarv Is, ‘House Music All Night Long’

  • Hack Frauds: I love how the music video screams working class James Bond.
  • Marcus Mötz – Musik, Dokus & mehr: Reminds me of the old Pulp days back in the early 90s. Who would have thought that Jarvis would come up with a funky sound like this! So glad he’s back!
  • Paul Sinclair: The leg kick…the arse pout…the finger point..Jarv is back
  • dieuble: How about a remix by James Murphy/LCD Soundsystem?
  • vigilant-ish: Oh shit this sounds like something off Separations. I love it
  • Jose Hernandez: It’s happening, isn’t it?!
  • djzenelvis: Monday is starting to be a party day.
  • Alessia Arcuti: Fridge situation: common people in quarantine time!
  • Angel Lorna: I’d like a fridge with a tiny band inside. Plug for pricey Samsung!
  • Sean Liddle: House Music.. vs house music. Wonderful imagery. Perfect.

Search Results
Featured snippet from the web
The latest single from JARV IS…’s Beyond The Pale is “House Music All Night Long” a funky tune that is a throwback of sorts. The music video is a vibrantly loud, funk-tinged groove that parallels with various colorful palettes that are in full effect in the music video.1 day ago

Ten songs threatening to go viral in 2020: UPDATE

Björk Virus

Panic (buying) on the streets of London
Panic (buying) on the streets of Birmingham
I wonder to myself
Could life ever be sane again?

1 (-) The Smiths – Panic (buying)

2 (3) Joy Division – (Self) Isolation

3 (-) The Freshies – I’m In Love With The Girl On The Manchester ASDA Toilet Roll Check-out Desk

4 (1) The Knack – My Corona

5 (-) The Divinyls – I Touch Myself (Just Not My Face)

6 (-) Minutemen – Corona

7 (2) Los del Rio – Macorona

8 (-) The Damned – There Ain’t No Sanitizer Clause

9 (-) Björk – Virus

10 (6) Buggles – COVID-19 Killed The Radio Star

How NOT to write about music – 160. Dixie Chicks

Dixie Chicks - Gaslighter

A student just played me the new Dixie Chicks song, their first in 12 years. It’s blown my head apart. So inspirational. I appreciate that the song (‘Gaslighter’) may well be about Natalie Maines’ ex-husband but I am certain I am not the only one who will take it in a much broader context to refer to America’s Gaslighter-In-Chief, Donald Trump.

First, people who gaslight tell obvious lies. You know that they are lying. The issue is how they are lying with such ease. The gaslighter is setting up an abusive pattern. You begin to question everything and become uncertain of the simplest matters. This self-doubt is exactly what the gaslighter wants.

Again, you know they said what they said. However, they completely deny ever saying it. The gaslighter may push the point and ask you to ‘prove it,’ knowing that you only have your memory of the conversation that they are denying happened. It starts to make you question your memory and your reality. You begin to wonder if the gaslighter is right, maybe they didn’t really ever say what you remember. Consequently, more and more often, you question your reality and accept theirs.

Notably, a person who gaslights talks and talks. However, their words mean nothing. Therefore, it is important to look at what they are doing. The issues lie in their abusive actions towards the victim.

Gaslighting: Signs You’re Suffering From This Secret Form of Emotional Abuse

I mean I’d mention the gorgeous harmonies – and man, they are gorgeous – and the driving beat, but that’s kind of beside the point, isn’t it?

P.S. The volume is best pushed as loud as you can go.

APPENDIX ONE

What ruined Dixie Chicks?
On March 10, 2003, during a London concert, nine days before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, lead vocalist Maines told the audience: “We don’t want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States (George W. Bush) is from Texas”, which garnered a positive reaction from the British audience but led to a contrasting negative reaction and ensuing boycotts in the United States, where talk shows denounced the band, their albums were discarded in public protest and corporate broadcasting networks blacklisted them for the remainder of the Bush years.

APPENDIX TWO

What is Gaslighting?
Gaslighting is a manipulative tactic in which a person, to gain power and control, plants seeds of uncertainty in the victim. The self-doubt and constant scepticism slowly and meticulously cause the individual to question their reality.

Perhaps the best way to examine this inherently abusive behaviour is to go straight to the source, the 1944 film Gaslight. The film tells a story of a husband systematically brainwashing his wife to the point that she legitimately thinks she is going insane. The wife fights to protect her identity all while her husband viciously tries to take it away.

While it never disappeared, over seven decades later, gaslighting has fully resurfaced in the dating world. Additionally, the term has resurfaced recently in some online publications to describe President Trump.

APPENDIX THREE

The last time the Dixie Chicks reinvented themselves, it was hard to know what would come next. On their most recent album, 2006’s Taking the Long Way, the country trio wrote about being spurned by their industry, faced with uncertainty at the point when most bands on their level are finding career equilibrium. “They say time heals everything,” Natalie Maines sang in the mammoth single ‘Not Ready to Make Nice’, “but I’m still waiting.” They would continue waiting: After the tour for that album, they took a decade-plus hiatus from releasing new music together, during which their influence loomed larger than ever and their fight against a misogynist industry was echoed by a new generation of singer-songwriters.
Best New Track, Pitchfork

APPENDIX FOUR

Sixteen Years Later, Country Radio Is Still Mad at the Dixie Chicks
Their appearance on Taylor Swift’s “Soon You’ll Get Better” is prompting angry comments and calls from radio listeners still upset about their anti-Iraq-War stance.

APPENDIX FIVE

Considering all the ground that the Dixie Chicks broke, it’s almost fitting that they also pioneered getting cancelled in the digital age. But their refusal to back down didn’t just impact their legacy; it impacted how we see cancellation itself. Through their actions, the Dixie Chicks asserted that fandom isn’t ownership and that you can’t control someone’s thoughts just because you buy their albums or see their movies (or refuse to buy their albums or see their movies). They asserted their rights to be complex human beings and not live up to whatever image their fans projected. It was an incredibly risky statement to make. But in the end, it paid off, for them, and for everyone else who refuses to shut up and sing.
The Dixie Chicks Were Cancelled For Criticizing The President. Now, They’re Heroes.

APPENDIX SIX

‘Gaslighter’ conjures Dixie Chicks standbys like ‘Not Ready To Make Nice’ and ‘The Long Way Around’, songs that turn the group’s own personal turmoils into layered pop texts. The trio’s ‘Gaslighter’ video, with its unsubtle political and historical imagery, uses Maines’ travails as a template for decades of personal and collective national pain.
You Definitely Need to Hear This New Dixie Chicks Song

APPENDIX SEVEN

Little known fact: the producer on the new Dixie Chicks album Jack Antonoff is a huge Daniel Johnston fan. (He also produced Taylor Swift’s seismic ‘Out Of The Woods’ and Lorde. Respect.)