How NOT to write about music – 151. U.S. Girls

U.S. Girls - Overtime

ADDENDA 02/03/20
This is the song I should have linked to. Tip of the ET fedora to Stephen Sweet.

Every time a friends alert me to the fact there is a new U.S. Girls track, I put a placeholder on my blog – a must write about the new U.S. Girls track reminder.

For example:

Acid-tinged 60s Motown female empowerment bedroom isolation

The Guardian has compared her to “classic 60s girl group and disco-era Blondie” but that is so simultaneously true and not-true it makes my head spin.

what she said ; 20 songs to deny Donald Trump (and Bob Dylan)

And so forth.

I do not know why I do this.

Increasingly, it occurs to me that I have nothing to add to the dialogue around Meg Remy except adoration… that is too strong a word… approval. Intoxication. Fascination. A desire not to move too close lest I dispel the magic. Every time I encounter a new song from the self-propelled U.S. Girls it occurs that where once I may have helped lead now I merely follow, repeat sentiments and moods that others have already, often more commandingly, expressed before me. I am no longer (rarely) a producer, but a produser. Maybe this is not a reflection on me so much as a reflection on the state of flux facing people using the channels and mediums around me. I can comment on the sound –  there is a sense of urgency, isolation, regret, no release, a late Seventies shuffle, honey-sweet vocals all the more disturbing for their honey-sweetness, a sax solo at the close – but where does that take me (and you)?


As The Guardian puts it:

To listeners outside the Toronto indie underground, Meg Remy’s brilliant 2018 album, In a Poem Unlimited, came as a revelation. To be fair, its pointed glam strut, an upgrade of her DIY aesthetic, was probably a surprise to her OG fans too. She pulls a similar trick with the first single from her forthcoming record, this time literally reinventing a 2013 US Girls track – giving what was queasy and chaotic a vamping, hall-of-mirrors makeover fit for Jenny Lewis (with a bracing solo from E Street Band saxophonist Jake Clemons). Similar subject matter to Lewis’s 2019 album, too, as Remy discovers that a former partner was drinking themselves to death on the sly.

This tells you more, using less words. (The Pitchfork review tells you less, using more words.)

We all have our crosses.

Every time I see your grave
I can’t help but think
How I didn’t know
That you only drank
The overtime

How NOT to write about music – 121. Kanye West


…wherein Kanye continues with his persecution complex, this time comparing what has happened to him with what happened to Jesus…

Again, the comments underneath the music tell you more about the music then the music itself (and this is one of the best moments from Jesus is King) (and let’s not overlook the inclusion of Kenny G here, but embrace it and admit that, as ever, the song would have been far better without the inclusion of Kenny G here) (and let us state here and now that while gospel music and Jesus can often lift previously unfocused artists to new heights of passion, Kanye does not sound inspired, does not sound impassioned on most of Jesus is King) (and this remains one of the greatest songs here, mainly for the urgency and repetition in the choral segments here, interspersed with some very nice percussive effects that sound like a door, or coffin, slamming shut) (and let us point out that much of this feels like an unhinged marketing gimmick the way much of Kanye’s work feels like unhinged marketing gimmicks even as you believe he believes he thinks it real) (but usually this does not matter, indeed often this leads to flashes of brilliance, genius) (and let us state those flashes are so far and few between here as to be non-existent) (and let us state that… you’re not reading this now, are you?).

Lyrics are utter crap.

As Kanye has it: it’s a hard road to heaven – but shit, he got a head start now, don’t he?

Let me state here and now, my personal bias.

  1. I do not believe in a God, or Gods – or rather, I do, but I do not believe Christianity has the exclusivity on God, or Gods. I prefer my Gods to live at the bottom of my garden alongside my spirit animal.
  2. I am not a fan of crap music, badly formulated and poorly executed.
  3. I like unfinished, but shit there is unfinished and unfinished. This is not raw or ‘real’. It’s just sloppy.

There are plenty of people who disagree with me, though. Remember folk, it’s a big and scary world out there. Man.

Comments below the YouTube video.

  • This song turned my yeezys into Jesus sandals
  • I like how this is Christian but is still Kanye
  • This whole album is a diss to the DEVIL.
  • Stay strong Ye. I know Hollywood is attacking you. They don’t like all this Jesus talk. We’re praying for you.
  • If God is with you who can be against you? none.
  • Damn….Kanye really going to make gospel music the new wave
  • I was saved by Christ 19 years ago – IT GETS BETTER EVERYDAY – JESUS CHRIST IS LORD!
  • May God give Kanye all the strength he needs a a servant of God. Amen.
  • If the priest ain’t blasting this on Sunday I’ll rage
  • “Who the son sets free is free indeed” hit me hard
  • “If you woke then wake up.”
  • “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” John 15:18
  • This is what Christian grandmas gonna be listening to in 2080
  • As a Christian I love seeing what Jesus is doing in this man’s life. He can make a huge impact.
  • Finally a famous singer that’s stands up for God and hears His call
  • This song gets me pumped up to worship God!!
  • Kanye just went full on Jesus mode and I’m here for it
  • Glory belongs to the Lord alone. He is risen, and his kingdom is at hand.

Some hold that this is “fake Christianity at its finest” but that leads to the rather obvious question… what the fuck is ‘real’ Christianity?

God moves in mysterious ways, and sometimes she’s quite dull as well.

It still shits all over Bob Dylan though.

Jesus is King: the merch stallJESUS_IS_KING_CROSS_CREWNECK_SHOT_1_1100x

You’d have thought they could’ve found a clean pair.


How NOT to write about music – 26. Kristin Hersh


I want to write about the new Kristin Hersh album Possible Dust Clouds but I am not sure my words are equal to it. Hers are:

“Sometimes the most subversive thing I can do musically is adhere to standard song structure, sometimes the creepiest chords are the ones we’ve heard before, twisted into different shapes, and sometimes a story is lived a thousand times before we can ride it like a roller coaster. Nothing wholly unfamiliar is gonna make you look twice. When you can describe a record as being ‘deceptively’ anything, you’re hinting at the sociopathic nature of music. Something I love. Imagine truly buying your own sunshine and charm, but also your darkness and violence; the two sides of your psychology showing each other off in relief. Songs can do that…we can’t, really. Darkness we’ve seen. Dark sunshine? Still cool.”

I want to write about the new Kristin Hersh album Possible Dust Clouds but it’s late at night, I have two children sleeping upstairs, the washing has reached its final cycle and soon-come sleep is painting a mist across my eyes. If I was on my sofa I’d be fighting off unconsciousness by now – and unsuccessfully.

I want to write about Kristin’s new album but the music keeps intruding, in a way music rarely – if ever – does when I am attempting to write about it. Full immersion. The way the music and guitar lollops and loops and curves, and throws off sunshine and charm (NB: stolen from press release), the way her voice sounds wise beyond understanding, the way a pink birthing ball is resting over there by the torn-out fireplace, the shallowness of my breathing, the tears splattered across my car’s windscreen… I find myself unequal to the task. She’s not:

“I usually play all the instruments on my solo records – essentially the sound of having no friends – but sociopaths can’t realize their potential without people to work out their grievances on and this record is a freakin’ sociopath. So I invited my friends to the party I wanted to hear. Not a live record but an alive record.”

I think the reason I do not listen to Kristin Hersh as often as I might (and file her away under “to be admired” rather than “to be loved”) is that her music, not needlessly and certainly not callously, reminds me so poignantly of my own shortcomings, the same way this is one of the greatest lyrics I have ever encountered

My diplomacy, my security, my hope and my ice-cream
My tomorrow and my temperature, my lips and my selfishness
My cigarette, my uncertainty, my penetration
My notebook and my limit, my importance and my glycerine
My customer, my function, my lawlessness, my charm
My hunger, my refusal, my tissue and my vodka
My ommission, my ability, my telephone and my holler
My relaxing, my distress, my bedroom, my cassette
My dictation and my pulse, my fortune and my death
My flake and my restlessness, my headache and my dirt
My paper and my charity, my rose and my pallor
My guess and my closet, my light ‘n’ my time
My worry, my perversity, my transgression
My temptation and my polythene, my gunshot
My jealousy and my water
My demands ‘n’ my angels ‘n’ my waiting ‘n’ my distance
My death, my curtness, my insulin, my memory
My partner ‘n’ my sadness, my story, my wantonness
My wish, my despair, my erasure, my plantation
My white chocolate, my thoughtlessness, my gracelessness
My courage and my crying, my pockets ‘n’ my mistakes
My body and my sex, my gaze and my helplessness
My letter, my sugar, my homework, my walk
My records, my smile and my struggle
My reflection, my eyelid, my fragility, my discretion
My hair, my austerity, my tattoo, my demise
My fooling and my terror, My problem and my judgement
Oh my disguise, my tongue
My ownership, my formula, my property, my thought, my razor
My blessing and my silence, my lust and my practise
My sincerity, my penicillin, my window and my androgyny
My mother, my recorder, my pity and my posing
My light, my carelessness, my drummer, my drummer, my drummer, my drummer
My tenderness ‘n’ my car, my undoing and my history
My bottle and my drugs, my drugs, my drugs
Tomorrow, my temperature, my lips and my selfishness
My cigarette, my uncertainty, my penetration, my notebook

And so forth.

This new album – her 10th studio album, it says here – is so full. So fucking full I cannot begin to muster the energy required to equal it with words (thereby failing RULE NUMBER ONE OF MUSIC JOURNALISM: always be more entertaining than the music you write about). Everything claimed for her former 4AD soulmates The Breeders, obv – but without the cosy familiarity that helps so often when confronted with casual genius, the intimate stranger. Brooding. Broody. Squalling. Squalled. Mysterious like Lyra Belacqua. I am just pleased that I am not the only one unable to measure up here.

Exhibit number one: the press release

Feedback and phasing gyrate from simply strummed normality, imagine Dinosaur Jr and My Bloody Valentine cranking up a Dylan couplet.

I love the simply strummed normality bit, but… you what? So much wrong contained within these final dozen words: devaluing the very artist they set out to praise by throwing in random selected assortments from indie rock’s rich canon (a canon that should NEVER be taken for granted, ALWAYS be questioned). Why not throw in Joy Division, Nirvana and The Beatles and be done with it? It’s a bit like saying Joni Mitchell is almost as good as Bob Dylan, with implicit gender preference thrown in. Kristin Hersh is an artist in her own right, easily the equal if not superior (if we MUST turn music into a competition) to the aforementioned… the comparisons are the wrong way around. She’s not Courtney Barnett, you know.

Hell, though. I understand the PR’s problem though. How to put Kristin into words that she hasn’t written herself? Let the lady speak:

“Because a lot of live records don’t sound live, just poorly recorded. And self-conscious musicians can’t let fly. I wanted to recreate the impact of a show. Unpretentious, with a muscular song body running through the room. This entailed seriously messing with both extremes of the sonic spectrum: the fundamentals (basics, rhythm section, roots) but also with the detail (percussion, high end, effects). These two strata asked to sound eccentric: atonal and arrhythmic. So when the song body runs through the room, it’s not wholly unfamiliar, just dressed oddly enough to make you look twice. Dark sunshine, still cool. Hopefully, anyway.”

She reminds me most of… ha. You ain’t gonna catch me like that. Let the lady speak:

“My friends helped me make a nice party noise, a goofy sociopath. Everyone who stopped by the studio was asked to make some noise and they pretty much did. A party that lasted for a few years, it’s only now dying down. A friend called this morning asking when the bus was leaving. A rickety, squealy, squeaky bus…none of us want to miss it.”


She still sounds better because she leaves much to your own imagination.