How NOT to write about music – 109. Dream Wife

Dream-Wife

Every time I hear this song, I want to hear it again.

Every time I hear this song, I stumble around and flail searching around for superlatives, fresh ways of drawing attention. I am still that kid down the front of shows, limbs thrashing wildly in a dance born from sexual frustration, frustrated at my lack of articulacy: enticing, goading, cheering, trying to drag the immovable around me into The Dance. I am still that kid unable to form full sentences, hammering out wild exclamations of joy and euphoria in the dead of night, starting every review 30 times because Tippex just don’t do it and computers ain’t been invented yet, shouting fruitlessly into The Void, hammering my head against one brick wall after another: just trying to communicate. Passion. Anything. Passion. Anything.

Every time I hear this song, I want to hear it again.

Every time I hear this song I am dancing, limbs contorted, face a blur of heated emotion, trying to punch higher and higher, reaching new heights of excitement and crazed desire, useless in my impotency but fully aware of my limitations and not caring anyway. Every time I hear this song I can’t wait for it to finish so I can start playing it again. The smile across my face is one hard-won through experience, and fleeting because of time. The smile across my face is nothing to do with circumstance or context but comes from being cast adrift, lost in the moment, lost in appreciation for the way just one syllable, one guitar chord, can be distorted to take on fresh meanings, fresh understandings with every new listen.

You never listen to the same song the same way twice.

This time. Frustration.

This time: Euphoric ecstasy.

This time: Sadness.

This time: Desire, driven by knowledge of limitations.

This time: Revitalised.

This time: Impatience.

This time: a tightly wound coil.

This time. Next time. This time. Next time.

And every time I hear this song it makes me think of you. Still. It makes me think of you.

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How NOT to write about music – 32. Big Joanie

Big-Joanie-2

I am not on one side or another here.

I hear something, I like it, I want to share it and, if I can help promote it and perhaps validate it along the way (not that these ladies need my validation, for sure) then that is a looked-for bonus. Incurious, I flick through Facebook and note that a couple of friends (ones whose taste I rate) are thinking of checking out London feminist punk band Big Joanie when they play at The Albert in Brighton in a couple of weeks time. Nice, nice, nice. Been meaning to listen to the ladies again for a while now, so I listen…

Nice nice nice.

Note, while I’m reading up on stuff, that the ladies have an album out The Quietus likes (something about reclamation of space and silence, a cursory comparison to The Breeders, stripped-back sound and a variety of apposite socio-political references). Note that, as ever, The Quietus reviewer is determined to go on for at least 300 words too long but the review does make me decide to listen to Big Joanie’s new songs.

Nice nice nice, but decide I fractionally prefer the production on the old songs more. Prefer them (a little) more when the guitar sound reminds me of The Petticoats. I do like the way the YouTube algorithms take me immediately on to Hole (first time), Solange (second time), Beyoncé (third time) and Skinny Girl Diet (fourth time) following this song.

Nice, nice nice. Resolve to go out to the Brighton show especially as they have a very interesting support act – and then note the day of the Brighton show. Monday. Damn it. The one evening I cannot make. Damn. Resolve instead that I should mention this show and this band on this blog and then wonder if I’ve done enough.

Well, have I?

How NOT to write about music – 16: Porridge Radio

prrodge radio

Three exhibits today. Three examples of an old man railing at clouds.

Three shows of weakness, of the reason why music criticism can be such a futile occupation sometimes. (Are Porridge Radio Adele? Are Porridge Radio Sam Smith? Are Porridge Radio Jess Glynne? Am I Piers Morgan?) This is self-evident, except the final exhibit got repeated at several different points in time (named “the greatest band in the world” by Everett True on the strength of half a song) in Brighton and London and Amsterdam to help keep a few bedraggled punters away doubtless.

Apologies for the rerun device, but I have been watching the entire run of Bewitched with a mania doubtless driven by my single parent status, and early as series 2, they’re making with the reruns. The entire programme, but with a different title and calling it a ‘new’ episode. 

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.

 

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.

———————————————-

Note to the stragglers: Do not write about music this way. Never write about music this way. Do not invest yourself personally in the music, do not make the emotional connection, do not tread in the crunchy brown leaves, do not fall in love, do not ever wear your worry shoes. Do not turn up late to class, do not question the ticket collector. Do not fall for the bewitchment, for the magic, for the power of music. Do not hold too close, do not let go. Do not face the crowd. Stand down.

Don’t stand me down.

How NOT to write about music – 14. The Legend!

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The difficult part is getting the gig.

If I have ever possessed any magic it is in my ability to sidestep the usual barriers thrown up in the way of aspiring performers and writers, and get straight on to the stage. For little or no money usually (not tonight), but whatever. The difficult part is getting there, being offered the opportunity. Once offered the opportunity, you take advantage of it – you try and make that moment in the spotlight as special as possible, for yourself and those watching. Why wouldn’t you try and make that moment as special as possible? I really do not understand bands sometimes.

Totally empty and deserted but I pulled the emptiness into my set and made it another instrument

Last night at the Haunt, the room was empty, desolate. Totally empty and deserted but I pulled the emptiness into my set and made it another instrument. I embraced the awkward spaces and silences, and built upon them: used them for atmosphere, tone. It absolutely informed my performance. I chose songs about death and isolation and muted desire (are there any others?). A spoken word piece about the day Kurt Cobain’s body was discovered was followed by an old gospel lament, segued into my tale about the day I woke up to discover my girlfriend had changed into Courtney Love, segued into a near-silent (off-mic) reading of Television Personalities’ ‘Happy All The Time’. I knew what the fuck I was doing and finally – 20 years late – do not feel bad about who I am. Two punters walked out the venue during my reading of Ed Sheeran Is Shit. I finished up with a monotone, deeply sarcastic version of Patrik Fitzgerald’s monotone, deeply sarcastic ‘When I Get Famous’. I even threw in my old monologue about Daniel Johnston (and found I had forgotten most of the content). Commonly, I feel like a fraud if I perform the same song twice, but I did not feel like that last night.

I owned that stage, for what it’s worth. I had a backing tape of desolate beautiful disturbing violin music supplied to me by Maria because she could not make the show, and that fed into the isolation and sense of bereavement too. As did my divorce, and the fact I could not find a single friend to accompany me to the show.

I had been offered an opportunity by Tracyanne & Danny (the main band) and damn I wanted to take it. Don’t ever take these opportunities for granted. Tracyanne & Danny later dedicated their version of Daniel Johnston’s ‘True Love Will Find You In The End’ played in the style of the East Street Band to me, and it was very appreciated.

This song was one of the stand-outs of their warm, encompassing, magical set for me.

Amazon Prime had fucked up on the delivery of the cable I needed to hook the music straight into the PA system. so me and Andy the sound person rigged up a system whereby my portable Bluetooth speaker was mic-ed up and fed into the room, chilling. The soundcheck as ever took 5 minutes. I stopped the music when I wanted to, which was never.

How NOT to write about music – 4. Jimmy and the worn out shoes

Jimmy and the worn out shoes

I love Jimmy and the worn out shoes.

I love near everything about them*, the way Jimmy dances, the way Jimmy’s moustache hangs there droopy and gentle, the soft shoe shuffle, the unassuming but so smart lyrics and deadpan way round a harmony, the presence of other musicians, the lack of presence of other musicians, the chugging rhythms and self-deprecating putdowns, the idea he communicates simply by being there that we should not give up however stupid and unfriendly the odds against us are, the slender soft shoe shuffle, his height, the laconic melodies, the box drums and skiffle beat, the fact he shoves dodgy recordings of songs about Viv Albertine out on YouTube and you can’t understand a single word even though you know that if you could understand even a single word your life would be enriched in so many different small ways, the way he’s from Brighton but a Brighton you were always attracted to not a Brighton you wish you could turn your back upon, the way he used to be in a band that released possibly the greatest Christmas single ever, the empty beer glass, the way half his songs could be doubling for Clive Pig or O-Levels B-sides from 1985 or 1981 perhaps, the stupid soft shoes shuffle, his fondness for chips, the way he understands nostalgia should mean more than marketing, the whistling, the wrong shoes the wrong shoes the wrong shoes the wrong shoes…

I love Jimmy and the worn out shoes.

Note for aspiring blog writers: the clue is in the title. Break through the nettles.

Note for aspiring blog writers: you should NOT write about music this way because there is no socio-political context, no background, no information, no easy comparison points (only obscure ones), no reference to genre, no potted history, no band member names (or indeed mention of band members beyond the omnipotent ‘Jimmy’ who might well be a construct or idealised vision). I do not make even a gesture towards the idea of some form of universal ‘truth’, I do not attempt to rationalise my subjective taste or universalise a particular perspective. I do not look for broader significance or wider resonance. I am not in the business of pattern-spotting.  I am not claiming this is the ‘future’, whatever emphasis you want to place on that term…

I fucking abdicate.

You should try the BandCamp too, but only if you want to.

It’s not entirely a coincidence I am playing a show with Jimmy and the worn out shoes, and the tumultuous dark suburban pop band Suburban Death Twitch, next week in Brighton.

Come down. Do the soft shoe shuffle.

*This is not true. First time I saw ’em I did not enjoy them. There. I said it. Just for balance, and everything. Mainly.

“I remember money
Wrapped in dishonesty”