How NOT to write about music – 118. Madder Rose

Madder Rose

It’s cold and grey here. I’m ill.

It’s cold and grey here. I’m ill – under the weather, at least. I would much rather be in at work: there’s people there, people and warmth. I am typing this blog entry on my laptop because I am currently waiting for an electrician to show up to fix my power which keeps cutting in and out. No power, no heat. No power, no hot water. No power, no fun. So, because I am typing up this entry on my laptop and because my fingers are numb with cold, I keep missing the keyboard and having to go back over my words and re-enter them. No power, no fun.

This is not a good moment to talk about the return of my early 1990s New York sweethearts, Madder Rose. I associate their music with laughter; laughter, hope and expectation; laughter, alcohol and spontaneous performances in the Midwest somewhere; laughter and long van rides and Adamsville TN sheriff Buford Pusser; late nights that never ended and melancholy harmonies and cascading arpeggios of abrasion; the final episode of Cheers – or was it Friends – and fast friendships that felt like they’d last for years, and isolation, and pulsating New York nightclubs and missed chances. Another inch, they – and I – could have been so big. Still. They headlined the second stage at the Reading Festival (1994 – not a good year for me). Their first two albums (bruised beauties each) sold 100,000 copies apiece. But they (and I) could have been so much bigger. Big enough so we might have something to tell our children about on cold grey days in Haywards Heath with no electricity and little warmth.

The past is a foreign country. They do things exactly the same there, fucked by the oligarchy and the system and the ever-declining health system and growing older and… I told you this isn’t a good moment to be writing about the return of my early 1990s New York sweethearts, Madder Rose.

They had songs that matched any.

Their songs held fragile, sparking beauty at the heart of the tumult. Songs, like the rain when it’s gorgeous teeming rain transforming the streets of Seattle and Brisbane and New York City, but also the rain when it’s miserable and grinding away at your well-being. Rain. Melancholy. Beauty. A voice and a searing guitar and a killer rhythm section and some gorgeous songs to give your life away for. The Velvet Underground, Shop Assistants, Mazzy Star, Madder Rose. Is there anything better?

I ask that question today and I already know the answer.

Your arms in a wild rotation. Your arms in a wild rotation.

I am so pleased they have returned.


There is an interview here, if you are interested in finding out more.

You can buy the new album here. If you love Madder Rose (or any of the bands I mention here) there is no way you’re not going to love this.

I Lost the War: I wrote this in my head while on a trip to NYC. My girlfriend and I were down to see the Bowie exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum, and we ran into Matt Verta-Ray on Rivington Street. Matt and I talked about doing some songs together, just the two of us, and I tried to write one that might be suitable. I quickly realized that we should include it on the Madder Rose record, instead. A lot of relationships feel like war these days – not just romantic ones, but work and spiritual and financial and political and sexual ones, too. How did everyone get so angry? I’m not sure. Maybe they should listen to this song – surely that will help. Rick had been pointedly suggesting that I put more guitar on the record, so there are nine tracks of it on here. No comment from Rick, as yet. Guess I shoulda’ put ten. Matt on bass – this sounds a lot like we used to, back when we were young and new, when Melody Maker would send Everett True across the sea to ride around with us in our van.
(from the sleeve notes)

How NOT to write about music – 47. Anna St. Louis

Anna St Louis

So. Anna St. Louis. I like this song. I like this performance. I do not know if she is one of my people but these days such a description is so limiting I do not worry about it. She has been compared to Kevin Morby, who sounds like a dreary Leonard Cohen to me. Anna St. Louis does not sound dreary to me. She’s been compared to Dori Freeman, who is way WAY better. (So good in fact that now I cannot stop listening to her.) The comparison seems odd, though. The two ladies do not have so much in common, beyond their genre, I mean gender, and the fact they both play music.

But that’s just me. Not you.

My journey is increasingly leading me towards the mainstream.

I have no objection, I like the feeling of being buffeted and bounced around by forces over which I have no control. I relinquished control a long time back, somewhere around the point my personal life disintegrated, and have no desire to grasp it back any time soon. Or maybe I have? Maybe the winds and tides will shortly buffet me back into a position where I can once more contribute to, and help shape, the dialogue. Right now, though I am a consumer and little more, making the odd piece of tangential commentary and pretending it has value. It’s all good. it’s all good. I am part of the adult world now, no room for the outsider. I suffer from retrophobia which is partly why my focus is so much on the pop charts these days – if I write about something new or novel to others, there is a suspicion it is not new or novel to me. Ariana Grande, though. She is both new and novel to me.

I was the first person in the UK to interview Mazzy Star, you know (and I interviewed them three times in one year) (and they were not good interviews, my fault mainly) (and there is no point to this observation).