How NOT to write about music – 135. Porridge Radio

Porridge Radio

Wow.

I think that from now on, I am only going to write about Porridge Radio on this blog – fuck everything else, it all pales into insignificance next to Dana and her merry band of mischief-creators and her impetus. I refuse to be sidetracked by mannequins and remembrances of dolewave, Alison Moyet covering songs from Grease or past feuds with musicians who long ago forgot my name. We are on the eve of war, my friend. We are on the eve of war. This is my vow, my pledge of allegiance and if by necessity this means simply repeating everything I have said before when I was far more erudite and revealing (now my joints creak and my bones wane and I do not flex charm) then so be it. I have no fresh words for you, no ways of extolling enthusiasm and wonderment and desire beyond one word. Wow.

Wow.

Wow.

Wow.

I do not choose to live my life viscerally and am still holding on to the idea that at some point I may not need to but right now I need to. Her line, “My mum says I look like a nervous wreck because I bite my nails right down to the flesh” – who hasn’t lived that? Her line, “And I used to ashamed until I learned I love the game and I slowly move away from everything I knew about me” and her line, “You will like me when you meet me (x4)/You might even fall in love” – who hasn’t lived that. This is how I have been feeling for so many years now, feel right now, probably will always feel – mainly because I refuse to believe anyone could ever love or even like me. I am charming! I am sweet! STOP THE FUCK IT.

I am living viscerally.

This is Brisbane and this is Brighton and this is a reality and this is everything, all captured in just under four minutes and all I could do it hit repeat and all I can do is hit repeat and all I want to do is hit repeat and all I ever do is hit repeat and all I do is think … the difference between 1991 and 1995 was a lifetime, but the difference between November 2015 (when i first saw Porridge Radio) and January 2020 (now ) is 1460 nights in.

I notice something increasingly about my coverage of Porridge Radio:

  1. It becomes more impenetrable by the sentence.
  2. I focus on the words. But I NEVER focus on the words.

What the fuck is going on here?

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.

ESHBIT D

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.

ESCHBUT E
“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.

EXHIBIT F
I think that from now on, I am just going to write about Porridge Radio and Porridge Radio alone on this blog – fuck everything else, it all pales into insignificance next to Dana and her merry band of mischief-creators and her impetus. I refuse to be sidetracked by mannequins and remembrances of dolewave, Alison Moyet covering songs from Grease or past feuds with musicians who long ago forgot my name. We are on the eve of war, my friend. This is my vow, my pledge of allegiance and if by necessity this means simply repeating everything I have said before (because I was far more erudite and revealing before; now my joints creak and my bones wane and I cannot flex charm) then so be it. I have no fresh words for you, no new ways of extolling enthusiasm and wonderment and desire.

EXHIBIT G
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 H
Greatest show of 2018, no denying.

My thoughts are disjointed, even for me. How do you capture moonlight in a jar? Semi-linked observations clutter my semi-consciousness: half the crowd dancing like they’re dream-walking through a Kate Bush video to Suburban Death Twitch; a random comment on Twitter (“That’s all the thoughts I had last night. I was too busy being aware that I could see Everett True dancing to process any other information”); The Legend! band described as “bonkers” by a passing piano-teacher; a female comedian outside raving and raving about a semi-improvised shouty sweary number detailing disgust for train rides performed on stage; Chris pointing out that the singer of Vital Idles looks like Lauren might when she grows up; noise and clatter and what-how; another (less random) observation from the same person on Twitter (I’m nicking this one because it’s a good ‘un): “Suburban Death Twitch: if Victoria Wood and Tamsin Greig formed Belle and Sebastian in 1982″; Emily from SBT telling a killer anecdote about how she came over all faint when she spotted Dana from Porridge Radio in the club earlier because “I’ve literally played her album every day for the last year” and stating how she’ll never be dismissive of someone being thrilled at the sight of Paul Simon leaving a hairdressers (check) again; entranced watching Dana so casual and intense and in control and questioning and brilliant and looped and (reminding me of myself) dark during her performance; Suburban Death Twitch magical and blowsy and theatrical and full of songs disenchanted people of all ages can relate to and lose themselves within, killer choruses too, especially the sea-shanty one about “you can take all your clothes off/if it makes you feel younger/if it makes you feel stronger” (check) , not just people my and their age (they are much younger than me); watching so many people dancing and loving watching all these people dancing; Vital Idles sharp  and angular and angry in a passive-aggressive way, five times as loud as everyone else what with drums and all, the bass Devo-questioning and the guitar clipped and truncated and ow!; one dude from the Scots band saying earlier we’re the best three bands they’ve played with all tour (damn straight, I mean… seriously? Who the fuck could compete with three of the fucking finest four or five bands in Brighton?); The Legend! band (Chris, Maria: sax and violin and loops) is about the serious moonlight and the modern dance, the softest numbers are the angriest and the most offensive the quietest… and,..

EXHIBIT J
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

Everett True’s favourite 40 songs of 2019

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…or not. I have no real way of knowing.

These are in no particular order. Not all of them came out this year. And yes, of course I have missed loads.

1. Grimes – We Appreciate Power
You know how rare it is they play death metal on the Radio One breakfast show? How can this NOT be my jam? Submit. Submit. You have any idea of the shit I have to wade through just to get to one good slalom? My only regret about my job at BIMM London is that I don’t get to wear latex bodysuits 24-7. That, and the tiredness.

2. Billie Eilish – Bury A Friend
I have this on constant repeat and it races round my head on a loop of delight and discovery. It is playful, it teases but it is also maudlin and it depresses. It is conflicted, confused. I love conflicted, confused. That is my main jam in life. Feeling conflicted. Such a natural pace and rhythm and timing. The way it stops and then jolts awake. The way it jolts awake and then screams silently and then stops and then runs away and then loops around once more. The way it falls asleep. The Way It Keeps You In The Dark. We all fall asleep. We all feel excited and depressed and maudlin and charged simultaneously. We all like to be playful with our darkest spirits. We all crush. We all crash. We call crush.

3. The Specials – Vote For Me
The story goes that, right at the height of Tricky’s first flush of fame, the notoriously moody trip-hop pioneer was flown first-class to Seattle to DJ. He showed up with a copy of the Specials’ first album under his arm, nothing else. “Er, that’s lovely Tricky,” stuttered the nervous club owner, “but where’s the rest of your records?”

“This is it,” came the reply. “It’s all you need.”

4. The 1975 – Love It If We Made It
I’m increasingly of the opinion that The 1975 are the greatest rock band in the world right now. (Note: define rock.) (Note: I am using the traditional (male) definition here because of course there is no way that the greatest rock band in the world right now are male.) This 1975 song reminds me of XTC circa ‘Senses Working Overtime’. (Note: it sounds nothing like it.) (Note: I am talking about the way the vocals have been treated, and the modulations, the pauses for breath. Not the content.) Between this and the new Billie Eilish one, it can be quite exciting listening to the Radio One Breakfast Show these days. Fact of the matter is: politics, sex, a sense of belonging. Fact of the matter is: jarring, explosive, political, not pandering. Fact of the matter is: passionate.

5. Robert Forster – Inferno (Brisbane in Summer)
NOT TO SELF, BUT TO ALL OF YOU: splurgy-troth brilliance. Place on repeat, let the lyrics and the pronunciation and the guitars soak through you 20 times, the insistent two-note piano, and then start playing it for real. For real, man. For real. I fucking wish fucking YouTube didn’t keep taking me through to Sharon Van fucking Etten at the song’s end however. Do YOU remember the winter at all?

Look at the way the man dances with his mower! Look at him.

6. Sleaford Mods – Kebab Spider
Don’t need to describe this, surely. Fucken blast of fucken fresh air on a delayed 7.15 back home from Guildford, shit cycle ride home.

7. Nilüfer Yanya – In Your Head

“Dang she’s pretty,” comments one Guardian reader picking up on one of the undeniably least interesting aspects of both the music and video.

  • Why the fuck does YouTube keep trying to force me to listen to Sharon Van Etten?

You want comparisons, reference points? OK.

  • ANY FEMALE ARTIST WHO IS CONSIDERED VAGUELY LEFT-FIELD AND PLAYS GUITAR BECAUSE GOD KNOWS THERE ARE ONLY TWO OF THEM

8. Dave – Black
Apologies. This should have gone up a few weeks ago. My only excuse is that I was too gobsmacked at hearing this played on the… pause for emphasis… Radio One Breakfast Show. What can I say? Just listen to the man.

9. Her’s – Harvey
So beautiful, so delicate, so fun. So naive. So wonderful. There is so much to love about their music, and so much to mourn. I am so sorry I never heard Her’s before now. Usually I go online to check out the latest news in Culture about Billie Eilish, and wonder quite how much I love her. This reminds me of Kings Of Convenience playing a starstruck show at Duke of York’s, early 2000s and my continued love affair with the debut Aztec Camera album. Music for melancholia-stricken teenagers.  These are my people. I know them even if I never met them, and I am sorry that they are no longer with us.

10. SOPHIE – Ponyboy
OMG (etc_). How did this pass me by (etc_)? Big SHOUT OUT to Cindy Stern on FB (etc_). Shades of TG, BK, CXCX, BE and CV (etc). OMG (etc_). Epilepsy-inducing (etc_), not always. Wonderful, near always (etc_). PC Music (etc_). Innovative, inventive, solipsistic, lipstick, terrifying, blunt, fluid, challenging (etc_). None of the above (etc_).

11. The Membranes – A Strange Perfume
No reason, but this feels important. Doubtless my 23-year-old self would disagree with me – he always was a cantankerous bastard – but I feel that out of seemingly nowhere The Membranes have made the greatest album of their career. (Let’s not call it a career, eh?) Of their lives. I would go over the recent review I wrote about it for Classic Rock, and dwell on each and every word, but. Do not take my word for it. This is high praise, from me, from my former self certainly. I had a couple of main noise bands in the 1980s – UT, The Birthday Party, Membranes, Sonic Youth – and one of them has returned after a near three-decade gap and made the greatest album of their lives. (It’s their second in recent years, and the other was almost equally as fine.) Playing out of their skins. Literally. So good, all I can do is gape at the hollowness inside my hollow inside and wonder why some of my friends are so great at growing old while others (well, me) are so crap. Pain, humiliation, death – this is all that life promises me as I edge closer towards 60. Not for John Robb and his merry bunch of swaggering, dissolute reprobates though.

12. Clinic – Rubber Bullets
When did Clinic get to be this good?

Or were they always?

13. Jarv Is – Must I Evolve?
What reason is there not to love this? Unless you are a child, and not into inebriation. Unless you are a parent and not flirting with authentication. Unless you are a cunt and too built on world domination. Unless you are a wizard and have no need for sophistication. Unless you are a water-gatherer and realise the futility of masturbation. Unless you are a sheep in search of mastication. Unless you are a rabbit caught up in fornication. Unless you are a chat show host built on degradation. Unless you are a Time Lord set loose on some deep space station. Salvation. Intoxication. Menstruation.

There is no reason not to love this.

14. Tropical Fuck Storm – You Let My Tyres Down
Whiny, maleficent malcontents. Bruising, beautiful brawlers. Out of tune, out of time, dissonant and a glorious sprawl of ugly loose-ends and shimmering dissonance. Anger, isolation, fuck you attitudinal beauty. Drug-fueled inertia. Disgust and disillusionment given vent in a way no male American rock band has managed in two decades now. Jesus, this is so good. Jesus, this makes me feel so homesick – no not for fucking Brisbane but for my core city of Melbourne with all its rain-washed grimy streets and sun-burnt rock formations in the middle of the fucking beyond. Jesus, this makes me want to tackle that fucking right hand turn single-handed. Jesus, this makes me want to drink and brawl and fuck and fight and argue loudly with whoever the fuck comes into the vicinity, and go twirling round numerous beer-soaked dance-floors and laugh at that fucking excuse of a beard on your face. Jesus, but this is glorious even if the dweebs do round off the song about 10 minutes too early, just as it’s getting going and becoming Coloured Balls epic. Fuck death and depression when there is shit like this still happening, still being created out there in the world.

15. Otoboke Beaver – Don’t Light My Fire
Overwhelming consensus demands that I feature this extreme noise terror from Japan. I do not have the slightest problem with that, indeed can only stand a few feet back from the action in a respectful daze and applaud with all my might.

16. Fontaines D.C. – Too Real
I feel like I am stepping into a time warp.

It ain’t that it don’t feel real. (It do.) It ain’t that the guitars don’t blister and scour and bleed annoyance and aggravation everywhere they turn. (They do.) It ain’t that this Dublin group ain’t intelligent and sassy: Sleaford Mods smart. (They is.) It’s ain’t that their songs boast a heavy narrative rarely seen outside grime and hip-hop, and that their music boasts a heavy swagger and cleansing grace rarely heard outside the music of Sonic Youth and another group who aren’t Sonic Youth. (They do.) It certainly ain’t that these lads don’t take a heavy pride in their heritage coupled with equal disgust and distrust. It ain’t that (intriguingly) this group have the potential to turn into something horrendous by the time they come to release their third album (let those radio programmers and Spotify drones get their hands on this beauty).

It ain’t any of that.

17. Taylor Swift – Lover
It’s in her swagger, the sweeping gestures, the…

18. Asea Sool – Sunshine
I do not deny I do not know even the first thing about Asea Sool, even who recommended the band to me. I just know what I love, and I fucking love  this. “British rock’n’roll, US delta blues, French chansons and Georgian folk,” they reckon – and that sounds about right. This music has got this otherness that is so hard to fake (very nice scream, too) – sure, I can hear elements of British and American rock and pop music in this duo’s other songs, but to me that is the least interesting aspect of their sometimes unhinged, often contrary sound. And that is why this next song is my favourite. That, and its untrammeled infectious energy…

19. Little Mix – Bounce Back
When I first heard this song, I was underwhelmed, but the more I do not concentrate on it, the more it grows on me. I already know that in five years (10 years, two months) time if I hear this song again by chance, a small pleasure circuit in my brain will light up and I’ll be like, “Now, who is this again…?” Hear it enough times now, and it might even stick with me that it’s Little Mix channeling Soul II Soul (a song that Little Mix had never heard of before it was brought to their attention by their songwriting team) and I’ll be able to momentarily show off my limited knowledge of pop music 2019. Like I say, this is neither here nor there. If I don’t concentrate on this song I really like this song. And if I do? Well, nadir.

20. Lizzo – Juice
None of them compare to, “I want you to sing this song like it’s fucking YOURS, like it belongs to you and you only” and Lizzo’s society-crumbling flute. The crowd make it. Absolutely. Music has never been just about the performance, it has always been about the reception as well. But obv it does not hurt one bit if the performer is total 1970s soul sister-style inspirational…

21. Stormzy – Vossi Bop
Glacial melting in Antarctica may become irreversible
Glacial melting in Antarctica may become irreversible
Glacial melting in Antarctica may become irreversible
Glacial melting in Antarctica may become irreversible
Glacial melting in Antarctica may become irreversible
Glacial melting in Antarctica may become irreversible

Love this song.

22. No Sister – My New Career
It bothers me that I have never attained the level in my writing style where I can be direct without being dull.

  • I have no idea what you’re thinking.
  • This is way better than you think it is, however good you think it is.

It bothers me that when I try to capture beauty I usually end up bruising it. This one line from the band themselves: No Sister’s upcoming release is an acknowledgement of an elemental, unavoidable creative facet: influence: is brilliant. Hemmed-in, but with the creative freedom such acknowledgment brings.

Building on the shoulders of giants. This is a billowing, bruised beauty – isolation and solace and the echo of late night footsteps receding. So fine. You don’t have to believe me. Just play the song over and over again, thinking of me playing the song over and over again, grappling to articulate emotions the closer I get to the further they slip away.

23. Little Simz – Venom
Rage. Where’s the rage? Hard to rage in the midst of this heat. Far easier to seek escape, let someone else do the worrying. Rage. Life’s fucked but it’s all we’ve got. You feel entitled? You shouldn’t. You really shouldn’t.

24. Beyoncé – Spirit
I do not want to dissect, discuss Beyoncé, or her music. I do not want to be that critic sat at a bar pretending that on any level I am the equal of the artist. I do not want to dispel the magic. I often tell my students then when I step on stage – i.e. when I stand up to start another class – I picture myself walking down the steps, performing the intro to ‘Crazy In Love’. That’s what I aspire to, anyway. There’s a swagger. An insouciant joy. My love for Beyoncé’s music goes way beyond that though, keeps changing and mutating with the times. Homecoming was mind-blowing enough. This new one is pure magic, especially considering the source material. I want to be Beyoncé, not to know her or write about her. Simply be her.

25. Mabel – Don’t Call Me Up
I’ve never been able to keep up. I have always been overwhelmed by the volume of alternatives available within my own limited spheres of music. I don’t even listen much to anything outside of pop music these days (define that how you like) and I still can’t keep up. No, it ain’t my age. No, it ain’t my distance. I have a distinct gender bias to the music I listen to, have had for years now – and I still can’t keep up. My sources, my connections, are frayed and splitting at the ends but still I can’t keep up. Sure, I no longer am paid to listen – but honestly? You reckon that was ever the motivating factor? People like to argue among themselves which was the best year for music. Is it 2019? they ask themselves. Is it 2018? Will it be 2020? Most certainly. The bewilderment, the profusion of riches and charm and seduction grows with each passing month, as does the backlog. I am continually surprised, seduced, captivated by music new to me – the most intoxicating drug of all, it lifts you to a far greater high than alcohol or friendship or heroin. Not that I’d know – right? That new Taylor Swift single, OMFG! Like Taylor Swift with some Miley, some Mazzy, some Lana Del Rey rolled in. Who doesn’t love music like this? I cannot keep being fixated on the same thousand or so artists though. (Why not?) These years, I have to Google to discover whether I’ve even written about someone or not.

Mabel. I haven’t written about Mabel yet. Johnson fuck, what am I thinking? Here she is. Quick! Better than ANYTHING I’ve heard before. No, really. I hear so many harmonies, so many echoes, so many anxieties, so many possibilities, so many futures and pasts, futures and pasts in her music. Mainstream shit, right? Man alive. Just the odd 120 million listeners or so ahead of me.

26. Georgia – Never Let You Go
This is boss. This is banging. This is heavy metal. This is my frontal ear lobe, distorted out of shape by the sullen repetitive beats. This is Cristina. This is a (train) ride to nowhere. This is one too many late nights out spent shimmering in a dislocated spotlight, propped up by the bravado brought on by too much alcohol. This is knowledge. This is fantasy. This is a conversation backstage at the Falls Festival in 2008, knowing that whatever happens next will change everything. This is Robyn. This is a pulse, pulse, pulse beat. Moving towards the pulse beat. Moving towards the pulse beat. This is a beauty not dimmed by frequency or repetition but brightened, made more elusive and enticing. This is hope against the grey. This is the pair of you – all of you – fighting over my knees. This is disorientation. This is the roof of the Notre Dame Cathedral, a busted closed door, nothing between us and oblivion except that jutting-out gargoyle. This is Giorgio Moroder. This is smart dance. This is a nonstop erotic cabaret. This is the beginning and the end and the whole and the moment, and the feeling of hanging lost, suspended in time. This is Georgia.

Dancing is always smart.

27. Tones And I – Dance Monkey
If you’re looking for more straight-up euphoric pop…

28. Jad Fair and Kramer – Some Things Last A Long Time
I’m sorry. I should have been there. I don’t know how it would have been possible and I am scared to venture outside the parameters of my day-to-day existence these days, scared to cross the road, but somehow I should have been there. Jad’s guitar on the following… more even than the beautiful harmonies and keyboards – sum up how I feel. The confusion, the blur of emotions. The futility. The beauty. The distortion.

29. Richard Dawson – Jogging
“It’s very good but it feels a bit bleak” – Howard Monk

“It’s a bit Chav mystic” – Jo Kendall

“It’s almost like a cry for help, isn’t it?” – Howard Monk

“Sleaford Mods mixed with Psychic TV” – Jo Kendall

“This is like Complaints Choirs with the melody removed” – Jerry Thackray

“Music that pushes you close to the edge” – Howard Monk

“This is my life!” – Jerry Thackray

30. Kim Gordon – Sketch Artist
If this was from Radiohead, you’d all be wetting yourselves it’s so fucken good. Dissonant. Danceable. Delirious. More fucked-up poetry from the queen of fucked-up poetry.

31. Baby Rose – All To Myself
I have not felt this way since Amy.

Just listen.

32. Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds – Ghosteen
VERSION THREE
Would he have got five-star reviews whatever he produced? I mean, whatever.

VERSION FOUR
Walker, Cohen, Cash, C.S Lewis… fill in your own. I don’t know what I’m doing here really, but I am so happy that Nick Cave exists in my world. “Try to imagine nothing,” Isaac once said to me when he was 4 or 5. “You can’t.” The question most folk address is what happens when we’re dead, but really it should be what happens before we’re born. This life seems a fucking rotten one, most the time.

EPILOGUE
Around 23.05, I started crying. Thirty seconds later, I had to switch the music off.

33. Chromatics – On The Wall
Just like honey. Simply thrilled. Gorgeous. The Mary Chain always were their own worst enemy. Don’t bother going back to listen to the original. It has already been spoiled for all eternity.

34. Hurtling – E Flat One
The press release also calls it alt. rock but this if this is alt. rock then it is alt. rock from those wonderful five seconds when alt. rock was not a dirty word. In places, this is Bitch Magnet good.

Listen to this one, and hey fuck yeah. I’m still Everett True bitch and I ain’t dead yet.

35. Låpsley & DJ Koze – Operator
You may be wondering to yourself what genre this scintillating 12-inch slice of extended disco belongs to. Well, let me set your mind to rest right now.

It’s disco.

Disco, baby.

Disco disco disco disco.

Disco disco disco disco disco.

D-I-S-C-O (but no, not disco like that).

36. Flowdan – Welcome To London
Neil Kulkarni: Jerry Thackray my only point of disagreement here is the notion this is outside yr comfort zone. You’ve been writing about this kind of music for decades. Plus anyone struggling in modern England has a right to this record and a say cos it’s one of the few things this year to nail things so sharply x

37. FKA twigs – Home With You
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.

38. Purple Mountains – All My Happiness Is Gone
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.

39. Porridge Radio – Lilac
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

40. Kanye West – God Is
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.

Apologies. Missed this one.

41. Dua Lipa – Don’t Start Now

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

10 Least Read Entries on How NOT To Write About Music

Robyn

1. How NOT to write about music – 2. Mango
By any interpretation you choose to take, Mango rock. It ain’t the kind of rock I sometimes throw your way, no denying – no heavy kick-ass metallic chundering guitars or chundering kick-ass heavy drums or that shit: but the words are enunciated and stretched out at volume with a velocity and fierceness that offsets the jazz-tinged funk with a pleasing counter. (See the way there I smartly separated the two genres?) I don’t really understand the quiet bits but I never really understand the quiet bits, although I do like the way they sound tentative, nervous, concerned they may be out of order.

2. How NOT to write about music – 22. (reprinted from 2015)
I wanted to give something back. So I started writing about music, trying to convert everyone to my cause. Even early on – especially early on – I knew that was a futile quest, but that made it all the more fun. If I didn’t think I could change the world through my writing I wouldn’t be doing it, even now. Especially now. I want to communicate the emotion, the rampant emotions that lead me to dance. I want to make everyone else dance. I barely go out to concerts these days – perhaps one every couple of months – but that’s still the case. I still want to make everyone dance. I still want to change the world. These years, I’m whistling in a wind tunnel, pissing in the billowing ocean.

3. How NOT to write about music – 21: Robyn
Robyn, Robyn, Robyn! Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn! Robyn, Robyn. Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn. Robyn, Robyn, Robyn! Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn! Robyn, Robyn. Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn. Robyn, Robyn, Robyn! Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn! Robyn, Robyn. Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn. Robyn, Robyn, Robyn! Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn! Robyn, Robyn. Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn. Robyn, Robyn, Robyn! Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn! Robyn, Robyn. Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn. Robyn, Robyn, Robyn! Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn! Robyn, Robyn. Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn. Robyn, Robyn, Robyn! Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn! Robyn, Robyn. Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn. Robyn, Robyn, Robyn! Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn! Robyn, Robyn. Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn.

4. How NOT to write about music – 20. Snail Mail
I got banned from the Crocodile Cafe in Seattle after a Hatfield gig. A few years earlier, I engaged in a Manhattan street spat with Matador Records founder Gerard Cosloy (who know who was chasing who?). Handbags at dawn. Matador, being the home of Snail Mail. Bittersweet with the emphasis on… nah. Let’s not go down that path. Everything is perfect in our imperfect world. Heaven, heaven is a place where nothing ever happens. Something to do with a distrust of the outside world. This music resonates the way this music has always resonated in my world. Makes me think of late night/early morning Sydney taverns.

5. How NOT to write about music – 5. Eminem
Shortly as I was coming up the final approach to Haywards Heath, a new track started up. Didn’t pay too much attention, then I started getting into the nasty-ass lyrics and obstructionist worldview, the steady flow of invective, the aggressive double-speed rap and… damn, I was just loving the flow. I sat there in the car outside my house, engine running, lights on, neighbours beginning to peer out their windows, while the track built inexorably to its cussed climax. I wanted to know who it was (although it was clearly Eminem). I wanted to know what it was. The volume kept building. The invective kept flowing. Damn, it shook my late Thursday evening up.

6. How NOT to write about music – 13. Kate Nash (part two)
If  I was to write a review of the 2018 Kate Nash album Yesterday Was Forever – and it seems unlikely at this stage, I mean why would I? – this is what I would do. Brainstorm, take notes. Collect my scattered impressions of the music and its surrounding context into some form of list which I would then check off as I start to write the piece. Usually I do not even do this as the list forms and takes shape as I am writing… but I am trying to document the process here.

7. How NOT to write about music – 23: Johnny Cash
This Johnny Cash song… oh fuck. This Johnny Cash song I heard a few nights back when I was watching the tail-end of an OK if somewhat overdone (in terms of violence and its own self-importance) movie about a tired mutant nearing the end of his life. I do not know which inspired genius decided to place it right there, at the film’s end: it did not complement the film content – instead it threw the entire movie into stark relief, showed it up for what it was, storytelling that resonates for only as long as the flickering images are there in front of your eyes (like life itself, I guess). You think generations of male filmmakers and storytellers, from Tarantino and Eastwood onward, through Peaky Blinders and the rest of the Game Of Thrones shebang, have not been trying (and failing) to duplicate what Johnny Cash does with such ease here, over the course of a few sparse lines and inflections…

8. How NOT to write about music – 16: Porridge 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.

9. How NOT to write about music – 15: Ed Sheeran
It isn’t so much that Ed Sheeran is shit, when it comes down to it – but the culture that enables him, and through constant use of repetition and reinforcement encourages the general population to believe that his music has some worth or value… You can still buy the book if you want. I have plenty of copies left. Paypal £13 (UK)/£16 (EU)/£20 (rotw) to ramonesfan79@yahoo.co.uk

10. How NOT to write about music – 3. Marianne Faithfull
OK. Here’s a fast pop quiz for anyone interested. Keep a track of the news stories and first reviews running around ‘The Gypsy Faerie Queen’ and Negative Capability – see how many quote word-for-word from the press release in the paragraph above. That is not music criticism or evaluation. That is simple laziness, plagiarism. Yet this is what gets called music criticism the world over.

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.