Sixty for 60: 2. Black Ends

To celebrate my 60th birthday, I asked my Facebook friends to nominate a favourite song from 2021 – 60 to commemorate the fact I am now 10 years older than Joey Ramone when he died. Enough folk came forward for this to be a realistic basis for a blog series. One disclaimer: I am not going to include music that does not connect with me.

For our second entry, we have a suggestion (one of two) from 5-Track (Zinnia Su) – ‘Low’, from the Stay Evil EP by Black Ends. Some gunk pop from Seattle, WA. Now lissen up and lissen good: I fucking near singlehandedly invented the entity known as “Seattle” – well, me and a couple of other rancid souls – so I feel like I have some kinda fucken stake in tellin’ you what is good and what is not when it comes to music emanating from that fair bloated city and I gotta tell you right now in bold neon capital letters THIS IS THE GOOD SHIT!

You can imagine the neon.

And the bold.

This is so fucking good, in a delirious, woozy, too-much-downers-and-amphetamine-causing-stuffed-noses way that it makes me want to start ANOTHER FUCKEN MAGAZINE just so I can slap this bunch on the front and make a bunch of puns about Cocteau Twins and sunsets and Sesame Street and the abuse of (electrical) power. God damn, this is good. The singer has a lilt in their voice that sounds like they’re laughing half the time; and the other half? Sugar hiccup. It’s always a delight to hear music sung so freely, with such abandon. Me? I need to pull the shutters down and pretend suburbia doesn’t exist if I’m gonna let loose on the piano.

Damn, it makes me so happy to be living in a world where music like this exists. Plasticine monsters and hippie hairdos and long graffitied walls. Delirium and repetition and disorientation and long drawn-out hysterical laughter. Yet there is a sombre undertow, a tingling, a worrying worry behind the abandonment… maybe there always is? Sure, I can hear a little Kristin Hersh in some of this, the way it backs and forth, the restless spirit…. but I can hear a little Kristin Hersh in most all music. This particular song, this particular performance is Mitski good.

As Mariana Timony explains on BandCamp: “It takes several listens to truly appreciate exactly how deep the rabbit hole goes as [Nicolle] Swims’ songs don’t feel written so much as sourced straight from the void, emerging from the ether still covered in gunk and with one eye suspiciously fixed on the real (and real disappointing) world.”

Put it on again! Put it on again! Life really does begin at fucking 60.

How NOT to write about music – 143. Kurt Cobain

16

Here is the original transcript.

Seattle, 1994

I’m walking through an airport, a bag of vinyl records under my arm.

I’m watching the lights sparkle and twinkle over the city of Seattle – my favourite sight in the world – as tears crease down my face, and I’m wishing I was anywhere but.

I’m in a hotel room, incoherent rage coursing through me and just as rapidly dying away again. I make a great show of pouring the remains of my whiskey bottle down the sink but it’s meaningless. “Have you heard the news,” cipher after cipher asks me on the phone. “Have you heard the news?” Oh, is the news important then, all of a sudden?

I’m dully asking the check-in desk whether they have any cheaper flight tickets because I have to get some place and I have to get there now. They find me cheaper flight tickets, half price death special.

I’m talking to my friend Eric on the telephone. He’s in LA and I’m in Ohio, and he’s telling me that he and his party want to meet me at the residence. Need to meet me at the residence. I want to know what to do and he’s telling me that I should go there. Now. I want to know what to do, and in the background behind his airport pay phone I can hear a babble of voices, many raised. He says he’ll send a limousine for me. He says that’s what will happen. I want to know what will happen. He says he’ll send a car for me. He’s in LA and I’m in Cincinnati. We don’t talk about it.

I’m walking through the airport to the departure lounge and Steve’s taken my records from me and I have nothing with me, no hand baggage, just a passport and an old pair of jeans.

I’m in Mark’s apartment and I’m looking at my jeans and saying something about how maybe neither of us care – and he certainly wouldn’t have given a damn – but it feels disrespectful. It’s not raining outside. It’s fucking beautiful and Mark says something about that, about how weather changes moods. I cut my toenail badly, clipping it with an unfamiliar tool. The TV is on momentarily. Loads of sheep baaing in the field. We switch it off.

I’m on the plane and Seattle is twinkling and I want to stay circling the city forever. I think of all the people who’ve met me in Arrivals over the years. No friends are meeting me today, just a chauffeur who refrains from talking. The first time I landed in SeaTac it was snowing so thickly we couldn’t see the ground until the wheels hit the tarmac and even then we couldn’t see the ground. The tears spiral around my face, dried on there by the years. I’m on an airplane going nowhere. I have nothing to listen to.

I’m in a limousine and there seems to be some kind of roadblock up ahead, a scrimmage of reporters and police officers. We’ll never get through that. We’ll have to go round, won’t we? The driver turns round and looks at me, almost for the first time. “That’s our destination, buddy.”

I’m up in a bedroom and people are crying.

I’m standing by a winding staircase, and people are crying and shouting.

I’m hugging myself. I’m talking on the telephone to my mother, wondering how she’s managed to track me down to a telephone booth in an American airport. I’m missing my lost friends, badly.

I’m in a corner, and the opposing factions try and talk to me. I have nothing to say, no bag of records to show everyone to enthuse them with, to make them laugh or something. I have no stories or funny vomiting acts. Mark comes over, and says nothing.

I’m in a hotel bathroom, watching the remains of the bottle disappear down the sink.

I’m standing outside a fast food joint, looking at the sun.

I’m wondering if anyone’s ever going to want to listen to stories again.

Illustration: Vincent Vanoli

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