Sixty for 60: 16. Nightspell

To celebrate my 60th birthday, I asked my social media friends to nominate a favourite song from 2021 – 60 to commemorate the fact I am 60.

Another sleepless night. Another morning when I wake at 4.30am and wonder just how I am going to fill the blank space in between now and when I next see a human being. Another day of knocking around the inside of my house, wondering if other people have lives, friends, stuff they do which makes them happy to be alive. Folk say you shouldn’t let your workplace or your partner define you, but what have I ever been if not defined by my workplace or relationship? We spend more time in this life alone, whatever happens. It’s grey outside, and these days there is a constant humming in my ears – a little like an old computer or fridge ticking over, but constant. I already know what I need. I need some good old school rock’n’roll as She Herself created, some gold old-fashioned rock’n’roll with shiny metallic skirts and bobbing lights and angel wings, guitars that chug and burr, beautiful underplayed harmonies and buzzing guitars, old school like The Breeders and Scarce and those other names I hold dear but increasingly am starting to wonder whether I dreamt through entire decades of my life, a glorious rock’n’roll-drenched dream and soon, very soon, any day now, I am going to wake and discover that I am in fact what I have long suspected myself of being: not a figure to envy or hate or be aware of, but just plain me – a little shy and a little dull and a whole load mediocre. I struggle against these thought patterns near every day, when I allow them in. I try not to allow them in. I cannot listen to old music (music made by ‘indie’ bands in the 80s and 90s and 00s), it makes me too sad. Why would I do that deliberately? So my artificial high, my Joey Ramoney, my drugs fix needs to restart all over again, needs to come from somewhere… needs to come from moments and series like this. Nightspell – Sea of Thieves. This reminds me of my French crush, the increasingly scary Sugar & Tiger, and … it ticks every box I want ticking. For now. It makes me happy without making me sad, lost in the pureness of the moment for 150 brief seconds. Beautiful, bruising, beautiful. I want to play it FUCKING LOUD, but cannot for fear of waking the neighbours.

So fine.

It’s your turn it’s your turn it’s your turn
Listen listen listen
Time is gone this is all this is it
Do you care? Suck all the air
A sense of love is hardly real
It is my life you want to steal
A pirate thief has come for me
My heart is rich with victory
So please stop talking
It my turn it’s my turn it’s my turn
Listen listen listen
There’s no way it’s ok there’s no way
Do you care suck all the air
Swim away swim away swim away swim away
Take anything that you want
Take anything but me

How NOT to write about music – 85. Asea Sool

Asea Sool

I know full well that NO ONE is going to click onto this blog entry – if it ain’t Bruce Springsteen or Joy Division, it ain’t worth a damn – so I thought I would take the opportunity to reprint a thoroughly under-researched article I wrote a few months ago for a French print fanzine.

Oh, wait. First, the music. 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…

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Five songs sung in French that I like, by Everett True

I do not claim these songs to be the greatest.

I do not claim these songs to be representative of my favourite songs sung in French (surely, I would bring in more music from the 1950s and 1960s for that?).

I do not claim these songs to be representative of my taste, in general.

I do not think these songs fill a void.

These songs are simply representative of a desire to turn around some written copy for a friend and knowing that I could never properly research a request like “name my favourite five songs sung in French” (the field is too vast, and my knowledge too limited) I figured it might be better to play to the galleries once more and name a handful of songs that are no so well-known. Except, perhaps they are in this context? Who knows.

THE LIST

  • Michel Polnareff – Love Me Please Love Me
    There is so much that exists within the canon of pop music that I cannot even begin to dream of. There is so much to dream of.
  • Elli et Jacno – Main Dans La Main
    I’m sure it says reams about my age and the year this particular video and song were made, but I find both the song and the way the woman dances oddly alluring. And when I say alluring I mean sexy. Clearly, this is how sex – back when I was a 19-year-old virgin – was defined for me: a tight shiny skirt and a disinterested woman dancing in a way that may or may not be construed as provocative, but she doesn’t care either way, and haircuts that belonged to Moonlighting or somewhere. Noah Taylor shades on the dude. And a clear Serge Gainsbourg influence (not that I would have known that at the time). I guess that’s what happens when you spend your late teens reading superhero comic books. Sigh. As the comment beneath the video on YouTube states, “Every fine woman should also have a rectangular sheet of paper to dance on”.
  • Alizée – J’en Ai Marre (Tubes D’un Jour)
    When the French do pop music, the French really do pop music. Ravishing, in a way the Pet Shop Boys often were. I was infatuated with this song in a way not seen since the heady days of ‘Bonnie And Clyde’ (which is not sung in French, hence disqualified). P.S. the first comment underneath the YouTube video made me giggle uncontrollably for 20 seconds.

Short aside here, but did Nina Simone ever sing anything in French? I know she did. I’d have Karaocake in this list except she sings in English. And I’d have Ruth in here except this list has been limited to a ridiculously short number. Can we include Pascal Comelade’s ukulele-and-balloon instrumental version of ‘I Can’t Control Myself’? Not sung in French but not sung in English either. At the very least, please can we mention his early band, the Young Marble Giants-influenced Fall Of Saigon?
Please?

  • The Wendy Darlings – Elucubrations
    The Wendy Darlings understand – probably not by design, certainly not by committee – what once made Ramones, Comet Gain, Heavenly, Lesley Gore, Shonen Knife, Prolapse, Ramones, Pastels, Skeeter Davis, Buy Off The Bar, Pounding Serfs, Camera Obscura, Concretes, School, Loves, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Huggy Bear, Lulu, Pee Chees, Orange Juice, Ramones, Michel Polnareff, Kenickie, Undertones, Les Calamities, Television Personalities… so great. That petulant glee. That grandstanding twenty-something (thirty-something, forty-something…) refusal to face up to the facts and get on with life, the bounce behind the casually thrown away yeah yeah yeah’s, the laconic grace behind hitting the drums stand-up, the irresistible slide into bratty nostalgia, that schoolyard stomp and schoolyard blam, the ringing jangling guitars, the Phil Spector drums, the boy-girl boy call siren, the laughter, the ennui that exists behind every kid-less Sunday, the late rising, the turbulence, the joy of discovery and rediscovery and discovery, eyes still wide open even though the world keeps telling you to close them, close them tight shut, the voice of adulthood vainly trying to admonish but totally ignored, Brighton beach in the early hours of the morning, racing around Olympia throwing snowballs at fire hydrants, the falling apart and laughing…
  • Sugar & Tiger – Henri /Noël Christmas
    I’m a sucker for a certain type of continental power pop. Full throttle. A little bit Chin Chin, a little bit Die Toten Hosen, a little bit Elli et Jacno. Rama lama. Solid. A beating heart. Songs start, continue, end. Listener left with MASSIVE GRIN on his face. Typing CAPITAL LETTERS.

The purest encapsulation of everything I LOVE about pop music RIGHT HERE. God, I want to see all these artists and performers play live SO MUCH.

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Here is some Asea Sool again. I was going to throw in a compendium of comments left on my ‘Ed Sheeran Is Shit’ YouTube video but then realised no one would see them.

And here. Have a little bonus Crayola Lectern as well.

This post has something for everyone, except Bruce Springsteen fans. It’s a right fucking shame no one is going to click on it.

How NOT to write about music – 65. The Vanilla Milkshakes

punching cows

We all need some punk rock in our lives.

Denver band The Vanilla Milkshakes ask “why do you even want me as a friend” and quite frankly that is a ridiculous question because they are simply the greatest punk rock band in this world this side of Amyl and the Sniffers (Australia) and Sugar & Tiger (France) and a handful of others whose names I really cannot be bothered to try and remember. Blam! I play their new 11-song 34-minute album Punching Cows once, and it makes me so happy, grabbing at the stars. Nasally. I play their new album twice and blam! I am left smiling all over my face.

Five reference points

  • Jack Endino recording Bleach (Kurt’s old amp was used for the entirety of Punching Cows; as was Jack himself)
  • Ramones’ first three albums channeling the Ronettes and Beach Boys
  • Sesame Street
  • The K tattoo on Kurt Cobain’s arm
  • One of those killer gay ramalama punk bands from the early 2000s

And…! Blam. Still wreathed in smiles. Still happy. Still thinking that maybe the world is a decent and fun place after all. Still up for it. “It’s OK to exclude me,” they sing. “All I’ll do is complain.” You’d be foolish to, however. The Vanilla Milkshakes grasp everything that makes (male) punk rock so invigorating – a little naivety here, a little amateurism there, some infectious energy right over there – and, blam! Still smiling, still happy.

 

“We just said suck it and went to Seattle and emptied our savings into making this all happen. Also, if you can find the cookie crumb trail, you too can get Jack Endino to mix or master your work. He’s cheaper than you’d think. :-)”

Damn, this is fun. ‘Green And Sober’ is my favourite, all those smart interlinking harmonies and chugging guitars. I’d sing it for you but why bother with that when you could hear the guys themselves sing it? Go check the Bandcamp and buy the record.

Such gushing fandom doesn’t usually work, incidentally – it usually takes you to a grey OK wanna-love-this-but-don’t place you’d rather not visit. For some reason, and I sure as fuck don’t know why, it totally works with Punching Cows.

Jack Endino is amazing! It’s coming out digitally April 1st! It’s gonna get lots of press too.
We all played on super expensive equipment too! (One guitar was $3,000 and the other was $80).
I recorded all the guitars on the amp Kurt Used on Bleach and most of Incesticide!!! AND with Calvin Johnson’s distortion pedal! 😃
We hope you like it.

I got home. I was tired, grumpy, just wanted to sleep. I played The Vanilla Milkshakes’ album instead. It made me very happy. Thank you.