Posts from 16th July 2002

16
Jul 02

The Stockholm Monsters

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EVERY TIME IT HAPPENS IT HAPPENS SO FAST

A hot Friday night, Summer 1985. Inertia everywhere – there’s not a lot left here for me, in 6 weeks I’ll be gone, leaving for London. But tonight something special – Factory Records are in town and everyone I know is crackling with anticipation. I bunked off work and got there early, drinking with the France brothers and Shan Hira. Gradually everyone assembles – D and S over there in the corner talking to a couple of roadies, E at the bar. F enters with a brief shimmy of the Ian Curtis dead fly dance, nods at the Monsters and picks up a pool cue. The buzz is that Hooky will drop by to do the sound or something.

Meanwhile, while hammering back the Special Brew, I’m looking out for her. Thus far I’ve screwed the whole thing up oh, sixteen or seventeen times. Spent too long honing my two world-class talents of saying the wrong thing and not noticing what’s under my very nose until it’s gone. Ah shit, she’ll show up, have another pint.

What’s so great about the Stockholm Monsters anyway? It’s this – there are no layers of style to get in the way, no third-hand signifiers to get in the way of the process. Because there’s no dirty great ball and chain to drag around, The Monsters get to punch home the point time after time without needing to worry if their hair looks good, or how they fit in. There’s no effort wasted in saying ‘Look, we’re doing this’ or ‘This is what we’re about’, they just DO it, and that’s why it goes straight to the heart. That’s why it hurts. Has a band ever responded better to the challenges that Vic Godard laid down in ‘Ambition’ and ‘A Different Story’? No learned rock and roll moves here – ‘Alma Mater’ is a pure hit of the strong stuff, a record to make you SHIVER. A shifting bass-line, THAT voice, a muted trumpet in the distance and you’re lost for ever.

It’s been said that The Smiths cut through to the heart of the matter like this, but I don’t think so. You can peel back Morrissey’s carefully constructed layers for ever and find yet more artifice. Listen to the first two singles and you’ll know all there is to know about how Morrissey’s world has been fashioned, but you’ll never get a glimpse of Morrissey himself. You’ll just see yourself in a mirror looking back. With the Monsters it’s all out there for you, all on the surface and it’s more than you can take.

Where was I? Oh yes, back then. ‘Everything’s wrong, Everything’s Wrong/I Understand Where I Belong’ swirls over me – a ride in a rattling rollercoaster – peaks of euphoria, troughs of despair. Lost in music, too far gone to resist, punch after punch, head spinning. I don’t remember exactly what they played, only that they were giants – effortlessly great. She turned up alright -late. Late and beautiful. We walked a tightrope of drunken possibilities – back to yours, back to mine? Neither actually, I ended up walking the streets in the small hours again and guess whose music was playing in my head.

December 1st 2001 – it’s my 40th birthday party. Sixteen years on and I haven’t learned much – I still drink too many, too fast, too often. This time she was early. ‘It could’ve been me’ she said as we stepped outside and kissed. God, it’s hard enough to keep things together without having your life rewind and get real like this. And now those bastards at LTM have re-issued Alma Mater and more. I suppose the best way to describe it is to admit that I’m completely fucked. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Dr C