19
Jul 13

Charli XCXorcism

FT//7 comments • 303 views

I need to stop listening to this damn album, so I’m writing in this ever expanding box on the internet, the geography of the mind map I find myself  in. Just in the hope that I can move on – just a little – to the next grid reference. I feel sorry for poor Little Boots and even Rudimental who only got a couple of weeks before relegation to listening time’s opportunity cost.Charli_XCX_-_True_Romance

Every now and then an album digs its many hooks into me and just gloms on and drags me through a cycle of compulsive listening, through a trough of listening and hating-that-I’m-listening-to-it to to the exclusion of all else, and through to the other side to a place where I can consider leaving it, maybe a week, before coming back later with an ‘oh, yes this IS still awesome’. During that, listening out of order is hard (such an album rockist), and the point where I’m skipping around is the point where I know I’m on the voyage home to sanity.

This mania happened to me most recently with the Nero album (yeah, what of it?) but not as intensely (I found quite a few tracks on it patchy in the end), and I have to go back to when I lost all perspective over Late of the Pier (2008, 9?).

Which I think was also the last time I went to a gig (thinks again that doesn’t sounds right, wait there was that Scooter gig). And I did get to the point with Charli of hovering over a BUY button for an Islington Academy gig a few weeks back now. I had to stop myself, because then it started to feel creepy.

The Late of the Pier gig I felt conspicuous in because I was basically surrounded by the cast of Skins taking mobile phone photos of each other in various faux-snogging poses. But once the music was playing it didn’t bother me, and they made no more metaphorical impact on me until I was literally impacting on them during an aggressive shit-losing dance to Focker. (I so wanted to apologise, but that would have been really old man of me) . And the band was all boys, and (being male and straight) it felt OK for  me to be gazing in awe of  these young men and the music they were performing.

I recall the point when I started being older than the bands I liked – and that was 20 years ago (hello Ride, Ash, Altern-8). So yes that makes me old for a gig goer – and that would be OK if I went to the gigs of the bands I grew up with. There’s a little pre-gig game checking out the demographics of such gigs, and how they’d shifted and expanded and receded. (The Scooter gig was particularly randomly sorted and hilarious on this front.)

Anyway, I’m not a music journo with a ready-made excuse card saying ‘talk to the commission cos the social awkwardness ain’t listening’, and so following through the thought of buying a ticket for a gig to watch a very young woman, I cowed myself out. In the 5 years since LotP I’ve crossed from late 30s to early 40s, and thus also into a self-imposed propriety no-go era.

So rather than dwell on the fact that I’m DEFINITELY NOT CREEPY, this takes me instead to the place that these songs (like of the Rides and Ashes 20 years previously) were being written by a person at an age where I was cruising unstretched through my A-levels and pirating games for the ZX-Spectrum. And it still astounds me that someone can be so accomplished and driven at such a young age, and I have, in comparison, wasted my life faffing about with computers (that’s actually what it says on my CV).

If I reach back for artists I like in the same solo-female category (sorry Ride and Ash), working great stuff at that age there’s PJ Harvey, Bjork, and then further back Kate Bush – and this highlights one big difference, with these artists – lyrical ‘simplicity’. It’s a criticism of deficiency I’d be unsurprised to hear being made, but one I think I’m going to try and deflect or at least knock some edges off. Though as lyrics have, for me, always come in a distant second in coming to love the musical output of an artist, it’s not going to be a strong defence.

The content of the songs on this album are direct – there’s a beguiling apparent lack of guile. That’s my defence in a nutshell. They lack the precocious literacy and hippie-child poetry of Kate Bush. They lack the powerful feminine rage of early PJ Harvey. But precocity is not innately positive, and acting and conveying your age is not a bad thing either. Caustic observations on the male–female power dynamic are lovely (bless them, the ladies!), but there’s other truthful, maybe more banal observations to be made. Where banal != boring.

To be fair the songs are not without figure, they’re just applied with a measure of restraint – Nuclear Seasons being the exception that has a governing theme/metaphor. But it’s the plainer language that rings truer – a clichéd prose “And then it hits me like a ton of bricks” or basic poesy like “You’re the one that’s been stealing stars” seems more ‘on point’ and honest for an 18-19 year old reaching to convey actual emotional states than anything more distractingly wrought.

Poetry was never my strong point, and clearly I don’t value originality as much as some (like you, dear sophisticated reader), but the overall effect that I appreciate is of a child struggling and not communicating expertly. “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day, you are HOTT! or whatevers, you know, oh nothing, erm” Perhaps that’s not the intention, and the author would rather that not be my judgement – but authorial intention can go hang on its own fallacy.

Anyway, did I mention I LOVE THESE SONGS?!?! The sounds are gorgeous goth-tinged 80s synthpop, and I commend you to give them a try. So now I’m out of words and I’m just going to stop and list songs in order of most awesome (A+++) to slightly less awesome (B)…

  • Lock You Up
  • You’re The One
  • Grins
  • You (Ha Ha Ha)
  • Take My Hand
  • Set Me Free
  • Black Roses
  • Nuclear Seasons
  • Set Me Free
  • How Can I
  • So Far Away
  • Cloud Aura

(Thanks to Pete for reminding me of the excellent Scooter gig!)

Comments

  1. 1
    weej on 19 Jul 2013 #

    The Nero LP is great, Angst is up there in my top 10 for 2011 and it’s just on there as a bonus track. I really feel there’s a critical gap with this stuff – Nero, DJ Fresh, High Contrast – Drum & Bass has been mainstream music for a few years now and it’s somehow gone completely under the radar of everything I read while everyone focuses on the (weaker IMHO) EDM/brostep/whatever. Perhaps I’m just reading the wrong stuff, or not enough.

    Going to check out the Charli XCX LP tonight, BTW, this has sold me.

  2. 2
    Alan not logged in on 19 Jul 2013 #

    Thanks! I like Angst but it is effectively a Justice ‘cover’ version (unless having a sample of the original in it crosses the boundary into remix!). Was the Daryl Hall track a single BTW? I never heard it on the radio (unlike all the other ‘single’ like tracks), but it’s terrific. ‘In the way’ was the first to be skipped – and even Scorpions which I imagine is quite a banger when you’re there and dancing, suffered by proximity to it in the running order.

    I’m hearing Doomsday on a lot of soundtracks — it helps that there’s a lot of End of the World vibe shows and films.

  3. 3
    Tom on 19 Jul 2013 #

    Dunno about the lyrics but one thing I really like about Charli XCX is her terrific sense of timing – you could say something about “flow” I guess, she’s got a fantastic sense of where a phrase or emphasis or twist of voice should go.

    To pick one really obvious example because it’s the song by her on my heavy-rotation playlist right now – that bit in “You (Ha Ha Ha)” where she slips in “You were meant to be alone” just before the chorus comes banging in, like she’s leaving no possible response time for the poor guy.

  4. 4
    weej on 19 Jul 2013 #

    Angst is a remix of Justice’s Stress, which is built around samples from Night on Disco Mountain, which is based on Bob James’s version of Rimsky-Korsakov’s arrangement of Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain.

  5. 5
    Alan not logged in on 20 Jul 2013 #

    @tom, point taken. I spent far longer dwelling on lyrics than i would ever normally do, and that in any way reflects my enjoyment of music. Put it down to being mid-mania, like when you fuss about the cracks in the wall/ceiling on a sleepless night

  6. 6
    mitya on 21 Jul 2013 #

    This is indeed a fine read!

  7. 7
    James BC on 31 Jul 2013 #

    The album’s had a similar impact on me so it’s good to know there are others out there. Wow.

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