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.
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
- 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!)