Monday, 25 August 2008

Be Gone

It is a freezing September night in Melbourne. I am running late for 161. Again. My friend sends me an anxious text message: "You better get here quick. He's got a mix tape for you and he's getting upset that you're not here!" It is surprising as I had only spoken to him a few times before. When we first met, he had drawn a map of England on my leg in an attempt to understand where East Yorkshire was. I later learned this was just a ploy to touch my leg - he didn't have a genuine need to know where East Yorkshire was. In retrospect, I can scarcely believe it. He was such a beautiful creature, he was too beautiful to waste his time with me.

I finally arrive at 161. I climb the stairs cautiously and spot his silhouette immediately. I am too nervous to approach, even though I have the perfect excuse to speak to him. I am holding a mix cd that I had made for him weeks before. The tracklist is recorded in perfect hand on a piece of note paper, pressed inside the CD cover. I can only suspect what pieces of my musical self I handed over to the stranger at that point. I'm Happy Just to Dance With You. You've Given Me Something That I Can't Give Back. Scummy. All Day and All the Night. All the songs I have the distinct tendency to live and die by.

I approach and we say nothing for the first few moments. I press the CD up against his chest. He grabs my hand and slots a cassette case and tape into my grasp. It was all so dramatic, but then it always was. On the lined paper cover of his cassette, there are two great question marks, written in blue biro. He would later justify the lack of tracklist. He claimed that he wanted me to listen to the songs without prior judgement of the artists. It seems silly now that he'd think I'd have any negative misconceptions about these artists.. after all, we would spend the next few months waxing lyrical about these artists for hours upon hours each day.

Yet, despite this, he always insisted that he felt so musically isolated. He would cite this particular song off the A side of that very mixtape, a song by the Jesus and Mary Chain. How nobody could possibly understand how much Sidewalking moved him. How he would listen to it over and over and revel in its beauty. I remember listening to it while sitting at my desk. I would listen to his tape in earnest, purposefully trying to find this beauty he spoke so eloquently about. Then I found it...

I would rewind this song over and over again. I didn't have his ability to afford the song with any sort of vastly romanticised description, but I understood why he loved it.. and with this declaration, he finally sent me the tracklisting of the mixtape. It was then that I discovered that the song that I fell in love with was not Sidewalking by the Jesus and Mary Chain, but Be Gone by the British Sea Power.

I knew that I felt nothing for Sidewalking. The song did absolutely nothing for me. But I would always return to Be Gone as an ironic reminder of our connection.. or at least my witless ambition to understand his ways.

British Sea Power - Be Gone

Thursday, 7 August 2008


Well, first up I'd be more than a little tempted to just play that Guillemots song again and claim it somehow as my own. But I won't, I'll work a little - songs evoking a particular place, I can do better than that, I can triangulate myself precisely in time and space...

Finally, finally, it's the bold move away from home. A new life, a coming to adulthood, independence and freedom. I drag a battered old rucksack down through the town, those last looks around, familiar haunts and still unknown corners, and I get to the bus station. I find a seat at the front on the top deck and as the bus pulls out onto the Broadway and starts to take me out of town, and as I can now look down on it all as we pass through for the very last time, I hit 'play' on my walkman and 'Ceremony' comes on, the first notes flying out as we turn into the street and start to pull away. 'Notice whom for wheels are turning' and it's me, they're turning for me and taking me away. The music is grown up and harsh and serious, strident and purposeful and deliberate, the lyric is delivered with a passion for belief and certainty and with conviction. It was the perfect soundtrack to that perfect moment.

And it's all a lie.

I've told this story a fair few times, and I've told it to myself an awful lot of times, but it's complete bollocks. It's so good, though, so right. If I was making a film of 'me going off to university' that's exactly how it would be, well, didn't I tell you about it? That's just how it was. Perfect, eh?

Actually, actually, well actually I went on the train, with a friend who was going to the same place. And I lost my ticket in London (er, I'd been on a train before. And I'd been to London before too, was born there, lived there for quite a few years. still...) and then arrived and nearly drank myself to death in rank amateurish fashion (nothing unusual about that, the unusual thing is that it's something I haven't done for a while now) and spent a farty term being a farty little kid who hadn't really grown up and didn't do any work but didn't do much else, talk and sleep and drink and listen to music, and who went home early, so very early, back home to the family for Christmas, and spent a long long break at home and who then, finally, finally, the bold move back to university after christmas, the walk through the very familiar after that lovely long holiday thank you very much town to the bus station, the seat somewhere on the coach (certainly not at the front upstairs, there wasn't an upstairs, it was a coach) and my new prize possession, the album I'd seen some other cool kids listening to towards the end of that first term... and the bus pulls out... and I press play...

New Order - Ceremony mp3

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Sao Paulo

"Sao Paolo" The Guillemots

I didn't want to like the Guillemots, the critics raved about them (particularly the quality newspapers...never a positive sign), their singer is called Fyfe Dangerfield. It all just seemed a bit studied, a bit false. Despite this I bought the album, and I thought it was......okay, still a bit too studied. I recently saw them on the same bill as Neil Young (somewhere closer to my true tastes) and was proven massively wrong, they were dynamic, energetic, vibrant (Best band on the bill, damn right!!) and most of all confident. "Sao Paolo" took up nearly a fifth of their set and I was mesmerised. Returning almost immediately to the album I listened to it again and again. It starts simply, minor key, wintry in it's feel. Some lovely images " don your duffle coat quite slowly". It's tender, maybe a song to an ex lover maybe the tale of a relationship drifting apart? This idea is given further weight when he starts a keening refrain "I could Cry for Miles...." so far so indie pop, then we travel- musically, mentally whatever....... as the strings reach a crescendo the song falls away, then we are transported as Fyfe sings "thrown across water like a stone"... it's major key, triumphant. The piano rises above horns which slide and dance between the notes until the strings crash back in against some of the most musical screeching you'll ever hear. It's what music should be multicouloured, ambitious, dramatic, epic. Every time I listen to it I feel refreshed, the sun on my face and transported (that word again, ultimately I think it is a song about escape so I feel justified to overuse it!). I think songs about places should transport you for 4 minutes you should feel a connection to the place, you should be able to close your eyes and feel foreign winds on your face. Sao Paulo does this, as do two other songs I love Sufjian Stevens' "Chicago" and Fleet Foxes "Mykonos". Chicago is a giddy rush of a song, cymbals crash, strings surge and voices all rush towards the end. Mykonos is less urgent than the other two, but the beautiful harmonies are sun dappled and flash images of azure skies and seas (despite being recorded in Seattle). Music should be a journey and the best ones are always unplanned.....

For Your Pleasure

The Guillemots- Sao Paulo mp3
Fleet Foxes- Mykonos mp3