Thursday, 15 March 2012

Great teenage musical errors part 1

When I was a teen (and perhaps well into my twenties), I assumed that everything NME said was right. Even when last week's Great New Hope was this week's Down The Dumper. Being a moron, I'd rush to Cob Records in Bangor and order basically everything reviewed that week.

Gradually, however, poverty and experience taught me a degree of discrimination and I started to realise that just because something was in print didn't make it true. As an example, let's talk about Spiritualized. I really liked Jason Pierce's previous band, Spacemen 3, which took the basic Velvet Underground drone-rock template and added more minimalist structures. I bought all the Spiritualized albums, really getting into the huge, long crescendi, the gospel choirs, the repetition, the drug imagery, the glow-in-the-dark packaging. This, I felt, was primal, raw, rock and roll. These guys were spiritual adventurers, voyaging into the darker reaches of the human psyche and reporting back to us timid types.

Then about four years ago, I went to a Spiritualized Acoustic gig. On stage, J. Spaceman (as Pierce called himself) and a few gospel singers. In the (seated) audience: serried ranks of balding men wearing worn, carefully-ironed t-shirts from the first album (to prove that they'd always been fans). What followed was the most boring hours of my life. Honestly, proof-reading a PhD thesis on Czech modal verbs, which had been my week's activity, proved to be much more stimulating and far less tedious. The audience collectively hissed at anybody who breathed too loudly, lest it disturb the Great Man. And the songs… beneath the thrilling massive noise of the albums and electric gigs, was revealed a man with three things to say:

1. My girlfriend's left me.

2. I've run out of lovely drugs.

3. There's no god.

I've experienced all these things, and I've never felt compelled to make several albums about them. But dear old Jason just moaned the same three tedious 'insights' over and over again as though self-pity for money conferred profundity while the balding groupies quietly massaged their gentlemen's areas.

Now I can't even listen to the electric albums any more, despite the stunning arrangements and beautiful noise, because I know that terrible clichés are being flogged to death, resurrected as zombies and set to work all over again. There are plenty of singers who can write well about heartache, spiritual isolation and My Drug Hell: I'd suggest Nick Cave, the Go-Betweens or the Triffids.

And with that, I expect to receive notification that I'm hitherto expelled from the League of Record Nerds. Hipsters with comedy moustaches, clear-lens glasses and Elefant t-shirts will be knocking politely at my door and muttering mildly sarcastic comments through my letterbox.

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