I wrote that almost two years ago. I’ve been thinking about emo a fair bit over the last day or so, and it was triggered by thinking about the collective experience of the music. Emo’s rise coincides with the explosion of social networking, the fracturing of commodification, the emergence of micro-trends, the mainstream adoption of alt-porn tropes… Emo’s the musical centre of a pop-culture whirlwind that doesn’t really seem to have been explored much, and when it has it’s often been addressed either in dismissive or alarmist tones.
I’m still convinced there’s a positive impact at the genre’s heart, wrapped up in finding a collective social experience against the odds in a fragmentary popular culture. Brand New are ten years old now. Anyone who listened to Your Favorite Weapon on release probably never expected that.
I haven’t come close to thinking about what data access really means yet. I have flashes of it, thinking about layering the context of an article to a further degree than simply an ‘I listened to this…’ link, but what does that really mean? Where’s the story?
I ‘discovered‘ ‘Some Indulgence’ in Sweden last year, arriving at the SPX after party with Marc, Adam and Anna ahead of the others. Drinks in hand we just sat soaking up the view from the Kulturhuset for a while, thinking about how strange and brilliant it was that comics had taken us there. I hadn’t started the second phase of We Are Words + Pictures by this point, and the trip – along with Phonogram vs The Fans – started me thinking about what I wanted to do with small press work. I was incredibly happy, especially with those people, but my notebook just contained urgent scribbles demanding that I do more and not just tag along anymore. In so many ways ‘Some Indulgence’ was a perfect counterpoint for all of that tension and urgency, because it just made me want to dance. We did. And it was great!
I continued to discover ‘Some Indulgence’ over the next month, eventually listening to it on Spotify rather than CD. Calling it up on a whim was clearly fabulous, as I could slip it alongside The Clash and The Apples In Stereo without thinking twice. I don’t really remember those moments, but given that I would have been staying in a box room at my Dad’s for a bit, with all my belongings boxed up around me, I had a need for music with momentum to it. I was also drawing to a close my time at The Opera House, and the bounding optimism of ‘Some Indulgence’ or ‘Beautiful Machine’ suits sunny springtime and impending adventure.
And ideas. Searching my inbox for things this time last year tells me that I was in The Charles Lamb on the 29th with Matt Jones, Matt Webb and James Bridle, the first time I’d met the latter two. So much spilled out of a few hours of increasingly inebriated discussion that I floated for weeks on the drive from it. ‘Some Indulgence’ has the kind of rhythm that you can go for months on. Much like ‘All Night Disco Party’ or ‘All My Friends’ you simply wouldn’t mind if it played for six hours; some latent part of my brain is telling me that’s because there’s a suspended chord at work, but I quite clearly don’t know what I’m talking about there so I might be wrong. Anyway, BERG’s launch was a tilting point last year in terms of what I was engaging with, and James remains a model for anyone making a living out of being interested in things. There’s rarely a post on his booktwo blog that doesn’t make me think ‘I need to do more and I should do it now’.
And then, looking at the plays again, ‘Some Indulgence’ kicks me into gear on the morning of May 1st too. Important day that. It was a friend of mine’s birthday, to which Quinns and myself rocked up carrying a huge bottle of whiskey and some halloumi. We browbeat anyone in earshot while getting progressively drunker, and I before I realised it I was on a bus home reading a text that said “You should have kissed me.” I’m spoiling nothing by telling you it wasn’t from Quinns (who at this point had fallen asleep on a bus which took him to Victoria; he was aiming for Old Street). I followed the advice of that text the very next night.
A year on and I’m living with The Girl, running Drop In + Draw comics sessions, printing anthology newspapers and writing this in the BRIG, meters from the desks of James, RIG and BERG. Last year kicked into gear in Sweden, a glass of beer in hand, watching the sun go down over Stockholm with some very good friends, and in some ways the last twelve months tilts around ‘Some Indulgence’ and the moment I grasped hold of that feeling.
Maybe it’s just coincidence that this soundtracked it, but you should scroll to the top of the post and play it again just in case.
I woke up, barely, reached over the the turntable, and let the needle hit the groove.
That I listened to this song after that night was really unfair. That I listened to it with “Hannah” just waking up beside me was horrible. I e-mailed her a while afterwards, apologising for a few weeks of , well… I don’t think she minded. She was in Africa at the time and had more important things to think about. I’m not especially proud of a lot of stuff that happened in that flat, but it made me clearer about who I wanted to be. A lot like K-, “Hannah” was someone I had to meet and be around to know I had some emotional growing up to do. I still do.
Lyrically, “Make Out, Fall Out, Make Up” is built for these kind of moments. Musically it’s built for the night in the club before the guilt. It’s built for someone aged 20, who knows enough to feel excitement and shame at thoroughly reprehensible actions that break hearts and makes life hard for people around them. I’d like to say it dovetailed into starting an important relationship, but actually there was an overlap. I’d like to say I’m sorry, but it’s honest to admit I’m not. I’d like to say guilt is the only thing this track inspires in me, but it’s got such incredible energy to it that mostly I just want to dance to it.
You’re listening for the clarinet. Throughout. You’re listening for the sinuous, slinky beginning, smoke curling through the door towards a damsel, arm to forehead, looking forlornly at a love letter or a photograph or a tumbler of gin. You’re looking at her eyes, which are so hollow with sadness you can barely see the glitter of life. You’re looking at all of the glamour of her, and how it seems to be wasted and alone.
You’re listening to the violins take up the slack left by Artie Shaw’s clarinet meandering out of the track for a moment, before the band join, building up to an explosion that simply doesn’t come, softening at the edges before the clarinet blasts over the surface hitting just. that. note. And the way it starts to spur the band into that same slink.
It’s beautiful, but you know it can’t last much longer. The burst of energy wears it out, and it floats to a stop. Dead.
I never really shout. I get quiet, or inarticulate, when I’m angry and I don’t put any volume into my menace. I don’t really shout after people either, I get embarrassed or assume it will never quite be loud enough. But shouting is brilliant. Just yelling out at the sky. When you feel you can step above speech it’s a real release.
I can’t sing, I dance like shock therapy, I never learned an instrument, but I can fake a mockney accent and shout the words to this like nobody’s business.
Ask Mark – he’s seen me do it. He’s seen me do it for days on end.
Really. It just has to start and I begin to chuckle. Two reasons linked to this I guess, totally unrelated to the band themselves.
The first is Global Rock Challenge. Global Rock is the kind of event that begat X Factor. It pits huge teams of student dancers against one another over three hours, in such auditoria as Southampton Guildhall and Bournemouth Arena. The audience, for people used to a 20×20 box studio, is vast, and the tech available is epic. I used to be one of the backstage geeks for my college (and sometimes dancer, but we don’t talk about that) and for a few I was the lighting designer – I’m an award winning lighting designer as a result.
Anyway, at one of these events a few of us managed to to steal time watching other bands rehearse, and we got into a routine of timing the start of the dances with pressing play on a CD of Evanescence’s ‘Bring Me To Life’. It’s an epic track, and made for a suitably farcical backing for a lot of the dances, which seemed either doomed to Tweenies level inanity or Kate Bush level pretension. Our team was no different, but they were good. They won things. Anyway, thinking about that always makes me chuckle and I suppose always will.
I exacerbated that sensation by joining in a game of Rock Band while this track was playing. Fewer finer sights than that of myself and mister Kieron Gillen yelling the chorus into a microphone while onlookers fumbled their instruments and openly cackled at us.
Looking back (and forward) at some of my selections I feel that this meme has been great at getting me to write consistently, and at greater depth than usual on this blog, but it’s also held up a mirror to how terribly limited some of my musical choices have been. Reading Russell‘s Thirty Days alongside my entries has made me feel like I’ve been picking from a box made of four-piece bands, deaf to the music outside. I don’t think that’s totally fair to what I’m currently listening to, but it probably is fair to the stuff I listened to until a couple of years ago, the stuff I can pin memories to. Perhaps I should live a bit more, do more things, before I start casting those experiences and memories in cement.
Blur are probably the cause of the ‘box of bands’. I have vivid memories of Parklife on the stereo during family holidays as a younger lad, always on the Isle of Wight, enjoying my Mum and my sister’s company on what seemed to be endlessly sunny days. There was a frog-slide by the swimming pool, and I won a dancing competition, and I don’t think I’d have registered ‘This Is A Low’ at the time, but isn’t it a beautiful thing?
Doesn’t it take you through the shape of nation? Doesn’t it make you want to see so much more of Britain, to live in it a lot longer and have epic experiences and journeys? Doesn’t it make you want to live?
I’m not totally sure I’m ready to think about what will be played at my funeral, I’m not totally sure anyone ever should be, but going out to this… would still be something I don’t want to dwell on, from this position, thank you very much.
Ah, marriage. I let my selection of this song’s use in The Prisoner talk around that for me.
But ‘All You Need Is Love’ as defining statement – yeah, I’ll go with that. It’s the kind of track that probably sounded nostalgic on release, entirely outside of its timezone, built to last forever as a optimistic declarative. I type this as someone shamelessly, hopelessly, happily in love now. Last time I was single I used the energy of a break up to motivate me into making things and being interested. I now do twice as much as I did then, and it’s because all I needed was love.
Optimism seems better, seems natural, when you’re in love.
When I don’t have propulsion, or the happiness to generate it, I kind of need winding up. ‘Fear and Loathing…’ starts with the kind of broken chords that Conor Oberst finds delightful, the sound of a guitar not so much gently weeping as sobbing its gutted heart out. The vocal line is just as cracked, Eric Harm wailing into the mic with all the confessional sadness of a former lover to someone whose love cracks and damages the foundations of his very soul. It’s wallowing taken to an extreme not felt since I first played Unknown Pleasures.
Until the first step change, when you, Eric and a choir of all of your nearest and dearest yell “FUCK! YOU!” and the room takes flight.
By god the track stomps. From here in the rage really takes over, driving all that (arguably) misplaced emotion into something unstable and destructive, something so beautiful it can’t help but leave you wanting to Break Some Things to make you Feel Better. Best of all you’ll do it with the support and sound and fury of all assembled, who won’t stand for the the pain others bring you. It’s a song for gangs, all the groups and posses, all the crews the world over.
Turn by turn the band get to shine, as the songs crashes to a momentary halt. The lead guitar steps into play delivering a seemingly endless riff around which everyone else tilts, rumbling onwards with the kind of momentum that Gets Shit Done. It’s sound-as-jetpack, and a beautiful thing.
On this, we hear Aaron The Moor’s speech from Titus Andronicus, and lo – we wish to be villains.