Back when I was a working critic, part one
(Excerpted from my 2001 journal, posted at the Tangents archives.)
Saturday July 8
… so I’m stuck high up in the rafters at Dublin’s Lansdowne Road international football ground, freezing my fucking fingers off, chatting to Dave Simpson about the stupidity of editors and the rise and rise of PRs in the music business industry (why, some of them even are my editors now) and how it’s impossible to do anything for the London-centric media if you’re not based with the rest of the aristocracy there… and all I can think of is home, is of seeing Supergrass in Melbourne, everyone all excited and it’s cosy and warm, the night lights twinkling even though we barely knew anyone and even though it’s nice that everyone starts singing along with “Moving” as we take our 30 minute trek round the stadium along the river’s edge because the police and organisers are plainly incompetent, there is no escaping these grey skies, there really aren’t, and I would rather be anywhere than here today… and I’m stuck up in the rafters, watching this rock’n’roll band called Oasis act like they could give a fuck, and all the kids are singing along so loudly and proudly and with no cynicism whatsoever to “Stand By Me” and the wonderful “Look Back In Anger”, it’s all I can do to stop myself from wondering what time bed is and whether there might be food somewhere at the end of the rainbow and how is it OK for Terry Hall to treat me like shit despite the fact she’s known me for so long professionally (or is it just an indication of how far down the ladder I’ve slipped)… the show’s great, as I tell five different web sites and Melody Maker the following couple of days, but who gives a fuck about that I just want to pull the covers over my head and slide away, never to think about anything again… the after-show is faintly ridiculous, the man from The Sun recognises my name and someone buys someone a drink, we talk to a couple of kids with strong Dublin accents and the sky is still absolutely crap… afterwards I wander the streets with a lady from a web site and a MM photographer and I wonder how I could have lowered my standards so much to be in this position, maybe I should fucking DRINK DRINK DRINK and fuck shit up but I don’t have the energy any more… maybe the energy, but not the inclination, also I can’t be bothered to waste my talents on fucking nobodies… the show was fine, honest. It’s almost as good as the expensive Indian curry we eventually tracked down.
Wednesday July 26
… and so I find myself drinking cheap industrial-strength red wine by the bottle on Brighton beach with Jon and that boy who helps run Melting Vinyl promotions in town and a drunken obnoxious Japanese friend of Jon’s and one other that I cannot name… and I’m boasting about Seattle exploits and Melbourne exploits and how much I despise and loath this country with a crimson clarity… and it seems that once more I’m living, once more I have glamour around me even if it is only the cheapest of cheap glamour, purchased for three quid in an all-night off-licence… and I wander off to piss under the pier, and others wander off to piss there too… and I’m remembering the evening, how Maslam (the local hopefuls who one person had compared with PJ Harvey) were so dreary and meandering, the girl probably possessing an interesting voice but she had laryngitis, and the rest of her band are certainly art-school wankers… and I’m remembering the evening, at how I needed to drink beer and chat with Anna, the other half of Melting Vinyl promotions, and also the small one from ninetynine, the Melbourne band who so deliciously reminded me of all my cherished Northwest bands while I was in Australia and dispossessed… and ninetynine sounded so brutally alive, the xylophone sparking sounds of fury and that boy with the crazy hair leaping up and leaping down and singing in ridiculous falsetto like I remembered… and later me and Jon fought in the streets of Brighton, walking back from Andru’s flat in the later wee hours of the morning, all emboldened by the knowledge that at least we were having experiences that were unique to us and millions of other drunkards… and all evening I was as cruel as I could be, because that is the only defence… the concert made me want to race round town, trumpet my art from every roof and rafter, even when we were briefly queuing outside the Pavilion Tavern before we all came to our senses and realised that perhaps House music isn’t what we were looking for to keep our senses heightened…
It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. It made me want to slip, retrace my steps, recapture that elusive feeling which I seem to be disallowed to feel nowadays… even the day was good. I rose early. I bought Melody Maker, as embarrassing as ever, I paid cheques into Nationwide, I read comics. I started sorting through the spare room, as promised, with Jon’s help. I even did a fast phone interview with a very tired Kathryn Williams, just nominated for the Mercury Music Award. The Newcastle-based singer said one great thing, about how when she was originally asked how it felt to be included among the nominees she replied that “she was extremely happy”, but that after 14 hours of continuous interviews she just wants a big hug and to go to bed.
It was the best of days. It was the worst of days.