Coasting – You’re Never Going Back (M’Lady)
By Scott Creney
It’s entirely appropriate this album came out the same time as a Flying Nun greatest hits compilation you need to go get immediately (it’s called Tally Ho! – Flying Nun’s Greatest Bits, a bargain-priced double-disc overview that makes a convincing case that New Zealand has produced more great music per capita than any other country on Earth). Coasting has the same spacey/splashy jangle and bite of early Chills and The Clean, the same mystery and longing.
If The White Stripes had been obsessed with Flying Nun instead of the blues and Led Zeppelin, it would have sounded like this. For someone like me, it’s absolute heaven. The music has a fierce purity. There’s something in the grain of her singing that I find unbearably moving. Coasting is more thrillingly energized, more exciting, than any of the bands they’re inevitably being compared to. They’re speedy instead of weedy, raw instead of cute. They could care less about being liked. With enough practice, they might one day be as great as Whitney Houston.
Most of the songs are inscrutable — they’re lost in the haze of low fidelity and reverb, but it’s the energy that gets me. And with titles like ‘Ultra Vapid Scene’, there’s obviously an intelligence at work here. Coasting makes me want to know more, and that’s not a bad thing. They also make me worry that if I learn more about them, it might break the spell they’ve put me under. That’s not a bad thing either.
In places, Coasting sounds like a sparser Electrelane that hasn’t slept for days.
I don’t know. Maybe it’s the constant wind and the rain that makes me love this album so much. Maybe it’s the constant gray in the sidewalks and the sky, the weight it adds to your shoulders and your day, and the way Coasting makes staying indoors sound like fun, because gray is also the color of the concrete walls in your basement. And you still have your friends, and you still have your music. Shit, even if you don’t have your friends, you still have this music. And honestly, You’re Never Going Back is better company than most of your friends. It might be the best bone-shaking party you’ve been to in a while and you don’t even have to leave your house.
Wallace Stevens wrote the best poem about winter ever written. It’s called ‘The Snow Man’ and I’m going to post the whole damn thing because this is Collapse Board and we do whatever the fuck we want. And because it’s worth reading the whole thing. (And because it’s basically one really long sentence.)
One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;
And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter
Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,
Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place
For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.
Quick oversimplified sum-up for the poetically impaired: Stevens is saying that in order to avoid thinking of misery when you’re surrounded by the gray death of February, one must have a mind of winter — cold, unsentimental, honest to a fault. It’s the only way to cope, to draw strength out of bleakness. And this is all over Coasting’s music. From what I can make out of their lyrics, these songs are about longing and distance, travel and return. Coasting is well acquainted with all the ways ‘nothing’ can manifest itself. Their songs are sweet, but they’re played with a snappy bitterness. Every disappointment is tempered by hope. And every optimistic moment is fleeting and broken. Aw hell, it’s great. If you have to choose between the Flying Nun comp and this one, in these hard economic times when every shilling counts etc, go buy the Coasting album. It’s happening now; it’s here today.
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by Scott Creney
Scott Creney lives in Athens, Georgia. If you want to continue this conversation, try @scottcreney on twitter or ask.fm/scottcreney.