Hugs And Kisses (September edition)
This is the first in the series of columns I wrote for Playground. I hope they commission more. I’ve really enjoyed writing them.
Hugs And Kisses
The Strangely Muted Outbursts of Everett True
1. Various Artists – Soundman Shots: the Caribou & Downbeat 78’s Story
Life is a continual distraction.
You sit down to write, and the sunlight comes streaming through your front door. You sit down to write, and there’s coffee to be made, to be savoured. You sit down to write, and at the back of your mind you’re fully aware that within the next hour your wife will reappear with your two young children and she’ll be wanting to know why you haven’t furthered your PhD research (“The slow death of Everett True: the changing role of the tastemaker music critic in web 2.0 environments”) or chased a pressing bank transaction or spoken to the local record store about hosting fanzine workshops.
You sit down to write, and all you want to do is listen to the sweet, sweet sounds of Jamaican ska, calypso and rocksteady, listen and revel in it and smile with it and move with it: the last thing you want to do is explore, examine, dissect it because to behave thus is to strip away some of the mystique surrounding it. You’ve spent the past three or four days mainlining the stuff from sites such as 69 Rude & Skins 69 when suddenly, bam! A double-CD compilation of original 50s 78’s – Laurel Aitken, Shirley & Lee, Count Lasha and his very vibrant Calypsonians – turns up in your post box! Bam! Like that.
Life slows to a complete standstill as you savour its sweet groove.
2. The Raincoats – The Raincoats
This morning, I was thinking of drafting a new blog entry entitled Reasons Why I Am Cooler Than You.
The post was going to be brief.
Yesterday I was sent the following CDs
1. Various Artists – Soundman Shots: The Caribou & Downbeat 78’s Story
2. The Raincoats – The Raincoats
I decided against it, primarily because it came across as simultaneously both smug AND pathetic. Like, is the fact that I’m fortunate enough to be sent a brace of free CDs containing music I like any reason to think that I possess qualities that other people aspire to?
This is another album I am dead set against dissecting. I could stare happily at the cover of a schoolchildren choir for hours, deriving as much enjoyment from the silence as I do from its music such is my familiarity with its contents. I’ve been sent it because – now, wait, why have I been sent it? Ah, it’s the 30th anniversary of its original release on Rough Trade, and it comes complete with the sleeve-notes Kurt Cobain wrote for its 14th anniversary release, in June 1993 (plus bonus video).
I really don’t know much about The Raincoats except that they recorded some music that has affected me so much that whenever I hear it I’m reminded of a particular time in my life when I was (shall we say) extremely unhappy, lonely and bored. If it weren’t for the luxury of putting on that scratchy copy of The Raincoats’ first record, I would have had very few moments of peace.
Folk sometimes wonder why I knew Kurt Cobain – him famous, talented, good-looking and DEAD: me, a complete fucking loser. It’s simple. We shared musical taste: not just the credible hardcore punk of Flipper, Meat Puppets and Half-Japanese but also the softer and more female bands – The Raincoats, Young Marble Giants, Beat Happening, Mudhoney, Stephen Pastel’s 53rd and 3rd imprint. We both hated Sandinista by The Clash. We both understood the importance of drawing lines in the sand.
The following is excerpted from my blog (about The Raincoats’ second album, Odyshape)…
Listen to the drums. Odyshape. They’re febrile, smart, stuttering, a living beast, not there to fill the silence or the spaces for breathing, but alert and fluent to the music and story unfolding around them. A tumble on the floor toms. A hissy fit on the cymbals. A race around the snare.
How different, how oppositional to the dull thud thud thud of their competent male peers. Most drumming, you can predict it from beginning to end. Not on Odyshape, and rarely anywhere within the first two Raincoats albums. No one will be able to convince me that Phil Collins is a good drummer, the way he sucks the life out of the instruments around him with his barrage of fills and cross-handed technique.
Bad drumming is the reason I’m unable to listen to most rock bands, more so then the singing. I say ‘bad’, but clearly that’s a subjective judgment. Yet who is anyone to tell me to think different? I listened to an industry pundit recently describe The Slits’ debut album Cut as “one of those classic ‘bad’ albums that is actually good”. How? Wha…? Who is this mysterious person who decides there is a right and wrong way to play music, to paint a picture, to write a book? Listen to the drums on Odyshape and tell me I’m wrong to feel this way…
And then listen to the bass runs on ‘The Body’ (from 1983’s The Kitchen Tapes) and tell me that I was wrong to end up hating this band – for the way they betrayed me and their own music – before they first split up, around 1984. What’s cod-funk got to do with intimacy? They knew it themselves, too. Take a listen to ‘Don’t Be Mean’, that incredible damaged song of Gina’s released in 1996, the reformation a delayed reaction to a certain acquaintance’s interest in their music. It could be from a missing period between the first and second albums, such is the paranoia in the voice and violin.
3. No Anchor – Fire Flood And Acid Mud
Pissed Jeans – King Of Jeans
Arrington de Dionyso – Malaikat dan Singa
I place these three artists together. It seems appropriate.
Arrington once sang in an Olympia, WA group called Old Time Relijun who understood that Beat Happening and The Pop Group were the two most vital, challenging live bands in the universe. He’s been known to blow down a saxophone and a didgeridoo with spiritual force. Whenever it randomly appears, his music never fails to unsettle my closeted iPod Touch listening and add three springs to my step where formerly there were only two.
Likewise, Sub Pop’s Great White Noise Hopes Pissed Jeans understand that The Jesus Lizard and Fucked Up are the two most challenging, vital live bands in the universe. I’m not sure I’d want to bear-hug them after they’ve just leapt from stage, but I can sure relate to their spiteful, bratty worldview.
Every other song that Brisbane’s No Anchor starts sounds like it’s going to lurch into Black Sabbath’s ‘War Pigs’ before it falls apart in a demented, Big Black, pig-fucking way – but yes: if you want to play hard and heavy, then play hard and heavy.
4. Hello Cuca – Esplendor En La Arena
Las Kellies – Kalimera
The Monster Women – MurMaids From Mars
So Riot Grrrl didn’t influence or change anything, huh?
As I wrote on my blog a while back
I love shit like this: friends you haven’t even met sending you stuff just because they think you might like it. It makes life so worthwhile. Especially when it’s a CD from Las Kellies, an all-girl band from Buenos Aires who dress like a convoluted version of Devo, rattle the drums like Wet Dog and have pretty, stinging voices that bounce and cleanse and sometimes harmonise as a sort of bonus afterthought. Guitar solos are minimal. Rhythm owes a debt to ESG. What they decide to leave out is as important as what they decide to put in.
There was a definition of punk I discovered via Google Alert that I’d like to bring to the table here, so we can be precise about what we’re discussing… that “Raincoats–Red Krayola–Flying Lizards–Wire–James Chance–No Wave–Go Gos–Peaches–CSS–Electroclash–Riot Grrrl–Chicks on Speed–New York Noise–C86–Pastels–Everett True axis”.
Yeah. Sweet. Reminds me of The Roches in a roundabout way, too.
The same can be applied to Hello Cuca (with a Buzzcocks, Kleenex edge) and The Monster Women (Slumber Party, Shop Assistants and The Shangri-La’s). Both bands are special, both bands are incredible in their own way. That Hello Cuca video I’ve linked to rocks so hard it leaves blisters on the inside of my thighs. The Monster Women sound surreally sun-dappled and flowery with their sweetened 60s harmonies and ramshackle drumbeats, like every girl group you never knew but still had a secret crush on in your heart.
If you don’t want to apply criteria like this, that’s cool as well. I’m sure you have your own special loves, your own sweet distractions, your own Brisbane sunlight streaming in through the front door.