Friday, June 20, 2014
Wednesday, May 21, 2014
It was something that Stephen Fry said in a half-hour heart-warming ramble, that a generation has grown up with the internet. He went on to talk about the implications it had on the ease of gathering knowledge, but for me, it was a simple fact that led me to think about the young and musically isolated. Is it still possible to feel culturally disconnected, when it's so easy to find those who share your passion online?
I often find myself disenchanted at the thought that it is no longer rare to find a musical connection. Where at 15, I would have done anything to indulge in a lengthy discussion about Black Celebration, I now have ongoing access to those who "get it": passionate friends from Melbourne (and others far beyond) who reach out to gush and discuss the minutiae of musical culture. It's a shared obsession that is never dismissed with such negative terms as "geekery". It's just life as we live it.
My Tumblr, Avowals and Denials has given me this odd insight into what it could have been like, had I been born a little later. It is gratifying to see the same type of insatiable interest live on, presumably due to the education and influence of parents who loved classic rock in their youth. There is that familiar lament: If only I had lived then! Le sigh! Where others at school don't understand, there is a never ending feed of reblogged images and animated gifs which denote a reinforced sense of commonality.
Perhaps online fandom has really changed nothing. Perhaps the contrast of alienation against the phantom prospect of a connection is central to the idea of being an adolescent. I want to make a return to a place where a musical discussion still thrills and warms my heart, but perhaps that is all over for now. It might just be that connection is the norm. It comforts me to know this is the time I had always wished for and I am now among those I had always wanted.
The Great Scots - Don't Want Your Love
The Starfires - There's Still Time
The Seeds - Pushin' Too Hard
Max Frost & The Troopers - Shape of Things to Come
The Booze - California Blonde
Real List - Pick Up The Marbles
Strawberry Alarm Clock - Incense and Peppermints
Allah-Las - Tell Me (What's On Your Mind)
Death by Unga Bunga - I Wanna Go Wild
The Bermudas - Chu Sen Ling
Bobby Darin - Dream Lover
The Bards - The Owl and the Pussycat
Monday, February 24, 2014
It's an alluring idea, to think that a place can be charged with significance and you might be able to sense that. I'll always recall the story I heard on a radio documentary about John Lennon's childhood home, Mendips. Now a museum, the caretaker described one particular young Japanese tourist who visited. Initially quiet, calm and polite, upon entering John's bedroom, she threw herself onto his bed and started wailing uncontrollably. Other visitors described how moved they were to be there, they described this feeling that took over them once they entered the house. In that way, the musical pilgrimage manages to align itself with the spiritual quality of a pilgrimage in the religious sense. Perhaps if I were more intuitive or had a greater sense of imagination, I could sense an importance, as opposed to simply being informed of one.
I love to consult the pilgrimages of Pete Frame's Rockin Around Britain, simply because the extreme level of research renders the spirituality of the musical pilgrimage void. I mean, I can't anticipate that anyone would venture out to the Permawrap cling film factory in High Wycombe simply because Howard Jones once worked in the stock control department. If anything, the fact that Frame has compiled such an enormously comprehensive resource indicates that culture is being created everywhere, in cities and villages, in halls and studios, even in squares and tube stations. It's a fact, but we're not always so inclined to react to any given locality in such a drastically emotional way.
Saying that, I'll rarely miss the opportunity to embark on one of these musical adventures. Not so long ago, I was sitting in a hotel room in Milan when my brother suddenly said to me: "Wait a second. Aren't the Paninaro kids from Milan?" I rushed to the baby laptop and replayed the promotional clip of the Pet Shop Boys' Paninaro - it became apparent that we had accidentally stumbled upon a place filled with musical consequence. I read out slabs of text, describing the 1980s youth culture. They seemed so glamourous, what with their insatiable appetite for American culture, designer denim and sandwiches. "They congregated around the sandwich bars at Piazza San Babila..." It seemed clear there was no turning back now: we were on a mission to find us some Paninaro kids.
The first thing we did the next day was venture out to Piazza San Babila. There was no abundance of sandwich, indeed there was nothing to indicate that anything had ever happened there. We walked over to the subway, recognising its inclusion in the Pet Shop Boys' video. Rafts of bored business men and tourists congregated together tightly, forming a queue by the gates and spilling out into the square. As we settled down to a bottle of milk at a nearby supermarket café, I thought about the Paninaro kids, who they were and what they might have become. One of them might have been in that crowd waiting for the subway to open, but we never would have known it. Perhaps if there were a plaque or something, a token boy in appropriate vintage attire, we might have felt differently about our failed excursion.
I've found, with my recent love of Kino and Viktor Tsoi that I've developed this desire to venture off to Russia and test this whole theory about musical pilgrimages. I'd love to go to Arbat Street in Moscow and be confronted with that heavily graffitied wall in Tsoi's honour. I'd love to deal with that struggle again, that difficulty in trying to honour the beauty and the relevance of their music. I'd love to go to Club Kamchatka, the Kino museum café bar in St Petersburg that was once the boiler room of the apartment block where Tsoi worked and lived. I might not ever develop a real appreciation of what it was actually like to be in the depths of the Russian underground rock scene, what it might have been like to see a gig or source a bootleg cassette, but I appreciate that are people who attempt to create such opportunities to remember those moments we unfortunately missed the first time round.
Cassettes & Chocolate Milk: Soviet Pop Podcast #58
Yury Mukhin - Humouresque
Display - Foreign Lady
Electroclub feat. Victor Saltykov - You Marry Him, Do Not Go
Kino - Your Number
Aquarium - Rock n Roll's Dead
Rodionov - Electronic Jockey (Horse Racing)
Rodionov - Baroque (Fencing)
Forum - On the Next Street
Arsenal - Festival
Aavikko - Machu Picchu
Friday, February 14, 2014
To be honest with you, I have a real fascination with those musicians who were never promoted here. I am in love with those songs that I was never meant to hear. My friend Dimitri offers me this insight into what it was like to be a French child of the 1980s. He shares rare music videos, songs that many French people cannot even recall. He accompanies each song with this extraordinary understanding of its social context and critical reception. At the same time, he manages to describe the personal legacy of these songs: every song has an association.
In exchange, I offer up my Australian childhood songs, awkwardly conscious of the fact that my exposure to local musical culture peaked when I was a child. I developed a liking for Ratcat, The Screaming Jets, Southern Sons and Diesel from watching Video Smash Hits. However, my exposure to local music ultimately ended when I quickly fell in love with English pop music. Throughout my twenties, there has been enormous pressure to support local music and as the pressure has intensified, my curiosity has dwindled and died out. I now live with this thought that I have purposefully ignored so much of what has been happening around me, just to indulge in this dream of living in another place, in another time.
I recall one of our last conversations, it was a cold night on Lygon Street and we were sipping these extravagant iced mochas. You were telling me of the intimate going's-on of Melbourne's 2002 Garage Rock movement. It was akin to my appreciation of London in 1977, Bristol in 1981, Milan in 1983 or Leningrad in 1984. There's this core group of tirelessly cool musicians who manage to create a community, unified by this distinctive sound and attitude. With the right sources, you can daydream about what it must have been like to be in that club, what it meant to be among the few people who understood the significance of actually being present.
"That's a good quality to have." I said, in between sips. "To be able to deconstruct an emerging scene, to recognise and define the consequence of the present. I think that's pretty special..."
Perhaps, it's not about the breadth of the acclaim, it's not about whether you're huge in Melbourne, Milan or even Mexico. When it comes to the recognition component of that artistic fulfilment recipe, I think it's about creating some kind of legacy. Whether that's in the form of a personal or cultural legacy, I think every artist has that desire to have their work placed within some sort of a context. Maybe it's up to us to create those histories, not only for our own understanding of how it all went down, but for the artist, too. We should let them know that we care, we should let them know that we've committed them to memory...
Cassettes & Chocolate Milk: French Pop Podcast #57
April March - Brainwash Part II
BB Brunes - Houna
Mai Lan - Schumacher
Exsonvaldes - L'aérotrain
Aline - Elle m'oubliera
Les Calamités - Vélomoteur
Yelle - A Cause Des Garçons
Corynne Charby - Boule de Flipper
Images - Love Emotion
Soko - I'll Kill Her
Download (56.5 MB)
Monday, October 07, 2013
Before we go all crazy though, I present the final episode which is entirely made up of submissions from some very eloquent lovers of music.
I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to the great many contributors who took the time to record something for Consequential Lyrics. In random order, these people include:
And of course, a big thank you goes to the artist who did a superb rending of the Consequential Lyric logo, White Tiger Grafiks! I'll do something special for you all one of these days, I owe you bigtime.
Of course, thank you for reading, listening and engaging with Consequential Lyrics. It's been an especially rewarding project, combining all my favourite things: lyricism, sentimentality, meaning, gushiness. It's been fantastic.
What's been your favourite episode? And if you're yet to declare one, what's your consequential lyric and why? And how would you fancy a Series 2??
Consequential Lyrics #8: The Fan Episode
Pagan Wanderer Lu - 2.0///The Bridge of Sighs
Sonic Youth - Kool Thing
The Sugarcubes - Birthday
Smashing Pumpkins - Cherub Rock
Leonard Cohen - Anthem
The Replacements - Bastards of Young
EMF - Unbelievable
David Bowie - All the Madmen
The Smiths - London
Moloko - Sing It Back
Jamie Lidell - Game of Fools
Mariah Carey - Anytime You Need a Friend
Download (105 MB)
Post Script: If you're at all wondering about the mysterious location of Consequential Lyrics #7, it's a bonus episode about Roxette and you'll find it here!
Monday, September 30, 2013
I always knew that Erasure would carry this great importance to me, after all I had spent most of my life listening to their 1988 album, The Innocents in an attempt to recall blissful childhood memories of the English village where I lived for a short time. The memories would crystallise as I would announce to everyone, "Hallowed Ground is the village green! Ship of Fools is my school!" When I finally returned as a twenty year old, I walked around its vaguely familiar streets and purposefully listened to The Innocents, meditating upon its unique connection to this precious era. Again, I felt stunted by the consequence of this music and I knew, however I framed it, I could never honour it adequately enough.
The entire Consequential Lyrics project has been about acknowledging and articulating the personal meaning of lyrics. It's so strange with Erasure, because their consequence seems to exist in this largely unexplored state. Yet we're still so keen to stress the importance of these songs, we grab each others arms' and shriek whenever a song like Drama! or Imagination comes on: "I can't believe I actually forgot how perfect these songs are..." Such a response like this would transcend timezones and there'd be a buzz of text message saying exactly the same thing. We could never do anything but agree, acknowledging that familiar jab of endorphins that is reliably released during the first few seconds of Always or In My Arms.
I'm sure if we were pressed to do so, we could all sit down and analyse what makes music (or indeed, lyrics) consequential. We could tear apart the poetic devices in those lyrical fragments, the scenic allusions created by Vince's synthesizers, the feelings induced by tried-and-tested key signatures and chord progressions. We could even go so far as to elaborate upon those independently created personal meanings, those stories that seem to have absolutely nothing to do with the music itself. But then it all makes me wonder that if it were so easy to explain musical meaning, it probably wouldn't mean so much. That and there's a kind of relief that comes with just feeling... and knowing that others feel it too.
Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Monday, September 23, 2013
Yet, in returning to The Smiths in this episode of Consequential Lyrics, I can't help but feel like there is a kernel of truth in Morrissey's prediction. It's a struggle to define exactly what I mean by that, because it is not as if I don't still love them. Their music and lyrics continue to be very important, but somehow it seems to lack that closeness it once had. I think back to when the lyrics was distressingly relevant: when loneliness, yearning and affinity seemed to be a central concern, when disastrous nights out seemed to be more prevalent. I assumed that its resonance had diminished because I don't live like that anymore. I don't think like that anymore. It's strange and it all makes me wonder whether lyrics really need to have that contemporary relevance in order to be truly consequential.
It's been suggested to me that it's not really a matter of relevance, more an issue of personal acknowledgement. For some, it can be especially difficult to acknowledge painful memories, those feelings that are recalled when we listen to songs like I Know It's Over and Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want. The intimacy of Morrissey's lyricism can be distressing at times and the fact that these songs often take place within the adolescent bedroom serves to intensify that intimacy. It's important to have that idea of Morrissey as the adolescent fan and loner, it's important because it clearly demonstrates that he's been where "you" are now. He adores Sparks and The New York Dolls as you adore The Smiths and he gets it, he genuinely understands what it is to identify and obsess.
More than anything, it's important to preserve that idea of Morrissey as the adolescent fan and loner because eventually, he found someone that cured him: he met Johnny Marr. For my friends and I, The Smiths represented this prospect of an intensely brilliant creative partnership. We would analyse Morrissey and Marr: their oddly non-confrontational collaborative methods involving Johnny pushing a cassette tape through Morrissey's postbox, Marr's evident annoyance when he said he wrote this beautiful, rambling guitar line and then Morrissey called it Some Girls are Bigger Than Others. It was hardly an ideal partnership but you could see the love, you could see the affection in all those photographs of them together, draped over one another. We looked to them because it was the kind of connection we had always yearned for. We had always yearned for something as precious and as rare as their love for one another.
The Smiths lack that contemporary relevance because I no longer have that desire to have a Marr to my Morrissey (or a Morrissey to my Marr). I suppose that stings a little, because it was something that I had always wanted, something that I felt like I had always needed in order to be successful. I now see that intensely brilliant creative partnership is a kind of luxury, a myth that suggests a Marr could just rock up on your doorstep and fill the cracks in your head and your heart. But maybe that shift in attitude means that The Smiths are more probably relevant than they ever were, in all my years of loving them. It hurts to listen to them because they remind me of the hope I had and the hope I lost.
Consequential Lyrics #5: The Smiths
Pretty Girls Make Graves
How Soon is Now?
There is a Light That Never Goes Out
Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want
Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me
I Won't Share You
Download (59.8 MB)
Monday, September 16, 2013
Even before the site's advent, I knew there was always a certain sanctity that surrounded this song. I recognised it in the hand-written text which featured in the introduction of the promotional video:
It's wistful and poignant, reflecting upon friendship and loss, the passing of time and the dreams of those who are no longer with us. In an interview in 1993, Neil Tennant said that Being Boring was a personal song because it was about an old friend who had died of AIDS: "... and so it's about our lives when we were teenagers and how we moved to London, and I suppose me becoming successful and him becoming ill." According to the webmaster of 10 Years..., Being Boring was Tennant's first autobiographical song and that idea really intrigued me.
How do we properly establish that a song is autobiographical in nature? Does it need to have a certain quality, an alarming degree of personal intimacy? Surely there needs to be some specificity, a plausible link between the artist and the confession? It's always interesting when an artist freely discloses that personal consequence in an interview, as Neil did with the New Musical Express. What's fascinating, in this case, is how that act of disclosure ultimately contributed to the credibility of the Pet Shop Boys, transforming their unique brand of disco into art.
It's always so enjoyable to listen to Neil and Chris discuss their music, as demonstrated by how frequently we watch Pop Art: The Videos with their commentary. It's abundantly clear that it's all been carefully scrutinised in great detail: it's everything from the samples to the orchestration, the artwork and the imagery, not to mention, all those lyrical themes and intended meanings. It's so enormously gratifying to see how much thought went into the construction of this great music and yet, I can't quite understand why I appreciate it so much.
Perhaps a part of it has to do with the fact that so many artists just don't go into that level of detail. Whether it be obtuse lyrics or cagey artists, it's unrealistic to think the listener can always uncover a song's autobiographical relevance to the songwriter. It's a point that is so often demonstrated by friends who are musicians, who go on to confess the meaning of that song after the show is over. They add, "But I can never say that in an interview, I can never tell anyone what that song really means." I suppose that's why the autobiographical song seems so important: we want to feel as if we've been entrusted with a secret.
Consequential Lyrics #4: Pet Shop Boys
Home & Dry
Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money)
Can You Forgive Her?
Always On My Mind
The Way It Used To Be
Tonight is Forever
Download (61 MB)
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
It's really quite simple: we're looking for brief, good quality voice recordings in MP3 format (192 kbps, 44000 kHz), describing the personal significance of any pop lyric that resonates with you.
Consequential Lyrics Entourage Box and then wait til October 7th to hear your contribution (and many others) in the final episode of Consequential Lyrics!
The due date for submissions is Tuesday 1st October so don't dally. For further questions and style guidelines, visit the information page for Consequential Lyrics!
Monday, September 09, 2013
It's only since I've been asking friends to contribute to the fan episode of Consequential Lyrics that I've realised how difficult it is for some people to express their feelings. Perhaps it's a ridiculous point to make, but it's one that has struck me in the process of carrying out this project. I thought it would be easy to reel something off, after all, we're so naturally inclined to identify with pop lyricism. As friends, we constantly have conversations where we discuss the meanings behind the lyrics that sting us. Yet there seems to be this curious emotional reaction to the task of committing such meanings to record and it's not a reaction I entirely understand, but then again, this is something I do for fun.
It was only tonight when I was talking to one friend about the prospect of keeping a diary. She said: "I don't write because I fear what might come out." It was a beautiful moment of insight and one that really made me think about the nature of lyricism and personal identification. I loved Depeche Mode songs like Somebody and Shake the Disease because they managed to express what was to me, the inexpressible. Perhaps you could say that I saved myself the effort and the emotional discomfort of having to express what I really felt. Then again, I would argue that I merely enhanced my understanding of the situation by relating to these lyrics.
I won't deny the fact that my fascination with Depeche Mode at the age of 15 had much to do with that startling thematic coincidence that many of these songs were about an older man crushing on a 15-year-old girl. These lyrics included aspirational details like night-time drives and antagonistic flirtation. It was important that they came to be associated with their own sexy breed of Dark Romance. Yet what was interesting about the re-investigation of these songs was that I realised that Depeche Mode was not just about darkness or romance (or drugs or S&M, for that matter). I see now that Martin Gore wrote most passionately about that desire to express and to connect.
I find it amusing that it should come back to that idea of expression, but I suppose I should have known all along. My favourite Depeche Mode lyric is contained in the song, Here is the House: With or without words, I'll confide everything... It's only seven words but it's an intensely gratifying sentiment, suggesting that regardless of your capacity or your willingness to express "the truth", what you actually mean will be apparent. That is a comfort to both the shy and the gregarious, for while I'm not particularly scared of saying something, I'm scared of not saying something correctly. I want to honour my feelings as accurately as possible and perhaps that why I align myself with Martin Gore as I do. It's one thing to articulate it, it's another thing to articulate it correctly.
Consequential Lyrics #3: Depeche Mode
Here is the House
Shake the Disease
But Not Tonight
Never Let Me Down Again
Walking in my Shoes
Download (66.4 MB)