What if I stopped writing about new music and no one noticed? Damn, sister. It has already happened.
Let me share a visual with you.
That break I am referring to in that Facebook post? It has already been happening. Indeed, it has been happening since we arrived back in the U.K. at the end of July. This has been the longest I have gone without writing about *new* music (the emphasis is mine) since… I have no idea when. Certainly since I helped start up Careless Talk Costs Lives in 2001 with Steve Gullick and then Plan B Magazine with Frances, Andrew and Chris in 2004, and then Collapse Board with Justin in 2011. Indeed, for the past five or so years I have been writing about and championing new and unfamiliar music with no financial reward at a ferocious rate. It still astonishes me how much. I do it, not because I feel I should or fill a gap or am needed (that is about the last thing I think) but because I fucking love doing it. Writing about music increases the enjoyment of music for me, often. Not necessarily when I am writing for sites that pay (although it still often can, the craft involved) but nearly always when writing for myself or someone who finds me in the right state of mind. Check the web stats, though. I have written around a mere dozen pieces on music for enjoyment alone since our return here to Brighton.
Partly, it is an admission of failure.
Partly, it is because I started up a book company.
Partly, it is because I am spending more time with our children.
Partly, it is because I am spending more time with my computer games.
Partly, it is because of the weather and grey streets.
Partly, it is because I was finishing up a PhD.
Partly, it is because we have a ferocious amount of work to do – stabilising the house and our kids’ lives (and perhaps our own), and everything else that comes from displacing a family of five to a country the other side of the world.
The break from writing about music, though? This has already been happening – and no one has noticed. The Facebook post was supposed to be an announcement that I feel the time is long overdue for a return. I appreciate the support offered, not looked for but perhaps subconsciously searched out through clumsy wording. I appreciate the irony more, almost. Here am I, all keyed up to have another go – and here you all are, my beautiful and supportive friends.
Listen. No, I do not hear much new music right now. Except I do, *new to me*. I am in the process of (re)discovering pop music and compiling my greatest folly yet (at least for this week), the Great Pop Mix Tape. This thrills me.
I am still fumbling around for new ways to write about music. I am always fumbling for new ways to write about music, it is what thrills me. Moves me. Excites me with an ardour beyond drugs or sex (or perhaps I have just been partaking of the wrong sorts all these years).
Partly, it is because I have realised that my family life will accept certain forms of music, and not others. Shouting, loud, assertive, acerbic? We usually really do not need the competition. There is enough shouting and happiness going on here already. Pop music though? Well, that is designed for family life.
Designed for life.
Here are my eight most played songs over the last seven days.
If anyone would like to follow the lead of John Robb and Joseph Kyle and offer to *pay* me (my emphasis) to write about music I love – a column perhaps; a flurry of excitable mutable adjectives – that would be wonderful. But fuck it. You are not going to get rid of me that easy.
When I operate at my fullest, my writing seduces musicians. I have never stated this explicitly before but I have never had to write about Jenny Hval’s new album before. It is the dance of seduction I am performing here, or one of the dances of seduction. I understand the power of the printed word. The written word. The spoken word. The spoken word articulated with no fear of consequence. You risk offending if the tone is even the semi-demiest off. You risk inflaming. You say it and consume what you want now. I have had musicians write to me in the past, in the present – speak to me, write to me, kiss me full on the lips in some secret voluptuous pact – and warn me that their partners are jealous of me, they want no contact, but the desire does not die. I have never had to write about Jenny Hval before. I have written about her, sure. I show that previous video of hers to students because I know it provokes, challenges. I show it because I know how much of myself it reveals by my admission to its straight sexual power over and around me. And not only that, but because I think it’s a wonderful indication that sex does not have to be thrust all this or thrust all that, that typical girls have typical smells. That it can be far more magical, far more mysterious than convention allows. (Convention today? 50 Shades of Grey.) I know by showing Hval to people I unsettle them. I do not play that game as often as I like but I need to be aware of the context, the the context around me.
Even before I heard the new Jenny Hval album it had made me go weak at the knees, the anticipation of it. “Anticipation is so much better,” as my ladies once sang, but not always. Not here. Not now. Not tonight. That cover photograph of a lady on a birthing ball on the sleeve to Apocalypse, Girl is sexy precisely because it is a lady on a birthing ball. With all the attendant smells, and calling. I know I may be entirely missing the point of Jenny Hval here. I know there is that risk. If you are not prepared to be embarrassed every time you step foot on a stage then – why bother? She may not be deliberating over whether to perform the dance of seduction every time she straps on a guitar, sings sweetly against society’s mores and constraints, steps in front of a camera, exposes the contradictions and frailties of clichés for what they are, steps in front of a camera, strokes a horse’s mane, performs the dance of seduction. I know that writing these words reveal far more about me, the spectator. This is what happens on the edge of history. I have never felt the need to write about Jenny Hval before. I go weak at the knees at the thought of listening to her album again. She makes me go weak at the knees. I know she is performing the dance of seduction. And you can never tell when the dance is stopping and the dance is starting. Life itself is a dance of seduction. It is not up to you whether you want to take a part in it. It is up to you what you do with it.
That is it. It is cold and chilly here – one of the few nights in Brisbane where the temperature drops so. “What does it take to take care of yourself?” the lady asks. “What is it that we’re taking of?”
I can never even hope to compete with someone like Jenny Hval. I have not mentioned the music. The music makes my knees tremble, my heart stop, my fingers fumble across the keyboards. Milk turned to honey. Creepy is sexy, trust me. I do not WANT homely. I do not view homely as an insult but I do not want it. Unless I do.
I want to bleed every time you look at me.
This is how I wear lipstick. Every night.