Friday, 17 February 2012

of Montreal

A few years back, my friend Nita showed me a band who were a little bit like Belle and Sebastian (in the contrast between their upbeat music and insanely downbeat and bitter lyrics), a little bit like Franz Ferdinand (in the rhythms), and as I found out later, a little bit like Mother Mother (in the tight production and smooth, versatile vocals). All of these are things that made me open to listening to them, using my past loves to strengthen connections, give me the springboard from which I could plunge into the joys of this new band. I downloaded a track, listened a bit, thought it was a bit cool, then left them alone.

of Montreal didn't really reappear until today. Depression got to the point last night where I didn't even want to listen to Bright Eyes, Reuben, Portishead, any of those... I didn't want to write, I didn't want to hear myself talk. I wanted to sleep, but I couldn't sleep. I finally went to bed and woke up unrelieved, and Nita had posted this song onto my Facebook page.

Spiteful Intervention by of Montreal on Grooveshark

It was unforgiving. "Nothing happens for a reason, there's no point even pretending, you know the sad truth as well as I." Unforgiving. Angrily snarled. A cacophony of ambient sounds, drumbeats, vocal harmonies like bad 60s acid spilling over a manuscript. Could music like this really have been released this year? I had been plagued and haunted by "I got the moves like Jagger" and bad Bob Dylan covers, and "wiggle wiggle wiggle wiggle wiggle, yeah". No-one now seems to be saying anything, and bad pop is as bad as ever, converging in my perception into a relentless barrage of banal sexism, boring dancefloor rhythms and almost scientific replicability. Yet I heard that song and it felt like everything inside me had been thrown up and made into music by someone living and breathing right now. So next, I went and listened to this.

We Will Commit Wolf Murder by of Montreal on Grooveshark

He drawls "now I'm considered ugly from every angle - you're the only beauty I don't want to strangle"; the maligned and the marginalised making music, at last bubbling to the surface, bubbling through the dross which dominates my consciousness. Music in the charts is all about loving someone forever, or wanting to have meaningless sex in a club, or eyeing people up with intent, or losing someone and feeling a bit sad, or dancing. The lyrics are generic, that's part of why it's popular. The words mean nothing. If a decorator left paint one layer thick, you'd say it was a bad job. You can identify endlessly with generic lyrics, or not identify at all - the art of vagueness and stereotype is well mastered by the lyricists, who have been told to write a hit, not something with any kind of analytical quality.

Not that "I want to get all fucked up and tell you how I really feel" could be considered poetry, pre-Bukowski. But it's being sung by the person who wrote it, over a cacophony of music he also wrote. It's powerful because from its core, the moment in which that line was born as a feeling, to its release as a record, it carried its base honesty and never let it go.

Who's the pop-queen of the moment? Adele. Yet at any point, anyone could feel they wanted to be with "someone like you"; it gives the listener freedom to input a name, a person, a set of qualities. In fact, all the line says is that there is someone that someone likes. By contrast -

"Lately I'm rotted in the filth of
self-offered agonies that really should
fill me with shame,
but all I have is this manic energy."

That quotation from 'Spiteful Intervention' is very specific. Shame, mania, filth, agony - they're not emotions akin to the platitudes of pop. They're not Kevin Barnes' alone, however. That's why it's so wonderful: it's shared, at any moment in time, by an exclusive class of miserable, angry and self-pitying people, and it taps into a mood of division and exclusion.

I love it today, and I don't care if I'll love it tomorrow. This blog is getting rawer, probably since my partner expressed the fact he doesn't care about my writing, so I know he won't bother with reading it. I hope whoever reads this is enjoying the good music, and to a lesser extent, the commentary. of Montreal's new album, Paralytic Stalks, is definitely worth exploring, in my opinion.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Lee Ranaldo New Release

I have already professed an adoration for Sonic Youth on this blog, probably extensively, and I remember a post which showed particular love for Lee Ranaldo. During the SY years, he was always given a song or two over which to drawl his dark lyrics like a marijuana-softened beat poet. Next month, he's releasing his next solo EP, Between the Times and the Tides, and SY are plugging his next single on their Facebook page. I like it enough to repost it here - it's atmospheric, blending laid-back, possibly too chilled-out rock with the discordant jingling indie guitars that Ranaldo pretty much invented in the 80s. Have a listen.