Archive | April, 2013

Week 36: Joni Mitchell – Blue

28 Apr

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More blue ladies this week!

I’m not blue though, I’ve just had my first week of maternity leave and I’m absolutely buzzing. I can sleep when I need to, I can eat when I need to, I can order things off the internet and actually be at home to receive them. I feel like a normal human being again, albeit a rather fat and achey one. The house is even slowly becoming something like an actual place where grown-ups live, rather than the student house-meets-jumble-sale thing we’ve had going on for the last five or six years.

I find myself pleading now “baby just wait til I’ve finished washing all the bedding we’ve ever owned…. baby just wait til I’ve painted the skirting boards and the banister and all the internal doors….baby just wait til we’ve put our mannequin Ken into a decent outfit…” I’m well aware that the baby won’t judge us if he’s born and Ken is wearing a dodgy blue jumper/Swedish tennis player wig/floppy hat combo that makes no sartorial sense. The health visitor might though. She eyed Ken fearfully this week: “Ooh what a lot of things you’ve got! Are these all your husband’s things?” “Oh, yes, yes, he is a one!” I chuckled, as I imagined the long-suffering wife of an eccentric hoarder might. No point social services thinking we’re both insane, right?

But let me talk about Joni.

I have this totally shallow, lazy, anti-music thing where I don’t really get into bands, I just get into records. I could sing you every note of this album, even though I have never listened to anything else by Joni. Actually – lie- I did have the Hissing Of Summer Lawns lent  to me (Prince’s favourite Joni Mitchell record, fact fans) but I couldn’t get into it. And I think I have Court and Spark lying around somewhere, which some people say is the best thing she did, but, pah, why should I bother listening to anything else when I like this so much? If I want to listen to Joni Mitchell, I put on Blue. This is probably horribly disrespectful to a tremendous artist, and definitely shows me up as being fickle and a philistine, but I’m not picking on Joni, I do it with everyone.

If a record is perfect I don’t want to go and listen to something by the same artist that I like a bit less and then think they’re not such a genius after all. I mean, who’s had a flawless career? Name me someone. Nobody has, everyone has meandered. I have enjoyed many other excellent Sonic Youth records, but in some ways I do wish I had left it at Daydream Nation, because it was my first and is still my favourite. I was so excited about the second and third Hot Snakes records, and gutted when they didn’t get within yelling distance of Automatic Midnight. And don’t get me started on Weezer.

Why disappoint yourself? Just put on Blue and sing along to every word.

(side two is my favourite)

Bliss.

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Week 35: Billie Holiday – Lady Sings The Blues

20 Apr

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I finished work! The moment I’ve been crawling towards for the last few weeks like a dying beetle has finally arrived. The relief is colossal. I never knew I could feel so tired and broken. Maybe it’s preparation for being a little old lady one day. There is certainly a similar level of tea drinking and biscuit eating going on.

As well as feeling relieved, the sense of transition has taken me be surprise. I have my feet in two worlds now, not really wholly in either. My relationships with the people around me are changing, with virtually everyone. Some people have nothing to say to me anymore, to some I am just a baby-vessel they have nothing in common with, some are wistful as if I have been lost somehow, some are excited, some are fascinated, some (a very few) are just exactly as they always were. Predictably I am being drawn closer into my own family, in-laws suddenly dancing round me like I’m sitting on a golden egg, my own parents over-emotional and more interested in me than they have been since I was in bermuda shorts. My Mum  left tearful today as she won’t see me again until I am to someone else what she is to me.

The world is moving around me even though I feel like I’m standing still. It’s a strange and dizzying sensation. People moving closer, people stepping back. I’m not honestly sure how much is real and how much is in my hormone-addled, over-sensitive brain.

Perhaps the trick is not to care too much about any of it, real or imagined. Maybe life is teaching me to have patience and rely a bit more on myself. To forge out into the unknown with nothing more than my (radically depleted) wits and a bit of faith in my own instinct instead of constantly building a picture of myself through other people’s eyes. Maybe that’s a pretty good kick-off for some confident parenting.

Billie Holiday is great thinking music, isn’t she? I promise to talk flippantly about something pointless next week.

Week 34: Crowded House – Together Alone

14 Apr

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Here’s something. When all my peers were warring it out over East 17 and Take That, at an age when my husband-to-be and many more of my current friends were smoking badly rolled spliffs to Nirvana and Rage Against The Machine, I was sitting in my bedroom listening to Crowded House. I didn’t start to understand grunge until after Kurt died, didn’t think I liked heavy music at all in fact, so didn’t bother to listen to it. Later on, I finally heard Bleach, realised how comparatively average Nevermind was and set off on my own journey into noisy stuff, making my own map, but still occasionally putting on the same Crowded House CD. I think what I’m trying to say is that I’ve never been especially cool.

I cleaned the bathroom to Together Alone this weekend – it’s still great, although I don’t remember it sounding as much like the Beatles as it does. Cleaning and tidying is all I seem able to focus on at the moment. Anything that interrupts me from preparing myself and the house for the baby has become immensely irritating to me. I love this post on maternity leave by Esme, who is due a couple of weeks before me. Nobody tells you that  the main reason that you’ll want to finish work is not just because you’re tired and fed up (although you definitely will be), there will also be this deeper hormonal need to vanish inside your own body and concentrate on the life growing inside you, at the expense of all other mental function. For me, this has been helpfully flagged by my inability to use the intellectual part of my brain for more than a few seconds at a time. I think my bosses will be relieved when I’ve gone. Nobody wants a comms exec who has lost the ability to communicate.

(Having said that my last internal email got an enormous staff response. Maybe I am now able to tap into other people’s instinctive brains and finally get them to act through my writing. Or maybe I just sent it with the wrong attachment.)

So, here I am, vanishing into my neocortex. Everything is based on what I feel rather than what I think. For an over-analytical mind, it’s like pulling my own batteries out and watching my power run out. It feels liberating, actually.

Four working days to go now. It will be a grateful limp over the finish line.

Week 33: Cheap Trick – In Color

6 Apr

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Let us consider for a moment the genre of powerpop.

Powerpop confounds me. It is an unholy blend of blue-collar rock music (ugh, sweaty balls) and shimmery 60s pop (ugh, Beatlemania) and by all rights it should make me want to vom all over my shoes.

It’s simultaneously blokey and fey and merely writing about it as a concept this second is annoying me. And yet I really, really love so many powerpop songs. They should be tacky, but they’re just not. There’s something magical and unexpected in the chord progressions of a great Cheap Trick song. the sneaky little sevenths and minor chords in the verses that just lifts it out of Status Quo territory and into something inimitable and instantly classic cool without ever being obvious.

I’ve put In Color down as my album of the week, but actually I’ve been playing my favourite self-made powerpop CDR. I know that’s sort of cheating the whole classic-album-a-week thing, but I can’t stop listening to it, I love it, and there it is.

Surrender – Cheap Trick
Go All The Way – The Raspberries
Hanging On The Telephone – The Nerves
A Million Miles Away – The Plimsouls
Boys Don’t Lie – Shoes
What I Like About You – The Romantics
Southern Girls – Cheap Trick
I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend –The Rubinoos
Hold Onto Something – Great Buildings
Starry Eyes – The Records
I Want You Back – Hoodoo Gurus
I’m On Fire – Dwight Twilley Band
Time and Time Again – The Smithereens
Precious To Me – Phil Seymour
Come On Come On – Cheap Trick

Blondie are a great example of a popular band of the same era that did that same thing of taking a potentially cheesy song and swaggering it til it sounds timelessly cool (their cover of the above Nerves song is a good example).

I’m not sure if you’d call the Cars and Blondie pure powerpop bands – more powerpop influenced – but they were absolutely the sound of my babyhood. I do wonder if excessive exposure to that sound is what gives me a blissed-out nostalgic feeling when I hear all this delicious stuff.

I have been getting behind with this blog! I am 34 weeks tomorrow. I desperately need to tell you about NCT and the day Sam built the Power Triangle. Next time, next time.