Passion. It’s from the Latin for “endure”, and can be a painfully strong emotion: an unusual excitement, enthusiasm or compulsion. It’s something I thought I’d never feel again.
I’ve awakened from an emotional coma into an age I don’t understand. I left a world where rock stars were leather-clad sex gods to be worshipped on an altar of desire, and awoke in one where poster-crushes are deemed inappropriate. I just got called out over my crush on a pop star by a fellow fan, which seemed utterly surreal in a minimised window where the word “SEX” is the headline on an article about why Everett True does (not) want to f*** The Von Bondies. To them, I was fixated on a person, a band, an unreal image. In reality, I’m fixated on a principle – an idea so rare and precious that this principle should be the subject of obsessive focus. It’s a principle of maintaining a passion for music. That’s not just something I’d lost, but has all but disappeared from the world.
OOIOO – can I wheel out “thunderous tribal percussion”? Oh, please?
The NME‘s list of “the best albums of the decade” made depressing reading. Is this really all we’ve done, all we’ve accomplished, in the past 10 years? With only one or two exceptions, it’s a passionless and sterile bargain bin of lifeless and derivative whiners. There has to be better out there – I need to believe that, for the sake of my sanity.
This year, against all odds, I finally heard it. I was feeling something – anything – again, and remembering for the first time in years what music could do.
Compulsion. Once you get that feeling, you need to feel it more and more. That sense that you’re not alone – that anything you’re going through has been endured by someone else. That excitement that your elation has been articulated, or that your despair has been shared. Music doesn’t need words to transmit its emotion – it’s pure person-to-person communication, from a place nothing else can touch. Music does need words to help you find it, though, and when you’re stumbling around and getting lost, you have no choice but to return to the last place you found it. You keep going back again and again to where you have the highest chance of finding that unusual excitement, until it feels like home.
Melody Maker used to feel like home, and its erstwhile acting editor, Everett True, has long been a good source of musical discovery. He was passionate about music, and enthused about bands who played with passion. As David Bennun noted on Facebook: “ET not getting the job was symptomatic of the corporate-cowardice-and-cluelessnes-ridden decline already in progress. Which is to say, it was an effect of the problem, not the cause. If the paper had been overseen by people capable of understanding why it was essential to give ET the job, then – for all the undoubted difficulties in the market – it might not have been in such terrible trouble in the first place“.
Not one to slink into the shadows, ET used his reputation to gather a band of similarly enthused magazine types, and spent the time since writing for a number of publications. There was Careless Talk Costs Lives, and Plan B magazine, which he has begun to upload in PDF format for us to read for free.
Saturday 8 May
“Strive for greatness – or at least originality.”
I was lecturing to some media students yesterday. After hearing me dismiss NME and Q as being put together by people embarrassed to be writing about indie music, someone asked what I’m looking for in Plan B contributors. I can never think of what to say in these situations. “Be yourself,” I replied lamely, well aware that most music criticism is a series of clichés, wrapped up in woolly liberalism and the self-righteousness of the young. “Your writing should make me wanna rush out and buy – or burn – the discussed artist’s records.”
My personal greatest moment as a reviewer is any time someone tells me they’ve bought an album based on my review. It’s like setting up your mates on a blind date and them falling in love. It’s beyond pride … it’s satisfaction. It’s seeing the world turn out as it should – because good things should not be undiscovered.
My passion – that insanity-that-keeps-me-sane – is centred around the idea that it’s a great disservice not to tell people about the things you think they’ll enjoy. It’s what drives me day after day to seek out new acts of passionate creation and, when I love them, to try to articulate exactly what makes them so damn special.
In one issue, Plan B has introduced me to The Mountain Goats – a band that can simply be described as “on 4AD” – perhaps the only label that is a genre in itself. There’s Cocorosie, a band so unexpected that I’d have to listen to them three times before I’d even know if I like them, and OOIOO, a Japanese group who sound how all-female Japanese rock bands ought to sound, rather than how they usually do. Then there’s Xiu Xiu, described as “as distressed and distressing as Jandek singing the homoerotic death ballads of Noel Coward, and as cold and breathtaking as a slow-motion supernova exploding in a mausoleum”. It’s a magazine not so much to be read as devoured.
Plan B should not remain undiscovered. Its beauty is its passion. That passion should be vindicated by your readership. That writing deserves to be read. Those bands deserve to be heard. Who knows? Maybe you’ll fall in love.
Cocorosie – “… jarring textures …”
Xiu Xiu – “… distressed and distressing …”
The Cribs – this is salvaged from the mire of twee indie pop by having just enough energy and edge; just the way the Wannadies managed in the 90s.