Part Two of Shane's 'Rebirth' (part one is here)
After teetering on the brink of bankruptcy only a few weeks before, I found myself, after four weeks of work, back to square one. I had saved nothing. My plan now was to admit defeat and rally home as soon as possible. The nerve shredding existence of living hand-to-mouth for so long and so far from my birthplace had been more than enough. I had no clothes left, my runners were split and stank, I was eating pasta and cheap mince and I had to sell the car before it broke down completely.
I made it back to Sydney within a week, waved away the french girl who, ultimately, I had grown to detest and not just because five weeks in a caravan had still not persuaded her to throw herself on me in a fleeting moment of loneliness but because she was an unmitigated bore and said things like ‘It has always been my dream to see Australia’ at random intervails. Australia? Your dream? Could the bar be set any lower I thought?
Car sold, I scratched together what my family would send me for the ticket home and after a week on a friends couch, I was 12,000 feet in the air stuck in a seat so small and awkward that I gave reasonable thought to riding out the remainder of the flight in the aeroplane toilet after some wine and a tremazapam. After glancing at the back of the aircraft numerous times, I gave in to orderly conduct and gritted my teeth till landing.
Somewhere along the journey, close to the end but before I reached the parental bosom of disappointment, I thought more and more about writing. I had done so little of it over the five months away that I was nervous about starting up again. I had not found any encouraging signs of new music in Australia and knew I would have to root hard enough in Ireland to do so. Throughout the trip, those good times and the bad times, I had clung to my Ipod feverishly – my own private, safe, sanitised supply of lullabies.
My grumpiness with the music industry has usually been outlined with a general dismissiveness of the majority of things I hear. Not simply because I’m a snob and can somehow validate myself for doing so but genuinely because, for the most part, at only 27 years of age, I have heard it all before. I have a good memory for this stuff and I don’t suffer fools gladly. Take for instance the Horrors album that NME lauded so highly, Primary Colours. It’s a good listen certainly and that final track A Sea Within A Sea is excellent but doesn’t it just sound like they are ripping off My Bloody Valentine? You can hear the bending, groaning strings and the washing noise of guitar sound over and over. And as for the aforementioned final track, as good as it is, the best part of the song samples the keyboard riff of Portishead’s The Rip. A pity really. But these little niggles have a way of sticking with me.
How about the hype poured on Beach House or how Wilco’s album Yankee Foxtrot Hotel has now been cemented into the Top 10 Albums of the Last Decade. Beach House are definitely interesting and I would never suggest one should ignore them but they sound like fourteen other bands – M83 with flecks of Fleet Foxes and/or Besnard Lakes for instance. And that Wilco album, really? Why? Does it not just remind you of every sorrowful Eels album, or Galaxie 500, Pavement or any other number of low-fi indie band you could throw a pie at and hit? Even the hype lashed at the Dead Weather when they arrived on the scene; that of the supergroup (White Stripes, Racontuers, Kills and QOTSA). Horehound (the album) is above average, but only just.
But what is wrong with borrowing and sampling I thought? What’s my real problem here? Certainly my beloved Rolling Stones lent heavily on genres gone before and God knows Led Zeppelin are guilty of robbing many great blues and folk songs before twisting them into that of their own. I couldn’t fault Bowie but nonetheless I realised; I’ve grown very old way before my time. I’m already that yelling old man type on the porch, waggling his finger at the world going by for not being more carefully specific to his needs and wants.
Take my stance on electro music for instance. I’ve no time for it or the flashy multi-coloured Skins scene that floats along with it but maybe it’s not for me. Maybe it’s specifically about the generation(s) below me and I’m not really meant to get it at all. When I was sixteen, I dove my way through mosh-pits just to get up front for Blur or Ash but it’s been years since I’ve behaved like that. I’ve grown up and grown old and though the emergence of electro et al isn’t for me it’s good news for those it is for. What else have kids got? It’s a marketing dream for record companies of course. All that matters to the teen is fitting in and therefore all that matters are ‘isms’ and trends and clothes. And labels and magazines offer you all this on a plate. Teenagers couldn’t care less of course about individualism, much the same as it was in my time and will be on and on afterward. It’s where it all starts really, the teens; hook ‘em in and you’ve got them for life.
I was lucky to have all that grunge and brit pop going on when I was a teenager. It felt like something, it meant something. There was an emptiness afterward filled only by the ‘The’ bands and a whole stream of Party of Four rip-offs and The Libertines who were artsy and thin and did heroin. The bar was raised again and I got it. I didn’t apply for the fashion sense but I admired those who found something in it all and plunged right in, to the fashion, to the mosh-pit.
In a way then I admit it, music will always need to borrow to fit in or to progress, like that Horrors tune, to practice what’s been learned and toy with it until it can be moulded into a fresh sound. Sometimes the blending just works and sometimes music can reinvent itself into something so fuckin’ big and relevant that people change the way they dress and sing along in droves and think differently with different attitudes and come together under the same umbrella for once.
I was looking for a fresh outlook on music, on how to write it and how to analyse it better than I had been doing because, frankly, some of my reviews for Ragged words.com have been pants but I think I found it. I think I’ve become a little more open minded, we’ll see.
At the moment there are other far more pressing concerns for many here I’m afraid. Being back in Ireland and already seeing those faces in the cold light of day down at the welfare office only reiterates the on-going struggle many have been going through. I am back where I was five months ago. My generation now have incredible blockades to overcome that perhaps three years ago never existed. Bands will hook onto this I’m sure – the disillusionment, the political mess, the complete lack of jobs for all those not qualified to the teeth, the boredom and hopelessness of it all. It’s what created Definitely Maybe and etched out new thought processes for a lot of people. And when the new wave does develop and those teenagers go in to and out of college, I hope things here will have changed drastically for, if not all of us, for them at least.