I do not like the new Breeders album. Listening to it upsets me.
I am sitting on a train going between Haywards Heath and Clapham Junction while I am typing these words. I do not want to be sitting on a train going between Haywards Heath and Clapham Junction typing these words. I do not want music to upset me. I want to be on the 365 to Kelvin Grove, another crazy lecture teaching Sex Drugs Rock ‘N Roll facing me: perhaps afterwards I might drive over to Real Bad Music on the Golden Mile and perform a shambling sweary improvisational set among the upturned floorboards and stoned chatter. Charlotte will be at home with the kids. I do not want to be another sad divorcee performing to no one. I do not want to be on this train. I do not want this life. I want to be back in Glasgow, Kim Deal yelling at me from on stage don’t I dare leave the hall while her band is on stage she will kick my ass. I want to be drunk and singing ABBA songs in the lobby of a fancy pants Seattle hotel. I want to be in a dressing room, bottles smashed across the floor, solid glass ashtray hurtling towards my head. I do not want to be on this train. (At least it is sunny. At least I have a seat. At least I am travelling to ACM London where I enjoy teaching, chatting with the students and staff and fellow lecturers.)
I am listening to Cardi B on my headphones. We were watching her incredible performances on SNL yesterday in class – the equal of a Lauryn Hill, of a Lady Gaga, of a Kendrick – but right now her music says nothing to me either. It is not background music. It is not conducive to writing.
I switch to St Vincent. I mean Sarah Blasko.
I do not like hearing the new Breeders album, All Nerve. Hearing it upsets me. If I could I would listen to it again now and maybe start to appreciate it through concentration and repeated exposure except I removed it from my phone this morning because I found that listening to it upsets me.
It sounds like The Breeders. Nothing wrong with that. The problem is that The Breeders represent a certain period in my life – OK, certain periods – and I am finding it difficult, near impossible, to make the leap. I do not know the person I was 25 years ago, 15 years ago, 5 years ago, five weeks ago. I do not like that person but nor do I enjoy the performance of being single. Some people take comfort from the sound of the familiar, find reassurance in it. I wish I could.
Don’t you think I wish I could? Maybe this is a temporary glitch. I remember writing a column for Village Voice shortly after I moved to Brisbane about how I found myself unable to appreciate Amy Winehouse in my new environment, how her music seemed supremely irrelevant to this radical change in lifestyle. Maybe this is what is happening here. I hope so. Haywards Heath isn’t that far from Brighton geographically, but right now it feels like the end of the earth.
No friends, no family, no future.
Music is all about context, remember? Appreciation and love for music is rooted in the sound and melody but goes far, far deeper than that. Dave Callahan once wrote that I treat music like a bruised lover – but how I can do otherwise when it betrays me over and over, and over again?
Never let me go, I sing softly to myself into the silences – but it always does.
Last time I saw The Breeders – in Brisbane about five or six years back – I walked out on them mid-set. Nothing to do with their performance, everything to do with mine. I AM NOT GOING TO FAKE IT WITH FORMER LOVERS. They mean too much to me for me to do that.
Please don’t make me fake it.
I had seen Beyoncé a few nights before at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre and she blew my world apart, the after-shocks of which are still being felt (witness my first choice of music on the train this morning). The biggest problem I had with The Breeders that night in Brisbane was that they were not Beyoncé. Even now I find it difficult to articulate my reasons beyond that one reductionist explanation. I was living and dreaming in a different universe and found myself trapped, pathless – the last train departed hours before. (“What if you never come down?” as Jarvis Cocker once sang.) Maybe I was trying to desperately not to move (although why appreciation for one artist should preclude appreciation for another is beyond me).
Maybe I am still desperately trying not to move.