Sunday, October 24, 2021

Waiting For The Future, Staring At The Past.

Regular readers who pay attention (there must be some...) might well have expected the final post in the Pitchfork 25 series today. Unfortunately I haven't written it yet. I had enough trouble sidling up to Chemtrails from behind in yesterday's post. I'm not nearly ready to take on Norman Fucking Rockwell (again) quite yet.

I also have Blue Banisters on my mind. Is it going to match up to the last two? If it does it'll be a trio to stand with Bowie's Berlin trilogy or the first three Roxy Music albums, air not many get to breathe. 

You might think I'd be in a position to judge by now, what with the album having been out for a couple of days, but I'm doing everything I can neither to listen to any of the songs or read any reviews, which is a lot harder than you might think.

It's a bit like the classic episode of Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads?, the one where Terry and Bob try to go a whole day without finding out the result of a football match. Here it is, if you haven't seen it, or if you have and you'd like to again. And who could blame you?


That's a reference that both dates me and geo-locates me. I'm pretty sure I've seen exactly the same plot in a U.S. sitcom, though. Can't remember which one it was or I'd have used it instead. It sounds like it ought to have been an episode of Seinfeld but I don't really like Seinfeld so I wouldn't have thought I'd know it if it was. Do feel free to tell me what it might have been in the comments. Or, better yet, what it was.

I expected reviews to crop up on the various music news channels I follow - Pitchfork, Stereogum, N.M.E -  and they have, although it's easy enough not to click through to read them. Website monetization policy dictates everything has to have some kind of clickbait heading, though, so even glancing at the feed these past couple of days has been a ride.

It seemed safe enough to take a look at Lana performing Arcadia on Colbert. That's one of the tracks I've already heard. It's been out in the wild for weeks. I guess we could have that now.

If it sets the standard we're in safe waters. But why am I trying to avoid hearing the album anyway? You may well ask.

Bad timing. Mostly that. Bloody-mindedness. Masochism. A bit of those, too.

I put it on my wishlist, which in retrospect was probably a mistake. I should just have pre-ordered it like I did Chemtrails and NFR. But no, I thought it would be nice to get it for my birthday. Which is in mid-November. So now I have to wait. Like an idiot.

Of course, I don't have to wait. I don't have to own it, let alone buy it, or have someone buy it for me, to hear it. I subscribe to the official Lana del Rey YouTube channel and every track on the album is up there, in full. 

I've been reading science fiction since I was ten years old but it never prepared me for this. I knew we were promised jetpacks. I knew we were going to be living on Mars. I knew we'd have wall-screens and the people on TV would talk back to us (Oh, wait, that happened, didn't it?). No-one told me all music would be free.


Is it though? I mean, I imagine someone makes some money from those tens of thousands of views that no doubt will soon be hundreds of thousands then millions and if someone's making money someone must be paying. Just not me. Still, you'd think the record company would want to give the actual album a head start.

Only no-one buys albums any more, do they? I think we went over that yesterday. We all just listen to songs on streaming services. And yet here they are, the albums, still popping out as though it was 1977. And getting reviewed the same way, too, as though they matter. Strange times.

Ah, 1977. The year the Clash told us there's be no more Elvis, Beatles or the Rolling Stones, just as  some guy named Hans Fenger finally gave up his dreams of being a rock star and turned his guitar hand to teaching classic rock songs to kids in the Canadian school system instead. I could tell you the story but I'd just be cribbing from this piece on Stereogum. Go read it and come back if you have no clue what I'm on about.


I probably heard my first track from the Langley Schools Music Project on the radio back around the turn of the millennium. I think it was the Beach Boys' depressive classic In My Room. By then those recordings were already over twenty years old. Now it's the twentieth anniversary of the time someone found a copy of the original, self-released vinyl album and decided it might be of interest to someone apart from the families of the kids who played and sang on it.

I own a copy. Not of the original vinyl version obviously. That would be unbelievably weird and also cool enough that you can bet you'd have heard about it long before this. Not even of the 2001 CD. No, I have a copy on cassette that my friend Andrew kindly made for me when I asked him to.

Clearly I didn't pay for my music then, either. And clearly I had no more shame about it than I do now. Home taping killed music, by the way. It's dead. There is no music any more. Just like we all go to work in flying cars and eat three-course meals in pill form while wearing silver jumpsuits with a big zip up the back.

There's a TV documentary about the whole affair that I haven't seen. Or hadn't, until now. It's on YouTube. I have it on in the background as I write this. You can watch it, too, if you want. Here's the first part.


There was a radio documentary about it on the BBC, as well. I heard that when it was broadcast. All of it. You can too, if you want, assuming the BBC allows you to, where you are. I know they don't always. In case they do, here it is.

I hadn't thought about the Langley Schools Music Project in a decade. I haven't listened to it in at least that long. Like all such things it lives mostly in my memory, for what that's worth.

Listening to some of it today, I think it stands up. Not every track. Honestly, I always found it a bit much to listen to as an album, end to end. Since I only had it on a C60, though, I didn't have an awful lot of choice.

If it had been discovered today, I wonder if anyone would bother playing it that way, start to finish? Who'd have the patience?

And maybe it would always have been better, a song here, a song there, an off-kilter chorus drifting in, out of place on some curated playlist, ghosting like a radio station from another dimension, some place people listen to music like that because that's what music sounds like, there.

It's the past, filtered through that past's past, filtered through the past of that past's past. It's a future that never happened even though it already has. Don't cross the streams. 

Or do. 

Probably do.


  1. I was going to ask if you saw Lana Del Rey's piece on Colbert!

    1. Pretty much all the major appearances on the big US talk shows get linked on several music news sites I follow so I catch most of the ones I'm interested in. If there was an interview I didn't see that part but I'm not keen on talk show interviews with musicians in general so I'm happy to have missed it.


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