Thursday, January 19, 2023

Hoarding Is Such An Ugly Word

Time for another round of "What I've Been Listening To Lately" - only when I say "listening" it's really more like "collecting". I've always had an unfortunate tendency to treat popular culture at least as much like the building blocks for a collection as a source for aesthetic or emotional experiences, although obviously my relationship with the various zeitgeists has a deal more complexity than just putting things in boxes, be they physical, virtual or conceptual.

For example, I'm sitting here, typing this with my knee pressed against a stack of music papers from the late 1970s, Sounds and NME mostly, while to my right, just out of arm's reach, I can see about a thousand vinyl albums. I bought those papers as they came out so I could keep myself apprised of the fast-moving music scene prior to the advent of the World Wide Web and I read pretty much every word in all of them - doesn't quite explain why I still have them forty-five years later, though, does it?

Equally, I bought the huge majority (Although not exactly all...)of those albums to play and listen to but I haven't fired up a turntable for the best part of a quarter of a century. I don't have any plans to break that streak, so why are all those records still not just in my house but out on open display?

Well, because I collected them - duh! Isn't it obvious? Their primary function, when I acquired them, was to be used for their intended purpose but their primary purpose now is simply to be owned. They bring pleasure purely by proximity.

You may be familiar with the work of Ms Marie Kondo, "Tidying Expert", whose mantra, "Spark Joy", was also the title of her breakthrough bestseller and an inescapable meme a few years back. As others have pointed, deciding what to throw away based on whether the sight of it "sparks joy" or not really doesn't work when damn near everything you see sets a dopamine receptor tingling. 

I do have more practical, less metaphysical, reasons to hang on to the emblems of the past, too.  I've said over and over again that my memory is unreliable. At least, it is if I have to try and start it up cold. If I can get a jump from an object or an image or a sound, though, those memories come trickling, then flooding back. And even if they don't, it's a safe bet that if I found something interesting or exciting enough to acquire once, I'm going fine it equally stimulating when I run across it again. Doesn't matter if I can't recall how, where or why I got it - it's a new thing now and I can I find reasons to fall in love with it all over again.

You might think the switch from physical to digital and the change to on-demand availability via streaming would have eliminated any need to "collect" those cultural artifacts capable of conversion - video, text, images and for the purposes of this post, most specifically sound - but you'd be very, very wrong. All it really means is more ways to collect them all.

So, when I say these are the tunes and artists I've been listening to lately, what I really mean is they're the ones I've heard once, maybe twice, then squirreled away for future reference. The days when I'd buy a new album and listen to it a dozen times in a weekend are so far in the past I'd need a chronoscope to see them from here.

Which is why putting these posts together is so enjoyable and so valuable for me. It's a journey of rediscovery even as I write. even if the initial encounters may only have happened a matter of days ago. And there'll be another trip through the time tunnel whenever I flick through my own back pages, something I do with narcissistic regularity. [Insert hackneyed T.S. Eliot quote here. Ed.]

Enough self-justification. Let's have the tunes.

Chosen To Deserve - Wednesday

If you type "Wednesday songs" into any search engine these days, you know what you're going to get, right? Either this or this. Although actually the dance doesn't come up that much if you specify "songs". Finicky internet.

Point stands. Wednesday Addams may have filled the space where "Wednesday" goes, for now, but there are other Wednesdays. In this case, the Wednesday probably soon to be referred to, for clarity, as "Wednesday the Band" - if the Burton/Ortega juggernaut gathers pace as expected in Season Two. 

Chosen to Deserve is the current single from Wednesday's upcoming album Rat Saw God and in the accompanying press release, as reported by Stereogum, singer Karly Hartzman describes it as "a writing exercise I gave myself to try to recreate the iconic song by Drive-By Truckers ‘Let There Be Rock’". Guess what? I've never heard that one. It sounds just awful. 

It isn't. It's just a bit dull. Have a listen. The chorus goes "And I never saw Lynyrd Skynyrd but I sure saw Molly Hatchet", to which I can reply "Well I never saw Molly Hatchet but I sure saw Lynyrd Skynyrd". It must have been around 1973 or '74. I would have been fifteen or sixteen. They toured the UK in a double bill with Dutch rockers Golden Earring. I think they took in turns to open. Skynyrd opened the night I saw them. I don't think I'd heard of them before. 

I was there to see Earring, whose album, Moontan, I owned and loved, especially Candy's Going Bad, some of the lyrics of which I can still bring to mind even though it must be thirty years since I heard it. (Or not. I think I might have linked it on the blog before...) Skynyrd were alright, as I remember, but as usual, I don't remember much. I do recall them doing "Freebird", though. That was good.

Hmm. It's starting to feel like Friday night at the old folks home now. I really need to move this along or we'll be here all week...

Don't Have A Cow - Whitmer Thomas

Geez! Talk about a change of pace. About the only thing this has in common with the last one is the down-home feel of the video. I clicked on this from somewhere because of the Bart Simpson title and I did not get what I was expecting. It's stunningly bleak and the last twenty seconds are utterly unexpected. This man's a talent.

We're going to play a game now. Just by watching the video and listening to the song, tell me when you think this was recorded...

Sophie - CVC

Probably about the same time I was going to see bands like Golden Earring and Lynyrd Skynyrd, would you say? Maybe a year or two earlier. 1971 sounds about right... well, except for the obviously not-the-nineteen-seventies production.

It's a month old and let me tell you, once again, there's a lot of it going about. Just about everything new I heard this week sounds like something from another era. I'm not even sure what would count as contemporary right now. This lot, though, are full-on retro. You don't get up of a morning and just fall out of bed looking like that. Not in 2023. It's like the rock'n'roll equivalent of historical re-enactment.

I couldn't recall hearing of CVC before, although feel free to point out where they've featured on the blog before. I had to look them up. I guessed they were Eastern European. I've seen a few bands from over that way, who dress a bit like that, but no. They're from much closer to home. In fact, not much more than fifty miles from where I live: Cardiff, South Wales, to be precise. I don't know what to do with that information now I have it.

Hard Drive - Cassandra Jenkins

There's a whole scene coalescing around the speak-singing style exemplified by Yard Act and Dry Cleaning. It's not really doing much for me, although I don't not enjoy hearing it, in small doses. This, however, is much more to my taste. I think it's because the spoken aspect is integral to the song, not to the singer. Or maybe it's the way nothing about it seems to reference that overhashed post-punk sound and structure. Or maybe I just like her voice more.

Michelangelo - Cassandra Jenkins

This one's almost alt-country or Americana or something. I need to investigate further but there's no time for that now. I have a lot more in the queue and we're definitely not going to get them all into the one post.

Caught Up - Kylie Rowland

Okay, that sounds a bit more current. I happened across it by way of a throwaway comment on Stereogum, when Chris deVille closed a short news item about a festival with the words "I am definitely curious about Kylie Rowland." Blast you, Chris! Now I am, too! And still not much the wiser, frankly.

From Kylie Rowland it was small step to Amelea. Well, a small step thematically. Sonically, it was a pretty massive leap.

She's Fiction Ft. P!lot - Amelea

I hear the ghost of Ari Up stalking the halls, closely pursued by We've Got  A Fuzzbox... I actually prefer the Hot Pink remix but there's no video with that one.

After I'd watched a couple more Amelea videos I started to wonder just what P!lot were/was adding to the pot, so I took a look. A lot, as it turns out.

J'aime Le Chat - P!lot

This was the first thing that came up when I tapped the annoying-to-type P!lot into YouTube. You'll forgive me, I'm sure, for assuming she/they were French. 

She and they are not. It took a bit of googling to find out but P!lot is the name of a band not an individual, although the band is fronted by Erel Pilo, who "leads the project by writing the songs and singing leads. With a background in movement, she also incorporates dance, roller skating and aerials into performance." They're from Brooklyn because of course they are.

If I had to sum Erel and P!lot up in a  word it would have to be "charming". She's operating in a long, long tradition of endearingly eccentric, often fragile whimsy that encompasses everyone from Lorraine Bowen to Angel Corpus-Christie. I have an extraordinarily high tolerance for this sort of thing, as you're just about to find out.

Groovin' (Aretha Franklin/Young Rascals Cover) - P!lot

It takes a certain amount of nerve to cover a pop standard and then point out it's the Aretha Franklin cover you're covering. Whether nerve is enough I'll leave you to decide.

I have more but I really think I should save it for next time. By which time, of course, I'll have even more still. This collecting thing, you know. It doesn't stop.


  1. As others have pointed, deciding what to throw away based on whether the sight of it "sparks joy" or not really doesn't work when damn near everything you see sets a dopamine receptor tingling.

    For someone who is currently writing a post about RPG splatbooks --and fan created F&SF content in general-- yeah, I agree with this totally.

    I mean, I no longer play the Avalon Hill version of the boardgame Civilization, but since it's also long out of print I ain't ever giving that sucker up. My wife even called me out on not playing the game with my kids when I was little because I was afraid of never getting a replacement set of cards because of its status as a long out of print "collectable" item. I've since grown up a bit and decided that hey, if they want to spend several hours playing a game of Civ, I'm fine with it, but I do have two caveats: 1) They take care of the game because it's not gonna be coming back any time soon, and 2) I be invited to play as well.

    Still, I do agree that the advent of digital does not mean collecting physical copies are going away. After all, more than once have one of my kids mentioned to me --usually when asking to borrow a CD-- that the CD or album in question can't be found on Spotify. "You're the only person I know who has this!"


    As far as Sophie goes, I'd have guessed either 1975 or 1995. I could hear a bit of the rhythm found in mid-90s bands like Hootie and the Blowfish or Dave Matthews, but especially once you hit the middle of the song there's that undeniable Golden Earring influence running through it all. A more mellow version of "She Flies on Strange Wings" is what I'm thinking of more than anything else.

    Cassandra Jenkins has more than a bit of Sheryl Crow in her. I was originally thinking of a more Country version of Sarah MacLachlan, but I think a sideways version of Sheryl Crow is a bit more accurate.

    Kylie Rowland on first blush has more than a bit of Billie Eilish in her, but that's not entirely fair to both her and Billie. I think she does have interesting things to say sonically, and I'm curious what direction she intends to take her music.

    Amelea is, hmm.... In the same vein as Debbie Harry, but more "devil-may-care" in the lyrics. That's not a good way of putting it, but there's definite punk and New Wave overtones there.

    P!lot reminds me of bands who would come up on open mic night at a local university bar; they don't have the polish or record company backing that bigger acts would have, but they're quirky and have a devoted local following. Okay, I'm projecting a bit here, but that's what I think of when I especially watched the Groovin' video.

    Curse you, Red Baron! Now I have to find more music from these bands.

    1. I wrote something a while back about the way music criticism these days tends to default to comparisons with other performers or recordings. I try to avoid it as much as possible but sometimes it's just too tempting. Amelea in particular sounds really similar to a bunch of things that I'm sure would be acknowledged influences - always assuming she'd ever actually heard them.

      One problem with review-by-comparison is the other thing I mentioned - the longer pop culture runs, the more it becomes self-referential, not original. As the band of the same name presciently put it back in the late '80s, Pop Will Eat Itself. That CVC track, for example, is really hard to place or date because it pulls from a whole bunch of genres and periods, entirely self-consciously too. It's about two stages short of outright pastiche, I'd say.

      The other problem is that you can't really assume someone will know the reference you're using. I have no real mental file for Sheryl Crow, for example. I couldn't name a single song of hers or hum a single chorus. The big advantage of dong this kind of thing on the Web, though, is that when I compare one thing to another, at least I can add a link to both things. It also means I have to really be sure I can hear that similarity, not that I'm just plucking names out of the air. (I really should have linked Ari Up and Fuzzbox on that logic and I was going to but I ran out of time... maybe I'll go in and add links later.)

      Anyway, it's all good fun and the longer this whole culture survives, the more connections there are going to be.


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