Certain elements of popular music are just so wonderful that I don’t have the words. The trumpets on Scott Walker’s version of ‘Mathilde’. The solitary, exorcised chord around which Spiritualized’s ‘If I Were With Her Now’ is constructed. ‘Just Make It Stop’ by Low – you catch my drift.
These words are being written on the type of afternoon where hunkering down with turntable and bottle of whatever is the only thing that makes sense. Dusk at half-past two. The wind. The rain. Clouds so low you could reach out and touch. Reflective, I think the mood is called; I’m not currently listening to Disintegration by The Cure, but it would fit. Snugly.
There are, of course, people out there for whom the above paragraphs make no sense whatsoever. I don’t understand these folk – just as I’ll never comprehend voting Conservative or why Mark E Smith isn’t allowed to read out the soccerball scores every Saturday afternoon – but their existence is legion. Even the kids are at it; the shrug, the vague look, the fidgeting as the first Broadcast LP is lovingly transferred to the machine that plays records. “Can I go do something else now?”
Combining parenthood with even a semi-serious record collection is to wish the magic rubs off. It’s not necessarily a conscious determination – little ears a conduit through which vital records become equally as loved by the next generation – but it’s there, all the same. For various reasons I’ve pretty much failed with my offspring. They’ve displayed scant affinity toward jangly guitars, odd-angled beeps and buzzes, or Slade’s rather fantastic 1975 Old New Borrowed Or Blue album. I’ll keep working on it of course – Reproduction by The Human League wasn’t dismissed out of hand – but I kind of get where this musical distance originates. There’s a lack of context present. A barrier to empathy. They’ve never had to queue up outside the Left Legged Pineapple in Loughborough or Vibe in Bournemouth whilst the racks were filled with that week’s Wedding Present single – in part because those record stores no longer exist, and in part because the 7” looks to them like something that belongs in a museum. The “Wow, you used to listen to music on that?” moment.
The flip-side, I guess, is that however old fashioned and irrelevant my fetishistic consumption of recorded sound may appear to those less schooled in C86, it’s exactly the stance I took (and no doubt continue to take) with my own parent’s record collection. That I know all the words to Neil Diamond’s Jazz Singer album (for instance) is less a reflection upon me than a legacy of long-term exposure at a formative age. The music my mother and father listened to say nothing to me about my life (to borrow a phrase). The lack of context and a barrier to empathy, etc.
And the moral of this tale? Strictly speaking, there isn’t one – I’m merely sat at the keyboard with a tumbler full of port, listening to records and thinking abstract thoughts at 33rpm. But if you do require a moral – as if you haven’t had enough of A Christmas Carol and It’s A Wonderful Life – it’s…erm… listen to more Wedding Present singles. That Slade remain criminally under-rated. And that, were I to resubmit my 2013 Albums Of The Year, Low’s The Invisible Way might just make the Top Ten.
Low / Just Make It Stop