Hey, you. Yes, you!
Want to know every band we’ve been compared to in print?
Can I shock you? I like Sun Kil Moon.*
Ever since hearing Red House Painters after being dumped by my first serious girlfriend I have been a huge Mark Kozelek fan. The lyrics were mopey, heartbroken, and the mood was introspective. Winner! I’ve bought live albums, I’ve bought T-shirts to get “exclusive” live albums, I’ve even bought a hardback book of lyrics. Fandom!
Mark Kozelek is known for album’s that as, Amazon put it, are “like an hourlong microscopic dissection of a broken heart”. What he’s not so known for is his humour. There’s evidence here and there; a downbeat folky album of Modest Mouse covers (actually excellent); almost calling the best of Red House Painters “Redtrospective”; the lyric “Scenesters with their beards and tennis shoes/Skinny and pudgy ugly dudes on “Third and Seneca” from Admiral Fell Promises, SKM’s last-but-one album.
In fact, to garble the above quoted lyric, “pudgy ugly dudes in tennis shoes” could be the key to Mark Kozelek’s new album (as Sun Kil Moon) , “Among The Leaves”.
To step back a little, I went to see Mark Kozelek play in Manchester way back in 2007. I remember thinking
a) “Hey he’s pretty funny”
b) “Hey he’s kind of an asshole”
He went on about Ricky Hatton (he’s a massive boxing fan), grumbled at the audience a bit, made a few lame jokes, played some beautiful songs. He came across as a someone who was not the introspective balladeer of his songs, in fact it would be a surprise if he was.
It seems that, on Among The Leaves, Mark Kozelek is trying to show himself as he actually is – or at least a different side to him – compared to the melancholic man that usually comes out when he writes his songs.
In an interview on http://sunkilmoon.com/hearsay2012.pdf they state the album is “melancholy” and “somber”. Whilst it’s true all the songs aren’t sunshine and light, it’s clear from song titles “The Moderately Talented Yet Not So Attractive Middle Aged Man” and “Not Much Rhymes with Everything’s Awesome at All Times” that Kozelek’s tongue is not a million miles away from his cheek. I think Kozelek is giveing a much truer, less melodramatic, image of his life than the narrow focus of previous SKM/RHP albums. He sings on (two) songs of getting the clap (“a little sting”), being bored, not liking the UK all that much (a common American musician complaint) and the man who fixed his guitars….
Previously, he has put women on a pedestal – I’m thinking of the whole of April (about his recently deceased ex) and old songs like “Sumemr Dress” – but on this album a different picture emerges. There’s the “moderately talented young woman” and also the “woman dressed like a witch” he “picked up at 12 and she was gone by 2”.
So as this is an album, what’s the music like? Mainly acoustic, nothing ornately arranged, just guitar and voice. This is similar to “Admiral Fell Promises” but that album was intricate, even ornate, and the songs felt hugely crafted – on this one there’s a sense of things being a bit more tossed off, most definitely looser. Kozelek says in his interview with Hearsay, “I don’t writer bad songs but some of these are pretty bad. I just wanted to show some vunerability and not care.”
This is particularly clear on tracks such as “Track number 8” -“I wrote this one and I know it aint great – I’ll probably sequence it track number 8”. The song, naturally, appears, on track number 11.
So this isn’t a great album. But I think it is a good one. It’s fun to listen to mainly because it’s Mark Kozelek telling the story of his life at the moment, and, you know what, he’s a pretty entertaining guy.
*To avoid confusion Mark Kozelek is a singer songwriter who is the main man behind Sun Kil Moon and previously The Red House Painters.
Pop music. We enjoy it. We dance to it. It infects our brains as earworms. But how seriously do we take it? Do we engage with the serious questions it throws up?
Yes, some songs that raise serious questions in their titles and these are answered as a matter of course, e.g;
Travis – Q: “Why does it always rain on me?” A:”because you lack an umbrella”.
Bob Dylan – Q: “How many roads must a man walk down before you can call him a man?” A: 42 (as any fan of The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy knows)
The Smiths – Q: How Soon is Now? A: Now.
The KLF – Q: What Time is Love? A: 12.23am
Rod Stewart – Q: Do Ya Think I’m Sexy? A: For a period in the 70’s, sadly, yes.
and so and so forth.
But what about the questions implicit in songs? These are the one’s that go unanswered. For example the Hollies sang, “He aint heavy, he’s my brother.” Yet we still do not know how heavy (or light) the brother in question was.
What does Lady Gaga’s poker face look like?
Who shot the Deputy?
Which leads me to The Lonely Island’s pop opus “Motherlover”.
Please take a second to familiarise yourself with our source material by clicking the link below, before we continue.
We know the boys are going to sleep with each others mothers. In fact they further this with the aim of impregnating each other’s respective mothers. All well and good. But the implicit question remains: What will the genealogical connection of these theoretical children be?
Let’s find out.
Firstly, we should set out the relationship between Andy Samberg, Justin Timberlake and their respective mothers.
We can clearly see that Mother Samberg and Mother Timberlake are Andy and Justin’s mothers, respectively.
Now if Andy and Justin were to mate with each other’s mothers and produce offspring our diagram would look a little like this.
Here it might be useful to define to our symbols: A downward arrow denotes parentage. A horizontal line with a heart denotes a sexual relationship that produced offspring.
Now, whilst technically accurate, Fig 2. does not really help us determine relationship. We must therefore, look at the cases of Baby Samberg and Baby Timberlake separately.
From Fig 3. and Fig 4. we can see the following
i) Andy and Baby Timberlake would be half siblings; Justin and Baby Samberg would be half siblings.
Assuming marriage between a) Mother Samberg and Justin and b) Mother Timberlake and Andy we would have:
ii) Justin and Andy would be each other’s respective Father in Laws.
iii) Mother Samberg and Mother Timberlake would be each other’s Mother in Law and Daughter in Law.
But what about Baby Timberlake and Baby Samberg. Combing Fig 4. and Fig 5., with Baby Timberlake as the end product and avoiding any unnecessary repetition of participants, we have the following:
and if we take Baby Samberg as the end product we have:
From Fig 5. and Fig 6. we see that Baby Samberg and Baby Timberlake are each others half-uncles and half-nephews; One’s mother being the other’s grandmother and vice-versa.
We can extend this further by considering both Mother Samberg and Mother Timberlake’s parentage and comparing these directly for both Baby Samberg and Baby Timberlake:
Finally, we may ask ourselves, what is the genetic relationship between Baby Samberg and Baby Timberlake. Assuming we share 50% unique DNA with our full siblings (receiving 50% of our father’s DNA and 50% of our mother’s with the DNA given being normally distributed), then a child will share 25% of the DNA of one of it’s parents.
Andy Samberg has 50% of Mother Samberg’s DNA; Baby Samberg has 50% of this DNA; Therefore Baby Samberg has 25% of Mother Samberg’s DNA. Baby Timberlake has 50% of Mother Samberg’s DNA of which half can be expected to be the same as that received by Andy Samberg. Therefore Baby Timberlake and Baby Samberg share 12.5% through Mother Samberg.
Justin Timberlake has 50% of Mother Timberlake’s DNA; Baby Timberlake has 50% of this DNA; Therefore Baby Timberlake has 25% of Mother Timberlake’s DNA. Baby samberg has 50% of Mother Timberlake’s DNA of which half can be expected to be the same as that received by Justin Timberlake. Therefore Baby Timberlake and Baby Samberg share 12.5% through Mother Timberlake.
In response to my Music Mountain, the enigmatic Adam John Miller has done his first piece for the ‘Club site.
“So, this is my “Music Mountain” The idea: Pick your favourite band that has released 1 album, 2 albums, 3 albums etc. I got to 18. I tried to ignore Live albums and Compilations and stick to Original Studio Albums. Make your own!”
According to some anthropologists, it is our ability to group things that makes us human. We can differentiate and distinguish things not only by a single feature (“a cat”, say) but by many. We can even group disparate things. Both a bear and a chocolate bar are brown; a steak and a chocolate bar are both foods. Apparently this gives us a massive evolutionary advantage over the other animals, the poor saps, as we can then use this information to make well informed decisions.
With this in mind I am exercising my humanity by pointlessly cataloguing bands I like! Woo!
I’ve made a “Music Mountain” (patent pending).. – where I’ve put my favourite band who’ve made one album* on the top, favourite band who made 2 albums second and so on.
I did nine bands originally and then I thought, “that’s not enough, there’s barely even insane.” So I upped it to 17. And yes there are some shitty albums in there. Out of the 153 albums….
*by album I mean studio or all live album with previously unrecorded music on it.
The bands in order are:
1 album – Young Marble Giants
2 albums – Neutral Milk Hotel
3 albums – Boards Of Canada
4 albums – The Smiths
5 albums – Pavement
6 albums – Red House Painters
7 albums – Husker Du
8 albums – Radiohead
9 albums – Dinosaur Jr.
10 albums – The Magnetic Fields
11 albums – The Beatles
12 albums – Captain Beefheart
13 albums – The Flaming Lips
14 albums – The Mountain Goats
15 albums – R.E.M.
16 albums – Sonic Youth
17 albums – Guided By Voices
R.E.M. are dead. Some people said R.E.M. died when he joined the army… no wait that was Elvis … some people say R.E.M died when Bill Berry left. I disagree with those people. I like Up (the first post Berry album) as well…
Anyways, I wanted to talk about “Out Of Time” rather than their recentish break up. As I am now reduced to listening to music through a discman, my music has been limited to the few CDs I have left. One of these is “Out Of Time” R.E.M’s 1991 album.
I hadn’t listened to it in about a decade. I have two main memories of it. The first when I was 8 and it’s songs were ubiquitous on the radio (strange to think now) – i liked them but claimed not to to annoy my sister – and the next when I was 16 and decided to rediscover it’s music. I remember loving the album at 16 butwith some reservations. Listening again has been a mixture of nostalgia and reappraisal for me.
The first thing that struck me about the album as a whole was how, ummm, unconfident it sounded. The majority of the songs were gorgeous but they really struck me as the sound of a band trying to work out what it took to be a commercial success. It took me days to work out why this was, and it might be more down to me than them.
Reason a) This is the record that sounds most like Idlewild wanted to be circa “The Remote Part”. as an 18 year old I loved that album but always new it to be minor league aping. So maybe I’m associating Out Of Time with that.
Reason b) This literally is the album that was their big commercial breakthrough. Not that they were small before but this, via “Losing My Religion”, made them megastars.
Reason the c) I realised that I had literally taken the way R.E.M. wrote songs and internalised it. I kept on thinking “that’s the kind of melody/harmony I’d write! And the off key high bits! and the panned bongos!”. As I am an unconfident songwriter, I assume them to be.
Back in 2001 (when I listened to it the most) I always thought Out Of Time sounded a million miles away from what came before it in The R.E.M. catalogue. Now I can see a lot of Green, the previous R.E.M. album, in it. Green, funnily enough, does sound like a band trying really hard to be pop (including “Pop Song 89” as it does) but is a lot of fun so I never considered it to be tryin too hard. The song I see the most of Green in is, errrrrrgggg, “Radio Song”
Radio Song. It’s like they took all the worst bits of Green and made a song out of them. Erstatz funk guitar, crappy keyboards, incongrous middle 8… then they asked KRS-One to phone in the worst rap ever. I can imagine the scene:
Michael Stipe: “That take was ok, KRS but could you make it more ‘uncle at a wedding'”
KRS: “hmmm how about ‘baby, baby, baby'”
Michael Stipe: “Yes! Now add some ‘toddler who’s had too many e-number’s and we’re there!”
So I skip the first track. And the second. “Losing My Religion” is a brilliant song. A brilliant song that I’ve heard a million times.
So the rest of the album? I’ll just write a list of words then put up a link to “Near Wild Heaven” .
Whistful, gorgeous, hopeful, yearning, introspective…
I like Shiny Happy People.
The Wednesday Club doesn’t exist in a band vacuum, oh no. We have lots and lots of bands we love in our local area and some of these we’ve been in. Or been in a band with someone who’s in that band. Or been in band with someone who’s been in a band with someone who’s been in that band…With this in mind, and to stave off my upcoming breakdown, I’ve made a map of all these (which is nowhere near al- inclusive…). Enjoy!
The Acutes – two piece Davecore band
All My Friends Are Dead – Now defunct post rock band
Anderson Congress – Now defunct psychogaze band
Bear Driver – melodic dream pop
Biscuit Head and The Biscuit Badgers – many instrumented funny band
The Blanche Hudson Weekend – a more restrained Manhattans
Boy Racer – indiepop band from der 90s
Broken Chairs – on hiatus spazzcore band
Crayon – Now defunct up tempo 3 piece Glaciers
The Contortionist – rigid beautiful indiepop – see also Japanese Sleepers
Downdime – Leeds’ premier indiepop band
Folk Theatre Partisans – Now defunct folk supergroup formed of David Broad, Fran Rodgers, Mike Rossiter and Ben Weatherhill
Fonda 500 – Hull indie electro legends
Glaciers – yearning downtempocore ish
The Half Hour Skiffle Hour – On hiatus skiffle
Hawk Eyes – Capital M metal band, formerly Chicken Hawk, fairly successful
HOTMIM (Heroes of The Mexican Independence Movement) – 3 piece indiepop with a side line in hilarious banter
Hookworms – noisy melodic stuff
Ian Williams – broken/delicate alt country
Leo Trout – Mine and Adam’s first band, sloppy indiepop
Manhattan Love Suicides – Now defunct Jesus and Mary Chain influenced indiepop, fairly successful
The Medusa Snare – Millercore
Nir Death Experience – Lemonheadsy wonderfulness
Nir (Vana) – folk/electro rap project
Olfar – mid rocking alt country
Pulled Apart By Horses – Capital R rock band, fairly successful
The Rocky Nest – Now defunct brass heavy Indietracks fave
Samsa – Now defunct rock 3 piece
Sky Larkin – noisy guitar three piece, fairly successful
The Stay At Homes – 2 piece blues-pop
The Seven Inches – Leeds legends, once and future kings
T.O.Y.S – 3 piece power kraut
Ten – Avante-laptop post rock
Vest For Tysso – On hiatus indie folk
Wallaby Willington – now defunct avante-folk band
The Wednesday Club – pretentious talent wasters
Wonderswan – awesome lofi slackpop
John, Dec 11
Max Broady lists his favourite Prince albums, offering you a beginner’s guide to the purple one’s purple patch.
Although it doesn’t seem to attract as much kudos as some of his records, 1999 was the most overblown expression of all Prince’s eccentricities, and is accordingly my favourite Prince album. He frontloads the album with the big singles (‘1999’, ‘Little Red Corvette’, ‘Delirious’ – all exceptional), but it’s only once he’s got these out of the way that we get to the heart of the album and things get deliciously odd. He follows the three hits with three epic songs, each over seven minutes long, that are individually astonishing and collectively ridiculous. ‘Let’s Pretend We’re Married’ interrupts its pulsing kraut-ish groove only for Prince to deliver a foul-mouthed monologue and then closes with a semi-rap telling us how he loves a) God, and b) partying, in that order; ‘D.M.S.R’ is a party jam that sounds like the music from Sonic the Hedgehog; and strangest of all is the ten-minute ‘Automatic’, a litany of sexual boasts that descends into a maelstrom of multi-tracked moaning women whilst Prince shreds away on his guitar. What else? If you still need convincing there’s ‘Free’, a cloyingly earnest ballad about, er, how lucky we are to be free; and ‘Lady Cab Driver’, a great falsetto funk number with a raunchy rant about sex, tourists and consumerism. I guess if you don’t love Prince this all might be a bit much; 1999 is by far his most over-the-top album. But you’ve got to admire such unbridled ambition and such wilful disregard for coherence, convention or even the average listener’s attention span, especially by such a popular artist. If you can embrace the oddity 1999 is certainly worth it.
Sign o’ the Times
It might seem daunting – especially given Prince’s fondness for excess – but for a double album it’s actually pretty tight. And it was originally slated to be a triple album called Crystal Ball until his record label finally learned to say ‘no’. He was so prolific over this period that he had a number of projects on the go that never saw the light of day, including an album of songs by his female alter-ego Camille (pre-empting Kevin Barnes by over 20 years). Sign o’ the Times was a synthesis of these various projects. It lacks the poppy polish of Purple Rain, but it feels more intimate and personal than just about anything else he’s done. There aren’t many famous songs, but it’s a really solid and varied collection all pulled off with consummate ease. It works a bit like a ‘best of’, showcasing the all-encompassing range of his talents. The title track is probably his most successful ‘message’ song; ‘Play in the Sunshine’ is a breezy ready-for-the-stage pop romp; ‘Housequake’ a James Brown-esque one-chord jam… and that’s just the first three songs – I could go on. Props in particular must go to ‘The Ballad of Dorothy Parker’ which invents the sound of TLC, and the ethereal ‘If I was your Girlfriend’, which was in fact covered by TLC (and was the only vestige of the Camille project on the album). You’re also treated to two of his most enjoyable pop songs: ‘Strange Relationship’ and ‘I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man’. It took a bit of time to grow on me, but it’s an incredible example of his prowess.
Parade: Music from the Motion Picture ‘Under the Cherry Moon’
Not his most feted album, and lacks that certain something which would propel it to being truly great, but it’s solid all the way through and benefits from a nice, warm production (following the ghostly Around the World In a Day). It doesn’t start that strongly but has a great run of songs at the end, from ‘Kiss’ (deny its brilliance at your peril) to ‘Sometimes It Snows In April’, which is hands-down my favourite Prince ballad. Plus it has ‘Mountains’, a lovely gospel-ish pop banger, and ‘Girls and Boys’, which is silly bilingual fun. For good measure it also has ‘Venus de Milo’, a slightly pointless but inoffensive instrumental, and ‘Do You Lie?’, which I thought was awful on first listen but is actually really quite passable. NB: apparently the film is rubbish. I’d rate this record only very slightly above…
This is a lean batch of songs clocking in at less than half an hour, which is in marked contrast to the excess of some of his later records. It’s way too economical to be home to any of the weirdness that arrived with his next record, Controversy. Even its song titles are literal and blunt (‘Sister’, ‘Head’). The playing is slick, tight and irresistibly funky. It features the surprisingly touching ‘When You Were Mine’ and ‘Gotta Broken Heart Again’, and the peerless dancefloor-fillers ‘Uptown’ and ‘Party Up’. But I think special mention has to go to ‘Sister’, a sub-two-minute rocker extolling the virtues of incest, and ‘Head’, where the outré subject matter is echoed perfectly by the slobbering synths. Not a weak song and not a second wasted.
This one’s a bit over-rated, I think, but then I’m not a massive fan of ‘Let’s Go Crazy’ or ‘I would Die 4 U’, or even ‘Purple Rain’ for that matter. And when there’s only 9 songs on the whole album that leaves… what? an okay ballad (‘The Beautiful Ones’), a bit of filler (‘Baby I’m A Star’)… oh, and his best ever song, ‘When Doves Cry’, in a nicely extended version. From the cocky-as-hell guitar intro to the simple three-note riff (which always reminds me of the melody to “three blind mice, see how they run…”), the notoriously bass-less mega-hit shouldn’t work on paper but is Prince’s crowning achievement. To give Purple Rain its dues you also get the fantastic ‘Take Me With You’, ‘Darling Nikki’, which I’ve always had a soft spot for, and ‘Computer Blue’, which is not much of a tune and is just about the most ‘80s-sounding song ever recorded, but it does have some cool guitar and the charming spoken intro (“Wendy?” “Yes, Lisa?” “Is the water warm enough?” “Yes, Lisa”).
After the straight-ahead Dirty Mind, Controversy took a step into the off-the-wall territory that would go overboard on 1999. Crucially, it introduced an artistic mainstay of Prince’s peak period: the spoken word section (a motif also popular with the Wednesday Club). The title track delivers perhaps the first genuine WTF moment of his career. After five minutes of squelchy synth funk the music dies down and Prince slowly intones in a deep, distorted voice the Lord’s Prayer. In full. Seriously. And, if that wasn’t enough, the song kicks back in and he begins to chant: “People call me rude, I wish we all were nude, I wish there were no black or white, I wish there were no rules”. The next song, ‘Sexuality’, is perhaps even more unfathomable. After the second chorus of “sexuality, let your body be free” you think you’ve got the song pinned down. But then Prince launches into a lengthy and completely incongruous rant against tourists (again! What’s his problem with tourists? They’re “a bunch of double drags who teach their kids that love is bad”, apparently) and television (which teaches children “to cuss, fight and breed”). Um, thanks Prince. Mercifully we’re back on familiar ground with the next song, ‘Do Me Baby’ – “ooh, give it to me”, he croons soulfully. Controversy is a slightly awkward transitional album, but is unfairly maligned and has some unmitigated triumphs – particularly ‘Private Joy’, typical perfect pop, and ‘Jack U Off’, which is pretty much the same as ‘Delirious’ from 1999.
Around The World In A Day
This is supposed to be his psychedelic album, but it just sounds hollow and really cold (if anything, I’d say Parade is his psychedelic album). Also, the songs aren’t really up to standard, though ‘Paisley Park’ and ‘Pop Life’ are pretty good. ‘Condition of the Heart’ is a quite nice ballad, I suppose, though it does go on a bit. But then it does have ‘Raspberry Beret’, which is probably my second favourite Prince song and about the most infectiously enjoyable song one can imagine. But this towers above the rest of the album, and is outweighed by the hugely overwrought plodder ‘The Ladder’. I tried really hard to like this one but it doesn’t quite work.
You’re thinking that’s probably as much as you need, but if you’re interested enough to have read this far then you DEFINITELY also need to get down with the B-Sides album – it’s actually the 3rd CD of a 3-CD compilation album he did called simply Hits (a fair enough title). If I could take just one Prince disc to my desert island it’d be this. It’s amazing to think that he could relegate material this strong to the flipside: ‘Erotic City’, ‘She’s Always In My Hair’, ‘17 Days’ – probably all 3 would be in my top 10 Prince songs – and the latter is the B-Side to ‘When Doves Cry’, making it one of the strongest A/B singles ever. And there’s a song called ‘Horny Toad’ – what’s not to love?
Max, December 11
As So Claw and Sour Crow are two albums recorded at the same time, Max Broady decided to revisit one of his favourite bands’, Guns ‘N’ Roses recorded-at-the-same-time two album opus…
I first became aware of Guns N’ Roses through Matthew Meadows, a badass kid in the year above me at primary school who constantly wore the Use Your Illusion T-shirt. This was a bold statement at the time, especially in such a disciplinarian school as mine was, and it really stuck in my mind. But it wasn’t what the Gn’R* shirt said about Meadows; it was quite the opposite. As soon as I associated Gn’R with the notoriously troublesome Meadows kid (whose younger sister was probably my first crush, incidentally), I had them marked as a dangerous, corrupting influence. And when lil’ Ed Norton listened to ‘You Could Be Mine’ in Terminator 2 (a film which itself had a massive formative effect on me) that sealed the deal – they became everything mum had warned me about, and they both scared and fascinated me. (Around the same time my cousin Geoff, who I idolised, had a Public Enemy T-shirt, but that went way over my head – I had no idea who or what they were until much later. Between Gn’R and Public Enemy I don’t know who my mum would rather I had listened to).
For the time being I could happily avoid Gn’R, but as soon as secondary school came around I felt for the first time the pressure to fit in. This was the early 90s, just at the time when Nirvana were supposedly consigning Gn’R and all their spandex-clad hair-metalling chums to the commercial waste bin. Of course, as an eleven year old kid I made no such distinction, and liking both Gn’R and Nirvana was not mutually exclusive, it was mandatory. But while liking Nirvana was easy – I took to Nevermind as soon as the drums came in on ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ – I couldn’t get on with Gn’R, though that may well be because the only album of theirs I heard for ages was the largely indefensible covers record, “The Spaghetti Incident?”
Among my peers Gn’R were cool primarily because they swore a lot, and admitting to not liking them would have been akin to admitting that I harboured a crush on our Biology teacher, Mr Taylor (aka Cheese n’ Onion). So speaking out against Gn’R was simply not an option, although at least they no longer frightened me. Once Gn’R were no longer associated with the foreboding spectre of Matthew Meadows but with the air-guitaring gurns of my harmless new metalhead friends their capacity to threat evaporated.
And I didn’t have to pretend for long. Within a few months Oasis came along and for the first time, I guess, I found my own musical identity. So Gn’R, and Nirvana too, were quickly dismissed as just too infantile for my tres sophisticated twelve-year-old tastes, and they receded from my mind as something vaguely embarrassing that I wanted to forget and erase from history, like the ‘Attack of the Killer Tomatoes’ pyjamas I probably should have stopped wearing a bit earlier than I actually did.
But Gn’R resolutely resurfaced in my consciousness some five years later, just as I was coming to the end of my uncomfortable ‘early Manics phase’ (mum’s eyeliner never went with my ginger hair – it was always bound to end in literal, not just metaphorical, tears). It was the first time I’d properly heard Appetite for Destruction, and, in a new context where Generation Terrorists was an acceptable record, it made sense. A kind of inverse snobbery took over, whereby anyone who couldn’t see that it flat-out rocked, man, was just being way too precious. I even bought a vinyl copy from Lancaster market with the original cover of the robot raping a woman that got banned for some reason. It came with a tasteful pull-out sticker sheet. Nice.
But for all their MTV-saturated ubiquity, I didn’t come across Use Your Illusion One and Two until I was 18, specifically via a dodgy street market in Turkey, where I’d gone for a ‘lads’ holiday after my A-levels (Alex and Joe argued over who was going to buy which album; Joe won out and bought Two). By this time my brief Gn’R renascence was on the wane and I was running out of patience with them, so it was probably not the best time to be introduced to two records that each topped 75 minutes. I remember marvelling at how Axl sang the chorus of Dylan’s sparse, plaintive ballad ‘Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door’ over no less than three different octaves, only for the song to collapse into a protracted phone conversation breakdown of epic WTF proportions, before the whooping gospel choir crashed the party for the rousing finale. I don’t remember much else, but that pretty much tells you all you need to know.
* Punctuation pedants may point out that there should be an apostrophe before the n, as well as after, but that’s how they wrote it. Still, that’s nothing compared to what they came up with later: GN’F’NR’s [sic]. Hell, even their abbreviations were ridiculously overblown. Self-editing was not their strong point.
Max, Jun 11
I was 17 when I first heard Neutral Milk Hotel. Adam introduced them to me, and in fact our friendship was created through them – me discussing the band with him the next time I saw him after his passing remark about how he liked them. In fact this band wouldn’t have existed if it wasn’t for that conversation.
I didn’t think too much of them at first. They were interesting enough but they didn’t really grab me. If I thought of them at all it was as a kind of outre indie band with a smattering of eastern european influences. I doubt I thought of them enough to articulate it that way.
But they crept up on me. After 6 months, I was besotted with In The Aeroplane Over The Sea.I was listening to the song “Communist Daughter” daily on a mix tape I’d made myself.
I’d obsessed over albums, bands and song before, so this wasn’t too different. Back when I was 14 I even listened over and over to Oasis’s Magic Pie (a truly, truly dreadful song) – I spent many an hour considering the faux profundity of such lines as “there are but a thousand days preparing for a thousand years”.
It was over the next couple of years I became, I’m afraid to say, fanatical about Neutral Milk Hotal and In The Aeroplane Over The Sea. As a very brief overview that album is a very personal concept album in part about Anne Frank; according to Pandora – the music genome project that categorises every popular song iver- it has folk instrumenatation and great lyrics. So there you go.
I began to listen to everything NMH had ever done daily, almost as a ritual. I listened to their first album, On Avery Island. I listened to early tapes. I listened to bootleg live recordings. I listened to the unreleased demos that had begun leaking online. I studied album artwork for clues. I read every singles interview that Jeff Mangum (Mr. Neutral Milk Hotel) had ever done.
My life at the time was very tempstuos and Jaff Mangum’s songs had become a lifeline (note to self – double use of life there, sloppy, sloppy writing). Like many an indie kid I had latched onto the wonderful, heartfelt lyrics sometimes straight forward ,”how strange it is to be anything at all”, sometimes opaque, “when you were young were the king of carrot flowers.
The album became an anchor for me.
An important thing to mention is that shortly after In The Aeroplane Over The Sea was released in 1998 on Merge Records, Jeff Mangum disappeared from public view, only surfacing occasionally for a period of 10 years. The record sold well, very well for an indie record, but was essentially a non mainstream album. Due to this and the subject matter the album soon became a cult item.
For years I was so excited when I read anything about Neutral Milk Hotal. Any sign of action. I was an evangelical tryign to convert any one I met to the cause. When I met anyone else who had heard of them I wanted to jump for joy. But this changed. I got older. My obsession lessened. I listened to NMH less and less. Indie discos started playing their tracks.People were going to gigs in homemade Neutral Milk Hotel tshirts. And I started to listen to them less and less. I still loved them but I no longer lived and died by them. I listened to other things. I no longer went on their message board every day or every week or every month.
But.. I occasionally still dreamed of Jeff Mangum. When I was obsessed he started appearing in my dreams. A faintly messianic figure, he was always distant. I wanted to talk to him – make him normal and a friend of mine but never managed it. He always remained out of reach.
And this continued in the years after. I would still have these dreams were he would turn up even if I hadn’t listened to his band in months. I dreamt of him the way other people dream of Jesus; or John Lennon; or Justin bieber.
I’m writing about this because I had another one of these dreams a couple of days a go.
Jeff Mangum is playing gigs in the UK next uear. I’m going. I am an adult. I know he’s a normal man. My friends have spoken to him in a bar. And yet… my subconscious has internalised him. He’s become part of me and represents something. I don’t know what but I think he might still be popping up in my dreams unitl the day I die, when I can’t even remember what Two Headed Boy Pt Two sounds like any more…
John, November 11