Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Talking moderately and saying nothing

Occasionally I find my mouth stepping up to the plate marked mid-30s father of two and making reassuringly meaningless comments, glib entreaties, petty complaints about why ‘they’ have done such and such, “wouldn’t it be nices?”, etc. I almost convince myself I do want that fast moving consumer good the media are talking about. The sheer frustration and anger at others dissipates and I join in the debate, not the kind of spirited debate we are used to in Blogistan but the ones where cosy consensus is the inevitable conclusion. And on the recent occasions I have been out it’s the same, ‘chatting’ on the sujets du jour – subprime credit crunch, the Hatton fight (I wanted him to win; that was about it), browsing over them with Barthesian ease, keeping the ennui at bay.

Some of this killer complicity bug is sure to have been contracted in readiness for the approaching Season of Cloy – aka Christmas, where this sort of stuff is necessary to deal with the when, what, where, why questions of relatives, before slow-burning anger at the relentless mediocrity zits on the nearest and dearest and it’s time to return to London.

An ideal setting for this seeming assimilation is found in the car, where bourgie comments were backed up last Saturday by the democratically inspired selection of fucking radio 2 on the stereo. Listening to this, I had a real handle on the recent issue (yeah, that sounds right) of Jonathon Toss believing he is worth the offensive salary he earns. Listening to his interview with the Arctic Monkeys, he raised my ire right out of comfort haze three-fold: first, he had no idea of the name of the drummer (Matt Helders); second, the questions were so bad, so basic, so banal – for a clue, just watch his evening show – what’s it like being in a band? Do you prefer being in the studio or on tour, how do you handle the fame?; and third, the piece de resistance of interrupting one of their l!ve numbers because there was something approaching silence. Can the station’s consumers honestly stomach such bland questioning and basic amateurism? Will they really accept anything and continue saying “radio 2’s not that bad these days you know”? Honestly, it would sound better coming through my coffin, and the interior insulation of my mushed brain.

After arriving in Aldeburgh my bland interjections continued, maybe I was trying to escape the bleak, stormy weather on the Suffolk coast; maybe I was trying to fit in with the relentlessly comfortable vibe of the town’s main drag, if the succession of sophisticated casualwear shops was any indicator. One shop/brand’s logo was the reductio ad absurdum “Live the life”. What? Which life? Does this come with the slacks? Is it really like a permanent holiday in the Maldives, Blackberry attached?

The final sonic ignimony again came via R2 on the way back, with Dale Winton’s revival rundown of a hit parade from history. Fontella Bass did the Rescue for a while, the Walker Hermanos were on and Animals self-exulted a bit with It’s My Life.

In a way this curatorial tip provided relief from the setting as I had an object on which to digress. Far too many tunes were overburdened with Spectoresque string arrangements and Motown beats where neither were required. PJ Proby bored senseless with his Maria obsession; and Ken Dodd and Cliff ‘Dildo’ Richards were present too (only needed Jonathon King for the full set). I lamented the samey production values, the tweeness, the first Britpap incarnation, no less.

Soon I was pontificating to Mrs Truth about the probable year, enjoying the sound of my own voice again (Truth jnrs barely twitched). It couldn’t have been 1967 as Burdon and Chandler would have been shaping up Hendrix by then (and how appropriate was It’s My Life to the mire of choice I was in this weekend). And at least the show showed me that, reassuringly, pop is as bad as it ever was.

The number 2 hit came in to provide something finally to lose myself in (and divine the date, it was late 1964). In this context, how good The Who’s My Generation sounded – Moon’s drumming skidding all over the place; scattershot guitars, defiant attitude (for now). Gustav Metzger would really have been proud of Pete Townsend then.

The next watercooler opinion coming would be Led Zeppelin’s comeback gig on the Greenwich peninsula, under the dome. Let’s face it, it looked fucking dire and sounded like new bad metal on the telly, Bonham’s son thrashing around, Page smashing the guitar like he used to in perfect arrogance as to how little effect it was having. But that’s not the point, both he and Townsend know perfectly well along with the rest of us that the youthful explosions are there solely to back up the career and the system is now inverted that the former actually depends on the latter, not t’other way round.

A logo on a supermarket pizza perfectly summed the krapp I found myself in these last few days – “When Life’s a Worry At Least There’s Pizza.” Like the free placebo with trousers from the shop, they too come supplied with medication for today’s unlife.
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