Some of my mutuals think I read a lot of books and that fact freaks me out a bit. Unsurprisingly for the longest while I read fuck all – my attention span felt fried from spending all day on the internet and I was too preoccupied with listening to the same three albums to branch out and pay attention to other forms of media. Because of this it feels like I’m always compensating when it comes to literature, getting through all the texts that I probably should have gotten around to ages ago and growing an insane reading list as a result. This reading list is logged on Goodreads, a website that’s essentially just RateYourMusic for people who pretend to understand Proust. Whenever I pretend to myself that I’ll get around to an interesting-seeming book I find myself visiting the Goodreads page, leafing through reviews in the hopes of giving me the motivation to actually sit through the thing. I find these reviews morbidly interesting, in some cases they just end up telling you more about the reviewer’s life or the era than whatever Marxist text they utterly despised. Because of this I thought it’d be fun to go through the books that I’ve sat through this year and rank them based off whatever vibes the Goodreads reviews emanate, arguably the only way to objectively review something. I’d end this paragraph with some witty meta-gag but my friend Lee got mad at someone for using the word meta the other day and I thought it’d be funny to include this sentence to annoy him.
As lockdown drags on I’m slowly just zoning out into my own little mundane space and perhaps that’s optimal for me. Life has taken on its own odd rhythm – day melts into night (and into the next morning), weeks are now defined by the time wedged between blog post deadlines and reading group sessions, and I’ve spent a concerning amount of time reading outside (or just thinking about reading outside, basically the same thing). I’m gradually just disconnecting from the wider world (to the point where my anxiety now mainly flares up during Zoom meetings, presumably just to remind me that it still exists) and I’ve begun to embrace being totally out of touch – I’m probably a boomer and I don’t particularly care anymore. Now this’d be great if I didn’t base my personality around listening to a lot of “new” (read: barely underground and covered on hundreds of better blogs) music yet it feels as if I’ve just regressed into rediscovery – why bother listening to something new when you can just listen to something you thought was cool for a total of five minutes two years ago? Whenever I do end up drinking (usually whenever lockdown dread seeps in and I have more than twenty negative thoughts in an hour) I become obsessed with this idea of revisiting certain albums and artists – it feels as if I just pencil in appointments every three-to-four days to shout about albums I haven’t heard in ages and my friends just have to sit there and pretend to hold an active interest (or any idea as to what I’m on about). Unsurprisingly, this brings us to the first record I’m going to talk about this week – this time last night I was shouting about this record and I hope that I’m able to explain as to why that was the case. It turns out if I put a little sentence at the end of each introduction where I point out how formulaic my work is getting that suddenly makes it endearing and humorous – at least for the first month anyway.
Jean-Paul Sartre (an edgy bastard who I won’t even pretend to have read) once (supposedly) claimed that hell was other people, Matt Colquhoun corrected this by claiming that hell was the inescapability of other people – both were wrong, hell is the inescapability of other people’s small-talk during a wake. I feel weird as I write this mini-post, I’ve a funeral to go to in roughly eleven hours and I feel extremely voyeuristic to even mention this point – I’ll probably send this draft to a few friends (assuming I even finish the thing) before dumping it on this Neocities page and will presumably be unable to read it ever again after it ends up on there. I don’t want to dwell on this sense of grief or loss for much (if any) of this piece, I don’t want to play as some sort of victim and i don’t want to come off in a similar tone as I did when I sent countless emails to explain why my assignments weren’t going to come in on time for a while – I just want to dwell a bit on the weirdness of rural Irish culture as I start to experience it again (the first time I talked to a person who didn’t live in my house since March was as the family member passed on Tuesday). I’m not sure if there’s much of worth to whoever ends up reading this blog (if this is your first ill post, please go to my Katie Dey piece) but it feels like something I have to get out there – even if it does mean you miss out on a Thursday post where I just copy-paste half of some random book I read a month ago in an attempt to explain the internet.
I think that I’m a masochist for choosing to write about music each week – I find it hard to come up with interesting sentences about the albums and artists I get obsessed with and instead often end up opting to write about the experience of listening to said records in an extremely sappy fashion – presumably to the detriment of whatever poor soul ends up clicking on the URL for this blog post. This is especially the case when it comes to the musicians that have defined my life in some way – bringing me to Sam Ray, the topic of the first half of this post. Sam Ray is a scarily prolific musician (to the point where back in the day I genuinely did not realize that some of my favourite bands were just his side-projects for an embarrassingly long amount of time) mainly known for his work with Teen Suicide, one of the most unfortunately named bands of all time. Sam has practically disowned his earlier material with the band, describing their early career as just “play-acting the punk and garage rock singers that we grew up listening to” – I feel as if this description downplays the significance of this band to all three of us who leaf through our last.fm profiles as a personality trait. Sam later went on to mention how he felt as if he had a knack for “knowing how [to] reshape […] songs from shambling, juvenile indie-rock to fully arranged anthems, adding harmonies and backing vocals, layers of guitars, piano, keyboard, drum machines and strings” yet how he still felt insecure about his work, hiding his writing “behind distortion, heavy reverb, and a half-serious aesthetic, always able to dismiss […] criticism […] by saying ‘You can’t tell this is just a joke? We’re called Teen Suicide.'”.
The act of sitting down to write these posts scares the living shite out of me. I’m terminally incapable of planning any piece of writing, to the point where when I do attempt to prepare something in advance I never end up with a finished product. Because of this, I thrive (and keep this Neocities running) through just hoping I suddenly get really passionate about a niche topic and (then once inspiration hits) refusing to sleep until said passion manifests itself somehow. I’ve had friends jokingly say that this gives my posts an oddly conversational tone (imagine the slightly weird old lad on the train who tells you their life story over pre-made sandwiches and scarily sweet-looking tea) but I’ve also had friends point out a concerning amount of typos in my last piece (which you should read considering I poured my soul out for no discernable reason) so I guess it balances out in the end. Regardless of this, I’m beginning to obsess over the formulaic nature of my creative output – even if I’m only realizing as such because this lockdown has been the most active I’ve actually been as a “writer” (read: useless internet wanker). Now if I wanted to try really hard to seem profound this would probably be the point where I’d claim (without a hint of humour or irony) that what I do each Monday and Thursday is the exact same as what Rob Brown and Sean Booth do when they get prodded into throwing together a new Autechre record, but even I think that metaphor is stretching it – at least technical limitations mean that their songs sometimes have melody in them. A certain cultural theorist I will not name this early in this post claimed that the only overruling feeling of this generation was the sensation of assuming everything has been done before – despite this being the tenth post-‘Fiteclub’ piece, I feel like I’ve written everything I possibly could and that thought makes the process of starting anything fairly difficult.
cw: some references to mental health stuff
One of the worst things about writing about music once a week is quickly realizing how little new music you actually listen to. For the last year or so I’ve always been slightly out of touch, discovering groups and genres two years too late yet still basing my personality around them (moment of silence for every friend who had to listen to me talk about WIXAPOL) – presumably to the detriment of whoever gets stuck listening to my internet rambles. My only real talent seems to be just taking a group of semi-popular musicians and shouting about them (first ironically and then in earnest) to my friends until they associate them with me – this point was illustrated perfectly both when my friend Oisín joked that he was happy to “have a vague clue” of what I was on about when I started gushing about Oli XL’s last NTS show and when my friend Jack ironically referred to Fleure by Autechre as “ill music” (which I’d like to imagine as a more depressing version of penis music). I take the same four albums and repeat them ad-infinitum for a week or two, repeating the same three or four conversation fragments to whoever’s floated into my life at that current moment – which may help me construct an online personality that conceals the fact that I’m actually an uncool, constantly anxious bastard but it really does not help me construct these blog posts.
In a move that’ll probably complicate the publishing of this blog post, one of the few friends I actually send these drafts to has gone on a sabbatical from Discord, singing the virtues of IRC for some aesthetic reason I don’t properly understand. I’d ask her for more clarification as to why she actively cares about chatting apps but that’d require actually installing an IRC client – something I really can’t be arsed doing (mainly as it’s already half-three in the morning and I’m still on the first paragraph of this blog post), even if it means that I lose whatever little Neocities cred I have. Back when I was younger I was always obsessed with technology (despite never being able to coherently understand it) – hopping between random Arch-based Linux distributions (mainly just as they kept on breaking on me), tweaking terminal configuration files (despite having no coherent use for a terminal in the first place), and spending ages messing with random open-source software (if I learned Photoshop instead of GIMP I would have probably ended up as a graphic designer and perhaps that’s the most depressing fact about me). Because of this, I’ve spent a scary amount of times in communities that base themselves around “alternative” or “ethical” software – in other words, communities of people that act superior for running an operating system that only supports three programs and base their personalities around being that one friend who only texts people on Signal. There’s something quite interesting about this impulse to move away from “traditional” software and websites, even if it seems depressingly futile. In other words, I’m going to use this post as an excuse to rationalize away my Twitter addiction as actually being the fault of capitalism or something – this is pretty much what always happens when you let me write about things that aren’t music-related.
I know enough about Irish music to talk about it to foreigners but not enough to talk about it with people who actually live here and because of this fact I often end up overthinking as to why that’s the case. I’ve always struggled with the idea of “Irishness” growing up, associating the inevitable feelings of alienation inherent to living in the middle of nowhere with Irish culture at large – basically just blaming my inability to talk to people on my inability to solo a sliothar (or learn off a W.B Yeats poem) and becoming a misanthropic bastard as a result. Ireland was always viewed as some fundamentally depressing place, a regressive and backward country where all the sane people managed to leave – leaving a bunch of rabid culchies behind to make life hell for those of us who thought that Nathan Carter’s music was a bit shit. It’s hard to put into words how easy it is to go long periods of time in Ireland while completely avoiding Irish culture or art – our national broadcaster just reruns cheap American shows the whole time, our news sources generally just regurgitate whatever’s going on across the Atlantic (assuming you’re even reading an Irish news source in the first place), and social media has made us all deeply knowledgeable in the antics of random Bolsheviks from Ohio and their hipster brewery inspired struggle sessions. As a post-colonial nation we’ve always been fundamentally insecure about our identity and culture – a band has to make it in England or America to even be worth our attention and the idea of someone singing in their own accent is still considered notable nearly a hundred years on from the formation of the Free State. Now I don’t have any real solution to this cultural insecurity (after all I’m still yet to get around to reading Frantz Fanon), but I thought it’d be fun to talk about said insecurity to the four people who read this blog while writing about my extremely base-level knowledge of “alternative” Irish music. Nothing helps you understand why you’re only capable of talking about Irish music to foreigners like talking about Irish music to foreigners I guess (apologies to the one Irish person I think sometimes reads these posts, I’ll have hopefully gone back to writing about the Valve News Network lad by Thursday).