Rock Hard Times
Now Playing: The Eels
At the risk of boring everyone senseless (but hey - you don't have to read this, do you?) here's the rest of my thrilling odyssey into the world of music, picking up where I left off last time.
In 1991 I moved to Holland and shortly afterwards I got my first CD player. I think the last vinyl album I bought - apart from the odd second hand thing - was a My Bloody Valentine LP. The first CD I bought was something by The Fall, one of their Brix-era albums. Later that year, they released Code:Selfish, one of their best records of the period. I saw them live for the first time at the Paradiso, in Amsterdam.
If there was a significant shift in my music appreciation during this time, it was my growing appreciation of classical music. I blame it all on Gavin Ramsay, a very good astronomer who's still a good mate of mine. Somewhere near the end of my time in Scotland, I went around to Gav's flat to drag him out for a beer. Gav had some music on his record player - he'd sit there listening to stuff while reading through the score. I'd been exposed to Gav's taste in classical music before, but nothing had ever connected with me - until that evening, when I heard something astonishing, like nothing I'd ever heard before. Awesome, desolate music. What was it? Shostakovich's Thirteenth Symphony, Gav said. Right, I said - I want a tape of that by monday.
It was significant for me because I'd made many futile attempts to get "into" classical music by following the canonical route - Beethoven, Mozart, all that stuff. But it was only when I had an honest, emotional reaction to it that I found a way in. I became a firm admirer of Shostakovich, and then started working my through his contemporaries - Sibelius, Vaugan Williams, and spiralling out from these initial points of discovery. I've never stopped listening to classical music and much of what I've written has been under the influence. Want to know what Chasm City sounds like? Listen to the second movement of RVW's London Symphony.
Drifting back into the arena of rock, if there was a personal discovery that stayed with me for much of the nineties, it was the music of an unfairly neglected band called Kitchens of Distinction. There was something very special about this band. They were a three piece, but they sounded like a nine-piece, or a twelve piece. Glittery, swirling guitars ... wonderful vocals and lyrics. Kitchens of Distinction sounded like a more intimate U2, a dreamier Chameleons, but they weren't "just" another gloomy, echo-drenched rock band. Their music was shot through with a bracing bleakness, doomed romance, a rainy days at the end of summer quality. And Patrick Fitzgerald's singing - his voice not a million miles from that of Michael Stipe's - was always brilliantly expressive and tender. His lyrics made no secret of his sexuality, and perhaps that was what held them back. But maybe Kitchens of Distinction were just too intelligent, too subtle, too fragile and withholding, to find success at a time when the shouty simplicities of Britpop were dominating the UK music scene. Their albums revealed their secrets slowly - they had to be unwrapped carefully. I've never stopped playing them. Listen to the likes of Editors, Interpol, etc, and you can hear echoes of Kitchens of Distinction (and the Chameleons, and the Comsats) along with the bands that are usually trotted out as influences - Joy Division, Echo and the Bunnymen, etc. Favorite track: Aspray. It's only about two minutes long, but there are infinities in those two minutes...
Where are we up to? Mid nineties, I guess. I could go on, but it all gets a bit fractured from hereon in - Neil Young, Bruce, Guided by Voices... and all that other stuff I never stopped listening to.
Posted by voxish
at 11:36 PM MEST
Updated: Saturday, 29 September 2007 12:21 AM MEST