Category Archives: Teenage kicks

Write Here, Write Now: 11.30 – The Shadow of Love

The Damned – The Shadow of Love
Every night, every day I experience the most exquisite pain

The last day of November and time to quit the teenage years. I started with the Stranglers and end with the Damned – both on the comedy-horror edge of the punk scene, it seems to me. I quite like the idea of book ending the month like this, and after all the intense recent songs to finish with something that takes a sly dig at Goth music.

It reminds me that when I was at school, all 6th form students were encouraged to take morning assembly – doing a reading or presenting a sketch or a recital or something to entertain or inspire the rest of the school for 5-10 minutes before the day’s lessons started. I remember some friends playing AC/DC and headbanging on stage in leather jackets and y-fronts with cut out cardboard guitars – very silly, very Bad News. When it came to my being asked, I put on a purple paisley shirt, played a Joy Division song (possibly Decades) and got another student to read a verse by one of the Metaphysical poets – George Herbert’s The Collar, I think. Then I riffed a bit on the gloom of life, how we are all doomed, etc. What can we do?, I mused. Well, take the inspiration of Spike Milligan and the Goons, I said, and laugh in the face of despair, cueing up the Ying Tong song. I’m not sure how it went down, but I hope it showed I could laugh at myself.

Goth is a bit of a dead end. It’s very stylish and feels great swishing around in black, listening to doomy music full of gravity and atmosphere. But ultimately, it’s rather superficial and a bit silly, and didn’t do much to help me break out of my introspective self. For some people, the teenage years are when music has the most resonance and lasting significance. True to an extent for me, but if I could step back to being 20 again with what I know now, I’d realise how much more breadth, depth and quality of music there was out there for me to discover.

Eldritch, Curtis and Murphy, for me the three high priests of Goth, all took themselves too seriously and made music that is severe and intense. Vanian, Scabies et al took that formula and injected a much-needed dose of fun and a lightness of touch into the whole genre – essentially offering me a pathway out of the gloom and back to music which more directly took pleasure in life.

…don’t be afraid to get caught in the shadow of love. Play the game take a chance or you haven’t the power of love
Play the game take a chance or you haven’t the power of love


Write Here, Write Now: 11.29 – Hearts

The Gun Club – Hearts
turn back! back! back! back!

Coming to the end of the month, and the end of my teens for this month. Scouring the NME for interesting records, I looked out for reviews by Edwin Pouncey who seemed to delve deeper into more leftfield music than others on the paper. Albums by Clock DVA and the Legendary Pink Dots I think I can thank him for pointing me in the direction of.

The Gun Club album looked like a riot – something in the style of The Cramps, southern gothic blues was what the review promised. Having read that Patricia Morrison had been in the band before joining the Sisters, I was intrigued to find out more.

Whistling windy guitar notes lead into the sound of wild drum pounding and chord thrashing with Jeffrey Lee Pierce lustily shouting out the chorus. This abruptly alternates with the clear-voiced verses. So – both controlled and released in one song, though I think the riot of noise definitely wins out. Then it all fades out in feedback.

After all the morose indolence of a lot of the goth I had been listening to , this was a gust of fresh sound blasting through my ears.

I think I was already dressing in black trousers, white collarless shirts, big jumpers with extended sleeves and long black coats together with spiked (or unruly) hair. Dancing or stamping around to this sort of frenzied music would have been a joyful release.








Write Here, Write Now: 11.28 – The Eternal

Joy Division – The Eternal “these years make me older

I definitely remember many hours spent in 1987-8 listening to Unknown Pleasures and Closer, wondering which was my favourite track, losing myself in the sound, wallowing in the comforting bass thrum, the sombre timbre of Ian Curtis’s voice.

There was something special about all of the tracks. Though The Eternal stood out, not only because it was the last track on the last album, and so echoed in the ears long after the song stopped, but also because of its quite individual musical style.

Slow, somewhat repetitive and monotonous, the bass sways from side to side as it ambles forward at a laggardly pace, the piano in the background, echoing its high key elegy as if in a deserted room, before falling into line with the lower notes of the strummed guitar, edging ever forward to the end. All the while, synths putter like moths and burr a half heard machine noise, mainly audible at the finish, when other instruments are quiet. The drumstick falls with steady regularity to knock out more echoes like distant ricocheting gunshot.

Curtis sounds at peace in the song, resigned to how things are, not railing or rushing full pelt as he does in other songs. He takes his time, laying out his gently accepting his fate, as if there could have been no other way.

Soon my teenage years would be over, I would be off to university and in many ways, my life would start again – many people my own age to get to know, lifelong friends to make, new and exciting music to discover, beyond the goth cul-de-sac I had somehow ended up in. But for the moment, I felt secure, if alone, in the musical cocoon it offered.


Write Here, Write Now: 11.27 – Deep One Perfect Morning

The Jesus and Mary Chain – Deep One Perfect Morning.
my thoughts are turning backwards and I’m picking at the pieces

In the year before I went to university, the last of my teenage years, there were a number of recently-released records that made an impression on me – Floodland, The Joshua Tree, Sign O The Times, for example. But one that matched my mood and demeanour was the second Jesus and Mary Chain album, Darklands. Sombre, murky, but also with a beat and a swing, it was another side of my goth persona to the disdain and dark pretension of the Sisters of Mercy.

April Skies, Happy When It Rains, were the big hits. But there were other songs on the album that slid past effortlessly, matching the mood and adding background colour to the stand out songs.

I like this one, listening again. Jim Reid’s voice, low, reflective, musical and soulful, but cold (“something in me’s chilling and nothing in me’s willing“) accompanied by the steady throb of bass and chop of rhythm guitar, while the chiming lead guitar tickles out sparkling notes to contrast and draw out the rush that can come from sitting still with one’s thoughts.

I think it’s the combination of reverie and ecstasy that is appealing about this and many of their songs. It looks like I’m moping, but inside I am dancing – a proper little disco bunny hoping away in joy.

A few years later and the dance revolution would empower indie kids to discover their hidden rhythm, myself included. Sometimes though, the power is within, but doesn’t find the best channel to release it. The bass buzz of a good JAMC song can help by accompanying that frustration.

Write Here, Write Now: 11.26 – The Man In The Iron Mask

Billy Bragg – The Man In The Iron Mask “I will not ask

1987-8 and I am retaking A-levels. New music comes recommended by the NME and Billy Bragg’s name came up frequently. Back to Basics was one of those records, like Sandinista! by The Clash, that was deliberately set at a low cost. With over 20 songs, it seemed like a bargain, particularly with things like Between the Wars and A New England, which I ‘d heard.

It’s an affecting mix of the personal and the political. Billy really wore his heart on his sleeve, and there are several songs that are profound and moving. I took to this one almost immediately. The quiet, understated but melodic guitar accompaniment underlies the sad tale of the character Billy is singing about. Later friends would wonder that I could find this hopeless tale appealing. But there is something about the dignified nature of the man who accepts and takes whatever is given or thrown at him, that I recognize. It’s not always a positive character trait, this passivity, yet it is a place of safety, where there can be no blame.

It’s not a good place to stay, as taking the role of victim automatically casts someone else as villain. There is no objectivity, just the interactions between different persons’ subjectivities.The song describes the psychological position clearly and straightforwardly. It is a helpful signpost to an emotional cul de sac – no matter how long one stays there or how appealing a place it is to be, one to emerge and continue on the journey, sooner or later. To be stuck there is to abdicate responsibilities through fear of life.

Write Here, Write Now: 11.25 – Lights

The Sisters of Mercy – Lights
there have been better plans, but none that I could ever understand

Back in the UK, after a year of footloose independence, to beef up my A levels enough to get into university, my initial explorations into the Sisters’ catalogue expanded beyond the first album and a live bootleg – both forwards to Floodland, and back to the early singles and EPs. All with their distinctive covers, but with the Reptile House as probably the dark heart of the band.

Dark both in lyrical content, and in murky instrumentation, getting progressively more sludgey towards Fix and Burn. I found it impenetrable at first, particularly after the sparkly 12 string delights of Wayne Hussey’s guitar on First and Last and Always. It was a sombre listen. But the more I listened to it, the more I could hear the passion in Eldritch’s voice, especially on this track – Lights. “Ignore the darkness, discard the day“. In my grimmer moods, I took introspective, almost catatonic delight in its passive observation of the world. If it is all too much, I can retreat into a world of repetitive automated skittering drumbeats, pounding bass notes matched by harsh guitar, all topped by Eldritch’s heavily echoing baritone, first intense and then soaring, wrought and accompanied by what sounds like a cello, to a peaking shrieking call out.

Though it sounds intense, it could easily be the description of waiting for the traffic light to turn on a wet night in Leeds.for all I know. But when I sometimes thought my life had taken a wrong turning and I wasn’t sure where I was going, it was something of a musical comfort blanket and defence against criticism. I’m not sure what I use now.

Write Here, Write Now: 11.24 – Confusion

New Order – Confusion

…hiding from feelings, searching for more. Sharing and hoping, untouched for so long. Our lives still change from the way that we were

The song lyrics from Confusion see particularly apt for tonight’s blog, I’d intended to post a few more songs from my time in Brussels, but looking back over the year, realized I’d actually already posted several of  them earlier already. A seam of music and personal history I’d clearly mined thoroughly already.

So I’ve gone for yet another New Order track, from the 12″ single which I think I bought while in Brussels, but which I recall playing and getting to know much more in the year after that, when I was back in the UK, preparing for A-level retakes in Basingstoke.

New Order was one of the bands I gravitated towards in record shops, because of the sheer beauty and variety of their record sleeves. Peter Saville did the band proud, and there are any number of singles I bought unheard, just because of the way the cover looked. Many of those – Everything’s Gone Green, Temptation, Ceremony, etc. were straightforward and evidently in the New Order ecstatic template of guitar, synth, bass interplay and counterpoint. Confusion was something quite different.

For a start, the synth clearly was in the ascendancy with drum machines, it sounded far removed from even something as apparently automated as Blue Monday. And there were four tracks on the 12″, all apparently the same song, though quite different mixes of it. There was a  simple song at the heart of it all, with Barney’s lyrics, expressive and bare. But almost at once, it seemed stripped apart, the different elements changed, stretched, cut short, extended, distorted almost to the point of non-recognition. Particularly so with the ‘Confused Beats’ version I pasted below. Melodies appear and disappear. Backing vocals are there without the lead vocal to accompany. Electric guitar growls quickly. The rhythm of the track is played without the melody, then spirals off into a totally other direction.

I don’t think I liked it or understood it at first. But slowly I began to appreciate its genius, and how it anticipated a lot of ’90s dance music. Although not as euphoric as Bizarre Love Triangle or Perfect Kiss, it’s a track (or series of tracks) that seeped its way into my head and I have a feeling it may be New Order at their very best.

Confusion is an apt description, and conveys something of my state of being – a preparedness to accept the flux and change of the world as it now is – technology, information, society – with the meme of an understanding of how to cope without total detailed mastery. Maybe it’s a confidence trick, but to take new ideas and connect them to what there already is, I draw on something like the ability to recognize that the different mixes and sounds that made up the Confusion tracks share something inherent and true for all versions.