#musicdiaryproject – Friday

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Jo was on Marge duty this morning, so just Head Music for me until lunchtime.

I had ‘Send in the Clowns’ for a few minutes. No idea why, but it brought a brief gust of Friday ennui.

Then came one of those lovely moments of connection between people and eras that music can conjure in a flash. Walking down the corridor I passed our Press Office where I heard a very old favourite song being played, presumably via YouTube. Dan, Press Officer, was clearly struggling to convince his colleagues that this was a song they certainly must be familiar with. They were laughing at him and he was having difficulty defending his position. I took this in as I walked by, but after going past it struck me that I really ought to step in and help out. I took a couple of backwards strides, popped my head around the door and asked “‘Camouflage’? by Stan Ridgway?” I think I made Dan’s day, to the hysterical dismay of the others. We were able to exchange quips about him being an “awfully big marine” before he revealed that the reason this has come up in the first place was that he had snuck some of the lyrics, a brief snatch of the tale of that heroic soldier, into a newly published press release. Excellent work.

Yuck – ‘Holing Out’

I read a tweet from Pete Paphides a couple of weeks ago raving about Yuck, then a less than convincing review from Pitchfork. Spotted a link on that site today which led me to this song via Soundcloud. Thought it sounded okay, and pretty much as all the references to early 90s Pavement etc had given me to expect.

#fridaymix

I try to join the Friday Mix whenever I can, even if I can’t listen in. Every Friday at 12.30pm, the Friday Mix overlord creates a new Spotify playlist based on a theme which has been voted for by the waiting participants, who then get to add two songs of their choosing to the playlist. The tracks are sorted and ordered by whoever wants to drag them around then at 2pm the playlist is locked, everyone presses ‘Play’ at the same time, and several dozen people, dotted who knows where, all listen along to the same songs, alone but together.

It’s an interesting way to collaborate, challenge and mingle with other music listeners, and one which just wouldn’t have been possible even two years ago. Today’s theme was ‘sunshine’ and I added ‘Sunrise’ by Lambchop and ‘I Am The Sun’ by Swans. Most weeks most participants seem to want to add in happy songs, so I do take a certain childish pleasure in choosing something more bruising whenever I can. It’s often Swans, to be honest.

I thought ‘Sunrise’ would be a good opener and tried to boost it to the top, but Eric and Ernie kept being bumped even higher until the last moment when, inexplicably, Finley Quaye appeared in the number 1 spot.

As the playlist ticks through there’s a parallel discussion on twitter, using the #fridaymix hashtag. Unfortunately this is usually pretty perfunctory and polite. It’s rare to see frank opinions exchanged, even though part of the pleasure is both cooing and sniffing and other people’s choices.

You can see today’s playlist above. After the Bob Marley track, my office-mate came back from a meeting, so I muted my PC. According to the Twitter feed, Swans drifted by without a mention once more.

PJ Harvey – ‘Let England Shake’

Whilst writing this, I sat upstairs and listened to the second side of ‘Let England Shake’. Not really concentrating.

Pavement – ‘Perfect Sound Forever’

Haven’t listened to this for 15 years or so. Sounded great. 10″ vinyl is still weirdly cool.

Swell – ‘Swell’

Picked off the shelf after 5 minutes of aimless gawping. I don’t know anything about them. My friend Ben and I used to like them in the days before you could find out everything about a band in 10 seconds. I remember it was their second album we really liked. One of the first I remember having that slightly broken down country sound that would come to inflect so much of the alternative music I liked from the US. It has something intruguing and seductive about the sound of it, rather than the songs of it. This is their first album. I think Ben had the second. I might go and google them now…

Goodnight.

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Why Sickmouthy Loves Devon Record Club

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As a founder member of Devon Record Club, I read with interest the comments by one Nick Southall. I felt they deserved a response so that, and indeed this, is what they’re getting.

I too love Devon Record Club, and I too worry whether its format is liberating or problematic, or both. I think there are problems with it, but not the ones that Nick is stroking his chin over.

Every record has a first listening, and the ones we grow to love reveal something, or prehaps fail to hide something, that brings us back again. Several of the records I love the most have repelled me at first listen, at least one to the extent that I put it away for about 9 months, actually scared of it. Devon Record Club has given me a start with at least 3 or 4 records and artists which I never would have taken the time to otherwise. Why check out Alexander Spence when three quarters of the records on your shelf haven’t really had the time they deserve? As for Patrick Wolf! He’s that theatrical Elton meets St Julian chap, isn’t he? What’s that? He sounds completely different? Balderdash.

As Nick rightly says, records change their contours as the years wash over them. But that’s fine for the Record Club too. At the moment we’re trying to surprise and delight each other with our choices, but it would be rather wonderful to be brought established ‘classics’ to listen to properly and discuss all over again. There are always new lights to be cast and new caves to find.

Assigning homework would take much of the spontaneity out of the evenings, and instead of listening to four or five albums and worrying about which one to take along for the others, we’d be listening over and over again the same two and worrying that we weren’t going to have the correct opinion about them. What’s more, if Nick had set me British Sea Power as homework, I wouldn’t have turned up. I’ve tried it Nick, it’s boring.

The other wonderful thing about the Club is that we’ve each found ourselves listening back through our collections with greater intensity. The idea of getting together was to set aside some time just to listen properly to music. In fact i’m listening to much more than I was before we stated meeting. Having to think about why I want to introduce a particular album has been worrisome and delicious and has energised my listening once again. In this respect it’s like Fight Club, but far less punchy and far, far, far less sexy.

There are problems though, for me at least. Both Tom and Nick claim that lyrics are relatively unimportant to them. They are to me, and I realise how many of my favourite records need to be listened to carefully. Strip away the words and you’ve got another bunch of boys with guitars, another snarling M.C. just like all the others. In this sense, of course, we’re back worrying away at whether one can get a record at a single listen. It turned out you couldn’t when it came to McCarthy. I reckon the same will happen if I rock up with most of the records on my current list.

Secondly, i’m not sure it’ll cope well with noise. At some stage i’ll be bringing Big Black along, and I have no idea whether chatting over Steve Albini is possible, let alone acceptable. ¬†Even tougher is how to bring a record that you think might well cause offence? I’ve been listening to Tyler, The Creator and various bits of OFWGKTA and whilst there’s enough in there for a whole symposium of debate, I can’t begin to think how to introduce it to two people who may well order it switched off once dark stuff starts coming. How do you play records which you don’t yet know how to justify?

I love Devon Record Club.