A distinctive chinking rhythm . . . a loping bass sidles in . . . another bass harmonises. Into this enticing mix, Laura Marling’s sweet but tough voice commences: “Oh, my hopeless wanderer . . .” A yearning first verse . . . Then, underpinned by emerging soft keys and acoustic and strings, swelling to announce . . . completely unexpectedly, fully unbidden, her voice reaches up to seek the truth:
I need soothing
My lips aren’t moving
My god is brooding
What a revelation! The song unfolds in full splendour but it’s that incandescent opener, the first offering from Marling’s new album, Semper Femina, that latches on, that could well stay with me forever.
I’ve listened to 52 albums so far this year for the Rock Music Big Year. How many of them coincide with Stereogum’s top 50? Only 8!
How fascinating: Chris DeVille’s Stereogum article “Thom Yorke responds to controversy over Radiohead’s Israel concert.” It’s easy to dismiss this kind of kerfuffle as the Bono syndrome – rich rock stars making little difference – but the issues are delineated very sharply here. The many comments are also, for once, welcome. Can anyone remember the issue of Billy Joel, etc. going to the Soviet Union way back then? I recall similar considerations: which is better, boycott or engagement?
After a Sydney week doing the right stuff, how easy for Melbourne work blues to strike. I’m on a tram, drained from slaving away on website/blog matters. Drawing strength from the pleasure of hearing three languages around me, I try a little Headspace-without-the-app. I’m hefting a bottle of red and my rock music contributions for the evening: Guided by Voice, Julia Jacklin and Mount Eerie. Three more different artists would be hard to conjure up and that thought raises a smile.
I alight and pad through the streets of Richmond. The path to Steady tonight: relax and prime body and mind for a prompt launch tomorrow morning early.
Music saves my life again. I’m headphoning Hitchcock’s latest of many (his 2017 self-titled) while despairing over work, and I reach Track 8. I remember to check out the title – “Raymond and the Wires” – and notice it is short, probably a throwaway. A rasping low cello, hand claps or finger clicks, hard to tell which, and a chiming, high guitar figure grabs me, and then “my eyes have seen the trolleybus,” his voice utterly Bowie/Alex Harvey (why doesn’t he sing like that all the time?), “on her pneumatic tyres.” Magisterial chords. “Vamping down the high road, drinking from the wires.”
Swoon. Turns out the song is a trip down memory lane, about his dad half a century earlier, six pungent verses. Listen: “You miss the love you never had, the needle skips the grooves.” Adding to the allure, I can’t decipher five of his words and badly need to. Two and a quarter minutes of longing nostalgia that could have come from the mouth and guitar of a nineteen-year-old.
After 148 listening days of my Rock Music Big Year, for the first time I flip “Raymond and the Wires” onto repeat and absorb over and over.
(Robyn Hitchcock photo from his website)
182 songs from ’85 – do I agree? I set myself a high bar, counting only those songs I recall as songs, not as elements of albums I recollect. Well, I only remembered 34 of the 182, and of those 34 tunes, I only “liked” 27. 1985 doesn’t reverberate as memorable to me. But I have to say, this 182-song playlist is very indie with numerous songs I don’t specifically recall but from bands I admire. Put it another way: the list contains surprisingly few top-40-crap selections. Perhaps the middle year of the 80s wasn’t so bad after all.
(Image from original post)