Friday, September 24, 2010

Discovering a Great English 80s Band

How do we come to something new? And by something I of course am referring to a great book, band, movie.Word of mouth is probably the most likely answer. But what's that mean?

If growing up you had friends that had musical talent, friends in bands, orchestras even, you knew of certain famous music you were supposed to care about. Just as you were supposed to care about jazz or the Beatles, but only late Beatles (though what bullshit that turned out to be) somewhere along the line you were to know of this band.

You were to know of them round about junior high (when I came to discover Floyd and Zeppelin). This band too was to be discovered in that era of impressionable youth. Stuck firmly in the late 60s and the 70s I missed the boat for this '80s English group, though.

You miss the boat and then you feel like you can never catch up. Like holding off from Heminway, I too often get intimidated and stay away. How do you approach Truffaut, never mind getting to know the other seven symphonies Beethoven wrote?

It's a push really, actually a series of pushes, that does it. We come to things not because a single source speaks of them to our ears. It's not one trusted friend saying check this out... It takes a couple things, not just one or even two friends but then also the mention on some cool CBC or maybe NPR show, or a reference in a dissertation-sized New Yorker article. What if one of your favourite bands (Radiohead) sites them as one of their favourites? Cause isn't that most often the case. You love one artist and they put you on to the next. If it weren't for Haruki Murakami I'd never have discovered Raymond Chandler and his stylistic genius, particularly with the simile:

"'She's dark and lovely and passionate. And very, very kind.'
'And exclusive as a mailbox,' I said."

So I come to this band that is said to have influenced the guitar-based (no more synth) Brit pop of the 90s because of that friend that was in a band, because of whatever magazine or radio show that would mention them, because of some hip movie (500 Days of Summer, which I continue to feel very conflicted about but ultimately did totally relate to - thank you, Rosie), and, finally ...

Thanks to a pair of Israeli sisters I met in a ryokan in Tokyo earlier this month. Cool cats both, with adventurous palates and open minds and a sisterly love for one another the likes of which you get to witness maybe twice in a lifetime. It was bad luck (for her) and good (for me) that the one sister - the younger - left her iPod behind (at the ryokan). Walking them  in the pouring rain on a Tokyo lane to catch the bus that would take them to their aeroplane, the younger sis asked, Could I mail it for her? I could, when I got back from my travels, I said. I'm about to go to the post office to mail it now. But first I have to thank her.

Two decades and about a million references later and I have finally come to discover The Smiths. Here I admit that one Israeli sister's bright red iPod got quite the listen to on lost walks through Tokyo neighbourhoods, on long sits on Thailand beaches, on buses and planes. In all these places I came to discover the genius blend of Morrissey's unique and sensitive and deadpan voice and lyrics matched, and maybe even topped by the utter cool of Johnny Marr's gorgeous guitar.

The Smiths. The kind of art so good I have been waiting a week, since a long and perfect for music listening while out the window wistful gazing bus ride back to Bangkok to be back home and have the time to look up the band and discover who they were and how and why and where.

Thanks to the long chain that finally brought me to yet another great artist(s). I love those chains. Hope this blog for someone, somewhere, can occasionally be a link in a chain that connects you to some book, band or movie in a way you forgot possible.

See you next week!

2 comments:

  1. So sorry you were late to the party on this one. I can't believe it really. But sincerely glad you made it. The Smiths are quintessential listening for anyone with a creative bent. I mean "Girlfriend in a Coma" alone is pure genius. Wow. Have fun with this discovery. I dare say it will change your life.

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  2. So late to the party I'm genuinely stunned they even invited me. Thus is the joy of art. Everyone's invited. Whenever. (I still don't get Faulkner - gonna give that one another decade or two.)

    Still, thought I'd get teased more for this one. I dare say I am for sure having fun with this ride. And only just learned that Douglas Coupland's Girlfriend in a Coma was named after The Smiths song.

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