In the space of 20 minutes on Pitchfork tonight I have read about and then watched the trailer for the long awaited documentary on the shoegazer scene – Beautiful Noise, and then an interview with members of Slint, debunking some of the mythology around them and their album Spiderland.
The connection between the two comes in the strap line of Beautiful Noise.
They didn’t sell a lot of records, but everyone who heard them started a band.
Never a truer statement have I read. I have no shame in confessing that I tried to discover music on my own at school but got swept up in Nirvana mania, Soundgarden and Helmet. I read RAW, Melody Maker and Kerrang religiously and found my footing from there. It wasn’t until College that the flood gates of amazement opened up my earholes.
It was in this first year of college that I was introduced to My Bloody Valentine properly, re-ignited with Curve, Pop Will Eat Itself, Hood, Do Make Say Think, Fugazi and the aforementioned Slint.
Working at the local music venue, we must have gone through at least 4 copies of Spiderland on CD. Everyone had a vinyl copy which was getting spun to death at home whilst we took it in turn to replace the beer stained, chipped cracked copies of Spiderland. We’d play it doing the hoovering. We’d play it repairing the cabs and subs, whilst the doors opened, whilst the doors closed and on the ride home.
Everyone played in one band or another. Once in a while we’d sit around knocking out some noises, but there was an unspoken rule – you don’t play Slint songs. None of us ever did it. By the time we had played Spiderland to death they were long gone. We had discovered them through the conduit of older brothers, sisters, work colleagues, who had found them through mysterious circles and channels which just don’t exist today in this connected world. We knew the secret. We’d found the purest of music, something so far from the mainstream that you could mention it in conversation as a test to see whether you wanted to carry on talking to this person or not. Snobbish? Absolutely. But how else were we seemingly few going to know who was going to show us more of this world?
When I moved to Brighton I worked with a guy, great guy who played in a band. I asked him their name and he replied Good Morning Captain. I choked on my beer, trying to understand what it made me feel like. Was this homage cool? How did this ‘foreigner’ know of my little secret place? But what I did know was that I’d like them if they were true to their name. They were, and I did enjoy watching their live shows and the wooden boxed singles I still have of theirs on the shelf in the hallway next to my Jesus Lizard 12s, and obscure screamo 7″s.
We’ll never have that feeling again
This weekend is The Great Escape festival in Brighton. 3 days of ‘unsigned’ bands. The organisers tout themselves as being the largest event of it’s kind in Europe. But if you look through the 150+ artist roster on the site, almost every page has a very glossy bio, at the very least a Soundcloud player with half a dozen tracks on and maybe a video.
In the last 5 years a number of bands, spoken of in the back of clubs, cited as pioneers, or revolutionaries have reformed. From Sunny Day Real Estate to Refused, these were some of the bands that through my teenage years and early twenties I held as the inspiration for playing an instrument. Bands like Refused, Botch, Slint, My Bloody Valentine, Chapterhouse, Floor (who’s debut has recently been re-released), these bands have become so influential and largely cited because they were genuinely ground breaking bands. What they were doing, the shifts they made in the scenes they existed in were monumental. They burned bright and burned hard because there was no oxygen around them to breathe, that’s why they didn’t make it into your homes, it’s also because, at the time they were extreme.
Listen to Botch’s American Nervoso today and you will hear a raw perfected version of every metal’core’ band around. But in 1998, it was fucking insane. When I was first finding out about Slint they’d been disbanded for 7 years already. Spiderland was created in the late 80s. Late 80s! Have you heard it!? And when My Bloody Valentine were creating white noise on Loomer, Guns and Roses were selling out the biggest arenas. Today nobody except the likes of Katy Perry and Beyonce, with the exception of Frank Fucking Turner, can sell out arenas and white noise has become the staple “we’re edgy” statement for any piss-stain excuse for an alternative indie band to the point that every digital effects pedal can do it on cue.
The internet has killed discovery
It’s not its fault either. It’s ours. Just ten years ago, message boards existed that supported a genre, full of people wanting to share what was happening in their local scene. When another person introduces you to another band it sounds so much better. It puts that artists into a context for you that you wouldn’t have got from picking it up in the local store, or being ‘recommended it’ by a marketing pushed system like Spotify (I fucking hate Spotify). Those days, well they’re gone.
This week, I was talking to a colleague about Fugazi. I’d walked to work with a riff in my head, trying to remember where it was from. As I sat at my desk it came to me. It was Nice New Outfit by Fugazi so I put on Steady Diet of Nothing. It started a conversation, we talked about the fact we thought we might have been at the same show, how we both think The Argument is verging on Post-Hardcore perfection and then he asked me if I had heard the new Evens album. I knew who they were – but I’d never listened to them.
A few years ago, my colleague would have said something like “oh it’s really good, I’ll bring it in for you tomorrow.” But instead he said, “I’m sure it’s on Spotify you should put it on.” OK. Cool, I’ll have a listen. Only I didn’t listen. Because it felt cheapened to me. I ran a search, pressed play and began to ignore an artists for 20 mins. It was out of the context it should have been. The excitement of being given something, somebody sharing with me their passion, the new thing they’ve discovered that they want to share and that. That is the feeling I don’t think we’ll ever get back.