Have I found you, flightless bird?

24/09/2011 at 19:17 (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , )

I like to use song lyrics as titles, and happen to be listening to Iron and Wine’s “Flightless Bird, American Mouth”, because it is a beautiful song, and they are a beautiful band.
I don’t tend to go for contemporary music, having worked out that it’s mainly just a rip-off of something else, something more raw. A shallow counterfeit. Still, I adore The Editors and Interpol, because they are how Joy Division might’ve sounded if Ian Curtis had decided to frequent the Earth longer, drank a few whiskeys, and let his soul quieten down a bit.

When choosing music, it’s usually the melody that catches me first. I’m a sucker for minor key, for bittersweet sounds (and endings, in books); for something that will make my chest ache the way it does when I listen to Jan Hammer’s “Miami Vice theme”. That song is synonymous with Germany; street BBQ’s, hazy golden tones in the lowlight dusk, neighbours chatting and laughing… my 4-year-old self allowed to stay up later than usual.

How can a child be nostalgic for something they don’t yet know? 6 years old, not even in Primary school, I knew the melody to Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne before I knew the song itself, and hummed it in the lower playground while watching the horizon. There’s a vivid memory of this. I had no idea of pretention. I felt that ache in my chest, a longing for something far off, and had barely experienced the world yet. It’s why I don’t entirely discount past lives.

I went on a great song-hunt in my teens, determined to track down all the beautiful things I’d heard my parents play as I grew up, but didn’t know the lyrics to. I recall one afternoon spent with my Mum – it was wonderful, having her all to myself for once, not distracted by my little brother or housework – going through Dad’s quite extensive record/CD collection. There was one song in particular, I was determined to find. I could only give Mum that tune, but she found it eventualy, on the Singer and the Song album that Dad always played when loading up the car to drive us the 5 hours to Cheshire, to visit my grandparents. Those songs are bound up in my mind with anticipation, and travel. Copper. Brass. Gold.

It was Suzanne, of course, which I was after. You can’t begin to understand the fierce pleasure of sitting there on the carpet, hearing it come from Dad’s wonderful uupright speakers. It felt like coming home, or the realization that something you had thought a dream, actually exists.

Then of course, I had to go through the entire album – finding lost gems of my very early years, like Don McClean’s Vincent (linked to my favourite piece of art, Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”) and Ralph McTell’s Streets of London, which – along with several books I was reading at the time – began my love affair with London. That beautiful, charismatic, smelly, charming-from-a-distance city, which I personified in a poem for a school project; it ended up being my first published piece.

That album is my perennial favourite. I know the lyrics of every song, and listening to it turns me into a hopeless nostalgic, a rose-tinted headcase. OK, more so.

…and he wonders if the car will start tomorrow, or he’ll have to take the bus instead.

I love the Semisonic album “Feeling Strangely Fine”, too. It reminds me of a time when my father and I were still speaking to each other; still called each other friend. I miss him. I miss his dark eyes, and the way he used to tickle the back of my neck to send me to sleep. But that’s another lifetime, and some things aren’t worth being nostalgic about.

I rarely go more that a couple of hours in a day without listening to something, whether through the iPod strapped almost permanently to my right arm (with a tan line that never fades) or through covert tuning-in to the Sky Rock channels. Because music generally dictates my moods, I have to be careful what I listen to; it’s no good listening to something a bit rowdy when trying to stay quiet and careful, first thing in the morning. I just bump into things. I have a knack for making more noise when trying to be quiet.

As a child, I listened to whatever my parents had – anything from Bon Jovi and Aerosmith (Mum) to Led Zepp, Pink Floyd and Art Garfunkel (Dad.) I still have a soft spot for the Smashey and Nicey album – Bachman Turner Overdrive, Blue Oyster Cult, etc. It reminds me of watching TV with my parents. Red Dwarf as a kid… laughing at the slapstick, but not really getting the gags; and only when much older, going back to watch the episodes, and laughing even harder because I did get it by then.

I’ll always favour older songs, originality. Lyrics that tell a story. Melodies that make my chest hurt. Bass lines that make my hair stand on end. Strong colours. It depends what a genre’s got to give, really. There’re far too many post-punk, post-rock, post-indie, post-common sense bands out there. Don’t get me started on the UK charts. I don’t care if I sound old. I was called ‘old-fashioned’ at age fourteen, by one of Dad’s work mates, since I had admitted to listening to Simon and Garfunkel. It’s not my fault if a lot of music nowadays is recycled wank.

Well. I wish the Smiths would reform. I wish Syd Barrett wasn’t dead. I wish Johnny Rotten hadn’t sold his soul. If wishes were fishes, there’d be no room left in the sea, right?

It’s my favourite time of day, dusk/twilight. The day cedes to the dark. The golden glow hangs high in the trees. The sky burns from light turquoise to deepest ultramarine, in the East. My writing fingers itch, and I guess I have to answer. I’m going to eke out this night as much as possible; so many early nights, early starts in the week. I have to make the weekends last.

If I met you alone, anywhere, would you know what to say to me? I wonder.

 I love the fact that our most regal lady, the Cathedral, still hides a piece of mythology in her masonry.

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