Sometimes you have to take stock and regroup. Step back from everything you are and everything you do – from everything you have become. You are defined by what you do. Not always by your actions… but by what you do. When you meet someone for the first time they will ask “So… what do you do then?”. And you will answer with your job title. And that then defines you in their eyes. At least for that moment in time. This becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. A cycle. Sometimes the assumptions are right, sometimes the assumptions are wrong. But they are our means of putting people into boxes. Putting people into jars.
Music is defined in the same way. When I listen to a new band I immediately associate them with similar artists and categorise them accordingly. When I heard Gene I thought Smiths. When I heard Editors I thought Joy Division. So it’s always a pleasure to hear a band that sounds fresh – where the links to the past aren’t immediately noticeable. The roots are always there… but they may be buried deeper than others. Fresh music… Black Sabbath, Blur, Oasis, Portishead, Flaming Lips, Jeff Buckley, The Chemical Brothers … the list is actually pretty long and you can substitute your own choices. Of course… this music all becomes jaded in the end. It’s actually difficult to remember how fresh Oasis once sounded for example. And the welding of dance and rock has become commonplace. We have probably reached an era in which it is more tricky than ever to sound genuinely innovative. Yet there are still breakthrough acts which prick the ears – through being the future, or being engagingly retro.
I’ve now lived through a few ‘eras’ of music. Metal, Grunge, Brit-pop, New Wave of New Wave, Emo, Nu-Rock, etc etc. An important factor for me has been to keep my musical ambitions pure. Okay, we can all be swayed by current fads… but I believe I’ve always stayed focussed on what I want to achieve. Individuality. And I’m not equating individuality with originality. Individuality can involve originality… but they are completely independent concepts. I’m talking about individuality of spirit. Knowing what you want to say and saying it. Not veering. Even when swaying… swinging back to what is important to you. For we all have something to say. Some don’t have anything particularly interesting or profound to say – and luckily they therefore don’t venture too far into the artistic world (although when they do they produce some god awful bubblegum blockbuster, or a nice coffee table album!). But those who do have something meaningful to say are a far more exciting prospect. And those who have something to say and the means to say it are the reason music lovers love music. That’s why we worship our Radioheads, Morrisseys, Buzzcocks, Beatles, Stones, Gorillaz, Cures... Again, the list is a long one. Individuality of spirit. The most difficult of concepts to follow through with for it is all too easy to jump on a bandwagon. To become a Northern Uproar or a Menswear.
To have complete individuality of spirit is however a double-edged sword. For every person who ‘gets’ you, there will be a handful who don’t. And that handful of people are often the most vocal. It is for that reason that some of my favourite bands, films and albums are often neglected by the masses. A lot of people prefer the glossy-Hollywood-remake-cream-cake to the authentic-slice-of-the-original pie. And in some ways this is for the best. It is great that some of the best music is not mainstream.
Life Will Be the Death of Me is probably my favourite song on ‘Escapism‘. Musically, it embodies my notions of individuality of spirit. I am on a journey and this song feels like a constant. A fixed point in time and space. A point on which all future work will be compared. Will I ever again produce a piece of music that so perfectly defines who I am now? Where I am now? No. But the journey is like a graph. A graph of plotted points. Fixed points. And I’m now living life until I can see that next waypoint.
“Hello… Um.. so, er… what do you do?”
“Well… I observe an individuality of spirit”
“Hmmm… sounds a bit pretentious to me!”
“Well… actually you might just be onto something there; But I’ll stand by it. And life will be the death of me.”