I can only apologise for having a hard time getting a proper photo of this one – my monthly copy of The Wire arrived in the post this AM and I was pretty chuffed to see the review of We Sing A New Language in the book section – nice.

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Nirvana, the day after their first day in studio, recording their first band video material at the local RadioShack in Aberdeen, WA. The lip-syncing and over-acting is hilariously good fun. Best wishes to the discoverers of this material – gosh, 29 years old now…?

Think of it: when this was recorded Jimi Hendrix was less than 18 years dead; Sid Vicious was only 11 years gone; Ian Curtis only 8 years. The kind of generational gap between the current era and Cobain is a fair distance past any of that.

The amount of attention devoted in the video to ‘If You Must’ – a song Cobain disowned in his Journals, that existed in time for Nirvana’s first house party in ’87 but seems to have been an inconsistent presence in set-lists before a couple of run-throughs in early ’88 – should be seen in the context that its hardly the most serious effort.

The work on ‘Paper Cuts’ follows with the band, mostly, at least pretending to be performing. Dale Crover is having to actually play along with the tape as best he can. The tape will, presumably, have been a rough cassette mix passed to the band the previous day by Jack Endino.

 

When faced with the consequences of his success, Kurt Cobain retreated from the public eye; retreated from music; and spent his time devoted to building some kind of family – and making art. It made sense: the thing he had been in control of, in a life with precious little else for many years, had suddenly become an obligation, a business, something fans and an industry felt they had a right to. His art, however, remained private.

It makes absolute sense, this far after his death, to bring this aspect of his life and works to wider attention. The essence of Cobain wasn’t music – that’s what brought him fame and took up a significant percentage of his time – but the music was just one expression of what he really wanted to do which was simply to create and express. He was, in essence, someone who wanted to be an artist in all areas of life.

Of course, for some, any posthumous sharing is already too much: if Cobain didn’t in his lifetime then they feel it equates to “Cobain wouldn’t,” and therefore that any posthumous decision is illegitimate. I disagree. The second article above, related to the work of Jeff Jampol, is intrinsically connected to the greater visibility of Cobain’s artwork and to the wider question of what one does to create a legacy.

Burying every leftover, refusing all exposure and release, burning whatever remains unseen so it remains ever thus IS an option. But relying on long ago glory to keep something alive is doomed to failure: who remembers who was no.1 in 1952? Who recalls the world’s top-selling albums prior to the arrival of The Beatles and other album artists? To stay alive, an artist must be spoken of and continually brought into the present.

In the case of a deceased artist, that means making fair and reasonable use of what remains to stoke renewed enthusiasm among fans; to create coverage and comment bringing fresh eyes to the individual; to make an artist who – in life would have promoted themselves – feature before the eyes and ears of young blood. By doing so, new relevance is fashioned: their position can’t remain the same as it was way back when and nor should it – the ‘tragically doomed’ Cobain figure of the mid-to-late Nineties imagining wasn’t the underground legend almost no one knew of prior to September 1991, nor was he the celebrated but troubled presence of 1992-1994.

My hope, naturally, is for the ongoing unveiling of lesser understood and lesser seen aspects of Cobain to counteract the tendency to dip him in amber, demand that he be only one thing at all times, to reduce the privileging of one aspect or another of his work and world.

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There’s a basic truth to any music, writing, art, thinking: don’t put anything into the public domain unless you’re ready to relinquish control over it – once it’s out there it’s open to anyone to react to, build on, ignore, comment on…That’s the quid pro quo – an audience isn’t some passive thing that merely receives one’s product/meaning, it’s an interactive process feeding back, changing and altering whatever one contributes to it. It’s also a darn privilege to have anyone consider one’s work. Frankly, I’m increasingly realising that being commented on – regardless of the nature of the comment – is something to be grateful for.

So, above, in order: ‘We Sing A New Language’ was one of the two books reviewed by Uncut the other month; Record Collector magazine reviewed it in March/April; Louder Than War then reviewed it in May – Nice.

Soundblab were the earliest review I saw out there: https://soundblab.com/reviews/books/17495-thurston-moore-we-sing-a-new-language-by-nick-soulsby

And I’ve seen a blog review too: http://blog.concertkatie.com/2017/06/book-review-thurston-moore-we-sing-a-new-language.html

Any feeling from my side on the reviews? I’ve been very pleased with all of them – and the questions they raise, likewise, are understandable.

At root, what did I want to show with the book? The astonishing, unique – and underrated – breadth and depth of Thurston Moore’s works; the way in which Moore’s approach has been a serious factor in the creation, encouragement and survival of an ecosystem of artists and labels; the moments at which Moore has done something unusual by placing himself back in the position of a novice in order to pay his dues and open the door to other genres and explorations. That desire to appraise, appreciate and respect Moore’s work seems to have communicated.

I’m very glad I didn’t include brief statements regarding the nature of each of the recordings: bleugh, can you imagine reading 200+ two sentence attempts to describe what the music sounds like? It’s the ol’ ‘writing about music is like dancing about architecture’ point. I think I would have distracted from the core imagining of musical creation as a social and communal process.

I was definitely much moved by the experiences of the other musicians and label owners involved in getting the music out into the world: as I said earlier, with any public work, there’s a symbiosis between creator and recipient (in any capacity.) Imagine a rock thrown into a lake – the ripples, the plunge, the disturbances are all fundamental to the moment. Moore’s music, as experienced by the listener, is as much a consequence of that context, of rebounding effects, of the mediums and channels created by others – as it is just about his mind and instrument. That’s no lessening of his significance – look at the waves this fella has created! The book is full of them.

I confess I like Uncut’s statement on how I didn’t pay much mind to Bowie’s presence or to the Backbeat soundtrack and so forth – it’s just me, the celebrity aspect didn’t mean much to me compared to the existence of a good story that fitted an overall trend at a specific point in time within Moore’s work. Very fair of them to be tantalised by that and not so much by a cover record of a hardcore punk band. I agree even more with Record Collector magazine’s statement on how unnecessary the inclusion of the @ piece was: I’d had it in there from quite early on and just accepted its presence – I could/should have cut there.

Soundblab raised a real point regarding this book in the context of Kim Gordon’s volume the other year (full disclosure: truth is I was sorely disappointed by that book and what it did in terms of it’s portrayal of Gordon and her artistic and creative vitality: http://www.wordsandguitars.co.uk/2015/08/kim-gordon-girl-in-a-band/). The only issue I had during the Thurston book was needing to tone down and eliminate some of the praise being heaped on him by his collaborators, not to do him down, but because fulsome praise can read very blankly on the page. The simple truth is that I encountered not one person during my research who hadn’t found Moore an excellent collaborator in whatever context they worked with him – it was lovely in a way to experience such an honest and unrestrained outpouring of respect for a man and his work. As the book was about his discography, not a biography, there was no need for me to tackle the breakdown of his marriage – it didn’t matter to the music in the slightest. As for timing, I only started really writing in 2012: it’s taken me this time to get round to another of the artists I admire most – nothing more nor less overt than that.

So, overall, I’ve been delighted at the feedback; the apposite comments; the alternative perspectives and viewpoints; that each of the people above took time with this labyrinthine work – it’s been a trip!

http://clashmusic.com/features/feeling-love-in-a-melting-world-jessica-moss-interviewed

Thursday a week ago Dead Neanderthals (awesome Dutch outfit), Jessica Moss and Zu (Italian rock awesomeness) came to town and played a mere 4 minutes from my front door. I was particularly delighted to meet Jessica and Massimo (from Zu) given I’d interviewed both of them previously and it’s always good to put a face to a voice on the phone.

In the mid-to-late nineties, in the aftermath of alternative rock, it final felt there were expansive, politically and socially aware, alternatives to mainstream rock values cropping up: that alternative rock didn’t die, it just moved back into the underground and sparked a dozen intriguing wells of inspiration. This led me to embrace post-rock, which led me to encounter Constellation and their welter of absorbing acts: Godspeed You! Black Emperor, A Silver Mt Zion, Do Make Say Think…

The label is still thriving in 2017 and I think that’s down to the very clear vision and identity, the obvious care and precision taken with each release (the label foreshadowed the enhanced packaging and artwork values adopted by outfits like Joyful Noise), the supportiveness and connection between the various artists on the label and the ability to simultaneously have a recognisable ethos emerging in a wide-range of sounds and styles.

Jessica’s first full solo album certainly caught my ear and I made sure to have cash to hand to grab a copy on vinyl (and Zu’s Jhator too! http://www.wordsandguitars.co.uk/2017/03/zu-jhator/). I’m not usually a format junkie but I do appreciate my money going direct to musicians and into the hands of those who create elements that enhance life.

 

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A small piece from the Smithsonian Folkways rather impressive volume on Lead Belly. So, in case you were wondering, in 1994 the guitar Cobain stated he was considering buying was donated as an exhibit to the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame And Museum.

So…Chris Cornell. I’ve been asked a few times in the four weeks since May 18 why I hadn’t put up a post or whether I’d be game to do a brief article for this place or that…And I shrugged and said no thanks. It’s not because I was dismissing the sadness of Cornell’s death, or his meaning to his fans, or the reasonableness of the request.

Death is simultaneously universal and solitary. We will all undergo the transformation and when we do – no matter how many people are around us – we will communicate nothing of it to those around us, even the most basic confirmation “I am dead,” will be beyond us. That moment in time will belong to you, or I, alone, forever. Similarly, the observation of that moment will tell a spectator little beyond it’s basic unpleasantness; the arrival of ‘absence’ within a body; the mutual private sadness of those still living who stand or sit watching us watch. We can watch and confirm what happened but not feel its significance to each of us.

In its aftermath, those left will be able to recount their grief and touch us with its tangible impact…But we take only so much of their pain inside us – it is their private interior feeling and is ultimately incommunicable to us. The weight that comes with someone’s passing, cannot be handed onto anyone else’s shoulders; nor can we measure our weight against theirs – we each bear it alone, in our own way, work through it alone.

In some ways I find that a comforting thought: that in an over-observed, over-communicated, hyper-mediated world there is something of such ultimate and inescapable significance that it remains inarticulate to all who feel it. That’s why I had no great desire to comment at the time: the point of death is there is nothing to say.

So, sure, I don’t disrespect the flood of obituaries; video clips; tributes; top tens; photo selections; encounters; in memoria op-eds that emerge in the aftermath of any musician’s death. It’s the business of music journalism to report the events of music: it’s an impersonal machine with no moral right or wrong. I didn’t find the repetitive quick summaries of his career enlightening; I didn’t flinch much at the over-egging of Soundgarden’s influence (as opposed to relative popularity); I already have all the albums and enjoy them sporadically as the mood takes me. It was simply another conversion of emotion into product – there’s no harm in that but it is a conversation of the living withh the living, it has nothing to do with the deceased.

The only pieces that resonated with me were one making an initial inroad into reckoning with a historical musical movement that has, ultimately, seen the untimely deaths of a remarkable core of its premier exponents – the ‘death rock’ image of whatever was ‘grunge’ gains yet more reasonable support. The other was a piece reiterating the point about depression and its effect on an individual’s perception of what is normal or rational or sensible. Again, however, in both cases, it meant Cornell became an example for some other narrative or story someone wished to tell: conversion into an intellectual element, again, is a way around the incalculable hole left by a death.

A friend of mine, currently, has endured a tragic loss. I have no words I can give to him that cover the occurrence or provide comfort. Presence, when wished for, is all anyone can give in the end. I believe strongly that death takes something from those left behind. Once age has weakened us sufficiently, seeing/hearing that our friends and loved ones are gone, wrenches the body and mind until eventually we know we’re just waiting for our own without anything left to fight it. Seeing the death of our loved ones and the pain of others when we’re young, again, reminds us that there is no discussion to be had and that the clock is ticking.

But I believe our loved ones, if their deaths are worth anything to us, are worth the giving of a little bit of our own peace of mind; our own comfort; our own spirit. They’re worth a private pain that never gets better though it fades and the memory of it grows dimmer – at which point we feel dissatisfied with ourselves for how frail is human retention of a feeling and a moment.

So I’ve got nothing to say about the death of Chris Cornell. His experience of it was his alone; the feelings of his friends and family remain inside them; your feelings as a fan or casual observer are yours and I have no knowing of them. Death is that one moment that belongs to no one else. I would feel disrespectful in trying to pierce something so ultimately private with any words at all.

April is always holiday time. Birthday in March so always a good moment to pause, a third of the way into the year, see if there’s anything I need to remember for the next two-thirds… But plenty on.

http://thequietus.com/articles/22244-quietus-hour-special-with-thurston-moore?curator=MusicREDEF

A lonnnnnng Thurston Moore interview here: worth kicking in the background – around 1 hour, 47 he chats a bit about the book which is really sweet of him – while reading other things (there’s another piece here too: http://thequietus.com/articles/21673-thurston-moore-interview-2). I was lucky this past month to interview Arto Lindsay:

http://www.clashmusic.com/features/caution-madame-back-and-forth-with-arto-lindsay

And then spent a very pleasant couple hours with Dylan Carlson and Kevin Martin at the Ninja Tune HQ in London:

http://clashmusic.com/features/city-of-fallen-angels-the-bug-vs-earth

A couple of reviews of We Sing A New Language came in, very good and fair stuff:

http://recordcollectormag.com/reviews/thurston-moore-sing-new-language

https://soundblab.com/reviews/books/17495-thurston-moore-we-sing-a-new-language-by-nick-soulsby

And, around it, listening to Thor & Friends; the new Seabuckthorn LP; the Bug Vs Earth record…