11 January 2009

Wild Billy Childish and the Musicians of the British Empire - He's Making A Tape'

And speaking, as we just were, of simple, direct music, and the joys of neglected seven inchers unearthed over the post-festive fag days, here's another. At some point, you just have to give in and learn to love Billy Childish, even if you can't hope to buy or even listen to the roughly one record a week he issues of stripped-down, just getting on with it, garagey early Who homage.

This one is a bit different because for a change he doesn't sing it, leaving vocal duties to the female member of his current band, who is presumably the one who dresses as a nurse live. Hey, if you're going to dress up as something, dress up as a nurse. That's what I say. There's something hard-wired into the heterosexual male psyche which means this is always going to work. Anyway...

Right now I much love this playful, deliberately anachronistic nod to the role that home-made music compilations can play in romantic entanglements. Confess I made a few myself over the years, shy love letters concealed in the form of other people's music, their subtle sub-texts too often falling on stony ground, missed by a listener who turned out to be more cloth-eared than I hoped. But enough about me, for which of us hasn't at some point, when briefly dazed by the could-be girl of our dreams, attempted to express emotions we otherwise couldn't by crafting careful sequences of songs? And yes, it is generally boy to girl. As emotional inarticulacy usually goes hand in hand with trainspotting musical enthusiasm in us hapless guys, that's how it tends to work.

Of course, and alas, we no longer make tapes any more (although I maintain that the format will make its comeback, and in time this tune may come to be seen as prescient). It just isn't the same somehow now, putting together CDs on our home computers, where you can continually re-order and fit things perfectly to time. There was something special about the homespun glue and scissors days of the C90 compilation tape, where you had to guess what sequencing would work as you went along, trusting your simple instincts for a killer segue and hoping you got to the end of that final clinching tune, so often something by The Smiths, before the tape hissed out. When you gave one of these to people, with a hand-filled inlay card and maybe some added personal decoration, you were giving them an object of love. The modern CD is a far more clinical, impersonal and ultimately disposable affair. It can't carry the same meaning.

So when the protagonist here comes home and finds her other half immersed in making a tape for someone else, she knows he's in trouble. The relationship sounds doomed to me. I'd get out while you can, love. And, err, bring the nurse's uniform with you.

Damaged Goods are offering us this, and for that we should thank them. I bet no one ever thanks record labels, but then I am quite drunk as I write this.

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