The winter of 1992 was about to turn into the winter of 1993 and through a series of bad decisions on my part I found myself living at my grandmother’s house in a small South Georgia town (pop. 600) and working at a factory in a slightly larger town (pop. 16,000) manufacturing fluorescent light fixtures. I was just out of high school, constantly bored & constantly impatient, and in search of adventure I’d set out on a cross-country road trip, only to be derailed after a couple of months by car repairs that ate up my ‘get back home’ money.
And though my uncle got me a job at the factory where he worked—under the condition I stay there for a year—I was even more bored, and more impatient, living in Georgia than I’d been back home in California. I was also very lonely, so any extra money I had was spent on music & books, same as it had been before, and same as it’s been since.
I called a Tower Records in Atlanta, the one by Lenox Mall, and asked if they had the year-end issues of Melody Maker and NME. After a long wait—not put on hold, put on the counter, overhearing all the conversations around me—the guy came back and said that he did. I told him I was living in Plains and couldn’t get up there for a few days. Would he mind holding them for me? I didn’t really believe him when he said he would, but they were there that weekend when I showed up. I took the magazines next door to the McDonald’s, ordered a 20-piece McNugget w/a small, endlessly refillable soda, and read both issues cover-to-cover.
Then I went back to Tower and spent a hundred dollars on an assortment of CD’s and cassettes.
One of the CD’s I bought was by a band called Come. The name of the album was Eleven: Eleven, and though I’d never heard of the band, I was so moved by the way the writer talked about it I had to hear it.
Nearly 20 years later that same writer, Everett True, asked me if I wanted to write for this website he was editing called Collapse Board. I took a day to think about it—because I always take a day to think about it—and then jumped in with both feet. Over the next several years, CB poked & prodded, lacerated & laughed, and in the process ruined a lot of music careers, possibly including my own, and possibly including Everett’s. But most importantly, everyone involved wrote w/an honesty & integrity that’s rare in music writing these days. And they almost always had a lot of fun doing it (which might be even more rare).
This book arrived in the mail today, sent free of charge all the way from England, and it’s hard not to think about Collapse Board as I’m reading it. Over half the contributors here were involved w/the site (I write about CB in the past tense b/c none of the people in this book are still involved w/it, though it continues to peter along much like Creem kept going long after Bangs et. al. had left), and b/c ET’s in charge, it has many of the same principles—gender equality, no experience requires, and as broad a cacophony of different writing voices as possible. Yes, it’s meant to provoke, but first & foremost it’s meant to inspire. You can do this too.
Last fall ET asked me to contribute, and I knocked out six of these in a couple of days. One didn’t make the cut, but the rest are in here, and it is such an honor—a kind of life-validating achievement—to be in a book w/some of the greatest music writers who have ever written. There’s Everett, of course. But also Neil Kulkarni, Lucy Cage, and the immortal Mr. Abusing. Then there’s younger people like Hayley Scott, Tiarney Miekus, Lee Adcock, and Brigette Adair Herron. The last two approached the topic w/a totally unique perspective and produced the most powerful, most personal writing in the book.
I made it out of that factory, and though I returned home to an even worse situation, I made it out of that too. And I guess the point I’m driving at is the world is full of surprises and sometimes they’re good ones.
You can buy it here:
And here’s my chapter on My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless:
It says something about this record that I’ve never met a Loveless worshipper who didn’t at some point have a prolonged love affair with opiates, either street-level or synthetic. Both the album and the pursuit of that particular drug are rooted in the need for escapism, to obliterate one’s sense of self and evaporate into the sofa cushions. All those worshippers also had access to outstanding home stereo systems, which may be why MBV fans skew so disproportionately privileged. A record that manages to combine the worst aspects of indie culture (style over substance, political apathy, blankness as a form of cool) with the worst aspects of hippiedom (complacency, smugness, escapism). Actually, scratch that. MBV doesn’t combine the two cultures so much as obliterate any distinction between the two.
I mean, there’s a reason the vocals are buried so low in the mix: Kevin Shields had absolutely nothing to say. If you like the cool sounds on this record, go listen to Yo La Tengo’s Painful, a record that puts them to use in the service of songs and emotions and dynamics.
And as for the pervasive Kevin Shields deification that continues to this day, keep in mind that the coolest-sounding song on the album, the most sonically progressive, is ‘Touched’, and it was made entirely by the drummer. Of course that drummer plays the same fill in every song (badda-badda-badda-badda on the snare) to the point that you could incorporate it into a drinking game and 10 minutes into the album find yourself rushed to the emergency room.
Red fades into pink as everything become porous, a cerise sludge, until the only thing left is ambience and you’re gagging on thick cotton candy.
Empty, beautiful gibberish for empty, beautiful gibberers. Some people call it the ultimate guitar album, but the only memorable melodies (‘When You Sleep’, ‘I Only Said’, ‘Soon’) are all played on keyboards. So explain that one to me.