Write Something About Music

That old quote which compares writing about music to dancing about architecture always kind of got on my nerves.  I mean, I can sort of see where they’re coming from, in the sense that the value in music is very much in how it makes you feel, which is a very abstract thing and renders the written word kind of redundant.

Then again, people talk about feelings all the fucking time, and it’s an important thing to do, even for insensitive dickheads like me, so the idea that trying to express the feelings which a piece of music stirs in you is stupid is a bit like saying that all attempts to communicate or empathise with each other are also stupid.

The people at Forest Publications probably think I hate them, because I have consistently ignored the projects they tell me about.  I’ve done this for no obvious reason, and it’s hard to put my finger on why, because I actually think the stuff they do is generally excellent.  I think the reason is possibly related to the fact that I have slipped into a certain mindset when it comes to reviewing music, based rather discouragingly around keeping the inbox clear and occasionally interrupting the general flow with a bit of a rant about something which has been bugging me for a while.

It seems oddly difficult to break that, even for such a tiny sideways step as writing about people writing about music.  Anyhow, Ericka sent me an email ages ago about a project she is working on with Forest Publications and I, being a dick, have managed to let it slip my mind again and again so that you now only have a few days to make a contribution.

All the details are here, but the concept is simple, really. Think of a gig or an album or a song or pretty much anything music related which has really moved you, and react to it in whichever medium you feel most comfortable expressing yourself.  In my case that would presumably be words, but they are welcoming submissions in the form of artwork, photography, poetry, fiction and all sorts.  The deadine for submissions is the 30th October, but that is plenty of time in my book.

This reminds me, actually, of a feature which ran a couple of years ago on Sweeping the Nation, although that was executed in writing only, called Songs to Learn and Sing.  I wrote something about the following song, which is called Eggshell Miles, by a band called the Skuobhie Dubh Orchestra.

Skuobhie Dubh Orchestra – Eggshell Miles

And here, published on STN here, is what I had to say about it:

“Before Kenny Anderson became slightly famous as King Creosote, chief mastermind behind Fife heroes Fence Records, he was in a couple of bands I was really quite into back in my university days, including the Skuobhie Dubh Orchestra.

“Between 1994 and 1997 I went out with a girl who was one of the most remarkable examples I have ever met of someone both highly fragile and extremely strong. She was a slip of a thing, pretty, sharp and highly intelligent and I developed a rather sizeable crush on her when we worked at the same hotel down in Manchester towards the end of my first year.

“I don’t really think it’s fair to go into the details of what had happened to her in the couple of years before we met, but a lot of it was horrific. Really bleak, awful, horrible things. Despite this, she was remarkably whole as a human being – her shell was thick, tough, and her soft centre buried deep down inside where it couldn’t be hurt. The beginnings of the relationship were amazingly tentative because of this. Her wit and humour were confident and merciless, but getting close to her on a more personal level was a minefield. Time and again she would startle like a rabbit in headlights and close up completely. She didn’t want to exactly, it was just a reflex, and one I had to treat with care and patience.

“She was quite into music, and about a year or so into the relationship we picked up The Skuobhie Dubh Orchestra’s album of wonderful, Scottish, folky bluegrass 39 Stephs. The song Eggshell Miles – “To try and get to know this girl/is to try and walk on eggshells/treading very carefully/and breaking every one” – was so perfect a description of the careful beginnings of our relationship that I have never since been able to separate it from my memories of this particular girl and that summer in Manchester. I’ve never heard another song like it really: sensitive and thoughtful, and like all the best poetry, able to put into one line what has now taken me three paragraphs to describe.

“Anyhow, some eight or nine years passed, we had long-since split up, and I was listening to a freebie sampler which included My Favourite Girl by this guy called King Creosote. A couple of the music magazines had mentioned him, and I was quite interested to hear his stuff. I really enjoyed the song and it only slowly dawned on me that the voice sounded vaguely familiar. Eventually I twigged – that bloke from the Skuobhies! – so I went and fished out my old copy of 39 Stephs and put it on. And lo and behold it was him. And then when I got to Eggshell Miles I was utterly floored by old memories, so utterly bound up in the music that I hadn’t listened to for nearly ten years, only to be unlocked again and come flooding back because I vaguely recognised a voice on a sampler CD by a new band I knew next to nothing about.”

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