Monday, March 07, 2005
I am having an affair.
Ah, London. Waterloo facilitated an Apex ticket, meaning an outlay of only £20 and something pence. It may take an hour longer than the Paddington route, but surely it’s worth it? Fuck knows, but eight hours on a train over the weekend is more than enough. To get up before 7 and head for another one to get into work this morning was almost too much.
I love London, in an unfaithful way, a non-committal way. Every time I see her I tell her I love her, but that I also love my wife. London knows I’ll never leave my kids for her, knows I’ll never give in to her charms, to her Italian cafes just off Carnaby Street where we breakfasted on Sunday, to her proliferating Muji’s with their attractively utilitarian clothes weaved in khakis and blacks, to her Fred Perry shops, her waffle stands, her trend-hopping Oxford Street tat emporiums selling cheap imitations of non-expensive-in-the-first-place fashion items, to her Chinese noodle bars where a box stuffed with streaks of eggy goodness replete with chunks of carrot and cauliflower and sweet & spicy chicken cooked the Cantonese way (sugar coated rather than battered) can be purchased for less than the price of a Big Mac and fries with added beef hormone, to her smattering of record shops on Berwick Street, her enormous HMVs and Virgin Megastores, her wide avenues in Kensington where people park Chelsea Tractors in the centre of the road because a million pound home doesn’t come with a garage, her street entertainers in Covent Garden who risk hypothermia in the name of… standing extremely still… her gangs of middle aged Harley Davidson enthusiasts presumably retired from work in the city and who can’t bear to leave her, her shoe shops, her Dali statues on the South Bank, her bridges, her buildings, her abundance of conversations being enthusiastically or laconically made in languages I can only just identify (and certainly not understand), her buses, her cycle-taxis, her black cabs, her tube system (how many people pass through the Circle or District or Bakerloo or Northern lines everyday and never stop to ponder what a remarkable feat of engineering it must have been, 100 years ago, to excavate those tunnels which criss-cross the capital in a bizarre and intricate fashion, to plan those stations which wind in three dimensions downwards and backwards?), her habit of blackening the insides of your nostrils if you use said tube system for more than 20 minutes in any given day, her beggars, her posh people, her celebrities, her sushi bars, her whole shops devoted to labels and brands which are only ever a small department of a larger (yet still smaller) store in other parts of the country, her arrogance, her blackened brickwork, her claustrophobic rail network inlets which allow a sneak glance at the backsides of city houses, her townhouses, her monuments and enormous Ferris wheels, her hotels on Holland Park Avenue with their extortionate breakfasts, her music venues-
The purpose of the trip, ostensibly, was to see Embrace at Brixton Academy, to meet up with strange people I have communicated with digitally but not tactilely, to see friends who I love dearly again, to spend time with my mistress again (in the company, this time, of my actual, ahem, “partner”), to stay in a hotel rather than on someone’s floor (or hotel floor)-
I have been ill lately – a cold turned into a stomach bug and I have shed a stone, near enough, in only a week and a half. I am not drinking at the moment and intend to maintain this and see if I can shed more weight. I am (largely) avoiding spicy and fatty foods (noodles on Sunday being the exception thus far) because, frankly, they go straight through me and make me feel ill again. I’ve only ever been to Brixton Academy when absolutely wasted before – twice in 2000 and both times I was literally carried from the pub to the venue, once after (allegedly – I wasn’t paying attention) consuming 15 pints of Guinness over the course of an afternoon. I can’t, quite simply, do that anymore.
Even plastered I knew that Brixton was a shite venue. Sure, it looks nice with the balconies and ramparts, part castle, part amphitheatre, but a; backstage is shit, windy, confusing and the VIP bar is tatty (I’m comparing almost exclusively and unfavourably to Shepherd’s Bush here – it’s certainly better than Bristol Academy), and b; the sound is fucking criminal. It’s all drums and reverbed fuzz, the ceiling too high… If you stand by the mixing desk it’s bearable, but after Anechoic’s set I went into the foyer to buy their single, got talking to some people, and before I knew it Embrace had walked on stage and the world and his dog had rushed the lower auditorium. One look at the maddening throng put me off fighting my way through it, so we headed for the top balcony and positioned ourselves right at the back, just where the sound is worst, just where you can no longer hear any guitar at all, just where some pissed lad was standing doing a chimp dance with his arms outstretched and his drunken body bobbing like a wading bird dipping for shellfish as he spatters Guinness over all and sundry, before the woman sort of next to him gets pissed off with her boyfriend and throws her pint at him, swearing and waving her arms until he fucks off, and the bobbing pissed guy with the outstretched arms starts high-five-ing her and then hugging her and… beery lads who’d batter you in a pub in the midlands if you weren’t dressed right, wailing along to heartbreak anthems, is not what I love about this band.
I described Anechoic (Korg, guitar, drums, keys, squiggly electronics, MBV, Aphex, Elbow) as being like “having your brain cleaned with noise”, a sensation I am very keen on as my brain is busy and messy.
Embrace, at their best, at the moments when I’m unutterably in love with them, are like having my soul cleansed with noise. And I don’t believe in a “soul”, as I’ve said before and at length. The slower, ballady ones don’t do much for me live because they’re about melody and live you can’t hear that (especially not at Brixton). CBTWYK does little for me live cos I’m not into singing along massively 90% of the time. It’s… the climax of AYGGP, the white noise squall at the end of “Out Of Nothing”, the clattering rhythm at odds with the melody of “Spell It Out”, the upsurging rapture of “Save Me”… it’s the sublimation into something, even if I’m only standing at the back and nodding my head, if I can close my eyes and have the noise wash over me, the grand rise of “My Weakness…” (too brutal, too harsh, too dark to be a singalong, surely?), the screaming wail of “New Adam New Eve”, the new dub riot of “One Big Family”, the thumping tide of “Ashes” (and “New Song Number One” as well – keep that working title, there’s an insouciant arrogance about naming a song that which I love). Live, Embrace squeegee my brain and heart clean with noise and melody. This is why I love them. You can take your Doves and Coldplay and any other band of that “ilk”, and shove them up your arse. None of them make the right NOISE.
I had three beers all weekend and bought one CD single. London is a cruel mistress, but I am becoming numb to her nefarious commercial charms, to her planted desires and avaricious encouragement.
I still love her, though. I love the way she smells.
3/07/2005 11:17:00 am