It’s a shoegaze kind of a day. Because it’s that purgatorial period between Christmas and New Year when time has become so meaningless that the days feel like they’re clicking backwards. Also it’s wet, cloudy and about 70 degrees Fahrenheit, just to make the discombobulation complete. So obviously what I need to hear is a sad drone of the kind the Jesus and Mary Chain purveys. I want music that makes me feel like the days themselves are a sad drone.
You thought I was an expert on 80’s music, but I’m sorry, I’m not. Every time I think that I really know my stuff, I discover how much I don’t know. For example, I’ve never listened to the Jesus and Mary Chain before this year, and that was only because I put myself through the task of listening to more 80’s music, year by year. Apparently, I know a lot about New Wave and the New Romantics, but alternative rock remains a huge blind spot. I’ve also never listened to Sonic Youth, the Replacements, or R.E.M. just to name a few. I’m not exactly going to change my lifestyle to listen to more R.E.M. – they suck, fyi – but there’s a few records I’ve discovered that I’m going to start listening to more. The Jesus and Mary Chain’s Psychocandy is one of them.
Someone told me recently that I needed to learn more about goth music. He said it in a way that implied that I had wimped out somehow. Sorry I’m not the smol goth gf of your dreams. I only know 80’s musical subcultures as a tourist. I’m too young to remember a time when gothness wasn’t something you could purchase in a starter pack at the mall. But am I intrigued by people who like to fester and smoke aggressively while wearing black? As fuck. I’m about halfway to having the angst and the aesthetic to fit right in, except that I’ve never smoked. Anyway, here’s Sisters of Mercy.
I like a love song about long distance and alienation. Everyone and everything is always too far away and too hard to get close to. That’s just a classic crying-in-your-drink sentiment, and if it comes in such an impeccably played and catchy package, then all the better.
I think the lesson here is that if impeccably glamorous people can’t have positive romantic outcomes, what hope is there for people who don’t lounge around in evening wear? Or, relatedly, only the impeccably glamorous get to experience the full gamut of romantic emotions in the first place, while the rest of us just have to settle for settling. You all know how I feel about romance – it’s a social construct that does more harm than good, on my bad days, and a sport on the good ones – but I did learn my lessons from Bryan Ferry. It’s that everything is better with fashion, and that includes being sad. Ladies, find you someone who looks at you the way Bryan Ferry looks at a good tuxedo.
Few hits from the golden age of 80’s New Wave (that would be the mid-80’s) have aged better than Shout. You could say that it has hardly aged at all. While Tears for Fears themselves haven’t exactly remained relevant cultural figures, their two hit singles have remained perennial. This is one 80’s song that hasn’t been curdled by time, saving it from the reflexive irony and condescension we reserve for nostalgia items we know are bad. Because it’s not bad, obviously, but there are a lot of songs that aren’t bad that still inspire a kind of revulsion because they’re so indelibly of-their-moment. It may have a grandiose chorus made for standing on a mountain, but it’s simple and accessible and easy to relate to, and the the whole standing-on-a-mountain thing may be corny, but at least they’re wearing normal clothes. It’s unfortunate that bad hair and design choices have the power to ruin good music, but it’s true, and look what the absence of terrible choices does for a good song.
In general, the less said about Mick Jagger’s attitude towards women, the better. By most accounts, it’s not great. So the irony in the title of his first solo album runs deep. Jagger can be weirdly clueless about some things – like the fact than nobody wanted to hear him make an ersatz Robert Palmer album – but he’s no dummy, and he knows enough about his own image to keep selling it. So I’ll guess that the irony was not at all lost on him, and you can give him some credit for having a sense of humor. This was, of course, the 80’s, when the so-called ‘war between the sexes’ was still considered totally harmless comedic territory, and the idea that some lady might be ‘wearing the pants’ in a relationship was a surefire laff-getter. It’s even more ha-ha-ha-hilarious when you imagine the wandering cock himself staying home and getting owned, presumably by a six-foot Texan amazon named Jerry. I like to take into account, though, what we know about Mick Jagger’s tastes, and the fact that he’s always been attracted to the kind of strong and accomplished women for whom dating Mick Jagger is only a footnote on their resume. Maybe he really does just want to be owned, if only for a little while.