Nick Cave really makes marriage sound like a life sentence with no chance of parole, although, by all accounts, he has a lovely one himself. Well, for many people, that’s exactly what it is. For anyone who looks at ideal models of romance and sees a life-sucking bottomless void, Nick Cave is your man, your guy, your guru, your creep at the door. He’s your ringmaster of why everything is bad and wrong. And that, perversely, makes the dark nights a little more comfortable, if not brighter.
Today’s mood is the hypnotic electronic goth music of ThouShaltNot. It’s more nighttime or rainy day music, but I find it quite relaxing without being overly gloomy. My inner goth kid, meanwhile, wants to be entertained by something besides the same five dead bands from the 80’s, so if anyone wants to play “you wouldn’t have heard of them”…
A few years and a few relationships ago I was with someone who loved Daft Punk. We went to see a Daft Punk tribute band together. My memories of that year largely involve dancing a lot to Get Lucky. But he told me that if anything was ‘our song’ it was this one. That should’ve been a real romantic moment, but I couldn’t help but notice that it’s a pretty sad song. There’s the romance of loss and the romance of sadness, but it’s not a romantic gesture to remind your partner that you may not be well matched for each other and your love is most likely doomed to fizzle out. We were not, of course, well matched for each other and our love was doomed to failure, and I no longer feel very bad about it. In hindsight, it was a kind of bleak comedy and a whole lot of ironic foreshadowing in that scene. I couldn’t have written it better if I was a scriptwriter: the hopelessly tone deaf romantic posturing of this man coming up against my own inherent cynicism and inability to just let people have their thing even if I don’t agree with it. I’m not sorry I punctured the romantic atmosphere you were trying to set that night; I don’t want to hear some bullshit about how you love me more than anything in the world at the same moment you’re reminding me that we’ll never stay together. Romance is for fools.
You might remember this song from such important cultural events as… a T-Mobile commercial from sometime in the early 2000’s. Really. Judging by the YouTube comments, a lot of people remember it from just that, and some have even spent the past decade searching for it. Well, T-Mobile fans, your search is over. It’s Royksopp, from the 2001 album Melody A.M., which is considered quite a classic in the annals of Scandinavian electronic music. This obviously beggars a conversation about how art and commerce have melded together into a new state of hyper-capitalist sensory-surround pop culture. It wasn’t that long ago that no serious artist would ever consider selling their music for commercial use, because it would disgrace them as an artist. It was called ‘selling out’ and anyone who did it was seen as a greedy hack who should just go jump off a bridge in shame. Remember when The Rolling Stones sold Start Me Up to Microsoft in the 90’s? They were one of the first major artists to license their music, and it was a real scandal. Well, now they have more money than God, and yesterday’s scandal is today’s best practices. Now, it seems like, if we have to see ads and watch commercials – and we do, oh, how we do – we can at least expect to discover some cool new music, and it’s a great way for artists to break out and get themselves out there, since nobody makes any money selling records anymore. Everybody wins! Hooray for terminal-stage capitalism!
It amazes me that Ladytron made their debut almost twenty years ago already. Especially since hearing them still makes me think “what is this cool new thing?” Of course, there is music made decades ago that still sounds like the cool new thing nobody’s discovered yet. Ladytron, meanwhile, has very much been discovered. They helped make electronic music cool again. Listening to Ladytron is like getting a lullaby from the world’s most soulful girl robots. If I have to think about the enduring musical legacy of the last 20 years, Ladytron is definitely in the forefront. I’m not going to try to take stock of that just yet, because I think I’m still too young to dedicate myself to nostalgia for my own lived years. But I also think that it’s already clear which works have stood the test of time.
A little while ago I decided to slowly start working my way into the Cure fandom. I can’t say I’m a dedicated, torch-carrying superfan but I did spend a lot of the past year listening to Lovesong. (Yes, the gateway Cure song.) One thing I found out – well known to longtime fans, I am sure – is that despite being somewhat ridiculous in image, they’ve been consistently sincere in their mopey romanticism, and despite a lot of personnel changes consistent in their sound. Obviously, Robert Smith is a little bit of a punch for being the emo kid who staunchly refuses to get a normal hair cut well into middle age, but apparently he and his fans are ok with that, and that’s admirable. A lot of us wish we were still the absurd little freaks we were when we didn’t know any better. As long as those sadboi anthems keep coming.
Do you like chillwave music? Okay, no one ever admits to liking chillwave music, not least because they’d be hard press to define what it is. But if you’re susceptible to those curated playlists with names like “Smooth Jazz for a Rainy Day” or “Music to Study To” you probably like chillwave. It’s basically a musical Instagram filter, and don’t knock it. It’s a proud tradition tracing its heritage all the way back to Brian Eno’s ambient soundscapes. Brian Eno actually didn’t invent the idea of boring music for boring places but he gave it a little gravitas and most-modern irony. Today we’re all in the business of curating the perfect musical ambiance for ourselves, and there’s a rack of composers writing music specifically for that purpose. I’m pretty sure that most of what ends up on those ‘rainy day’ playlists is composed by anonymous hacks, but there are some talents in the atmospheric soundpool who achieve real cultural relevance, at least in their native Scandinavia. Such as Royksopp, whose moody electronic compositions are some of the most acclaimed moody electronic compositions. They also make electronic compositions that are more dance-floor friendly, and they’re frequent collaborators with Robyn, which places them in a very hip echelon. And sometimes you just really need just the perfect music for drinking tea on a chilly fall day.