Saturday, December 31, 2005

Soundtrack to 2005

I don't just sit here writing or reading. There's usually something playing in the background, and, if its more likely to be an old than a new record these days, it doesn't preclude me still liking the odd hit record. I have to say that I've hardly heard any of NME's singles of the year, this time round, though their favourite, The Futureheads' cover of Kate Bush's "Hounds of Love" never appealed; but then again, its about a decade since I got my kicks mainly from indie rock. It's a close run thing but LCD Soundsystem's "Daft Punk is Playing at My House" just edged out Amerie's "1 Thing" in my affections, with honourable mentions for Go! Team's "Bottle Rocket" and Gwen Stefani's "Hollaback Girl." The Go! Team album was my favourite new record of the year, just because it sounded so fresh compared with everything else. I know that liking indie music is supposed to go hand-in-hand with liking alt.lit these days, but I feel I've done my time. Besides, as far back as 1987, my favourite record of the year was Art of Noise sampling, mellow hip hop classic "Hey Love" by King Sun D. Moet. Its hard to believe that "sampling" is around 20 years old. Writers seem very conservative when it comes to their choice of music; if you always know that even young footballers get their kicks from Celine Dion and Bryan Adams, its either the Clash, Springsteen and maybe, at a push, Massive Attack for the wordsmiths. Poets of course only go for Dylan and Jackson Browne and I guess the older generation are all classical and jazz in the hope of that call from "Desert Island Discs," and young American writers just like quirky college rock like Modest Mouse and They Might Be Giants. Is it relevant? Well, it can be. Without going into a scientific survey, I'm reminded that Larkin's love of jazz only went so far, and that he had no interest in the revolutions of Miles Davis and John Coltrane. Paul Muldoon wrote a series of poems about his favourite albums - hostages to fortune, and making him seem like a much older man than his poetry might, "Parallel Lines" by Blondie was the only one I liked, if I remember correctly - and Nick Hornby's book about his favourite songs was a maddening mix of the obscure and the cerebral. I've just read Alan Hollinghurst's "the Line of Beauty" and the protaganist, Nick Guest, despite being a gay men in his early 20s during the early 80s is as classicist in his taste for music as he is in his taste in furniture and literature. There's one mention of him going to Heaven, the iconoclastic 80s gay club, but nothing of the music. Perhaps it doesn't matter, but it was a welcome relief when in Iain Banks "Complicity" the music on the stereo is the Pixies. I'd be unlikely to ever write a character who was a Mahler obsessive - not because I'd find it too hard to research, I'd perhaps appreciate the challenge - but that I'd find it impossible to imagine a contemporary character under 40 for whom this was a believable character trait. Not being a gay man taking drugs at Heaven in 1986 I'm not entirely sure what the playlist would be, but I guess it might include Sylvester's "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)", Princess's "Say I'm Your Number One", Dead or Alive's "You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)" and Farley "Jackmaster" Funk's "Love Can't Around."

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