“Bit short-changed there”, said the bloke passing us on the way out of the auditorium at half-past nine, after the set that began at half-past eight had finished. Well, away with you sir, that was great. To paraphrase an old BBC comedy play, never mind the width, feel the quality.
For such a short and early set (presumably with one eye on tonight’s footballing doings ) it wasn’t half packed, and came with a couple of surprises. Not only did the lightbulbs illuminating the stage actually change colour from their traditional red, Mark also took centre stage under a de facto spotlight! Anyway, after a ticket-purchasing farce which saw us perched right at the back (as the following snaps barely illustrate – by the way, I’m not sure if I should feel relieved or wounded that I didn’t feature in the Guardian’s recent “worst gig photos”), we witnessed a rather stunning set as well as a lot of people who couldn’t stay sat down for five minutes at a time without wandering off outside.
Things are going a bit slow here at the moment, largely because things are far too full-on elsewhere. There’s a definite disparity in the work-life balance here, and that can never be seen to be right. So while I try to address that, this week shall be mostly comprised of EPs and quiet things as that’s all my attention span can cope with while all else goes mad around me. This whatever also reflects the lunacy of the past couple of weeks, but I’m sure it’s nothing to worry about and nothing that a bit of a sleep can’t remedy.
I have no idea if it was a collective act or sheer coincidence, but somewhere along the line a switch was closed and we all became earnest, miserable sods. Or at the very least I did and presumed that everyone else did too. Thankfully, we have Sweet Apple here to decide that not only is it perfectly OK to be fun and bright and occasionally silly, but it’s also possible to look over one’s shoulder at the past and mark all the colourful spots without getting all maudlin about it. And of course it’s even better to do so when you get to include Mike Watt in a canoe.
There’s nothing quite like a band who choose their name wisely. The two times I’ve seen Italian band Afterhours perform, it’s been a rather late affair. Which turned out to be a bit of a bugger as both of these times were in places 200 miles from where I lived and on one occasion (a February!) I ended up trying to sleep on a bench outside Euston Station as I’d missed my train. Whoops.
Another thing about Afterhours is that they’ve never been afraid to experiment, and as such spent much of their time several years ahead of their peers. This is a rather handy aspect, as this re-released (with surprises!) album from 1997 seems as fresh as if it had appeared just last week.
It’s nigh-on impossible to keep a secret these days. It was back in June that news started filtering through that an anthology of Mark Lanegan’s work was in the pipeline, and it’s been an agonizing wait while it was rumoured, then confirmed, pre-ordered and finally finished. Then again, even as I thought I had the whole thing sussed, it turns out that there is still room for a small measure of stealth as I’m thrilled to discover that a very good friend of mine was in on it all along, and whose contribution (of which I am still largely in the dark) has deserved no less than three mentions in the credits to this release. I raise my glass to Debbi, whose hard work, dedication and exasperation (the latter for which I was on most occasions at least part of the cause, for which I continue to apologise) in the creation and continuing growth of Onewhiskey, as informative and steadfastly enduring a labour of love as you’re ever likely to encounter on the internet. Meeting this head-on are the masters of the curation and reissue of the sort of wonders you never realised you were missing out on in the form of Light In The Attic Records, who have put this double-CD / triple LP set together with care and a rare attention to detail that makes this record stand out even before anything plays. Hats (presumably in the other hand than the one raising the glass!) off to everyone involved.
Albums are all well and good, but what of the individual songs contained within? A silly question to be sure, but it’s a bit more complicated than merely going “well that was the best record, so it had the best songs on it” – that works sometimes, but not always. Sometimes, a song in its right place in the context of its album home is a euphoric, emotional high; but remove it from its running order and the joy is lost. Conversely, a song can be so big, bold and beautiful that it swamps the rest of the record to the point that it has to be removed and isolated to give the rest of it a chance. In short, this list (in no particular order other than the one in which they occurred to me) has very little bearing on the wordy behemoth that preceded it.
The following ten tracks I think (by happy accident) typify 2013 as far as 6 Days From Tomorrow is concerned. They all trigger a response that goes beyond mere emotional; they make the heart beat faster or slower, they make arteries expand or contract, they make eyes mist up or a focus sharper. It’s a strange thing to be talking about how the act of merely listening to something can evoke a physical reaction, and maybe this is just something that affects me. If the latter is the case, then I’m the lucky one.
Before I start this bit, something of an apology is due for a bit of an error while doing what little I do to publicise anything on here. When tweeting each page as I’d finished them, I got my numbers wrong in haste, and pegged Mark Lanegan and Duke Garwood’s wonderful Black Pudding album as Number 5, when it was actually Number 6. Whoops. And before I had any chance to delete them and repost (because to be honest, I didn’t notice for 3 days…), these two cheeky retweets happened which led to lots of others…
It’s always a rare thrill when someone I write about likes something enough to repost it, and anyone whose read this blog for any length of time will know how much of a lift this would have given me. If only I’d got my bloody numbers right so that I wouldn’t be sitting here now in a state of mortal embarrassment. This must be how the nation’s tabloid editors must feel every time they make an error in their publications. Erm, yes.
Anyway, almost done with the end of year goings-on (Top 10 single/EPs and Top 10 tracks to follow suit either tonight or soon after), and it’s a weird year-end because I’m not sure what’s going to be happening with 6 Days From Tomorrow, at least in the short term. I was made redundant on the Friday before Christmas, and although I’m not destitute just yet, I don’t know when I’ll be back in gainful employment in these uncertain times. So unfortunately, hobbies and pastimes must take a financial backseat to more sensible matters for at least a while, as records aren’t cheap – especially the nice big waxy ones I’m so fond of. I could delve back again (part of the reason for this blog’s existence in the first place, lest I forget) for those interested in the oeuvre of Nuclear Assault etc, or maybe one or two ruminations on records, formats or anything else that annoys me. I don’t know. An uncertain future could be the kick up the backside I need anyway, as 6dft has been losing readers by a consistently huge margin all year (down by a third all the way through). Maybe this is a problem with all homespun blogs now that the bigger ones are now well established as tastemakers and bigger shop windows, maybe I don’t split my posts down into enough separate pages to get the traffic count up, maybe everyone hates the Oxford Comma, or maybe I’m just not s much fun as I once was. But sod it, if I still enjoy doing this, then I’m still going to do it.
Ranting out of the way, it’s fun to re-edit the full Fifty down into one, difficult-to-read post. These lists are all very silly anyway as they take far too long to type and become very wrong very quickly. Looking through the lists from 2011 and 2012 (never did a 2010 full list in one post, but they’re all in there somewhere if you’re bothered enough to search), there’s so much stuff at the top of each respective list that I barely listen to now, or ones near the bottom (or that never featured) that get spun constantly. They’re little more than snapshots of a week at the back end of November, which makes it all the more strange then that we all get so irritated when someone else’s list is wrong or – worse! – in the wrong order.
Anyway, thanks to everyone who’s read, commented, contributed, liked, shared, retweeted or just plain enjoyed/disagreed with having a few minutes of their time wasted (although I don’t think there’s a button for that, and so Social Media Regulations seems to mark this down as being a somewhat irrelevant activity, which is a bit of a shame really), hoping that Christmas went well for all and that 2014 brings everything you strive for. And fingers crossed, this place may still be here. Maybe with fewer mistakes. Although while I say “with fewer mistakes”, I exclude the formatting of everything below as it’s taken me ages and I’m way beyond the “sod it, that’ll do” point of the evening. Enjoy! x
As an aside before I even start (is that even possible?), a plea to EP manufacturers worldwide: label your speeds! The Record Store Day EP that preceded this album back in April features a couple of fascinating reworkings of Cold Molly, not least the one appearing courtesy of the Soulsavers. As the needle hit the groove (as is the parlance of the young folk these days), I sat there thinking “this is great – sounds a bit like Jesus Of Nothing” before realisation dawned with the arriving vocals that this was an EP pressed at 45rpm and not 33 and a bit. Try this at home, it’s startling. For a short while anyway, as it gets a bit odd. You’d never get this sort of entertainment with CDs, etc.
Onto business, and I always find it interesting to discover that Time does weird things to music. Anyone’s understanding of their listening to one thing (or at least my own) is always going to be linked to a whole host of things that have been heard before as the brain searches for patterns and familiarity when trying to make sense of something new. A flipside to this is also true, where coming across something else later on throws a whole new light on what one is now comfortable with, and new pathways and circuits are forged through the record collection that we all carry with us in our heads. Listening to this now is a completely different experience to when I heard it first, and it’s now even higher in my estimation than before.
Anyone (anyone? Hello?) reading this countdown and clicking on the blue underlined linky titles to read what I originally wrote about the relevant subject record (provided I did the links right. Not a given here) may well find themselves amused or enraged by the fact that I obviously haven’t read through them before writing about them again as I either say the exact same thing as or come out with something completely different to the original text. This is because music tends to do that. Something that was “nice” in February for example may well be mindblowing now, or indeed something I thought would never be bettered this year hasn’t even made the Top Fifty. That’s the transitory nature of it all, and while it does sort of describe a pointlessness to doing this when it’ll all be different in a fortnight anyway because that’s how brains work, it’s also a bit of a comfort.
Things that once acted as a comfort or a smokescreen are later no longer needed to be used as such. Things that once evoked warm reminiscence now drag up painful memories. Things that were first heard in a terrible frame of being now flow through the soul like honey in the blood. Ultimately it’s all a strange mixture of frequencies and communications that we, the listeners, have no right to interpret in the ways that we do because they don’t come from us, merely to us. But where would the fun be if we didn’t? Not sure where all that came from to be honest, but there you go. Five more favourites below, then the Top Ten will appear shortly with a whole (hopefully not so weirdly philosophical) post to themselves x
Last night I fell. I fell far, and I fell hard. Depression and the various things it brings with it is an awful thing to carry, as it never comes alone. It comes with shame and fear, and it can manifest itself both spiritually and physically. I will carry the scars of both the former and the latter for the rest of my life, but I can do this because I am so lucky to have friends who scrape me up and mend me every time this happens. It doesn’t happen as much as it used to, but it still hurts when it does. I daren’t think of how I could do this on my own.
Not everyone is so fortunate. It’s one of those things where people don’t wish to burden others, as it’s an illness that carries a malignant stigma that prevents sharing for fear of driving loved ones away. I know this all too well to my cost, as I lost a potential life because I simply didn’t know how to tell the person who has been closest to me in my life so far that I was struggling, and that I needed help.
Organisations such as Box Of Stars hope to bring this illness out into the open where it belongs, and to free those who suffer from the yoke of loneliness by providing support and a conversation. And this is where all this ties in. A tribute to Sparklehorse’s Mark Linkous, entitled Last Box Of Sparklers is imminent, and it needs our help to get it finished and out there. A campaign has begun today to raise funds to complete the recording, manufacture and get the word out – and for whatever you decide to pitch in with, there’s plenty to look forward to receiving in return.