Outside the window I heard the calamitous sound of the bottles being poured into the gaping mouth of the recycling truck, breaking the peace, a cacophony of discordant rebounding glass on glass in a metal chamber on wheels. It seemed like there were multiple bins to be emptied, probably due to this street being a dead end before the park, the recycling men spreading out into the narrow streets and taking bins from the houses where the truck won’t fit. This means the noise lingers for longer than usual and when the giant rusting beast has to turn around in a restricted space to head back into the town, it involves revving and shunting and sudden stopping and reverse bleeping and shouting until finally facing the right way the truck disappears with its glass and metal and rubber and plastic in a puff of dirty diesel smoke polluting its way to the recycling plant that pollutes as it recycles. There is no answer except for the idea of reuse over replace and driving the fact that pollution, plastic, carbon monoxide and other man-made nasties are probably not good for the planet’s lungs in the same way as smoking destroys your fragile human body. Stop smoking the planet.
To live is to pollute, to travel is to pollute, to eat is to pollute, even dying creates pollution but one of the biggest problems we face on top of all those huge problems is population explosion. When David Attenborough was born the world population was somewhere in the region of 2 billion. In his lifetime that has become nearly 7 billion, 800 million. “It took over 2 million years of human history for the world’s population to reach 1 billion, and only 200 years more to reach 7 billion”. I often think about the period I have lived on this planet, I’m probably the first generation of non-conscripts, no wars for me and when you think of the brutality of history, that’s one giant piece of random luck. The world seems to be such a terrible place at the moment for so many millions of people but I suppose it always was, we just hear about it more now. We don’t seem to be able to rescue the world from itself. The dilemma of empathy versus personal survival.
My world is a world of music, luckily stumbling into a lifelong passion as a boy, a passion that never wavered. I’m as excited about the embossed cover on the new reimagined Cat Steven’s Tea For The Tillerman 2 as I was picking up an original copy of the album sometime in the early seventies. Playing the guitar, listening to music, writing music, singing, working with other people, in the studio, playing live, producing and helping others realise their ideas, it’s all good. I recently heard the story of a singer who became successful and freaked out because the last thing they wanted to be in their life was a musician but they just got lucky and got a following but decided to leave it behind and study something sensible instead (haha). I can’t remember who it was.
Lots of musicians have given up the pursuit of a musical career after having a musical career. Mark Hollis, Bobbie Gentry, Bill Withers. There’s also those that were/are so sporadic with their releases that you wonder what is going through their minds. Kate Bush, Pete Townshend, Jimmy Page, Jagger & Richards, Scott Walker, Andy Sturmer (Jellyfish), how could they have been so prolific, written or co-written so many fantastic songs and then just let the time go by? I’m not much of a Guns N’ Roses fan but how could there be a 17-year gap between Use Your Illusion 1 & 2 and Chinese Democracy? You can see how Emitt Rhodes was frustrated and you can imagine that lack of success quells the spirit but for me, music is a driving force. It was always life food for Roy Harper, what happened? Don’t even get me started on The Psychedelic Furs, I recently got their new album, the first in over three decades, I’m scared to listen to it.
Records came through the post today, the first Art Bears which is really hard to find. I bought it from a lady in France. It came by Parcelforce. The packaging had ten stamps on it, ten cool French stamps that in the olden days I would soak off letters in a saucer of water and add to my collection. Well, today’s stamps, that I will say were haphazardly placed on the outer packaging rather than organised in an orderly corner. But, Parcelforce had stuck a big white label over them so some would be destroyed. The person that added the stamps and the person that added the label were unable to see the aesthetic value of the stamps – welcome to 2020.
Music today has been reasonably extensive as it stared in the early hours after Bowie’s Low and moved onto the new Pretenders album Hate For Sale (2020). I heard a track on the net, The Buzz, and thought wow, great, finally Chrissie Hynde is back. Well, the best track on the album is The Buzz with a couple of okay songs and a lot of fillers, I’ve heard it once and will try again but I’m doomed to be disappointed with the writing since the first album The Pretenders released in 1979. Patchy doesn’t really cover it and The Rails’ James Walbourne on guitar was supposed to be her new inspiration as guitarist and co-writer but everything is so heavy-handed – Ok, not everything but most of it. There’s some nice melodic arpeggios but some kind of unsubtle Punk ethic still permeates and instead of adding energy to the album it just sounds uninspired. The problem is I’m a fan, I love her voice and I can hear how the songs don’t live up to her abilities. I hear she’s tricky to work with and who needs that but it sounds like she needs to do some listening instead of directing. Her jazzy album was ok, her Stockholm album was horrible, the JP album wasn’t bad and apart from a few stand out songs it’s been a while but it’s over 40 years since Kid and The Buzz is the best track because it’s redolent of that song (Kid 12 inch arrived in the post today). When your best song sounds like your peak and that peak is 40 years in the past, it’s disappointing.
I also listened to Ernie Hawks and The Soul Investigators, an unlikely project from Finland flautist/trombonist Ernie whose real name can’t surely be Ernie Hawks if he’s from Helsinki but I guess pronunciation could be a problem if he was called Väinö Kemppainen. His music is a great groovy Soul/Jazz/Funk that could have been recorded in 1970. Great, but then artists like this are allowed to be retro probably because the Jazz/Soul groove is always rooted in the past and the past is the benchmark. It shouldn’t be for Pop/Rock but it seems it is. That’s why Hip Hop rules the world because it doesn’t have to compete with the genius of Pop and Rock from the fifties, sixties and seventies. This problem includes the records that artists who are still around today were making then. Why were they better? Because they were young? Surely not.
So in 1970 Cat Stevens released Tea For The Tillerman, you’d possibly know that this was the album with Where Do The Children Play, Wild World, Father And Sun and other classic Cat Stevens songs – I know people really like Sad Lisa. Well, this album is completely reimagined and rerecorded. It sounds like a bad idea but I liked it a lot, the mood, the songs, the singing, the instrumentation and how it’s realised. Sadly Wild World doesn’t quite work for me but if you’re a fan of the early Cat I’d recommend this album.
Out of the blue, I pulled Air’s second album 10,000 Hz Legend out of the shelf. It was released in 2001 after the phenomenal success of their first album Moon Safari (1998), that everyone in the world seemed to like and have a copy of. It was almost the cool fraternity’s Hotel California. I wasn’t expecting to like it, I hadn’t remembered it but I thought it was really cool. Beck’s on it, Roger Joseph Manning Jr (Jellyfish, Imperial Drag, The Lickerish Quartet) and solo artist Jason Falkner (Jellyfish, The Grays). It’s a fun romp through electronics, sixties grooves and very hip French awareness, what could go wrong?