Monday, February 04, 2013

"Tick Tick Boom"

Once in a while I sit at my laptop (for I'm fully digitised, portable and mobile) and look through the several thousand songs at my disposal. Sometimes I'm in search of inspiration, sometimes it's merely a lazy trawl looking for something I may not have heard for a while, and sometimes I'm in one of those obsessive nerd moods where I need to make a list: my eight Desert Island Discs, for example, is a list that has undergone so many revisions that I can't for the life of me remember what I chose a year ago.
How do you sum up your life in music? What criteria are the best for selecting the eight pieces? Are you creating a list of waypoints, milestones that you commemorate with tunes? Or should the pieces represent important moments or phases of life? Either way, my list never stays the same for more than a week.
I'm fascinated by the processes guests on the programme have used to select their favourite songs. For many it seems the songs are little more than conversational props, a song that prompts a particularly good piece of interviewing. For others the music is clearly much more important or meaningful, and they wax lyrical about the piece: for a few, the memories are pin-sharp and even painful.
If ever there was a radio programme that testified to the power of music, this is the one.
And because the choice is limited to just eight songs, it's a nerd's nightmare. How can a music obsessive even hope to encompass a love of popular (and not so popular) music in such a small number? And if you're trying to stake out as much territory as possible, how are you going to cover all the genres you want to? Will one song from Led Zeppelin adequately convey a love of out-and-out rock, from the farthest reaches of metal to the power-pop of the 1970s and 1980s?
It's a minefield.
So maybe the thing to do is not to get all righteous, scientific and snobbish about it. Maybe as human beings we should focus on the moods and feelings that music can convey. Euphoria, despair, rage, lassitude, stress, love, irrepressible happiness, the whole nine yards.
The one small cavil that I have with Desert Island Discs is that it almost always features personalities who, how shall I put it, have led a full life. By which I mean long. As in, *older* people. Which means that their choices are often tempered by experience. The various knocks and bumps of life that smooth off the rough edges are reflected in songs that are often more thoughtful, sometimes sadder and wiser.
In short, there seems to be little room for the kind of innocent energy that dominates our world when we're younger. Not necessarily the politicised rage or the chemically-fuelled thrash that we can often get drawn into, but just the pure expression of youthful adrenalin. Something like Blur's "Song 2", if you like.
But I'm not doing "Song 2" here. I'm doing Swedish.
The Hives look and act like a live band really should. They have fun, they drag you into their fun, and they don't care if they look stupid along the way. It's completely, absolutely about the energy of the moment. They're not trying to *say* anything, and if you bother to look up the lyrics you'll see what I mean. It's not a message, it's a mood. It's about speed, noise, rhythm and mostly fun.
They're not handicapped by the fact that Howlin Pelle Almqvist is channeling equally Mick Jagger and David Johansen as he struts around, or by the fact that they are not a fashionable-looking collection of lads. They're giving their all, they're doing it low-fi, and they're doing it loud.
I can't wait to hear this on Desert Island Discs, but I suspect I may have to wait a long time.

1 comment:

Russell Duffy said...

I think trying to squeeze into eight choices your favourite songs or pieces is practically impossible. I don’t think I could select anything less than one hundred and that would defeat the object. I often try to climb that Olympus of tasks but after several hours of bashing the old bean give up. I simply cannot bring myself to compile a list without deleting others of equal importance. I love the radio show but if I were famous, not that I ever will be, I would have to say to Kirsty “Thanks but not no thanks.”

As for The Hives...good band.