Saturday, February 24, 2007

"Stunted by our early growth..."


The vocals are there immediately, something I'm not used to any more; a basic few-chord riff and rim-hits provide the only musical background, but are so innocuous you don't really notice; the voice is untrained and teenage, strangely foreign to my own deep-throat mutterings, but it gets more beautiful as its doubled by a girl's; I can't think of anyone I know personally who could sing like either of them, and it's not easy with my cloth-ear to make out the tripping words, but the line about playing "pass-the-parcel with human body parts" jogs me; the sudden whine of a violin, then bursting: a cascade of glockenspiel, insistent scrape and rhythms so digestible I wonder why I spent all that time listening to Wolf Eyes. The little line about "red stains/All over the place/But they're not blood, they're cherryade" was what first caught me: the magical taste of that stuff like forbidden fruit, that was only taken out at parties because it always made me hyper, like peyote in a shamanic ritual.

It's 'You Throw Parties, We Throw Knives', the first single by Los Campesinos!, a bunch of university students from Cardiff. Even though I got both sides free from their site, I've ordered the limited-edition-yellow-vinyl-with-free-gift-insert for the reasonable price of three pounds fifty. I almost have no idea why I did this, given I don't have a vinyl player and the damn thing was almost inaccessible - having come out on the Monday, by Wednesday it was almost sold out. And really, what's most ridiculous about it is the paucity of 'depth' - the arrangement is relatively complex, but... it all seems to be on the surface. There's nothing in the sound: you can't talk about frequencies or subtexts or 'psycho-aural alteration'. Well, I s'pose it'll have to be unconditional love, then.

It's hard not to love. The sheer exuberance, the sparkly wonder, the beauty of the massed voices on the chorus, the melancholy tinge in the line "It's your party/But I'll die if I want to" taking me back to drunken bitterness, the sheer utter humanity of it. It reminds of Godspeed You Black Emperor!, of all fucking things, but imagine if they were condensed down to two minutes from 21, and allowed to play only on toy instruments; of The Adverts, the Mekons, The Slits; of Beat Happening, Daniel Johnston and early Jandek; of the subterranean legacy of art brut; and, most of all, Bis and Kenickie.

I know all about the genealogy that stretches back to the near-mythical movement of '1997' (as David McNamee calls it in the new Plan B) but that implies evolution, ancestors. All I hear is a continuum of sound, of guitars and harmonies and sentiment - the scattered current bands formed in the shadow of '1997' (Help She Can't Swim, Das Wanderlust, Lonely Ghosts) sound like they could literally could have arrived at the same time as Xerox Girls, Period Pains, Disco Pistols, Dweeb and all the others. The sound is, in a certain way, all the same - there's a magic that cannot be grasped, that shines through the recordings, that makes them more than the sum of their parts. It's the sound of youth itself, picking up the primitive tools to hand and making what they want to; the jumping bursts of happiness and melancholy and scariness of youth, when everything small is invested with so much significance.

I don't know why exactly I'm writing about this: it can't be written about, it can't be analysed. I suppose it's at least partially because I wasn't there: I never did those things or felt those feelings. The shining enthusiasm and adventure is exotic to me, which explains the appeal; it's the undertow of melancholy that I feel I really connect with. The line on Kenickie's 'In Your Car' "I'm in heaven/I'm too young to feel so old" could have been written for me.

Perhaps I just feel it's one last chance, to claim what I never got: to jump and shout, to feel happy and sad. Help She Can't Swim and Los Campesinos! are playing dates in April. Bis are reforming for their tenth anniversary. Lauren Laverne's still alive. If those aren't reasons to be happy, I don't know what are.

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