I Like What They Say

I saw Nada Surf play at the Scala this week.

Their 2002 album ‘Let Go’ has been a constant companion. I love a lot of music, but this is one of the very few records that I am always listening to.

My friend Simon gave me this album out of nowhere. He had an advance copy, and he’s one of those older guys who I always admired. He had not just great personal taste, but he could nail what records you would like with just a few simple questions. And he got this one so right.

I wrote a few months ago about Pet Sounds, and that funny relationship you have with an album you have known for many years. Not a record you loved for a while then went back to. But one where you know all the parts. When the band played Inside of Love this week, and that tinkly guitar part before that big last chorus kicked in, it felt like home.

The other odd thing about this record is that it has meant so many different things t me over the years. It started as a record for unhappy times. Lots of listening to this record in the dark, smoking my eyeballs out, feeling pretty crap. Then it became a dark party record. Songs like Happy Kid and Hi-Speed Soul were the soundtrack to my first steps towards being really, really decadent (in my own way). Sitting at a corner at Death Disco while they played another shit Strokes song, and then just giving into the moment. Those upbeat songs ran through my head in those moments. Later on, I decided to rip off this album in any way I could in my own band.

Even the individual songs have flip flopped over the years. Take ‘Inside Of Love’. It’s sadness was well soaked up by me when a relationship that meant a lot to me dissolved to nothing. And then shortly after, when I met a girl who also loved this album, it became a hymn of hope.

(And again, I hopelessly ripped off the riff to this song for own of my own.)

I told everyone I could about this record. I worked for the record company that was distributing this album in Australia, and every few weeks I would order another bunch of copies and just give it away. I paid good money for it on vinyl (with an alternate tracklisting – the record collector in me had a nerdgasm), and downloaded plenty of bootlegs.

They have a new album out. It’s called ‘Lucky’, and it’s been 6 years since Let Go. And I find it funny how many people ask me what I think about it. Even seeing Barry and Casey in Sydney, over a few beers, we had to get back and talk about this record. It’s just a part of my life, of our lives.

Lately, this record has come to be something quite soothing to me. With not a lot of drama in my life, it’s become a warning of traps I fell into in the past. If that makes any sense. It’s just interesting that this album has changed again.

Its also interesting when I think of the time I loved that record for the first time, there were other albums that I loved. Weezer’s Pinkerton. Belle And Sebastian’s If You’re Feeling Sinister. Even Wilco’s Being There, what I consider to be my favourite album…according to my ipod I have not listened to some songs on that album in over a year.

So that’s me and Let Go. I don’t really care if anyone else ever discovers this album. It doesn’t really appear on many greatest albums lists. But I’m thinking this is probably my new favourite album.




My heart won’t stop

I am so tired. I’ve had a biggish night of dinner and laughing at a tv, some walking and of course a long day at work. I am utterly exhausted.

And I can’t sleep. It’s 2am, and I have been lying here for three hours.

When I close my eyes my brain still feels wide awake. Maybe it’s something on my mind, but this is usually the case anyway.

Its really quite horrible. My body is not in anyway wired. In fact, I barely want to get out of bed to get water or anything. I’m wasted. Yet I know I’m not sleeping.

This happens every so often. A lot less in the past year, but still several times a year. And I’ve eaten well today. No coffee since this morning. No soft drinks at all. Even had a glass of wine with dinner that should be soothing me. It’s not.

I even yawn. My eyes don’t want to stay open. My arms and legs sag, like bean bags in their own funny way. But the vicious circle is I’m trying hard to be relaxed. And after several minutes and I just have to toss and turn a bit. And we’re back at the bottom of the hill.

How do you sleep? Who teaches you? I vaguely remember primary school, and the counting sheep trick. That has never worked for me. how do you relax when you have trouble sleeping? Even more cosmetic things like pillows and what to wear. On your side, or on your back? No one teaches us. So I’m just guessing. I would like to know how my hair gets the way it is come morning.

So writing this has wasted some more minutes. The rest of the night will pan out like this. Around 3, 3:30, I will get really annoyed I’m not asleep. I will roll around and just try and force myself to plateau out. Around 4:30 I will start feeling really guilty about tomorrow and start trying to convince my body that it will be hurting tomorrow, that we have like four hours left. By 5:30 I will be thinking I might as well lie here for a bit longer and then go straight to work, nuking my system with coffee to get by.

Then by 6 I will fall asleep, and wake to my normal alarm, and feel like hell.

I can’t even do anything. I can’t read. I can’t listen to music. That is commiting myself to no sleep. I have to hope that somehow, some way, I will sleep very soon. I can’t miss it when it happens.

So I better get back to it. This could be the moment.


Everybody here comes from somewhere

The new single by REM, Supernatural Superserious, is fantastic.

Biases on the table time. I’m a huge REM fan. I can’t think of the moment where this band got me. At my age, they were already all over the radio by the time I was aware of them. The One I Love, End Of the World, Losing My Religion, Everybody Hurts, Man on the Moon, What’s the Frequency…all songs that were such a part of my language that I never had to study it. I just picked up being an REM fan.

The last couple of records have had moments of beauty, but were generally uneven. They were downbeat, folky and overall dragged on a bit. But the promise of the new album Accelerate is that’s it’s back to rock. The single certainly harks back to Monster era R.E.M.

It really taps into what I love about REM. It’s a thrill ride of guitars and hooks. It’s a song for everyone, with a dash of sentimentality and hope. It hints at what I really love about the albums by the Hold Steady of late. That even a small life should be separated.

The whole thing is over in just over three minutes. We’ve had a stadium winning riff, a brilliant opening line, and a revitalised band crashing into a song. There’s the Peter Buck guitar. Mike’s flawless harmonies. A killer chorus, that riff again, and an ending as wonderful and mysterious as anything they’ve ever done before. Supernatural, superserious? I have no idea what Stipe is on about.

There’s no words to describe it. It’s been a while since I have listened to a song over and over on repeat, like I have with this song. And it’s no “Good Vibrations” or anything. But for me, this is the meat and potatoes of what makes me a music fan. The sustenance I keep returning to.

I can’t wait to hear it live. Stipe, looking over all of us, in the wasteland.

You gotta hear it.


PS. Terrible clip though

Quit this crazy scene

This is the counter argument.

I am in a very, very small town in Germany. My guide tells me you can walk from one side to the other.

Its a cool little modern place. All the mod cons. It reminds me of my though that I won’t move back to Sydney but to Perth, or Brisbane. Younger, smaller, cooler.

This place revolves around simpler things. A horse riding festival. The tragedy of an old lady being hit by a truck this morning is on everyone’s mind.

This is community. Walking down the road and seeing people you know. Shopkeepers that say hello.

So. International city vs. Small town. Tough call.


In (possible) Germany

I’m in Cologne.

This place is not new to me as an idea. I even thought I might come here years ago. Now it’s something else.

I am thinking of the David Malouf idea that your body regenerates itself entirely in 7 years. So the person I was seven years ago, all the things I did, I should have shat that all out.

A hair in the sink is a memory. I like this idea. A new person every seven years. Slowly though.

Some things have, or are coming to an end, in my life of late. I’m thinking of new things to fill it with.

Anyway not much to report other than here I am in Cologne. Doesn’t mean much to you I’m sure. but I’m in Cologne and ready for new things.


The Internationalist

I have a dream that one day I will see a truly internationalist city.

London does pretty well. This weekend has been, just for example, I went down to Soho to see Chinese New Year’s festivities. I met people in an Irish bar and had Vietnamese noodles on Greek St. Got some Indian takeaway for dinner. Spent some time in a comic book shop, which is the most American thing I can think of. It was Waitangi Day (or New Zealand Day) this last week. I’m off to Germany tomorrow.

The most Australian moment was listening to my podcasts and catching up with Andrew Denton’s Enough Rope. He talked to Lindsay Fox about trying to save Ansett. And Jimmy Barns and John Swan, about growing up poor in Adelaide.

I’m still doing French lessons, and downloaded the trailer to The Diving Bell And the Butterfly. And, of course, British things everywhere. Oh, and my whiskey is from Scotland. And Isabelle is in Belgium. And I looked at an Italian suit.

I’ll stop making lists now and get to my point.

My point is, wouldn’t it be great if the best of this, was what the world is like? Or maybe some parts of the world.

Because I don’t like that Star-Trek-y vision of the future where everyone dresses the same. Even though there are all sorts of races and creeds, everyone is the essentially the same. Boring.

I always took languages for granted in school. Now I wish I was forced to learn them a bit more. At the Indian place, I wish I could order food in Indian. Just a few phrases.

So imagine a large cosmopolitan city with a flavour of everything. All races mixing, mingling. The best of everything – great food from all cultures. A place you can get an authentic Irish stew in one place, Wasabi peas next door. Every book shop and CD store has foreign language sections as a given. Not just America and Britain. Your average pop culture fan should know the big stars in Swedish cinema. Churches of all kind. All that stuff.

There are reasons against this. I love fact France, and Paris especially, has laws that has stopped big corporations building big nasty skyscrapers. But my history is I was born in a Commonwealth colony of China, and grew up in Australia, a multi-cultural society (we used to be proud of that…). I’ve had a taste of mixed culture overload. I want more. And I don’t feel strongly aligned with anything, so I want a taste of everything.

I got an email today, a general one, from our Israeli office, with a review of an album from Israel’s biggest music web site. Isn’t that great?

I feel like things like the Euro, budget airlines and the Internet are bringing us closer. I can’t wait to see what kind of world my kids grow up in. Dare I dream this world might actually turn out great?

The Earth

The Emotional Middle Class

We are the spoiled.
The emotional middle classes.
With our minds in the washer,
And our heads up our asses.

When there’s so much to be doing
But we just stay indoors
Taking things as a sign
When they never mean more.

Circling around the airport
We are never going to land
Because our feet can’t touch the ground
Til someone understands.

We should be animals!
We should be engines!
We should not be worried
About the centres of attention.

But we are spoiled
The time in our mind passes
As if it has all day
The emotional middle classes.