How far d'you go?
I'm sitting here listening to 100th Window. I'm feeling restless and irritable. I was so looking forward to the new Massive Attack record. Had been for years. It's not doing anything for me. I want it to unsettle me. There are things I like about it, but it's not grabbing me. Will I have the patience to let it grow on me, like other Massive Attack records have? Will it creep up on me and surprise me one day? Maybe the weather's not right. It could be as simple as that. I hope I'm right. I still like the idea of being loyal to the Massive Attack brand. No one else has really done what they do better have they?
Last year old duffers and true troupers like Saint Etienne, Subway Sect, ESG, Sonic Youth pulled rabbits out of their hats, so I had high hopes for 100th Window. Now, however, I'm scared. If Massive Attack have stumbled, what hope is there for a new Autechre record? This raises the old question of how far do you go? Do you need to keep supporting those you love like this, buying every record diligently?
I think what I'll do is buy the new Autechre record in ten years time from now. I like the idea of looking forward to a new Autechre record for that long. Time may put a whole new slant on things. We could see it through fresh eyes (or hear it with fresh ears perhaps?). Autechre re-evaluated, like the way that Bob Dylan records and the Beach Boys' works are by the serious music mags, so it becomes more acceptable to like later and later LPs of theirs.
But that's one generation, what about mine. Well, it would have to be The Fall wouldn't it, even more than say Sonic Youth? Everyday, every time I listen to The Fall, I feel able to make a stronger case for Mark E Smith being a godlike genius on that Bob Dylan/Brian Wilson scale. I now find myself listening more and more to records by The Fall that I may have ignored ten years ago. I spent all of last weekend listening to Shift Work, crying my eyes out at the beauty of 'Edinburgh Man' (it's a long story and it was a strange weekend). The weekend before I was listening to The Frenz Experiment and I Am Curious, Oranj. Maybe next week I will rediscover Code: Selfish. And this is a man who was not interested in The Fall after Marc Riley left. Well, that's stretching a point, but that's the equivalent of not listening to Dylan after Blonde On Blonde or the Beach Boys after Pet Sounds.
So, how far do you go with The Fall? The fun is in finding out. And how far do you go with reggae? I bought the latest Blood And Fire reissue, Ja-Man All Stars' In The Dub Zone, which is beautiful. As ever you can't go wrong with a bit of Blood And Fire. Now, though, they have put out over forty CDs. We are getting near the stage where they may be taken for granted - a bit like The Fall - another institution we feel very affectionate about but that's about it!
The Blood And Fire reissues do tend to concentrate on the pre-dancehall era, and I find myself increasingly attracted to the later digital reggae productions. My favourite reggae reissue label now is Maximum Pressure, an offshoot of Pressure Sounds, which concentrates on the more contemporary dancehall/roots side of things. The first two releases last year, Flag Flown High (the best of Bobby Digital's Roots Productions) and Rough Inna Town (the Xterminator Sound), are absolutely essential, and aesthetically spot-on in terms of presentation etc. There are loads of highlights, and I would argue that Sizzla's 'Life's Road' is so incredibly joyous and uplifting that I can't imagine life without it now. The shameful thing is that without sets like these I wouldn't even know where to start, but it will be fun catching up!
Appropriately there is a new Maximum Pressure release due out this week, a collection of King Jammy's cuts, and I am so excited about the prospect. Isn't that what pop's meant to be all about? The ache in your heart waiting for a record you sense could change your life? It's almost better than the real thing.
And I could go on about Wackies too, and I probably will another time. One other record I am really looking forward to is the fifth volume of Ace's Where The Girls Are, which is subtitled 'A decade of Columbia femme pop', has a cover to die for, and sounds a cracker. If the one song I've heard from it (a lovely version of 'Wasn't It You?', that Action song we adore so much, by Peggy Lipton, someone who later appeared in Twin Peaks) is anything to go by, it's going to be a gem and as great as previous volumes. Oh, and Kent has got something called Kent's Cellar of Soul lined up, which has me all a tingle. Don't even ask me how far one goes with Kent!
So as I said, anticipation is so much better. Which reminds me, where is that bloomin' Delta 5 retrospective? Someone has got to it. I ain't gonna wait another ten years for that one!!!
© 2003 John Carney