I had to fantasise just to survive...
Musing on life's soundtrack

Sometime in 2002 it dawned on me that certain of my most cherished albums were not being allowed to pleasure me as often as they should. The reason for this wasn't too hard to figure out - it struck at my heart during the first rueful seconds of Belle And Sebastian's "The State I Am In" (how appropriate!) from the Tigermilk LP; settled heavily as the fluid and sexy bombast of My Bloody Valentine's Loveless commenced to rock.

I've always felt slightly uncomfortable with my compulsive habit of romanticising the past out of all proportion, and now my glowingly distorted short-term history was manifesting itself beyond a fleeting moment's haunting - it was indelibly entwined with every cadence and beat of some of my landmark loves. But I was worlds away from listening to these impressions of my impressionable youth with an appreciation infused by nostalgic contentment. Instead, I had helplessly ladled so much thick-and-dripping bittersweetness onto this music that it's reality, like that of my own bygone days, had been obscured. I decided I was satisfied that I could enjoy living in the present, but that couldn't quell my obsession with the coffees, crushes and emotion-collation of last year and even last month.

In my memory, Tigermilk is an album straddling almost the full stretch of my life in a confusing insular world clothed in uniform and soaked in hormones; survived for the most part by stoicism, cynicism, reflexive satire and vital revelations of pop, such as the CD with which I departed the house of a friend at the beginning of a brilliant (well, it would be) Halloween holiday.

At that stage, the magic of Belle And Sebastian already enjoyed great prestige in my affections thanks to a collection of E- and L-Ps that seemed to be borne of a world at small remove from my own, that said everything to me about my life. Tigermilk encapsulated all of this - an essential streets-of-town verve; the empathetic teenage idiom; the marvellously bathetic narratives woven through living, breathing music that made hearts stand still - but vibrated with an energy and musical brashness unique to these incredible songs of the band's urgent, almost spontaneous infancy. Fundamentally it's the lifeblood of my early-to-late-teens, and it's that entire era of emotional turbulence and struggling self-evolution that floods my mind when I hear it now. Who wouldn't drown?

Another troubling favourite of mine is My Bloody Valentine's Loveless, which I borrowed as a stranger to the delights of MBV's seminal fusions of sunkissed melodies with experimental guitar noise. It coincided with The Great Unrequited and a long hot summer spent in longing. For me, tracks like 'Loomer' and 'Sometimes' are febrile love songs, perfect for those daze, shimmering like that weather. Amazing as they are, now they make me ache.

To these records I could add Four Calendar Cafe by the Cocteau Twins; Agaetis Byrjun by Sigur Ros; a significant quota of the Beach Boys' best - powerful music, with powerful fixed associations. Ultimately nobody needs to be reminded of the intimate relationships between beauty and sadness, pleasure and pain. These records can often overwhelm me, but don't stop me from wishing that the music of tomorrow will come to mean as much.

© 2003 Peter Millar