Thursday, 7 May 2009

Goodbye To All That

I’ve been trying to summon up some genuine enthusiasm for the new albums by Jarvis Cocker and Elvis Costello, but I’m failing miserably. I’ve reviewed the Jarvis album “Further Complications” in the forthcoming issue of The Word, so I’ll spare the details; suffice it to say it sounds like a man utterly weary of his own public image but who isn’t at all sure what to do about it – except rope in Steve Albini to help him make an unholy racket, to miminal effect.

Costello’s albums, meanwhile, increasingly fall foul of the curse of the chinese meal. I experience an enthusiastic rush - Pavlovian, perhaps? - when I first hear them, but then the sense of satisfaction rapidly fades and the urge to listen to them again completely disappears: to prove the point, I wrote a rather OTT five-star review of Momofuku last year for the Observer but haven’t had any pressing desire to listen to it since. The only recent record of his to buck this trend has been North.

I’m not sorry or sad about this. If there’s one thing the era of the download teaches us is that there is no golden age and nostalgia isn’t what it used to be. Everything is available and it’s all about what works for us now – today. There’s a kind of digital Darwinism at play that I find liberating, because I confess there have been times when I’ve almost bought into the idea that the music I loved the most between the ages of 13 and 21 (the Replacements, American Music Club, Thin White Rope, U2, the Waterboys, Van Morrison, Blue Aeroplanes, REM, Bowie, Talk Talk, the Cure – and yes, Pulp and Costello) would be as good as it got. We are often conditioned to believe that our teens is the time in our lives when we're most susceptible to being hit sideways by music, allowing it to shape, mould and form us - and that nothing will ever quite sound that special or touch us that way again.

It’s a terrible lie, and thus a profound relief to discover that albums like Jaymay’s Autumn Fallin’, Checkmate Savage, For Emma, Forever Ago, The Midnight Organ Fight, Roddy Frame’s Surf, Come On Feel the Illinoise, Fever Ray, Gemma Ray’s The Leader, Fleet Foxes, Bat For Lashes’ new one and Peter Broderick’s Home mean as much to me – and will continue to do so, I’m sure - as Astral Weeks, This is the Sea, King of America, Spirit of Eden, Swagger, Everclear, Tim, In the Spanish Cave, Murmur and the Unforgettable Fire.

A relief also to say that new music by the likes of Cocker and Costello has no automatic claim on my time or attention. There can be no favours or allowances made for the sake of the good old days. The good old days – if they ever existed – are gone.


Anonymous said...

His very celebrated ex has a new record out herself. It can be heard- the single- on My Space.
Her site is
I was very surprised at how good it was.
The woman has a unique and memorable voice.

Anonymous said...

Did you see costello on the One Show the other week? My God! He looked like a Louisiana pimp - what on earth has happened to him!?

Gustav said...

He fell in a big wet puddle of lurv.