Last week or the week before I forgot my closed-back headphones when I was off out to get the train somewhere. The headphones I took instead are these open backed ones that leak sound like crazy. I hate wearing them on the bus or the train because I hate the idea that anyone can hear what I’m listening to, so to be quite honest they served no purpose whatsoever that day, all they did was take up space in my bag, which is already at permanent capacity what with all the important dust and twigs I like to carry around. I wasn’t annoyed though, I was actually relieved not to have to listen to anything, so relieved that I wondered if I hadn’t strategically brought the wrong headphones as some kind of secret favour to myself. Now, I’ve been listening to headphones plugged into one device or another since my earliest years. In the old days it was such a travel necessity that I would steal the batteries out of remote controls, alarm clocks and, notably, other people’s walkman’s in order that I not miss out on “Slave New World” five times in a row on the bus. Over the years I’ve still always taken something to listen to, but choosing what to listen to has become more and more of a problem.
The basic reason is this. Say you’re a friend of mine and at one time or another you have passionately expressed negative views about a band, if I then listen to that band I will irremovably have you in my head going on and on about how bad they are. It doesn’t alter my own opinion of the band, it just damages the listening experience to have someone in the other ear giving you a load of grief about how that band rip off the Fall or how in all honesty they’d rather listen to Nickleback. One way of escaping this is listening to bands that no-one ever says anything bad about. The Nerves, for example. I think I would die of shock if I ever heard anyone really slagging off the Nerves. The problem with this is that it has the effect of making the bands seem “safe”, and this is boring so what I tend to do most is not to listen to seemingly unassailable stuff, like the Nerves or Raekwon, but to listen to things that it seems like it doesn’t really occur to people to think about, not obscure stuff, just things that don’t come up a lot in conversation. For example the song “Bad Reputation” by Thin Lizzy – I probably listen to that song five to ten times a week, or the opening three tracks from At The Gates’ “Slaughter of The Soul” or Big Juss stuff from after Company Flow. However, when I catch myself doing this it seems so stupid that I get down on the whole thing which is how I’ve ended up with these ridiculous situations in which without my knowledge I’m secretly taking the wrong headphones in order that I don’t have to listen to music on the train, all because I’m attempting to avoid getting abuse from a load of imaginary idiots. I should most likely just stop worrying about it, but it’s become habitual.
The one thing that seems to be exempt from this stupid stuff is the Simeon Ten Holt piece “Canto Ostinato”, which is a really amazing minimalist(ish) piece for four pianos which is over an hour long and, to my knowledge, has never been described in the pub as “by the numbers Khanate” or “beyond emo-rap”. In my mind it’s weirdly untouchable. There is literally nothing that anyone could do to it. Which is why it makes me think of Christmas. People are down on Christmas. The same cunts who say that pigeons are “flying rats” or say that Ringo Starr was a bad drummer or declare every funny video on youtube to be definitely fake will tell you that Christmas is awful but they’re wrong. Well, they aren’t wrong, but they’re wrong to think that their bad vibes could have any impact. Christmas is just there, there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s like if people complained about the moon. It’s like if people complained about the moon and how much they hated it and how much the moon puts pressure on people to spend huge amounts of money and how the moon gets earlier every year. That’s why I’ve always been such a big fan of it (Christmas I mean, although the moon has its moments). Obviously I like all the stuff surrounding christmas (mince pies, decorations, that film where Michael Keaton rises from the dead but in the form of a snowman etc), but I think what I like best is that its just this unstoppable force and I don’t have to worry about it. Christmas will never be routinely accused of being “hardcore for people who don’t like hardcore” or be criticised for using valve emulation software on it’s guitar tracks. It’s beyond all that, and when people have a go at it I just stop listening. Maybe a solution to my travel music problem would be to listen to christmas carols all year round, I might make that my news years resolution.
I hope some of that made at least partial sense. Merry Christmas!
Fairewell’s superb debut album Poor, Poor Grendel is out now via Sonic Cathedral.