Mid-20s Malaise

Struggling against the inevitable since 1986!

Ugens Sang: Garbage – Push It

Last week, Shirley Manson announced that she her defunct (well, on hiatus) band Garbage were back in the studio, recording their fifth album.

Be still, my beating, teenage heart!

Garbage were my favourite band as a teenager. (And, if you’re going by my Last.FM stats, they still are.) I’ve become less strident in my defense of the band over the years: I do think they’re an important yet underrated band, but I also realise they came along at a point in my life when I was just waiting to discover something. I was a weird, loud kid, from a conservative, religious family: it was only a matter of time before I fell into the wicked clutches of rock and roll. (I still remember my dad standing in the middle of my bedroom and looking lost with Garbage’s Not My Idea playing on the stereo; “When did my little boy start listening to rock and roll?” he wondered aloud.)

Anyway, Garbage blew my little brains out. Noisy debut album opener Supervixen occasionally lapses into silence; the band sampled sheets of corrugated iron; they fused pop, grunge and electronic music in a way that proved to be remarkably prescient (their second album, Version 2.0, was the first major label album recorded entirely on ProTools, which I think demonstrates how forward-thinking they were). But, most importantly, they were fronted by Shirley Manson, a gorgeous and terrifying human being. If you follow the links to the live clips I’ve included in this post, you’ll see why my 12-year-old self might have been entranced.

So, for old time’s sake, this week’s ugens sang is Push It, the lead single from Version 2.0. It was released just as I was getting into the band. I bought the single, and then stayed up late to watch the video clip on Rage.

Not my best idea.

An over-tired pre-teenager, watching creepy shit like this at 1am? Yikes. It’s a fantastic clip that still looks great today, but those plague children haunted my dreams for months.

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30 Things: Day Six

Your day

8.00: My alarm goes off. Ugh. I’m lucky to live so close to work, although I had it even better in London: my office was at the end of my street (I lived on Frithville Gardens; the entrance to my office building was called Frithville Gate) and I started at 9.30, so I could sleep in until 9.00 and still be at work on time. Anyway, I manage to drag myself out of bed by 8.10. I have a shower, get dressed, do my hair. Sometimes, I have breakfast, which always results in running late.

9.05: Arrive at work. Boot up super-slow work computer, make a cup of tea, chat to workmates. If I didn’t have breakfast at home, I’ll wander out and get some toast and coffee. From there, my day is taken up with assorted tasks which I enjoy but which are super-dull to describe, so I’ll spare you.

1.00: Lunch! I often meet my friend Frances for laksa, or get a salad from a nearby cafe. I take a book to work every day, but I think I’ve sat down to read in my lunch break 5 or 6 times. I usually just get back to work.

4.00: Afternoon tea! I don’t care what nutritionists say, this is the most important meal of the day. Sometimes fruit, sometimes yoghurt, sometimes chocolate. Always coffee.

5.30: Home time! Although I usually don’t go home. My life is quite busy during the week: Danish class on Wednesdays, and most other nights I have dinner with a friend, or go to a gig or a movie. I try to devote at least one night – Monday or Tuesday – to lounging about on the couch.

7.00: If I’m not out for the evening, I’ll cook dinner, potter about, clean the apartment.

11.00: Go to bed and read for a bit.

12.00: Finally fall asleep.

Sorry. That was less than fascinating. I could have reinterpreted the question and talk about the day I had today, but it was pretty dull: as described above, except I lay on a bench for half an hour and had hair ripped out of my chest by a chatty Irish beautician.

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30 Things: Day Five

Your definition of love

My definition of love is pretty broad: enjoying spending time with someone, caring deeply about their well-being, sharing interests and values. It’s hard to define, though. As Michelle, the friend who I stole this meme from, you just know.: it’s a feeling that renders definitions useless. Whether for a child (your own or someone else’s), a dear friend, a family member, a lover: you just know.

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Ugens Sang: Magic Kids – Phone

This band is about as twee as you can get. I love twee pop: sunny indie songs with ukuleles and glockenspiels and lyrics about kittens and sunshine. Some people find it disingenuous or irritating, and I don’t begrudge them that opinion: twee pop is certainly an acquired taste. Magic Kids are a bunch of seven friends from suburban America, having a great time writing adorable songs. This song – the lead track from their debut album Memphis – sounds like a gorgeous Beach Boys/Boy Least Likely To mash-up.

If this song doesn’t make you smile, you’re dead inside.

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30 Things: Day Four

What you ate today

Well, I’ll tell you what I ate yesterday, since today isn’t over yet. (The story so far: a whole lot of carbs and plenty of dairy.)

  • A banana, half a mango and some strawberries for breakfast with a skim flat white. I was trying to compensate for a night of drinking with a healthy breakfast.
  • A delicious tuna nicoise salad at The Beresford for lunch, accompanied by a few pints of cider in the sun. Aah. Also, some fries.
  • And then, for dinner, I just boiled some chargrilled vegetable-filled ravioli and stirred in a jar of pasta sauce. That was the first time I’d done that since uni. I usually like to cook up a proper dinner, but I was feeling so lazy last night.
  • And no snacks yesterday, which is very unusual for me.

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30 Things: Day Three

Oops. Was having such a lovely day, drinking cider in the sun with my friends, that I didn’t get around to writing yesterday’s blog entry.

My parents

Aah, our parents. They give us life, and neuroses.

My mum has always made a very clear distinction between “like” and “love”, and the people you like and the people you love aren’t always the same. You may love your siblings, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you like them. I’m very lucky, in that I love my parents very much, and I like them too. We’re very different people: they’re conservative Catholics, I’m a godless liberal. Nevertheless, we get on very well. Our core values are very similar. My mother has been a teacher and a counselor, my father is a doctor: both of them have dedicated their careers to helping people, and the value they place on personal relationships is something I share.

I’m very much like my mother, who loves to read, to laugh, to cook, to talk about art and music. We have similar senses of humour: she gave me my love of sarcasm and dry wit. My dad is a more serious man, and he often misinterprets my jokes as straight-faced comments. He’s studying theology, and I’m a cranky atheist. We often argue over that, but I respect him: as silly as I think his logic is, he’s a thoughtful man. Both of my parents love to socialise, and taught me to be a good host: I love to throw dinner parties, and my parents trained me well in being attentive to guests’ needs.

My friends love my parents, who are always very interested in their lives. A good friend from high school even invited them to her wedding, a gesture which was very touching to them and me.

Of course, they’ve fucked up – parents always do – but they did the best they could. I’ve let go of petty teenage resentments, and I’m very fond of them.

Oh, and my mum recently burst a blood vessel in her eyeball. It looks really gross; a big, bright red orb, spinning in her face.

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Wham! Bam! Thank you, ma’am!

The A.V. Club has a comprehensive and readable primer on the music of David Bowie this week. It’s an introduction to his daunting oeuvre for the absolute beginner. I encourage all of you to have a look, whether you’re already a Bowie fan, have been interested in hearing him or have never heard of him. Bowie is inarguably my favourite artist: he’s an absolute genius and, aside from a dodgy decade spanning the late 80s and early 90s, everything he’s created has been damn near perfect. His music is both fun and intelligent, accessible and experimental. He does incredible things with pop songs and the artifice of celebrity. I got into Bowie in my teens, back in the days before the internet. Most pay days (from the job where I was earning $5.something an hour), I’d go to the record store and pick out a new Bowie album. Each one was so different, I was surprised each time I slipped a new one into my CD player. Whatever kind of music you listen to, I guarantee David Bowie had an influence on it. I also guarantee you can sing a few of his songs, even if you don’t know it: so many of his songs have become those songs that everybody knows, even if they can’t name the artist. I remember being surprised when I learned that he was responsible for “that ‘ch-ch-changes’ song“.

So read the article, and have a look at this live performance of Life On Mars?, one of my favourite Bowie songs. This clip was filmed during 2004’s Reality tour, which I saw in Sydney. It was, of course, spectacular. The original 1973 video clip is worth a look too, an early example of Bowie’s mastery of the visual side of pop music.

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Kurt! Kurt! Kurt!

Kurt Hummel is my favourite character on television.

Not only is he cute as a button, he’s a consistently fierce and fascinating (and, most importantly, realistic) young gay man. He’s the role model I wish I had as a teen.

A lot has been made of Glee‘s gay storylines. Their handling of gay issues is often clumsy, but Kurt always shines. My brother was amused when we sat on the couch watching the episode Never Been Kissed, and I spent the whole hour cheering “Yay, Kurt!” and gasping at his fabulous costumes. Yes, fabulous: he wears capes and feathers and always looks amazing. Anyway, in this episode, Kurt is being consistently bullied by a meaty meathead. Mr Schuester witnesses some of the bullying, and the best he can do is offer Kurt a glass of water and ask him why he’s “letting” the bullying get to him.

OH MY GOD.

Does he really think that’s the problem? Not that Kurt’s being bullied, but that he’s being affected by it? OF COURSE HE’S BEING AFFECTED BY IT. Mr Schuester is a teacher, in a position of power to punish the bully and do something about it. Instead, he turns it around and blames it on Kurt. This is an example of Glee‘s mishandling of gay issues: Mr Schuester is meant to be some kind of musical angel, but instead, he’s just an impotent jerk.

But Kurt refuses to take it like that. He calls Mr Schuester out on his tolerance of homophobia (and, incongruously but amusingly) and his terrible lesson plans. There is no one around Kurt who is prepared to be his champion, so Kurt does it for himself. He meets another gay boy who, despite being depicted as some gay wizard with all the answers, encourages Kurt to stand up for himself, as opposed to every other character who encourages him to dial it down. Of course, this advice can be dangerous to kids in particularly homophobic schools, but it’s glorious when Kurt does take the advice.

Every time Kurt is pushed over, the look on his face breaks my heart: it’s been happening to him for years, but each time, he’s shocked anew. He walks around with his (adorable) nose in the air, looking haughty, but it’s moments like these when his facade cracks and we see the sad, scared little boy hiding in the haute couture. But this time, he decides he’s had enough, and charges after his bully, screaming at him. OH GOD, THAT RAGE. It was so good, and so true: gay kids are often depicted as being sad, sensitive, fierce, fabulous, but that anger is so often ignored. I was furious as a teenager, and rightly so, I feel: it’s so difficult growing up gay in such a heteronormative world, and the unfairness sometimes overpowers you.

As their confrontation escalates, Kurt’s bully kisses him. Ugh. That was a cop-out: most homophobic bullies aren’t secretly gay (despite some high profile examples of it happening), they’re just jerks. But whatever. KURT IS AMAZING. I don’t know if Chris Colfer is a great actor, having not seen him in anything else, but his Kurt is perfect: brave and broken.

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30 Things: Day Two

Your first love

I’ve started and deleted this entry several times. For myriad reasons, it’s not something I’m comfortable talking about (well, talking about, yes; blogging about, no), so I won’t go into much detail.

My first boyfriend and I were friends for several years before we started dating (at the age of 21, which seems a lifetime ago now), and I’d loved him as a friend all that time. When was that meant to ramp up to romantic love?

I’ve never been in a relationship where we’ve used the word “love” with each other – ending texts with an “x”, joking that we “the opposite of hate” each other, but never using the word “love”. What the fuck was I so scared of? It especially seemed so silly as I have dozens of friends I love, and freely tell them as much. What’s so different about romantic love?

So I’ve been in love three, maybe four times, and never told the guy. Which is actually pretty sad.

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30 Things: Day One

Introduce yourself

Nearly all of you who read this know me (hi, Mum!). So, my name’s Liam, I’m 24, I’m currently living in Sydney, Australia, where I work in online media.

I used to work a music journalist and, although I left that role behind because music journalism is a hideous bitch of an industry, I still love and obsess over music. Preferred genres and artists include electro industrial (Angelspit and Pzychobitch), Scandinavian pop (Alphabeat and Robyn), singer-songwriters (David Bowie and Kate Bush, who are really in a league of their own), bat-shit-crazy singer-songwriters (Diamanda Galás and Nico) and, of course, the alternative rock and pop of my youth (PJ Harvey, Garbage, Catatonia and The Cardigans). But look at me going on about music – just go and browse my Last.FM profile.

In my spare time, I learn Danish and love to cook. I always moan about the fact that I should go for a run and clean my room, but I never do either of these things. I love chunky rings and flowing capes (but more on that at a later date). I’m gay and single (or desperately lonely – I use the two phrases fairly interchangeably).  I love reading, but never seem to have much time for it these days.

I’ve been looking forward to summer after spending 18 months chasing winter across the globe, but now that the heat has arrived, I’ve changed my mind. My favourite type of wine is currently rosé. My sense of humour leans toward the cruel, the dark and the ridiculous.

So, that’s me. Sort of.

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