The sickest I’ve been involved gastric flu and what I assumed at the time was a one night stand.
“You’re the B-side!”
A suspended chord acts in tension, the listener demanding resolution. In Wagner’s Ring Cycle that hanging chord draws to a close with the end of a world and in ‘All My Friends’ it comes when James declares his need for the love of those closest to him as hard as he can. In both there’s a moral grasp towards completion and closure.
Child to cowbells and handclaps. More noise!
Roiling storms on a balcony that feels like a boat, an arc, the only lovers left alive. 2004 on the stereo, which could be ’06, which could be ’08, Echoes of movement and Rapture.
I’m in Montreal in Dusty’s, thinking back. This diner is the psychological brother to Veselka’s, and when Billy Bragg bursts onto the speakers it feels like a home.
The Lady would surprise everyone.
Authenticity becomes a silly idea, a shapeless space in which the individual has to force a fit between concepts. Embracing a character, if only for a time, reframes the question of who you are.
I would later write: No names, please, just ideas.
The girl at the crossroads looks fresh, a vision in classical tones and sepia sounds. Her eyes, the very pupils, are the deepest black.
“Man, this cover, you’d love it: loads of white space and a pastiche of Line Up. You know, the Elastica album.”
Stark white space appeals to me, as does revisionism. It’s my visual default, as my aural is lo-fi and emotive.
Shelf blur is a real problem: no white space, just aggressive competing explosions of colour.
Few things are less comfortable than crossing paths with someone in a cemetery.
During breakfast at Veselka’s HST is full of wisom: “It’s just plain reckless to start this now you know. Do more. Hit the road. Fucking live a little man.”
“‘Wolf Like Me’, it’s perfect isn’t it?” Oh, yes.
It could be said I was The Idea of Kate Jackson’s fractured self-esteem, but that would be a lie.
The Idea of Kate Jackson wakes me with the crackle of assorted 12″ records and the hangover I practically demanded. Here, in the perception of a feminine idol, my life feels like a noir and I only wake in time for the matinée.
“You’ve got to believe me when I say, I never wanted to be liked”
Years after K- I would kiss a girl who tasted of blood, an act that felt like chasing whispers with my lips, and it took me back. Poor thing. She only ever wanted to be wanted.
I came to, an ugly sight, warped with booze sickness and crouched over a pan in my room, apologising for using the wrong name, something to this day which I don’t remember doing.
K- : “I didn’t know they got Saddam Hussein.”
Every netizen witnessed the death throes of Saddam Hussein, even if they never saw the video, a grim harbinger of communication culture. Discourse swept at maybe half the rate of Jackson’s death, a symbolic end to an era that butchered my generation’s faith.
The fractured, distended corpse of Saddam Hussein – reaper usher of the 21st Century – waits for no man.
What is ‘Temptation’? The sound of the space on the dancefloor when someone grasps you by the lungs, locking you in the exhale, and you want to capture how great the lights look reflected in their eyes long before all those unspeakable things start coming to mind. It’s about the surface of that sensation, slick and hot, about never having to accept the empty, vapid, hollow mind that comes with it until the final 7″ is packed away in the early hours of the morning after. It’s about how nothing is everything for eight minutes at a time.
All others forgotten when K- locked eyes on mine to the sounds of ‘Temptation’.
Spite and lethargy are a killer combination: rip the target apart and refuse to deal with the fallout.
The Boy with the Casio watch nails it: “I love that you’re both spiteful and lazy.”
Man, K- never knew what hit her.
The song starts “People think I’m being perverse on purpose” but I wanted to tell The Idea of Kate Jackson to just wait and see.
She confused De Stijl for Still and loved The Cure. It could never have worked.
‘Nothing worse than being a BBC wife’ so the saying goes. It demonstrates a profound lack of foresight and imagination.
Streets borrowed from Shaun of the Dead: No girls at the crossroads, only zombies.
Crouch End, sunny or snow-locked: an excellent location.
It’s breakfast, and four of us sit quietly in Veselka’s, appreciating a moment in thought of those who brought us into this world. Morley looks sad, but through fond memory, while Johnson looks physically pained. Thompson is drunk.
“Matt, do you want to find somewhere to live?” My Dad’s own rescue mission.
When I threw up the last of it there was blood and yellow bile. The chorus to “White Collar Boy” by Belle and Sebastian had been repeating in my head for a torturous five hours.
Dwell for a moment on the ghost of TV on the Radio: A vision in the shape of nu-soul nerds, relaying the hope and doomed futures of the Jackson 5. A ghost with pace and jet-black cool, a ghost with emptiness, reaching into your stomach and pulling from it energy and rhythm and every ounce of guarded experience.
Auteur theory is so easy to grasp. Never less than compelling, it offers the suggestion – the image – of career development and hope, of futures and of being taken, in part, as a whole, or as a whole taken apart.
Alone in Angel, haunted by the ghostlike sound of TV on the Radio, my stomach is ruined.
The wallowing howl of Tunde Adebimpe stalks me.
Cables stretch from under the futon, snaking around piles of books and music, tracking under the tiny table the computer sits on and slipping between the chest of drawers and wardrobe. They seemingly swamp what dead space the boxy trap offers, powering sound and fury.
Ever tried, and failed, to trap mice in your bedroom?
Life alone in Angel is far from fun.
“Gotta slow it down, baby, gotta have some fun!”
Fucking Lou Reed. Why wait for anyone?
Hangdog face, slumped, wretched, waiting for The Idea of Kate Jackson to freeze my heart and strike a pose.
Hangdog face, slumped, wretched, waiting for the arrival of The Auteur to stoke a fire.
He says “I’m leaving London”.
Winter broke, and Angel was the very pitch of desperation.
Would you believe she said that? Would you?
I am, now, a bit allergic to Vodka and to Paracetamol, but I wasn’t always.
Don’t you find some art just arrives at the wrong time? Like, maybe a year or three late? Being able to scream “I’ve got a fist on fire!” in late 2005 would have shifted gears on a lot of stuff. But, hey, I got lost in a well of Factory classics and echoes, shaped as much by the tall, sad man as his manic enabler, who actually recorded silence.
For the longest part of my life my eyes misread a reproduced painting at the home of my Grandparents. Instead of an avenue in the French countryside lined with autumnal trees I would see the upright spines of a skeletal Stegosaurus.
Johnson sits in silence for a moment, his borscht gently cooling as we breakfast at Veselka’s.
E- asked me not to leave. I forget that, from time to time, and when I do remember I feel something close to hate.
On Wednesdays the local take out drops off free cheese pizzas at the Chelsea International Hostel.
Of course, New York catalysed Boston. Liz let me run around a radio station and a mini-mall and I left with two defining documents: Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 and In The Aeroplane Over The Sea.
Schulze & Webb’s map transforms the idea of a city, changes the shape and trajectory of motion.
Maybe she was stranded, looking for something to do, the girl at the crossroads of Bleeker and Broadway.
I am not scared of Manhattan.
Plane lands, I get The Fear. Somewhere in Brooklyn I disembark, confused. Kids lob bottles onto the tracks and an attendant rushes me onto the next train to Manhattan.
“You really put a lot of yourself into this don’t you?”
I am to think of New York now, but I find this difficult. Under shade of trees in mid-day sun I write at the top of a hill. I had hoped clouds might cool this walk above Menton, but they have blown quickly over the Alpes Maritimes and instead I gently melt. The mountains dwarf me, and are bisected by the concrete highways that roar along the French Riviera and into Italy. I am on holiday, and for the first time in a long time I mean that. There is no chase, my mind does not race with considerations, my heartbeat is slower and I am not in much pain. There is, of course, a distance here between the conception and the realisation: I am to think of New York while in France; I am to type this while in New York; This will be published while in Montreal; You will read this whenever. I am to think of New York. The first time.
Ian Curtis killed himself on the eve of a U.S. tour.
Seli implores me: Come to New York! I shouldn’t, but do, and I’m glad I did.
Pinwheeling through Panic! the skinny tie reaches terminal velocity.
I’ve got to get out of this place.
We can dance, and we like to, and our arms pump from the elbows while feet slip-shuffle over fragments of dropped glasses and still-sticky ice-cubes. It’s an alternative canon, some lexicon of ‘men with guitars’ that prides intellect over testosterone – just. The Velvet Underground as valid as The Beta Band as valid as Baader Meinhof as valid as Titus Andronicus as valid as Josef K as valid as A Certain Ratio as valid as Deerhunter as valid as Gang of Four as valid as the next new noise same as the old new noise.
Where is the sunshine sound in the centre of the city? Joy Division came close, but “Sorry For Laughing” comes closer.
Forty feet above St Johns Street I slept on a rooftop, vegan sausages plump on a barbeque of tinfoil. People died in that heat while I sipped rum and swapped stories, not much younger but a lifetime ago.
Seriously, once and never again: That level of bullshit isn’t worth repeat visits.
Pete lost big. An echo of a conversation with Kieron, who I had not yet met: How would you feel if The Libertines reformed? They would not be The Libertines, I tell him.
There is a always a girl at the crossroads. She forces you to commit to directions, nudging you along paths you might not otherwise take.
Morley pauses for breath, supping from a strong coffee over breakfast at Veselka’s. He says “Ian Curtis was the ageless voice of reason, despairing in the night as the towers man built up threatened to block out the sun. He was the question, static, hanging unasked. The answer could only be found in a place far distant from material concerns, which is why his music became a topography of dark pop, embracing machines to tell a vast and base story about lonliness and longing and love and liminality and literature and light.”
“And we can daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaance!”
Formative years: the kaleidoscope settles on a prim vision of grey, epaulettes and skinny ties topping Converse and skittish movement.
E: I thought you didn’t like him?
M: No, I loved him. You can’t not like someone after that.
Yeah, but it cut me up when polo shirts and football fans knew the words to “Albion”, because that foggy sound was mine. Loose lipped whispers, muddy drunk in gin and mine, fucking mine.
It’s in the cry of “No Love Lost” when it crackles through speakers.
Ian and Pete were tall, the dream versions of both even taller. They ____________ grappled. The fight awkward. ____________ It was all elbows and limbs and style. In one you found terse tones and history, in the other gin and fables.
Bitterly drunk, he tells the family that he can’t remember the name of last night’s girl. His sister, though amused, tells him to get his shit together.
There was a period of about five months where I was seldom sober and utterly heartbroken. I listened to a lot of Joy Division and found myself in a self-destructive non-relationship with someone I met through a music-industry contact. I try to let elements of that leak into my writing, pretty much as an exorcism.
“Matt, I think you need to get counselling.”
I’d count the stops to myself.
“Stop taking things so seriously!” she said, but – by god – I’d only just started.
“Look, I made you a mix-CD” and of course I fell in love.
The girl at the crossroads sent me by way of Interpol, Franz Ferdinand, Bloc. Party, The Futureheads, jerky guitar pop of the noughties. They were beautiful days, with notions of authenticity and fidelity dismissed hastily. But that fell apart when I started working backwards.
Biographically, you’ll see, I found Joy Division at exactly the right time, which is to say at a bad time.
I could talk around E- forever
Isolated, full of cold, freezing, sad, sleeping in skinny jeans, duvet augmented by a winter coat, no heating, occasionally leaky ceiling, mice, five months drunk.
There’s that photo of Curtis looking back at the camera, escaping the confines of greyscale for an instant, searching for the man muttering “This is the way, step inside”
He was tall, wore his hair practically but scruffy and had it cropped shorter as he got older. The suburbs dissatisfied him. Pages of notebooks and blank sheets began to be filled with his handwriting, taking the vistas of his idols and writing himself into the cracks.
Unknown Pleasures builds you up and knocks you down and nobody else can hope to understand it, especially the ill-advised one-night-stand who shivers beside you under the sheets before leaving for the nightbus.
“Who is Ian Curtis?” asked Hunter S. Thompson over breakfast at Veselka’s.
Hooky was an icon, and ought to have been mine.
Sumner’s identity fluctuated too much to be iconographic.
Morris was too terse to be an icon.
A delay, a stutter, a space in which sound is engorged.
So you press play and the echo slaps you.
Wallowing in the echoes of someone else’s sadness, she never embraced the Fake Irish moniker; she never got the joke.
Imagine having the power to change the life of a city. No, really, sit back and imagine yourself part of an engine that unpacks material desolation and provokes pride.
Microcosmic: Factory. A universal broken mirror. Art as concept and product. Existence as catalogue number. Enemy to the completist, friend to the tinpot surrealist. Blueprint of inspirational failure.
It is a dangerous thing to have a little knowledge about the gang of junkies and chancers that formed Factory Communications.
I needed an Alan Erasmus.
Martin Hannett scored my coming-of-age.
Tony Wilson ate my hamster.
I got lost in Peter Saville.
I was born on the seventeenth day of May, and I learned quickly that lost boys with blue eyes ought to stick together.
I was inspired to buy Unknown Pleasures after a thousand Tuesday nights spent religiously wasted at Panic! The CD sat unopened in my satchel until I lurched home one week. 3am and I play it through Media Player, my album dominating my conscious thought thereafter.
The first big weekend of the summer and I leave the house to the sound of ‘Disorder’, playing that seminal album for the first time through tinny headphones while my being is altered.
Bassett played me Unknown Pleasures for the first time in his room in Angel, educating me about post-punk over vodka and squeezed lemon.
I heard Unknown Pleasures for the first time as it leaked out of my Dad’s car stereo. We were returning from URBIS to his rented house on the outskirts of Manchester.
The first recorded reference I made to Joy Division can be found as an abstract mention of a playlist on a napkin. I have no memory of the song or the instant. About two years later I found myself in the shitty surrounds of my flat in Angel, hunched over my stereo, soaking up the sound of Unknown Pleasures.
“Who is Ian Curtis?” asked B. S. Johnson, over breakfast at Veselka’s.
“I always preferred The Smiths” she said.
Imagine creativity as a grandfather clock: On the tick you’re soaking up sources, on the tock you’re broadcasting output. It takes a while to regularise that tick and tock, and only at the best and worst of times will it beat in time with seconds.
Cultural explosions have mapped my life.
They won’t write the book about FROG because most people won’t remember being there.
Few things match seeing your idols crumble. Pete(r) Doherty became a tabloid monkey-boy manchild shortly after we embraced at Camden’s Barfly. It broke my heart to see his words and music soaked up by polo-shirts and branded tracksuits, but I let the icon rot. I stopped caring.
“Maybe you could write about your failures with women?”
“Don’t I already do that?”
Harmony, metaphorical or not, is a powerful discovery.
A large hall, many ages, split into two sections:
1: AH! O-Ooo! AH! O-Ooo!
2: OhAhOh! OhAhOh!
So, with one exception, I could never really keep friends around for long.
Academically I peaked before making a decision at a cultural crossroads.
When I moved to London I worked out that Uni mattered little, so I ignored most of the reading material and coasted.
If three people spoke in seminars then I was one of them. I was not the bookish quoter of wrote text, nor was I the measured balance of reading and screening. I was lively, rooted in emotional reactions. I left the set texts behind and busked it from there.
Further all the time, at a distance, the crossroads. Little idea where I’m heading.
Long coat, ill-fitting, too-tight shirt and black trousers. Sneakers didn’t fit the look but they or Army surplus boots were all he had. He could have come from four eras.
She shared my mother’s name. A mistake I should not have made, flushed with youth and wine and other things. She told me she loved me around hour twenty, so it was never really going to last longer than twenty four.
Silent running. The house thrums, but I make only the tiniest of noises: I’m not really here you see.
Between 1999 and 2008 I collected somewhere in the region of two thousand individual comic books. They provide around 9 meters of pain and discomfort whenever I move house.
The idea of Morley presented me with a non sequitur over breakfast at Veselka’s: “I would consider, one day, writing a book of false starts.”
The idea of Morley presented me with a non sequitur over breakfast at Veselka’s: “I would consider, one day, writing only in repetition-repetition-reh-puh-tih-shuun.”
Hunched over my stomach in the tube, a terrible hangover biting hard and my brain twisting around the concepts I’m trying to read, I start to dry-heave and wretch, choking for air. It took three attempts to read Atrocity Exhibition, worth every disorientating shock.
The first drink I felt comfortable in was Vodka. Cool, crisp, malleable: it was the shape of vacancy and the texture of apathy. What I started to like about it, when I started to like it, was the speed with which I could forget myself. It was tremendous and easy.
There was this bearded man and a former scenester who took me under their collective wing, one demonstrating bedroom collectivism and the other midnight revelry.
A casual conversation with a friend: “Fancy coming to FROG?”
“Only when he was on ecstasy.” An odd story that it starts with those words. A character who relied on external chemical imbalances for emotional connection rather than internal ones. Mine were always internal.
I couldn’t listen to The Saturdays. I tried, but it just wasn’t happening. What tore up nine years that the resurgence of The… could be bookended with The Strokes and The Saturdays? What happened to me in that time?
I lose track of where I ought to start my story, and find notes for a forgotten project. They read:
“Did he love you?”
“Only when he was on ecstasy.”
Once upon a time, a fan and an idol crossed paths at the foot of the stage. The idol kissed the fan, and others, while pausing for breath mid-verse. Something happened. They hugged later.
It could be said that I am the product of Pete Doherty and the act of thinking too much, but it probably shouldn’t.
Silent Alarm can suck my balls.
She took to studying me with malignant indifference. We broke up to Bloc Party.
She entered a small, pokey little room, and realised he would do his best in drunk isolation.
When I got to London the move from tatty pop-punk to braying young scenester didn’t take too long. I didn’t cut my hair for a long time and it hung like a mop over my eyes.
I was six when my first girlfriend got out of Hedge End. She left for America. Her name was Lottie. I associate her with Teenage Mutant Turtles and Micro Machines.