I can hear echoes of Elbow and Talk Talk in this song: I usually throw everything including the kitchen sink into recordings, so this is exceptionally sparse by my usual standards. That’s something you’ll find runs through a lot of our new stuff.
Lyrically this one is about masculinity: the pressure to conform, the calls to “man up” when life treats you badly, the policing of roles to make sure you don’t stand out. It’s a bittersweet song, I think: musically it’s quite sad but the message is positive, a rejection of limits: “this game is rigged, I don’t want to play…”
I don’t usually travel for gigs, but I made an exception for The The’s Comeback Special: this is a band whose songs I’d long given up on ever hearing live. So off I went to the Royal Albert Hall.
It was worth the trip. The sound was exceptional, the performance magical, and me and the guy next to me pretty much blubbed our way through the whole thing.
The The had a huge impact on me: Infected came out when I was 13 and I was obsessed with it. As I got older I became obsessed with other The The records, many of which were about heartbreak and sadness and loss. The older I get, the more those songs resonate.
But it’s not just a nostalgia exercise. The Beat(en) Generation (1989) predated social media with its call to people “reared on a diet of prejudice and misinformation”; Sweet Bird of Truth (1987) is just as pertinent to US foreign policy today. Love Is Stronger Than Death (1993) is timeless. And Heartland (1986). My god, Heartland.
This the land where nothing changes
a land of red buses and blue-blooded babies
If you get the chance to see the tour, it really is something special.
And he is a god, though one born of a different time and a different need. Jackson rose in the last days of enigma and wonder; West, in an accessible age, when every fuck is a tweet and every defecation a status update. And perhaps, in that way, West has done something more remarkable, more amazing than Jackson, because he is a man of no mystery, overexposed, who holds the world’s attention through simply the consistent, amazing, near-peerless quality of his work.
My dad was born in 1940. In his early twenties, he was part of the Bob Dylan generation and his devotion to that cause is overwhelmingly reflected in his record collection, but he was also influenced by Scottish folk artists like Hamish Imlach and Matt McGinn. He played guitar and wrote his own songs and it’s clear that my interest and passion for music is inherited from him. He loved playing, but -apart from family parties- he never performed in public. His three kids, at some point or another, all ended up playing in bands, so I suppose we took his musical interests just a little bit further.
This is “A Kind Reminder”, the first new song from David and I in, ooh, ages. It’s a deliberately unabashed outsider anthem, and the working title – “Last song at The Hydro” – is a clue to its stadium-sized ambitions.
Lyrically it’s about self-care, about finding strength in who you are and love in difficult times.
Musically it’s got my daughter making her recorded debut as part of the backing vocal choir. That girl gets everywhere.
I would love to hear this song performed in other ways, by people who aren’t me.
I’ve had a massive crush on Shirley Manson for more than 20 years.
To be honest, I’m suspicious of anybody who doesn’t have a massive crush on Shirley Manson. Fierce, funny, impossibly talented, Scottish, ginger and drop-dead gorgeous, the Garbage singer is one of rock’s great personalities, and the way she rocked her combination of cute dress, black tights, clumpy boots and fuck-you attitude did all kinds of things to me back in the day. She’s just as amazing now, and I’m absolutely convinced that if I were to meet her I’d be incapable of speech.
There’s a saying about rock stars that the fans of your own gender want to be you and the ones of the other gender want to be with you. With Manson I always felt both: if I could have magically transformed myself into somebody else it would have been Shirley every time. Especially Shirley in the Only Happy When It Rains video.
I still feel like that today. When I discovered by accident that I had bought a dress very similar to one Shirley wore recently, I damn near exploded with delight.
I think that’s something she’d approve of. She’s long spoken out on behalf of the outsiders, the “queerest of the queer”, and it’s a recurring motif in her music. The first time I saw the Androgyny video – Manson blurring gender roles while singing “boys in the girl’s room, girls in the men’s room, you free your mind with your androgyny”, her lascivious, lusty “boyyyyyyys” and “girrrrrrrrls” punctuating the chorus – I had to have smelling salts and a lie down.
I never tried to be Shirley Manson in real life. The look and the attitude were for my imagination, not my everyday: androgyny wasn’t the kind of thing you could get away with in my town, and I’d never pass as a woman.
Before I transitioned, I had a very palpable sense of the “too”: I was too tall, too fat, too bald to ever be a “real” woman, so what would be the point of even trying to transition? It’s a common sentiment among trans woman and a direct result of the impossibly narrow box within which society confines women’s appearances. For many trans women, male puberty puts cisnormative beauty permanently out of reach; for others, the idea that the world could see them the same way that they see themselves is the stuff of fantasy.
And that’s a great shame, because that fear holds us back from being ourselves, from experiencing the world as it should be.
This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot of late because I’m still in the transitioning trenches, trying to work out my identity and how I want to exist in the world. The judging Katelyn writes about makes me feel pretty crappy quite a lot of the time, but sometimes the heavens align and I feel pretty damn good about myself.
It happened the other night. I was going to see an avowedly trans-inclusive punk rock band, so instead of my more usual androgyny I decided to let my inner Garbage fan come out. I chose a dress I really, really love, teamed it with thick black tights, got my make-up just right and spent a bit of time sorting my hair out. And I looked bloody amazing.
I’m under no illusions about what I look like: I’m very tall, very big, overweight. But when my presentation gets close to looking like the person I want to be, there’s a joy I find really hard to describe, a feeling that everything has magically clicked into place.
And sometimes other people validate that. I’ve been chatted up by strangers at gigs, complimented by women in bars, received throwaway comments that have kept me walking on air for days. Before I went to my punk gig, I popped into my local to see some friendly faces: I might have felt amazing, but the prospect of going into town wearing a dress for the very first time was still frightening, not least because I was going to meet a friend who had never seen me presenting as Carrie before. So I needed to do it in stages: go to a familiar place first, and then go on into town when the fear had subsided a bit.
I’m glad I did, because when I walked in one of my women friends was there. “You look really pretty!” she said, grinning delightedly before adding “Is it okay for me to say that?” When I reassured her that not only was it okay, but it’d be even more okay if she could just say it a few hundred more times and maybe put it in writing too, she laughed and told me that “seriously, you look really hot”.
Before I came out I never dreamed I would ever be told I was pretty, let alone hot. One of the great sadnesses of not coming out until later in life is that you’re stuck with a body that’s developed in all the wrong ways. But while I’ll never be mistaken for a pretty young anything that doesn’t mean I can’t be proudly, unapologetically, confidently me. Whoever you are, whatever you identify as, being true to yourself is pretty damn hot.
I’m going to see Garbage on tour later this year. I’ll be the one dancing really badly in a cute dress.
I know, I know. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in the various evils of the world that I forget that I’m the greatest songwriter who ever lived*. So let’s talk about that.
I’ve been promising new music for quite a long time now but I’m actually nearly ready to deliver it. I’m in the final stages of mixing an album David and I have worked really hard on and that I’m incredibly proud of. Musically and lyrically it’s the best stuff we have ever made. It’ll be done in weeks, not months.
It’s also kickstarted my creativity again: for example, last night I managed to write a guitar-heavy anthem, half Pixies half Mogwai, about a Japanese ex-cop who saves people’s lives atop a blasted cliff face. I know! That old cliché!
Anyway. The new stuff is going to come out under a new name: HΛVR (spelt “havr” and pronounced “hey-vurr”). It’s a great Scots word and means to babble, to talk nonsense. Which we do, a lot. As you can see, it also looks really good as a logo even in sketchy form.
As you can probably guess, some of these titles are working titles. And some of the “last modified” dates are sitting there making me feel bad.
We’re also trying to come up with a better band name – the GM bit of DMGM no longer applies, and it wasn’t a brilliant name anyway. My latest suggestion, Wang Darts, has been greeted with absolute silence by David.
Secondary ticketing – the sites ripping off consumers by charging enormous fees on top of industrial scale ticket touting – is in the news again today. We need more transparency about their charges, apparently.
That’s true: the sites use every trick in the book to hide their fees, which are ridiculous. There’s a huge service charge, which can be as much as 30%, and the sites take a cut of the seller’s money too, typically 10% to 15%. Consumers are gouged at every opportunity. For example, GetMeIn – owned by Ticketmaster and promoted heavily on its site, and on the screens in venues such as the SSE Hydro in Glasgow – charges £10.57 to post your tickets in the UK. You’d think its buyer and seller fees might include the cost of an envelope and a stamp.
Transparency isn’t the big problem here. It’s the entire industry. These sites, and the sections of the industry that feed them, are making music unaffordable for ordinary people.
What we really need is more transparency about the sheer corruption of the concert ticketing industry. Ticket touting is happening on an industrial scale, and the idea that reselling is just ordinary people who discover they can’t go is absolute bullshit.
This is an industry worth £1 billion per year in the UK.
Here’s Viagogo, one of the reselling sites, with one of the 28 pages of tickets for the Rolling Stones in Edinburgh. Many of the sellers apparently bought four or six tickets before suddenly remembering that they couldn’t go.
Here’s Iron Maiden’s manager, Rod Smallwood, who found nearly 7,000 tickets for his band’s tour on the resale sites within 48 hours of going on sale.
“The implication is that 6,294 people decided within two days of buying a ticket for a concert taking place in 9 months’ time, all of a sudden they can’t go. I mean it’s sheer nonsense, it was just profiteering to the worst degree. The secondary platforms give the real heavy duty touts the ability to sell tickets on an industrial scale.”
This is anti-consumer behaviour. It’s making art something only the well-off can experience, because whenever you have something for which demand will always outweigh supply you’ll attract sharks.
And the government knows this. This kind of profiteering with football tickets is illegal under section 166 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, further amended by section 53 of the Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006. It was also illegal to re-sell tickets for the 2012 Olympics.
This one’s about being enormously sociable on the internet and completely alone in real life. David came up with the main riff while messing around with the SoundPrism app, and despite my best efforts to turn it into a punk-metal song it ended up much more floaty. You can imagine Snoop Dogg rapping over it. Well, I can.