Sonic Snapshots: Anniversary Features at The Quietus
While you wait for me to complete those long-promised posts on The Cure and The Pharcyde, you might spend some time reading what the good folks at The Quietus have on offer. While I haven’t investigated the history of the site or tried to determine its editorial mission, it does seem that the site’s writers are close to me in spirit, if not in age.
That judgment emerges from my perusing the Anniversary features they’ve been publishing of late. Most of them are “30 Years On,” but there’s also a smattering of 25- and 35 Years On postings. Whatever the interval, they all appear, to me at least, to be part historical reclamation, part coming-to-terms-with-aging kinds of features. As a result, it could almost go without saying that the quality of the individual essays is uneven, as much a function of each writer’s aims and background as of her/his subject matter. Nonetheless, there is good fun and great food for thought in posts examining, for example, The Dead Kennedys’ Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables, Prince’s Dirty Mind, The Jam’s Sound Affects and Peter Gabriel’s third eponymous release (frequently called Melt) alongside those focused on less well-known items like Propaganda’s A Secret Wish or The Colour Field’s Virgins and Philistines.
Looking through the whole list is like seeing some of the touchstones of the last 30 years of my life laid out before me. And while the essays are written from a UK perspective, it’s remarkable how well some of them place those albums in their contemporary contexts for those of us at a geographical remove. Reading about The Sundays’ Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic, for example, I was reminded how the group’s music was first described to me: as a fusion of the best of The Smiths and Cocteau Twins—jangly, heavily processed guitars, alternately snarky and world-weary lyrics, and achingly beautiful female vocals. I omitted the Smiths’ reference from my own post on the album several years ago, but it’s just as obvious as any other.
Even if these recordings don’t have the same experiential, biographical resonance for you, the essays are worth reading. They may just turn you on to things in the same way that I’ve been trying to do for so long…