Exploring “Join The Dots” – Series Intro, CD-3, Light My Bloody Fire & Shakespeare

I’ve long meant to properly curate the accidental prequel that started the whole Exploring the Back Catalogue thing for me.

I was on an alternative music forum when we acquired Join The Dots and was participating in a Currently Listening thread. Suddenly I was mostly currently listening to Join The Dots, which there is rather a lot of – and as usual when I’m listening to music that gets me thinking, I wanted to write about it and, eternal optimist that I am, perhaps even be able to engage in comparing notes with other listeners.

The writing part came naturally – I’ve always journalled, even if usually on paper and for my own amusement before discovering online journalling. The interesting exchanges with others mostly didn’t happen on this music forum, which was relatively low traffic and even lower in participation rates – although occasionally someone did come out of the woodwork and post really interesting things in response.

Anyway – apparently Currently Listening threads are mostly intended for people to post music clips and not engage more than cursorily with each other about the experience, and certainly not for writing multiple paragraphs of whatever occurs to you in response. 😜 So I was encouraged to move my musings onto a separate thread, and that is how Exploring “Join The Dots” eventuated.

The start of it was rather scattergun as part of the Currently Listening thread, but I will include it below.

Disclaimer: I am not well versed in music theory or terminology and apologise in advance for inevitable technical errors ahead. But I did have a wonderful Year 1/2 teacher who was a serious and highly competent multi-instrumentalist (acoustic guitar, accordion, xylophone, recorder, various percussion instruments) and had us littlies singing harmonies and counterpoint in class, which was an amazing and deeply formative experience. This is for her, with love. β™₯ There was no support for learning an instrument at home, but when I was nine an older and equally musically mad cousin bestowed on me her practice organ when she updated. On this I and my friends, one of whom was taking piano lessons, composed impromptu funeral marches for dying butterflies, and revenge pieces for being blasted with KISS records by my older brother. Sadly my parents gave that keyboard away when we emigrated to Australia and I couldn’t take music lessons until I was an adult. I eventually gelled with violin and took three years’ worth of formal lessons from various people before life got too complicated (like building our own house), but boy did it teach me music appreciation, and respect for people who put in the work to get really proficient at it, and increase my enjoyment levels just listening to good music that falls within the parameters my brain likes. So the writing that follows comes from that place.

August 6, 2019

Well, as I mentioned last week, we’re still slowly making our way through Join The Dots.  We started with CD-3 because we didn’t realise The Cure had covered Purple Haze, and I’m much enjoying having my ears blown off by the noisy version, which somehow has more energy even than the original song.   πŸ‘πŸ½

And isn’t This Twilight Garden just lovely in every which way!

I don’t like the Bowie cover – I don’t think that’s a song that lends itself to being covered somehow.Β  It’s likely to sound anaemic if anyone else tries it (Bowie has so much contrast in it), and in this case it does, to me anyway.Β  I notice on one of the other discs there is a cover of Light My Fire (two versions).Β  I think that’s going to be interesting – and far more likely to work…

(…this was of course erroneous, but that comes out down the track…)

August 7, 2019

In response to:

Tut tut, that’s not “Light My Fire”, that wouldn’t have worked for the Cure (I think…)!
It’s “Hello I love you” and it worked for me. Heard it back in ’91, when I had a cd player I got me the “Rubaiyat” cd box, incl. both versions (“slight return” is brilliant, eh?).

Bwahahaha! πŸ˜ Where can I get an external memory device to plug into my brain?  Not only wasn’t it Light My Fire, but there’s three versions of Hello I Love You on there, and I’ve listened to none of them yet…

You think that wouldn’t have worked? It’s a nicer song than Hello I Love You conceptually – that song is taking the definition of love really into la-la-land.  I think the Ancient Greeks ought to give some lessons to the English-speaking on love.  They had lots of different words for lots of different types and aspects of love, and probably a lot less confusion around it culturally.  The term love is so laden with grubby and dysfunctional connotations in the English language that I’m sure it sets us all back developmentally – and pop music is the biggest vat exemplifying that around.  I wish The Cranberries sang in Swahili because of that – such pretty songs and I can’t bear the lyrics much of the time… not now that I’m out of my 20s and done with the idea that if you’re not suffering, it’s not love, etc etc.

I’ll listen to the covers later.  Today we “broke open” the second CD.  I love the feel of the song Breathe but can’t make out any of its lyrics yet, they blur into the song.  Maybe it’s time for a hearing aid as well as a plug-in USB for my brain… but this was in the car, not known for being helpful with deciphering lyrics.  The third CD has songs – This Twilight Garden, The Big Hand etc – which are watercolours in sound, impressionistic and luminous – really beautiful.  It was raining today and that very much suited the music actually.

I love love love the space this band leaves in a lot of their songs, like Arvo PΓ€rt does in his compositions.  The valuing of silence as well as sound, and the way each are amplified because of it.  I love the tonal beauty of many of the sounds that go into their songs, and the fact that they actually combine complex percussion with keyboards (instead of drum machines or boring, pedestrian drumming).  And with The Cure, like with Bach, I’m often getting the impression of simultaneous equations playing out against each other, when I listen to the different parts, the instrumentation that makes up a song.  There’s space, and within it there’s complexity, and complementarity, and counterpoint, and rarely is it overcrowded.  And it’s so evocative, so much of the time – putting scenery and images in your mind.  I think that’s why this is a band that caught my attention – so few bands out of everything out there do this so well.

Here’s a clip of Bach’s Partita No.3 to show what I mean – have a listen to the first three minutes or so to get an idea of what I meant above.  It’s mesmeric – and the fact that in this instance it’s all done on the one instrument, by a single player, just blows me away. 

And The Cure do this same thing as a band, with many of their songs.  Fascination Street comes immediately to mind for me there.

Oh, and I think Robert Smith has really worked on the articulation of the lyrics, as a singer, because by Bloodflowers I can understand every word without straining. πŸ˜€

In response to:

Please keep in mind this topic is about Cure songs you’re listening… (edit: not anymore.)

Is it a problem to present audio demonstrations of an aspect of the musicianship of The Cure that I find amazing by relating it back to 3 minutes of classical that show so clearly what I mean?  Had I posted Fascination Street, it would have been harder to demonstrate because most of us already know that song… and I can’t point it out that way; forest / trees thing…

If we can’t relate it to other things, we’re just going in a circle.  But if there’s some kind of rule against playing non-Cure clips in such a discussion then I’ll keep away.  I find it tedious to just post clips of Cure songs saying “I love” without explaining why.  …I’ll add Fascination Street to the above retrospectively, in case that makes anyone happy… then they can do a direct comparison.

August 9, 2019

This is an accidentally duplicated version of the first post in this new thread, so I will replace the redundancy with a practical tip for achieving a classical Cure hairstyle I like to trot out at every opportunity.  Enter the Van de Graaff generator… πŸ˜‡

…just place one hand on the top, wait a minute or two, then spray into place with free hand (before taking other hand off).  Hair has to be grease-free and squeaky clean for this gadget to work properly, of course…

In response to:

No, but why is it a problem starting a new topic to demonstrate something like that?

(So there you go, because comparison clips from other artists to demonstrate ideas weren’t allowed – an open music journal was born, including the above entry, now that it was a free-for-all.)

Well, that’s a great idea, and I’ve started this new thread… perhaps you could move the associated posts (including this one) over?  This will unclog this thread.  40+ new (to us) Cure songs are going to be quite a few to be “Listening to…” πŸ˜‰

PS:  Thank you! πŸ˜€

In response to:

I don’t think “Light my fire” would’ve worked for the Cure. A long keyboard solo in a Cure song? Urgh.

Would you like a bucket?  :angel

Yeah, the organesque solo does sound a bit naff anyway, but you know what?  The great thing with doing a cover is that it actually gives you an opportunity to make improvements.   :evil:

So, if you hate the music, you can just sing something a capella. And if you like aspects of the music, you can focus on those and cut out things you don’t like, such as an unsuitable keyboard solo.  What to do with that?  Ideas:

1) Toss it overboard and cheer.

2) Make reference to the notes in a less obvious way.  I wonder how that organesque thing, or aspects of it, would go as a bassline, for example.  Or you could make little motifs from particularly recognisable bits of the solo and scatter them around like confetti, on an instrument of your choice.

3) You could register your dislike by playing the solo on a kazoo instead.

And you can re-write bits of the lyrics.  :beaming-face

Having gone back to look at the lyrics of Light My Fire, I am much less impressed than I was at 14.  Not like setting Yeats to music…

But those lyrics are better than the lyrics to Hello I Love You. I loathe those lyrics with a vengeance, and have done since age 14.  A little sociology here:  Many teenage girls quickly cotton on to guys thinking with their dicks and trying to dress it up as poetry, and can develop allergic reactions to it.  :1f635:

Note I include the above graphic only to help generate thinking, not as an endorsement of the concepts.  :angel

In response to:

I like the fact that Elektra had enough humour to include the short version on their anniversary album! πŸ˜„

Yes, haha!  :rofl When we listened to those covers last night, I had no idea that the third one was the third one, I thought it was just a little reprise at the end of the second.  Until the next song came on.

Of all of those, I prefer the first cover; because it sounds least like the original.  :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:

In response to:

Of all the Doors’ songs, to me “Light my fire” is the most overplayed one (radio etc.), so any thought of covering it, is not a good idea to my ears.
By coincidence, 1991 was the year the Doors movie came out (which I enjoyed at the time, of course it is only the “Hollywood version” of events), thus I was pleased with the Cure doing a Doors cover.

Sorta like this, @Ulrich!


How to have a cultural experience while saving time.  Hamlet backwards in 42 seconds etc.

♦ β™₯ ♦

August 10, 2019

And now, the first traditional journal entry of the series – sitting down on my own and thinking.


We’ve been listening to the first half of CD-3 again travelling back from a hike, and were talking about ideas people have on love and relationships – as the material makes that topical – and also how that changes from the newly-intoxicated, quite irrational phase of falling in love with someone, to more than ten years down the track, when (if you’re lucky) you love each other more than even at the start, but this time with your eyes open and more realistically (which is a comparison we can make from our own lived experience as well).

It’s common when doing English Literature to compare two famous sonnets Shakespeare wrote on the theme of romantic love / partnerships.  One represents a fairly rose-tinted view that’s perhaps characteristic of new love / young people’s first in-love experiences, and the other presents a more sober point of view that basically says, “Stop exaggerating / get real!”  Here they are:

Sonnet 18

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimmed;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st,
Nor shall death brag thou wand’rest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to Time thou grow’st.
    So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
    So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

Sonnet 130

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress when she walks treads on the ground.
    And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
    As any she belied with false compare.

For ourselves, at this point we don’t closely identify with either of these points of view – but were probably prone to the exaggerations of the first in the first year of our relationship.  The second sonnet is rather harsh in places – I suppose in Shakespeare’s time, dental hygiene wasn’t that great – but I do love the last two lines, which say, essentially, “You don’t have to make false comparisons and pretend each other are things you’re really not, and it doesn’t make your love any less real or precious not to pretend like that.”

When you’re first getting together, you’re just seeing each other’s best sides, best behaviours, etc, all through rose-tinted spectacles made even rosier by the cascade of reproductive hormones and amphetamine analogues going through your system as part of the biological programme that induces you to pair bond, which is what you’re dealing with – you’re really under the influence of evolutionary biology at that point, and on top of all of that you’re psychologically projecting stuff onto your newly-beloved that comes from your own imagination and your own unfulfilled desires, rather than who they are.  So, you’re “idealising”, and creating an image of a person, rather than seeing what is actually there.

That’s all really heady stuff, and can be vastly enjoyable, but sooner or later you get a much-needed reality check, and it’s when you can get beyond that, and the disillusionments that come with it, to learn who each other really are – and this is a long process – and to love each other for who you really are, after the disappointments and the misunderstandings and the arguments and the things you’ve said and done that you shouldn’t and the times you’ve nearly or actually walked out, that you’re getting real.  And in our experience, that reality is so much better and so much more beautiful than all that Cloud-9 stuff at the start.  It’s based on actuality, and on choice, and on seeing far more clearly, and on learning to be good partners to one another.  It’s a love not based on having to be perfect or on not making mistakes or not having wrinkles or never having fought – it’s a love that accepts we are works in progress, and supports each other’s progress and growth as human beings, and does it gladly.  And as the years go by, it’s also the travelling the same road together and sharing adventures and experiences that you treasure – the sense of common history and a shared journey.

Why bring this up?  Because our experience of books, movies, songs is intertextual – you’re bringing your past reading, viewing, listening and entire life experience to each new text or song or movie you engage with.  You don’t experience them in a vacuum.  And when you find things you like out there, it’s because they mesh with your own experiences of life, and your own sense of what you enjoy.

So that’s part of what Brett and I are bringing to our exploration of Join The Dots (and all the other stuff we are currently engaging with).

I’m in my late 40s, and often have a lack of enjoyment listening to songs about love that are written by people much younger than ourselves – because many of them are still in the pretty immature stages of love (and/or in dysfunctional love) – and that’s not my favourite stage.  Sometimes even very young people can nail things about love, though.

It’s a compliment to Robert Smith that I can listen to things he wrote about love in his 20s and 30s without wincing, generally speaking.

Shall I compare thee this song to the others on CD-3?

I mentioned This Twilight Garden in a previous post – it’s a lovely, layered watercolour of a song, beautifully evocative both musically and lyrically.  It’s probably the loveliest song about romantic love I’ve heard from The Cure so far in my exploration of their back catalogue, and amongst the best from contemporary music in general.  Also included in that list for me are Breisleach by Capercaillie, Trumpets by The Waterboys, In This Heart by SinΓ©ad O’Connor, The Ship Song by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Your Nature by Hothouse Flowers, Electrical Storm by U2, and also Chance by Big Country (a love gone wrong song).

Talking about The Cure, I actually really like There Is No If for its presentation of rose-tinted spectacles on versus rose-tinted spectacles off (the word “forever” really has no place in love songs; our life span is limited…); and The Loudest Sound for a really evocative love-gone-wrong song.  I like High for its word-play, exuberance and childlikeness, and I think Catch is really charming.  And Plainsong, which I feel fits in this category, blows me away entirely.

Getting back to Join The Dots now, the meditation on personal earthly paradise which is This Twilight Garden is followed by Play, which is more like, “I’m an incorrigible no-goodnik and you ought to pack your bags for your own good.” Of course, there really are relationships where that would be the best thing, since you can’t let your personal chances at happiness and a good life be sunk by the consistent and unchanging bad behaviour of another person – romantic partner or not.  The interesting thing about the song is that the people who behave in that manner usually either don’t realise or don’t care about how they are behaving and how it is affecting the other person.  If the realisation and enough caring is there, you can work with that, even if you need to give yourself a good kick up your own @ss.

It’s even conceivable to write two such vastly opposing songs out of the same relationship – in a good phase versus a troubled phase, and with the tunnel vision that can accompany each.  Of course, when you write something, your narrator doesn’t have to be you – a fact often demonstrated in high school classes by getting students to read Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal (and I’ve done the same with Bob Geldof’s The Great Song Of Indifference).

Halo seems like a very young-love song to me, and in keeping with its title, does seem to put the romantic partner on something of a pedestal – something that I think is generally best avoided, because the higher you lift a person in that kind of giddiness, the further they can fall; and because that mindset can lead to co-dependence; etc.  I don’t think there’s anything wrong with celebrating the real virtues of other people – indeed I think more of that needs to be done, but in a realistic way; i.e. not like Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18.  So while I can relate to some of what’s being portrayed in Halo, the two elements in particular that give me unease here are “You are everything” – something another person neither can nor should ever be, examined rationally, no matter how much you love them (and indeed if you truly love them); and throwing around the word “forever” – as previously discussed.  These seem to me to point to a song written in (or about) a romantically immature phase, like Sonnet 18 and a plethora of songs and poems about love.  (And might I just mention at this point that I’m glad my own immature-phase romantic poetry from back in my 20s is not forever sitting in a public space. Phew! Sting even wrote a counter-song later on to an immature song of his that became a massive hit, just to set something straight…)

The last song I’m looking at today is Scared As You, which I think makes a really positive contribution to thinking about relationships.  Why do we do and say the things we regret?  For those of us who actually do give a damn about other people, fear is often a factor, and especially where the stakes are high.  The first part of getting past that is always the recognition, the acknowledgement of what is going on – it’s when people bury their heads in the sand and live in denial that they can’t get past stuff like this.  I think it’s really brave, given the generally airbrushed frontstages of people’s lives, to be honest about something like this, and to admit to your own flaws and mistakes in this way.  There does need to be more talk about the problematic side of being human, especially in the age of Instagram and pretended perfection.  It’s not easy to do it, but the more of us do it, the easier it will get.  Nothing like a good counter-culture!  ;)

That’s about all from me today, and I’ve not even looked at the music in this post – “just” the words, and ways of thinking about the topic.  However, I tend to just write wherever my mind happens to be at the time, unless I’m doing paid writing (and sometimes even then! :lol:).

PS:  It might be worth mentioning that the two Shakespeare sonnets cited above actually make a nice example of a thesis and an antithesis – a particular viewpoint and its diametric opposite.  Philosophy, and society, are studded with people arguing opposite extremes – e.g. “People have completely free will” versus “People have no free will at all” – or “Humans are fundamentally good” versus “Humans are fundamentally rotten.”  Reality isn’t generally digital like that.  A really nice idea in philosophy is that the truth is often found neither in the thesis or its antithesis, but in a synthesis that reconciles the truths of opposing points of view.  We get this in physics as well – is light a particle, or a wave?  Well, it’s sort of both, actually.  You just need to get your head around it.

If I wanted a sonnet that expresses my own views of love and partnership, I’d have to write my own.  It would sit somewhere between Sonnet 18 and Sonnet 130 – I’d not be idolising or running away with the fairies, but I’d also not quite be saying, “You stink, but I still love you!” etc.  And while my husband’s eyes are nothing like the sun, what of it?  He’s got lovely eyes which I much love to look at, and the sun has a whole stack of “wow” aspects of its own – but I don’t see that the two are competing entities.  Not that Shakespeare necessarily implied that, but the main point of stuff like that to me is to make you think for yourself, to figure out how you see the world and why.  We’re back to Venn diagrams – overlaps in our points of view, and areas where we think and feel differently.  The overlaps help us relate to each other, and the other stuff can help us grow.

August 15, 2019

I’m just quickly going to comment on the music side of the four songs I looked at more in terms of lyrics in the last post.  This Twilight Garden, as I did say before somewhere, is a layered, luminous musical watercolour, just gorgeous, and I think it’s one of the real competencies of this band to make the music a soundscape to the lyrics and ideas that are being conveyed – they do this exceptionally well much of the time.  I’ve never really liked “pub rock” or heavy metal or generic sorts of music – I’ve always preferred music that’s cinematic and evocative – which is what you’ll mostly find on the CDs I’ve bought, whether folk, classical or alternative / rock.

My husband’s a Cure fan, but no more so than he is a fan of many other things – as is true for me.  Interestingly, his music collection contains a lot of soundtracks, and things that sound like soundtracks.  Yesterday he was running Jean-Michel Jarre’s Oxygene Part 2, and that’s also so extraordinarily evocative… and there’s that bit about 1:25 in which just shoots me into the stratosphere and I’m looking at bursting silvery stars all around me. I’m not sure if I have mild synaesthesia, it’s possible, because music is so incredibly visual to me, but that’s only one thing it is to me – that stratosphere experience is also like physically coming off the ground like I’ve got a rocket pack launching me rapidly upwards, with that drop in the stomach you get in a fairground ride, and it also comes with all the emotions of exhilaration and amazement that would go with a real physical experience like that.

I was saying to Brett yesterday it surprised me that purely electronic music can be so organic… and he was talking about how there was a lot of wind blowing through that music, and waves on the shore etc, and that how it was going to sound was more a reflection of the composer; that in the hands of a competent and talented musician you could make good music with any instrument.

So, we’re both drawn to music that’s evocative like this.  And to continue with the Join The Dots exploration, Play is another example where the music is just right for what’s being conveyed lyrically.  So is Halo, but that’s a bit too saccharine for my taste, lyrically and musically.  I might have enjoyed that as a much younger person with rose-tinted spectacles firmly on and giddily in love (whereas now there are nicer ways to be in love, to me), but it’s not the sort of thing I’m going to go back to very much at this point in my life.

Scared As You, which as I said last time has valuable things to say about relationships, feels a bit sketchy to me musically, and doesn’t quite work for me, but that’s just how my particular brain responds to that piece.  Also I’m going to bring up the idea of “headache music” now, because this piece borders on that category for me.

What is “headache music”?  Well, just stuff that triggers actual physical headaches in me.  I can get terrible headaches from excessive noise of a particularly repetitive kind, whether that’s music or jackhammers or industrial car crushers.  More on that tomorrow!  (Zzzz…) 😴

August 16, 2019

I like to counter the tendency for the Internet to be impersonal by being as real as possible and an actual human being even when writing.  So I’m going to do a little side track, so you don’t feel like you’re being talked at by some sort of android or anonymous piece of protoplasm.

To put faces to names:  A couple of photos of our bushwalk on the Mt Hallowell track in Denmark (our Denmark, a little coastal town with an amazing bakery under 45 minutes on the back roads from our farm) last weekend. 

Sue & Jess On Monkey Rock - Mt Hallowell Track, Denmark, Western Australia
Brett on Mt Hallowell - Mt Hallowell Track, Denmark, Western Australia
Granite & Forest - Mt Hallowell Track, Denmark, Western Australia

Also, we really like eating, so it’s good to have a hobby to balance that, especially in middle age, which by the way isn’t as bad as people make it out to be. πŸ™‚  You just really have to keep using your brain and body, or they both turn into custard very quickly at 40+ (but really, at any age).

We take a lot of photos of the beautiful landscapes and flora around here for our own entertainment – Brett does all the wildflower photos, and is also compiling a species list for the 50ha of conservation reserve we steward on our own farm.  You can find more photos here:


Our other favourite place apart from WA’s South Coast is Tasmania, and you can find some of our photos and descriptions of that here:


We also love love love to read, and sort of live in a library:

Lounge Facing North – Completed Strawbale House Build in Redmond Western Australiac

We designed and built the place ourselves, as owner-builders, and I do a lot of magazine articles related to owner-building, passive solar design, off-grid living etc.  We live completely off-grid and recycle all our nutrients into our food garden – we have a bit of an eco-house / eco-farm, because people should practice what they preach and because it’s a really good feeling to live this way.

Neither of us ever made huge amounts of money, won the lottery, robbed a bank, inherited, went in for shonky investments etc… this was something achieved mostly through frugality, DIY and out-of-the-box thinking, combined with a load of good luck too.  So that’s something else I write about, to try to help other people get off the wage-slave treadmill.  There’s a piece on Successful Downshifting in the current issue of The Owner Builder where I explained in detail how we did it, and if you’re in Australia, you can get that at any newsagency.  If not, electronic versions are done via the TOB website.

I have a writing bug, in case you can’t tell, and apart from doing this sort of thing right here as a hobby, I also have an online journal, a blog recently presented to me by Brett, an annual paper journal, and two regular-ish magazine gigs with alternative media.  Brett does online essays (currently on Cybermen) and general writing for fun, and both of us also do other stuff besides all that.

Returning you to the main thread topic at next post; but if anyone wants to say hello and say what’s important to them, please type away!  πŸ™‚

That invitation still stands for this updated iteration – there is a response box people can use. Because of spam minimisation you do have to register to comment – but it’s not a drawn-out thing.

I will spare current readers the ensuing discussion over whether this thread should have been split up so that the last entry would form a social thread. When I online journal anywhere, I prefer to put faces to names at least once. Consider it the blurb on the back of the book, which I for one like to read. I always want to know where a piece of discourse is coming from, and who the human beings behind it are.

August 16, 2019


I’m going to pick this up again with the idea of “headache music.”  What happens when we plug our brains into different kinds of music depends on the circuitry in our heads – genes and environment affect the sort of brain we end up with – plus, as adults we have quite a bit of control over shaping our own brain in ways we want to as well, by deciding what sorts of environments we’re going put it in, what sorts of tasks we’re going to give it, what sorts of books and films and music and other cultural activities we’re going to feed it, whether we’re going to allow it sufficient sleep and recovery, provide it with good means of maintenance and repair nutritionally, etc etc.  It’s sort of like looking after a very exotic pet, except that this pet sits in your head and drives you.

My exotic pet spits the dummy when things are too noisy in particular ways – too many decibels, too much banging and repetition, sounds that are grating, screeching, jarring, and otherwise unpleasant, or just prolonged exposure to relatively repetitive loud music, especially overcrowded music.  So that means I mostly dislike heavy metal and grunge because it sounds to me like car crashes and people who need baths, and screechy operatic solos especially when sung in high notes with vibrato, and rock and alternative music with sub-standard drumming (complex drumming and space in the sound makes my exotic pet happy).

I compared my exotic pet with my husband’s, and his gets less headaches from music than mine, but the triggering factors are similar.  However, clearly not everyone has these, because much of what I classify as “headache music” sells very well indeed, and doesn’t come with complementary paracetamol.

I tend to dislike headache music – no surprise – but even some music I really like can give me headaches if I listen for more than half an hour. I often have this problem with Pink Floyd’s The Wall, for some reason, and with some of Big Country’s songs, for example.

Even more weird is that the opening bass for Last Dance gives me instant nausea.  I first heard this song when we were watching Trilogy, and I actually had to leave the room for a short while.  It was just like if I’m in a small aircraft and the pilot does a tight descending spiral – I found that one out the hard way once, because it was a whale watching trip and we were still 90 minutes out from the airport.  With motion sickness, we know what causes it – it’s an inner ear thing.  But how on earth can a bunch of notes on bass you don’t find unaesthetic and on a song you actually want to listen to give you nausea?  The same thing also happened to me when I went to see William Blake’s actual paintings in an art gallery on an overseas trip.  Swirling and nausea.  It probably goes back to brain wiring.

I’ve digressed into this for a bit really to make the point that our responses to music are very much individual, and often say more about our wiring than the quality of the music etc.  “I do not personally like” is therefore clearly not the same as “this is crap” – whatever we might have thought once!

So having said that, and stopped to think about complex interactions between brains and music, I can now also say “I don’t like” with impunity, and without apportioning blame, and get back to actual songs.

Going in list order, after Scared As You is a song about as far from headache material as it can get for me:  The Big Hand is another musical watercolour, but not a happy theme.  There’s ambiguity in what the actual big hand is – time (big hand of the clock etc), God, god, fate, drug addiction, etc – pick your reading.  I think it’s actually useful when there’s more than one way to interpret something, more than one thing you can see in it – it then fits more situations, and also invites comparisons between them, as in, for example, “How is the effect of time like XYZ?  And how is it not?”  That’s excellent for getting people thinking and reflecting.  If as a writer you specifically don’t want that to happen, then you have to be really unambiguous.  I like a good riddle, anyway.

This has since become one of my favourite Cure mood pieces – the intro is extraordinary

A Foolish Arrangement is smack bang in headache territory for me, so I actually looked up the lyrics so I could stop listening to it trying to make them out.  And there’s a riddle I’m going to leave for another day.

Doing The Unstuck is an odd one, to me.  Elements of it I like, others I don’t.  The thing I like best about it is the music starting about 45 seconds into it, and for about a minute from there; then it crosses in and out of borderline headachy for me.  The topic isn’t bad, the presentation of it just a bit Playschool though – remove the mild sexual references, and you can have preschoolers bopping along to this and singing the words.  Brett doesn’t like this one at all, and when I talk about the Playschool vibe, he smiles and says, “Well, guess who is the Dark Wiggle!”   :happy

For a more in-depth take on this song when more familiar, see this entry on Wish

Purple Haze (noisy version) was the first song I discussed in this thread, and it’s a firm favourite with me.  I’ve also warmed to the second version that follows on from it, but it took me a while, probably because I just wanted to keep skipping back to the one that strips the paint off the walls so well. :angel  It’s sort of like appreciating different variations of a classical piece, the different emphases people make with their interpretations.

Both of us were already thoroughly familiar with Burn from the soundtrack of The Crow – and this is the song that made Brett first sit up and take note of The Cure (he had an OMG experience in the cinema and went to buy a few albums) and later on pass his enthusiasm for this band on to me.  Burn is one of the all-time favourites for both of us.  There’s nothing about this song we don’t love, and we were delighted when we saw that live on the Opera House live stream earlier this year.  Brett was going, “Look, it’s a kind of flute!” … I actually thought there was sampled birdsong on the track, before I saw that – that’s really excellent mimicry.

Not the Opera House, but near enough a performance

You won’t see the Bowie cover or the Dredd song in this discussion because I decided not to copy either of them over onto the iPod. ;)

It Used To Be Me is one of those songs that would make an excellent springboard for long, long discussions about human psychology, popular culture, personal responsibility, ethical conduct, people looking for gurus instead of carefully working out their own lives and thoughts, etc.  And it’s funny how the ACO’s Richard Tognetti can walk through a shopping centre without a cricket bat, and people will be polite and unobtrusive – the audience relationship is different; with classical and folk audiences there’s more of a feeling of a level playing field between performers and audience, and there’s just not that insanity.  It’s popular culture that puts people up on pedestals – just like religion does, actually.  The results aren’t pretty, and they’re not healthy either.

I like Ocean, but it’s a difficult one.  It’s sort of like, “I’m playing the pipe, so you should dance.”

This brings us to the last one I’m looking at from this CD – Adonais. I’m not that keen on it musically at this present time, but the lyrics make an A+ poem, as would be befitting all the references to canonical poetry, Shelley and Keats.  It’s very beautifully put together, as words go.  The strings are a nice touch in the music.  Treasure is similar in that it’s a very traditional poetry theme, and has string arrangements – but I really love that particular song.  Maybe this one will still grow on me; sometimes that can take time.

CD-2 next time!  :)

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