In 2014, my husband encouraged me to borrow his iPod for my outdoors work on our brand new smallholding and nature conservation reserve, so I could feed my brain with interesting podcasts and explore his huge musical library. It was like doing another university degree, interspersed with “Brett-FM” – and it’s still like this. ♥
In the process I learnt lots of things, including that a band called The Cure did so much more than write frothy pop you still hear every Friday on commercial radio stations all over the world – a fact that had escaped my notice for over 30 years. Intrigued that my husband had bought material by a pop band, I discovered that he hadn’t – and discovered it spectacularly, on my first listen to their album Bloodflowers.
Then I discovered that they were still playing live on a regular basis and were a fantastic live band – and that they had a huge back catalogue well worth exploring. In 2018 The Cure played at the Sydney Opera House. We watched the live stream in our lounge room, and were aghast at the negative reaction in some quarters to them playing B-sides. I was also aghast at an essay about the band that appeared in The Quarterly at the time, and wrote a counter-response here.
And then I couldn’t stop writing. This is pretty normal for me and has been since I was 14, but now I wanted to journal specifically about this music I was exploring, and started doing this on a fan forum, just to put it somewhere that other people interested in this music could find it.
I am going to do a series of adapted “reprints” of what I have written so far, and then continue with my open journal right here – on reflection, a better place for it. But, you can still also read (and join in with) the original thread.
January 26, 2020
Well, after Exploring “Join The Dots” I needed another project, so I decided to continue open-journalling while trawling through The Cure’s back catalogue. Technically, Join The Dots is part of the back catalogue, but the thread is already very long and its title too specific to just keep writing away there instead.
I decided that I really needed one large container for writing anything subsequent about my tour of this band’s music, rather than small buckets for each individual album / song / etc. I’m interested in writing about interrelationships between things. To compartmentalise into tiny topics feeds the kind of disconnected thinking and tunnel vision that’s become so prevalent in society. We’re losing sight of the bigger picture. We need to be able to stretch our minds without being afraid we are going “off topic” – so that we can freely explore the nature of things, rather than dealing piecemeal with small and artificially separated facets of reality.
…and Brett just said to me, “You need to be able to join the dots!” – because that’s just the sort of comment he is liable to come up with. ? If you’ve read the B-sides thread, you’ll already have met Brett, who has been a Cure fan far longer than me and who, by dint of having Bloodflowers and various live albums on his iPod, is responsible for my becoming a Cure fan in my early 40s, five years ago. You’re certain, if you continue reading this thread, to hear more of what he’s got to say, because we have a habit of discussing stuff and I have a habit of relating that back to my journalling, so really, you’re getting two for the price of one here.
What do I mean, journalling? Well, I’m not writing a review, I’m writing a personal response. I think music has two sides – the people making the music, and the people listening – and that it’s a sort of conversation, like when you’re reading books. However, you rarely get to read about people’s personal responses to music, literature etc in the mainstream media, which is peopled by requisite “experts” who attempt to discuss objectively (or at least pretend to) something that is actually very personal and subjective.
…and here’s Brett again: “You could say that music really has two sides, an A-side and a B-side!” but of course that’s becoming an anachronism these days… ? …I’ve just asked my husband which side he thinks represents the artist, and which the listener, and he says it’s somewhat straining the analogy but he thinks of the artist as the A-side and the listener as the B-side. Hmmm. The implications of this… ?
The other thing you don’t tend to get in the mainstream media is ordinary people saying how significant-to-them songs and books affected their lives. That’s because the general public is perceived as boring, and celebrities are put on pedestals. This kind of distortion again doesn’t help our communal thinking, or our relationship with ourselves, other people and the world around us.
Anyway, I would have written what I’m about to write one way or the other – I wrote avidly in big volumes of paper journals since age 14, for my own entertainment and as a way of making sense of the world and myself. About a decade ago, when we began a tree change, I started contributing to independent magazines in Australia – mostly on things like biodiversity conservation, sustainable farming, livestock management, decent nutrition, passive solar house design (we live in an eco-house we designed and built ourselves), indigenous style mosaic burning of sclerophyll bushland (which Brett and I do here with our own conservation reserve to reduce its wildfire hazard while benefitting the native flora and fauna), landscaping for bushfire safety and biodiversity, etc etc. And roughly six years ago, I joined an open-journalling community on another forum, where everyone who wants to just keeps a public journal, which other people are free to read and comment on. This was, and continues to be, a really nice experience, and I’ve sort of translocated that way of doing things when I started that B-sides thread on this forum. It probably raised a few eyebrows here, but nobody kicked me out or told me to go away, so here I am, still.
I’m a fan of open journalling, because it allows people to write genuine stuff as they see fit, and read such work by others on this planet – I enjoy both sides equally.
I would be very sad if the people whose journals I frequent had just written their stuff in a paper book and stuck it in their cupboard between bouts of writing. I enjoy reading what they have to say – it’s like nothing you can find in mainstream media. The mainstream media simply doesn’t do obscure people, and I can tell you from reading obscure people’s writing that what they have to say is often stratospherically more interesting than the bilge we generally hear from celebrity culture and official journalists working in commercial media. Basically, decent open journals (and blogs) from obscure people are in quality equivalent to Thoreau’s Walden, and just as educational and thought-provoking to read. Hip, hip, hooray for the Internet, which, although it is generally a cesspit, does have some really great up sides, one of the biggest of which is to give ordinary people an opportunity to have free discourse across the globe.
Anyway, in this thread, people are always very welcome to jump in and discuss. I know not a lot of people here do this yet – maybe some defrosting is required – but I do notice that people read my non-mainstream threads, so hello to you, and I hope you get something out of it, even if you don’t write back! ?
Faces to names, and then I’ll write a first “proper” post!
This is us and Jess the kelpie, last time we climbed Mt Talyuberlup in the Stirling Ranges.
Walking is one of our main hobbies, which is good, because we also really like eating…
4:13 Dream arrived in our mailbox a week ago, and will be the general theme of this thread for a while, although Kiss Me and The Head On The Door are also making their way across the globe to us at the moment. I tend to go one at a time with things like that, and only go on to the next item when I’ve become sufficiently familiar with the last one. Good music, like a good book, is an ongoing experience for us – we often re-read our favourite books, and obviously, we continue to listen to favourite albums on a regular basis. The books and music might be set in stone, a snapshot in time, but human beings are not, and as we evolve, there’s often different ways of looking at things, as well as hidden treasures to discover that we missed the first time around.
Before getting into the album as a whole here, though, I just wanted to write some general thoughts. I’m at the stage of listening where things are just beginning to congeal a little. I find the first two songs really relatable – the second track I’ve known for a while anyway, the first is new to me but instantly accessible, like Monet’s Water Lilies – it’s beautiful stuff, and you can’t argue with it.
Sometimes you really do have to shake people and say, “Wake up! You’re missing the really important stuff! Look around you. Most especially, go to an unspoilt place and look around you. Look at nature, look at the universe – really look – and try to understand the implications while you are there. And if you do, your temporary self just might touch infinity, lightly like a piece of spider silk floating down on the air, and you just might know beauty, and wonder, right in front of you. Get out from underneath the heap of crap the general brainwash dumps on people, and stop going around in circles in your head, and just look, and just be.”
There you go, that’s my hippie sermon for the day done. ? There’s art, and books, and music which also say something along those lines, and Underneath The Stars is music like that.
It’s easy for me to listen to the first two tracks on that album and relate to them, because we live in an amazingly scenic part of the world (which also happens to have really low levels of light pollution and therefore a crystalline night sky), and because we pay attention, and because we are also in a really happy long-term relationship. However, we weren’t always that lucky, and though both of us looked around and paid attention from an early age, we also didn’t meet each other until our mid-30s, and therefore understand what it is like to go hungry for many years, in terms of human intimacy, and in a few other ways as well.
In my mid-20s I went on a working holiday to London, and discovered amazing architecture, as well as the extraordinary museums there – I could live in the Natural History Museum! …although of course I’d very much miss the entrance hall dinosaur skeleton that used to be there. ? I remember ooohing and aaahing in the Tate and National Galleries, over real-life canvases I’d hitherto only seen reproduced in art books. One painting rendered me unable to do anything but stand and breathe for a full 15 minutes, while passers-by perhaps wondered why a gobsmacked madwoman was standing immobilised in front of a painting as though she didn’t have a home to go to and all her life processes had gone into hibernation. This was the painting:
And then, around the corner from that, I stumbled across the following piece by Rodin:
I well remember the terrible ache inside of me when I looked at this beautiful sculpture, because it perfectly represented everything I didn’t have, and had never had, and didn’t know if I ever would.
It was a replica moment, but come to maturity, of a moment I had as an 18-year-old, when I listened to a particular song, and realised despite my attempts to hide it from myself that the relationship I was in at the time, and had invested so much of myself in, was nothing like it ought to be:
Later on, I brushed the moment aside and said to myself, “But it’s never really like that anyway!” Which, by the way, is not true: It can be like that. It just took me a long time to get there. I would like to encourage everyone reading to listen to what your heart is saying to you, and not brush it aside.
Anyway, in front of that Rodin sculpture in London I was eight years on from this little flash of insight, two years out of that relationship, single (and would be for years yet), and considered myself, at age 26, terribly ancient and past it and I might as well get used to the fact that I would be an old maid. (This is where I need a violin-player emoji to create the correct atmosphere, but sadly I don’t have one…?)
I’m bringing this up in part because I really get these days how having or not having certain things in our lives changes how we look at certain pieces of art or listen to certain pieces of music. Now when I see that Rodin sculpture, the terrible ache is long gone, and replaced by a deep gratefulness. When I listen to Trumpets, I think, “That’s right!” If I died tomorrow, there would be no great things I ached to experience in my life but did not. Did I expect to end up in such a place? Never in a million years. It happened anyway. And amazingly, I’m still here.
A couple of nights ago, I was too wound up to sleep because I’d had a flat out day working on various chores, and hadn’t stopped until late. A romantic interlude had happened in the evening etc, but I was still wound up mentally because sometimes you almost have to take a mallet to your head to switch off your brain, at least when you have the type of brain I am saddled with. So I bethought me of listening to something on my iPod while waiting to drift off. Usually on such occasions I’ll go for a complex podcast and get heavy-eyed within ten minutes, but this time I felt like some music, and I was curled up around my husband with my hands in his and our feet tangled up. ? And I thought, “Well, I’m listening to a new album at the moment, might as well give that another spin!” And the first two songs were just perfect for the situation. It was like Trumpets and Rodin all over again, and I was happy and grateful all over again.
And another interesting thing happened. It was kind of the converse of what happens when complex PTSD manifests itself to you through nightly horror movies in your head (which I talked about in detail here, so I’ll leave it at that). As I was listening to Underneath The Stars, my brain just started bringing out clip after clip of happy moments, profound moments, memories we treasure. We were walking along beaches, we were climbing mountains, we were holding each other, we were laughing, it was our wedding day, it was the day we first met, it was being understood when that was the greatest gift, it was understanding, it was calm after a storm, it was lovely flowers growing out of inevitable compost, it was a winter night in our first year together when we went to Mistaken Island late at night and sat in the sand and looked at the night sky together and the clouds made changing veils across the face of the moon as the surf broke a stone’s throw from us, huddled together in our winter woollies with cold noses. It was just so much stuff like that, and it kept on coming, because 13 years is quite a long time and we’re both very serious about making good memories with each other.
I think it’s really nice when people put things out into this world which catalyse that kind of reflection in the depths of our complicated brains. ?
More another time.