Sunday, May 07, 2006

How does it feel to be loved?

Finally made it down to London's premier indie pop club How Does it Feel to be Loved? on Friday. The dancefloor of the Canterbury Arms in Brixton was packed with people gyrating to the likes of Belle and Sebastien ('Dog on Wheels'), The Smiths ('Bigmouth Strikes Again'), Decemberists, Velvet Underground, and strangely, Nick Drake (I love Nick Drake but would not put him at the top of a DJ list of dancefloor anthems!). Guest DJ was Clare Wadd, once of Sarah Records. The club plays Motown and Girl Group classics as well as indie pop, which is very welcome as a lot of indie/alternative music is based on an imagined rockist trajectory back to punk which denies soul/pop influences. For me there is a definite thread of broken hearted yearning for a better life from a female (or non-blokey male) perspective linking Diana Ross and Dusty Springfield to Morrissey and Stuart Murdoch.

Recently I've been reading Sunset Song (1932) by Lewis Grassic Gibbon, a (the?) great Scottish novel which includes the following reflections on melancholy music: 'it came on Chris how strange was the sadness of Scottish singing, made for the sadness of the land and sky in dark autumn evenings, the crying of men and women of the land who had seen their lives and lovers sink away in the years, things wept for beside the sheepouchts, remembered at night and in twilight. The gladness and kindness had passed, lived and forgotten, it was Scotland of the mist and rain and crying sea that made the songs'. Take away the references to Scotland and this is as a good a definition of soul music (or maybe before that the blues) as you will find, and indeed of much later music dismissed by the compulsively chirpy as twee miserabilist shoegazing.

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