Sharon van Etten
THIS MUCH we know: Music will never, ever sound as good again as it did when you were 16. It will never be as powerful, moving, all-enveloping, or seem as important as it did when you were a prisoner of your parents and your own hormones.
But that’s not to say we can’t be reminded of those grand old days of acne and the Velvet Underground (I’m speaking for myself here) from time to time.
It’s been a while since a song took me back to my days beneath an Andy Warhol poster; maybe the last time was my first encounter with Crying In The Streets, by George Perkins and the Silver Stars. (Disclaimer: I had absolutely no involvement with the struggle for black civil rights in 1960s USA.) Continue reading
Still from Hooley In The Sun music video
DECLAN NERNEY IS a man who inspires devotion. A flick through the visitors’ book on his website reveals a degree of approval usually reserved for younger men. “Oh me o my u make me sigh!!!” is one entry. “I think your wonderful, love ur songs and i listen to them everyday, in my car, at home and even at work” is fairly typical. “Lots of hugs and kisses XXX”, “You have never forgot me”. Not bad for a man in his middle years whose own passion is for vintage agricultural tractors.
“These bands are making a comeback,” one middle-aged woman tells me at Taylor’s Three Rock Hotel. “They’re making a comeback because in the old days, if you were widowed, you stayed at home and wore black. Now, you go out.” She is sitting at a table with two other ladies of a similar vintage, who are anxious I should not use their names. “I’m divorced. She’s widowed,” one says, and turns to the last. “Are you divorced, or just separated?”
First published in Mongrel in 2007 (the heyday of the slow jam)
Real talk: R Kelly
THE SLOW JAM is a weird branch of the musical tree. It’s usually a combination of crooning vocals with smoothed-out hip hop beats. Bendy synth sounds are frequently prominent. Prime movers of the slowjamming scene have been Usher, Ginuwine, R Kelly and recent arrivals T-Pain and The Dream; and slow jams are, almost exclusively, about knocking the socks off women. Which is to say, they’re all about being a particular kind of man.
The position of the Slow Jam Man is a curious one. On the one hand, you’re the undiluted essence of male: a master seducer driven by the urge to sexual conquest. On the other, that conquest is generally achieved by such doctrinally effeminate methods as the gyration of hips, the murmuring of sweet nothings, and the hitting of climactic high notes. For a genre obsessed with notions of masculinity, this is the elephant in the room. How do you reconcile being an unreconstructed player with – let’s face it – singing and dancing, like a girl?
Tapesponders are people who exchange tapes, instead of writing letters or emails. Gerry Feighan, a member of the Chatterbox Recording Club in Co Armagh, explains what it’s all about.
“Tapesponding would be equal to a phone conversation. The only thing is, the message from the sender is recorded. In the early days, it would have been on a reel-to-reel tape. Then when the cassette came in, that made the whole process much easier.
“Some people might play some music, then chat a bit, play a bit more music. Maybe talk about yourself and where you’re from. You join the club and you’re sent a directory of all the members, and their interests, where they live, their age. And who they’d like to converse with – male or female or whatever. So the first thing you’d do is send a letter and say ‘I was going through the list and saw your name, and I noticed that you’re interested in such and such. I would like to exchange tapes.’ And usually you get a reply back, Okay.
“I remember I was corresponding with some people from Rhodesia, before it became Zimbabwe. I taped with a professor in Lexington, Kentucky. Then there was a gentleman in Germany I corresponded with, he had been in the Hitler Youth when he was growing up. And when you heard his experience from him, as a child and how he grew into it, it was a completely different understanding of the thing.