All Through The Night.
‘I don’t think an album’s gonna do anything. You can’t listen to a record and say, ‘Oh that really turned me onto gay life, I’m gonna be gay.’ A lot of people will have one or two experiences, and that’ll be it. Things may not change one iota. It’s beyond the control of a straight person to turn gay at the age he’ll probably be listening to any of his stuff or reading about it‘
Lou Reed, in conversation with Lester Bangs. 1973
Most of the time, I’m just looking for kicks.
‘Kicks’ bring short for ‘Kickstart’. As in, something kickstart my brain and heart through the tedium of life. Girls, booze, pills and their effect all eventually lose their power as either tolerance or familiarity slowly take their toll, but rock n’ roll is the God that never ever let me down. I’m starting to think maybe I don’t hear sound the way other people do, though. The amount of analysis and questioning of taste that goes on just confuses me, like ‘How can you like THIS guy when he wrote those lyrics?’ or ‘Don’t you know this bassist said THAT thing in 1984, so therefore all their later work is invalidated. It’s effect on you should be nullified because of that.’
Man, that’s just a mindset I do not understand at all. My critical analysis of music is as follows:
It Kicks, or it does not.
That’s it. I’m not initially bothered by lyrics, or the appearance of the musicians or what kind of label they’re on. Even less the personalities of the people behind the music. What I care about is The Kick. I’m talking about a biological shift in the thought patterns, the rising of the goosebumps on the arms, the tingle up the spine, the quickening of the heart.I don’t care if the guitarist walked in from the public school down the road or had to parachute in from Space and fend off Westboro Baptist Martians, whether the M.C. is rapping about record labels, shouting out to fallen brothers or toasting his shopping list. The only important question is ‘Does It Fucking Kick, man?’
Don’t misunderstand the notion of the Kick too soon. Kick ain’t just about happy and woo nor only the reflection and empathy with your soul’s pain made manifest or solely the urge to wave your hands in the air like you just don’t care. The Kick is all of those things and none of them. The only true proof of Real Kick is that it’s the only thing in the room. You can’t chat quietly nor play it while you prepare a gluten-free wrap. The Kick has you playing with knives and dancing because you are literally kicked from your previously docile state and no Kick is ever guaranteed from anything. Not from all of the output from a record label, and no artist is ever a brand that assures 100% Kick with every slab of vinyl.
Sure now every label and artist wants you to think that they’ve caught lightning in a bottle, that a purchase from EMI Records or making sure you’ve pre-ordered every Bowie reissue, but no amount of listens will have any song from ‘White Tie, Black Noise’ provide as much Kick as ‘Underground’ from the ‘Labyrinth’ soundtrack.
That’s the 1st thing about The Kick. The second is that Kick is as idiosyncratic to you as whatever wets your clit or stiffens your dick. At the end of the day, you can only fake what makes you Kick so long. So many reasons to fake it, of course. To bury your secret passions. Maybe it’s not cultural safe for you to admit your fetish for tanned muscle men or that you dig Bon Jovi when your love has covered the house in Mouldy Peaches merchandise. But ultimately, the more you pretend to enjoy The Kaiser Chiefs or Vanilla Missionary Position when your soul craves Reverse Cowboy or Jimmy Somerville, the more you’ll resent it. You’re only cheating yourself. You don’t have to wear Gimp Masks or listen to Cannibal Corpse if you really want The Best Of The Beautiful South and Spoons. It’s okay. It’s YOUR Kick.
If I’m straight about this, I resent the attempt to impose the Intellectual onto the wholly Instinctive that is the Kick. You can’t talk me into ‘liking’ The Doors anymore than you can convince me I have a foot fetish. I’m wired like I’m wired. I think it’s a Truism that no two people ever see the same thing, because while we’re seeing or hearing the same idea, our influences, preconceptions and such create filters that create our personalised reactions. Your playing me The Cardigans promo videos on YouTube is on a Kick level hoping I share your kink for…fuck, I dunno, being dressed like a baby or something? Fun for you, no doubt, but leaves me flaccid.
Which is why all the morality and analysis of music is, for me, at least, totally futile. There is something so pure, so heart-rending and real about Jerry Lee Lewis’s ‘Middle Aged Crazy’ that the Kick ignores everything but That Feel. Kick is simply instinctive and doesn’t care that The Killer married his 13-year-old cousin or upstaged Chuck Berry in a pyromanical, destructive act born of sheer egotistical racism, anymore than an erection has a conscience or a coke addict cares that their fix is supplied by perpetrating a brutal system of abuse in order to keep the supply going. Some things are simply not subject to the approval of the intellect. My Kick doesn’t care how threatened you are by M.I.A. She Kicks. The End.
So, you’ve probably worked out I care about the quality of my sonic intake in the same way Walter White cares about his Meth recipe. One viewing of the chatroulette version of ‘Call Me Maybe’ is worth the entire musical recorded output of Morrissey to me. That isn’t ‘wrong; anymore than someone who prefers The Pussycat Dolls to Public Enemy is ‘wrong’. There are no standards that have any basis beyond approval, which isn’t worth anything and won’t tingle your eyeballs. It’s just a fact. Some people are turned on by some things and other people are turned on by other things. It’s not too difficult a concept to defer to.
Let me diplomatically state that I’m aware of many, many attempts of the comics industry to try to crossbreed the two art forms of funnybooks and music. On the whole, they haven’t provided me with that Kick, and certainly not the ones your brain is saying ‘Ah, but what about -?’ right now. Yes, I know. Nothing. That doesn’t invalidate what they did for you. They just didn’t do it for me, sorry. Out of everything I’ve read that crosses music with comics* there are three books that genuinely manage to fuse the two mediums in such a way, and they follow after this image…
1st off, there’s the Sex Pistols biography drawn by Steve Parkhouse and published by Omnibus Press, which I reviewed a couple of years back. You can read about it here.
Secondly, the current bane of my year, Rock N Roll Comics featuring The Melvins, published by Roger Corman’s Cosmic Comics. Foolishly, I sold this a few years back, so I’m having to go by memory rather than having the thing to hand. If I remember rightly, Rock N Roll High School is a retelling of the 1979 movie cult classic drawn by Bob Fingerman and others. I’ve heard that the reason The Melvins replace The Ramones in the comic is that Da Bruddas wanted money for the use of their likeness in the comic, and The Melvins were willing to be in there for free. Any insight into this would be highly appreciated. I’d give a link to where to find this largely unknown classic, but the truth is I’ve not seen a copy ever except the one I sold on in 2011. So, erm, if YOU have one, get in touch either via the site or my Twitter and we’ll sort something out. It looks like this, for the benefit of my mystery stalker who bought me both Lego Marvel and the Valve Hardback Anthology.
Finally, and by far my favourite of the bunch is Matt DeGennaro and Phil Elliott’s ‘Tupelo’
Sadly now out of print, (although you can pick up copies on Amazon) Tupelo was originally published by Slave Labour Graphics in 2003 as a four issue mini series, and then published as a trade paperback featuring a cd by cult band Famous Monsters. I was working in the late Comic Showcase at the time and was staggered by how much each issue just..got it. Understood and recreated the atmosphere in my head. The sticky floors, the toilets with broken doors, the kids proudly showing off their home-made ‘X’s, the drone of the men who are too old in the head to be there. The Outside that oppressed with silent hostility. The outrage at the huckster hypnotist who stands in for every soulless advertising exec who preys on the insecurities they created and profits from them with promises of false hope.
If Matt wasn’t in a band or in the front row for a long, long time, I’d be stunned as his work was both, for better or worse, both preparation and inspiration for The Filthy Orphans. Once we started playing better venues than the Outright Racist Pub In West London Trading Off It’s Name Instead Of Encouraging Poor Rich White Boys To Do James Blunt Karaoke And Nothing Else, Tupelo was essentially a map of exactly what I could expect, from the people full of soul who wanted to elevate talent to the self promoters looking at you to work out if it’s worth schmoozing up to you to get ahead with their brand to A&R men trying to convince you that you’d be more marketable if you thought about having a ‘purer line up’ to people running up to you after a gig with glee in their eyes, trying to fight through the fact that English wasn’t their 1st or even 2nd language to say ‘Oh My God…You guys are like “Fuck EVERYTHING! I LOVE YOU!’ (Which is still probably the nicest thing ever said to me.)
(Matt’s work got me ready for that, and a trawl through the archives of my YouTube history led me to find my doing a cover of ‘Murder Time’ with the far more talented but quite incredibly drunk in this video Gabi Garbutt, who is now a bit famous. )
Whilst doing research for this, I discovered this comic very nearly didn’t happen. I’ll let Matt tell the story (Taken from the SLG website.)
‘DeGennaro met Elliott through a comic book message board, where he posted a want ad for an artist. After receiving many responses from well-meaning young artists who sent him sketches of superheroes, he says he “was just about to give up when I got an e-mail from Phil with a link to his site. It blew me away. I sent him a synopsis and later on some script, and he sent me back the first few pages, which were brilliant.”
They are, indeed, brilliant. Phil is some kind of Art Ninja Genius, distilling the page down to only its essential lines. Like a Toth, a Parobeck or a Kurtzman, this process looks like it’s easy, but it’s really the total opposite. Lesser talents can hide their weakness behind flashy layouts, unnecessary cross-hatching and other short cuts. If you’re working as Phil does, every flaw is going to scream out of the page at you. It never happens in Tupelo. The story pages are a beautiful discordant symphony. The…backmatter (hate that word) is both inspiring and a perfect approximation of prison letters, Zig Zag/Maximum Rock N Roll era music journalism and Punk Manifesto, with one issue containing an ideology that makes the likes of Fight Club sound like playing RATM too loud in your bedroom after your Mum’s asked you to clean up your room. Volume 2 is in the works and a preview is here
Matt’s as funny as fuck and posts some of my favourite links on Facebook regularly. Phil is an astounding talented artist who’s just published ‘In His Cups: Collected Tales Of Gimbley’. It’s bloody good stuff and you should obviously all go buy it. Ideally, he’d be on a regular book and there are no end of comics being published that if I were given editorial responsibilities on the title, I’d just say ‘Give it to Phil. He’ll make it work.’ Personally, I’d hire him to redraw all those Todd Loren knock off rock biographies as and when he felt like it while he got on with whatever made him happy. Go check out his website here, and buy ‘In His Cups, Collected Tales From Gimbley‘, also.
Obviously, I couldn’t write something like this without making a playlist. Go listen to it here, and a glass to Matt and Phil. Cheers, Boys. You made it a little bit easier for me. I think that’s what we’re all here for, really.
*Missing from my slightly scathing overview of all music comics are a couple of Marvel Music’s efforts. Namely the Kyle Baker KRS-ONE: Break The Chain one-shot and Dave McKean’s Rolling Stones Voodoo Lounge comic. This is because I have literally never seen copies, although I’m assured they do exist. If readers have copies, please let me know and again, I WILL GIVE YOU MONEY! OR SOME OTHER COMICS. SOMETHING!
(This column is respectfully dedicated to the memory of Lester Bangs. Thanks, Mate.)