Let Down And Hanging Around

Thursday, March 8. 2007
Cold, hard and just brutal enough to hurt, but still make you fight back ‘cause you think you can win. Just enough to make you slay yourself, only repenting your folly once your body lies dashed and broken on the hidden rocks of our pure logic, reason, intellect and fucking headstrong fuckedness. That’s just what we do here.

Last night I knew how Pete Wentz’s girlfriends all must feel.

Vodafone arena is a massive, soulless concrete and steel grave. They play tennis there, so you really don’t need any more in the way of facts to corroborate my slander. It’s a horrible place. It’s neighbour and twin in evildoing is the Rod Laver Arena (although it has some corporate whore name these days, I think Rod Laver is just undeserving enough to have his name up there) and both venues act as the Biggest Stage in Town, short only of the massive stadiums that only get transformed into musical venues when the braying bloodsports that hold court most weekends are put on hold for the summer. There are much finer venues in Melbourne for live music, a small mercy that has not been granted many other cities in this Fucked Nation.

They all would have been much better places to go see Fall Out Boy last night. But nowhere else holds ten thousand fans.

I think most of them were girls. And the average age was about sixteen. I may well have been the oldest punter in the house, and excepting the band, the oldest overall.

The venue is cold and soulless. These places hold the biggest names in the industry, because of the sheer number of arses you can cram in. There’s no discretion by way of artist or quality, this is for the masses bullshit. I wanted to go see Fall Out Boy, whom I express undying love for in spite of their glaring defects as human beings, so I was always going to be there – but I was despondent when I found where they would be holding court. And even more pissed off to find that the general admission tickets were divided in half, with a barrier separating the worthy (i.e. faster) ticket buyers from the slacker. I was to be in the back half, a fate somewhere close to purgatory, or the outer circles of Dante’s Inferno. Still, the show was on and I had a posse in tow, so mayhem might have ensued. After all, the band are the logical inheritors of the Snot Punk movement I was weaned on in the late nineties – I had heard stories about the teenage girl factor, but was not scared by this.

I was wrong. I think that Wentz guy had both the Hilton sisters, you know. Or was Nicole Richie in there? High five that motherfucker!

It was like stepping into a year nine end of year dance, only instead of the local rent-a-DJ in the school hall it was a “punk” band playing an arena show. Such was the demographic. I would have felt off if I’d been alone. Still. Still. I got the t-shirt from the merch guy and in we went. It was to be the lamest crowd I’ll ever admit being part of, the most pathetic gathering of worthlessness. This will rank highly on my list of lowlights when I compile the list of Shit I Feel Bad About When I Die. I had no control over them, or the band. I was in for the ride. No going back.

The lights go down and the squealing starts. Fucking hell man. Avalon Drive come out first and are passable to impressive, the faster songs are worthy, the slow ones simply whiney. The have energy but the crowd doesn’t really respond, after all, they’re only the support band. Lights come up and they leave. My posse concurs they were ok, but didn’t exactly outstay their welcome. Ahem. More lamenting the weak ass shit displayed by the crowd and another support band shows up. I didn’t know their name, but now I can tell you they were Trial Kennedy. Never knew them before, but they have some nice moves and a singer who can really sing. Not just scream, but sing and hold long notes and stay in tune and shit. They worked for me, so big it up.

Lights come back up and it better be time for the main act soon. This would be their first show in Melbourne, their first tour of Australia, kind of odd given how long they’ve been around. We persevere. The barrier we are behind is easily movable and the security are elderly. Once things get going, a decent push and we all spill over that barrier and into the front, where hopefully the raging mosh will hide our sins. It is all lined up and easy. But at no point during Fall Out Boy’s energetic and note-perfect renditions of their hit songs did the atmosphere ever approach anything close to frenetic, or even edgy. It was like the crowd was content, the music placating them, or perhaps indicative of a need to stay within the rules. These kids were fucking broken man, when the hell is going on? Any sensible account of a group of kids of that age in a situation like that ends with the barrier being breached and mayhem. But no. Fuck all that. Maybe it wasn’t that the band were lame, because they were actually quite good, but the kids – you failed me last night. Shame, shame and shame some more! Grow some balls. Maybe I was expecting too much from a Fall Out Boy crowd, but there you have it.

So the music. There was a mix from across their albums, with most of the material coming from their last two records. The singer stood there in a cap and hoodie, and didn’t show his face the whole night. Or say a word outside of the lyrics. Petey, over on the bass, played his gigantic cheekbones to win over the female section of the crowd instantly. He did all the talking, apparently he is the spokesman. Halfway two roadies came out for some lame-ass attempts at being funny. There was a cricket bat involved. It just broke up the show and took all the momentum out of the occasion, but overlook able. None of the songs were particularly incendiary, nor were they flat.

Then they went off and didn’t come back. The crowd stayed for an encore, but the band did not re-emerge. They played for over an hour, but it didn’t feel like long enough. And no encore! Talk about getting someone hard and not jerking them off. Anti-climactic, so many ways to say it. Pete, was it intentional? Was this your cry for help, so that we might know what life is truly like for the members of Fall Out Boy and all that pledge themselves to you? Is it to be believed? I’m sold. If you haven’t actually had a night in Paris, you two are made for each other.

And we all went home.

As for me, the thing I’m being truly hardest on is myself. What the fuck am I going to do with myself? What the fuck? I have choices but they all have side effects I don’t want to accept. I got to suck it up and take a hit somewhere. What are my priorities? Where’s this all going to? WHAT THE FUCK AM I EVEN DOING!?!?!

I’m not in control here. This is all fucked beyond belief. I got to sort it or get sorted myself. What’s to say? What’s to do? I’m a lazy poet, a creative hack – but I try.

Tuesday, March 6. 2007

Beaten Down

Tuesday, March 6. 2007
I feel like I’ve been lying on a road during some kind of riot. Or protests, or something, but not a parade. The kind of mil mannered fucks who march in parades would have the decency to fucking walk around. Again I was up all night with stomach cramps, a pain so vile I can’t even lie down, sit, stand, walk, eat, think or die. Imagine a spot in-between the place where your ribcage meets in the middle, just below there, then imagine a cannonball trying to burrow its way out. No matter which way you twist and turn, it doesn’t change.

Sleep isn’t even close to being an option in times like this. It’s a joke of a suggestion, a parody of a thought. But it only happens in the middle of the night, so it’s dark and you should be asleep. And there’s no-one around to help, or talk to, or get some comfort from. I’ve been beaten down by this too often since coming here. Is it stress, or some parasite I picked up in parts exotic? Or maybe it’s got something to do with all the cockroaches I see here at night. Unthinking, unflinching, it comes unannounced and you just can’t ignore it. What brings it on? I’ve thought about everything. The doctor just gave me some medicine for the pain and no hope. The naturopath gave me some bullshit and took my money.

I fell asleep on the couch at about seven am. I had a lucid dream where I lost my temper and stormed out. I’m close to there in reality. Why oh why, am I even here?

Damned if I do and damned if I don’t.

Electrelane sounds like a limpid American version of Stereolab, who also wouldn’t mind crawling up and cuddling the corpse of Pavement. They just can’t decide. Or play their instruments. Sorry, I gave you a whirl, and the part that turned me away was your off-key singing. I could do better. There’s so much more out there to listen to, so why am I listening to you? Because I don’t have the energy to get up and turn you off. I’m good at turning people off, so maybe you have some kind of charm. You might be the fat girl at the club who occasionally gets a shot when the beer goggles come on. You might be the desperate fatty I can never stand.

Look what last night did. It stole my tolerance, man.

But I can tell you some things that are good. The depths of boredom pushed me into enrolling into the MySpace generation. If I had anything better to do, you know I wouldn’t be touching that shit. But I understand where it’s coming from and the addiction factor. It’s shallow as fuck, totally pointless and the untrained user might get the idea that it’s a worldwide competition to see who can make the ugliest page possible. In a way, that’s exactly what it is, and if that isn’t a crime, it should be, but I’d still be there anyway. It also makes me traceable, which is somewhere I don’t much care to be, if only because I might be caught down on the down low. But just in case, or just because, or whatever.

I have to go turn Electrelane off and delete it from my iPod. They’re sounding like Stereolab again.

Something, Anything, You Can't Have

Monday, March 5. 2007
My enemies curse me forever
So I would have to say
I’m glad I don’t have any.

Dead guys know what we all don’t
That fertilising the grass
Ain’t a scratch on walking on it.

It was too windy at the beach
I kept changing songs
Nothing left to do but go home.

I am scared of the Neon Bible. I’m amped, excited as hell, appreciative and accidentally terrified. They beget my terror; they stale my hopes.

During the great cold of 2004 I was lost and lonely, I was frail and frozen. Talking was an achievement of any given day. But to deal with the foreign ministry it was a short ride away, and I complained. But when changed in the Great Couch Destroying incident, the bureaucracy was suddenly a long way away, down near the water in Shinagawa. It would take over an hour to get that far from my bed, then a further however long the bus took to meander to the windswept reclaimed land that housed the menace. That building was full of people with everything invested in being there. Poor people from nearby countries, “maids” from the Philippines, “waitresses” from Korea, “students” from China. Those dark guys, are they Indian? Pakistani, Bangladeshi? Sri Lankan, maybe. They all huddle together and argue over forms, then pray to the people at the counters.

The bus ride goes through the affluence around the station, the expensive as hell housing and fancy overpriced supermarkets. Then closer to the water it becomes warehouses and truck parking lots, loading bays and rust. I remember how quickly it went from concrete to rust and shivered, because it was cold and my nose was running. It’s the most obviously non-Japanese place in Tokyo and the locals mistrust of their neighbours is buried deeper in me than I’d like to have to say. So I talk to no-one, ride the bus and hope I have all the right forms. I do not want to talk, I want to be in bed, or somewhere else, or going home. Not one the way to get a stamp in my passport only to have to go back another few hours to work the job I was getting permission for, the job that I was beginning to hate and resent. That job that was the first thing to start killing me. I loved that city unconditionally. But uncaring, it took my affections and buried them under snow, so much snow. I dug a tunnel and wished I had a neighbourhood to call my own.

To put it all in the background, I put my earphones in and listened. But first I scrolled, through all the stuff on my iPod and none of it felt right. None of it welcomed me to it, none of it was welcome in my ears. There was untested music but I was not interested. The bus was filling up. Better to have something on and tune it all out. I barely remember the music the first time. It was just there. It could have been white noise. It might be immediate, it might be hard to embrace, but I wouldn’t know. It wove itself into me somehow. I played it then, and on the way home, and every other trip down there just because it had its place. I knew the big songs by then, I knew it slowly began an ascent out of the start and crashed into the third track. I knew there was something that wasn’t English in there. And it ended the way I felt. What was it, why did I have it and where would it take me? I listened to it all the time, because I couldn’t not listen to it. Getting the earphones in and hitting the buttons to make it play were actions I didn’t control, automatic, never fast enough. Like shooting up, the actions of listening to it were like a narcotic. A rush, independent of what they delivered. It was all in the action, the romance, the self absorption and warm cocoon of my own bullshit. The bullshit I carefully carved an existence out of, the world I had made and hated and loved and cried over…

What to do? Those songs are part of my very soul. I know it’s not just because of the times, or where my sick head was at. Now I see it’s because of some very real power vested in those songs. Something wholly undefinable. I’ve never tried to put it into words because the right words aren’t there. And to get across my experience with them would be like filling a bucket with the ocean. The limits of language are few, but here we are and there we were. Just me and the Arcade Fire, just me and my Funeral.

Other people have raved about it, tried to articulate some things about the songs you can only ever feel with your heart and mind, your soul and bones. Tried to and never come close. You sound like a mental patient, or a tired raver or hippy or something. Others did it out of respect or duty, but nothing worked. You knew, you just knew. The band were irrelevant to the experiment too, I know nothing of them as people. They touched my life but I don’t care for them. Or even for the experiences they crafted to make their art. It’s mine now, with a fresh set of image and memory and pain, entirely separate as heaven is from hell or the steamy jungles from the frozen icecaps. Neither is right, neither is more important. Both are harsh and natural, borne of the intense process of living.

How could I possibly ingest the follow up? The same voices, the same name… Neon to me is the colour of Tokyo’s soul, the Bible a weapon used to harvest and flay my heart. The name might be borrowed from somewhere, I don’t want to know. There’s art and reviews and people taking notice all over the fucking place. How can this match what I’ve been through? To marry what might be there to what I have now does no-one any justice. It’s a sad, sad predicament. I know it’s futile and selfish and entirely self serving. But I’ll not listen yet, no, I’ll wait… Even though any moment I choose will be utterly, utterly wrong.

And there I shall find that it’s right.

I Manage To End This One On A High Note

Saturday, March 3. 2007
Just because you say it ain’t so
Don’t make it right, don’t make it clean
There’s blood on your fathers hands
And now on yours, because you don’t see,
You don’t say, and you don’t fix

Out with the old and in with the new, but more of the same, same old story. If it weren’t for a duty to listen, we might just give up in the face of unbelievable shit like this. Oh man, I just blew all my credibility by saying ‘shit’. Oh well, that’s just how we roll here.

The new Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, came out and made a statement denying the Japanese military had anything to do with setting up brothels during World War II. This came as a statement made by 120 LDP politicians, a thinly-veiled nationalist stage piece, which included further remarks to the effect that any brothels that might have been set up were nothing more than a simple business venture. Supply and demand, all that, because you know how soldiers are.

The stories told by survivors of Japanese ‘comfort stations’ are harrowing to say the least. They are just a chorus in a cacophony of horrors that came out of WWII but maybe because the victims were the least powerful and the most underfoot, the most easily abused and least likely to fight back, their cause remains the most un-addressed. To parallel with other victims of the time, the Jewish people have Israel and tales of ex-Nazis tracked down and essentially kidnapped to face justice from their hideouts in South America are the stuff of legend. A South-East Asian woman, who has seen her country and family devastated by an unforgiving army, all vestiges of the past essentially eliminated. She’s been defiled, her honour obliterated a hundred times over. Her spirit stands, but to protect it she says nothing. No voice, no saviour, no heroes. Their plight has been a relatively recent revelation in the cycle of groups demanding justice from Japan’s politicians in denial. And one with the least power behind it. Most of the survivors are old and understandably frail, so it will not be long until they are all gone.

So it was with hope I saw recent demonstrations to bring more attention to their story, given the history of denial. For the sake of Japanese honour, they would say, the truth about what really happened must prevail. Their truth, their manufactured truth, would prevail. They would make it happen, they would blind themselves to the evidence and the truth they must know is undeniable. But the tide looked like turning in 1993, with the first admissions in a change of party line. This gave hope and a small chance to get an apology; this was all thrown out the window this week.

In one ideal world, the victims will rise from the dead and be the judges. The brutes had no pity; now their victims will not spare them. The tear of the child will be the jury, the screams of the ladies the executioner.

But that won’t happen. All we can think might come about is something of an apology, an admission that the horrors of half a century ago happened, so that souls might rest.

In other head-in-the-sand news, have you heard about Conservapedia? Apparently some right-wing Christians think that Wikipedia is too liberal in its bias, a bias maintained by an army of editors and contributors worldwide. It seems that this world representing viewpoint, achieved by total consensus of people all over, is too liberal for some thick skulled evolutionary leftovers. I have total joy that they have found their voice and in no way back anything Wikipedia spews out (the process is very open to exploitation and the discussion that comes about is marvellous) but I got to laugh. It’s like the kid playing with everyone else in the street who doesn’t like the rules to the improvised game and buggers off to his bedroom to sulk about it. Except we get to read the crap his dummy spit produced! The humour value is undeniable. The best part is the page listing the things wrong with Wikipedia, and my personal favourite is his gripe about spelling. Yes, most of the English speaking world doesn’t use Americanisations. Holy shit, I better throw a tantrum and start my own party! With Blackjack, and hookers!

In fact, forget the whole thing!

Last Night and Why I'm Losing It

Friday, March 2. 2007
Was it just because we talked about it for weeks? That it was as close as possible to regaining a forever-lost part of our near youth, our collective near youth and that the last time we were together ended with their last album. Some things will always become era-defining, because we hallmark our days and letterhead our years with what’s around us by mere association of memory. I know my brothers taste veer off different ways and my sister has little corners the rest of us will never venture into. But for the most part we can be filed under the same banner and until they gave it up, the banner boys were Blink-182.

The story is that Tom DeLonge broke up the band. He left to form Angels and Airwaves, and I supposed Blink had a good run. The Box Car Racer project had sowed the seeds of something different, especially given that his stated aim was to give voice to the non-Blink friendly song ideas. Looking back, it wasn’t that different, especially given what Angels and Airwaves sound like. But the end came, and after Tom got his band up and running, Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker kept going with some other dudes no-one really cares about and started +44.

Both bands put out records within months of the other and neither measured up to any of the Blink-182 albums. More than the sum of their parts, the boys had definitely grown up. So had the kids who had been teenage fans, and we all bought the records. We listened and we liked, but not as much as we used to. Angels and Airwaves has a pretentious streak to it, is if the name didn’t warn you about that, and is much slower than your average punk kid might stand. There’s keyboards all over the place, it’s like American Idiot got into a drunken make-out session with Achtung Baby or something. With Brian Eno watching. It didn’t have the impact its creator might have envisioned – but as I so often like to point out, making something long doesn’t make it Epic.

+44 was better received, but just because it used the same timing and dynamics doesn’t mean it was any better. It’s a partner record to Box Car Racer more than anything, if you look at it musically. The reason Blink worked so well wasn’t the playing, which went from barely acceptable to sleek as fuck by the last album, or the constant toilet humour (take off your pants and jack it!!!) but the back and forth between Tom songs and Mark songs. There were never any duets, but backing vocals a-plenty as dictated by the genre. And it worked, it did. You could crank out 16 three and a half minute punk-pop tunes, noting that the songs where the bass player sang had better guitar parts and vice-versa, and not get boring over the course of a CD. Throw in the eventual addition of one of the best drummers going around and bam, you’ve got every teenage kid with gelled up hair’s dream.

So what happened? They were more than the sum of their parts, never going to live down what they used to do, but hey, starting out again in a new direction, they get credit for that. Goddamit, they get credit for that. I missed the Angels and Airwaves tour, by accounts they played a Box Car Racer song and bits of a few old Blink tunes. So it was natural to hope that +44 might roll out a few old favourites to fill out the radio friendly stuff on the album. After all, we all know the album and you can’t just play it end to end… Got to have more of a show than that.

We got tickets as soon as they went on sale. It was going to be awesome, all of us at a punk show. Unwritten Law were supporting, extra bonus. The weeks in-between we did a fair bit of partying, we did indeed. It got me amped for the show, even if the last few weekends had fallen flat. Hey, we could turn around the getting old theme, the stay in because you’re tired business would be over. Rock out, hit the scene, get destroyed.

What happened is Unwritten Law tore it apart, they were awesome. They’ve been around and have it together like true professionals. Then +44 came out and played the album through, Mark made some dick jokes, and Travis wasn’t there. Hurt his arm, it turned out, and didn’t even come out. Seeing him was one of the bigger drawcards, but oh well. At least they came out. But they didn’t shine, or sparkle. The band were tight, pulling off the songs perfectly, no waste. That’s good, but not organic. Mark is a real showman, the rest of the guys were players. The crowd were all amped and the pit was fierce, all positive energy, no hassles at all. In fact, you might say that they were all worked up from the idea of +44 and were more intent on having a good mosh than actually checking out the band’s gear. That kind of sums up the experience.

And then everyone said they were too tired to go out, and went home. I sighed and joined the sad parade home. It was fucking pathetic. I’m never getting out of this hole, I can feel it. When the only people I have to rely on at the moment are all happy to stay in while I waste away on the couch… I’m feeling bitter. If only I could go out on my own and find a way home that didn’t set me back 40 bucks. I think I hate living in the suburbs the most out of all this.

Here’s a final thought. This is from the +44 song “No It Isn’t” and it was put up on the band’s MySpace page the day of the first Angels and Airwaves single – also Tom’s birthday.

Curse my enemies forever
Let's slit our wrists and burn down something beautiful
This desperation leaves me overjoyed
With fading lights that lead us past the lives that we destroy

Please understand
This isn't just goodbye
This is I can't stand you
This is where the road crashed into the ocean