2007 Year-End Thoughts
Writing About Music
Last night (Sunday) I went to see 65daysofstatic at the Lemongrove in Exeter; it’s a university venue, just a stone’s throw away from my day job’s desk. I met up briefly with Joe, who I interviewed back in May, and we nattered in the breaks between songs by Youthmovie Soundtrack Strategies, who were supporting, and are brilliant (and so young, Jesus, they looked in their teens). Joe said he was gutted we were closing. I trotted out my line about “last.fm hitting us hard the way we hit print magazines hard.” They were fucking intense live. Their current album is so good. The snare sound’s a bit boxy, but…
It’s just over five years since you emailed me and asked if I’d like to write for your new website, and I thought simultaneously “who the fuck’s this?” and “why not?” and sat down and typed some guff about Explosions In The Sky there and then. Five years. I feel a bit like Jeremy Piven in Grosse Point Blank when he bumps into John Cusack’s character and just screams “TEN YEARS!” at him over and over. Five years! And now it’s over.
Mike Powell and I both had a really sweet email from a kid called Thomas who couldn’t believe we were closing down. He said he had five bookmarks on his browser and they all pointed to Stylus. He offered us money, dude. It made me want to cry. I still want to cry as I’m writing this. Reading your Bluffer’s Guide to Stylus and Hutlock’s last DLO made my eyes well up over breakfast this morning. I’ve been trying to write this goodbye piece for three fucking months now and it’s not working. The last draft was shit, so I’m typing in work’s time, again. For the last time.
Initially, the day after you told us, which is if I’m honest some months ago now, I wrote a stream of words, a kind of meta-goodbye from all of us in a proper authorial voice, just because it spilled out of my fingers and onto the screen in a tumble. But that wasn’t really appropriate, cos’ Stylus
Years ago Elvis Costello said that “writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” I always thought it was a prickish thing to say, a mithering musician bitching about bad reviews and doing down other people’s work, and I’ve spent years vehemently trying to disagree with him, but maybe he’s right? I do feel like we were tilting at windmills a lot, like no one cared what we did, like we were struggling to do something that was dead at best and pointless at worst.
But fuck it, man. I think we did something great. Even if it wasn’t always qualitatively ‘great’, you had the best of intentions, and so we did too, and that made us great. Cos we cared. I am so fucking proud to have been a part of this, Todd, so proud it hurts. And I like that you’re stopping it dead, not passing it on or letting it wither without enough care or attention. Leave a perfect memory. Or nearly perfect. I think we’ve gone out on a high, pretty much. I know we’ve all tried to raise our game for the last three months. Ironically, I think it’s been about the best year for music since we started, too.
Oh man. If I’m proud, you ought to be bursting right now. The thing I admire most about you is that you’ve been consistently brave. No one else would have had the guts to publish some of the stuff you have, to let people like Dom Passantino and Dave Queen aggravate and vent, and know that it was the right thing to do. Who else would have said “yeah, that’s a good idea” when I said I had a huge essay about mastering on the horizon. Or some of those conceptual reviews I did in the early days; some of them make me cringe just to think of them. But then it paid off, because I think some of the stuff you enabled and encouraged me to do has been beautiful and powerful. And that you’ve not just helped me do that, but everyone who ever wrote for Stylus.
You know what probably the saddest thing about Stylus closing is; I don’t know what I’m going to do with that first flush of excitement when I hear a great new record anymore. Already I want to write about Floratone and Mountain Of One and the Brazil 70 compilation and Hideout by Film School and the new record by Joe Easley and Eric Axelson from Dismemberment Plan for you, but it’s too late. Where am I gonna put that energy? On a blog that nobody reads? What am I going to do now?
You know I’ve just bought a house (and a kitten!) with my girlfriend, and my day job’s getting busier and more demanding by the hour; maybe it’s time to put away these foolish childish things like writing about music idealistically. Maybe I just need a break? I say that at least once a year regardless, when the end-of-year burnout hits and I spend January and February in a fug wondering why I bother. I dunno. What I do know is that you need to make it to the UK and come and stay, and I need to make it to New York, too. We’ve never even spoken on the phone; how weird is that?
Part of me is looking forward to just being a music fan with no pretensions and no responsibility. Part of me doesn’t think I can. My relationship with records might become less vampiric, if I’m lucky; no longer trying to suck the marrow out of them and regurgitate it with html tags and words and grades. A lot of the time churning out stuff has been hell, like a never-ending homework assignment. Only now it has ended. Fuck.
I don’t really know what else to write. All we ever wanted to do with Stylus was write about music as honestly as possible. I think we can say that this is almost all we’ve ever done. Thanks.