Hugs and Kisses #15: The Raincoats Reunion Album

Monday evening means another episode of Hugs and Kisses, a weekly Sound of the City column from Everett True, author of Nirvana: The Biography (da Capo Press) and publisher of Plan B Magazine. He lives in the UK, so he does not give a bloody hoot about your stupid CMJ.

HUGS AND KISSES

The Outbursts of Everett True

THIS WEEK: revisiting old friends and wallowing in the past

This isn’t a column about The Raincoats.

It isn’t about how I finally swallowed my pride, and finally purchased their reunion album Looking In The Shadows (Geffen, 1996) from Amazon a few weeks back. I’d avoided listening to it before—although I was aware of its caustic Gina Birch-penned single ‘Don’t Be Mean’, with its butter-wouldn’t-melt accusations and vivid red slashes of violin. I never did hold with groups reforming, ‘specially not in the wake of major league players name-checking them. Even if said group had delighted and astounded and cheered me all through my (brief, bitter) student days one-and-a-half decades earlier. (God’s sake, I even cheered at the Deptford Albany Empire when their manager Shirley O’Loughlin walked on stage to tune the guitars.) (God’s sake, I still remember her name.)

It was the Slits who made me want to move to London in ’79, though—more specifically, I moved to London because of a song on The Slits’ debut album, Cut, called ‘Shoplifting.’ It sounded as though the four musicians were having such a great time; all the squeals and giggles of glee as they ran shrieking away from the besieged store. The bass looped, pounded, and panted in sympathy behind them, the guitar played all shrill discord and exclamation marks. The vocals were…dirty. “Ten quid for the lot/We paid FUCK-ALL,” they boasted, out of breath. Never had I heard girls sound so natural and unafraid and mischievous, so comfortable with their own naughtiness. Never had I heard anyone—male or female—sound so free, so in love with the possibilities of life.

Yeah, it may have been The Slits who made me want to move to London – but it was The Raincoats who made me want to stay there. Their scratchy, wired music was tempered with what sounded like a couple of comforting upper-class accents; their music was more insular, more frightened and fettered than that of their female brethren. I could relate to it more (cos I felt the same way; I wasn’t really up for stolen moments of mischief, more jumping at shadows). I could imagine holding conversations with The Raincoats where we drank tea and chatted about Women’s Problems. They were my kind of ladies.

So yeah, I purchased Looking In The Shadows the other day: I’d held off doing so for years—those you love the most are those you judge the harshest, and I recall going to see The Raincoats play Brighton’s Concorde Club in ’94, cos I figured a dead friend would’ve liked me to have been there…and I walked out halfway through, under-whelmed by the sweetness and banter and bonhomie. The Raincoats were always challenging, provocative to me; and I didn’t understand their leaning towards disco balls and mid-Seventies English pastoralist music. I didn’t like that post-Raincoats Eighties project of Gina and Vicky’s (Dorothy) either. (The Hangovers, Gina’s moribund Nineties band, formed with the drummer from Th’ Faith Healers, were great, though: spiteful and drunken and lurching and entirely disorientating but in a fun way.) (As is fellow Raincoats singer Ana da Silva’s recent solo album—for different reasons, obv.)

So…what do I think of it? Well, listen up. I’ve turned 46 now and sometimes I’m just looking for the solace of familiarity. It’s all over the shop. It features one of my two favourite Pacific Northwest drummers, Dub Narcotic’s Heather Dunn (Janet Weiss of Quasi is the other). It does that whole meandering but incisive Raincoats thing brilliantly in places; and is in how way hippie or not essential or easy-going like I’d worried but rather reflects the turmoil and pain and joy of women trying to make sense of their lives once the first flush of youth had gone (was it ever there?), and rocks with abandon when rock with abandon is required. There’s whistling. This matters, trust me. It still bothers me that original member, violinist Vicky Aspinall, isn’t present—but hell. I should just come to terms with the fact it was made without her. Surely I can do that, 10 years on? Also, I’ve just found the original miniscule (wA8?) booklet that came with The Raincoats’ second album Odyshape while rooting around in some old letters—that, and the ticket stub for a Butthole Surfers/Redd Kross/L7 show at the Hollywood Palladium in 1991 that is significant for reasons that escape me right now—and trust me, that makes me happy and sated like a happy, sated guppy fish.

Anyway, hell. This wasn’t meant to be a column about The Raincoats. I wanted to share with you all that three days ago I listened to Wild Billy Childish’s new Christmas single (recorded with his new band The Musicians Of The British Empire), ‘Christmas 1979’ b/w ‘Ho Ho!’ and both sides are suddenly like my two favourite songs of 2007, no messing around. It ain’t just the raw-assed sound, or the deadpan delivery, or the killer three-note guitar line or the mean ol’, dirty ol’ bass…well, it is…but it’s also way more than that. It’s the way Childish has proved himself, once more, to be the man equal to the task of writing a ‘Louie Louie’, a ‘Girl Like You’ for the Noughties (on both sides!), and STILL no one fucking notices.

Fuck ‘em. I know who I’ll be spending Christmas with this year.

Altogether now…“My father walked in pissed through the door/And chucked the telly across the floor/Then he fell drunk across his bed/And these were the last words he ever said/‘Merry fucking Christmas to you all/Merry fucking Christmas to you all’…”

And the B-side is just as good. The fact it references an old Negro spiritual song that I myself have taken to performing a cappella on stage recently is some bonus.

HUGS AND KISSES TOP 5
Everett’s favourites. No shit.

1. Wild Billy Childish & The Musicians Of The British Empire, “Christmas 1979” (forthcoming Damaged Goods single). Rock-and-roll as it should ALWAYS be played. Full stop.
2. Wild Billy Childish & The Musicians Of The British Empire, “Ho Ho!” (B-side of forthcoming Damaged Goods single). Why the fuck do bands like…delete as applicable. . . even bother?
3. Wild Billy Childish & The Buff Medways, “Have Mercy/Well Well” (from the forthcoming Damaged Goods album XFM Sessions). The same song as the Christmas B-side, repeated twice live: the two versions totally different but totally kick any ass you care to throw their way.
4. Prinzhorn Dance School, “You Are The Space Invader” (DFA single).
The Fall, for beginners.
5. Kate Nash, “Foundations (Metronomy remix)” (CD-r). The Kate Nash it’s OK to like. (Do you see what I’ve done there?)

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