I caught up with Conan at Jane and Pat’s wedding on Saturday and he immediately asked me what I was listening to. It had been a while since we had gone through this ritual.
Conan is a good friend to have, not just because he is charming, incredibly funny and crucially — beautifully mad (just like me I hope). The most glaring reason I thoroughly love Conan is that he is a comic genius. But he’s a comedian that actually laughs. And he has one of those crazy, genetically unique laughs. I was reading about laughter on the QI website recently — pretty crazy stuff.
The other, other reason I thoroughly love Conan is because when he asks you what you are listening to and you have nothing to say, that can be pretty levelling. In other words, Conan keeps me on my toes. There’s a kind of competition amongst music fans. If you’ve got nothing good to say about what you’re into, or nothing that anyone else has a hint of understanding or affection for — well you feel pretty pathetic.
This wholesale investment in new music might be misinterpreted as a type of snobbery — but if you listen to a lot of music, and if you NEED to listen to a lot of new music, you naturally get a bit picky.
Believe it or not — it is quite a job sourcing good new music that you can connect with. And in some ways it gets harder each and every time. The wiser you are, the more you’ve devoured, the more you’ve understood about all kinds of music — the tougher it gets to be inspired. And by inspired I mean that feeling you got when you hooked into a song like “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and your life would never be the same again. Once that vibe is ever-so-much just a dot in the rear-view mirror of your music history you could be forgiven for just shutting-up shop to modern music and just trawling over your back-catalogue like a zombie for the rest of your life.
I saw a hint of that on ABC Breakfast just recently when Virginia Trioli was played a snippet of Tame Impala and instantly dismissed it as having “been done before*” and thus invalid. How sad I feel for you Virginia.
* She thought it was some T-Rex rip-off
WHAT HOPE THERE IS
And so you just might be forgiven for losing hope with music. But it is and adventure you should never lose faith in.
And luckily there are three things that counter this imperative to shut up shop. Firstly your taste in music oscillates just like a sound wave. Sometimes grungy guitar stuff will be your thing, other time electronica, other times folk or whatever. The second thing that really helps is a genuine love of “the element of crap”. Matt from Custard claimed in an interview once that Custard songs were always spiced with this “element of crap”. On the face of it he was self-depricating about their talent and their musical abilities. But I think it went deeper. Although I might be wrong in my interpretation, I wonder if he meant that the ‘element of crap’ was an honest personality put into songs, and changes and words and simplicity that exposed the humanity of the singer/band/writer. And mistakes and originality that conventional music shies away from.
The third thing I will illustrate by way of a bike-analogy I saw somewhere. And it went — “No matter how good you think you are on the bike — someone is always better.” And so no matter how smart about music you think you are — well, there’s always someone smarter. By that I mean, music is a medium that you cannot just let go of it. You need to stay on top of it.
Anyway — back to Conan.
He did another amazing speech. He is a genuine comic. He has a swagger on the stage. Looks entirely confident, although secretly he is a mess of nerves. Smiles all the time like a hyena.
When I had to do our engagement speech I was just in awe of what Conan had done at Tracey and Jon’s wedding and just had to practice and think and write just so I could get at least comparable to what Conan had achieved that night. And obviously he kicked ass last night too. Amazing!
And here’s some SONGS for Conan
Cherry Glazerr: Grilled Cheese
Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger : Too Late
Harlem: Gay Human Bones
War on Drugs: Under the Pressure
Let’s Wrestle: Rain Ruins Revolution
Bass Drum of Death: Leaves
Tegan and Sara/Lonely Island/Lego : Everything is Awesome
Mac DeMarco: Passing out Pieces
Hookworms: Form and Function
Strfkr: While I’m Alive
Barbaganouj: Too Late For Love