Isolation. Or how Lauren Laverne and The Lounge Society saved my life.
Fair warning dear reader, this may get bleak in points and you may even wonder what on earth it is doing on the pages of 3 Songs and Out, but I promise you, it has a happy ending, and it’s kind of relevant..
I realise that I am far from alone in this but the “current context”, this “unprecedented situation”, this whatever term you want to use, has got me into a bit of a rut. I am currently a stay at home dad to two youngish children, who demand constant attention from me, while my wife is at work, and it’s not actually left me that much time for myself. When this virus began creeping across the nation, encircling our camps, forcing us to retreat further and further until we hid cowering, I was- well, quite excited actually. I’m a bit of a homebody at heart nowadays, and this gave me the excuse to gather my brood under my wings and retreat into safety. Oh the fun we would have, the camping and campfires in the garden, the opportunity to educate my children in a much more child centred and forward thinking way than is allowed by schools who are forced to stick slavishly to a ridiculously packed National Curriculum. We started, along with millions of others, leaping around the living room and following the Joe Wicks workout, exploring our garden, getting the children to help with all the odd jobs that we couldn’t find time for in our hectic modern lives, and generally having a lovely time.
And then it started to turn sour. Now before I continue, I would like to point out that I am well aware that there are tens of thousands of people who would kill to be in my position, who instead of staying home have had to work in dangerous situations without adequate protection, have felt pressured to turn up for work when not well, and have generally been out in that big bad world whilst it was turning to shit, many more find themselves in uncertain financial situations due to being furloughed or even losing all forms of income; this is not my lot, I am working at home on full pay. Mine is very much a first world problem, I get that, and I’m sorry, but there you go. The children began to lose interest in the fun activities and alternative learning I was offering, or maybe I did, I forget now. Whatever, the lure of the tablet, the console or the telly became one against which I could no longer compete. I found myself retreating to the housework as the children became comatose in the front room, and I pootled about procrastinating, cleaning stuff, cooking, or procrastinating. And I’d listen to the radio whilst I did it. Now, we’re normally a 6 Music kind of house (I am a 6 Music Dad and I’ve come to terms with that, so bite me) but I found myself being drawn to news radio programmes, becoming more and more engrossed in the minutia of the ”current context”, this “unprecedented situation”. I discovered I didn’t really want to listen to music that much. I also had no appetite for writing, or for other creative outputs; I should have had more time on my hands as I wasn’t going to work, but instead I found I had less time for things I enjoy on an individual level. Don’t get me wrong, I love my kids, I love my wife, but I really enjoy other stuff too, and I found I had a decreasing appetite for that. As is so often that case, our loved ones notice that there’s a problem before we do. My wife would come home and catch me listening to LBC News, I’d mutter my apologies and turn it over, but it was a regular occurrence. I even found myself changing the channel back to 6 Music when I knew her return was imminent, so she wouldn’t know my dirty little secret. Eventually she staged an intervention- she had just come home and found me listening to Nigel Farage’s radio show (even as I type this, I am screaming WHAT THE FUCK, JON? NIGEL FUCKING FARAGE?? But the problem had got so bad, I couldn’t see what was right in front of me) and she told me that I needed to stop. So I stopped, and Tuesday morning I forced myself to listen to Lauren Laverne as I got the kids’ breakfasts ready and steeled myself for the inevitable arguments about brushing their teeth before they come downstairs. Lauren played The Fall’s excellent ‘Totally Wired’, which is a great record, and the closing lines “I’m always worried, I’m always worried, I’m always worried” seemed to strike a particular chord with me.
And then it happened “and if you liked Totally Wired, I daresay you’ll enjoy this, they’re from Hebden Bridge and they’re called The Lounge Society, this one’s ‘Generation Game’”. Now I spent my formative years in the West Riding of Yorkshire, and the idea of the Calder Valley having a scene that’s producing some of the coolest music at the moment, from the likes of The Orielles and Working Men’s Club, fills me with a mixture of hometown pride and a slight bemusement, as it seemed anything but cool when I were a lad. The Lounge Society are clearly making waves, this particular track was produced by Dan Carey- a producer whose Wikipedia page reads like a who’s who of modern alt-musical icons (as well as some pop icons at the start of his career), most recently he has worked with Fontaines DC, Warmduscher and Black Midi. Anyway, I digress. What followed was five and a half minutes of amazingness, a stripped back introduction, building in layers, until the vocal meanders its way into view- I can see why Laverne likened them to The Fall, but there’s also something cinematic about the nature of these opening gambits, like The Doors’ ‘The End’ at the beginning of Apocalypse Now, there’s a sense of impending doom in the delivery- it’s measured yet urgent, this is important. And there’s an anger there, kept under control, but a seething anger at the way society is happy to be ignorant, how money makes us no better off than those in authoritarian states, and that anger builds and builds before dropping away for an atmospheric, complete change of tempo, blissed out section, that finally builds into the crashing finale. I remember the first time I heard The Velvet Underground’s ‘Murder Mystery’; being completely blown away by the ambition, the cleverness, the style, and the complete head fuckery of it all. Well this left me with the same feeling, the feeling that I had completely been transported somewhere else by a piece of music, tossed around in a barrel being thrown off a waterfall, and then just spat out at the end, discombobulated but exhilarated, gasping for air but euphoric. And just like that I was back to normal. Music rescued me from my malaise. So, if you’re feeling a bit shit about the “current context”, and this “unprecedented situation” is getting you down, may I respectfully suggest that you allow music to take you by the hand, lead you away from this world of madness and sadness, find some space to put your headphones on, and just allow it to heal you. Oh, and listen to The Lounge Society because they’re fucking mint.
Written by Jon Stokes