Lockdown is tough on everyone. All of our freedoms have been snatched from us, our TV sets and streaming services help a little, but the more adverts I see telling me to #StayAtHome the more I want to scream. No-one wants to overwhelm our NHS, but of course if The Tories hadn’t slashed it to shreds and resourced it the way it deserved, then we wouldn’t have this fear of crashing the service. But me? I’m a mixture of relentless cynicism tempered by brief moments of giddy hopefulness. There are things I can do here at home while waiting for the Lockdown limbo to end. I can write, of course. Thank God I can write. I’ve been working on a new novel. 40,000 words into it (I’ve plotted for 70,000 words) and I’m so happy with it. I can’t tell you how much I love what I’m doing. As writers know, that isn’t always the case. Other things are making me happy. Books. Music. Movies. TV shows. I thought today I’d post a little list. Who knows? They might make you happy too.
Last night, in the early hours of the morning, Fiona Apple’s new album Fetch The Bolt Cutters appeared. I stayed up to listen. There can’t be no doubt that she’s one of America’s greatest songwriters. I’ll write about this record properly at some point. My first impressions of it would be that it’s lyrically tight and musically loose. It’s a masterpiece. I knew it would be. Fiona Apple has never failed me. She is always relevant.
I’ve spent a bit of time listening to Slater. He’s part of The Garden’s Vada Vada collective, a group of artists under a banner of creative expression (which seems obvious of any artistic collective actually) who release eccentric lo-fi pop music. Slater’s gonzo approach of indie rock mixed with white-boy rap and synthpop works better than you might expect.
The best song on Slater’s recent album is Jonah Hillz. Here’s a suitably low budget video.
Ringo Deathstarr’s self-titled new album is everything you want from them, or at least everything I want from them. I’m such a fan of this band. They’re a hits package of all my favourite ’80s shoegaze bands. Gazin’ is a standout on the album. So is this one:
Jimothy Lacoste put this song out last month. He never ever fails to cheer me up. I find him hilarious, actually. Which isn’t to say he’s a comedic artist. He’s simply doing his own thing with complete conviction. His entire aesthetic is so uniquely his own that I almost know what to expect when he drops a video onto YouTube. I appreciate that he takes the music seriously, not himself. An album would be really welcome right now. His bright bops, spoken word delivery, and garish pop promos are expertly put together.
In the last month I’ve read the following books: Alma Cogan by Gordon Burn, which is the most unflinching look at the artificiality of fame and the horrors of The Moors Murderers. One chapter in particular made me put the book down for a few moments, just to centre myself before returning. It’s both an audacious and sometimes uncomfortable experience – and unforgettable. When Hilary Mantel said this was the book she always wished she’d written, I knew it would be something. I read The Beach by Alex Garland, which was every bit as good as I’d hoped. I remember when it was a zeitgeist book on release and I always meant to read it. This Lockdown gave me a chance to finally get through it. Me & Mr. Cigar by Gibby Haynes. I’ve also read Jane (A Murder) by Maggie Nelson, The Pisces by Melissa Broder, and The Honjin Murders by Seishi Yokomizo. I’m looking forward to Creeping Jenny by Jeff Noon and The Five Books Of (Robert) Moses by Arthur Nersesian, which clocks in at 1504 pages, but I love Arthur Nersesian so much that his epic will be pure pleasure for me. As of now, Happiness Is Wasted On Me is still coming out on 28th May on paperback and digital. Please pre-order it, so I can continue to live in the means I’m accustomed.
I’ve watched Zazie Dans Le Metro, a French new wave movie about a drag queen and his niece, based on the classic French novel. I enjoyed it a lot. Pure fun slapstick.
I watched Irma Vep, which tells the story of Maggie Cheung (playing herself) going to France to make a movie only to be plunged into the backstage pettiness of a fractious crew, all of whom can’t understand a word Maggie says, who herself can’t understand them. Weirdly, it works. Sonic Youth soundtrack the trailer.
I also watched Run Lola Run which is the closest to running I’ll get.
I’ve watched lots of The Real Housewives, including my favourite The Real Housewives of New York. You couldn’t write that sort of comedy. It’s amazing. I watched Doctor Who, with Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor. I wish I could travel with her, because she’s so happy and excitable and genuinely joyous. No lengthy speeches from her, just a Doctor with a zest for travel and fun. I’ve been watching lots of Four In A Bed, Channel 4’s petty B&B review show. Also, Making The Cut on Amazon Prime. It’s Project Runway with a bigger budget.
These are a few of the things that have kept me from bouncing off the walls of my house, which wouldn’t be good because the walls are (of course) made of concrete.