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Sunday, 15 April 2012

~Kitten Wine~#33: Awakenings prt1: Tonight Were Gonna Party Like It's 1998

As I seem to point out in every Blog these days, the 1990s weren't a very good time for me, whether it be musically, culturally or personally. However, in the next couple of Blogs I'm going to take a look at the tail-end of the 90s and how it became one of the most important times of my life, and how two album released in the death-rattle of that horrid decade soundtracked my re-awakening and re-entry back into reality.
We begin in the Spring of 1998 with a look at 'Recorded In State', an album by the band Scott 4....

Without sounding like a stuck record, the 1990s began badly....then got worse.
As I've stated many times, I was stricken by depression in the Autumn of 1991, a weird, scary, debilitating depression linked to OCD that affected me for much of the rest of that decade, and which still raises it's ugly head every now and then.
For three years I battled against it in vain, but in 1994, after it had destroyed yet another relationship I was in, I simply gave in and decided to shut myself away. It was November 1994, and after over a decade of going out most nights of every week, I decided to stay inside and hide myself away from everything. It would make everything a little safer at least. For the next four years I practically became a recluse, hiding away from the world, drinking too much wine, and watching virtually nothing but Exploitation movies, video nasties, Spaghetti Westerns and Laurel & Hardy videos. I seemed to have lost all interest in music...all I seemed to listen to was Morrissey, Pulp and Tindersticks. And I never went to any gigs any more. It was four years of pretty unhealthy living.

Then, in March of 1998, something strange happened, completely out of the blue. I got set up on a blind date. Despite my protestations and digging my heels in, I gave in and went reluctantly on the date. It was the first time I had been out on a Friday night in nearly four years.
So there I was....out on a date with a girl called Alice(here I should point out that this is not her real name, though it is pretty close. It's just that I don't know who reads this Blog and I don't want to cause any offence or embarrassment). The date went okay, if a little trepidatious on my part, and we decided to meet up again. By about the third or fourth date it was becoming clear that this was a girl who was pretty wild, and who had no inhibitions regarding sex, drugs or partying. To say it was a culture shock was something of an understatement....after 4 years of celibate seclusion to find myself in the centre of the whirling vortex that was Alice was a reality check that hit like a bucket of ice-water. She looked like a hybrid of Phoebe from Friends and Traci fact if you've seen the cover of Pulp's 'This Is Hardcore', she looked like the girl on the cover of that. And let's just say she didn't just look like Traci Lords.....

So the Spring of 1998 became a pretty wild time, leaving me well out of my comfort zone. I've often felt, now with hindsight, that this was exactly what I needed to happen....something to shake me out of the torpor I had found myself in. Had I just dated another of the type of girls I had been with in the past, I probably would have allowed the depression and doubts to take over again. But to have the yolk that made me reclusive completely shattered from me was such a revelation and such a culture shock that it sprung me back into life. For the first time in years I was going to clubs, discos and parties; songs like 'Intergalactic' by the Beastie Boys, 'Ray Of Light' by Madonna, 'It's Like That' by Run DMC & Jason Nevins, and even 'Because We Want To' by Billie soundtracked these sudden and unexpected wild nights. But it was an odd, strangely downbeat album by a band I knew very little about that seemed to score that whole period, and an album which even now evokes everything about that mad time with Alice....

I knew nothing about the band Scott 4 except that they were named after a Scott Walker album and that they were a trio from London. Reviews in the music papers aligned them with definitely 'non' British music forms; Southern Blues, Krautrock, Hip-hop beats and Kraftwerkian electronics were liberally sprinkled through the articles. The album, 'Recorded In State', has an unusual, drowsy, sour-mashed, four-in-the-morning feel that seemed to cling to me, as if it was allowing me to have a good time yet constantly reminding me that a Serotonin drop was always just around the corner.
Lead single 'East Winter' is probably an ideal starting point; over a precise electronic rhythm there's a hip-grinding bar-room swagger.....  

Strangely, it's the more laid back, almost somnolent tracks that really provoke vivid Proustian recollection upon re-listening these years later. Take, for instance, the song 'Aspirins'; over a Country-ish twang, singer Scott Blixen delivers a lo-fi Neil Young impersonation of a vocal, a vocal that hangs in the air like a narcotic heat haze on the horizon, "You're a piece of shit// You will deserve it....yeah". I always loved the way he delivers that line and it still causes some jag of recognition inside me from somewhere. In normal circumstances I would have never gone anywhere near a girl like Alice, someone so free-spirited and uninhibited because I always like to have some order in my life, and because if I fell too heavily for her I could have gotten really hurt badly. Yet somehow I knew it wasn't going to be a long term relationship, and I think we just took all that we could get from each other while it was up for grabs(which is not meant to sound disrespectful, as I'm sure she felt the same way). So when Scott drawls, "You said the last time....was the last time", I could relate it to this very situation....I knew it would end, I just didn't care!

Often, after we'd either been out clubbing or had been at some especially toxic party, there was always that strange period when we got back to her flat, and for a few moments we would chill out....the calm between two storms in a sense. That's where the track 'Philly's Song' comes in....probably the song that most strongly encapsulates, for me, that whole time, "Your night-dress hangs so pleasantly// Around your hips and shoulders" goes the opening line, but it's the recurring refrain of "There's soul tonight// It's not mine by right" that just transports me back to that flat; the moments of anticipation followed by the sense of intense heat, lying awake in her bed while she was sound asleep and I was wondering quite how I ended up in this unexpected situation....

Obviously the relationship was NEVER going to last. Almost from day one my friends would advise me that "She's not the girl for you, mate", and I knew what they meant and none of it really bothered me. It ended with an upbeat giggly phone call, and the last transaction between us was a postcard from Florida. And that was it. I never regretted anything nor felt bad in any way when it was over. All I did feel was a sense of days locked away in bedroom were over and, as Jarvis Cocker once sang, "It doesn't make no sense, no// It's not convenient, no// It doesn't fit my plans, but I've got that taste in my mouth again!"....and I did! I was back in the game and those few short hedonistic months with Alice had me fired up ready to take on the world again.
The Summer that followed was like a return to my teenage years, and sure, the depression would always be there somewhere like sniper waiting to take me out, but for now it could go and fuck itself. The Summer of 1998 was a long, balmy and indeed barmy one, and would be the last I would spend as a free man(something I obviously didn't know at the time), so it was spent in a blaze if glory.
And as Scott Blixen sings on 'Miss Godess Nr.2', "I ain't seen no sunshine// Since I don't know when// And I'm stuck in my own prison"....that line resonates deeper than anything else I heard in music that year....because I had been stuck in a prison of my own making..... 

And Alice Uninhibited set me free....

Thanks Alice!


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