I’ve decided not to try and get back on Twitter again. With Elon Musk wanting to buy it (though he could be bottling out) and saying he’ll give Trump his account back I thought fuck that for a game of soldiers.
Instead I’ve moved to Instagram (or “the ‘gram” as I believe the kids call it) where so far I mostly posting design stuff like old magazine covers. So if you’re in those parts give me a follow here and I’ll follow you back if I like the cut of your jib.
Didn’t think I’d be writing another blog post anytime soon to be honest, but if you are one of my Twitter followers and have maybe been wondering where I’ve disappeared to (or maybe you haven’t), this is the only way I can think of to explain what happened: The week before Christmas I was permanently suspended from Twitter for the comment below.
Those of you familiar with the movie Clueless will recognize both those comments as quotes from this scene in it.
But I guess if you haven’t seen the movie or you’re a bot programmed to flag certain words and phrases it might look like I’m randomly telling someone I want to shoot them in the head. A couple of hours later I got the following email from Twitter.
So I did what they said and appealed, explaining what the context of my comment was and even including a YouTube link to the scene above. I also pointed out that Alyssa had LIKED my reply so clearly she knew what I meant and that I wasn’t being malicious or threatening in any way. Their response to my perfectly reasonable (and true!) explanation was to tell me I was suspended for good.
I have appealed again, basically making the same points and telling them if they actually looked at my account they would see that the idea I would seriously threaten to shoot someone is ridiculous. I got a boilerplate reply saying they will continue their review but nearly two weeks later I haven’t heard anything and my Twitter feed has this at the top.
So I’m assuming that’s that.
I’m probably going to start a new account once I figure out how to keep my identity secret but, to be honest, there is a little voice in my head telling me I’m better off without being on Twitter — the past couple of weeks off it have been kind of nice and I’ve got a lot of reading done.
But who am I kidding? Of course I’ll be back. It may be a hellscape of arseholes and idiots but it’s worth it for the tiny percentage that isn’t. Besides, where else am I going to flog my T-shirts?
Good new releases seemed a bit thin on the ground for the first few weeks of 2021, but now a bunch of them have come along all at once so I thought I’d throw them all into one post. It never rains but it pours.
Private Life – Virginia Wing. Post-punky, avant-garde pop. Like something John Peel would’ve played in 1980 but shiny enough you don’t need to be an angsty teenager to enjoy it.
So…. 2020, that was something wasn’t it? Everything was coloured by the pandemic and lockdown, so even if the records below had nothing directly to do with it our responses to them were shaped by it. On the plus side, being a prisoner in your own home did give you a chance to listen to a lot of music.
Future Nostalgia – Dua Lipa
What’s Your Pleasure? – Jessie Ware
Róisín Machine – Róisín Murphy
Seeking Thrills – Georgia
In a year when none of us could go out clubbing it was a cruel irony that the best albums were dance records which, as a result, came across like hymns to a lost world. But being denied the communal joy of a nightclub didn’t make them any less great, even if dancing around your living room didn’t have quite the same thrill. Whether you like swishy disco beats or ravey techno these albums had something for everybody who loves club music, and it was a pleasure to hear some proper fat basslines. Though there was barely a cigarette paper’s width of quality between them I’d give the slight edge to Dua Lipa for the way she channeled 80s dancepop and imperial-phase Madonna with an album that was wall-to-wall catchy bangers.
Fetch The Bolt Cutters – Fiona Apple
Though recorded before the plague arrived this seemed to hit the zeitgeist right between the eyes. Its primitive, percussive sound captured the claustrophobic stress of the year and its title track — “Fetch the bolt cutters, I’ve been in here too long” — became a meme about breaking out of the shitty situation we were in. A fierce record that grabbed you by the shoulders and gave you a good shake, it sounded like it was a cathartic experience to make as much as it was to listen to.
Untitled (Black Is)/Untitled (Rise) – Sault
The other big story of the year was the growth of Black Lives Matter into a global movement following the death murder of George Floyd. In that context, the speed with which Sault put out two double albums seemed like they were directly responding to it, and the mystery surrounding who Sault actually are gave them the feel of urgent messages from the underground. With a clenched fist on its cover, Black Is was the more angry and defiant-sounding, while the praying hands of Rise were on a more uplifting record, and both were also proud celebrations of black culture in the way they painted with the full palette of black music from Afropop to soul, disco, spoken word, and Hip-Hop. A pair of astonishingly rich albums.
How I’m Feeling Now – Charli XCX Folklore/Evermore – Taylor Swift
Three albums conceived and recorded during lockdown — one very publicly on social media and the others in strict secrecy – that were different sides of how we reacted to being stuck at home: Charli’s was all anxious and jittery nervous energy that bounced off the walls, and Taylor’s felt like curling up under a blanket with a mug of hot chocolate. Charli showed what a risk-taking ball of creative energy she is even under hothouse conditions, while Taylor stepped away from the big pop machine of her career for some gentle and beautifully-crafted story songs. Of the two I probably spent more time relaxing in Taylor’s cozy world, but remain thrilled by Charli’s adventures in 21st century pop.
Women In Music Pt. III – Haim
I’ve mostly been a bit meh on Haim in the past, finding their breezy, summery rock to be OK but not all that engaging. But they really upped their game and found several new gears on their excellent third album. The trio have all being dealing with various types of shit recently and it shows in the more personal depth of the songs and there’s a willingness to mess up their sound with new and rougher elements that gives it an edge they’ve not had before (at least to my ears). They still write fantastic pop hooks and sound effortlessly Californian but now the weather forecast is a bit more mixed.
Other records I loved in 2020 but was too busy moving house to write about: Song For Our Daughter — Laura Marling The Slow Rush — Tame Impala Far From Home — Aubrie Sellers Grae — Moses Sumney Heavy Light — U.S. Girls Girlhood — Girlhood
It’s important in these dismal times to have something to look forward to and hearing good new music can make it worth getting out of bed in the morning. So I thought I’d do one of these posts because I’ve not done one in a while. Here’s a few albums that have recently floated my boat.
Marie Davidson is a Canadian artist known for electronic club music but her new album Renegade Breakdown takes a swerve into an eclectic mix of deadpan 80s synth-funk and French chanson. Tres bon!
Sad13 is the name Sadie Dupuis of Speedy Ortiz uses for her solo work. Her second release Haunted Painting is a terrific indie pop record chock full of sounds, ideas, and fun in a freewheeling way that reminds me of Caroline Rose’s Loser.
It’s ironic that in a year when none of us can go to nightclubs some of the best albums have been aimed at dancefloors. Dua Lipa and Jessie Ware have both put out album of the year contenders packed with throbbing and swishy beats, while Róisín Murphy has raised the bar with her magnificent new long player Róisín Machine. Just a pity that we can only dance in our living rooms at the moment.
Design guru, retail and restaurant entrepreneur, and founder of Habitat stores Sir Terence Conran died over the weekend. It’s not an exaggeration to say he changed the way the British lived, and the way our houses and flats (and restaurants) look now is in large part due to him. His philosophy was that good design should be accessible to everyone and, before IKEA came to our shores, Habitat was where we bought well-designed, modern furniture and household goods at reasonable prices. Habitat did flat-pack furniture before them too.
The first Habitat opened on the Fulham Road in 1964 just as the country was about to climb out of drab, post-war austerity and start swinging. The stores were bright and modern, played pop music, and Conran sold a type of design that was new to Brits: simple Scandinavian furniture (there was a lot of pine) rustic French kitchenware, and minimal Japanese paper lampshades which were bought by the aspirational young generation who were the first to have holidays abroad and wanted some of that Continental sophistication in their own lives, not the ugly, old-fashioned crap their parents had. He introduced the nation to exotic items like woks, chicken bricks, modular shelving, and duvets — no more nylon sheets and blankets! — perfect for the professional young boys and girls about town who were getting their own flats or shacking up together.
We had that wooden corkscrew bottom right in the above photo, and just seeing it gave me a Proustian rush back to my youth which just goes to show you how much meaning can be imbued in even the simplest objects (Conran understood that). They probably made thousands of those but it had a simple, artisnal quality that made you think it had been hand-made by some old man in a Provence cottage. I’m sure it made my mum feel positively bohemian when she used it to open a bottle of Mateus Rosé.
When I got my first flat on my own in the late 80s I bought a couch and bed (and a duvet of course) from Habitat and felt enormously proud and grown-up to be furnishing my own place. They stayed with me through the next two places I lived and, far as I know, that couch could still be where I left it in a house in Hammermsith. OK, probably not but it’s a nice thought.
So what have you been doing with yourself during lockdown? There’s a show-off side to social media that can make it look like everyone is baking bread and writing King Lear while teaching their kids Chinese, but of course that’s bollocks. If you’re anything like me you’ve just been going crazy working from home, taking walks, drinking more than usual, and shouting at your kids to stop playing video games.
Time feels like Shrödinger’s Cat existing in two states at once at the moment, simultaneously flying by (it’s August!) while it also seems like we’ve been living this way forever. No wonder we all feel discombobulated and in limbo. Chances are I’m going to be working from home until early 2021 so this is life for the forseeable for me. I’m luckier than most in that I have a job but it’s still hard on the brain and the soul, six months is a long time to live like this and I’ve had my moments of depression and cabin fever — not to mention the anger I feel when I think this could have been almost over by now if we had competent leadership.
There’s something about working from home that is way more tiring than going to an office. Maybe it’s the cheap IKEA chair I’m sitting in, but my brain and body are mush by the end of the day and I don’t have the energy to do anything else. It’s taken me two months just to write this blog post. I’m afraid we can’t all be Charli XCX and Taylor Swift who made us all look like slackers by recording entire new albums while stuck at home. I have designed a few new t-shirts, but mostly when I finish working I just want to lay on the couch, close my eyes, and turn my brain off completely. What I really want to do is close my eyes and not wake up until this is all over.
Do you remember other people? I know they could be dickheads but I do miss them. Squeezing in between them on the bus, avoiding eye contact on the train, rubbing shoulders at a concert, sharing a long table at a restaurant, talking drunken bollocks with them in a bar.
The borders of my life are currently reduced to being at home with my wife and two kids and I feel a little like we’re the family in A Quiet Place, a self-contained unit keeping to ourselves for the sake of our survival. I don’t know how I would have dealt with this if I was on my own, probably gone a little potty though it might have been like being a teenager again: spending too much time on my own, listening to music, and a lot of wanking.
Even before all this happened there was a drift toward people doing everything online, even basic things like buying groceries, and I hope that when this is over people might start to appreciate human contact again instead of interacting with the world through a screen. Not putting my house on it though.