Music Diary 2012 Day 5
Today I am tired on a scale that I can't even process. I was afflicted with the dreaded insomnia and got about 4 hours of sleep last night, and I'm a walking zombie today. I'm just coming to terms with the fact that my job is actually difficult. This is a good thing - and makes me realise how much I've been sleepwalking through the past couple of years. It's good to be challenged and interested. But it does make functioning on less cylinders than I need an almost impossible challenge.
When I'm sleepless, I misread, misunderstand and sometimes outright hallucinate. So this morning on the bus, skimming over ILX, I somehow managed to hallucinate the existence of an entire Medicine album.
Well, there was a new Brad Laner solo album released about a year and a half ago. And he recently made available an ancient artefact of a live Medicine cassette from the early days of the band. But my sleep starved brain somehow added these two facts and thought that a brand new Medicine album was available on Bandcamp. Not so, not so at all. And it's devastating to have somehow raised mine own hopes like that.
But still, it was enough to make me dig out The Mechanical Forces Of Love and listen to it on repeat today.
God, I love this album. It's just such a weird little artefact, and as much as I love it, I can't shake the feeling that it shouldn't really exist. That it was an odd afterthought that came about almost by accident, almost a decade after the band first broke up - and somehow still ended up as my favourite Medicine album.
Which is saying a lot, because Medicine were one of those bands that I am almost irrationally attached to. They were in so many ways the odd one out of the Shoegaze scene - and not just for the obvious geographical reason of being American instead of coming from the Thames Valley. Mixed in with their blissful wall of noise was a deep love of Prince and psychedelic funk that made their music move from the hips in a way that most shoegaze moved from the shoulders. This was not music that anyone could accuse of being sexless or sterile.
I discovered them completely by accident, when my sisX0r was dating a member of a 4AD band who shall remain nameless - and Medicine were the support band on an incredible bill that also included one of the very first live performances of the band that would become Belly. My whole band (well, all three of us) drove down for the show - and initially were captivated by Medicine because Laner was using the 4-track that we'd recorded all of our music on, as a guitar pedal - the distortion it generated when overloaded was absolutely ferocious. And yet despite the ferocious howling gale of pop noise they produced, they were the most incredibly laid back and friendly group of Californians. I remember taking turns guarding the unlockable loo backstage with their first bassist, Ed. He was incredibly tall, exaggerated by the large woolly hat he wore (complaining that NYC was too cold.) And he did this kind of dance that we called "The Medicine Sway," legs wide apart, hips splayed, back leaning at an impossible angle, and then he would just kind of sway back and forth like tree-branches in a gentle breeze, until we were convinced he was going to fall over at any moment, but somehow stayed upright. I can never hear Medicine without wanting to do that dance. Another tour, another backstage in a tiny college town in Upstate NY, I ended up teaching "The Medicine Sway" to their next bassist, Justin. It was such a thing, we thought he needed to know it.
And there, I'm sitting on the packed 109 bus to Croydon, doing The Medicine Sway in the very back seat. It's just so easy to close my eyes and give in to the music, the disorienting textures of IOI and IM Yrs whizzing about mine ears, the basslines pushing on the bottom of my ribcage, commanding me to move.
Candy, Candy (from the third album, Her Highness) came on just as I got off the bus, and I knew I was going to be late for work. It's one of those songs I've been listening to for 20 years, and it still tricks me every time. It starts off with the most cliched drumbeat and a cheesy 80s synth wash, like the most anodyne and predictable slow jam in the world. And then slowly the layers built up until the entire song just... melts. There's no other way to describe the effect it has. It's like a castle made of ice cream, that just shifts and slips off sideways, and no matter how many times I hear it, it never loses its potency, one of those moments of perfectly magical pop production. And everything around you just disappears, the anonymous office blocks of Croydon just buckle and twist, the whole world sliding away. I stood outside my office for the whole five minutes of the song, right up until the last heartbeats and vinyl crackle of the outro. In a magazine review, I once described this song as "Amon Duul mashed with Madonna" but that doesn't even begin to cover the lysergic strangeness and the unapologetic poptimist sentiment.(Warning: the video is not the full version of the song, but I was so surprised to find that there was a video, I just had to include it.)
It's funny, Medicine used to be one of those bands I was completely evangelical about. That I simply could not accept that anyone didn't like them - because there seemed to be only two reactions - "I've never heard of them" or "OMG I'm obsessed with them." They mixed the things that I loved most in the world - lashings of sugary sweet bubblegum pop, walls of textured noise, and then played it as if it were dance music - not even just the usual nod to EDM, but crate-digging through funk and disco. I could hear and admit the bits that don't work - the occasional slightly leaden foray too far into prog or Beatles homage. (And we really won't talk about the LA-Goth flirtations that somehow landed them a bit part in The Crow.) But they really were one of those cult bands whose cult I was I was actively trying to proclaim to anyone who would listen. They weren't even ahead of their time - they were just in the wrong place, wrong time, but I can't imagine any other place that could have made them.
And it's been lovely walking down memory lane like this, but I really have to die now. I'm barely keeping mine eyes open until a reasonable hour that I can collapse into bed that I won't wake again at 1am, unable to get back to sleep. So I'm going to put on Todd Terje's Snooze For Love and drift away.