Friday 16 February 2018

Songs for Cities

Songs for Cities

Every so often I get the urge to make a mixtape and, having been long ago released from the constraints of the C-90 these have tended to become long sprawling beasts which, if released into the wild are too unwieldy to be of much interest to anybody else. Doesn't matter as long as I enjoy them though, so nothing changes this time.

I had started a playlist on the theme of cities and there were around ten songs and I decided to listen to it - but by the time I had played the ten songs I had added another 100. I've been messing around with the order and after a few attempts at finding thematic or musical links I moved to geography, focussing on Dublin, London and New York in a sort of anglophone ascending order of distance. After that there is whatever remained of my earlier attempts at organisation, in other words a mish-mash.
I guess I made it to go along with the irregular bouts of nostalgic melancholia which cities seem to rouse in my head. Dublin, as the city which has played by far the biggest part in my life, and which I still regularly visit is now as much made of memories as brick and glass and concrete. What was seems always to be pushing through the boundaries of what is. Places I lived, worked, attended and played gigs have disappeared but still exert a gravitational pull on my senses. Other places have survived, some now seeming like endangered species, still quivering prey sitting quietly hoping to avoid the avaricious eye of the slavering, reanimated green, white and gold tiger that stalks the streets.

In the face of the increased wealth and conspicuous consumption it is disheartening to see the increased signs of homelessness and the harried faces of people clearly finding that their budgets attempts to meet their aspirations are like Joyce's pier, a disappointed bridge.

I wish my daughter and her generation had, like I did, the opportunity to live cheaply in the city. The stories of people calling rooms overcrowded with bunks and shared with total strangers 'home' are dispiriting. Whatever about heat, light, plumbing etc surely the first thing you want in a home is a door you can close on the world and a space to call your own.

When I think of the Dublin of my youth it was full of cheap (if often nasty) flats where you weren't catapulted onto the hamster wheel of having to earn money simply to exist. This is necessary for the energy and experimentation that drives the cultural scene. In the Dublin of the eighties, Temple Bar, the area now deemed the 'cultural quarter' first became a cultural hub because, having been designated a development site for a bus terminus the buildings were let deteriorate and were only available on short term leases. These were cheap and artists and musicians could find studio and rehearsal space right in the centre of the city. You could always hear bands as you walked around and see people in paint spattered clothes.

Anyway, I hope someone else, somewhere, enjoys this metropolitan sprawl.


  1. Wow, almost eight hours of music! I emailed the mixcloud link to myself so I can start listening on my long urban commute this evening. I have a secret hope that Translator's "Everywhere That I'm Not" is in this collection.

    In the 80s I lived in Denver, where you could be right downtown and live cheap with all the other punks and artists. Directly north of the business district, bands could rent rehearsal rooms in converted warehouses and factories, gloriously filthy and noisy places that were awake 24 hours a day. You could get by on a part time job. If you shared an apartment, you could afford to eat out regularly at the cheap diners in the neighborhood. All of this is gone now and the neighborhood is gentrified and ungodly expensive. Most of the places my old bands played have been torn down and replaced by condos. The same thing has happened, more or less, in Seattle where I live now. The grunge scene of the 90s could never grow up and out of today's Seattle. But I tell myself that kids will always make art and music somewhere, anywhere. Frustration, cheap beer, and electricity.

    1. Translator are not in the collection I'm afraid Scott, and are totally new to me. Slightly reminiscent of The Go-Betweens on first listen. Not a bad thing!
      Here's to frustration, cheap beer, and electricity.