- 04 Jan 05
It was a year in which Niall Crumlish found that older is better.
Turning thirty may be a kick in the nuts but there are a few mitigating factors: A) it’s better than the alternative; B) twenty is way worse because overnight ‘Teenage Kicks’ no longer applies to you; and C) when you write about pop music your thirtieth is a liberation of sorts— there’s no way anyone expects you to be cool any more so you don’t have to go around convincing yourself you really, really like Scissor Sisters and Dizzee Rascal and Squarepusher and the Stills/Thrills/Kills cult.
When you’re thirty you’ve heard it all before — but better, of course.
So no longer trusting in callow youth, I looked for my music of 2004 to voices as wizened and wise as possible. Not, now, to Leonard Cohen, whose Dear Heather showed again that he’s the last person who should be allowed to perform Leonard Cohen songs, or to Tom Waits — grunts and clanking noises alone do not a viable aesthetic make.
But Mark Lanegan —“Pack and a half? I go through two lighters a day, dude”— howled hoarsely through the primeval, roaring record of his life in Bubblegum while Mark Kozelek sang a great American novel in Ghosts Of The Great Highway.
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, who have written many magnificent songs but never before made an album I could manage to sit all the way through, black magicked a double, Abattoir Blues / The Lyre Of Orpheus, out of nowhere. By any objective measure this was the artistic feat of the year but life’s not fair and nothing by Nick made me laugh and made me cry like the outrageously great ‘Our Mutual Friend’ from The Divine Comedy’s Absent Friends. Adrian Crowley and Pat Clafferty too made amazing, understated, under-rated records.
The song of the year: ‘Stay Close’ by The Blue Nile, which grabbed and shook you in the way that Kate Bush’s ‘This Woman’s Work’ and American Music Club’s ‘Kathleen’ did and do. AMC’s purulent ‘Patriot’s Heart’ spat out everything that needed to be said about Bush – for all the good it all did.
Elsewhere, the year was made worthwhile by The Streets, Björk, Bonnie Prince Billy’s ‘Agnes Queen Of Sorrow’, David Byrne & Rufus Wainwright, Britney’s ‘Toxic’, Badly Drawn Boy, The Concretes, Jim White’s ‘Static On The Radio’, REM, Joy Zipper, ‘Irish Blood, English Heart’ and (yes) Squarepusher’s ‘Tommib’ from Lost In Translation. Dave Couse’s Colours has yet to appear but will make next year worth waiting up for all by itself.
To end: 2004 would really have ruled had it not kicked off with the suicide of Spalding Gray. A wizard, a true star, a comic and tragic genius and an idol of mine since a wee, terribly impressionable age; here’s hoping the impression he left never leaves. R.I.P.