I am writing this hunched over my mum’s computer in sunny Brentford, west London, where I grew up. Right now I am trying to figure out how the hell I am going to ship 18 years of being a total record nerd to San Francisco without going broke. They don’t have Media Mail here, which is totally rotten obviously. I shipped pretty much the same record collection back to the UK from New York for less than a hundred dollars thanks to Media Mail rates in America. I would say I have two to three thousand records I can’t bear to part with, along with a huge pile of essential teenage mix tape-age. I also uncovered a stockpile of desperate misery in fanzine form, in other words the future Scott Moore library of midwestern emo zines. I will ship those to Scott first class so he can put on his The Hated acoustic tape and rock silently and soulfully as he reads about the sorrows of overprivileged youths in expensive liberal arts schools in Ohio circa ’93.
Before I came here I really couldn’t remember what I had, and kind of assumed I would sell most of my records to pay for the super-expensive plane ticket, but I seriously had really good taste in music when I was a youth (And I am not being arrogant! I mean I had Irma Thomas LPs, the FU’s, Albert Ayler, the Fury 7"!) Plus I think I must have already done (and forgotten about!) the great emo unload before I moved back to America, because I don’t really have any bad emo to get rid of and make vast amounts of money off of on eBay. I totally need the Faith 12" on two different color vinyls, you know, to match my cheesy teenage Faith tattoo. And all those post punk records I picked up for 50p at the Brighton Station car-boot sale? The Pop Group? Rip Rig and Panic? I am weighed down by an inherently un-Zen-like pack-rat instinct and two zillion essential records. I am much less consumption-oriented nowadays, but seeing my record collection in all its glory is awakening the old scary impulses and reminding me of the gaps that need filling; I have a feeling when I return to SF I will be haunting the aisles of Amoeba once more looking for the Shop Assistants LP or the Eyes TAQN 7”.
The day before I came here I came upon a huge tape collection abandoned on the street by someone who was clearly a lame-o baby boomer but who also had great taste in music. Thelonious Monk and Elmore James on the same tape? That kind of thing. It kind of blew me away that someone could just abandon their musical history like that, but I guess with the advent of MP3s and mix CDRs tapes are even more redundant than they were when CDs were first introduced. There’s something more appealing about a mix tape than a CDR, though. CDRs are so disposable and plastic, and I know tapes are too, but somehow they hold more meaning than a blank disc of shiny silver. I broke my tape player on my first day back in London and my mum freaked out because apparently you can’t buy tape players here anymore so I guess the tape really has had its day. CDRs and instant internet music libraries somehow devalue musical taste, I think; when you can download the Desperate Bicycles discography in one fell swoop it kind of takes away the meaning of the music and turns it into just another computer file. But then I know a lot of music is just too hard and/or expensive to find on vinyl, and record nerds are mostly creepy dudes who are more into getting one up on each other than sharing their knowledge/making tapes for less knowledgeable people, and the internet wipes that horrible interaction out in one easy swipe.
I remember reading something Tobi Vail wrote in her zine Jigsaw about when she first saw the Shop Assistants discography online and how happy she was knowing that now girls wouldn’t have to cozy up to some creepy dude to update the gaps in their record collection. Just going through all my mix tapes, and seeing all the terrible tapes various dudes made me as I was getting into hardcore reinforced this fact to me. All the random teenage girls I see at like Gilman shows with super-obscure early-‘80s hardcore-band backpatches on their denim jackets will never have to sit in some creep’s living room taping his records because now they can just download them on soulseek or whatever, subtracting the sleazy dude interaction from the equation. Maybe they won’t have the same appreciation for the music, maybe they won’t ever buy the “bad” Gang Green record or whatever, but at least they won’t have to endure the sliminess of the desperate old man/nerdy teenage girl situation.
I remember having a conversation with Nikki from Huggy Bear about how sad she was that teenage girls hadn’t really formed bands in the wake of the Huggy Bear/Bikini Kill UK tour—besides my band. (We put out a split record with Berkeley’s Raooul in like ’94? On Lookout, a CD of which incidentally and bizarrely is selling at the HMV music store in the mall in Hammer-smith; having never been paid the millions clearly owed to us by Lookout, I and the rest of Skinned Teen intend to seek vast amounts of monetary compensation.) Just before I came here I was at the Maximum house as were members of Jump off a Building and Mika Miko (ooohhh, dreamy!) and I had another similar conversation with Michelle of Mika Miko about how rad it was that Finally Punk exists—obviously the first post-Mika Miko band. I kind of wish there were millions of them, teenage girls armed with a Dischord: Year in 7"s tape and some Greg Ginn guitar doom...and maybe there are, because I am not really super in touch with the teenage girl bedroom noise punk rock scene these days. Knowing that Finally Punk may be breaking up because some of the members are abandoning Texas for school/new futures is kind of bittersweet, but you should most definitely check them out. They themselves are not influenced by hardcore boy sound at all; more like they are influenced by Mika Miko who you know have Negative Approach stickers on their guitars or whatevers. But still! Sitting in my teenage bedroom surrounded by Huggy Bear demo tapes and old Sassy magazines and Girl Germs fanzines makes me wish that girls would rule all towns, and that girls would be inspired to form bands by more than say, Sleater-Kinney. Meaning that I wish that girls had my old No Trend/No New York mix tapes rather than just Le Tigre or whatever mid-level indie rock it is that the ladies are getting down to in bedrooms and practice spaces.
One thing I really wish had existed when I was a teenage girl living in London was the Upset the Rhythm collective. Me and my mum were in Rough Trade yesterday hanging out with a member of Hard Skin (oooh! Namedropper!) and I noticed fliers for a ton of amazing forthcoming shows that Upset the Rhythm are putting on, mostly when I will be back in America unfortunately. It totally made me psyched that people are doing things and making shows and bands happen for more reasons than just getting in the NME, which is and always has been a total vampire on the London music scene, reducing possibility and creativity to just another scene to consume and destroy/dismiss. There have always been anarcho-pie shows in the squats and pubs of South and East London, but anything slightly art-damaged or girl-based always seemed to get consumed and destroyed by the indie rock cynics. My theory used to be that the DIY underground people that made up the flexi disc/tape label scene in the ’80s got into rave culture and that’s where the non-anarcho-pie DIY scene got subsumed. Nothing against South London crusties—except they smell and listen to Oi Polloi. I always wanted the underground people here to be into Black Flag and the Shop Assistants, Huggy Bear and His Hero is Gone. Ha! Re-reading this I am struck by the fact that I am totally into punk in the most lame nostalgia-infused way! The eternal good old days robbing my brains of insight and sharpness. At any rate, that’s all I have to say this month.