31 (noisy) songs
ICP Studios, Belgium; Gun Factory, London
Perfect Sound Forever
Subtitle: The Duration Of Happiness.
How long can a person be happy for? How long can they withstand joy without being exhausted? The question isn’t about how long they would like to be happy (if you asked that, everybody would surely say “forever”). But for how long can a person really take it? Neither am I talking about happiness in its prosaic sense. This happiness is something you can in retrospect attribute to yourself when you are content, or satisfied. Many seem to claim (Zadie Smith came to mind) that joy is not genuine happiness due to its brevity, whereas being generally content bears a wider significance; two objections: first, this brings us to the paradox that one can be a bit depressive and melancholic by one’s own disposition, therefore content, therefore happy and, second, I’m just not interested in that.
So, how long? The answer is, I claim, no more than four minutes and fifty seconds.
Consider Year Of No Light‘s 45 something minutes Ausserwelt album, a densely dark and heavy smog of melancholy and pessimism. It is not only possible, but also essential (due to its unitary nature) that it is listened to from beginning to end, unabridged and unintermittent. You can certainly think of many other examples more relevant to you, but the point here is that we spend a lot of time relishing sad music. It is not just incidental that this reflects what actually life feels like: it’s mostly bad stuff interjected by short periods of joy and happiness, more or less in the same ratio of ten to one respectively.
True, jumping-up-and-down-facing-the-sunlight happiness is like a wave of potent electricity that runs through your body and cannot last longer before it burns you. It is a strong shot of espresso, a sudden zap of life, a short sharp shock of hope and optimism. Necessary as it is fleeting. It is those moments of exultant joy that everybody contends that make the rest of our lives worth living (which is total bollocks, because life is not worth living; it’s just that there is no reason to die either, since you are already alive now). It is like being sling-shot, flying above the clouds and into the light, for a brief few moments defying gravity, before you submerge again revitalized. This is exactly what “End Time” feels like.
A bit about the context is: this is the tenth and final track on Sulk‘s debut album, claiming and entrenching its role by virtue of its anthemic quality, complete with chanting vocals and a relatively longer duration (those four minutes and fifty seconds, in an album of 3-minute pop songs). It comes after “If You Wonder”, a remarkable but short baggy pop rock song with a groovy psychedelic guitar part for the verse and a super catchy tune for the energetic chorus. By the time this one finishes we are hooked, waiting for a grand finale that seems improbable after such a good number. Sulk habitually creates high expectations so as to deliver them later, which thing it invariably does. Cheeky baggers, don’t you think?
The song starts with the bass’s menacing line and a guitar promising an exciting ride to the sky. A few metres later the boot starts to stomp the fast beat that the song rides on and we realize that we are in for a real treat, while our bodies instinctively start moving to it. Some more of their beautifully conceived and executed blend of playfully psychedelic but highly distorted guitar sketches the extremely uplifting character of the song. The vocals on the pre-chorus prepare us for the ignition, which is gloriously delivered a moment later when the chorus explodes with the band in full force, driving a tornado strong enough to lift us above the ground and over the gray sky, into the sunshine. We close our eyes and stare at the sun…
I must admit that I can’t make out the lyrics to the song. Jon Sutcliffe can actually be on about anything other than what I have described above. Which is fine, since I am in the pleasant position of freely imagining Jon saying whatever I want him to. Perhaps a fragment of a story or an experience that he had, some sensation or a feeling, doubtlessly one that is about being strong and hopeful once again. I think that the chorus ends with “the die is cast” (and please don’t correct me if I’m wrong), which I translate into some existentialist assertion, one that invokes acceptance of the human condition and, thus, the unhindered drive to move forward. Which is my own personal bullshit; you can listen to whatever you want on this song.
I will wrap this up now because I am lost for words at the amazing guitar solo, as well as the rest of the song. To tell you the truth, I didn’t think I could get this far with my english anyway. In any case, this is what music is for: the communication of sensations and emotions in such a direct and immediate way that written language would never even dream to accomplish. This, or I’m a dweeb who can’t write for shit. Or both.
 “Graceless”, released on April 2013; if you want, you can read my take on it here, but the text doesn’t do justice to this excellent album. For better written reviews, follow this and this link. Also, I really liked this story.
 Nah, go ahead. I only said so because it stressed my point and looked cooler.