My wife’s nephew popped by yesterday and drank us out of apple juice. Whilst doing this he spoke, as he often does, of American ‘rock’ music.
Now, music and I have never kept close harmony. A bit of Bartok whilst I’m in the bath; Mozart whilst mowing the lawn; Puccini when cooking pasta: otherwise, I’m not really the musical type.
This extends to music containing words. I can stand opera, on the whole, when I don’t understand what it is they’re talking about. Popular songs, on the other hand, drive me up the wall. They seem to me the epitome of banality, trading in cheap rhymes and false sentiments; words manipulated, curdled and spoiled by the cursed blanket of tunefulness. Sickening stuff.
My wife’s nephew, needless to say, disagrees. He simply adores songs; following various bands with the sort of enthusiasm I reserve for Western Hungarian folktales. ‘You should hear this,’ he squeals; ‘this is unbelievable’; ‘this music will blow your mind’; ‘this is the best thing ever’ – and so on and so forth. All very exciting, I’m sure. It’s just I can’t seem to get excited by a man mumbling over a droning guitar.
I do enjoy, however, the discussions that our differences engender. Though I find it hard to like his music, I certainly like talking about it. I can even see, at times, what it is he likes about it. I perceive its likeability, but I cannot enter it.
Yesterday, for instance, he was talking at length about the lyrics of a particular American band – whose style he termed ‘literary’. I was unconvinced, of course, by the literary merits of said scruffy musical outfit, but I heard him out nonetheless. And though I reserve my judgement as to the ultimate truth behind his statement, I will at least say this: my interest, once again, rose like a loaf.
The singer in question, he said, had a habit of repeating certain lines; not in the chorus (i.e. the ‘rousing bit’) but in the verse (i.e. the ‘bit before the rousing bit’). There was no pattern to his repetitions. Indeed, he wasn’t even sure he approved of them. It was as if, he said, the singer merely wanted to show off a good line twice.
‘Oh yes?’ said I. ‘Sounds like we have a bit of an Edgar Francine on our hands’