Wednesday, 8 October 2014

RIP Crystal Castles

Just because we don't feel flesh, doesn't mean we don't fear death...

Crystal Castles have announced they are splitting. Here are my favourite personal memories of listening to one of my favourite bands.

Crystal Castles I
A barrage of screams and screeches, I'd never heard anything like it (and I haven't heard anything as raw since, either. I haven't.) I loved every second. Most people when they are describing hearing one of their favourite albums say how it somehow emulates them, or understands them or the way they were feeling at a particular time.

This album basically came along at a time when I was feeling very, very shit and taught me how to say: "Fuck it, just go mental".

In 2009 I worked in House of Fraser for a posh clothing company to supplement my meagre student loan. The hours were long and the customers were terrifically rude and I hated every second of it. Crystal Castles came to play in Leeds (at the Favisham, of all places) so I booked it off.

I have never been more drunk or had more fun or been in more recovery positions.

There is something about Alice Glass that makes me feel like losing control of yourself is somehow glamorous. I'm sure that's an unhealthy outlook, but occasionally, it's necessary to let loose. I drank straight vodka all night, ruined my brand new monochrome Kurt Geiger brogues, held Alice up as she crowd-surfed and then as far as the photos tell me I spent the remainder of the night laid out on the grass, occasionally being pinched to make sure I was still breathing.

This was followed by the second worst hangover I've ever had.

Haircuts & T-Shirts
I'm not often swayed by famous people into buying into a certain look. however as much as I admired Alice Glass (and still do, to an extent), it didn't occur to me until much later that I somehow acquired her haircut, eyeliner, Terminator t-shirts and stretchy skirt-opaque tights sense of style. It happened organically. I (think) I like that stuff anyway. I guess I just *became* her. She must be my spirit animal.

More T-Shirts
The "Bruised Madonna" t-shirt was my favourite shirt for along time and after I managed to buy one (special limited edition re-print from their MySpace page) and it finally arrived from Canada, I cut the neckline out and I wore it non-stop.

That is until one night myself and a nameless accomplice discovered Savannah cider and danced until 4am.

I awoke the next morning to discover to my dismay that I no longer owned my prized Madonna t-shirt.

Nobody knows where that t-shirt went. Certainly not I, nor my friend who had spent the rest of the night throwing up into my bin. Perhaps the staff of Hi-Fi have it in a frame somewhere behind the bar. I hope so.

Crystal Castles might sound like a bad influence on me, but the truth is, I had needed that outlet. They just gave it to me. It was a harder-edged version of the gospel of Andrew WK and it appealed simply because there was less "being awesome" and more "getting fucked up".

Bruises meant a good night out, hangovers were compulsory, vodka was straight, always straight. In a weird way, I miss those days. They were fantastic, blurred, whirlwind days that can and never will never be replicated.

Goodbye. I hope Alice's solo projects don't embarrass us all by trying to be honest or earnest or anything similarly ridiculous.

Friday, 19 September 2014

You ended up with a No? Think how we feel!

Scotland, we knew the #indyref wasn't personal. You were sick of our government, not of us. We get it. Most of us feel the exact same way.

For the most part the referendum was an exciting display of how democracy can work in the 21st century. Citizens of a free country were revelling in the street over the important decisions they were about to become party to - doesn't it make the world seem like a marginally more livable place?

There's a part of me that feels upset about the whole thing though. Scotland have their own parliament, their own voice and their own strong identity which itself is a link to an ancient past filled with warriors, settlers and lore. I want that.

Being English is generally considered an insult to anyone not concerned with how many English flags are displayed from the front-facing windows of their house at any one time. Displaying Englishness is not only fraught with difficulties - how does one act English? - but identifying as an English person in 2014 brings with it so much baggage we tend not to bother.

I'm not just English though, I'm a Northerner, and being Northern in England is tough. For a country so small it has a Napoleonic complex, England has a vast variety of cultures within it, and barely any of these are fairly represented.

For once I'm not talking about multiculturalism because there are hundreds of people who can write about this important issue far more articulately and knowledgeably than I can. What I'm referring to is the total lack of respect for the North of England. Yeah?

When I look at Scotland now in a post referendum haze, I see something I'm jealous of. I felt the same way when I visited Wales over the summer. These countries are part of the UK but they have separate identities, separate voices, unique cultures and ancient languages. Their populations are made up of people proud to share that individuality, who have a reason to be proud. That's the difference isn't it?

I'm not proud to be English. My country does a lot of things I find despicable and even if it didn't, I wouldn't feel any less unresponsive to the worn-out cliches it calls culture.

The world views England as a country split between posh-speaking moneyed stuttering suits and pissed-up sunburned union-jack swimming shorts. I view it as a North-South divide and despite a near constant reminder that such a thing doesn't exist anymore I can't help myself. It just appears to be getting starker.

People who aren't Northern view us two ways: Patronisingly and with reproach. Northerners are on the whole treated as though there isn't much that goes on in the UK that concerns us, from local concerns like shale gas extraction to global issues like whether or not we go to war with Russia. As part of England it's generally assumed that whatever the government say, we're alright with. We voted them in after all.

Except that we're Labourites for the most part, hell bent on ruining the world with our Unions demanding safer, fairer working conditions and care for the vulnerable. Working 12 hour days for 150 years to fuel the Empire was what we were good for - now as the leaders in British manufacturing we're still seen as unskilled rabble-rousers, good for nothing except a bit of a laugh. Aren't our accents funny?

Viewed as perpetually having a chip on our shoulder, Northern views on Northern issues are generally treated as though we haven't got a bloody clue. The thing is, openly admitting that you think an entire population of 14.5 million people's opinions are null (and that they probably just want to steal your tyres or eat chips and pies anyway) is just a bit xenophobic and we're all pretty sick of it now, if we're completely honest.

I want to live somewhere I feel proud to be a part of. In the North, I do have that, it's just not officially represented. Scotland, you've given me ideas above my station. I want a separate Northern government. You can join if you like. You can teach us all how to be proud of a country for the right reasons again.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

On being 26.

Being just past my mid-twenties has hit me hard and I'm not sure why.

Perhaps it's to do with the fact that I'm edging ever-closer to the doomsday figure of "30". Perhaps it's because I still don't really know what I want my life to be yet. Perhaps it's because I'm suspended between my incredibly immature self and my ready-to-retire self. Perhaps it might even be because I'm older than a lot of my friends. No matter what it is, something is up with me, and it's becoming irritating.

I have two types of friends.

Type 1 says of my continued and increasingly tiresome life crisis: "You're only 26 Katie. You're still very young. You're like Leonardo DiCaprio on the Titanic - you've got a whole world ahead of you. The iceberg is your forties, it's still a way off yet."

Type 2 says: "You're 26? I thought you were our age? Or maybe younger? Wow. You just don't offense, you just seem a lot younger."

I'm not sure which is worse, to be quite honest. On the one hand I could be happy that I'm not yet old enough to consider my age to be a real problem (therefore negating my concerns as needless anxiety and silly worrying), on the other I could be concerned that people in their early twenties recognise me as a somewhat immature member of their club - young enough to get away with finding fart jokes funny and having no idea what to do with my life.

The past couple of years have seen be do a lot of different things in the name of finding out "who I am"; I'm only just realising that this isn't what I've been doing at all. I've been trying to feel like an adult and have tried nearly everything in order to do so.

Turning 26 was unreasonably traumatic for me. I have no idea why. It's not a milestone age - not culturally or personally. It's not a particularly old age to be, nor is it that frustratingly young (I remember being frustrated at how being young never gave me any credibility). It's just an age. It just feels bad.

On my birthday somebody jokingly wrote "Happy 30th!" on my card and I didn't expect my reaction to be so explosive. I imagined that I had skipped forward four years and it freaked me out. This wasn't what my 30th year was supposed to be sitting on top of! I was supposed to be live via satellite somewhere on another continent for the 6 O'Clock News. Imagining sitting at my desk living another day of emails was almost too much to cope with.

It was just a joke though. So let's move on.

Currently going through another unexpected life change, I've realised that the reason my career hasn't gone the way I planned is because my life hasn't been like other peoples. Rather than taking time to mature and flourish, my career has always been a series of brightly interesting explosions, patches in the sky, and as soon as they arrive they vanish, leaving me trying to find something else to inspire and amuse me. I'm always at a crossroads, turning left and right, going to interesting places, but never in a straight line for long.

I've run my own business, I've been a writer, I've worked in social media (a dying career - get out while you can), I've sold medical software technology to NHS trusts (which was my golden ticket to hell, if any of you see me there in a few years and wonder why); I've been a barmaid, a waitress, a baker's assistant, a pot washer and a cook. I've worked in a record shop, a cinema, two different snooty-ass department stores and for a local 'entrepreneur'. I've worked in twelve different cities and been to uni one and a half times.

Sometimes it's better to remind yourself that sometimes it's impossible to set yourself against normal expectations. How would I have had the time in 26 years to do all of that and build a solid career in global journalism at the same time?

I wouldn't. So crack on. On to the next adventure. Let's get it done.
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