To The Trained Eye There Are No Coincidences

Some people are happy enough to live their life in silence, with just the ambient sounds of human existence to provide the soundtrack to their comings and goings. I am not one of those people. I am aware that there are people who cannot work with music playing, that it is too much of a distraction. I am not one of those people; quite the opposite, I cannot get through a set of tasks without music.

If I don’t have music playing while I am doing my job I slip in to a malaise, where I feel like I have done something deeply wrong, for which I must be punished. If I have music playing, my levels of productivity rise, and my ability to focus on my job rises to peak levels. If I am listening to music I find domestic chores a relative pleasure, and something which I am able to give myself over to.

I am currently bored to the back teeth of all of the music in my collection. This displeases me. All of my old favourites turn to ash in my mouth. All of my recent acquisitions – about which I was so excited last month – raise barely a glimmer of joy. One song, which I had been in raptures over has now been overplayed to such an extent that I no longer see why it was so exciting in the first place.

This is not the first time I have been struck by such a malady. The cure is often rather expensive, and takes more time to explore than I currently have at my disposal. It can take the form of searching through Amazon Prime albums, and YouTube for something I have never listened to before, and seeing if it hits the spot. It often doesn’t, but that’s part of the process: I can’t like everything.

It can also take the form of opening up my old computer and transferring some music from it which I was a fan of when I was growing up. Bands which are favourites for quite a while fall out of favour for a decade or so, only to be resurrected years later, to bring fresh joy to my ears. Those choices do come from an inner urge, however, and I have no such inner urges at the moment. It’s just blank.

I’m very busy with both work and life at the moment, so what I need is a soundtrack to propel me forward. What I do not need is to be stopping every five minutes to skip through half a dozen songs to find one “which will do”. I stood outside the Co-op for an absolute age yesterday doing precisely that. I don’t have that kind of time to spare at the moment. I just want to be moved by music.

I don’t want your suggestions; your tastes are not the same as mine. Yes, I am that arrogant. I want to find it myself, either as discovery or rediscovery. An introduction is a false economy in my opinion. It’s like picking out clothes for someone: taste is so nuanced and selective, based on the too precise vagaries of every facet of mood that a nanometre in any direction renders the whole thing wrong.

This has always been an issue of mine, and it is far from deliberate. People I know will recommend any number of bands, albums, films or books to me, and by doing so will put them automatically to the bottom of the list. I cannot bring myself to attempt something based on the advice of another human being, talking to me. I have very wide ranging tastes, but you’ve just missed them by miles.

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: I don’t get in to genres – in fact I rarely get in to bands – I get in to songs. Songs move me, get my toe tapping, and my finger on the repeat button. That is, right now, what I am looking for. All of the music that I find myself listening to in the lead up to that moment is pure filler. It will do in the interim, but it is largely just a grey wash: I need some colour.

Does the influence of a music magazine count? Every month I read articles in Metal Hammer, some of which influence me to try particular bands. Articles describe the bands, their histories and their scenes; as far as recommendations go they’re a pretty passive method sharing someone’s tastes. It is still an expert view, and they have a higher hit-rate than all other recommendations combined.

However, that takes time too, and it’s far from guaranteed. For every Samael and Zeal and Ardor, which hit the spot and light up my brain, there are numerous In Flames and Converge, which leave me rather cold, in spite of their clear brilliance. Either way, I have to listen to music they make, and then see if what I like grabs me. And what if I’ve always just hit upon the wrong songs? Disaster.

What about adverts I see? I’m not talking about on TV; the kind of music I most frequently listen to hasn’t been advertised on the TV since the zenith of Hair Metal in the 1980s. Adverts on YouTube or Facebook occasionally introduce me to new bands. It worked recently with Avatar, a Swedish band I’d highly recommend. Will I be struck like that again? Right now I’m only getting car ads thrown up.

On the other hand, I do have time to write this post, about how I don’t have time to look for new music to listen to, while listening to something I pulled off my hard drive not so very long ago. It’s hitting the spot nicely, and nobody is screaming too loudly. It’s clearly not that big a problem, so why does it bother me so much? I’m not sure, but it is a portent of the ill which is sure to be coming soon.

Vague antipathy will always escalate, unless it can be nipped in the bud. I am always falling in and out of love with bands, with albums, with songs; it’s a cycle I recognise, and which I know will always work itself out. The problem is that the ride is bumpy. If I am getting bored now it means that the bumpy bit is on its way. I want to put something exciting in to my brain to distract myself from the wholesale changing of the guard which I am about to experience. Look at the shiny thing! Now!

Distraction from a problem stops me from picking at the scabs as they form. In a few months I will have entirely new musical tastes, built out of songs which are new to me and songs which I have known for years. I just want some decent tunes on while all of that happens out of my sight.

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