I don’t know how to tell you how I’m doing, but I can tell you what I’m doing, and one of those done things is one my favorite things presently on the Internet: #timstwitterlisteningparty. It’s a too-long Twitter hashtag, but following it invites you a communal experience of sitting down and listening to a classic LP at the same time as a whole bunch of others, including the musicians who made it, and tweeting along, track by track. The Tim of #timstwitterlisteningparty is Tim Burgess (of The Charlatans UK), and he hosts this occasion for collective listening and memory. It’s a pleasure to watch this unfold live when I can, though since it’s based in the UK the timing isn’t great for me in Arizona. More often I just replay them later, which the website (linked above) makes helpfully possible. Through the party I discover lots of weird info as folks tweet memories and photos of their synthesizers, other relevant memorabilia: photos, video clips, and even, in some cases, press bits (through it, for instance, I just discovered Neil Tennant’s review of New Order’s Low-Life (“not just doomy electronic workouts but memorable melodies with a sense of humour lurking in the words: 8 of 10”) in now-defunct UK music rag Smash Hits. I had no idea Tennant had worked as a music journalist before turning his attention to his hatchling band the Pet Shop Boys. Reading this review illuminated a hidden connection between two of my obsessions.
As someone who has stanned for New Order as long as I can remember, I’ve totally been coming to #timstwitterlisteningparty for them, having tuned in to share my listening and thinking about their second album Power, Corruption, and Lies a week or two ago and now, as of this evening, their (much better) third album Low-Life. What I like about this twitter listening party experience is how it flashes back to how we used to listen to music, of course, a little more slowly and less on demand, and in a room, maybe with others. That was before it became like an invisible tap we can just turn on and off wherever we are. So I dig how this experience makes a virtue of our confinement. With an LP and a laptop it works great, but when I try to do it all on my computer, I don’t like it nearly as well. Like when I cue up the long version of “The Perfect Kiss” (way better than the shorter album version because it has way more of what makes that song great, which isn’t the lyrics) on Youtube, its algorithm keeps trying to direct me to terrible music like Will to Power’s super-shitty 1990 “Baby I Love Your Way / Freebird Medley (Freebaby)” on account of March Badness, which permanently derailed Youtube’s understanding of what I like or want to hear.
What I do like is things that bring us together aside from whiskey and Zoom. I also like Zoom (even if when I think about Zoom all I wanna do is a zoom-zoom-zoom and a boom-boom or cue up Aretha’s Who’s Zoomin’ Who, neither of which provide an acceptable background for my work meetings or classes). All afternoon I’ve been listening to my daughter listening to two albums on repeat: the Cats movie soundtrack and Sex & Violins by the Swedish act Rednex (the weirdly Idaho-obsessed techno-bluegrass act from the 90s; you’ll probably remember their earworm version of “Cotton-Eye Joe,” the original of which has been with us since around the Civil War; Nina Simone even did a version, for instance, though Rednex’s is the one you know). Rednex’s sexual double-entendres are still, I think, going over the kid’s head, and by the time I realized they were as bad as they were, there was no turning back. I couldn’t just turn them off or withdraw her favorite CD once the hook had been set. But there are only so many times I can hear the faux-orgasmic cries of Rednex’s single “The Way I Mate” (which is for unknown reasons her favorite; sample lyrics: “Bushes are moving around / All the beavers have fun / They are playing with their guns… Do you feel like going down / Mating season’s in heat”) without wanting to drown it in a lake. Except I know beavers do great in lakes so that won’t be as effective a parenting move as I imagine. Sweden says they like guns too (but what does Sweden know about guns?) so that’s off the table, and the point is that I totally admire my kid’s commitment to these obsessions, even as I wish she’d find better objects for her devotion). When we’re confined to quarters, as many of us are, it’s much harder to keep the objects of our devotion hidden, and since keeping our obsessions ours and ours alone is one of the best parts of obsession, we’re in a denatured state is what I’m saying and how I’m doing. But when you share them with a couple thousand others, like online, then it turns out that’s pretty good too. So now I’m telling you.
How are you, Tim Burgess?