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Friday, 25 February 2011

31 Songs

31 Songs – Nick Hornby.
Due to being described as too personally introspective to be a collection of reviews - and at worst a bunch of half hearted comments on much loved and lesser so songs - I've always skipped past this whenever I've seen it.
I guess it being damned with faint praise was a bit of a turn off, or maybe I just didn't want to join the ranks of the disappointed Nick Hornby fans as I do actually like his fictional novels.
As a music fan of a certain age I can slip into his stories like a worn and comfortably warm coat and that will no doubt be down to being able to draw parallels with the characters that he populates his books with and my own life.
Now that I've digested it though I can safely say that I don't harbour a hint of disappointment at all. I can do a bit of soul searching and try and find something negative to say, but apart from disagreeing on a personal taste basis when it comes to some of the music I'll find nothing.
Right from the start 31 Songs doesn't pretend to be anything it's not. It's simply a rambling and unpretentious insight into what certain songs mean to him. There's a distinct lack of snobbishness throughout that for me was a refreshing change.
Within the little essays he asks what is wrong with pop music. The answer is nothing much, and he is right. I've always said this. If a song makes you feel happy, sad, excited, introspective or elicits any other emotion from you apart from hate, well maybe even hate, then it has worth.
Even if it doesn't do anything for you, then maybe it does for someone else and due to this it still has worth.
At the most I suspect we can only ever say that I don't personally like that and not that it is rubbish, although we can all be guilty of saying it.
Obviously Nick Hornby puts the point across in a more erudite fashion than I could.
It's maybe something that more of us should think about.
Little bits of it have also given me some fantastic points to argue with my son about.
He is forever asking what's your favourite Stones song, Clash album, Desert island disc and then painting a look of abject horror on his face when my outrageous opinion doesn't mirror his own opinion.
I mean he just can't understand why I would take a Hanoi Rocks album to the island when there's Creedence Clearwater Revival albums to consider.
It doesn't matter how often I say that it's down to personal taste as he just doesn't get it.
He also finds it difficult to accept that when asked why I maybe love a certain song that I can't explain why and in this book there is little glimmers of how to word the actual stance of “I just don't know, but does it really matter.”
I don't know why I love my son and daughter. I can't really explain it at all. All I know is they fill me with pride and even sometimes with heartache, but like many parents I would lay down my life for them. I hurt for them when they are down and I could sing and dance when they are ecstatically happy about something. Don't ask me why though because it isn't something that can logically be explained away. It just that way because it is that way and music can be the same and I'm not sure why I never thought of that until Nick Hornby drew attention to that sort of angle on it.
Why do I like Springsteen more than Dylan? Well I could waffle on for hours providing reasons, but at the root of it is that I prefer Springsteen because....well because I do.
There's a mention of Suicide in it that also reflects what I had recently thought about them. There was a time that they had an impact on me, There was a brutality that appealed. A fuck you to the world that came across as exciting in a way, but when I seen them support Iggy and the Stooges all I could think was that this was painfully awful, and why the hell would anyone want to submit themselves to such a degree of aural punishment.
In its totality this is a little book that doesn't even attempt to de-construct the individual songs, but instead celebrates why the can have an emotional connection to the listener and in doing so I personally found it hugely entertaining.
There's more to it than I've just touched on, but like the music I'm sure it will draw different opinions and maybe work as a catalyst to even more thought on the subject, but the best thing I can probably say about it is that I enjoyed it because........well I just did, and isn't that enough?

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