Thursday, 22 October 2009
AGONY & ECSTASY: TRAILER TRASH TRACYS
Dazed & Confused, October 2009
Ever got the bus through south London’s notorious Elephant and Castle at night? As you swoop past the intermittent lights that shine out of greying estates earmarked for demolition, you cannot help but marvel at the scale of this very public heartbreak. Jimmy Lee, one half of duo Trailer Trash Tracys, resides in the area – in the shittest council flat you are likely to see,” he says. “But it means I get a three-bedroom flat to myself for £200 a month.”
TTT make songs that seem like epic siren calls in this doomed night. At the root of them is the yearning 80s balladry of bands such as Berlin and Cocteau Twins. Swedish émigré Suzanne Aztoria’s vocals float and crackle like static ghosts over gorgeous songs that quiver under the weight of reverb. New Single “Candy Girl” articulates, among other things, the wooziness of coming down; the failure of modernism; the pain of leaving. Yet it is no miserable anthem. Above all, the song is soaked in the possibility of beauty rising out of desolation.
The pair started working together when they were both in a manufactured pop band. “We were in the indie version of Girls Aloud,” says Susanne. “We were in the middle of a contradiction,” adds Jimmy. “Sounding like the Jesus & Mary Chain, but having these pop songs to play. Needless to say, it didn’t work out.”
Something of the JMC stuck though – the nocturnal lushness that ignited the shoegaze scene, as well as Bobby Gillespie’s “boom, boom-boom, bap” drum style, pinched in turn off Phil Spector. “We can see why people would call it shoegaze, as we use a lot of reverb and other effects,” says Susanne. “But I don’t think it is as simple as that. It is really important for us that they are good songs.”
To say that their music is a passion for both might be to underplay it. “We do meet up a lot to write, record and rehearse,” Susanne attests. “We are kind of perfectionists, so a song has to be completely right for us to be happy with it.”
Yet obsession often leads to pain, and going over and over songs in his south London flat might be getting to Jimmy. “Since starting this band, I have been caught talking to myself,” he confesses. “That’s no bullshit, I don’t even realise.”
Tuesday, 20 October 2009
With his scarred face, languorous delivery and fondness for booze, the late German-American writer Charles Bukowski perfected a template for the skid-row lowlife. Some might consider him a Beat poet, but he doesn't quite fit with the expansive joie de vivre of it all. While Kerouac went out on the road to seek enlightenment, Bukowski left home because there was no place else to go.
He stayed in motels and flophouses. Drank alone with the blinds pulled down, while Beethoven and Brahms blasted out of a transistor radio. In Philadelphia, he spent two-and-a-half years in a bar, fighting the landlord and running errands in exchange for free beer. Yet, with a bit of help from John Fante, the novelist who gave him his plain talkin' style, he defined the American underclass in his novels and poems, as he set about putting his experiences down on paper.
Bukowski's Los Angeles could be seen as the inverse companion of David Lynch's. While the movies are surreal explorations of the darkness behind the scenes of LA's rich, Bukowski breathed beer-stained life into autobiographical stories about the nobodies who posted their mail and packaged their meat in warehouses. Yet during the '80s he befriended the Hollywood elite, hanging out with Sean Penn and Madonna and writing a book based on his experiences: Hollywood. He had contempt for the fakes, once telling the future Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, that he was 'a piece of shit'.
He was flawed: he womanised; he gambled; he drank - a lot. His fondness for the bottle came, he said, to avoid committing suicide. Throughout his life the abiding influence on his writing was the incredible cruelty he suffered as a child: his father converted the bathroom into a torture chamber in which he would belt him until welts and bruises covered the young Bukowski's body, his mother looking on. Consequently his writing embodied his disgust with hollow men who, like his father, exerted power over those below them simply because they could.
Inflated pride thrives on cheap brutality, and Bukowski knew it. But for all his nihilism, he was never cruel, just honest. Today, in London streets that reek of LA ersatz-ness, we could all do with a bit more of that.