I’m reading the second volume of Karl Ove Knaussgard’s My Struggle, a novel that reads like a memoir, but is narratively satisfying. Like a novel. In the book the teenaged and young man Karl loves Ian McCulloch and Echo and the Bunnymen. So I played some of the songs today, trying to recapture what it was about those early 80s bands from the UK (also U2 and Joy Division and Simple Minds and Tears for Fears and many others) that just didn’t grab me.
Many were very popular, and critically acclaimed. I don’t know. I did like the Cure. But when I listen to this (and even the best early U2) I feel like I’m listening to a folk rocker who got loud. The words and the singer’s elongated syllables are what matter, and things like syncopation and melody are laminated by atmosphere. These songs don’t feel like songs, exactly, even though clearly they are. In fact, they’re passive aggressively anthemic, with ringing chords and patina-ed vocals and drums that walk along with you, rather than getting into your head and bashing it.
Nice enough tune, but not enough tune.
I should say that I chose to write here about what I don’t like about this style of rock tune from a certain time. This wasn’t meant to be a fair evaluation. That wasn’t the point. Feel free to agree or disagree in the comments.