[Quaint] Rings Around The World
There’s a noise that is silent. How can a noise sound like silence? It can when the screaming noise of life today momentarily falls away/or collapses in on itself, leaving just a quaint drone, as if the Noise at The End of The World was a lone TV that somebody forgot to unplug at the mains.
“And Relax! the residual noise of the 90’s died when those planes hit those towers….the feverish scream of the subsequent years hasn’t yet begun….”
Or so it seemed in the wake of 9/11; a sort of quiet/restbite moment that resembled no sound at all, to the extent that I’m beginning to wonder if the entire world wasn’t affected by some sort of equivalent to the temporary deafness you’re likely to experience if you are caught in an exploding bomb-scenario (or explosion in general…)
back to 2001….
“I’m a 17 year old, fast approaching 18. So out of touch with the so-called rites of passage of late teenage life. Yet I couldn’t care one bit. I’ve no need to care at the moment, because I’ve entered a noise-vacuum – and if mouths are moving up and down around me then I can’t hear what they’re saying. In future-hindsight, I wouldn’t have heard their words anyway: I ride in this noise-vacuum with my headphones nearly-always plugged into my cassette tape walkman, always with 2-4 cassettes in my college-bound-rucksack. I have no need for more: their analogue nature forces my ears to get used to every glitch and accident on these tapes; whether I like it or not I’ll come to develop a relationship with these cassettes (destined to be chewn up) that could never be replaced by the subsequent CD Walkman/mp3 players I’ll burn out in my later years.
From the college classrooms – these formative months of the fostering of my artist-ego – to the seemingly long, and longer the better, bus journeys to and from college (I genuinely lament over how what once seemed to be big/long has become small/short – as back then my home town seem expansive) on long-gone bus routes, on roads that will come to feel like dead veins once these services vanish forever. I am currently in the most comforting of noise-vacuum’s between what surrounded me. So much so that my future adult self will continuously look back on this moment wishing it could reoccur – he can’t help doing so. And who could blame him?
Although I was enjoying the silence, I will actually get into more music in this moment than I will in any other moment (self) designated as one of ‘life’s chapters’. Silence allows the entering of new sounds, whilst unending noise blocks everything out.
The Super Furry Animals‘ Rings Around The World is far from being the most cherished album on a growing collection of cassette tapes for a 17 year old still wishing that the ‘summer of love’-style vibe of The Stone Roses was more than a fading 1990’s illusion. But I can at least appreciate it’s rightful place in this time I exist in. “At least it’s not the end of the world” is a blanket I can get under right now – it is duly comforting.
There’s a silent drone-like noise that cuts in between the instrumental track ‘[A] Touch Sensitive‘ and the comically-sounding-yet seismically-comforting song Shoot Doris Day. The noise is like the audio equivalent of staring at a train riding off into its lonely horizon, or a lone email being sent through a still-largely silent cyberspace. It is certainly the midway point of the album, and it embodies what I will, in later life, come to see as this momentary pocket of silence between my childhood in the 1990’s and the ‘non-stop-inertia’ of my life, 2002 onwards.
I will henceforth never get over leaving behind this silent moment. I can’t imagine a point where I won’t long for it after a point in the deep summer of 2002 where it was buried on the hilltops that loom over my hometown, to the soundtrack of Asleep by The Smiths. Where would my adult-self find this kind of rest-bite from the noise?”
The silence would gradually fill up during the course of 2002 – the momentary deafness in the fallout of 9/11 slowly became replaced by the mounting noise congregating around the looming plans for the military invasion of a certain country we were told had the capacity to inflict nuclear-warhead-carnage on whoever it pleased (and how could a sleepy 17 year old waking up to a 18 year old horror know who was wrong and who was right?!).
Rings Around the World was released just before 9/11. I can’t escape the conviction that it was a great record, that came just too late in the day to be seen as such, with (in my opinion) the last true landmark albums arriving in the summer of 1997. I don’t think an album has come as close to epitomising the deflation of the millennial moment as much, with the exception of the self-consciously-retro The Strokes‘ album Is This It?. A moment of let down, malaise, but a ‘postmodern existence’ that was still in the jurisdiction of most peoples’ coping methods, which is why it seems so enjoyably quaint-a-message in the far more panicky times we exist in following on from the momentary noise-void after 9/11. Whilst the Strokes’ retro formula became a rallying call for mainly white westerners to turn their backs to both an increasingly frightening and unidentifiable present in place of a manageable mythical indie-cool-laden past, Rings Around The World (perhaps fortunately) didn’t acquire the same fashionable-prestige that their frontman Gruyff Rhys would come much closer to acquiring in the ‘always on’-lets-turn-to-BBC6music-for-solice present (even if, personally, I think he deserves such credit).
Rings Around the World, for me, occupies this noise-rest-bite in the smoke of the fallen towers, even if the tracks themselves were written prior to the actual event – whatever that event actually was. We had truly left the 90’s, and it’s feel-good ‘pseudo-modernity’ that sucked us in, but weren’t yet in the, well, whatever you can call The Now, which roughly began with the Iraq invasion, the noticeable increase of the surveillance culture, the broadband beginnings, and now is identifiable as manic Dysphoria; where the strange bedfellows of deep boredom and deeper anxiety have come together in force. Yet it is also identifiable in a growing longing for a way out, and a growing awareness that something new is moving under the ice-world of this eternal present, whether whatever is moving is something better or something far more terrifying. As things stand, though, my default position is to long for this aforementioned moment – I can’t help doing so. And I don’t hold it against myself either.