Noise Pollution #3: New Year, Stop Kidding Yourself, You’re Still You
I fucking hate the first week of January. Most of January, if I’m being honest. There’s the comedown from the holidays that only seems more depressing if you had a shit season and this fucking rush to erase the last year like it’s an e-mail from your doctor announcing an STI that your significant other might somehow see. I understand the desire for optimism, that a new calendar year will somehow reset everything and point us collectively in the right direction, like a fucking beacon, but it’s a ritual I can no longer stand upon. I spend enough time kidding myself the other 51 weeks of the year, I think I can take this one off.
One positive is I’ve pretty much given up caring about New Year's Eve, outside of a self imposed tradition of cooking a nice meal, which has saved me from a lot of (I’m sure) public embarrassment as well as the hassle of trying to figure out something to do that doesn’t cost three figures and means I’m crammed somewhere with a lot of people I have to pretend to like and vice versa. I know this pops up a few days into 2022 and I can’t wait to see the Covid numbers.
Twenty years ago I did New Year's Eve in Chicago with a few friends. It was also the first time I’d ever tried mushrooms, which seems like a properly stupid time to try a volatile drug so obviously I was very much into it. Memories from the night, once they kicked in, come and go in flashes, but I remember that we were at some goth bar right as it was about to hit midnight and I zeroed in on some girl from across the room and, I hope thanks to the drugs, she took on the appearance of a cartoon loaf of bread in a corset and I had the only coherent thought I would have for the rest of the night: that I knew she was going to appear at midnight like Cinderella’s pumpkin or however the fucking story goes. Around five til the bar started handing out flutes of champagne and this girl had disappeared from sight. As soon as the countdown began I felt a tap on my shoulder and I turned around to find her standing there with two flutes and a smile that seemed to be melting off her face. I’m pretty sure I screamed. I do know I got the fuck out of there and somehow ended up outside, shuffled into a car, and taken to Exit since that’s where all the best ideas in Chicago happen. Next thing I remember was I was seated at a bench upstairs, talking to some girl my friend had picked up, and her telling me what a good father he would be. By this time he’d been to jail twice. The conversation ended because I turned around to face behind the bench in order to vomit profusely. Since it was probably 2:00 AM on New Year's Day, nobody noticed.
I spent the last night of 2021 nestled in my home with my girlfriend, our daughter and our annoying three cats, reading Peter Hook’s "Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division," which my better half was nice enough to give me for the past holiday, as well as the 800-ish page brick he wrote about New Order. I’d been spurned onto reading his books because of the resurfacing on a few songs he did with Geordie and Jaz from Killing Joke, which I’ll get to in a moment. I’ve been a fan of Joy Division since the first Twilight record when Jef Whitehead made sure to introduce me to them and Killing Joke on a deeper level than I’d previously gone, brought on mostly because I had some smart assed comments about an Ian Curtis poster both Jef and Brandon from Bone Awl had that years later I would also buy.
This is not the first time my initial reaction to something I would come to love would be to take a wet shit on it.
A decade later I would rip off the cover of Closer for The Isolationist and I would eventually do an EP called Isolation/Transmission (which had a corresponding fest), so I guess we know how that whole thing went and the fact that I can’t have an original idea is only the tip of it.
Earlier in 2021, there was the announcement that tracks from a 1993 session with Peter Hook, Geordie Walker and Jaz Coleman had surfaced and I remember being childishly giddy about the prospect until I saw the vinyl was going to be fucking expensive, plus I was a few weeks off of being a new father and that sent my mind elsewhere. I’d pretty much forgotten about the whole thing until late summer when a video for “Giving up The Ghost” was posted, giving a look at the three of them recording the project which would end up being called K÷93.
The song truly seemed like a melding of Killing Joke's Pandemonium era (which makes fucking sense since that’s the time this was recorded in) flowing with Hook’s signature bass style and tones, unmatched in post-punk except against Jah Wobble. It was the best song I had heard in years. I completely gave up caring that the vinyl was pricey and hit "buy". After that, I began to search for other songs from the record and came across two, "Scrying" and "Celebration Day," the latter seeming to feel a bit unfinished but the former coming across as their take on shoegaze–truly exceptional, but that was all I could find because I’m an asshole that generally rushes into things without properly researching them first. As it turns out, those are the only three songs from the seven or eight they recorded that survived. I don’t know what’s more heartbreaking; the fact that there’s tracks from this session that are lost to the winds or that I spent $50 (including shipping) on a 3 song 10" record, my least favorite of the vinyl formats, when I could have used that money wisely paying down my credit card or buying diapers.
I hope my child’s mother doesn’t read this column.
Obviously the tragedy of this whole thing is that there were three genius musicians, arguably at the top of their games, in the same room and we’ll only ever hear a fraction of what resulted from that. It’s the musical equivalent of chasing the dragon, of blue balls (if that was anything more than a ploy) of another cliché describing the taste and loss of greatness that I’m too lazy to think of (but not lazy enough for a run on sentence describing that laziness). And that’s the problem with an artifact like this, that were left wanting more rather than appreciating that we had any of it at all. But we are fortunate enough to live in a world where this collaboration happened and we got to get a little taste of it. Plus we’re left with this absolutely charming way to spend an hour:
So we’re now just the tip into 2022 and my resolution is to write more about Joy Division and Killing Joke in the New Year. See you in two weeks to see if I’ve broken my resolution already.