“When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”
(1 Corinthians 13:11, King James Version)
I have lived a long, and largely tedious, life. A life, as Thoreau would have it, of quiet desperation. Long periods of something more than mundane. Occasional flashes of life breaking the boredom and the sense of obligation. Minutes where the black dog nods off and his incessant bark is silent.
Across the years there have been moments when a band, or an artist, has arrived and provided a soundtrack to my life or, better still, a means of escape from it. The Smiths gave me an identity, introduced me to Wilde and Keats and Delaney, saved me life. Suede shone a light on the darker corners of my mind, my desires and my dreams. Blur dragged me from the fringes and into the bright light of the mainstream of popular culture. Before all of those there was Dexys, Depeche Mode, Erasure, Human League, Pet Shop Boys, New Order. Sounds that inspired and changed me.
I had thought that such moments were consigned to the past. At my age, at my stage, the thrill of the new, the joy of discovery, is meant to be the stuff of childhood and adolescence. What hope the middle-aged man of being changed and moved by…anything.
Then, last year, I heard an album by an artist I didn’t know anything about. “Let Me Speak” by Gemma Cullingford. By the time the year ended I had declared it the best album of 2021, saying this…
Best known, perhaps and for now, as one half of Sink Ya Teeth, this debut solo album from Gemma Cullingford was a revelation. An astonishing mix of danceable beats, revelatory lyrics, social commentary, personal politics and all delivered with more grace and style than Ginger Rogers at her most sublime. This is a deeply affecting, wildly personal and gloriously uplifting album. The influences are there if you want to hear them, New Order, Depeche Mode, A Certain Ratio and Throbbing Gristle. But there is more…on a track like “Wide Boys” there is dance, dance hall, Afrobeat, experimentation and psychedelia. It takes great talent, enormous skill and a deft touch to produce something like this. And while certain people who claim to care about indie music will be yelling for, yet another, album by, yet another, group of boys who can’t see past the same old faces and influences, Cullingford embodies the true spirit of independent music better than any of them. Make no mistake, this is the album of the year.
Now Cullingford is back, a new album is lurking in the shadows. Ahead of its release we have been given “Tongue Tied” and it is, another, revelation. “Shyness is nice…” said The Smiths, but the problem is that shyness can stop you from both doing, and saying, all the things in life you would like to. Being “tongue tied”, not feeling able to say the things you want to say is crippling. Cullingford talks honestly, as she always does, but universally…reaching out to the grotesquely lonely, the socially awkward, the anxious and the afraid, offering them hope through her honesty.
This is music for the jilted generation.
Disco beats for the broken hearted.
A dance anthem for the people too afraid to hit the floor.
Album of the year 2021 looks like it might be joined by album of the year 2022…