Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Mouthful of Blood

The image of the sun and the sky flashing through trees, light and shade alternating as you travelled, is familiar visual shorthand for travel and change. I am a passenger a lot these days in cars, buses and trains, and as the sunlight gets harsher with the passing weeks, my thoughts on my new life in Perth flicker from dark to light in time with the trees and buildings casting their shade momentarily on my sunglasses.

These journeys around Perth give me a lot of time to think as I gaze out into the long awaited and shatteringly bright light, my headphones feeding me the music I think particularly well to, the more accomplished coastal punk that is the oeuvre of Perth’s best bands. The old songs scroll memories across my mind, the new songs attach themselves to the welter of new feelings that I handle every week and I stare into the blue, just trying to sort it all out.

There is a very long piece of writing sitting in my drafts folder that was supposed to have been posted about January this year. It was an ode to music and it was prompted by a deary London winter’s day spent listening to new music from a selection of WA singer / songwriters. Each song was 4 minutes of salt-and-sand-laden beach wind, of pub floors sticky with beer a few hours into a Sunday session and the allure of lean tanned limbs and bright clothes. There is no mistaking West Australian music for anything other than a celebration of life on the coast.

Yesterday afternoon I went to a gig for some of our local talent; Steve Parkin, whose adorable girlfriend is a new friend, and Eskimo Joe, one of Perth’s most successful bands. Steve is a very accomplished young man, he has a few excellent Perth bands in his past and his solo material is reflective and captures the imagination with just a few lines. His performances take on a special feel for me though, because I met him ignorant of his performing reputation, so his talent seems that much more surprising.

Eskimo Joe have been a long-time fixture in my life. At eighteen my best friend was a punk, and she dragged me along to my first punk gig, Eskimo Joe’s first LP launch. As an unrepentant girly-screaming pop princess, I nearly had palpitations when the Joe, with their punk hair, piercings and leather cuffs hit the stage. Never had I seen such rebellious creatures on stage, let alone the metal and leather coated crowd of totally impressed child-fans trying to pretend they were uncaring and cool adults.

No screaming and crying fans here with outstretched hands towards the stage! In fact, when Kav, Joel and Stu finished their headline act, they got straight off the stage and into the crowd to get a drink. I gaped. Their fans were so controlled they utterly ignored their idols in their midst. God forbid that one of my pop idols do that, they would have been rent limb from limb.

Eskimo Joe now tour Australia, have singles on constant rotation on the commercial radio stations and an industry award on their mantelpiece, so they have ‘made it’ on the Australian music scene. Last night Kav and Joel performed five brand new songs at a free gig to which a grand total of thirty people turned up to. The rest of Perth missed out I have to admit, there were two songs in particular that were stunning in their execution, and I sense another excellent album in the making.

We then went to the Sunday Sessions in the pubs along the coast. As Dom and I trailed from the Cottesloe Hotel to the Ocean Beach Hotel and back, we skirted dark, windy sands with the lights of tankers offshore trimming the horizon and the revelry from the pubs spilling out into the cold. I could hear the waves crashing on the sand, conjuring up memories of deep male voices and guitar melodies that make your eyes prickle with all the emotions you keep too deep inside.

As I settle into the more established rhythm of long term careers, long term friendships and long term goals in a city that moves at a sedate and leisurely pace, there is more space between the dramas of life, space to be filled with longing or contentment, frustration and isolation, reconnection and recreation. Space that is filled with songs, the soundtrack of a life picked up again on the shores of the sunburnt country.

Funnily enough it is a song from a Chicago band that I have heard Steve sing twice that seems to sum up my life at the moment. There is no way I can avoid loving the place I am at the moment, but I am constantly biting my tongue about the one place I love more, because I continually annoy myself and others with my homesickness for London and travelling. And so I let The Fruit Bats, as sung by Mr Parkin, finish the last song of the set …

‘When you love somebody and bite your tongue, all you get is a mouthful of blood.’

Originally posted on Exiled Britophile, a blog I updated for about twelve months when I returned home from London. Due to it's frank discussion of how horrid I found Perth, these pieces had only been read by my London readers until 2011.