In the chaos of early 2015, two new reviews of Why Wait for Failure? went up. I wouldn’t normally post these, but since they’re very nice and since they came out on adjacent days… why not? It’s not every day you get an album described as “one of the most unique records of 2014”!
Here’s something you don’t see from me much any more – a blog post about a current event, unfolding as I type. This is the story: an ‘expert’ on Fox News has described Birmingham as a place “where non-Muslims just simply don’t go in”. He revealed a general ignorance about Islam in the UK and is now the subject of a worldwide joke. Twitter’s ridicule arrived swiftly and is ongoing; the #FoxNewsFacts hashtag is delighting people on both sides of the Atlantic.
It’s unusual to see Birmingham’s name on any news sites, let alone in the trending topics. I grew up here, and I live and work here, and if you’ve met me for even five seconds you probably know that my love for this stupid city is deep and abiding and perhaps jarringly sincere. It does not need me to say that Steven Emerson’s comments were preposterously ill-informed. I also think we should stop laughing at him straight away.
There are two reasons. The first is non-Birmingham-specific: the guy apologised. Moreover, he did so immediately, at length, without reservation, avoiding blaming others, and with a humility that I gauge to be sincere. I imagine opinion varies as to the degree of cynicism underlying this apology, but I suggest that on our side the moral high ground is cheaply won here. We all fare better in a world where people acknowledge honestly and are forgiven generously for their errors.
Such benevolence on our part might even, more than any degree of mockery, encourage Emerson to think twice about some of the other assumptions which his ‘expertise’ has led him into – but staying fixed on the Birmingham issue, I have to say I’m not optimistic. That’s because I’ve had some pretty remarkable conversations about this city with people who’ve never done more than pass through on the train, and I can tell you that in misrepresenting this city based on extremely scant evidence, Emerson is not alone.
This is my second point. Emerson is just an extreme, publicly visible, and current-event-inflected example of something which happens on a day-to-day basis in this country: the maligning of Birmingham. Those enjoying his shame owe it to us to ask themselves if they’ve ever had a laugh at this city’s expense – a laugh based, perhaps, on word of mouth rather than actually, say, visiting. It’s something I’ve become so used to that my main reaction to it these days is not derision or anger but boredom. In a way, Emerson is tonight what Birmingham has been my entire life: an open goal, the butt of an easy joke. There is no honour, no wit, no dignity in a cheap shot at either of them.
It is the time of my insane sale. EVERYTHING MUST GO, WHICH IS WEIRD BECAUSE IT IS DIGITAL MUSIC AND THERE ARE THEORETICALLY INFINITE COPIES.
For the next few days, there are hefty discounts on pretty much everything in the FaceOmeter shop. They are itemised below:
Why Wait for Failure: CD £8 (normally £12), Digital £6 (normally £8)
Last Days in the Capital: Digital £1 (normally £2)
The Spooky EP: CD £4 (normally £6), Digital £2 (normally £4)
To Infinitives Split: CD £6 (normally £8), Digital £5 (normally £6)
Campfire Songs: Digital £2 (normally £3)
THE ART PRINTS I CANNOT REDUCE FROM £5 BECAUSE THEY ARE TOO GOOD
THE SALE COULD END AT ANY MOMENT BASED ON MY SAVAGE WHIMS AND/OR WHEN A SMALL CHILD DOESN’T NEED THE COMPUTER TO WATCH EQUESTRIA GIRLS, SO MAKE THIS THE MOMENT THAT YOU SPEND £$£!
We’re down to the wire here. 11:10 on the last night of 2014 as I sit down to type my customary end-of-year blog thing. I’m on a borrowed MacBook and I’m late because I found a DVD of the Voyage of the Dawn Treader (the 1980s BBC one obviously heathens, look at this realistic dragon) in the Edwardian Reading Room I find myself in in the wilds of North Yorkshire. Hoar frost nibbles at the windows, an AGA burns inside, the last of the Christmas walnuts remain to be cracked in front of me, and the previous tenantry left a nearly full box of Earl Grey in the cupboards. And so ends the year.
I cannot do my usual list – not exactly. 2014 was different. Don’t think that things didn’t keep going on, that there wasn’t a narrowboat cat and a coven at a bonfire and a five-person wedding moshpit at a leisure centre in Portsmouth and amphitheatre films and teddybear picnics and continental canals and Welsh meercats and festival honeybees and Neutral Milk Hotel and fifties American diners that do kebabs and Frankenstein cupcakes and SO ON AND SO ON AND SO ON. But 2014 will always be a year dominated by what is frequently (and wrongly) called ‘big stuff’ or ‘life stuff’. Jobs. Cars. Weddings. Visas. Children. Rabbits. None of it is suitable subject matter for this blog, but all of it has happened this year, and it’s been crazy and it’s been weird and it’s been so, so hard and I am so, so tired, and I am delighted with how it’s gone and determined never to have another year like it. I put out an album which I recorded and released while everything was going on, and that was difficult too but I’m really happy with it. And I worried that I lost my creature impulses a bit in the midst of it all, but in the last few weeks I’ve put a new song together and I’m delighted to inform you that FaceOmeter has a present and a future as well as a past.
It will never be quite the same, but I think I’m holding onto the things that matter. I have not forgotten – and I won’t forget – that ‘life stuff’ does not equal ‘life’. There are exciting things lined up for 2015, which will be a very different kind of fish if my suspicions are confirmed: less intense, more productive. And with more gigs! Those are my three resolutions.
So, without further ado: farewell, 2014. You have been insane. I am short of breath, but still on my feet, and I am so so so much luckier than so many people, and it’s time for the next chapter.