Hugs and Kisses 50: Conor Oberst and More


Everett True is the “roving ambassador” of Plan B Magazine, an author of more rock books than we have spots on our Amazon Wish List, a Wikipedia entry, a Sound of the City columnist, an Australian transplant. His son Isaac likes to run away with his things, most notably the tape of a rather important Kate Nash interview.

Hugs and Kisses

The Relocated Outbursts of Everett True

This week: Future suicides and past crushes

My son has run away with my Wire CD.

I don’t know. It’s raining and I was looking forward to discussing the new Conor Oberst album. I have a soft spot for Mr Oberst. He used to seem tormented with the agonies of youth, smart beyond his age, imaginative and able to absorb influences (Daniel Johnston, David Bowie) with an ease that charmed in its insouciance. His shoulders rounded like a future suicide. Every word he sung, he sung like it would be his last. He cared. I didn’t take his histrionics as camp or cabaret although if I had done, I’d probably be enjoying his new ‘solo’ venture Conor with the same vigour I save for Dresden Dolls. But I’m not. Conor has swapped his anguish for the trappings of adulthood, but he’s too in thrall to the classic songwriter mould… and I don’t do ‘adult’ anyway.

And if I did do ‘adult’ I’d be listening to Neil Young.

Mark Arm said a wise thing when I interviewed him for the Sub Pop 20 shenanigans at the start of the year: “In the early Nineties when that whole ‘Unplugged’ thing started happening I was like, ‘This is bullshit’. ‘Touch Me I’m Sick’ unplugged? That would be stupid sounding. And people would say, ‘Oh you strip it down to this acoustic thing and then you get the essence of the song’. I totally disagree with that. The guitar sound is of maximum importance. You could do a really bad version of a great song.”

Conor sounds to me like Bright Eyes Unplugged. Can I leave it there? I still have a soft spot for Mr Oberst and I’m supposed to be interviewing him tomorrow. But I really don’t do alt. country.

So I thought I could write about the new Wire album Object 47 instead. I have a soft spot for Wire singer Colin Newman, too. He came round my house once, ate tea and biscuits and smouldered in his forty-something anguish. (He didn’t disappoint. He still kicks.) And I thought that by writing about the new Wire album (think 154 for context) I’d have an excuse to slap my headphones on and avoid my son running round screaming about not eating kiwi (the fruit) and demanding to access his Letterland game on this screen. But now he’s gone and stolen the damn CD. Isaac…!

Dude, time has not withered them. I think we’re on the fourth cycle of Wire by now, still reinvigorated by Britpop’s wholesale stealing of their finer riffs in the mid-Nineties (it was cycle two I never appreciated, wherein they invented Tortoise, the bastards). This new album is great fun — abrasive and abstract and autonomous and astringent in equal amounts — although it does have the weird quality of continuously reminding me of a less chipper Blur. There are tape loops, subverted to the passage of the song. There’s a feedback storm on “All Fours”, making whoopee like Spectrum. There’s mystery and malignancy and misanthropy. It’s an album that challenges, that couldn’t exist without technology but isn’t ruled by technology; that switches between soundscape and songscapes with impunity. I fall out with Wire when they become too studio-obsessed, but technology has always been at the heart of their sound. So I go for the old school, drawn-out, spoken “Patient Flees” over the glitchy “Hard Currency” every time; and do wonder if even this most forward-looking of bands are able to escape their past fully (listen to the pure 1978 futurism of “Are You Ready?”) but then… none of us ever do.

None of us ever do.

Hugs And Kisses Top 5

Everett True’s main squeezes this week

1. Xylaroo, “Set Me On Fire And Send Me To Canada” (
“They’re a bit Tegan And Sara, aren’t they?” remarks an expert. Really? Must check them out. I was thinking The Concretes, actually.

2. These Dancing Days, “Run Run (Radio Mix)” (
Anyone who reminds me of forgotten British powerpop (1979) group The Photos is fine in my book. Oh, and The Sundays of course.

3. Nagisa Ni Te, “Midsummer Overhead” (from the Jagjaguwar album Yosuga)
Trickling down: gentle, teasing, trembling — pretty much the exact opposite of the relentless rainstorm outside our front door right now.

4. Wet Dog, “Alibi” (
The august British music journal Q has described my main London ladies’ forthcoming debut album as sounding like, “incompetent primary music school lessons”. This frankly is a fucking major accolade, bearing in mind the source. (Yeah, and John Coltrane played funny too.)

5. Slumber Party, “Love Will Tear Us Apart” (
So Aliccia doesn’t send me her music anymore. I still love them. And this Joy Division cover by this sweetest of Detroit bands oddly ends up sounding like Electrelane — a plus, obviously.