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Music |

My Religion Is Music

Monday 24 January 2011
Words Spindle

I can smell god.

The stench of beautiful corruption and the nascent nostalgia of pure joy… that’s god right there. That extra sense that’s somewhere between Johnson’s Baby Lotion and sulphur, between cardiograms and anagrams… No, scrap that we’re reading from the same hymn book but have somehow mixed up the psalms!

Ok, I’ll start again, here goes…

I can smell god.

If I was a more eloquent person I’m sure that statement would pave the way for numerous metaphorical musings on the nature of deities and the insipid forms that spirituality can take. I mean, I can smell god. Literally. Don’t take that the wrong way, I’m not making a snide comment about any omnipresent odours or a quip about the sanitary conditions of the said deity’s self-styled universe. For real, I can smell god yeah?

It’s not like really being able to smell something, like a good strong Roquefort or the news…it’s just, I know I can’t see, hear or touch god and the idea of tasting god is a little bit perverse. So I can only describe it as smelling god, which I understand sounds like the title to a rather ambiguous Jerry Adams novel but it’s all I’ve got alright?

So this smell, or feeling, what exactly is it? Well it’s the essence of all religion, organised or organic or otherwise. It’s the utter belief in something that you find utterly compelling and irrevocably petrifying. It’s the window to your soul, whatever that is for you.

My religion is music. Come on, don’t laugh. What’s so preposterous about that? Is it any different to belief in Christianity or Judaism? Well apart from the wars and the hate but then look at the Mods & Rockers or the war between Morrissey and people who like good music! Obviously I’m being pedantic but I do believe that music is more than just a passion for me. It’s something that encompasses my entire life and provides me with faith, hope and fear in the same way that Catholicism, Judaism, Islam, Hindu, Buddhism, Jedi (or the billions of other religions or offshoots I don’t have space for) does for millions of other people. It does the same thing for me but it’s not entirely the same. I mean, if I listen to something and enjoy it I don’t have to repeat Lee Perry’s name 50 times and if I hear something I hate I can just switch it off and not go out and kill every Susan Boyle fan there is….no matter how tempting that might be at times!

This is the very reason I’ve had to say I can smell my own god because religious people and organised religion have sullied the idea of belief and passion to such a degree that I’ve had to distance myself from them. I smell god and that leaves me free to live with my belief happily and non-violently!

Ok, let’s look at this in more detail. Let’s take a seminal album, let’s say ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ by Pink Floyd… too obvious? Ok, let’s go with ‘In The Aeroplane Over the Sea’ by Neutral Milk Hotel.

Let’s see how this corresponds with a holy book, I’m going to go with the bible just because it’s the best-selling one (Sorry to all the others, try getting Dan Brown to do a version of your holy book and maybe things will change he’s good at bestsellers!?) . Oh this is going to be fun…

In fact there are just too many similarities to mention, they were both shunned when they first came out, they were both revered and feared in equal measure, there are many interpretations of them both, they brought fame to those who created them so much so that they had to stop, they both have many facets both beautiful and haunting, they both polarise people who read/listen to them. Some people are fanatical about them, others just like portions of them and leave the rest well alone, some people don’t like the originals but when they hear/read new interpretations they instantly fall for them, they both have their critics. I could go on but you can attribute lots of elements of the bible to countless other creative works, cultures or fads because when broken down this is all that the bible and all religions really are. Fads!

Let’s go back to the idea of music as religion, I’m an opinionated bastard when it comes to the art of noise, notes, staves and melodies. I like a wide range of music and I can talk at great lengths about it, some would say to the extent of ruining the point of just listening to the tune but surely this is what’s great about music. One person can listen to Flaming Lips and just enjoy the lovely songs whereas another can debate the nuances of Wayne’s vocals, the evolution of their sound since the ACID years or whether the music they make is pop,alternative, rock, prog-rock, post folk, nu-psych, shun-funk or just music. It’s fantastic and religion could take a few leaves out of the music followers’ book, we debate to the ends of the earth but we don’t wage war on each other…well unless Oasis are involved but then nobody really thinks of them as music anyway and what’s with that name – it’s fucking atrocious! Seriously though, music isn’t without its bust ups, wars of ideals and sadistic, insane dictators or fans but it doesn’t seem to instill ignorance or single-mindedness in the majority of it’s acolytes. It’s a hard one to argue because I know myself when it comes to Oasis or Morrissey I’m a very hard person to convince of any merits they have. I can be very opinionated when they are played out to the point of leaving bars if more than one track from each “artist” is played, but I have tried. I’ve borrowed albums and listened to them. I’ve heard songs out and I’ve seen them perform on Jools Holland but try as I might I just cannot see any musical value in either of them. Tell them I hate them yeah?

The thing is I’m happy with this and all you die-hard Oasis fans should just think of it as one less person trying to see them when they play or one less gangly folk boy playing one of their awfully simple songs on a guitar around campfires. I don’t mind that people hate Neutral Milk Hotel or Aphex Twin or even Cut Chemist (although how you could is preposterous) and that will always be the difference between music and religion. DJ Shadow didn’t release ‘Entroducing’ with a list of commandments stating “Though shalt not listen to any other sample-based music except mine” or “Though shalt not skip tracks” or “Though shalt not let women listen to this album in thy presence” although he probably would nowadays after that Outsider album (Josh, that hurt me in the same way Jesus must have felt during the passion. I believed in you Mr. Shadow!)  It would be ridiculous if people were expected to like certain music or not sleep with people who didn’t like the same music or god forbid have children who didn’t love exactly the same music! So music has its dogma and people will abuse this and have done throughout it’s history, but I love this fact because it’s an interesting by-product of passion and it allows us to continue creating as a species. Passion may have its more sinister sides but where would we be without it? Listening to fucking Cast whilst Morris Dancing probably.

Religion is no different to any other passion except it’s removed itself from the main point of it’s existence. Passion should be uninhibited. Applying rules and steadfast doctrines to peoples’ passion only serves to cause escalating problems through relationships, communities and ultimately human societies in general. We need to change this going forward, we need to be in control of our passions and be able to share them. I’ve chosen to focus on music in my musings on my own religion but it really can work with anything you are passionate about. Fashion, daytime talk shows, movies, dance, serial killers, Clive Dunn or the illustrated version of Mein Kampf as long as you realise that the passion is a personal journey. We can be vocal and have opinions about our passions and debate, discuss or drunkenly enforce opinions on each other as long as we’re aware at the end of the day that other people don’t have to agree. I am in a relationship with someone who is a huge fan of R.E.M, two of my closest friends actually like Kasabian and some of my family like James Blunt…I do not and will not ever fully understand these musical choices but I respect them as their choices (as long as I’m not in the room). I don’t despise them or try and make them change their ways and I feel as each new generation comes through we are becoming more tolerant of different beliefs, passions or opinions.

So I implore you as a reader of this magazine, as a fan of whatever you are a fan of to try something new today. Try smelling your own god. Don’t be shy it’s a hip new craze all the kids are doing or it will be if I can get Bieber involved. We’ve had opinions and rules on everything force fed to us for years so let’s try our own take on how to converse with passion. Let’s use our most underrated of the senses, all the other ones are so stuck in reality. You have to see something to believe it, you have to be around the tree in the forest to see if it makes a sound when it falls, you have to touch someone to feel close to them and you have to taste something to know if you like it. Passion shouldn’t be based in reality you should be amazed by it everyday. You should smell it.

My passion smells of the Jorvik Viking Centre and some honeysuckle, how about yours?

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