“I’ve got one too many regrets,
let’s just drive into the sunset.
Keep a hold on all yr questions for now”
Kermes – Questioning
Music has always had the capacity to make me feel young. The giddy rush of discovering new music especially so. When I was 16 or 17, I loved the song ‘Punka’ by Kenickie so much that I arbitrarily decided that the day I no longer loved it would be the day I was officially old. The good news is that I still love that song, so I guess I can argue I’m not old yet, on a technicality at least.
Sidenote – At the time, I somehow completely missed the sarcastic nature of the songs’ lyrics. I may have been young, I was apparently also quite stupid.
Music has also always had the capacity make me feel old. At the Reading Festival in 1997 I watched Ben Kweller’s band Radish, feeling mildly depressed that the lead singer of a band on the main stage was already younger than me. By my mid-twenties it already seemed that I was one of the oldest people at some of the gigs I attended, and on the rare occasions I get out to see a new band nowadays this is very clearly the case. Going to see bands of my generation is somehow worse, surrounded by chunky, middle-aged, balding men (and at some shows they make up 90% of the audience it seems), it is hard to escape the conclusion that I am one of them, and I somehow got old.
Despite this, nothing makes me feel as young as my love for new music. The best feeling in music remains finding a new band or a song whose qualities I want to shout from the rooftops. In fact the shouting from the rooftops may well be the main reason I will keep this blog going, even if no-one is reading and the shouting from the rooftops becomes more like shouting into the void.
In 2018 new loves included Big Joanie, The Beths, Soup Review, The Goon Sax, Cult Party, Nadine Khouri, T-Shirt Weather, Cat Apostrophe, Pip Blom, and most especially Kermes and their album ‘We Choose Pretty Names’. Described variously as ‘sad punks’, ‘queer punx’ & ‘melodramatic indie punks’, descriptions which between them give a not unfair impression of Kermes, their songs have a direct, anthemic quality that hits you in both heart and the gut. They’re songs that I want everyone I know to hear and love as much as I do.
No matter how much I love Kermes music, there’s still a part of me that feels like they’re not meant for me, something which says more about my own insecurities than about them. They’re young, queer punks, and I am a white, cishet, (almost) middle-aged, (kind of) middle-class man. Their raw, brave lyrics about depression and gender dysphoria are always going to mean more to some others than they ever could to me, but I’m ever so happy that I get to enjoy them nonetheless.
If (hopefully when) I get to see Kermes live, perhaps I will feel a little out of place, perhaps I will feel an old man in a young audience (and it’s worth pointing out at this stage that I am making massive assumptions about the age of both band and audience – if it turns out that Kermes are actually all in their mid-forties I will feel quite stupid, once again), but when they play ‘Questioning’ and I sing along I have no doubt I will feel young.
And I may have no idea what it is to be a young transgender person today, but when I listen to a song like ‘Yr Beast’, in that moment it feels like I do understand, just a little bit. And maybe that’s the best thing about music of all. More than just the ability to make me feel young, it’s the ability to, for a few minutes at least, feel what someone else feels, to understand their experience, no matter how different from my own, to find that empathy so often lacking from this divided, angry world.