This post is a bit out of synch, and should have appeared no later than July. I’m blaming the season; high summer is the lowest point of the year for me, and if I could hibernate through sweaty August and awake to the clean crispness of September, I would.
Over-hot weather hasn’t troubled me much growing up in rural Scotland, (apart from the famous Scorcher of ’76!) but living in the city, there is an atmosphere of things being on the turn, over-ripe and unhealthy. Even if there’s no sun, there is a close, unpleasant swampiness that saps the energy, making it impossible to do anything.
I suppose I view summer holidays the way some people do Christmas, the enforced leisure, the commodification of the experience, and the imperative to have scheduled fun. Stay-cations are nothing new to me; I’ve always preferred just being off work, pottering about, to undertaking a big trip with the attendant stress of travel and arriving home, skint and sunburnt, with a giant case of laundry.
Certain old songs will always make me feel “summery” if that implies carefree and light-hearted, because when I first heard them that meant no school, clothes in pastel colours and long evenings full of freedom and possibility. (Drinking outside!) Nowadays, a couple of weeks off work is merely time enough to dread returning. I always like to think that this year I’ll embrace summer; I like the idea of it, imagining some sun-kissed idyll of wine and laughter, when in reality, I’ll be struggling with the commute, red-faced, irritable and lethargic. By the time I’ve assembled the summer wardrobe and thought of somewhere to go, it’s nearly September.
’83 seems to have been a good year, as Aztec Camera’s “Oblivious” and Jimmy the Hoover’s “Tantalise” both remind me of being young in the sunshine. This one is a little darker. I didn’t like it immediately, not until I heard it late at night, too hot to sleep, listening on a funny little mono radio under my pillow, and it seemed full of the intensity and disorienting colours, scents and sounds of summer. I had a powerful feeling of synaesthesia, in itself a magical midsummer thing, that returns every time I hear the record.
The dreamlike, swirling melodies and chiming guitars evoke the charged atmosphere of a hot summer night and the heightened emotion of being young as well as the inherent sadness in the transience of both.
So, here I am at the fag-end of the season; shorter nights, falling leaves and back to school, the moment has passed again. This is the sound of the idea of the ideal summer that never was, and honestly is better than the real thing.