AC/DC, Alcest, and Music That Hurts

It’s probably not a shocking revelation that as I’ve been doing this project I’ve also been buying music.  Since it’s still in its infancy, the chances of picking up an album that would have already been reviewed is small.  But it does and did happen, so I wanted to take the time to spend a few words on two recent purchases: Highway to Hell from AC/DC and the debut full-length from Alcest, Souvenirs d’un autre monde.  Over the short course of writing this, it turned into something else.

There’s not a lot to say, to be honest: I bought these because contained in their grooves are some of my favorite music of all time.  When I was a kid AC/DC was one of the few bands that my aunt and uncle loved as much as I did, so much so that I remember getting an ultraviolet poster of Highway to Hell from them as a birthday present.  I had cassettes of all their albums up to The Razor’s Edge.  And, like a lot of stupid kids, I sold them, gave them away, or simply threw them out when I started moving from place to place and new music opened up to me.  One of the biggest things I’ve been learning as I go through my collection is that the music that often speaks to the most to me is the music I grew up listening to, that I heard on the radio with friends, in my father’s car, at my grandparents house in the summer jumping into the pool.  Or those early days of MTV, watching videos of bands I would wish I could be like.

Highway to Hell is one of those childhood albums, each riff and solo burned into my brain.  I would turn off the lights, fire up the blacklight tube and grab a tennis racket, emulating Angus Young in the mirror as “Girls Got Rhythm” played.  I’d scream and howl and try to have an ounce of the balls and charisma of Bon Scott as he wailed along to “Night Prowler.”  AC/DC’s sound is so signature and singular that a second is all it takes to bring  recognition.  Recognition and that nervy, tingling feeling of being a kid again, wondering what it was like to be a rock and roller.

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The first time I heard Souvenirs d’un autre monde I was galvanized.  Maybe it was my first time with blackgaze as I came to understand it; all I know is the mix of power and melody and crushing emotion was a physical force hitting my solar plexus.  It was tangible music.  I love music almost out of proportion, but even so – there are few albums that hit me on first listen with such a sizable impact.  This album did, reminding me of rain and loss and not belonging, being apart from everyone else and finding some small sense of beauty in it, a comfort that would help push darkness away, or even allow me to revel in it safely for a time, just enough to get it out of my system and let me function again in front of others.

All of this is contained in the first song, “Printemps Émeraude” which translates to “Emerald Spring.”  It a song that blankets me, and I can’t ever adequately explain why.  When I wrote about Alcest’s Écailles de lune at the very beginning of this site’s life I wrote the following:

Without translated lyrics I’m left to form my own impressions of what Neige is writing about.  I could easily look up the titles in English (and have done so), but whatever his intent, in the end I prefer to covet my own interpretation, regardless of how it may differ from his own.  And my interpretation is one of mood, and childhood, and of losing innocence in that peculiar way when you’re young and you start to understand how people work, and it’s not something you expected, and how that can be painful, and lost, and how it puts you in a place where you haven’t yet figured out what things mean, except that they didn’t mean what you thought.

I guess I tie a lot of hurt into this music, but it’s a hurt I feel like I need to own and piece apart so I can better understand it and then finally let it go.

Those words are 100% true, but there’s a small lie contained therein.  I wasn’t writing about Écailles de lune.  I was writing about Souvenirs d’un autre monde.  I don’t know why it took me so long to buy a physical copy, but when I found out about Prophecy’s 10 year anniversary edition with the original artwork I jumped on it.

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As I move into month 3 of this project I find more and more that what I want out of the music I buy is transport.  Something to take me somewhere.  Somewhere safe, even if to get safe I have to walk through fire, or glass, or memories made of either.

It hurts, and in the end it’s worth it.

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