Falling in love with songs that embrace break-ups and breakdowns

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Cee Smith reviews CRASH, the new album from Scottish duo The Miss’s.

January is a difficult time for everyone. Winter begins properly here. After all the festivities of light, binging and warm community feeling have worn off there’s two choices: carry on the party addiction or settle into hibernation.

With my birthday at the end of the year I try to steer away from the process. But I, like everyone born at the end of a calendar, get to experience time as it’s officially counted.

unknownI had been telling people that 2016 marked my first full year free from the panic attacks that had undermined my every conscious decision to move forward. I had made a decision that I would not be afraid of nothing. And I felt proud of the passing of time.

But in reality, and on reflection, it’s the end of this month that marks that anniversary. I had an episode in January 2016 of rage, fear and manic behaviour. After it was over I decided it had to stop.

Earlier this month I experienced something that had been the biggest trigger to an attack. For days I watched as electricity shot through my brain, making connections and bringing up memories to prompt a response. The fight or flight dance again. And I didn’t play the game.

It’s exhausting. But with a huge amount of control I let it fade away. It’s been a long process with the support of a great many people.

Why am I sharing this?

BREAKDOWNS

The Miss’s launched their second album Crash last week at Broadcast in Glasgow.

The last time I’d been in the venue had been to dance out a few breakups and breakdowns. This time I was sat on the floor before the stage nursing the peak of a difficult period.

I had been confined by cramp to the couch for the better part of 2 days, it had been a sensory overload just getting into town.

The two-piece band from Rutherglen, Michelle Low and Audrey Tait, played their album in full. An emotionally-charged bumpy ride about breakdown and breakups.

This time I could feel the electricity charging through me. It’s not panic, but it shares a lot of the same traits. I wanted to dance and cry and drink a lot of red wine while telling everybody secrets. But I shut my eyes and just listened.

MOUNTAIN

If I had written the review then, I could never have submitted it.

Michelle and Audrey
Michelle and Audrey

I took the album instead on a trip up north a couple of days later. Crash has a recurring theme of the mountain (their closing track triumphantly states ‘I climbed a mountain and I am never going back down’), and I was up to introduce myself to one I had never seen before.

It was one whitey of a coach trip with some devastating views as a reward.

The more I listened, the more I believed my first impression of the album. It felt like the soundtrack to my twenties.

There’s no rise and fall. Strength and weakness push and pull constantly. There’s regret and awareness and making the same mistakes.

Their vocals alone complement each other perfectly, with Michelle’s clear, more traditionally soulful vocals taking the edge of Audrey’s more reserved tone. Her’s in turn add an edge to Michelle and both allow each other space to explore the message.

Musically, the arrangement keeps twisting familiar patterns. Elements of folk and rock with extra notes and sounds to keep it feeling new.

Even the track ‘Delay’ which I didn’t like initially, the more I listened the more I heard the depth to it. Narratively it’s a moment of decision in a confused time, desire that never reaches desperation. Just a pause to be in control for a night before getting back to the complicated processes of being.

And it’s catchy.

RESPONSE

But my favourite moment is ‘Here Again’. Followed by that triumphant mountain clap-a-long that marks the end of the album. It has elicited a different powerful emotional response to me every time I listened to it.

It’s a quiet, honest simple song, with these unexpected effects that put me in mind of Vangelis is he was soundtracking a John Hughes movie.

The reviewer that cannot parse music can always fall back on an obscure comparison.

I fell in love with this album. Then it triggered the whitey moment on a coach ride up a mountain. By the time I was flying down on the near empty return journey, glued to the window staring at constellations over lochs and covering the intense conversation of the two increasingly intoxicated women behind me, I felt free of something.

It’s a declaration of personal independence, with all the fear and work that brings.

So happy new year.

It’s time to move on.

Crash by The Miss’s is available as digital download or physical copy online: https://themisss.bandcamp.com/album/crash 

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