When music and poetry come to mean something at a specific time

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Poet Cee Smith considers a band making waves with their own musical poetry, and reflects how a sound can affect you in a certain moment in time.

If you’re at a loss and looking, you can find signs to point you to whatever you want.

It’s hard not to project our moods at everything around us.

So when a member of Colonel Mustard recommended a gig the week after the funeral of a good friend, I thought well my reviews of his band were about shaking off addictions by going to gigs.

Cee Smith
Cee Smith

I’d be a hypocrite to ignore my own advice while I was still grieving.

I was off the booze and off the coffee. Watching my nicotine intake but still smoking too much. After a couple of days I could understand why recovering addicts I know rave about the benefits of tea.

It’s something to do.

Two pots of tea and a pint of soda water, I was too early for a gig in Glasgow. Grateful for a moment of peace to be honest I could feel anxiety twitching my fingers as I looked round the room of the sparse early audience. My brain was telling me I needed something.

I was probably just jealous of the conversation. I held out pretty well but as I rushed for a cigarette to dull the silence I carried on past the folk I did know making their way down. Addiction had overrode that basic need for a familiar face.

When the music starts, everything is different. It’s easier to be alone in sound.

Mamatung, the support that night, are like something you’d stumble upon in an empty field. Like witches singing sweet songs of earth and the wild. ‘New ancient sounds’ was what I found scrawled on a train ticket in my pocket days later. They broke the silence and the awkwardness. We assumed our roles as audience and listeners. A proper warm up then.

She Drew the Gun, a four piece band from Liverpool and the headline act, have been described as somewhere between Patti Smith and Portishead. Which is probably the easiest way to describe them.

She Drew the Gun
She Drew the Gun

But with poetry between songs, pleas to protest and laments on love, She Drew the Gun add something else. The blunt direct action of the 1960s and the electronic inward reflection of the 90s are there, familiar. But there’s a bittersweet tone of the modern here too. In the face of elections and referendums that have torn families apart and cast others into prolonged uncertainty, when we are at war with everything and everyone, She Drew The Gun are a gentle encouragement and a reproach. Pay attention, speak up, do something.

‘Am I the only one who’s grieving?’ lead Louisa Roach asks in their sure to be single Poem.

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q15_m1XEdAI

And I was reminded of my friend who passed away when she told me mournfully that sometimes she felt like the only one who was still fighting for independence. The only who still cared.

The band had played with Colonel Mustard at Zandari Music Festival in Korea earlier in the month. I asked my friend what it’d been like playing a gig so far away.

He told me it had been weird but ultimately music is universal. Everybody is happy to dance and sing along if you get them on board.

It’s cliché he said. But so often clichés are clichés because they are real.

And maybe I was reaching but I thought, my friend would have liked this gig. So follow the signs I will.

I walked home from the west end murmuring their lyrics and taking in the night air and I didn’t care that I didn’t have a drink, didn’t care that I was on my own.

Because we never are. Someone on the other side of the country might be grieving too. Someone on the other side of the world is singing the same song you are right now.

It’ll be alright.

But boy, don’t drink two pots of tea and a pint of soda water when you’re at the front of a packed gig.

When I squeezed my way back from the toilet the woman next to me said

‘hope you don’t mind but I’m so annoyed you came back. Thought I’d scored a proper dancing spot.’

It’s all we really want after all. A gap to dance in.

She Drew The Gun are supporting the Coral at the O2 Academy Glasgow on the 9th December and you can pre-order their album Memories of the Future on their website: http://www.shedrewthegun.com/

You can listen to Mamtung here: https://soundcloud.com/mamatung

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4 COMMENTS

  1. Illuminating article, thanks. The 2014 Ref result was itself like a death, death of a nation and its most energetic optimistic visionary people. I’m still trying to understand the psyche of ‘No’ folk, those willing to ‘kill’ their own nation at its (re-)birth. They seem programmed to belittle Scotland in almost all ways; “we canna dae it oorsels”. The cultural creenge is the psychological barrier. Language in aw its forms – communication, music, poetry, drama etc etc- seems key, and is key in terms of culture. Yet still nae Scots Language Act fi oor Holyrood maisters. Creenge = lacking in confidence. Creenge = Anglicisation? Creenge = No voter?

  2. I don’t think there is a No psyche or a Yes psyche

    We all voted based on our own experiences and best reactions to them. And aye, there’s influence from the media and both campaigns but we’ll never move forward if we keep assuming other people’s reasoning.

    • The influence of experience is important, I agree, however it is only one factor and on its own does not explain the psyche. Perhaps cognitive psychology, which considers the psyche as the mind, explains this better by reference to the ‘mental processes’ that influence behaviour, and which includes: our attention (the way we discriminate data, e.g. accept/reject); memory (long and short term – e.g. longer memory/older folk had vote No tendency?), perception (i.e. our response to stimuli/propaganda), language (e.g. extent of Anglicisation, resultant class differences), and metacognition (belief in ones own capabilities, e.g. lack of confidence/cringe). I believe cultural differences and particularly language to be a key variable in the Yes/No decision, with folk ultimately considering themselves to be either ‘more British’, or mair Scottish, which itself is a consequence of the above ‘mental processes’.

      • I would posit the Hypothesis that there is a Psyche-Continuum for voters in Scotland which runs from the ‘extremes’ of British-Max through to Scottish-Max, and with a couple of dominant areas in between, e.g.:

        British-Max psyche: landed ‘gentry’, private schooling, elite uni’s, professional elites, those born in England, Britain viewed as superior to Scotland at all times, Tories mainly, no prospect of change (15%)

        British-Min psyche: middle and lower incomes, propaganda influenced, challenged educationally/intellectually, Scottish cultural cringe influenced, Labour mainly, limited prospect of change (40%)

        Scottish-Min psyche: many recent/former B-min (i.e. unionist) converts, less prone to propaganda influence, many higher educated, most intellectuals/creatives, social democrat/Greens, limited prospect of change (30%)

        Scottish-Max psyche: able to see thru UK lies/propaganda, view Scotland as oppressed, exploited, and under-developed colony, well-read, confidently pro-Scottish independence/nation at all times, SNP, no prospect of change (15%)

        Maybe some uni research dept could test/expand this hypothesis?

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