from ‘Hack’ by James Wells

I’ve got some gigs to review: three nights in a row’s worth, no less. I’m struggling to remember the night before, and the other two had faded to a blur the moment I’d left the venue. I’m shit at taking notes, too. It’s pointless. When I do take notes, I struggle to read them the next morning. My room is littered with scraps of paper, torn, crumpled and beer-stained, with runs of dark ink smeared across them that are supposed to tell me who I’ve watched and what songs they’ve played. Sometimes I manage to bag set lists, but they’re often equally useless because bands usually use abbreviations or private codes when putting song titles down. Besides, if I don’t know whose set list it is, it’s no fucking use anyway, just one more piece of paper cluttering my manky hovel of a space. In a hovel of a bed / I will scream in vain / Oh please Miss Lane / Leave me with some pain…. Yes, song lyrics haunt me, permeate my thought processes. Songs and bands, good, bad and indifferent… I can’t tell the real from reflection. I can’t always remember the songs, let alone the bands. In my room, I keep the curtains drawn most of the time, and it probably stinks, but like I give a fuck. I’m busy, I like to keep it dark and, well, really, who cares? My girlfriend, Laura – she’s rabid in ecstasy – sometimes suggests opening the window when she comes round, but usually she’s content with me lighting some incense, and that’s cool with me.

I turn on the PC. I roll and light a cigarette while it boots up. I usually try to intersperse ‘real’ cigarettes with rollies for economy’s sake. Have another cigarette and have another cigarette, in a room where lovers go, talking on the telephone… Music is my life. I’m not as much lost in music, as made of music. It flows through me. I like a lot of old stuff. Punk, new wave. I’m loathe to say indie, but then indie means different things to different people. To me, it’s not a genre of 90s shit as represented by Blur, Oasis and myriad nameless generic tossbag bands who’ve nicked bits of The Smiths, The Stone Roses and whatnot to create some mediocre, jangly wank that’s brought us to Razorlight and The Wombats and Hard-Fi and Elliot Minor and One Night Only, The Cribs, The Bees, The Definite Article Followed by Forgettable Plural Noun Ad Nauseaum Bag of Spunk in Skinny Jeans and Top Man T-Shirt Playing Flaccid, Poppy Bilge That I Can’t Believe Anyone Gives a Flying Fuck About Given That I’ve Forgotten the Song Before The Second Chorus… the list is as endless as it is forgettable, and would be longer if the bands weren’t all so completely anonymous and generic that their names can’t only escape my recollection.

I sit down, ready to work, but before I can even open a window, there’s a gurgling in my guts and I have to peg it to the bathroom, kicking CDs across the floor on the way. Thankfully, it’s unoccupied. I expel a massive runny beery shit into the pan before my cheeks even hit the seat. Holy fuck! It was a close call. My ring stings like fuck and that’s what I get for having a curry for tea and ten pints on top of it. I wipe, flush and make a hasty exit: I’ve stunk the place out bigstyle, to the extent that the honk makes me want to hurl.

I manage to keep my toast and coffee down and return to my room. I bung a CD picked up off the floor at random  into the player and stare blankly into space. I should find this easy. I’ve been doing it for years, and it’s the job I always dreamed of doing ever since I was a teenager reading Melody Maker and Sounds. But if anything, it gets harder. Harder to write something original, harder to discern the good from the bad from the indifferent, harder not to become so jaded that the whole thing gets depressing, harder to simply keep going. The late nights and long hours take their toll.

Another knock at the door. Dan again.

‘Thought you’d gone out,’ I said.

‘Forgot my baccy,’ he replies. ‘And my wallet. Been cracking one off?’

‘Moron,’ I josh. ‘I was taking a shit. You’d probably….’

‘Yeah, yeah, I’d forget my cock if it wasn’t attached,’ he says, rolling his eyes.

‘I know, it comes in handy a lot of the time,’ I reply. ‘You can leave it home when you think it’s gonna get you in trouble, or you can rent it out, when you don’t need it. But now and then you go to a party, get drunk, and the next morning you can’t for the life of you remember what you did with it. And you really don’t like being without your penis for too long. It makes you feel like less of a man, and you really hate having to sit down every time I take a leak.’

‘Are you finished? Fucking lunatic,’ Dan grizzled. I’ve probably played him King Missile’s Happy Hour album more times than he can remember, and more times than he wants to. But it’s a great album and so I make no apology for it.

I don’t get it with you, Dan had said recently. You’re a reviewer, you should be playing me “important” albums and being superior about it. Y’know, “classic” stuff like Beatles and Bowie or the Beach Boys, or landmark alternative releases, underground classics like Suicide and that sort of thing. But instead you just play endless weird obscure shit like it’s the coolest, most important fucking album on the planet. It is to me, I’d told him. Fuck stereotypes. There’s music for everyone, and I stake my slender reputation on not towing the Q, Mojo, NME line. Which probably explains why I’m still scraping away at the bottom of the ladder, but hey, at least I’m sincere and true to myself and the music. And no, not the band The Music. They’re gash.

‘Yeah, go on,’ I say.

‘Anyway, I was going to say, Amy’s coming round later on, she might be here before I get back. Can you let her in?’

‘Nope, I’m going to leave her on the doorstep, even if it’s pissing it down with rain. I don’t like your girlfriend, I think she’s a slag and I don’t like her in my house.’ He knows I’m kidding: Amy and I get on really well. What he doesn’t know is that I have a bit of a crush on her, which isn’t something I let on to anyone. No good could come of it, and since I can’t do anything about it and as far as I know it’s not reciprocal, there’s no point.

‘I just meant to listen out for the door. I know you can’t always hear the doorbell when you’ve got music on.’

‘Doorbell’s bust,’ I remind him.

‘Oh yeah. Shit.’

He leaves once more and I resume staring into space. I can’t tell if it’s writer’s block, a lack of inspiring subject matter or fatigue. I have a headache and my eyes are so weary I can barely focus on the screen. I light another cigarette and cruise for porn. Inspiration will come in its own sweet time.



Hack is scheduled for publication by Clinicality Press in December

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