Thursday, 29 October 2015

Codeine - Frigid Stars (1990)

Everybody loves Mr. Unpopular the manic-depressive outsider, the tortured poet, the guy who just doesn't fit in, and particularly if he has a square jaw, dreamy blue eyes, and that little boy lost quality which works so well for Johnny Depp in whichever version of Alice Tim Burton has recycled this month. That's commercial, as Borgia Ginz will tell you. This probably explains the success of Nirvana, and how their rise to power wiped less successful, less conspicuously Beatly but I think more musically interesting groups out of the picture like the saaaaaaad losers they all were with their hilariously awkward and distinctly un-hunky brainiac frontmen. Ha! What did any of their lot ever know about alienation, the retard n00bs etc. etc.

Actually, I have no idea whether Codeine would have been fucking enormous if not for the distraction of Smells Like Teen Spirit, and I suppose it seems fairly unlikely. I guess my point is that this was more like the real deal in some respects - awkward, not very photogenic, and not something you would have heard at a party. I first encountered Frigid Stars when my friend Andrew lent it to me back in the nineties. I played it maybe twice but couldn't really get into it, which was a shame seeing as Andrew clearly rated it very highly, being a somewhat depressive personality.

Andrew died in 2009, leaving me with a possibly vestigial pang of guilt that I never made the effort with this record, not that it would have made any difference; and so obviously I bought it when I happened upon this copy in the racks at CD Exchange.

I can see why it took so long. Codeine were well named. Their songs are glacially slow to the point of tunes only being apparent if you play the thing at 78RPM so as to artificially bunch all those dwindling notes together; but on the other hand, this material really does grow on you if you're in the right frame of mind, that being the same sort of mood which allows for a full appreciation of Jean-Paul Sartre's Nausea - another of Andrew's faves by the way. Frigid Stars is a little like early Swans in terms of pace and mood, but without any of the usual notational tricks generally employed to invoke doom; so the chords and the general structure is actually quite gentle and beautiful, if admittedly reluctant to pull on its dancing shoes. It's like being wrapped in cotton wool, and was - I suppose - one of many precursors to emo, except from what I can tell emo seems to have come from the marginally later generation whose first emotional crisis was experienced on the fourth level of Super Mario Kart rather than out here in the real world interacting with people who don't wear eyeliner. To get back to the point, I have an unfortunate hunch that Frigid Stars very much represents what it felt like to be my friend Andrew, and so I find this quite a powerful record in 2009 because I still miss him. I don't know if that's a recommendation or not, but at least I can see why he lent it to me.

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