Turn On The Bright Lights

It’s late here and It has been raining for three days. Not such a rare occurance you may think, but in the land where I reside it’s quite the rarity.

It’s 1:30am, it’s dark. I light a cigarette. I watch the smoke drift out onto the terrace and swirl then twist away into the rain. Inhale. Exhale. Extinguish. I look out over this city, over the apartment blocks and beyond the vast darkness of park Guell and into the gray, pink tinged sky of Barcelona.

The sky is different here, it looks more forgiving. It doesn’t have the grim depressive qualities of a Wednesday night in Manchester where the dark clouds and steady rain seem to crash down against the upturned collar of coat long since drenched and defeated by the elements.

When it rains in Barcelona it makes me miss home more than I sometimes think I can stand. When it’s late at night and it rains as it has, and still is doing, it makes me want pick up my guitar and go back to a time when I would sit up all night just ‘playing’ and creating weird minor key after minor key sequences.

When it rains like this I want to listen to ‘Turn On The Bright Lights’. Maybe it was the time in my life (winter 2002) that made this album such a special piece of work. Maybe the rain and bitter gloomy cold of the city where I was born perfectly fitted the tone of the music.

This album is cold, loveless, even. It doesn’t envoke any happy memories in the listener, It can be hard and, at times, it sounds like a fractured, broken hearted love letter to nobody in particular. And it is an absolutely brilliant piece of art. In a post-Britpop, post-Millenium world where the best band in the world was deemed, laughably, to be The Strokes, this album proved that The Strokes were not even the best band in their own city of New York.

Turn On The Bright lights starts with ‘Untitled’ and it sounded alien and beautifully miserable. The album quickly folds into the brilliance of ‘Obstacle 1’ and ‘NYC’. Then comes my favourite song on the album, ‘PDA’. I can still recall the memory of hearing this song in a club with the friend who turned me onto the album. Drunk, smoking and smug with the knowledge that this was a song that the cool kids would dismiss out of hand whilst waiting for the predictable simplicity of something inferior.

Listening back to the album in it’s entirety songs on the second half like ‘Say Hello To The Angels’ and the unsettling lyrics of ‘Stella’ creep slowly over me, invoking very specific memories. I used to believe the best way to listen to this album, as with any album, is by turning the volume up and sitting in pitch black darkness. But everything changes.

I look around my life in Barcelona now and realise how much things have changed. Darkness and volume have given way to headphones and lighting. The seven guitars, the amps, the bass and the scrapbooks have sadly become one guitar, a desk and a couple of cats noisily chasing each other around.

I guess this is the ceaseless march of life and progress but on days and weekends like this, when it’s dark and the rain never stops it makes me want to listen to Interpol–the kings of gloom, to see my friends, to walk home drunk at 3 am in the rain. Cold and cursing with my head down and that collar upturned.

Time to visit home. I hope it rains when I get there.

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