Thursday, July 20, 2006

Pillows demo (AKA Oxigen), by Jj72

Regard this as an elegy.

It was the year 2000, the turn of the century. I was sixteen "clumsy and shy", a depressive teenager into The Smiths, Bowie, Pulp, Oasis, Blur and something else. The Smashing Pumpkins were my favorite American band although Pearl Jam was still respectable. Those were though days for me: once that summer was forever gone, suddenly I was out of school and nobody seemed to believe in me anymore; I was a complete mess and music was my only shelter. I'm not sure if it was August or September when I heard this song on the radio. Those guys in Radioactivo were playing some stuff they found at the European summer festivals. At first heard I believed it was a new single by Hole, I thought this was that song supposedly written by Courtney Love and Liam Gallagher (well, they might had been so "busy" or drunk to write a song if they ever met)...fortunately it wasn't. Actually it was the first single of this Irish power trio that I got to love.

Then I used to buy very often records at some tower shop, so those were Napster’s glory days and I also used to download 5 or 6 tunes daily with my 56 kbps dial up internet connection. As the Jj72 homonym debut album remained unavailable in Mexico until 2002 I downloaded the whole of it song by song that autumn.

Since the very first time I heard the A chord softly strummed by Mark Greany I knew this song would easily enter in my personal hit parade of that year, not the same in the mass media. Now I know that this song is a must in the soundtrack of my adolescence. The band was described as a new Nirvana, although the Smashing Pumpkins heavily influenced them; I didn’t care about what the press was saying about this band, anyway I bought a Melody Maker issue with them on the cover. Inside the magazine, which strangely was sold (almost given away with a price of 15 Mexican pesos) in Mexico City with a month delay, I found an interview with the band. The bass player, Hilary Woods was described as the sexiest woman of Indy rock and Mark, guitarist, singer and composer, was acclaimed as the next best lyricist of Ireland. Fergal, the drummer were also worshiped by one of the two magazines that build and break musicians in the UK; now “The maker” does not exist anymore, it was absorbed by the New Musical Express. Reading that I acknowledged that the band was formed in a Dublin high school in 1995. Mark attended a Jesuits school: Belvedere College where James Joyce also attended class when he was a youngster. The band members were aware and proud of it; half the interview was about literature. That lead me not only to pay more attention to what Mark sang in his songs, I also began reading Joyce. In that interview Mark also mentioned he love Manic Street Preachers, I downloaded some songs of them and in two years time I was delighted by the Manics.

Those things I discovered in the interview are things that matter for me now. But at that time what made Jj72 so dear to my ears was the teenage angst in their songs. It was the time when MTV became crap and the so-called teen stars and boy bands were spread around the world as a mortal disease. Jj72, being each of them 20 years old at that time, were a truthful teenage band as Artic Monkeys are now. Listening to their music I really felt that it had something to do with my life or the life of any sensible teenager living in any big city. As Joyce, Mark is very interested in the urban life as a theme; the difference is that Mark's Dublin is a real city, not that big town of Dubliners.

Airports and undergrounds
waiting to find the unfound
rising to pure insanity…

I played the guitar since I was 13. When I reached that hopeless months when I heard Jj72 for the first time I was able to play their songs, which I might still be able to play. At that time I also had a couple of years trying to write songs. The music to my songs was frankly bad, so the lyrics were not as silly as you expect from a teenager. May be listening to Jj72, and the references I got from Mark's lyrics lead me to focus on poetry and give up writing songs. When I was 17 I started exploring the effect of urban life in my first poems about circular streets and summers with sunny mornings and cold rainy afternoons as those we have in Mexico City. The treatment to that theme was contaminated by the pseudo-grunge desolated imagery of Jj72.

Oxygen is a song about love, even when I was a lonely weirdo that song made me feel fine for it gave me the idea that as long as I keep feeling young I’m able to be a “God in my world”.

Short sleeves and warm skin
losing coins calling next of kin
dropping words about the city we're in
ponds compressed by heavy air
us without care just sprawling there
god's in our world

Teenagers messing around and how well they feel to do so. That is exactly what this song is about, or at least what I caught the very first time I read the lyrics.

Two years later my life was still a mess but at least there was room for hope. I was 18, and then Jj72 released their second album. At that time I didn’t played the guitar so often as two years before. The band had a single that became a little bit successful in America and I felt disappointed. After all they didn’t become another U2 and kept being a cult band. That second album I to Sky, became as special for me as the first. It was 2002 and there is a song in the album responding to the fear after the well-known events in September 2001 at the USA. There were a lot of albums “concerned” of those events. Jj72 didn’t respond to it with a political song, the did with Serpent Sky, which might be their most powerful headbanger song with lyrics that evoke words spoken by Whitman:

“I was watching American television, not in a Delores O'Riordan type of way though, and there was a program running about Walt Whitman, great American poet and how he wrote how he felt after Abraham Lincoln was shot and he talked about the clouds had turned into serpents in the sky and very short poem but I wanted the song to have the same effect, an exorcism of intense feelings really.." Said Mark.

Mark also said about Glimmer, another song in their second album:

"This is the one I get really pretentious, I wouldn't say I've stolen, but I've borrowed heavily from certain poets like Yeats and a Portugese poet called Fernando Pessoa. Go read Fernando Pessoa. It's unashamed love song, not towards a partner but more towards family and everyone. It's the one song on the album which is trying to embrace every stranger, every person who listens to it...."

Once again listening to Jj72 was leading me close to literature; by the end of 2002 I was sure I wanted to study literature.

Back to 2006 almost everything I do is related to literature, or at least writing. Few days ago I knew it: Jj72 won’t release a third album, the band does not exist anymore. May be next year Mark will release a solo album or create a new band. When I knew it I listened to this song and a tear escaped from my eye. Jj72 is so far the only band I followed, single by single, since they appeared until the band split up. I lost all the hopes I had to see them if they ever came to this far off city or at least to Coachella. It feels as if a close friend of mine had passed away. It feels as an ominous sign of my adolescence’s dusk. I sit back once again and listen to this song, the one that caught my ears six years ago. There are days that won’t come back, but the songs remain.

Pillows demo(AKA Oxigen) as performed by Jj72.

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1 comment:

Small Ball of Anger said...

That was pretty excellent. I know how you feel about JJ72... assured, you will hear new material from the same people soon.