You describe a lot of your songs as postcards so, because frieze asked me to think about someone or something that fills me with enthusiasm, I thought: I’d write about you! And, I thought: I’d write it as a sort of postcard.
I’ve just got back to New York from India, where I went to see my sick parents. It’s the day after the midterms, the weather’s grey and dreary, and I feel ... a little lost. Just as I’ve been doing since I first heard ‘Maple Leaves’, your 2003 single that included an amazing pun about The Fall and Mark E. Smith, I’m going to play your records to make me feel less lonely.
Your songs are always full of colour and samples, beats and melodies, dizzying rhythms and more melodies still. They remind me of the final scene in The Red Balloon (1956), of the little boy floating above Paris. Often – like when you sing, ‘I picked up a seashell / To illustrate my homelessness/ But a crab crawled out of it / Making it useless’ – they’re absurd and funny. (Ivor Cutler would have been proud of that one!) Most of all, they’re really kind – ‘A Postcard to Nina’, your 2007 song about pretending to be a lesbian friend’s boyfriend to put her conservative father off the scent, is an antidote to hate. So, I’m thinking of you today as I think of you often: the warmth and hope and friendship your records offer. Please don’t let anyone stand in your way.
Sukhdev Sandhu is an associate professor of English Literature at New York University, USA, where he runs the Colloquium for Unpopular Culture. His publications include Leaving The Factory: Wang Bing’s West of the Tracks (2009) and Night Haunts: A Journey Through The London Night (2007).
First published in Issue 200