Jib Kidder – real name Sean Schuster-Craig – released his latest album Teaspoon To The Ocean last week (26 January, listen in full below). In a guest column for Q he explains why the music heard in adolescence, in his case Jane’s Addiction – is shaping the music he’s making now… even if you can’t quite hear Perry and co in what he’s doing now.
Pop music is the sound of a crush on a sound. Its enjoyment requires no explanation, my not yet two-year-old son has already understood it for a while. At the same time, we grow more or less sensitive to it as a force over time since music acquires its meaning through associations with consequential events. Consequences accumulate. They also fade off into the distance.
Much like the way an erection forms an arrow pointing to the creation of new life, music’s movement through time forms an arrow pointing towards death. Meanwhile also pointing backwards, towards the events of consequence to which it has attached itself. It’s this tugging in opposing directions that births the nostalgia we know from music. Just as our bodies double in size in the strange space of adolescence, so do our emotions, grasping fully for the first time the nagging pull of sex and death. Music is shaking air, an always unbelievable fact, and though we can’t see it, all the shaking taken together must form a spectacular shape. Much as the way marijuana works simply by being the perfect complementary shape to our brains, music must work by being the perfect complementary shape to our emotions.
It is tension alone that distinguishes music from noise. You make sound into music by putting wanting into it. Pop music is the sound of sounds wanting each other. For this reason, we understand it most fully when we reach our pinnacle of wanting. No one is so full of want as the teenager and few times in a life are so consequential. As an adult you may feel nostalgia for your childhood or for a period of time six years before the present moment, but as a teen at night you may lay down and feel nostalgia for the immediately preceding evening, an experience I often had lying down to smoke my last shoplifted Camel Light of the night on the ash-covered carpet of my best friend Doug’s bedroom floor, dreaming of the girl I’d soon date for years, Doug’s 6-CD changer, glowing orange and green in the dark like an alien spacecraft, playing the second half of Jane’s Addiction’s Ritual De Lo Habitual, the epic songs, starting with Three Days and then onto the stranger ones, the orchestrally eerie Then She Did, the Pagan Klezmer of Of Course…
Jane’s Addiction hit me like a ton of bricks as soon as I turned 12. I found out about them from posters on my cousin’s walls and from St Louis’s pre-ClearChannel post-Nevermind Modern Rock format radio station, The Point. It took me a while to get my hands on the record, Tipper Gore didn’t make it easy. Before my first real copy, a CD with the black and white First Amendment cover that I technically got for 1/10th of a cent from Columbia House, I had only the digipak singles as they didn’t have the Parental Advisory sticker on the front and on account of that Circuit City would sell them without ID. A year or so later I turned Doug onto Jane’s on a field-trip school bus taking us to what was literally a Tennessee cave with colored lighting. Pretty soon after, he was wearing 60s necklaces and doing pencil drawings of Perry Farrell.
On record it sounds like 16 Perrys all drunk and howling into the Grand Canyon. Perry skipped the distant metaphors, went head on: Sex & violence! Erotic Jesus! A psychedelic elf cutting straight to the chase. He felt the full pull. In fact, he dangerously upped the tug to a fuller, more deadly tug. Tempting death with junk, making a film about passionate necrophilia…
Fast-forward to now, two members of the band are doing reality shows, Dave Navarro in something about tattoos, Perry in something about the wives of rock stars. You can see my friend Doug, all grown up, eating dayglo BBQ in my In Between video (above). That’s funny for me because it calls to mind the bright purple spaghetti I once threw up in his driveway after drinking all his mom’s wine and lighting the butt end of a Marlboro Light because I was drunk and unaccustomed to a white filter.
Jib Kidder @jibkidder
For more head to Jjibkidder.com.