Unheimlich Manoeuver

29 Nov

Yesterday I ran into a costume.

At around 9:37 in the morning, I was charging up Piccadilly on the way to school. I was running 15 minutes late as I’d wanted my coffee to percolate properly. What a fool I was! I should have compromised my breakfast, settled for a watery beverage and relished the grit at the bottom of the cup as I thanked my lack of attention to detail for saving me from the supernatural.

This is what a decent cup of coffee wrought;

I’d just danced my way through a maze of commuters outside Green Park Station, when suddenly I found myself face to face with a 17th century Plague Doctor. It was a foot-length brown leather cape, a pointed hood and an unbelievably sinister beaked mask, and it was moving straight towards me.

If I could have, I’d have jumped from my skin.

I cowered and watched as this uncanny get-up barged past me and sauntered, normal as anything, down the steps into the tube station.

Nobody else seemed to notice, and yet I haven’t spent a moment since then not shivering in fear. Am I going mad?

All evidence points to the word “yes”. About a month ago, killing time on Shaftesbury Avenue, I walked into Fopp and bought NOW 41 second-hand. I don’t know what strange prepubescent urge drove me to do this, but by god was it a good move.

The 80s revival, now over ten years old, has run its course. They’ve canonised Screamadelica and “rediscovered” Tricky. They’re reissuing britpop albums as “Deluxe Editions”- even Suede!

The early-to-mid 90s are now as kitsch and marketable as twee knitwear.

NOW 41 was released in 1998, on the upward arc of Robbie Williams’ solo career trajectory. This is virgin territory for semi-ironic reappraisal- Billie! Sham Rock! Vengaboys!- but it’s still a bit raw- dated, but not yet charmingly so. You’ll know the time is right when you start to see broadsheet reappraisals of the Spice Girls.

I was amazed by the emotional connection I had with the music on this pre-millenial snapshot of the pop charts, and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why. Was mid-1998 pop’s golden era? Was my generation blessed? Was this non-memory a severe case of déjà entendu?

It took a while, but eventually I remembered that I spent three days in January 1999 staying with a friend in Dumfries. It was, all things considered, a really nice holiday, and the only complaint that I could find at the time were the two CDs on constant rotation, one in the kitchen, the other in the car. Little did I know, but their content and running order would be forever etched into my subconscious.

I spent too long trawling internet forums trying to piece together the puzzle, and came to the unavoidable conclusion that I had just purchased the very album that had so blighted my stay in Burns country.

The sad thing is that I was too cool to like it at the time. As a ten-year old, I despised anything and everything that was not related to Kraftwerk or Jah Wobble. It’s a long story, and I blame the parents.

And here I lie on my sofa, drinking whisky and lemon while the brilliance of If you buy this record your life will be better by the Tamperer feat. Maya wafts out of my creaking CD player. I have betrayed my prepubescent self, and I can feel his critical glare skewering me right from the other side of the Millenium.

My sanity is done for, and I mean it- this album features not only Phil Collins but The Corrs.

And yea, I shall walk through the shadow of the valley of death and fear no evil

For I am the naffest bastard in the valley.


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