Wednesday's Emotional Setup: What Do I Get
I have, in the past, occasionally posted music reviews here, in a mostly haphazard way. Often they'd just be pieces I did for the Ontarion. Last week, on Wednesday, I finally decided I wanted to do it again, but this time actually do it according to a strict schedule - that is, if you came here every week on a certain day, there'd be music-related content here. Starting out quite humbly (today is just a single song, for example), but perhaps one day swelling to The War Against Silence
proportions. I was musing what to call it, and which day of the week to arbitrarily choose, when "Wednesday's Emotional Setup", by ShelleyDevoto, Pete Shelley and Howard Devoto's recent electronic project, came up on Winamp. It must be a sign - after all, it was Wednesday.
I then promptly forgot to do anything about it that day. So I've been waiting a week to launch this thing, and here we are. Barring disaster I'll be putting something about music, most likely about a specific song or album, here every Wednesday - I'll also be cross-posting it to my journal
so that people who for some reason only read one will still be able to see it. That's probably enough, or even too much, in the way of preface, so on with the show; in honor of the people who inspired the column's title, our inaugural subject is the Buzzcock's "What Do I Get". On with the show.
I discovered the Buzzcocks just slightly too late. I was still adolescent enough in outlook for them to reach me, sure, but I'd started growing out of it enough that rather than my life being defined by Buzzcocks songs (as I have the scary certainty it would have been if they'd reached me when I was, say, 16), they became a kind of spokesmen, Pete Shelley in particular articulating the turmoil that dealing with girls (and I was still in the age of girls, not women, at this point) while attempting to keep a cool head. "What Do I Get" was the first Buzzcocks song I ever heard, and still the only video by them I've seen (enjoyably minimalist and deadpan, complete with the band tearing its way through the white backdrop at one point with less energy than I would have thought possible), and I was instantly in love, the sort of state of affairs that Shelley and co. would highly approve of. Here, after all, was a song about how the singer "just wanted a lover, like any other", a state I certainly sympathized with at the time. But at the end, of course, he reveals that there is a "you" that he's been singing the song for, that all this pretense that he wants anyone, will settle for anyone, is exactly that. As with most of what are my favorite Buzzcocks songs, this is a song for and about boys (and those rare girls) who think they're smarter than their emotions, and who fully expect to have them under their rational control - only to discover that they've fallen in love again and can't do a thing about it. Shelley really does
want a lover like any other, but he's forced to specifically go after "you" because of forces beyond his control. And to that particular brand of adolescent, whose ranks I of course swelled in my time, this rankles. If he can't have "you", he wants nothing "at all, at all, at all, at all". The great moment of the song, for me, is the point where he finally admits the "you", the last line of the song, and the whole band seems to go gloriously out of tune in sympathy. Having done quite a bit of growing up since first hearing this song, and having obtained the peerless "Singles Going Steady" (I tend to be a bit leery of remasters with bonus tracks, but this one does it right - four a sides and the four corresponding b sides are added, but the a sides are placed after the existing first LP side, and before the first b side, keeping the record's natural progression), "Ever Fallen In Love?" has replaced this song slightly, both in my affections and as an example of this state of mind as written by Shelley. But, due to my being older, this song also sounds more like the rueful acknowledgement of wanting someone you can't have, and less like a petulant smokescreen. Of course, I love it either way, and it can be fully enjoyed either way; in any case, the Buzzcocks were, for a time, the chroniclers of the interiors states of a particular subgroup of teen, the ones just slightly too smart and way too self-analytical for their own good.