I completely failed to register this when the anniversary rolled around two months ago: it's been 20 years since I started Blissblog. Two whole decades - a third of my life - I've kept at this thing! Not just posting here, but at the daft profusion of satellite blogs spun off it - got a little carried away with the fun of proliferation!
Meanwhile, in the outside world, blogging is dormant verging on dead*. At least in this neighbourhood, once so bustling. Now though, with really only just a few exceptions, surviving blogs seem to be hibernating, while legends are almost all extinct. One hardly ever seems to come across a new blog - the few that sprout seem to wither quickly, or go very intermittent.
Oddly, though - right here if nowhere else - 2022 saw a blogging renaissance.
Not so much on Blissblog, which has become my official "news" outlet, the place for announcements of upcoming appearances, links to what I've been writing in proper places, alerts about the books or other writings by friends and family, and of course the melancholy business of RIPs for deceased admirations. But on the other themed blogs, I've been churning out posts. Not just the typical detritus of a restless mind, either - whimsies and fragmentary thoughts based around a video or a track as with the "drivel blog" Hardly Baked or Energy Flash (unabashedly a rave nostalgia zone these days). No, I have written a bunch of proper thought-out essays. Even involving research, in some cases.
When it comes to substantive content, I've haven't blogged this actively or copiously since.... at least 2012. Below, you'll find a link list to some of 2022's work-not-work.
I put it like that because blogging remains my favorite format precisely because the writing so rarely feels like labour. Liberated from the need to pitch an idea or wield credentials, blogging - for a professional writer - frees you up to address topics outside your perceived expertise. It feels like a leisure activity because it's leisurely - a ramble across fields of culture and knowledge, during which you sneak short cuts and trespass into areas you are not meant to go. A post doesn't have to have a destination, a point. You can bundle or concatenate several different topics, push into adjacency things that don't obviously or naturally belong together - like oddments inside a Cornell box. You can start somewhere and end up somewhere completely different, without any obligation to tie things up neatly. Unlike most paid journalism, you are unshackled from release schedules or topicality - able to address anything, from anywhere, and from anywhen. Lovely too the way you can illustrate with videos and images (always the danger of getting a bit carried away there) while linking to related writings by others or the texts that spurred your essay into existence (again, tempting to overdo).
And then there's the comments box: people adding dollops of their own knowledge, being perceptive or amusing. I regret not having activated the comments box for Blissblog - can't even remember the original reasoning for that choice - and subsequent attempts to 'turn it on' have never worked, not sure why. But the other blogs all have active comments sections and I appreciate the insights and micro-essays deposited by the regulars. These are proper friends, even though most of them I've never met in person.
I honestly can't see that anyone has invented a better format than the blog, at least for what I want to do. Supposed at-one-time eclipsers such as Tumblr never seemed to add anything truly extra (just a bonus element of sycophancy and increasingly-empty-gesture supportiveness with the below-post cosigns). Facebook is too invitation-only; it's limited too when it comes to illustrating with video and audio. The extremely extended Facebook meditation seems discourteous in a way that a long rambling blog riff isn't. The tweet is an artform I've never mastered - too longwinded, no doubt - and of course Twitter now is a hellzone we should all be fleeing.
I love blogging. More than that, as the old legend at the top of Blissblog used to say, "I believe in blogs" (a twist on Ivor Cutler). Now there's a new blog motto, a twist on Tricky: "my brain thinks bloglike." And it does, you know. This is the closest to how my mind moves. A bit more relaxed and informal (unfocused, perhaps) than the appearances in magazines or between book covers. In those contexts, I'm the king of structure, but in here, structure's strictures liquify a little. Starting a blog in 2002 was an extension of the kind of thing I was already doing on my website, whose title included the phrase "thinks aloud". Blogging, being so much easier than uploading new text to a site, encouraged the casual, dashed-off tone, the real-time feel of conversation and chit-chat.
I have no real idea how many words I've written on these blogs in two decades. But I wouldn't be surprised if all totted up, the blogorrhea comes to something in the vicinity of five million words. A significant diversion of energy from the stuff that pays the bills. Occasionally, I have thought of going the Substack or Patreon route, but that would only turn what is absolutely not a job into a sort of job. Insidiously, I'd start to think about what would appeal to existing subscribers and what would lure new ones. And with those particular templates, I just don't like the look of them - they don't seem to archive in the way I would wish. There is also something about the fact that this stuff is just out there for anybody to look at - that a search engine or a random peregrination might cause someone to stumble on it. Blogging is effectively narrowcast, but it retains an aura of broadcast, the tantalizing possibility of reaching more than the pre-converted, the already tuned-in. (In that sense, not unlike the terrestrial broadcast pirate radio station). Perhaps that is an illusion, but if so it's a useful and productive one, creating propulsion and purpose.
There's this bloke on Twitter who, every time the subject of Mark Fisher comes up, says (absurdly) that he wasn't a rigorous thinker and what could you expect from someone who merely operated a "Simon Reynolds level culture blog". He loves that line - he's used it about four or five times now! Unsurprisingly, I am perfectly happy to operate a Simon Reynolds level culture blog. It's just my level.
Back at the start, someone who was then already a veteran blogger predicted that I would go at it hard for six months and then close down. I'm delighted to have disproved him - 40-fold at this point! This dude should really have known better. No one would ever mistake me for a man of few words. Short of some drastic life event, I see no reason why I shouldn't carry on indefinitely. See you in the comments boxes!
Here are some of the long posts you may have missed this year, some of them about topics that don't seem like "me" at all.
Decline of the Wes
A piece connecting Fellini's Amarcord, Anderson's The French Dispatch, and Tati's Playtime, via decadence, detachment, and a typology of nostalgias
Sideways Through Time
An essay about alternative history, steampunk, hauntology - "the ghosts of other presents".
Showbiz Against Showbiz
A piece about Bob Fosse and Lenny Bruce, believe it or not
Keeping up affront
Essay about Jordan as the original Sex Pistol, punk, and the notion of "cultural terrorism"
The Fall as Sound / The Sound of the Fall
An essay questioning the over-emphasis on Mark E. Smith and lyrics in serious writing about The Fall
Tonks for the Memory
A piece on Rosemary Tonks and Delia Derbyshire, via the former's novel The Bloater
"No, I Do Not Want to Hear the New Stuff"
Reflections on a visit to the alternative rock / Goth / mope-rock festival Cruel World - and on ageing ,and the ageing-out of former musical heroes.
Riffs + Rambles
ShitBrit - a fiesta of fester
A thickly illustrated tour through the Bad Music Era, reveling in the unique properties of the U.K.'s musical Shitegeist of the mid-80s through to mid-90s. If not the all-time most read of my blogposts, certainly the most commented on. Something about this subject strikes a plangent chord, stirs a kind of "inverted patriotism". Perhaps it's cathartic. Probably the start of a series, as there is no end to BritShit.
Sparks and American Rock Critics: A Hate Story
Aversion and animadversion triggered by the not-quite-male Maels.
Jagger versus Morley, or Life and Death and the Living Death of Rock and Roll Music
Looking at the rhetoric of vitality and necrosis in a 1980 interview encounter between the Rolling Stone and the NME firebrand.
Considering the mimetic fan response to music and how it is affected by sampling.
The sample epiphany as mondegreen via Loleatta Holloway and Noise Factory
Ennio versus Ennui
A musical revelation chanced upon in a film starring my favorite movie star James Coburn
if at first you don't secede...
Separatist movements of the 1970s... and the strange case of Saunders Lewis
"Going forward into the past"
On Elvis Costello and the locus of the newness in New Wave
Anwen Crawford's No Document
A brief review, effectively.
"Naturally we're punks"
Connecting the Sex Pistols version of "No Fun" and West Side Story's "Gee, Officer Krupke"
Siouxsie and the Banshees as Late Glam
New Wave as Anti-Glam
"the monster with the thousand eyes is shouting to be fed"
On Anthony Newley, with particular attention to his extraordinary performance of "The Man Who Makes You Laugh"
The Blow Out
Identifying a dynamic at work in "Friday On My Mind", "Weekender", and songs by Johnny "Guitar" Watson.
dubbing tapes (I am reggae hear me ROIR)
Retracing a route through to roots reggae and dub love, via a cassette-only label.
Baubles + Bagatelles
The Armpit Foghorn
About a certain kind of rave riff
Fear of the Oi! Polloi: Images of the British Working Class from Butskellism to Bushellism.
Melody Maker the rave paper
The Sound of the Suburbs
New Wave songs about those placid peripheries where dreams go to die, via a Nicky Tesco RIP.
Connecting Al Green and Tim Buckley
"Thought is the enemy of flow"
Vintage Vinnie thinkige gets my thoughts a-flowing
K-punk's raves from beyond the grave
Purely pictorial byproduct of an unexpected fascination for fringe theatre and radical playwrights of the late 60s + 'early '70s - a parallel action that anticipated punk but seemingly had almost no connection or influence on it
Old Wave Eye Candy
Deep immersion into the beardy, brown aesthetics of the pre-punk design episteme.
Largely but not wholly pictorial celebration of the sleeve note - there's some commentary. Of course the "pictures" in this case are dense with text. In fact, there is more to actually read in this post than any other post out of the whole history of this entire blog constellation. It's just that the bulk of the text is not written by me.
* Contradicting my claim up top, Phil Gyford thinks there's life enough out there for it to be worthwhile launching this very year a directory of blogs with a new one added on an almost daily basis. Ooh! also lists no less than seven of my blogs - not the full list by any means!