söndag 3 december 2023

Musikminne från Monty Chicago

Foto: Privat

Vi som läser Göteborgsposten kunde för några veckor sedan läsa om Connor Murphy som reste från USA till Sverige för att besöka Göteborg och platserna som Jens Lekman besjungit i sina texter. Under samma tid så reste han till Stockholm för att spela med sitt projekt Monty Chicago. I april i år spelade han med bland annat Vakentimmar-bekanta No Suits In Miami. Hittils har det blivit 4 singlar, varav den senaste A guide to self-preservation släpptes i mitten av november. När jag lyssnar på den äldre låten Auburndale och på den senaste singeln slås jag av hur fantastiska texterna är och hur ljuvt hans sound är. Den senaste singeln, där omslaget är ett foto på Connor i Kortedala, är den bästa från Monty Chicago hittills. Idag gästar han för att berätta om ett musikminne!

With only a backpack and one way tickets from Spirit and Frontier - the budget airlines in the U.S. - I flew into Chicago’s O’Hare in the Fall of 2021. 

The primary goal was to see Advance Base perform at an Orindal Records show in Bridgeport. The music of Owen Ashworth, including his earlier project Casiotone for the Painfully Alone, are among my topic influences for the lyrical, simplistic electropop music I create. I admire his evocative one-liners and storytelling abilities. 

This was my first time traveling solo, and it ended up stirring up intense feelings of wanting to leave my home state of Florida. 

At some point of my trip I end up at Record Breakers in Logan Square. I’m browsing the cassettes, and a blurry pink and white cover catches my eye. It’s We Will Always Be Alone / Cry, a double-sided single by D I A M O N D S, who I later learn are a post-punk band from Los Angeles. 

It’s probably sacrilege to physical media purists, but I like to preview CDs and cassettes I find in stores on streaming services. It’s my way of stepping out of the tedium of music algorithms. I create a private listening station for myself at the store, burying my ear in a phone speaker at low volume. I was immediately drawn to the jangly guitars and wispy vocals. I would have bought the cassette, but my only bag was already bursting with bags of coffee from Dark Matter, and cassettes and CDs by Advance Base and Dan Wriggins I bought at the Orindal show. 

When I revisit the song later, I am drawn deeper into the song by its poignant and provocative lyrics. D I A M O N D S’ Joseph Garate tells the story of a couple taking refuge in the high mountains of an apocalyptic world, one full of danger where they can only get “a couple hours sleep” or at any moment their antagonists could “force [them] into the gas chambers.”

Perhaps most striking to me is the unwavering bond between the two characters. Their understanding and trust in each other is such that they present arguments for violence, something I rarely encounter in songs, and this argument is bolstered by the song’s apocalyptic and genocidal conditions. 

The song’s endorsement of violence can be summarized in the lines: 
"Just know that anyone who tells you 
that you should never use violence 
has never ever had to stand where you do 
has never had to walk our lonely mile."

The darkness of these lyrics, plus ones like “I’ve never practiced with a moving target / but I can learn anything rather quickly,” juxtaposes the song’s glassy and bright arrangement in a way that makes the story more haunting. Pumped Up Kicks by Foster the People comes to mind as a track with similar ingredients, haunting and dark lyrics juxtaposed by upbeat and bright textures. 

Discovering this song on my trip to Chicago ultimately made it the anthem to my memories of the trip. It was a brief trip of four days, but one filled with explorations of an unfamiliar urban landscape. Though I was born in a western suburb of Chicago, and still have some family in the area, I moved away as a small child, and never really had the chance to explore the city beyond the touristy area of Navy Pier. 

The allure of the city starkly contrasts with where I grew up—the suburbs of Tampa. The walkable and social urban landscape also differs from a place I’ve spent several years living as an adult, in a small DIY camper van and, more recently, an RV. The lifestyle affords freedom and economic mobility, but makes me feel like an alien at times. The countercultural vanlife lifestyle remains more popular and socially accepted on the west coast. 

At the time of the trip, I’d been searching for a place that would be a fit for me to move to. Until then, I had no answers, but Chicago was suddenly number one, with its density, diversity of people, lack of pretentiousness and relative affordability. 

Though I’ve since moved to the car-dependent city of Asheville, North Carolina, I still have dreams cultivated during this trip: living carless in a large city, surrounding myself with culture and feeling like I belong in a way that feels impossible in suburbs or in vans. 

Maybe it's all just getting caught up in the grass being greener. Best to focus on the present and embrace the unbelonging. 

“We do not belong here / we will always be alone.” 

/ Connor Murphy, Monty Chicago

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