Updated: Jan 1
That's it then, eh? 2021 is away.
I feel like there's something wrong with me. Every time I see a reference to it being 2022 imminently, there is a fizzing in my brain. It's not just the fact that that's too futuristic a year for it to possibly be. I suppose the fizzing mainly comes from it being difficult to get my head around the fact that we are almost two years into a pandemic, despite the fact pre-VID times are a seemingly very distant reality, and that we live every day being reminded of the fact that we are living through one. The past 21 months have been such a disorienting whirlwind of excrement that I just cannae process the passage of time properly.
I don't really know what use there is in me on reflecting on 2021 here. You've all suffered through it too. Please don't misunderstand me - It's very nice that you're reading this and I'm glad you're here. I just worry that I'm not going to be particularly optimistic if I continue to write in a stream-of-consciousness manner. I mean, every day in the UK we are confronted by the fact we're being governed by a far-right capitalist death cult at Westminster, protected by an in large-part complicit media, but that's no craic at all for an end of year message, eh? Should I just paint a veneer over the very real difficulties shot through our day-to-day lives; should I roll the jobby in glitter? Stick to the music m8.
I just watched Don't Look Up, and thankfully rather than being a honkin' liberal exercise in the general public are terrible morons, it instead went for we are being led to disaster by venal, corrupt, ill-qualified politicians in the pocket of corporations, shareholders, and billionaires, and are a suffering a too-chummy media that is happy to ignore this in order to satisfy advertisers, ego, and website-traffic-generation. I was pleased it didn't suffer from the lazy, crass classism of Idiocracy. It's a little too on the nose at points, perhaps, but I felt sick about an hour in as I was overcome with a deep sense of despair about our collective situation. It's like Extinction Event Souvenir T-Shirt stretched out to a film.
On that, I worry slightly that the message of at least part of EEST was taken the wrong way. I hate elaborating on the meaning behind songs, even when they're fairly straightforward as in this case, but I worry that it was slightly misunderstood. The hold on to your friends refrain was meant as an indictment of the convenience of selfishness. Look after your friends and cherish them, yes! - but we cannot continue to exist caring for little outwith our own circles. We are all reliant on this planet to sustain us. You are only not having to make the horrendous decision whether or not to put yourself and or/your family in small boat by luck of birth.
But, of course, you're clearly a person of discerning taste and intelligence given where you've found yourself on the internet. You don't think like that. Get off your soapbox m8. We need collective positive action to avert a climate catastrophe, but instead we seem to be walking, distracted, headlong into authoritarianism on this terrible island. The Brits love the boot. Stick to the music.
Maybe I should be talking more about music right at this very moment. But music doesnae exist in a vacuum.
This year has had it's high-points for me, in a musical sense. Catastrophe Hits, my second record [read all about it here] as Broken Chanter, came out at the end of October, and we were very lucky that the album launch fell within the goldilocks zone of "gigs actually happening" in November. I had meant to be on a more significant tour that month but postponed it before even announcing it because of the Prime Minister's "Freedom Day" patter in July. I couldn't see it being safe or right to take my band to England during November. Turns out that was unfortunately correct.
The launch night at the CCA was a delight and it is not hyperbole to say that it was one of the most joyful occasions I have spent on a stage. It was pure catharsis. It was exhilarating.
The reception of Catastrophe Hits has been wonderful. To have a sense of real forward momentum again and to hear how it has been connecting with folk has been heartening indeed. Places in end of year lists and an album of the year gong from The Weekender have been a delight too. I cannot describe how brilliant it feels to have been on the radio so much again too.
I'm very thankful for the excellent people that I've had the privilege to make music with this year. They've been a delight. Look at them there. All festive. Big thanks to all at Olive Grove and Last Night From Glasgow for getting the album out there and their support. Big up Creative Scotland too for taking a punt on me making a worthwhile bit of work too.
It's incredibly frustrating and worrying that we're entering into a period of gig uncertainty again. I understand why, and I would absolutely not want to play at a show where folk's health was put at risk, but that doesn’t mean it’s not tiring to be facing all that again. Fortunately, I've mostly got shows booked for later on in the spring in 2022. I am sure that you'll understand why I'm hanging fire on announcing a few of them at the moment. Keep your eyes on my TOUR page for announcements in the next couple of weeks. There are some up already. London! Rainham! Get your tickets.
I'm trying to be positive. I am going to write some positive paragraphs.
Something that has been of a great comfort over the past couple of years is being more acutely aware of the seasons changing and finding joy in that. Yes, I always struggle with the winter, but when forced to stop doing almost everything and the capacity for activities was strictly limited, I started to get out and about locally as much as possible. I'm very lucky that we live in the south side of Glasgow with a number of parks within walking distance including Pollok Country Park which I'd never properly explored pre-2020 despite having lived back in my home city for almost four years at that point, after many more away. Even in the middle of winter just now, there is a noticeable, if slight, stretch in the evenings. The meagre winter sun that we are afforded is invigorating and can make such a difference if you manage to get out in it.
There is a tree out the back close that fills the view from our kitchen window. 2021 saw it covered in snow, replete with buds promising spring, and full of leaves that would offer a verdant mood-enhancing sight during the summer months. I stare at it and it offers me a sense of calm. There's so much to it. Even when it's bare it's teeming with life. Squirrels cutting up and down it. Cats chasing them. I do my best to bury the intrusive thought that I've become an insufferable hippy-dippy bollocks because of my in-touch-with-nature musings and wanderings.
I'm also very lucky to have a bicycle that allowed me to pedal further and further away from home as COVID restrictions allowed. There is great serenity to be found in the countryside around Glasgow and I am very grateful that my legs have taken me thousands of kilometres over the past couple of years. Absolutely hoovering up those endorphins. It was a sair fecht at first, of course. But starting at half-an-hour in the saddle knackering me eventually ended up with me doing 100km+ rides. This isn't a smug and untrue "you can exercise all of your problems away" bit, by the way. It's just one of the things that has been helping me keep my head a bit more sorted.
It's been great to see so many people doing similar. Enjoying the parks. Getting out and about. Responsibly of course. If you're loudly braying whilst dicking about on a slackline in Queens Park though - know that I am coming for you if we are ever in a The Purge-like situation. A gentrification rant is for another time - we're doing positive bits now. At least we've not had to suffer any zoom quizzes/parties/hangouts again.
My wife got me a "real" film camera from eBay for Christmas last year. that's been a joy too. Don't worry, I've not developed notions that i'm A Photographer. I've peppered some pictures throughout this blog (obvz, I didn't take the ones I'm in) because it's my website and I can be as self-indulgent as I want. Seriously though, it's been fascinating seeing how they turn out. You forget that once nobody thought twice about photos between the click of the shutter until the day the picked them up from wherever they'd been developed. No omg, delete that - a phrase I use all too frequently these days. It even pops a wee date in the corner. Going to stop this paragraph immediately before I sound any more like a Da.
Are these enough positives yet to offset the fact that we're literally experiencing a dystopia and next year's Christmas number one will probably be Ladbaby singing about sinking refugee boats in the English Channel with fucking sausage rolls or something? I'm absolutely raging that I had to learn what "ladbaby" was last year btw. A vanity project that resolutely refuses to criticise the root cause of rocketing food bank use [hint: it's the Conservative government] whilst raising money for them, is it? Vainglorious shitebags.
I think I should wrap this up.
Something that keeps me going is - there are more inherently good-natured and kind people than not, out there. I believe that, I really do. The problem is that no-one - not even you, smarty-pants - is immune to propaganda. And before you think I've gone all Lib-Dem on you, I'm not trying to say that we need to try and see the good in everyone; try and hear both sides of everything even if one side is advocating appalling ideas; give everyone endless chances. No, of course not. You do not debate people who are literally self-described Nazis. You starve them of oxygen (for legal reasons, assume that I am being only figurative) No, you do not assume that you can talk round someone who values profit over people - three ghosts will not be visiting anyone over the course of a night. I just mean that so many folk are being kept in state of anger and confusion and fear by a rabid mostly right-wing press and news-cycle that you cannot possible cast judgement over all of them. People are overwhelmed. People can end up down some pretty crazy rabbit holes on social media. But they can come back. It has never been easier to spread disinformation and mount coordinated campaigns of hate and harassment. With the incredible potential that social media has for organising, why does it almost always punch down? Why is it so often used for ill? These platforms have become a sewer of racism, misogyny, transphobia, homophobia, fascist ideology, and conspiracy.
It suits a certain stripe of politician to keep the population overwhelmed and hopeless. To be frightened. To fear difference. To fear the outsider. In 2022 I hope we can untangle ourselves from this state of permanent anxiety in which we're tied. I hope that we can take inspiration and realise the power that we have when we work together like the neighbours and community on Kenmure Street standing up to injustice - and winning. I hope that by this time next year we will be in a better place, filled with more hope. I hope that the shitehooses of the world will be the ones in fear come Hogmanay 2022.
We've all been battered and bruised these past two years but we're still here.
I'll leave you with a photo that I took on the first day of 2021 - of some much-needed sunlight gracing the wall of my close - and the hope that you and yours are very well indeed. Please look after yourself and others. Please get vaccinated. Organise with your friends.
I'll hopefully see you from a stage in 2022. Thank you for all your support in 2021. It means the world, honestly.
Lang may yer lum reek