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Teenage Intensity (or, New Year: new procrastination method)

So, it's now 2015 - Happy New Year to you, reader! - and I'm reloading most of my CDs onto iTunes. Before you condemn this as some kind of new procrastination activity (now that I've deleted Minesweeper from my computer), I have valid reasons: I originally uploaded my CD collection on 128 bitrate which has led to some thin sounding reproduction when my ipod is hooked to the stereo, which (here's the clincher) annoys my good wife. I'm doing it for her. That's not procrastinating, not in the slightest...

Anyway, I stumbled across a prized CD while doing so: Spiderland by Slint. I'm certain 99% of people reading this, if not 100% of you, won't have heard of it, so let me briefly explain - in 1991 Slint were a group of four teenage boys, with one album to their name - Tweez, which sounds exactly like what you'd expect four teens with alt-rock/hardcore leanings to sound like. For their second album however, they produced something utterly different and unique. If you search "Slint Spiderland review" you'll get the opportunity to read dozens of eulogies to this incredible album, by professional reviewers who do that sort of thing better than me. Suffice it to say that the album is (if you're cool with discord, soft-loud mood-swings, muttered vocals and alt-rock sensibilities) a landmark of post-rock. It was recorded over a weekend, the band broke up almost immediately afterwards and the vocalist checked himself into hospital. There is now a 'making of' film about the album, called ‘Breadcrumb Trail’ (named after one of the songs on Spiderland).

What still strikes me is the band's INTENSITY. The boys in Slint were drawing on sources from Samuel Coleridge to Bram Stoker, fever-dreams of haunted fairgrounds, western movies and urban sprawl, with real maturity. They had their own vision, their own sound, and were focused with complete intensity. An adult band couldn't have made this album - "grown-ups" would have been too aware of the pros and cons, too risk-averse, too knowing of what has been done before, too experienced to be so innocent in their intensity.

Remember being that way?

It reminds me of the huge swathes of my teen years I spent practising with a football, on my own, trying to master the ball, dreaming of being a professional. Same with cricket, bowling tennis balls at a box all afternoon ruining a patch of Dad's lawn in the process, or practising my tennis serve over and over. I obsessed over sports, and over the books and music I loved. I could and would talk for hours about them with similarly minded friends, arguing, yelling, passionately opinionated about all manner of things, from football teams to TV shows to movies to religion and all things between and beyond. To me, that's being a teen.

Before the grinding cynicism and compromise of adult responsibilities, there's so much we want to express. We're born with that need. It's that energy that drives us to dream, to strive, to make irrational (from a materialistic view) sacrifices to bring some new creation into the world, be it a building or a play or a book or a song. Without it, we shrug and move on. With it, we live and breathe something until we make it real. So often that energy is channelled into waste or harm, but when harnessed well, it's so powerful.

It's that passion that anyone creative must keep alive, and harness. This is doubly true for those that write/create for the teen market (as I do when I'm not wearing my Moontide persona), because you are not just using that passion, but speaking to it. We all need to keep that part of us alive and vibrant, especially those of us who create for teens.

Which is one reason why I'm playing Spiderland again as I write. It still blows me away, even 24 years on. And it reminds me that creation requires focus, passion and intensity. 2015 is going to be a big year, with two books contracted, three to edit and another project to somehow slot in alongside if I can. It'll be hard work... but it will feel more like play. Bring it on.


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