Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Listening to hardcore: Kinda like not riding.

So I haven't ridden much for the past week. This is in part due to a road bike out of the picture for a little while. It's also due to a lack of inspiration. I've been sick, it's been hot, or wet. I just haven't felt that desire to push myself as i have been for the past while. I know i should take a break after being ill. But for how long? And to what extent? All this results in a guilty feeling, as if i should be doing more.

By the same token, I've been listening to a lot of the band Propagandhi for the past few days. I had heard the name thrown around a bit and decided to give them a listen. I really like it. Which brings me to another conundrum. For as long as i have listened to metal there has been, despite my passion for it, a slight discomfort in that my general world view is rarely in line with those of the bands i listen to. There are some exceptions. Early Metallica and, for that matter, most thrash bands in the 80's belonged to a left leaning philosophy. Grindcore, by and large, belongs to the punk political view. But many of the bands i love espouse an apolitical, or right wing world view that makes me uncomfortable. Burzum make incredible music, but Varg's opinions when it comes to race, sex and politics, are not worth repeating. Morbid Angel, possibly my favourite band, have an ambiguous past in regards to white power movements.

So i have, it is probably fair to say, been a metal head with a punk outlook. So listening to Propagandhi has been a bit of an eye opener. Supporters of animal rights, and various brands of anarchy, as well as condemning religion, corporations and intolerance, they seem much more in my political spectrum. The songs are great too.

But with it comes a similar guilt to that which i feel when i sit on the couch watching Aliens 3, instead of riding. I have a metalheads mistrust of hardcore. It's all a bit preachy, a bit self righteous, just a bit too good for for its own good. There are less sweet solos, and less of the spine tingling roars that make me want to break shit.

But isn't this a good thing? The members of Propagandhi are supporting good causes, passionately, and with a great deal of conviction. Isn't that better than making music which is fucking awesome, but with more questionable theoretical backing? Or should music be separated from agenda?

I simply don't know. What i do know is that, despite having the traditional mistrust of hardcore, i'm going to keep listening to Propagandhi, as well as other hardcore bands i have discovered along the way, not only because i think the message is a positive one; but also because the music kicks ass.

I'm still going to listen to Burzum though. And Sodom. There will always be room for bullet belts and inverted crosses.

So maybe, despite my misplaced guilt, its ok to 'cross borders' when it comes to music, just likes its ok to take a week of the bike if you feel like it. That way, when you come back to what you really love, be it metal or riding, you'll love it all the more.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

On Riding long distances and finding strange things on your ipod while one does it.

Last week, with some friends, i set out on what was meant to be an adventure. It was, but perhaps not in the sense i was expecting.

The plan, from the off, was to ride from Sydney to Melbourne on bikes. Most of us rode fixed gear bikes, some single speed, i opted for gears. Based on a very similar route started by Melbourne couriers which was named the Cannonball Run, our ride was a touch longer, but went for a couple more days, with the emphasis on 'holiday' rather than 'ball breaker'.

The first day, leaving from the Sydney Opera House (where else?) was great. Once we were out of the city, there was beautiful countryside, rainforest, amazing descents and as many lolz as one can handle. The radar, however, told a different story. A HUGE front, and i repeat, massive front, was coming our way.

Rain is no big deal i thought.

After lunch the heavens opened and we got pissed on. No stress i thought. I had been feeling a little under the weather and my throat didn't feel too crash hot either, but we rode on, finishin in Kiama, 130km done.

Easy day.

No sooner had we arrived then i began to become feverish. Sweaty and cold, i retired to bed at about 6, wondering how on earth i was going to ride another 7 days. I woke to the sound of torrential rain on the motel roof and knew that today would be, to put it mildly, difficult.

The weather itself was not worrying, but my condition was worse and i could barely see through a splitting headache. We rode on.

Much like an Opeth gig, whilst riding in the rain might be fun for half an hour or so, when you do it for long enough, one realises that fun is not being had.

Hours later we arrived in Ulladullah in the late afternoon, a few kms short of where we were meant to be, soaked, exhausted after having spent 9 hours in the freezing rain and blistering headwind.

Sore knees were the order of the way for those riding fixed, and my health sure as hell wasn't getting better.

The next day the rain had eased slightly but was still fairly consistent. The princess highway shoulder was non existent and we suffered 10 punctures between us, 5 of them being mine. I also broke a spoke.

The next day, due to my health, and others knee problems, four of us decided to call it quits. Two of the party, i'm proud to say, went on and completed the ride, all days in torrential rain coupled with a headwind.

To say i failed would be true. The last few days have been a blur of disappointment, general fatigue, and frustration. I am, generally speaking, a pretty stubborn person, and don't give up easily. This is especially true when it comes to riding my bike. Perhaps i could have kept riding, through the conditions, with my fever. But, like Metallica post Black album, was it a good idea to continue?

My main fear was that i would go on, push through my illness, and come home wrecked, unable to ride or race, or for that matter leave bed, for a week, or two weeks or more. The weather was the wettest NSW had seen since records began and pneumonia, with my lungs, was not out of the question.

So i did fail, but i also saw through a third of the ride through some of the worst conditions i have ever seen on a bike. And i can say without any doubt that i'll be back for more at some stage in the future.

I certainly had an adventure then, but a surprise one, where there was more pain and misery than happiness, but where i probably learnt more than i would have otherwise.

One thing i did do a lot of was listen to my ipod to while the wet hours away. By god, there were some strange things on there. It does something to a mans sanity, i would argue, listening to Napalm Death, to have it backed up with Sixpence None the Richer.

I have been, it must be said, been listening to a lot of hardcore recently, and enjoying it. But occasionally you gotta head back to what its all about. No matter how many times i listen to Gorilla Biscuits, Agnostic Front or whatever, Thrash will always be King, and will always rock a hundred times harder.

And those were the various conclusions i arrived at whilst being urinated on from a great hight by the Almighty.