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No Document – a playlist and liner notes

Anwen Crawford presents an essay in the form of liner notes about the making of No Document.


Mission of Burma – Mica, from Vs., 1982

Well y’know I nearly called the book Mica, because of my long preoccupation with this song’s ability to disassemble itself from the inside, as if the thing were always in the midst  of becoming something else. Starting again. One of the best gigs I’ve ever seen in my life was about twenty years ago, this short-lived band called The Unicorns (right?), and at the end they started taking apart their equipment as they were playing, passing bits of the drum kit and the mic stands out into the audience. That’s how all gigs should end (or begin). Let’s democratise the means of production. Starting again.

Tropical Fuck Storm – Rubber Bullies, from A Laughing Death in Meatspace, 2018

The course of history is never pre-determined, but if I am testing a thesis in No Document then it’s the one voiced here: Certain pasts want certain futures / Certain futures, certain pasts.  The arrangement of this song is repetitious, unremitting; it’s about causality – what it takes away – where Mica is about improvising new realities (I think). Is anything still possible?

Nina Simone – Pirate Jenny (live), from Nina Simone in Concert, 1964

As exacting and as merciless an act of class vengeance as has ever been delivered onstage. The show is over. The audience get up to leave their seats: time to collect their coats and go home. They turn around. No more coats and no more home.

Silver Mt. Zion – Mountains Made of Steam, from Horses in the Sky, 2005

This kind of folk-punk, post-rock thing that was floating around in the early 2000s got on some people’s nerves for the same reasons I love(d) it: a stubborn naivety of spirit and tone, the refusal to stop asking the question of why the world is as it is, and asking it with the resources to hand, i.e. your battered guitar amp and a ragged group of voices. This is their busted future / And this is our dream / Which one do you believe in?

Broadcast – You and Me In Time, from Tender Buttons, 2005

Broadcast’s vocalist, Trish Keenan, died suddenly in early 2011, only a few weeks after the death of my friend for whom No Document is written. I’d seen them play live just before he died; they too were a duo.

The Ink Spots – I Can’t Stand Losing You, 1943

For years now I’ve played a game in my head: is this a break-up song or an elegy?

Suede – The Wild Ones, from Dog Man Star, 1994

All great Suede songs – and this is probably the greatest – are about the drama of being young. And though The Wild Ones is probably addressed to a lover, I think its majesty encompasses the love we have for our friends when we’re young enough to rescue each other, wreck each other. And oh, if you stay / We’ll fly from disguised suburban graves. Well, amen.

Dinah Washington – This Bitter Earth, 1960

This song, on the other hand, is about no longer being young. Among other things.

Diamanda Galás – Let My People Go (live), from Plague Mass, 1991

Performed in the Cathedral of St John the Divine, New York, at the height of the AIDS epidemic in that city, Plague Mass by Diamanda Galás was (and is) an act of radical mourning. Her work as a singer and musician has been dedicated to the politics and rituals of grief: who grieves, who is grieved, how we might grieve together. Galás warns – this is news from below – that those whose grief has been occasioned by the state have no obligation to forgive.


Pet Shop Boys – Being Boring, from Behaviour, 1990

From one elegy to another, very different in tone but no less moving to me. This song wears its grief lightly. My friend V once described Neil Tennant as possessing ‘a teardrop voice’, which is exactly right: even when he’s arch (which is most of the time) he’s also sad. Being Boring can make me cry and there are few songs of which that’s true. Also – and I’m gonna let you in on a secret here – part of the reason I was determined to get Pet Shop Boys into my book was in order to impress my friend Shaun Prescott, who once wrote a great zine about them. I hope you’re duly impressed, Shaun.

Life Without Buildings – The Leanover, from Any Other City, 2001

It remains one of my minor but lasting regrets that I passed up the chance of seeing Life Without Buildings, a band of former art school students, at the Annandale Hotel, when I was an art school student. ‘They’ll be back’, I thought. Reader: they never came back. There was a season around this time, this year, when I had bronchitis – contracted, I believe, during too many winter nights spent outside spray-painting – and I lay in bed for what felt like months, but was probably only weeks, listening to this record and contemplating the floorboards.

The Clientele – Losing Haringey, from Strange Geometry, 2005

When I look back at this there’s nothing to grasp, no starting point. I was inside an underexposed photo from 1982 but I was also sitting on a bench in Haringey.

Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell – Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, 1967

There’s a specific kind of intimacy generated by collaboration. Were they partners? No. Were they partners? Yes. I tend to assume from this recording that, among other things, Tammi Terrell and Marvin Gaye shared a similar sense of humour: it’s their timing, their exuberance, the bounce of this song, though their parts – this was their first duet – were recorded in separate sessions. Tammi Terrell died at age 24, of brain cancer.

Stay – Rihanna feat. Mikky Ekko, from Unapologetic, 2012

My friend for whom No Document is written was, at heart, a not-so-secret sentimentalist (as I am), and had he been alive when this song was released, I like to imagine that we would have spent many happy hours singing along with it, badly, in his car.

I Found a Reason – Cat Power, from The Covers Record, 2000

This one I don’t have to imagine: we used to sing along to Cat Power all the time.

Limerence – Yves Tumour, from the compilation Mono Non Aware, 2017

VHS / mixtapes / colour snapshots /

Your voicemail greeting outlasted you

New Grass – Talk Talk, from Laughing Stock, 1991

A long time ago I learnt that the secondary and largely forgotten meaning of the word aftermath is ‘new grass’: that which grows after the harvest. The singer of this song has passed through to the other side of an event, but I don’t know what that event is; none of the words are discernible to me, and I’m glad of that. The song is a silhouette, not a testimony.

Who Knows Where the Time Goes – Nina Simone (live), from Black Gold, 1970

And above our heads pass birds, casting their shadows.

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