A man enters the bar, possibly Irish, possibly Scottish, possibly Micronesian. His nationality isn’t important to the rest of this wry story. The bar was actually in Eastern Ukraine, but the man might have been on holiday, we don’t know. He orders a double negative. The barman asks him what the hell a ‘double negative’ is. The guy says it’s what he calls a double martini. The barman says that it was a lame way of trying to find some relation to the particular album this story ends up on, but took the man’s money and served him a drink. After the man finishes the double negative, he peeks inside his shirt pocket then orders the bartender to prepare another one. The barman asks him where exactly in the world do people call a double martini a ‘double negative. The man says that everyone calls it a ‘double negative’ where he;s from. The barman asks where he’s from. The man says where he’s from isn’t important, as it doesn’t play into the punchline in any way. The barman rolls his eyes and hands over the drink. After the man finishes it, he again peeks inside his shirt pocket and orders the bartender to bring another double negative. The bartender says, “Look mate, I have to say you’re being really weird. You call a double martini a ‘double negative’, you say that everyone does where you come from then refuse to elaborate on where exactly that is. Then there’s the thing with the photo in the pocket. You’re bumming me out! I’ll bring you ‘double negatives’ all night long, but can you at least tell me why you look inside your shirt pocket before you order a refill.” The customer replies, “I’m peeking at a photo of my wife. When she starts to look good, I know it’s time to go home.”
Wa-hey! Because his wife… his wife’s really ugly… I guess… Thought I’d start with a joke, because this post is a little low on brevity. I am, unfortunately, unbearably serious about how much I love this record
‘Double Negative’ is about as perfect an encapsulation of what wonderful music can achieve, and of the boundless potential of simple sound, as we saw in 2018. Taking a step back from the record, which considering how completely it emotionally sucks you in is a difficult enough task, and what’s truly astonishing about it is just how little of it there actually is. Many tracks are wordless, and even those with vocals often feature voices so completely disfigured and distorted that any actual words are often hard to catch. When you can make out what’s being said, it’s often just a single line or phrase repeated into oblivion without any change of tone or cadence. The music is often just one or two simple chords circulated without much obvious set of thoughts or principles. These elements are often rendered ineffectual by the grinding and echoing reverb, the distorted volume of which engulfs the entire record.
On paper, the record would look at best laughably simplistic and at worst offensively unmusical and horrendously atonal. Yet in practice ‘Double Negative’ is perhaps the most arresting and penetrative musical statement of 2018. Listening to it again now, it even had the incredible effect of making me appreciate my number 77 entry The Body that little bit more. I understand more how that record is supposed to function now, It might be the dark, dark, dark cousin to ‘Double Negative’, but loving this album has opened my understanding to different modes of expression. I understand different forms of art better after listening to ‘Double Negative’. I understand all art better. I understand life better.
Like the very best music, and the essence of why all music journalism is bunk, I couldn’t possibly explain to you why you would love this record. Because I have no idea why you will love this record. Nobody else knows what your reason for loving it is. And nobody ever could. It’s your reason. Maybe you love ‘Double Negative’ because the incessant human heart beat of the distortion backing the music reminds you of your first child’s birth. The sweeping acoustics mirror your sweat building up as you had your first kiss. The feeling that nothing makes sense, then everything makes sense, reminds you of your worst and your best drug trip. You might be reminded of the lights rushing past the bus’s window as you travelled back from the hospital after getting that news from the doctor. It might be the noise inside your head as you desperately try to navigate the world as a normal person despite long ago finding out that nothing is easy.
I thought about placing Low at the top of this list, but I feel it came too late for me to seriously state that I had given it the full attention that its genius requires and that it finishing top of this list would suggest I had. If you asked me to rank 2018’s albums at the end of 2019, or maybe even 2025, I’m sure ‘Double Negative’ would be top.
I’ve too much respect for this album to besmirch it with too much of my dumb writing. Buy it. Listen to it. Again. And again. I’m honestly curious to hear what your reason for loving it is