We’re never really taught about friendships. I’m not arguing that we get bad information, or problematic role models, just that we get none at all. Your parents show you what to expect from relationships, what sexual love looks like, and what your expectations should be. Yeah, almost entirely wrongly, and that will likely ruin your whole life, but at least an archetype exists. They fuck you up, your mum and Dad, but at least that’s something.
Who shows you what friendship should look like? Your siblings?? Either you have such a difficult relationship with your siblings twisted by hierarchies subconsciously solidified within your family’s dynamic that friendship should be an escape from those relationship, or your connection with your siblings is so strong that no unrelated person could ever compare with the history you share, and no friendship can clear the prerequisites. I love my siblings (but also: fuck them, right?), you love your siblings (but also: fuck them, right?), you might wish you had siblings (but also: fuck that, right?), but that is not friendship.
Your parents’ friends?? Do your parents have friends? Maybe they have drinking buddies, maybe their friends have children too, maybe their friends’ children are babysitters, maybe these friends’ children are your friends. Is this what friends are? People your family are already aware of? People who can provide you a service? Just the people who are already geographically closest? Is that all friendship is? Pure serendipity? Then surely your responsibilities to these people, the emotional labour expected from you and you from them, is completely arbitrary? And surely it’s… nothing? What devotion could possibly be expected of the child of someone who realised that houses in that school’s catchment area were the best price considering how close it was to work?? Logically, friends owe you nothing beside a spare controller for Mario Kart 64 and the occasional trip to the off license if they’ve managed to grow that beard yet (non gender specific). What are friendships supposed to be? What are adult friends supposed to do??
And then of course there’s your Mum’s best friend – Stuart from her fitness class – who she seems inseparable from, but you’re never invited to their private gym sessions in that airport hotel, so it’s difficult to use that as an archetype.
Is friendship the same as a community? Obviously, communities were important to ancient human tribes because [ALEX SPENDS 850 WORDS PROVING THAT HE’S READ ‘SAPIENS’ BY YUVAL NOAH HARARI] so in conclusion I don’t believe the surplus values inherent to ‘friendship’ render them at all beneficial to social evolution. And yet if we approach the topic of ‘friendship’ through a Marxist-Leninist frame, we can see… Ah fuck it, this post is long enough already, shall I mention the actual album now?
And what ‘friendship’ is even comparable to Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingworth?? Best friends since they met at school aged four years old, beneficiaries of that standard geographical method of assigning friendships. They first realised their connection by appreciating each other’s snail drawings, which might actually be the best archetype we’ve had yet for perfect friendship. Their souls and creativity complimented each other so much that they were making music together by aged 13, pulling on almost a decade’s worth of shared understanding. Their (fucking awesome!!) debut album may have been released when the friends were just sixteen, but it really took them twelve years to put together, so should really be considered a delayed classic on par with ‘Chinese Democracy‘*. Walton and Hollingworth’s shared expressions were so tightly wound that they would cut out the middle man during their early days and simply act as twin sisters, performing with their fringes covering their faces so that any slight discrepancies were hidden.
(*in November 2023 it will be as long since the release of ‘Chinese Democracy’ as it was between that G’n’f’n’R album and the previous on – 1993’s ‘The Spaghetti Incident?‘. Why aren’t more people talking about this? It can’t just be me who cares about these things?)
And so, they were as close of this for the rest of their lives, and everyone lived happily ever after.
No – because fuck you, life! – things change, people change, situations change. Not just life doesn’t coming at you fast, but a whole variety of unknown and unforeseen circumstances perched behind the sofa waiting for their turn to brutalise your every hole. You are Piper Perri, and there are son many things about to force you to reassess your situation.
By early 2018, in the run up to the release of their (fucking amazing!!) second album, the ‘twins’ started to notice they were no longer able to finish each other’s sentences, that connection they’d always assumed would be eternal not able to carry on into legal adulthood. They tried their hardest to get things back to the way they were (“because that’s what we’re like: Let’s have 50 discussions about it!” – Hollingworth), but… it was gone. They weren’t breaking up, they were slowly and agonisingly drifting apart in the heart wrenchingly despondent way so brilliant depicted in Sharon van Etten’s ‘Are We There‘. Only… they’re just friends!? How is an adult supposed to approach these relationships?? Are we always supposed to just let these things drift away? How close are adult friends anyway? Rosa Walton moved from Norwich (the greatest city in Europe) to London (the worse), while Jenny Hollingworth got officially ‘hot and heavy’ with a local musician named Billy Clayton.
Why do we both have to sit and absorb this ordinary pain?
Fight to over-compensate the distance
And how did it get to the point where it’s not an ordinary pain?
Small enough to change
You never noticedInsect Loop
I dunk my head in the bathtub and scream underwater
‘Cause maybe I thought you didn’t care
Now the floor has turned to glass and I walk around on tip-toe
Tryna brush it away and go places with sunshine and faces and I can play pretend
And usually we’d do this together
Then, another thing stepped over the back of life’s sofa to have its turn. Clayton had been diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma – a rare bone cancer – for as long as he’d known Hollingworth, but the condition was always under control. In the autumn of 2018 though, things got much worse. Let’s Eat Grandma still went on a scehduled tour of the US, as Hollingworth felt a responsibility to the crew and wanted to, in her words, “to keep going and not make a fuss”. Clayton passed away in March 2019.
And though I tried my best it’s fading
Getting fainter now
This distance thinly cloaked
I still wake up sometimes and I feel I’ve lost it
Just like a dream I had which slowly comes unstuck
You made me feel as if I’m someone you could love
And I said to you
I’m not staying in
I’m not wasting it
And I said to you
I’m not staying in
I’m not wasting it
But I was watching you goWatching You Go
Hollingworth, understandably, stopped writing music. She took a year off battling with the question of – even though Clayton had specifically stated how he needed his space and she thought she was only obeying his wishes – whether she really should have left him to go on a US tour when his condition was really taking over. Was this silly little group even worth anything in the wider sense now that she’d had a real brush with mortality? After long contemplation of what she really wanted in life, she realised – oh yeah! – she really wanted to make music. Around the same time, Walton was down in London breaking up with her long term boyfriend and also – hello! – discovering that she was bisexual. The two former twins saw that that there was definitely enough passion there for at least one more album.
However, the two would write separately for the first time ever, and these psychological schisms that had become so apparent would mean it was unlikely they’d reach former glories.
Psyche! Come on, you idiots, it’s third best album of the year, how did that manage to catch you out?
‘Two Ribbons’ is just overwhelmingly beautiful. Sequenced so a Hollingworth track follows a Walton track and so on, it’s an absolute lyrical masterclass. Each song could be about so many different things – as I hope I’ve made apparent, they’ve plenty of material – but could also be read as each former twin taking it in turns to address the other. It’s an album that sees two of the closest imaginable friends grappling with not just what they’re expected to do, but also what the hell they could do. How do I prove how much I’m feeling your pain? How can I help you? What am I within your rights to ask of you and what exactly would I ask for?? If we were a couple, we’d just, like, fuck or something? Or get married? I’ve heard that the best way to settle arguments is by having a baby? What do friends do?!
It contains some of the band’s biggest pop hits and is a glorious psychological analysis of the artists themselves worthy of Fleetwood Mac (with, like, less than 5% of the cocaine). And, yes, this is the archetype for friendship. Three consecutive top ten Necessary Evil albums. Get to it.
Shockingly underrated by me, but 2018 was a very strong year
I’m pretty sure no other artist can boast three top ten albums.