Milena Montalbano – “I manage to get set-lists from the stage. Just linger around until the stage is empty and snatch it”

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What emerges for me immediately is the suffering face of Ian Curtis. I knew of course that you’re one of the millions of huge Joy Division fans, but you are (like me) also appreciating the ‘new new wave’ bands, what someone calls imitators of them… Interpol, Editors, XX, now Cigarettes after Sex – that I’ve discovered yesterday and that I immediately loved. What does this lamenting voices along with three endlessly repeated melodies still so appealing to us? Why do we keep loving this “teenage angst” in music, even if we’re forty or over? I can’t give myself an answer…

When I started learning the basics of how to play the accordion, I also started reading a little about how music works and how it affects people. What I’ve learnt, and found enlightenng, although it is really very obvious, is that it is all about chemicals. We are all chemically predestined to react to certain types of sounds and chords, and in my case, I react more positively to minor chords, rather than major ones. This to me is refreshing, to know that my tastes in music, books, films, or even people really all depends on chemistry. It takes away a lot of responsibility, guilt, a sense of inadequacy, even.
This said, I also think that regardless of our age, we have (both) kept and developed a curiosity and openness to music and sounds that is really typical of younger people. I’ve personally changed my taste in music quite dramatically over the years, but as you said, every time I hear the kind of music you mentioned, dark, gloomy, minimal, repetitive lamentations I feel like I’m exactly where I belong. It’s an amazing feeling, because I reqlly feel whole, reassured, comfortable.
My personal favourite “new era” new wave-like band is certainly the National, whether they intended to sound like it or not!

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Ahah!!! Yes, my DNA maybe asks for chemical reactions generated by “repetitive lamentations”! By the way I also love the National over the other ones we mentioned, I think they are one level over.
I’m stuck by the concert tickets and by what I guess are the set-lists you collected! How do you manage to get them? You steal them from the stage? You ask the musicians? I recognized a Piano Magic one, but the other ones are unknown to me…

Lamentations it is, then! Althoigh, I don’t particularly appreciate the sadness of blues or folk. I have friends who love Dylan, for example, but they can’t stand new wave sounds, or seminal goth bands, as they sound too depressing. I feel exactly the opposite, I need a climax, I need despair to have an outlet, so to say… It needs to expand, grow, explode within a song for it to be cathartic. I hope that makes sense!
As far as set-lists, it’s a bit of a habit of mine. I love live shows, I get SO much out of the whole thing. Over the years, I’ve come to.learn that it’s a solitary experience, but a very dynamic one for me. I rock and I roll and I sing and I cry and I laugh… And the closer I al to the stage, the better. That’s how I manage to get set-lists from the stage. Just linger around until the stage is empty and snatch it (or ask the roadie).




It looks like you wanted to show me Bright Eyes… I remember the song of Bob Corn singing “Sometimes I think I don’t like Bright Eyes, sometimes I’m wrong, sometimes I’m right”. They go over the lamentations, as Conor Obrst seems to be desperately screaming his angst. So maybe Bob is right: if they match your mood, they can be great. If not, they’re umbearable! So better listen to Pino Daniele?

A great Bob Corn quote! Bright Eyes was a great band to vent teen and post teen angst on. Conor Oberst’s grown, and his songs are now much less desperate, but still great. He’s been through a lot, you can tell from his music, but he also seems like someone who can have fun. I like this dichotomy. Mimì Clementi, from Massimo Volume, once told the story of a fan of theirs whom they’d met after a gig, many years ago. They all chatted for a while, and then all went out for a meal together. They were all laughing and having a good time when the girl told them she was surprised and disappointed at them. She was expecting gloomy characters, desperate like their songs. They’d kind of betrayed expectations.
I’ve always found this story interesting. Who can blame her for being disappointed by the true nature of the people behind the music she’d fallen in love with? And who wouldn’t be pleased to know the band is actually having a good time?!


Milena is the Director of Studies of an International House school and a music geek.

Milena Montalbano - PHOTO

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