Wino Valhalla

Grunge rock was still flying low on its last drops of bongwater

Diminished chords, chiming hymns about gasoline, Vaseline, glycerine, lithium

But that marketing was over, really. So there was I living in a world

Of concrete houses and electricity substations

Former Greek precincts, pan-flipping with all comers

‘No Parking’ sprayed everywhere in black scorpion splats of paint

Cash economy, slumlords and

Pasty, trendy invaders renovating any toilet they could find

Sydenham, St Peters, Tempe, Marrickville

Now, the radio star of the day was an unlikely candidate, a beanpole

Half Jewish, half North Sydney WASP

In an outtake from his recordings he’s heard to laugh and

Refer to his cohorts as “Mum’s tennis friends!”

For me, that said it all, but he had some good songs

Weak voice, busy melodies, evocative lyrics, earnest delivery

He’d worked a theme through what became a hit album

Themes in tribute to his bandmate, who had leapt into death

From a cliff in the Blue Mountains

The star of the day had renamed his friend and had more or less charted

The trajectory of his decline

I was never too keen on those songs, or that approach

In essence, the sentiment was very patronizing

And in interviews, he was free and easy in talking about

His friend’s dissolution; I thought that was a bit much.

But then again, half the white people in Newtown

Suddenly claimed a long friendship with the dead musician

There was some sort of local phenomenon to his suicide, it seemed.

But there were other songs on the album

Heavily embraced by the radio stations

And some were directly about the world I lived in

So, with the radio always on, I often heard the lines:

“They’re all asleep but the morning tastes like wine

It tastes like wine in Tempe!”

I could taste that morning myself

And there was a pretty song about Melbourne

Where the city shimmers like a raining daydream

Simple and accurate

And also a jangly offhand song, like a woolshed folk song

About there being a band on every corner

And how hopeless most of those bands are

This song also somehow got across what it’s like

To be waiting in a pizza shop at night, after emerging

From drug-induced daytime slumbers

And to know you are tiny, messy and irrelevant

Somewhere in the city.

The album has a lot of cheap wine infused through it

My recollections and associations of those songs

Are certainly stained with cheap wine of various flavours

(all bleeding into a singular ‘Cheap Wine Flavour’)

So now that I think of it, I’d say that those songs

Along with some ghost of myself

Are to be found awash in the halls of Wino Valhalla


Will Swan


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