Originally published on MCR Live.
Twitter started to do a strange thing quite a while ago now – rather than show you the tweets of people you follow in chronological order, arguably, exactly what Twitter was meant to do and literally the only thing people want it to do, it shows you tweets that other people you follow have liked, seemingly at random. This is how I came to notice that whoever is running Ought’s Twitter account (@internetought to use its full, more specific title) is a) very left-wing b) an avid follower of UK politics. A quick browse through the list reveals that they’ve liked a tweet by Ash Sarkarimagining Jeremy Corbyn shouting ‘COME ON YOU W**KERS, LET’S HAVE IT!!’, a tweet criticising the current conservative chancellor Philip Hammond, and a tweet that is just a series of heart-eye emojis in support of the current shadow chancellor John McDonnell’s case for a four-day week.
“But”, I hear you cry, “putting aside for now the fact that you need to get out more and you clearly spend too much time staring at the internet, this is meant to be a live review, what does all this have to do with Ought’s gig at Gorilla in Manchester?” Alright calm down, fair enough on Twitter, but bear with me I’ll get to that later. I arrive at the gig as lead singer Tim Darcy says ‘Thank you so much I am so excited to be back in Manchester’ in his distinctive drawling voice, and from then on his delivery is all I can focus on through the set.
No offence to the rest of the band, who are doing a stellar job creating Ought’s particular brand of spiky post-punk guitar rock. But in front of me now, Darcy sings like some invisible force is squeezing the words out of him and all he can do is wait until it’s done, or like he’s singing while he’s skydiving and all he can do until he hits the floor is scream these words out, or like he’s in the middle of having a demon exorcised from him that will only leave when the set finishes. It’s like he’s tensing every single one of his muscles but he knows if he just gets through the gig he’ll be able to unclench them. When he sings ‘Shake it, shake it, get down tonight’ in ‘Men for Miles’, it sounds like a snarl. But at the same time, there’s an ecstatic, euphoric side to his delivery that sounds like he’s having some kind of hugely cathartic experience.
In ‘Habit’, when he sings ‘…is there something you were trying to express?[…]is there a weight that you’re trying to unload? […] But you just can’t get it, you can’t get it off now […] And you just feel whole with it but you just can’t get relief’ it feels like he’s singing to himself, like he’s perfectly embodying the feeling of frustration and just not being able to get out what it is you really want to express. ‘Cause I need to know I’m not alone’ he sings in the rousing outro, changing it in the next instance to ‘cause you need to know you’re not alone’, blurring the lines between who’s singing the song and who’s hearing it further.
What I really get from listening to Ought is that it’s a cry of frustration from someone who feels completely trapped by the limitations of themselves and the world around them. And that despite that, life is still worth living. And that I’m in a room full of people who can relate. Fast forwarding to the song Big Beautiful Blue Sky–the lyrics alone are just a list of the most mundane things imaginable–’Beautiful weather today, beautiful weather today, beautiful weather today, beautiful weather today, time and off again, time and off again, time and off again, time and off again, fancy seeing you here, fancy seeing you here, fancy seeing you here, fancy seeing you here’, but delivered like they’re the most life-affirming words ever imagined, and the crowd are screaming them along in the same ecstatic voice. And in between all these mundane statements, expressions of total sincerity, delivered as such: ‘I’m no longer afraid to die, cause that is all that I have left – YES!’ The crowd scream ‘YES!’ along with Darcy, like we’re testifying in a gospel church.
We’re onto the encore now. ‘Thank you so sincerely much, thank you’ says Darcy. ‘Question for the crowd – yes Brexit? No Brexit?’ The crowd scream a reply which I interpret broadly as a remain vote. ‘We’re from Canada so we just read the Guardian’. And this is exactly how I hear Ought–a cry of completely impotent frustration in the face of an absolutely overwhelming stream of apocalyptic Guardian articles, punctuated by the occasional completely sincere celebration or statement of pure joy out of nowhere. It sounds like what staring at my twitter feed feels like. It’s the same blend of complete futility and against-all-odds desperate optimism and the occasional bit of good news or celebration of something totally mundane, sometimes in the same GIF.
The last song now: ‘We’re sinking deeper…and sinking deeper…and sinking deeper…and sinking deeper!’ – there’s that despair again, but delivered in the most joyful shout – ‘The name of this song is ‘Today More Than Any Other Day’, Parts 4 through 43, so open up your textbooks or a magazine or a novel; any kind of reading material will do’ – there’s exactly the kind of self-aware weirdness native twitter users have grown up with – ‘today, more than any other day, I am excited to go grocery shopping. And today, more than any other day, I am prepared to make a decision between 2% and whole milk’ – and there’s the ecstatic celebration of the mundane I’m agreeing with when I like one of my friends’ tweets about how they’ve just seen a really nice leaf in the park.
So that, reader, is why Ought’s twitter favourites matter. Music can do a lot of things, and one of those things makes you suddenly think “Oh my god I thought only I had that feeling, but somehow what I’m hearing is making me feel like somebody ELSE has that feeling too?” If you want to feel less alone in the feeling of being a frustrated millennial with strong political feelings and an overwhelming sense that we’re heading towards a man-made apocalypse that it’s too late to avert but that, despite all this, we have a duty to do what we can to try to make the world a better place and celebrate the joy and beauty in life when we find it and act as if catastrophe isn’t constantly over our shoulder just like in this video of a man being followed by a huge, hulking boat that is probably inevitably going to catch up with him and kill him but he may as well keep walking through the frozen wasteland because the alternative is to just completely give up on everything and accept defeat – I reckon Ought are the band for you! Definitely check em out, I reckon you should start with New Calm Pt. 2, alright have a nice day!