Eirinie Carson’s memoir The Dead are Gods is an auspicious debut, an evocative and deeply moving exploration of friendship and grief.
In the autumn of 2018, my best friend of 15 years Larissa died suddenly. Her death was mysterious in many ways, and it took me 4 years to write THE DEAD ARE GODS as well as figure out what the fuck happened to my ace and soulmate. The bedrock of our friendship was London in the early 00s, a stickily glamourous, dirty old time. We partied like we had money (we didn’t) and lived life on the never-never. My book is like a love letter to my dead best friend, and an examination of grief as well as a glimpse into the worlds of two Black alt girls.
A mixtape is also a love letter.
Many people have older siblings who shaped their music tastes- I have Larissa. Here is our misspent youth, in song form.
1 – House of Jealous Lovers – The Rapture
I didn’t even know who this song was by, but it reminds me of a billion house parties and a billion backstage runway shows. It makes me think of the top deck of the night bus from Oxford St, London. If you’ve never been on a London night bus at 2am on a Friday night, it’s a party. Sometimes we would get on, take those steep ass stairs to the top deck and see 5 people we knew. This song is very much a getting ready song for me, even now.
2 – Deceptacon – Le Tigre
Speaking of getting ready songs! Look, according to google this song came out in 1999 but I don’t remember it that way. I remember it as our song, early 2000s chaos. Put this on as you’re figuring out your outfit, zipping up your boots, downing the last of your getting ready cocktail (Glens vodka and coke, most likely), do that final flick of eyeliner, before smashing it down the stairs to wait for the bus to take you someplace new.
3 – Circle. Square. Triangle – Test Icicles
My mum HATED this song. I think this was the first band I ever knew IRL that made it big. Everyone on our scene knew who they were, and they were always at the clubs we went to as sweet lil underage babies. If you don’t know, this was one of Dev Hynes’ first bands. Test Icicles were really ahead of the curve in so many ways. I can still see Dev circa 2003 if I close my eyes- hair pulled down over one eye, beanie on always, skinniest jeans and piercings.
4 – Pin – Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Fever To Tell is a record that is probably cited a lot, I know everyone loved Maps but this song was by far my favourite. Makes me think of poorly sharpened Rimmel kohl eyeliner pressed into my waterline and the smell of my hair burning as I flat-ironed it to shit with my GHDs. It makes me think of my friend Charlie, and of sneaking out of our Catholic girls school early to drive around the English countryside with the one mate who could drive.
5 – We Used to be Friends – Dandy Warhols
This was one of two songs Larissa and I listened to on repeat before our fateful trip to LA. The other one was the theme song to The OC, which I will kindly spare you from. We found an apartment rental, pre-Airbnb, in Beverly Hills. We didn’t know that to be in LA you need a car, and that people will think you’re unhinged if you walk anywhere, but we were Londoners so we did it anyway. Discovered the hard way that LA city blocks are 4 times the length of London ones. I wore my black Lewis Leather motorcycle boots I got at Portabello market for 75 quid, and for nights out I wore the most expensive item I’d ever bought myself- snakeskin Prada slingbacks (sorry, snakes). That trip was equal parts punk, equal parts fancy. I met my husband, musician Adam Carson, on that trip. I was wearing a tore up Motley Crue shirt, black cut off shorts and those fucking boots, how could he say no?
6 – Golden Skans – The Klaxons
What are golden skans? Nobody knows. A list of songs that accompany our specific scene in the early 2000s in London wouldn’t be complete without The Klaxons. My friend lived with one of them, and I remember visiting him felt like visiting a celebrity. Their bathroom contained a 2in1 shampoo and conditioner and not even a solitary sheet of loo roll. The Klaxons popularity signalled a shift in what “alt” music was in the UK, and they are often hailed as the Nu Rave godfathers.
7 – Arctic Monkeys – I bet that you look good on the dance floor
I dated this guy from the Midlands, UK during this time. He was… not my finest ex-boyfriend, but he lived in this town that had a club with an alt night, I would flatiron my hair within an inch of its life and drink cider and black (cider and blackcurrant juice, fun fact: vomit from this is purple!). The best thing about that club was, unlike all the London club nights I went to, people actually danced here. Obviously, it was the early 2000s so when I say “dance” I mean “stomped pointed brogues with no socks”. This song in that club made everyone briefly feral.
8 – Sheena is a Parasite- The Horrors
Another band that we would see around London all the time. I blame the Horrors for the massive-huge-dwarfing-the-sun hairstyles that became very popular on the indie scene in the early 2000s. That Northern boy I dated had a series of very skinny, very pale friends with massive black backcombed and sprayed hair, always in the tightest Cheap Monday jeans, always in a paper thin worn white tee with artful holes. They looked like goth cotton candy on a stick. I loved them.
9 – Rise of the Eagles – Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster
I wanna fly like an eagle/I wanna sing like Sinatra/ I got a date with destruction/ I wanna love like a mother
I meannnnn. I think I only ever heard this song over Larissa’s very shit plug-in speakers for her Dell laptop. It sounds wrong if I listen to it on decent speakers now- way too polished. The last 40 seconds of this song get me ready to punch a hole in the sky.
10 – Servo – Brian Jonestown Massacre
I’ve said this out loud to myself about every song on this list but honestly- what a fucking tune. Larissa and I were obsessed with the rock doc DIG! about this band and the Dandy Warhols’ friendship and its fiery demise. Obviously, we were team BJM, they were The Doors to us, Dandy Warhols’ hit songs were in the top ten, played on top of the pops, too mainstream back then but I listen to them now with a hunger to get that pang of lust I got from my first watch of DIG!
11 – Lights Out – Santigold
Larry and I also spent a lot of time in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, in the time before it had a Wholefoods. We hung out with DJs and models and generally thought we were pretty sweet. We drank at places like Clems, Union Pool, Charleston. Our friend Jonny Santos took us anywhere and everywhere. This song was very much the summer of running around New York, spending our student loans on vintage dresses and too many cabs.
12 – Evil – Interpol
The second time I ever met Larissa, she was on her way to see Interpol at Reading Festival 2003. My husband, Adam, likes to say their first album was their finest, but Antics and this song is it for me. The opening bass! The first line! I can’t walk down the spice aisle of my local grocery store without sing-saying “Rosemary!”.
13 – Heart Skipped a Beat – The xx
When I first met Adam, he asked me my favourite band and I said the xx without hesitation, and so now this band is inextricably linked to our love. They capture such a specific moment in London and in my life, when I was poor and struggling but still out every night, skype calls with Adam and being late with the rent. This song is like the sweet relief of an evening at home under a blanket after a hangover.
14 – Blue Light – Bloc Party
Bloc Party were one of the first bands I ever was aware of that had a website with their entire album on it. I first listened to Silent Alarm in my school library and for a long time that was the only place I ever heard it- over shit headphones, learning all the lyrics, feeling something tug at my heart. Imagine! Their whole album for FREE, streamable via an embedded player on their site at a time when buying a CD was fifteen English quid, what a gift! I listened to it on repeat when my beloved grandmother died, and it seems appropriate to end the playlist on a mourning song.
Eirinie Carson is a Black British writer, born to a Jamaican father and Scottish-ish mother and raised in South East London. Her work is published in the Sonora Review and she is a frequent contributor to Mother magazine. A member of the San Francisco Writers Grotto, Eirinie writes about motherhood, grief and relationships. Eirinie lives in Northern California with her musician husband and their one dog and two daughters. The Dead are Gods is her first book.