CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) is a very modern charity. It was founded in 2006 to help tackle the alarmingly high suicide rate amongst young men in the UK (though CALM helplines are open to all). About three-quarters of suicides are men and if you’re under 35 and living in the UK it’s statistically the biggest killer there is.
Tony Wilson was a founding trustee of the charity and his personal investment in it needs no explanation. Appropriately enough it is Factory Foundation who have issued Thirty One, a double CD of music, chosen and compiled by Dave Haslam, to help raise enough money to keep the CALM phone lines open all week round for the people who need them. Thirty One is not only the number of tracks, it is a dangerous age for a young man to be. As Dave points out in the liner notes, many of us know someone who didn’t make it. The need for a charity like CALM is self-evident. Having an opportunity to be open and upfront about how you feel is essential for good mental health. Unfortunately ours is a culture that seems to discourage this skill in young men. It’s ten years since I took my first steps in that direction and contacted a kind lady down the road from my house in Chorlton with a much-needed friendly ear. Once a week I would talk and she would listen and between us we would try to piece together why I was falling apart. The act of talking seemed like a newly-discovered valve for releasing everything poisonous I’d wanted to keep inside. Prior to that I could barely put one foot in front of the other. I was living with my three best friends and couldn’t say a word to anyone about how unhappy I was. Talking to a concerned outsider helped turn my life around, and that’s the very thing CALM are experts at.
Anyway, onto the music. It’s often the case that charity albums are terribly worthy but content-wise, not so great. This is mercifully not the case with Thirty One. It will be a fixture on your stereo. It’s a cracking tribute to the breadth of style and talent in the North West, past and present. Intentionally or otherwise, many songs have a poignant connection to the cause behind the compilation. Guy Garvey’s spoken intro to an iridescent live version of ‘lippy kids’ (my love of which is well-documented) contains sage words about demonisation of the young, while the title of Jez Kerr’s ‘Reason I Feel Like An Alien’ speaks for itself. The mighty Everything Everything contribute their cover of Gloworm’s ‘Carry Me Home’, the lyrics of which reach out with new poignancy: ‘I did everything I could do. It’s just a phase in life that everyone goes through. Carry me home. Don’t be too long…’ Even the sweetly Northern title of Mr Scruff’s ‘Chin Up’ brings a lump to the throat.
The CALM Helpline can be reached on 0800 58 58 58 and their website is here.