Thursday, March 31, 2011

there's something oddly fascinating about this Status Quo video



here you have the archetypal Quo fan... perhaps a slightly idealised version (a pretty-ed up Rick Parfitt)

an unassuming lad whose entire (non-working) life is subsumed within Quo

even in the bath he's reading Melody Maker (Stranglers on the cover, presumably Quo an inside feature -- for this boy only has eyes for Quo)

at night he goes to sleep with the Quo poster above his head

the key to the video is when he's just approaching the record store - a girl strides past from the opposite side of the screen but their trajectories are veering apart as well coming from different directions -- she gives him a brief but frankly appraising -- and, I think, approving - once-over -- he glances quickly but -- again it's micro-subtle but there's a almost the suggestion of averting his gaze, darting inside for safety -- at any rate he continues on his path -- nothing will deflect this boy from his mission, which is to enter the record store and check out the new Quo record on headphones

now what's striking about Quo is that although it's rooted in bluesy boogie it's not cock rock - there's none of the strut or swagger of heavy metal, the phallic bravado

but nor is there orgasm: no shrieking falsetto, no explosive solos

instead there is just this endless onanistic but unresolved boogie

chugging is the apposite word

and of course that fits the lyric to "Something Bout You Baby I Like" which is about not having the bottle to approach the girl he fancies (so he has her in his dreams)

there's two exultant moments in the video:

---meeting up with his mates just prior to the Quo gig--they merge into a sort of scrum and do this strange leaping up gesture as if trying to scale the Quo billboard, the image freeze-framing as if to signify a kind of ecstasy

--- meeting the Quo backstage (who are just as unassuming, down to earth, approachable as the young man is), and again there's a kind of freeze, as the Fan is snapped standing in the midst of his "idols"

and then not quite exultant but a kind of mild bliss, the scenes of heads-down blonde manes a-bobbing headbanging

so yeah it's about homosociality, no duh ... about lads who don't find release through sex or through violence (Quo fans might get slightly boisterous but they'd never start a fight)... upper working class, skilled labourers, as Carl and Phil suggest in the comments here, and in this video, the UltraFan is a car mechanic

whatever the lyric is ostensibly about, i think the video fairly blatantly presents the younger-fitter Parfitt-alike fan as the impossible love object of Quo-dom... when he's waiting at the bus stop the camera seems to linger for just a micro-second too long on his pert blue-jean-clad buttocks
When I see some particularly Fine Acting on the television set, and usually the actor is British, I am sometimes moved to exclaim at the screen: "Theeeeeeesp!"

In this spirit, and rather aptly, I now exclaim "Sentennnnnnnnnnnce!":

"One of my dreams has long been to see Branagh play Noddy Holder on film"

Bet Joe Queenan kept on chuckling for a goodly while about the Ken-in-Slade- biopic section of his Branagh-takedown as he went about his daily business ... possibly for days. I know what writers are like.

Still it did serve to remind me of something

As with the Quo

I always forget about Slade















I would really like to see the whole of Slade In Flame





Tuesday, March 29, 2011

always forget about the quo











i was looking for "the blacksmith" but found this



slapbasstastic

Monday, March 28, 2011

addendum to the last post: ever noticed that with the LOTR type stuff the characterological-physiognomic hallmark of the noble characters is the strong nose ... the heroes or men of action all have massive great ridges of nose-bone... like prows to part the swarming tide of untermensch who they vanquish despite being vastly out-numbered
yeah i think it (the neo-medieval fantasy genre as per Game of Thrones and also modernised-Medieval tripe-with-tits like Camelot, forthcoming) has something to do with how this kind of omnifantasy genre (Potter is part of it too) has displaced "proper" science fiction, by supplying some of the needs (for otherness, adventure, escape) that s.f. supplied but without the critical edge

my idea of Proper S.F. comes from being a lapsed and then partially reactivated fan whose fandom was determined almost entirely by the New Wave of s.f. (and then later a bit of cyberpunk)... i loathe fantasy and space opera... my idea of what s.f. should be is speculative fiction, scenarios based on a projection from current trends and knowledge (or alternative history, which is the same kind of methodology applied to the past -- or to put that another way, s.f. in its proper speculative form is a form of future history, the historical method projected forward)...

oh i enjoyed Tolkien as a wee lad (read Lord of the Rings age seven, and several more times before the age of 12) but generally speaking have minimal tolerance for the epic, the heroic romance, etc.... i find Peter Jackson's LOTR trilogy pretty unwatchable, all those shining eyes-y fare-thee-wells and arms-clasped partings of the way... this kind of literature/TV/films is for wee lads and wee lasses... as Alan Kirby puts it, it's "children's entertainment", a world without the two key aspects of adulthood: work and sex. Which means that it is a world without class or psychology; Marx or Freud. A reversion to the clear-cut universe of allegory, sans duality, contradictions or internal conflict. It's also a world completely without humour.

The unstoppable rise of fantasy (including a whole genre of masquerading-as-s.f TV -- Lost/Battlestar Galactica/Caprica) really seems to relate to a general culture-wide inability to envision the future... instead we get the Middle Ages projected onto the future, or into outer space, or into a sort of postmodernly scrambled pick'n'mix pseudo-past, e.g. from Joy's piece: "Although Martin has done much historical research, “Thrones” is not shackled to any specific reality. According to [TV writer] Benioff, “It’s built on a vaguely Western medieval skeleton, but he’s pulling from the Mongols, native Americans, India, all these elements get woven together into this new tapestry..."
"a grim, grinding swine of a life"

hell yeah

"By far the most common problem afflicting the writers in Michels’s practice is procrastination, which he understands in terms of Jung’s Father archetype. “They procrastinate because they have no external authority figure demanding that they write,” he says. “Often I explain to the patient that there is an authority figure he’s answerable to, but it’s not human. It’s Time itself that’s passing inexorably. That’s why they call it Father Time. Every time you procrastinate or waste time, you’re defying this authority figure.” Procrastination, he says, is a “spurious form of immortality,” the ego’s way of claiming that it has all the time in the world; writing, by extension, is a kind of death."

Barry Michels, Therapist for Blocked Screenwriters : The New Yorker


via mark richardson

Friday, March 25, 2011





















interview from 2010 with an Latin American journalist

¿Do you think that having any kind of experience as a musician (play an instrument,have a band, record an album) provides better tools to analyze music, or it’s more like an obstacle?

It certainly can't hurt. But many of the greatest music critics have no musical training or experience being in a band.

¿Do you notice a generational gap among rock critics between those “old” critics whomake almost a ritual of listening to records and those “young” who fly through the
pages of rock history in just one click? In which group would you include yourself?


I'm always amazed by how much music young fans and younger critics and bloggers have heard. They seem to have gone through music history in this really intensive way, starting much younger than I did, but also just rampaging through it methodically. Because of the internet and illegal downloading, there are no restrictions on learning about music. When I got into rock, which was around 1978, you were limited by what you could afford. The radio was much more limited in terms of the hours in which left-field music was played, and by the small number of stations that existed. TV had very little pop music coverage and in those days hardly any documentaries were being made about rock history. So in terms of information, you were limited to the small number of books that had been written (relative to the huge number of rock books now in existence, histories and biographies) and to a handful of rock encyclopaedias. Old music magazines were very hard to access, they were often considered too unimportant to be kept in public libraries, and if they were kept, you had to have institutional privileges to access them, or look at them on microfilm. It was so different from the web where all this information is at your fingertips. So a good long way into my career as a music journalist, which began in 1986, I was ignorant of quite large stretches of rock history -- I just hadn't heard a lot of the records that would be considered basic knowledge today. I guess I had also been so heavily focused on the present day music, with postpunk and all the great black pop and club music of the Eighties, that I just didn't have so much time to delve into history. I mean, compared to an ordinary person at that time I had a good sense of rock history's shape and had listened widely. But compared to hipsters and music fiends and bloggers today, I was an ignoramus!

I think one problem with all this access to music, though, is that people have listened to a hell of a lot, but thinly. They've skimmed through it, they've listened fast because they've got a lot of ground to cover. They have more decades to listen to, as well, than I did in the late Seventies and early Eighties -- because rock is a lot older. There is a huge accumulation of music to process, not just the canonical rock and soul and reggae greats, but all kinds of underground stuff that has a bigger reputation nowadays than it did at the time. And all the genres of non-Anglophone popular music that are being retroactively discovered, the West African and Ethiopian funk and guitar pop, Latin American psychedelia, etc etc. This stuff wasn't even available in my day, in Britain. It is now considered part of the basic curriculum for your discerning music fan!

I think another problem is the distortions that affect history, partly through the way the web is structured, but also through fashion and trends in hipster taste. So for instance, you can find out a hell of a lot about a particular band, follow their trajectory right through rock history. But it's much harder to recreate their context -- what was going on around them at any given month or year. That's why I find in my research that old copies of music magazines are really incredibly useful and essential, because you see a group embedded in its context, which includes other bands and other genres that coexisted, the political climate, what the graphic design of record covers and record company advertisements was like. It's impossible to really understand glam rock, for instance, without a sense of just how drab and lacking style most of the other groups were at the time, how grey and dreary music papers looked in those pre-design days. And likewise the starkness and angularity and minimalism of postpunk --the look of the groups, the geometric record covers -- derived its edge by being in this context where you had a lot of long-haired Old Wave groups still around and just scruffy pub rock and punk outfits.

Another distortion is the way that there is an industry of rediscovering obscure artists that means that for a lot of hipsters, they know about some fantastically obscure folk singer like Vashti Bunyan, but they don't know about major figures in British folk like June Tabor or Maddy Prior (of Steeleye Span), figures who were much more rated and successful at the time. Or they will know about the obscure soul and R&B and funk figures dug up by a label like Numero Uno or Soul Jazz, but be completely unacquainted with the work of Stevie Wonder or Earth Wind and Fire -- these major figures in Seventies black music, who not only sold vastly more than the ultra-obscure rediscovered artists, but were simply more creative, innovative, better on every level.

¿Do you agree with the idea that a new kind of critic has irrupted: knowledge and
information are not their main value… It’s seems as if almost anyone can be a good
rock critic as long as he has a lucid, original sight. Do you agree?


I haven't noticed this, I must say. In the areas I follow -- more left-field music magazines and blogs and webzines -- it would actually seem the opposite: that there is an excess of expertise, in the sense of knowledge accumulation and being into esoteric artists, but a lack of a sense of the Big Picture, of how music connects to wider current in society and culture. Or equally there's a lack of a really individual and personal vision about music. There's quite a lot of dense, informationally-rich, scholarly writing being done but often I find myself wondering where the angle is, the polemical edge.

¿When you were a kid, did you used to listen to music in your room and to sing in front of the mirror? There was any specific rock star you remember you tried to imitate?

I would sing and dance along to records, I don't remember having much to do with the mirror. I used to want to be a bassist, because during postpunk days there was a lot of emphasis on the role of the bass. I can't remember if I used to play "air bass" but if I did any kind of "air" playing it would have been miming to Jah Wobble or Tina Weymouth, much more than a guitarist like Andy Gill.

Music that is physically involving seems to invite a mimetic response, it engages your whole body.

¿What future do you forecast for music press, especially the printed one?

Printed magazines will surely fade away. I think this is a loss for lots of reasons, not just for writers. On the web, it is impossible to go back and reconstruct a daily newspaper, because it never existed in a stable form, new stories were added to it all day long. And when you use online archives you can't really revisit a specific issue of a magazine or newspaper, not in the way you can with a printed copy of the periodical. You can access specific pieces. So something of the integrity of the magazine (and probably in time, the book too) has been undermined. It is not a solid unit in the way it was. Unbundling is what they call it, but the bundles were important, i think. Part of looking at a magazine is skimming through it, chancing on stories you were never looking for or might never otherwise (on the web) learn about. The advertisements are also part of the magazine in important ways. A bound issue of a magazine is a little cultural capsule of immense historical value. Also I think words on a printed page seem to penetrate deeper into your brain than when they are on a screen. I will be sorry to see all that go. I daresay there will be small-scale, highly designed specialist magazines for a long time to come, but not the big mass audience titles. That will all be online.

¿Do you agree with the idea that that in traditional media there’s every day less space for analysis? Do you believe that internet offers a new space for that kind of critical speech?

I don't know if there's less space but certainly people seem to have less time to read. I have less time to read. I have thousands of things I've saved off the web with a view to coming back and reading it properly at some later date, which never comes. I'm amazed that people still manage to read books. I have dozens that I've started and not finished. I'm really flattered that so many people actually read Rip It Up all the way through. Quite a few even re-read it. Admittedly I am a parent so my time is badly crunched, perhaps if I was a teenager or a student I'd have more time to read. But I am also like everybody else distracted by online media and all these instant-buzz things.

But in terms of the online media, there is tremendous pressure towards brevity -- being short and punchy and having a provocative argument that is easily capsulized and can pull web traffic in. Complex arguments get simplified by headlines designed to get blog links and "dig it" recommendations and tweets and so forth. People in the comments boxes of articles respond to the headline and the deck (the little bit of editor's text at the top of the piece) rather than to what you actually wrote. Then that gets tweeted.

Luckily any controversy created by this argument you never actually argued fades really quickly because Twitterculture is amnesiac, nobody remembers what happened a few days ago. I can remember blog pieces from 2002, but can anyone remember a tweet from a week ago?

Twitter is destroying people's ability to read anything longer than a paragraph. We're all skimming frantically, trying to assimilate as much data and opinion as we can. Whereas one of the things that attracted to me to the blog format originally was that you could write these enormously long, extended, meandering arguments. There's no limit to how long you could go. Equally you could do something incredibly short, just a sentence, a single insight or joke. But the brevity aspect of the web -- the thought that can be apprehended in a single glance -- is what has taken over.

There is that term "tl dr" -- too long, didn't read. That horrified me as a writer when I first encountered it. But equally there's loads of stuff on the web that practically speaking is too long for me to actually read. That's why I save it for later.

I noticed that people on message boards would say "tl dr" but then immediately go on to offer an opinion on the piece or story or issue in question. Not having read the piece--or even read other people's responses to the piece--did not deter them from expressing an opinion. Sometimes that is what the web is like: everybody talking, nobody listening. Everybody talking past each other.
an interview i did in 2000 with Pablo Schanton and Fernando García of Clarin newspaper, Argentina

1. Year 2000 began with Teen Pop up in the charts and Internet as a quotidian media. Do you believe that rock music will go on being the center of young culture in this new decade or do you think that it will be replaced fatally? What 's your diagnostic about Techno and Hip Hop scenes today?

Well, rock hasn't been the center of youth culture for a while now. Rock in America has had something of a resurgence but only by taking on elements of hip hop (limp bizkit, kid rock). someone like Eminem shows how rap has really displaced rock for young white America. And apparently 70 percent of rap CDs are bought by white kids! Rock will carry on for years, and still produce great records (eg the new Radiohead, which is amazing, and combines the best things about rock -- songs, emotions -- with the weird studio-as-instrument experimentalism of post-rock), but it is not the place
where the majority of young people are looking for thrills or meaning. Rap has inherited that rock fixation with lyrical meaning and truth-telling. And it does it to better beats.

This is the US situation I'm talking about -- in the UK and most of Europe, dance culture -- or beats culture, since hip hop and increasingly R&B are an important component of the mix--has pretty much crowded out rock. Britpop has peaked, indie-rock is a sad minority activity -- most of UK youth are into garage, which is where house culture merges with R&B and dancehall reggae. Either that or they're into trance, functional Ecstasy Muzak. And the kind of hipsters who were into indie-rock
and experimental guitar bands are mostly into electronic left-field music these days.

2. Do the rock culture have the ability of auto-regeneration to be again a source of aesthetic and ethics values? Nowadays, where do you find signs of
resistance in the format of sub/contra-cultures? Are there conditions for a "new punk explosion" in the horizon?


I'd never write rock off completely, I hate people who talk about things being 'dead' because what they really mean is that it's dead for them. [HA!-retroactive irony alert]However it seems unlikely that rock music is going to resurge as the leading edge of rebellion. The media and record business are too efficient at spotting marginal things and co-opting them, mainstreaming them in the blink of an eye. UK garage is interesting because it is simultaneously pop music
and underground at the same time -- the scene is not averse to making lots of money and crossing over, but the bedrock of it is pirate radio and tiny independent labels. In some ways, it is interesting for demolishing the mainstream/underground rhetoric. And because dance music is functional, something you use, its value is not diminished by crossing over.

There is a perennial hunger for a new punk rock or convulsion that consigns everything else to the dustbin of history -- 1977's Year Zero effect. But I'd say that wherever there is an explicit allusion to punk, THAT is the last place that a punk-style transvaluation is actually going to occur.Exampeles: the New Wave of New Wave in the mid-Nineties, or bands like Manic Street Preachers; the Digital Hardcore scene (Alec Empire, Atari Teenage Riot), Riot Grrrl. Without referring to punk at all, phenomena like the hardcore rave/early jungle scene in Britain, or today's garage scene, or certain phases of rap, were much more "punk" in spirit and fact than
conscious attempts to reinvoke punk. A new punk, by definition, would be the
thing we're least expecting, the absolute novelty. And for me, that would be
jungle in 93-94. (Now of course it's pretty boring).

3. Who do you consider that today is capable of becoming a generation figure in the mould of John Lennon, Johnny Rotten or Kurt Cobain?

I think personally this is an obsolete model. I agree with the singer Momum's notion that in the future everybody will be famous for fifteen people (rather than Warhol's fifteen minutes). It's an era of micro-markets, niche constituencies, local legends and icons, a vast profusion of tribes with their own mythologies and gods.


4. Will "Cyber culture" change pop music, finally? How MP3 and Napster can change the way of consuming music and how new softwares can change the way of producing music?

I haven't worked out what I think about this -- I just can't imagine why anyone would want MP3s of endless demo versions and rehearsal tapes of metallica songs. If music became totally free and given away.... I think it would become valueless, utterly disposable. The dematerialisation of music becoming pure information... I think it would somehow feel less real. But maybe I'm just old fashioned. I do think though, that for serious music obsessives , there will be a move in the opposite direction -- towards the absolute materiality of vinyl, and other solid formats. The packaging will become every more fetishized. You can see already this in lo-fi rock, or in much electronic music -- the weird packaging and formats -- one-side singles
with patterns etched on the other side, split 7 inch singles, double 7 inches, 10 inches, DJ oriented five-disc albums, and so forth.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Humour Market

Some of you were barely alive in the 1970s.

Some of you would have been in nappies, and in nappies in the late Seventies.

Speaking as someone who turned seven half way through 1970, let me tell you what the British Seventies were really about.

Comedy!

Pretty much every decade since the Seventies, there's been this whole "comedy's the new rock'n'roll" palaver. But in the Seventies, comedy really did give rock'n'roll a close run for its money.

Monty Python's Flying Circus was like the Beatles.

It spawned an entire industry of spin-offs, cash-ins, solo careers, imitations.

There were books.










Paralleling the boom in TV comedy books was a thriving market for collections by humorists and satirists, many of them spinning off Punch magazine (which I bought every week between the ages of 10 and 12).





Disappointed not to be able to find an image for Willie Rushton's Super Pig, his guide for male chauvinists spoof on a pop-feminist best-seller of the era called SuperWoman.

Then there was Private Eye's micro-industry of books...

American humor books is a whole other area I'm not qualified to comment on





Books of cartoons, that's a separate topic really. Giles's annual collection distended Christmas stockings across the nation, but he's not a particularly 1970s figure, although you can imagine the conflicts, crises, foibles and national humiliations of the day provided plenty of fodder for him.




Back to British comedy: the big TV series spun off records. Just as me and my brothers aquired all the Python-related books, Python-spin-off-related books, and Python-imitator-related books (i.e. Goodies) at the top of this post,so too did we own all of the following:







I didn't own the following ground-breakingly obscene platters, but a few years after they came out, I had friends who'd got hold of them, sometimes through their older brothers.





The whole realm of records made by the big up stand-up comics of the time, vaguely edgy seeming and coming out of folk clubs in some cases--Billy Connolly, Jasper Carrot--was not something I was into particularly.

And then there was National Lampoon. Mostly known in the UK for the frat-boy retro-comedy Animal House and perhaps for the winsome and innocuous Vacation movies starring Chevy Chase, this was a satirical magazine initially (some of the people involved went on to do Spinal Tap), that quickly spun off into records and stage shows (some of the people involved went on to Saturday Night Live). For all I know there were National Lampoon related books too.

As a teenager I managed to track down a single issue of the magazine, in some kind of specialist store in London.

But this album wound up in the local record store in Berkhamsted. My brother bought it in a sale they had of records damaged in a flood. I can almost picture the stain on the cover, the ripples in the cardboard caused by its drying out.



This one came out of a stage show, a satire of Woodstock and the squalor of rock festivals. I recently picked it up for $2 but I have yet to play it.



But American comedy records, that's a whole other mega-zone in itself that I'm not equipped to discuss. There's people who talk about the life-changing impact of Richard Pryor's albums for instance.

Of course comedy records existed before the Seventies... My parents had records by Tom Lehrer (singing what for their time were blackly humorous songs) and Pete Sellers (Songs For Swingin' Sellers, produced by George Martin I believe), as well as a couple of episodes of Hancock's Half Hour in vinyl form. There were recordings of the The Goon Show , albums of Woody Allen doing stand-up, etc etc

Still, as I recall comedy LPs were a big part of Seventies British adolescence.

An obvious point to make is that before the age of the VCR and video rental stores, the only way to get a permanent and replayable document of your fave cult comedy show was to buy the records. Most of the early Python records consisted not of new material but of the most beloved sketches from the TV show, rerecorded in the studio, without the interruption of studio audience laughter, which drowned out some of the best lines. Replayable is the key point: you listened over and over, until you knew every line and every inflection by heart.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

"what you need is a new instrument, never before heard"

Creel Pone-ish irruption within ancient Sixties UK kids teevee show The Double Deckers



6.04 : Brains invents the Cyclo-Endrophone for the benefit of hapless popstar wannabe troubadour (who could almost be a parody of the early Roy Harper (see his protest song at 7.50)



0.57 protest singer has a brief bash at Brains's synthesizer

3.30 onwards: discotheque kids grooving to Brian Auger-ish organ-funk
Ghost Signs


A cool idea.

Every city should have one of these.

Actually, quite a lot of cities do, it seems.

A Roeg/Radiophonic Connection?



Spotted, in the Wikipedia entry on The Man Who Fell To Earth, at the bottom of the subsection on the soundtrack:

"Special electronic and oceanic effects were done by Desmond Briscoe and Woods Hole
Oceanographic Institution
"


Barely related data morsel: Jim O'Rourke has recorded albums titled Bad Timing, Eureka!, Insignificance and The Visitor--the latter being the recording alias adopted by Thomas Jerome Newton, after he's been released by the authorities but is not allowed to return to his home planet. Do we actually get to hear any of the music Newton makes?

Here's a bit where he's talking about his record.



Spires of the Telecom Age

These are worth watching just for the music, which sounds John Baker-ish.



proto-hauntologists (an irregular series), #2




Even more proto-hauntological than Mount Vernon Arts Lab! These releases came out in 1995 or 1996. Note that one of the tracks is named "Hobbs End", a good five/six years ahead of Mulholland's Quatermass-referencing LP.

The Lower Depths was the later version of a trio who went by the name D-Generation. Not to be confused with the scuzz'n'roll group from New York operating at roughly the same time, D-Generation received a morsel of hype in 1994 in the UK music press. Not too hard to work out which journalist was responsible for the Melody Maker piece below ... But who can guess which member of this parish was actually in the group?

D-Generation are highly influenced by '60s mod and freakbeat. This Manchester trio took their name from The Eyes' "My Degeneration", a parody of The Who's anthem. D-Generation love the psychedelic/psychotic intensity of freakbeat bands like The Eyes, John's Children, The Creation, but they don't want to recreate it. Psychedelia means abusing technology, they argue, and today that means fucking with samplers and sequencers, not guitars.

Unlike These Animal Men and Blur, D-Generation haven't forgotten that mod was short for modernist. The original mods wanted to fast-forward into the future, not replay lost golden ages. So D-Generation's "psychedelic futurism" draws on ambient and jungle--music that's absolutely NOW, absolutely BRITISH. And instead of the usual iconography of swinging London or English whimsy, D-Generation pledge allegiance to a "dark, deviant tradition" of Englishness that includes The Fall, Syd Barrett, Wyndham Lewis, Powell/Pressburger and Michael Moorcock.

D-Generation's atmospheric dance is like a twilight-zone Ultramarine--lots of English imagery, but instead of bucolic bliss, the vibe is urban decay, dread and disassociation. On their EP "Entropy In the UK", "73/93" rails against the "Nostalgia Conspiracy", using Doctor Who samples of "no future". D-Generation call their music "techno haunted by the ghost of
punk" and on 'The Condition Of Muzak' that's literally the case, as it samples Johnny Rotten's infamous taunt: 'ever get the feeling you've been cheated?".

Originally, the target was rave culture itself, but this has widened out, says band ideologue Simon Biddell, "to implicate the entire culture of cynical irony." Then there's "Rotting Hill", a stab at "a 'Ghost Town' for the '90s"; Elgar's patriotic triumphalism is offset by samples from the movie Lucky Jim--"Merrie England? England was never merry!".

D-Generation, says Biddell, are dismayed by the way "young people are content to embrace a rock canon handed down to them, and seem unable to embrace the present, let alone posit a future." But they're optimistic about the emergence of "a counter-scene, bands like Disco Inferno, Bark Psychosis, Pram, Insides, who are using ambient and techno ideas but saying something about the 'real world', not withdrawing from it".

Add D-Generation to the list of this nation's saving graces.



Incidentally, I have a clip of the piece as printed with a photograph of D-Generation, including the parishioner sporting long hair.
proto-hauntologists (an irregular series), #1



I've always wanted to like the Mount Vernon Arts Lab records more than I actually do. So while it was supercool of Ghost Box to pay tribute by reissuing Séance at Hobs Lane, listening to it I couldn't help thinking the pupils had surpassed the master. Still, judging by this September 1998 mini-profile of Drew Mulholland, you have to give props for his being way ahead of the game. Unless I'm grasping the wrong end of the stick, it sounds like he was on this path back in postpunk days (his 1996 release "The Sound of Pre-Punk" drew largely on material he'd done circa 1979-1980) and he actually first started messing with tape loops back in 1975. Nods to Joe Meek and "Tomorrow Never Knows"/Sgt. Pepper's era Beatles (as well as Radiophonic Workshop) confirm my sense that dub isn't really a major strand of British hauntology's DNA; the indigenous sources are more than sufficient.
The Comb Over, over?









One thing I've noticed on my visits back to England over the last few years--you will never see a comb over anymore.

They used to be the mark of male middle age.

Bus conductors, men in betting shops, famous footballers, TV quiz presenters.... half the teachers at my school.... they all had comb overs.

At some point sense prevailed and the balding started to shave down their side tufts to near invisible.

Much more dignified (did they really think they were fooling anybody, the comb over squad?)... no need for yucky hair cream to plaster thinning elongated strands across the pate... and unlike the comb over invulnerable to the elements or a football colliding off the bonce (see Bobby Charlton photo above.

However one side effect is that walking through a crowded public space in the U.K. today, it can feel like there's a lot of aging, getting-stout skinheads about.
Breaking Glass (1980)



Released in 1980 but written and made in 1978, Breaking Glass is a not-major but under-rated and now almost completely forgotten youthsploitation movie. Like Rude Boy (similarly under-rated and much more interesting to watch than many better put-together, "fully realised" films) it captures--just through involving cameras and locations--the crapness of late 70s U.K.

Breaking Glass, it's always seemed to me, is obviously based on the Poly Styrene story (songs about anticonsumerism and anti-youthsploitation, turn their singer into popstar product, who then has a crack-up on account of the contradictions). (The honking New Wave sax is the give-away, there weren't that many bands who had that specific sound and instrumental line-up). (And 1978, when the film was written, was the year of Germfree Adolescents). By the end of the movie, though, the band's sound is edging towards Tubeway Army and Hazel O'Connor does also have a whiff of Toyah about her.

Always wondered who the reclusive prog-rock star producer is meant to be (Peter Gabriel? Roger Waters?). C.f. The Wall/"Welcome to the Machine"/"Have A Cigar", and in different way "Hotel California", why is that the rock market is so powerfully attracted to musical/filmic representations of the inevitable recuperation of rock's rebellion? How does the triumph of the spectacle/alienation become entertainment?





further comment from the 70s blog:

but what i wonder is why audiences find it entertaining to listen to this stuff?

i suppose the other obvious parallel is the Great Rock'n'Roll Swindle... i recall really enjoying the idea of it (punk) all being a con... there was something liberatingly naughty about the "cash from chaos" idea... which Virgin after dislodging McLaren then wrung out with spin-off rip-off releases like Some Product, Flogging A Dead Horse, the Sid Lives posthumous LP...

like, for me and my brothers, the Great Rock'n'Swindle LP was just as important/thrilling/endlessly listened to as Bollocks was, and we were 14 to 16, too young to be genuinely cynical

and then, at the same time as all this, with the Old Wave you have Animals and The Wall... with Pink Floyd, what's interesting (here i'm cribbing a line from Ian MacDonald) is how relentlessly bleak the worldview is, from "Echoes" off Meddle onwards... and yet it is consumed by millions and millions of fans

is there a kind of pleasure and relief in fatalism/disillusionment?

comfortably numb indeed - cosy music/lyrics of resignation and withdrawal

i suppose also in this vague area you have The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again", Don Henley "Boys of Summer" ("i saw a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac... never look back etc"

actually that is Henley's whole shtick/career-ticket from "Hotel California" through The End of the Innocence

Steely Dan in here too maybe
Proto-punk, German style



Never heard of this group: Ton Steine Scherben at all until a visit to Germany a few years ago. The person who told me about them seemed--like so many Germans--to be completely uninterested in, even mildly contemptuous of, Krautrockers like Can Faust Neu! Kraftwerk Ashra Popol Cluster et al, i.e. all the stuff that the Anglophone world cares about. But she thought Ton Steine Scherben were absolutely the greatest German group of their era. The album I've heard by them Keine Macht für Niemand sounded a bit like the missing link between Free and TRB: hard rock with a gay frontman and radical lyrics. The words are great, so my German friend told me. Anti-capitalist, anti-authoritarian, connected to the anarchist squat culture of West Germany, Ton Steine Scherben were proto-punk in another respect in so far as they put out their records on their own label, David-Volksmund-Produktion ('volksmund' means the people's voice, apparently). So while musically not particularly DIY-sounding (TSS played tight gutsy hard rock in the Lennon-Ono Some Time In New York City / MC5 mode), in non-sonic respects they were the missing link between Amon Duul and Crass.





Electronic Dance Music

Alwin Nikolais - Noumenon (1953) from Thomas Patteson on Vimeo.



Found an LP of this modernist choreographer Alwin Nikolais's electronic music at the annual yard sale they hold at the apartment block over the road from us in New York several years ago. Going for $1! Amazing sleeve.

Here's one of his pieces recreated for the opening credit sequence of The Company, that disappointing very late period (last one before he snuffed it?) Robert Altman movie about ballet.

Queenie Watts



Queenie Watts
Modernist Churches: an irregular series - #1

Saint Basil Roman Catholic Church, 3611 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles. Built 1967-69; dedicated 1969.






The Stranglers / Vangelis connection









"tuck in!"



cool ElectronoGastroMucoid sound FX in this -- wonder who made them?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

a feature package at literary webzine The Nervous Breakdown on me and Bring the Noise, which is out imminently in the US on Soft Skull... elements include excerpts from BtN on the voice in pop music and on crunk, plus an auto-interview about changes in pop criticism during the 25 years since I started doing it and getting paid

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

it's true that the groups that sounded like bad versions of Velvets/Love/OrangeJuice, and the groups that sounded like bad versions of Beefheart/Fall/SwellMaps, didn't have much in common with each other sonically... but they were playing on the same grubby venue circuit, appearing in the same fanzines, getting put out on the same or similar labels... so their appearance on the same cassette is hardly some movement-as-figment act of top-down scene-creation as this C86 Remembered piece likes to make out... they were all DIY, up to a point (those who actually got offers pretty much all signed to major labels or next-tier pseudo-indie imprints like Elevation, they wasn't much staying-independent-out-of-ideological-commitment as i recall!) ...

beyond that what they really have in common is that they were all, with a few exceptions, a bit shit

they don't call it the Bad Music Era for nothing you know

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Whenever I hear Obama give one of his Major Speeches, like in Tucson, I'm moved by the oratory and I feel really grateful that we have him. But a part of me always thinks, "this guy hasn't got a rock'n'roll bone in his body". I don’t think he has a hip hop bone in his body either. Apparently he likes to listen to Jay-Z, but I wonder why--just a purely technical appreciation of the formal skill involved? It can't be the content he gets off on. Obama's vision of how the world should be is modest--so decent, so sensible, so sane. It's how the world should be and how it needs to be, Desperately. And it's nothing to do with the world as proposed by rock'n'roll, or hip hop.

From very early on with rap--as early as 1986, when I made my first serious attempts to grapple with the music, in the piece "Nasty Boys", which is now in Bring the Noise--I realized there were some serious limitations to a left-wing analysis of hip hop. Or at least, a straightforwardly hopeful and uplifting reading of it, which was what so many critics then, especially in Britain, were trying to glom onto rap. It was around that time I started to develop this over-arching sense of pop culture as being as much on the side of the Devil as on the side of the angels, which David Stubbs and I wrote up as the thinkpiece "Indecency", which is in Blissed Out. Or to put that another way: everything that is wrong with the world, our society, Humanity, etc, is bubbling inside of rock/pop/rap etc, just as much as all that's hopeful and helpful. More often than not, there's a kind of perfect stand-off between the revolutionary and the counter-revolutionary going on in most forms of popular music.

Rock critics, almost always left-wing and liberal, invariably focus on the uplifting, constructive tendencies, and ignore or downplay the negativity, the selfishness. Academics, who tend to be even more left-wing and progressive-minded, and also overly rational and somewhat cautious and prim in their approach to life, are even worse when it comes to ignoring these aspects of rock and rap. They are always on the look-out for "socially redeeming value". But when I started to listen to rap really closely, in 1986, it seemed to me that you couldn’t understand, or even aesthetically and emotionally feel rap without taking into account that it is fundamentally about vanity, the lust for glory, about competitiveness and domination. Rapping is about lording it over vanquished foes, insulting and humiliating them stylishly. Style is a form of combat, a mean of self-assertion and self-distinction. Developing a unique style as an MC is a form of self-coronation. And a lot of subcultures, not just hip hop, are quests for aristocracy: it's the superiority complex of those who've raised themselves above their more ordinary counterparts in their own demographic through style and knowledge. The motor is profoundly inegalitarian. Not nice!

But this is precisely why rap, like the more aggressive forms of rock, or more grandiose and bombastic forms of spectacular showbiz pop, are so compelling. It's why we're mesmerised by them. It's like watching a boxing match, or a great athletic contest. You thrill to the will-to-power.

I say all this as a fan. If you really listen to what is being proposed in some of the greatest rock -- in the Stooges and the Sex Pistols, in certain glam and heavy metal songs-- it is a celebration of self-aggrandisement, wanton destruction.

Rock, especially punk and metal, and rap, especially gangsta rap (which is kinda like the black punk or the black metal, kinda, sorta), are rooted in adolescence, that ability teenagers have to only think about themselves, to not consider the consequences of their actions, to take risks and revel in recklessness. Even though I am grown up and have kids, I try to stay true to these anti-social and irresponsible energies in the music. Not by trying to live out those energies: I'm not in any position to, even if I wanted to, and I don't want to, because that's not any way a mature, healthy person should lead their lives. But I "stay true" by refusing to pretend that these obnoxious energies aren't a massive part of what fuels the music.

Sometimes pop culture seems to me like a lurid rash caused by a tropical disease. Its feverish energy is really morbid vitality: the expression of capitalist unrealism, the unsustainable extravagance and irrational mania of a culture organized around consumerism and celebrity.

Monday, March 7, 2011

"Currently trending on Twitter and set to debride contemporary hip hop in the next year and all years"--debride eh? so someone else has been following the alarming recent uptick in stories about flesh-eating bacteria then...

but more salient to the point of the article, with Odd Future, as with Big Black and Nick Cave in girl-murder-mode and power electronics bands galore, there is this sort of defense mounted, often, in terms of the artistic imagination... they're imagining how the world looks like from inside the mind of the psychopath, the genocidal maniac... their interests, as Artists, is in investigating extreme psychology... but don't you think it's odd, them being so imaginative and all, that they never, ever, imagine how things look from the victim's point of view... Odd Future, like Big Black before them, and power electronics scum beyond tabulating, just somehow never quite find themselves writing a lyric from the viewpoint of someone being who's undergoing rape/murder... it seems to hold no attraction to them

funny that

Friday, March 4, 2011

the positive press turns your stomach -- "from front to back, his postmodern folk music is a blast from our mutually repurposed past" -- but i must say really enjoyed this tune "Gloom Uprising" by French-born nu-blues dude Don Cavalli that i heard on our local alt-eclectic radio station... mostly for the delicious wah-wah rhythm gtr licksmanship

can't find it on youtube though

this one ain't quite as good but nice



for some reason the Don put me in mind of (without actually reminding me of) this superfly guy