Monday, October 31, 2011

odd little british groups (not protopunk/late glam this time, so much as late-hippy/boogie/proto-metal) wot never quite made it

not forgetting carl's faves (who are protopunk)

odd little english groops that never quite made it

although some of them did later in other agglomerations

Saturday, October 29, 2011

highlights of Morrissey's Under the Influence compilation

the sleevenotes are great

Saturday, October 22, 2011

forgot they even existed

not to be confused with Shalamar

Friday, October 21, 2011

fragments picking up from this but also chiming with this


always had this suspicion that the drive towards in-ESSENTIAL-ism – the centripetal drive away from monoculture, the canon, the idea of a music or band that has universal applicability -- while seemingly valuable in its anti-totalizing drive -- ultimately had a tendency (unintended but latent, creeping, insidious) towards inessentialism

once you rid yourself of that tyrant, THE ESSENTIAL – the thing that everyone should pay attention to -- what ultimately transpires is that everything becomes equally inessential

and the solipsistic narrative of "i like this, i don't like that" is all that's left

(and why, unless you're a personal friend, should i care about anyone's completely individual and idiosyncratic taste-patterns or journey-through-music-consumption)

if the confidence that what you are writing about could and should matter to “all” withers away... it is replaced by diffidence

and diffidence is never going to shake anybody out of indifference

the abandonment of the desire to occupy the central place means that there is never a moment of usurpation, coup d'etat, transfer of power... the throne is perpetually empty

it is an opting out of the dialectic altogether, in favour of pluralism... coalition government... shuffle politics... stasis

or to bring it back to Jarvis and his scented candles, the end result of getting rid of "THE CENTRAL" has been that music as a (diffuse, scattered, dissipated) totality has become less central in the scheme of things


the consequences of the (post-broadband) revolution in listening habits = no revolution(s) in music

as once anticipated (in both the predictive and looking-forward-to senses)

the triumph of this vision can now be seen to be pyrrhic

it's a musical-cultural landscape that is flattened and voided -- placid and flaccid

as atemporality takes hold and the privatization of music experience intensifies, you just have an archival wasteland of spent signifiers, that are, fatally,not fully dehistoricized yet (and therefore not yet capable of being repurposed)

a state of entropy, i.e. music as dead energy, energy that can't be put to "work"

less and less capable of being used to generate stances

Taste-stances that are also life-stances

Taste positions that are also subject positions

what has declined in this is the role of music in identity formation

as a result musical choices (by consumers) and aesthetic decisions (by musicians) carry less and less freight

the decision of e.g. Zola Jesus to "go Goth" is far less meaningful than the people who formulated Goth as a look/sound/worldview

the struggle behind that formulation – psychological/personal, social... and just the sheer creative effort to create a new form.... is largely absent

the style/stance is taken from the repertoire of existing, established, archival stances (sound /sartorial)

And there are few consequences or resonances to its adoption – or stakes

Goths, once, risked ridicule, occasionally even attack, for the way they look

Long since acceptable, part of the menu of quasi-subcultural looks, it’s been on fashion runways, it’s underpinned mainstream movies (Tim Burton)

it’s a choice, an option, a flavor

subculture involves putting on the clothes and not taking them off – investment without divestment

today, under the aegis of plus/and aka everything/and, to side with one music and its corresponding identity does not require you to reject or oppose any other

antagonistic and nihilatory energy is not capable of being generated through your likes

perhaps all that (serious choices, taking sides, identity-as-stance-as-moral-choice) now lies outside the realm of music – back where it should be even – in politics

and people keep asking 'where's the soundtrack, the songs, for this political moment(s)?' (student protests/street riots/Occupy____)

perhaps there isn't ever going to be one, or any... perhaps it's not needed... perhaps the relationship between the two is finally uncoupled, for good

(and maybe that is "for good" in the literal sense)

further reading
[fragment from an interview from last year, or was it the year before...]

The Darkstar album could almost have been designed to please me: it's the convergence of the hardcore continuum, hauntology, and postpunk & New Pop! It's growing on me, but initially I found it a bit washed-out and listless. Still, Mark's reading of it is typically suggestive. And I do think it is significant that an outfit operating in the thick of the post-dubstep scene, the FWD» generation, has made a record steeped in echoes of Orchestral Maneuvres (their first LP in particular was apparently listened to heavily during the album's making), New Order, and other early Eighties synthpop. It also means something that a record coming out of dance culture is all about isolation, regret, withdrawal, mournfulness.

The Darkstar record is an example of a self-conscious turn towards emotionality in UK dance. Most of the album features a human voice and songs, sung by a new member of the group recruited specifically for that role. And just this week I've read about two other figures from the same scene--James Blake and Subeena--who are releasing their first tracks to feature their own vocals. But this turn to expressivity seems to me as much rhetorical as it is actually going on in the music. After all hardcore, jungle, UK garage, grime, bassline house, were all bursting with emotion in their different ways. What people mean by "emotional" is introspective and fragile in ways that we've rarely seen in hardcore continuum music. (Obviously we've seen plenty of that in IDM going back to its start: Global Communications and Casino In Japan actually made records inspired by the death of family members).

The idea that artists and commentators are groping towards, without fully articulating, is that dance music no longer provides the kind of emotional release that it once did, through collective catharsis. So there is this turn inwards, and also a fantasy of a kind of publically displayed inwardness: the widely expressed artistic ideal of "I want my tracks to make people cry on the dancefloor". Because if people were getting their release in the old way (collective euphoria), why would tears be needed?

In the Nineties, drugs--specifically Ecstasy--were absolutely integral to this communal release. One of the reasons hardcore rave was so hyper-emotional was because its audience's brains were being flooded with artificially stimulated feelings, which could be elation and excitement but also dark or emotionally vulnerable (the comedown from Ecstasy is like having your heart broken). One thing that intrigues me about dance culture in the 2000s is the near-complete disappearance of drugs as a topic in the discourse. People are obviously still doing them, in large amounts, and in a mixed-up polydrug way just like in the Nineties. There have been a few public scares from the authorities and the mainstream media, like the talk about ketamine a few years ago, and more recently with mephedrone. But these failed to catalyse any kind of cultural conversation within the dance scene itself. It is as if the idea that choice of chemicals could have any cultural repercussions or effects on music's evolution has completely disappeared. Compare that with the Nineties, where one of the main strands of dance discourse concerned the transformative powers of drugs. There was a reason why Matthew Collin called his rave history Altered State and why I called my own book Energy Flash. That was a reference to one of the greatest and most druggy anthems in techno--Beltram's "Energy Flash" (which features a sample about "acid, ecstasy"-- but also to the more general idea of a psychedelics-induced flash of revelation or the "body flash" caused by stimulant drugs.

The turn to emotionality at the moment seems like an echo of a similar moment in the late 90s, when the downsides of drugs were becoming clear and I started to hear from clubbing friends that they'd been listening to Spiritualized or Radiohead. But where that was a flight from E-motionality (from the collective high, now considered false or to have too many negative side effects, towards more introspective, healing music), the new emotionality in the postdubstep scene is emerging in a different context. I'm just speculating here, but I wonder if it has anything to do with a dissatisfaction with Internet culture, the sort of brittle, distracted numbness that comes from being meshed into a state of perpetual connectivity, but without any real connection of the kind that comes from either one-on-one interactions or from being in a crowd. The rise of the podcast and the online DJ mix, which has been hyped as "the new rave" but is profoundly asocial, seems to fit in here.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

don't see the appeal

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

you can see why people dedicate their entire lives to reggae music can't you

the power

Monday, October 17, 2011

my favorite of the Real Housewives of Beverley Hills is, of course, English Lisa

Lisa Vanderpump with her Daily Mail airs and her very very slightly husked voice bringing to mind the Silk Cut tones of major label press officers i recall from the late Eighties

i also like Kenneth Todd, her leonine, shaggy and admirably emotionally continent husband, who looks like he could be a former member of Procol Harum

now i knew I recognised Lisa's face from somewhere

and of course it's from here

Poison Arrow by SirCumstance

but she also starred in this forgotten folly, Mantrap, "an espionage flavoured musical" constructed as a vehicle for ABC coming off the monster success of Lexicon of Love.... this stilted and silly flick is what Julien Temple did between Great Rock'n'Roll Swindle and Absolute Beginners (meanwhile, in curious symmetry, Malcolm McLaren, who had been ousted from the GRn'RS director's chair, ends up globetrotting in the company of Lexproducer Trevor Horn)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Sunday, October 9, 2011

[fragments from a prototype book review much different from what made it into print...]

Few would claim that we’re living through a golden age for music. But there does seem to be an emerging consensus that this is something of a golden age for music books. Early in 2011, U.K. magazine The Wire staged Off The Page, a two-day festival dedicated to music writing that was so well-received it’s now set to be an annual event, while American alternative-music webzine Pitchfork recently launched Paper Trail, a series of interviews with music authors. As remarkable as the quality of the work that’s been coming out is the diversity of subject and approach, ranging from sweeping historical overviews (Rob Young’s British folk opus Electric Eden) to zoom-lens studies (David Browne’s Fire and Rain documents the single year 1970), and from associative drifts such as David Toop’s Sinister Resonance to monographs focused on individual artists (Owen Hatherley’s Pulp micro-tome Uncommon People) or specific albums (Continuum’s often superb 33 1/3 series). These highpoints stand out amid a constant torrent of less distinguished biographies, oral histories, and lavishly designed and largely pictorial retrospectives.

It seems significant that virtually none of these books, major or minor, deal with contemporary music or artists who rose to prominence in the 21st Century. The past, and usually the relatively remote past—the Sixties and Seventies above all—appears to offer more for authors to chew on than post-Internet music. Partly that’s because music back then felt more connected to social and political currents, and thus seems more consequential. So much of the really thought-provoking and enjoyable music of the last decade has been meta-music that plays witty games with esoteric sources drawn from pop’s ever-accumulating archive. Yet it’s precisely because the popcult past inundates us with its instant-access availability and materiality (reissues and fileshares, YouTube’s TV clips and live footage, reunion tours and memorabilia exhibitions) that book-length analysis feels more essential than ever. Longform writing supplies a crucial element of abstraction, cutting through retro culture’s bombardment of senseless sense-impressions and allowing the clear signal of truth to emerge from the welter of fact.

What could be truer than a photograph? In Bob Gruen’s Rock Seen (Abrams Books), there are many iconic images from across his four-decade career as a legendary lensman: John Lennon posing in front of the Statue of Liberty, Yoko Ono deplaning into a pit of paparazzi, Bob Dylan’s wizened strangeness, and shot after classic shot from punk’s early days, when Gruen first made his name photographing bands like The New York Dolls, Sex Pistols, and Blondie. But ultimately what Rock Seen reveals is that even the most compelling rockpic is a mute witness. I don’t just mean that the dimension of sound is necessarily absent (one exception here is a short exposure shot of Tina Turner onstage under strobe light, an erotic-kinetic whirl of light-smeared multiple images you can almost hear as paroxysmic rhythm). Ultimately these pictures don’t really tell you anything. I’m biased, naturally, being a text-worker, but I think that pictures are rarely worth a thousand words. The best rock writers, operating at full-strength, can catch more of the music’s essence in a couple of sentences than all the carefully posed or fly-on-the-wall shots in deluxe photobooks. Rock photography requires an eye but not a point of view. Its raison d’etre is radically different to criticism. The photographer’s job is to make the musicians look good, or at least “cool” (which can mean inelegant or grotesque by conventional standards). They don’t have to ask difficult questions or judge the artist’s latest work. The flat inanity of Gruen’s captions--“David Bowie is the ultimate performer”, “the New York Dolls shocked people with their androgynous look”, “[the Pistols]had a reputation for being very shocking, but they offered me a cup of tea and seemed normal enough”—show that he chose shrewdly when he picked up an Olympus rather than an Olivetti.

An increasingly popular mode for presenting the rock past, oral history has the exact opposite liability to the photo-book: it makes nearly everyone look bad, invariably de-heroicizing the protagonists until they seem smaller than life. Oral historians seem particularly drawn to punk rock: there’s been a raft of books documenting city-based scenes for Seventies punk or Eighties hardcore, a trend that can be traced back to Legs McNeil & Gillian McCain’s 1997 book Please Kill Me, which billed itself as about punk as a whole but was almost entirely focused on New York....and which unfolds as one long litany of baseness, egomania, and drug squalor (history as junk, just one sordid thing after another).... unputdownable on a certain level but leaves the reader feeling vaguely degraded, like you’ve been mindlessly bingeing on reality TV.

The graft and craft involved in oral history is actually similar to reality TV’s production process: copious documentation followed by judicious editing and sequencing... What keeps the genre from rising to the level of full-blown rock literature is the absence of a synthesizing authorial voice.

Real rock history navigates a path between the unpretty facts and the instant myths that spring up around the music....

One way to recover a sense of how music was received in its original moment is through the rock journalism collection. There’s been a bumper crop this season, with volumes by Ellen Willis, Neil Strauss, Byron Coley, Chuck Eddy, and Paul Nelson....

the problem is that which music is going to matter, to become a meaningful phenomenon through mass or cult popularity, is rarely apparent at the time of a record’s release

Friday, October 7, 2011

are not the very best songs of the Beegees, i.e. this one, 'stayin alive', 'tragedy', 'night fever''jive talkin',

1/ simply better on every level measurable than all the obscurer-than-thine 'underground disco' classics that your Brit/Euro (disco)noisseurs and (discog)noscenti types drool over and cough up cash for?

2/ almost,nearly, as epic/superhuman/eerie specimens of out-of-body bodymusic as the Michael Jackson of "Rock With You/Don't Stop/Lovely One/Shake Your Body"?

Got zero interest in the Sixties Brothers Gibb of Odessa etc though

sometimes i think this is the greatest era of music

was analogue-era recording ever better?

see by the late Seventies production is getting ever so slightly... wispy, maybe

but still golden age

love Hot Chocolate, but think i prefer the Stories's version, with the Rod-like rasp in the vocal...