Posts from May 2000
Signal Drench Music Magazine: four reviews a day and they’re all of indie rock! Sweet Lord, can nothing stem the tide?? My usual if-you-like-indie-rock-you’ll-like-this comments apply, though I should point out that if you dare click anywhere else than a review you will be confronted with an inescapable tiger beanie.
But a note of caution must still be struck. This rant from an alt.music.alternative posting (not mine) is categorically not about Signal Drench, who are lovely people and good to their mothers, but deserves reposting anyway because it’s really funny. “What kind of gimmick is “We’ll review 1000 albums a week that all sound and look exactly the same even though 90% of these only exist as promos on college radio music directors’ desks yeah we know no-one in their right mind would bother trying to decide whether the new Butterglory is more worth buying than the new At The Drive In but at least maybe we’ll get a banner ad or two from online record stores stupid enough to cater to this brain-dead market and then we can retire at the age of 27 with a decent investment portfolio and stacks of lame indie records to jack off to while our shy little indie girlfriends are off buying fake fur at the Salvation Army” anyway?”
Uncle Conscious – plain and wa-wa pedal: it’s another, yes another music blog. The twist here is that this person actually makes music, rather than just sitting around talking about it.
I do make it sound as if I think that music has to contain lyrics to have meaning or emotional content. Which is precisely how Josh reads it. That’s nonsense: what I was trying to say is that the lyrics post-rockers of whatever stripe tend to put on top of their music are pretty much cut-up pseudo-beatnik wannabe-surreal tosh, and it’s the lyrics which should perhaps aim for meaning and emotional content and currently in my view don’t much. I do think that a lot of instrumental post-rock music doesn’t cut my particular mustard, and could be improved by adding lyrics, but as I say the addition of words “broadens and sharpens the music’s [emotional] range”, it doesn’t create that range in the first place.
ooooooooooooOO OOOOOOoooooooOOO OOOOooOOVVVVVV VVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVV VVVVVVVVV VVVVVVVVVV VVVVVVVVVVVVvvvvvvvVVVVVVvVVVVV VvVvVveeeeeeeee eeerrrrrrrRRRRR RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR RRRRRRR rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrraaaa aaaaaAAAAAA AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA AAAAAAAAAaaaaaAAAAAAA AAAAAATTTTTTTT TTTtttttt TTTTTTT TTTTTTTTT TTTTTTTTT TTTTTTttttttttttttt eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee EEEEEEEEEEEEeEEE EEEeeeeeeeddddd.
It’s like Duane Eddy on acid. There’s always been a country element to their music. It’s as if you crossed the New York Dolls and Ennio Morricone. They’re the last gang in town, they’re keeping the rock’n’roll flame, they’re on a road to somewhere (No.38 in the charts, perhaps). They do it for the music and if anyone likes it it’s a fat advance, sorry, what was I thinking, I mean bonus. Their new irony-boogie single is precisely as lazy as this review is. I have seen the present of rock’n’roll and its name is the Dandy Warhols.
MOGWAI – CODY (from the album Come On Die Young)
Here’s my philistine’s opinion: putting vocals on post-rock tracks, vocals which might be singing real words in some order which might actually mean something, which might even – and I’ll admit this is a real stretch for the genre – be a stab at emotional content, well, that’s a Good Idea. It both broadens and sharpens the music’s range: post-rock (meaning here post-Slint, post-Tortoise, post-Sonic Youth) is really good at broadstroke serenity and sinisterosity and crushing sadness, and at a stretch it can do aggro pretty well too, but it has a tough time doing love or directed anger. And besides lyrics which aren’t awful can act as highlights on the song, turning something too wide to get a grip on into something heartstoppingly exact. (Come to think of it, this is partly why Sonic Youth are so much better than the other two bands mentioned).
So here are Mogwai, maybe in a car some grey evening driving somewhere, maybe not. There’s a story somewhere in the song – you could try and work it out, but you don’t need to: there’s only one story which uses so many “I”s and “You”s and which has to be told this slow, and you’ve probably lived it. “I’ve tried a hundred times to see the roadsigns as day-glo” – the impossibility of trying to make the everyday transcendent, even though you know you should, because some things pull you down too far to make the effort. The best you can do is sit with your knees up against your chest, wait for matters to improve, and rock back and forth to a song like this: still an easy-to-solve equation of influences, but for once in a career good enough to make you forget the answer.
fold your band, child, your songs are too pleasant: the verdicts on the new Belle and Sebastian album roll in from PTAHE and Steal This Blog!. On first listen I have to agree: bland prettiness seems to be ‘in’, and almost every track seems happy just to exist for a few wry minutes. Trust me to start liking a band just as they go off the boil.
I’m kind of wary of levelling the ‘self-parody’ accusation at artists, though. I mean, yes, on one level it is apalling that B & S can try to get away with calling a song “Nice Day For A Sulk”, but there are plenty of artists – Otis Redding and the Field Mice spring to mind – who hit some of their greatest peaks when they’re at their most ridiculous. Nobody ever told Redding “Tone it down a bit, man, you’re just taking the piss now”, when he launched into the coda to “Try A Little Tenderness”, but that’s what ‘self-parody’ means, kind of.
On the other hand, “Nice Day For A Sulk” is pretty damn bad.
Music critics and feckless college kids (more on them later) continue to have orgasms over this mess, presumably informed by the same if-it’s-dull-and-dry-it-must-be-deep sensibility that showers accolades on such tedium-fests as Springsteen, the Clash, and Yo La Tengo.
It’s difficult to decide where to begin attacking the record. The tempos plod and the songs meander aimlessly and endlessly. All of which is very progressive and groundbreaking — if your previous idea of musical sophistication was Minor Threat, or perhaps Sloan — precisely why this middlebrow wankery is revered so highly by the lookalike Salvation Army-shopping, gas-station-attendant-chic middlebrow wankers who clog the streets of my hometown. The already dated grunge-tone guitars are made to repeat the same drab finger exercises indefinitely in such a manner that the listener is forced to focus on the long-winded, drippy high school poetry (“. . . Fill your pockets with the dust of the memories that rises from the shoes on my feet . . . Wash yourself in your tears and build your church on the strength of your faith.” Blecch.) delivered in a ‘voice’ that alternates between an expressionless mumble and a feeble prepubescent whine. Oh, but Slint brought 7/8 into the vocabulary of alt-rock time signatures! Yeah, played so slowly and so metronomically that the average four-year old could be trained to do better.
The band manage to reel in their self-indulgence somewhat for the last song, “Good Morning, Captain,” providing the only moment on the record with the remotest musical value. Good God, there’s almost a groove! A sense of direction even! The harmonics at the end border on being interesting. And what effect is accomplished? A sappy tearjerker, that’s what. The same schmaltzy heartrending aimed for by the Spice Girls and Steven Spielberg. “I miss you” he screams over and over. Didn’t I see something like that at the end of _Swing Kids_?
“Better than Tortoise” is the best that can be said for this pretentious trash.
Radio ga-ga: when ill and tired, link to a Guardian article. A lazy link for a lazy piece by Francis Wheen, sadly one of the paper’s wittiest writers, which lends this particular article a certain easy readability. Don’t let that distract you from the fact that what Wheen knows about modern pop and its audience could be spelt out in seven letters and a space. The reason Andy Kershaw no longer has a radio berth is nothing to do with Radio 1’s music policies and everything to do with the protectionist attitudes of Radios 2 and 3, both stations far more natural homes for a world music programme than 1.