Posts from 30th July 2000

30
Jul 00

Not Hip To Be Square

Do You See + FT/Post a comment • 310 views

American Psycho seems to be a film about pop music, among other things. Its anti-hero, Patrick Bateman, is a handsome and successful man desperate to retain his standing among other men, often a sliver more successful or handsome than he. To manage this, his lifestyle has to be both minutely detailed and very elastic. He has to be able to calibrate precisely the effects that a certain woman, a certain choice of restaurant, a certain tint of business card might have on his rarefied social standing, and he also has to be willing to discard any of his own choices at any point in order to keep up. In Bateman’s hypercapitalist world, Mary Harron’s film is saying, there is no room for personal taste, because personal taste implies an inner life, and to succeed in Bateman’s arena you have to make sure your aesthetics are as public and sharp as your suit.

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American Psycho

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American Psycho, or rather its soundtrack, talked about by me as part of Freaky Trigger’s long-delayed film issue. But it’s here now and I hope you enjoy it.

Also from the FT mailbag, the electro-funk-dance-noise-sitars outfit

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Also from the FT mailbag, the electro-funk-dance-noise-sitars outfit Sound Storm have got in touch again (after a very nice humanclick chat the other week) to ask me to publish details of their forthcoming gig, on this Wednesday (2nd August). So here we are:

The El Dorado Supper Club Presents:

THE SOUND STORM
featuring Matthew Harden and his offbeat orchestra.

67 Wornington Road, London W10 5QE
Corner of Goldborne Road.
MUSIC: 8pm-midnight
Price:£3.

From the Freaky Trigger mailbag:

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From the Freaky Trigger mailbag:

Dear Sir or Madam,

A few days after Freddie Mercury died in November 1991, I wrote and recorded a song for him. It is now available for free at

http://www.mp3.com/HolgerB

I have received wonderful feedback from Queen fans from all over the world and I am sure that many of your readers would also appreciate it very much to learn about the existence of this song.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to send me an email or phone me: Germany – [no.withheld]

Yours sincerely,

Holger Bauer (Holger B.)

So now you all know.

THE FALL

I Hate Music3 comments • 811 views

THE FALL

Mark E Smith has a few issues, oh yes indeed. You see, he’s concerned about the number of lesser bands out there who stole all their ideas from The Fall. “I invented acid house, me. I’ve been using dance techniques for years“. Next he’ll be telling us that The Fall invented jungle, given that for all this time they’ve had a drum and a bass in their band.

Mark, I’m sorry, but use your ears, man. With the sad exception of Pavement, no fucker has ever ripped off The Fall. When Coldplay, for example, were sitting around deciding how they could best make a pile of dosh out of the gullible indie public, their deliberations ran in part as follows:

COLDPLAY BASTARD: Hmmm. We need to find a hugely popular group to copy, one who have redefined rock without losing their commercial appeal, one who combine excitingly progressive instrumentation with lyrical acuity, range and depth.
EX-COLDPLAY BASTARD: Hey! I know! How about The Fall?
COLDPLAY BASTARD: You’re fired.

Further proof is perhaps needed. Find yourself a copy of the current National and Indie Top 40 Charts. Now cast an eye down them, and we can accurately measure the number of groups who sound like The Fall. Let’s see, shall we:

No. of incomprehensible songs about goblins and Nazis: NONE.
No. of hamfisted rockabilly thrashes with two-note keyboard lines: NONE.
No. of male singers with offputting gimmick: MANY. But NONE whose gimmick is quite as irritating as Smith’s probably trademarked “-ah” sound. Yeah, very idiosyncratic.
No. of groups who have made the same record for twenty-plus years, use of trendy rhythms notwithstanding: ONE, but the Rolling Stones started that before The Fall did.
No. of ‘scathing’ attacks on current musical styles: GOD KNOWS. Again, though, hardly a trend kicked off by Smith’s mob. Incidentally can anyone really have been surprised when Mark E Smith came out against glam?

Let’s face it, in twenty years of trying, The Fall have influenced one smug mob of check-shirted musical panhandlers, plus the Creepers and the Blue Orchids, both of which were in any case started by individuals too shit for The Fall, a concept more terrifying than any Cthulhoid bobbins Smith could come up with. That tradition continues, with the news that the Fall line-up binned by Smith last year has formed their own band, tidings which will surely gladden the hearts of those millions of fans just desperate to hear a Fall instrumental record.

The rock’n’roll years

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The rock’n’roll years: God help us, it’s a state of the pop nation article from The Observer. Sam Taylor’s contention is that you can tell something about the ‘national mood’ from the records people are buying. There’s something a bit pathetically fallacious about that idea – certainly there are occasions when records seem to catch a mood, but mostly the ‘national mood’ is such a nebulous thing that it’s easier to assume records create it, not reflect it. Generalisation is a neccessary journalistic tool, but when a crassly reductive view of the popscene meets a crassly reductive view of the wider scene, little of insight is likely to result.

So Coldplay are drab, yes yes. There are reasons why bands like Coldplay, Travis and the Stereophonics have got big now, but they’re nothing to do with shifts in the British psyche. The culprits are student radio, or rather the well-organised hype machine that serves student radio, and more pertinently, the effect mid-90s Britpop boom had on music coverage in the wider British media.

Prior to that, pop coverage in most papers and non-specialist magazines had either been of frothy popsters or safely bankable rock icons. What’s Elton up to this week? There was a broad unspoken assumption that new bands weren’t that interesting, and leave it to those chaps at the NME to sort out the good ones from the rubbish ones. Post-Britpop, it’s been recognised that new ‘indie’ bands can and do sell, and this led to the collapse of the music press’ role as a unique, gatekeeping voice. Every broadsheet, women’s magazine, and especially men’s magazine has a music page, and they all cover precisely the same things.

They’re still not particularly interested in music – they don’t want to cover too much stuff their readers don’t know – but they know they can’t embrace pop because it’s outside their demographic. So they focus on the vast middlebrow desert of Adult Oriented Indie and tedious retro-soul.

Particularly guilty here are the men’s magazines, which didn’t exist six years ago and reach far, far more people than the music press ever did. If you’re a Maxim reader and you fancy buying a CD, your favourite magazine is pretty likely to recommend something by Coldplay or Travis, because it’s the safest bet, and safety is what men’s mags are all about.

Taylor’s article doesn’t talk about that kind of thing, preferring to suggest that when Tony Blair got in some animal drive led us all down to the record shop to buy Urban Hymns. Even he seems a bit shamefaced when he considers that the 1997 ‘mood of optimism’ was soundtracked by “The Drugs Don’t Work” and bloody Radiohead. While the lyrics to “Airbag” do indeed concern themselves with surviving a car crash, there’s something about the delivery which doesn’t suggest entirely untrammeled joy, i.e. Thom Yorke howling like a man whose leg is being devoured by grubs.

The Top Sample Lists

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The Top Sample Lists: I remember these rockin’ lists from my very early days on a.m.a. Ever wondered which films have been sampled from the most? Now you shall wonder no more. Unfortunately one of my long-time party-bore factoids, i.e. my claim that Predator II is the second-most-sampled film of all time, is here proved absolutely untrue. (link via Pearls, which you should also check out for its fine choice of guest bloggers).