Posts from July 2000

30
Jul 00

THE FALL

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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).

29
Jul 00

BLACK STEEL IN THE HOUR OF CHAOS

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The Other Day, 1988

Dear Mr D.

In our opinion, we are suckers.

We are most interested in having you for our army, or whatever. We are aware that, in our visualisation of your giving ‘a damn’, you are most likely to say ‘never’. This is possibly due to our being a land that never ourselves gave a damn about a brother, like you or yourself. This is because we never did.

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28
Jul 00

David Bowie – five more cheap shots

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DAVID BOWIE Five More Cheap Shots

1: Do you remember, your President Nixon? Come on, its 1974 Dave, you would have to have a pretty poor memory to have forgotten about Nixon. You can understand people forgetting about Dre, hes just a producer after all. But Nixon, he was the leader of the western world.
2: The world didnt end in 1977, did it. Asserting that it would on Five Years on TFAROZSATSFM (what a handy acronym that is) was frankly scaremongering tactics which would have caused panic in the streets had you been a slightly more respectable artist and not prone to the heavy eyeshadow.
3: I despise people who pretend to be John Lennon, by working with Paul McCartney. But Bowie is the only guy who had a hankering after being Paul even down to the left handed guitar playing of Ziggy Stardust (doesnt really matter what hand he uses, Bowie admits hes a lousy guitarist). Nobody else worked with Lennon to produce excrement like Fame except maybe Yoko.
4: Bowie produced Lou Reeds Transformer. Notable for its ability to transform the toss Ludovic was doing with the Velvet Underground into an even more excruciating solo career. Also notable for the massive stiffy Lou has on the back cover.
5: Ziggy Stardust again: He was the Nazz, With God given ass. Fair enough, he had a nice arse. But whats with this Nazz nonsense? Such a word does not exist. Ive tried many a dictionary to plumb its meaning and the nearest I got was Nazi. But hey, Dave wasnt a faux fascist until at least 75.

DAVID BOWIE And The Smartest Girl He Ever Went Out With

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DAVID BOWIE And The Smartest Girl He Ever Went Out With

And when I get excited, my little China Girl says:
Oh baby, just you shut your mouth

I’m with the young lady from Shanghai here. But don’t just restrict it to when you’re excited eh?

DAVID BOWIE – Errata

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DAVID BOWIE – Errata

I’m sorry, I have to admit a mistake.

The title of David Bowie’s 1995 opus was not 1. Outside. No no no. It was 1. Outside: The Nathan Adler Diaries. A Hyper Cycle.

Let’s repeat that. Just in case you missed it.

1. Outside: The Nathan Adler Diaries. A Hyper Cycle.

My apologies to Bowie and his fans. Bowie’s apologies to overworked side-repairing surgeons the planet over.

DAVID BOWIE : Two Armed One Armed Bandit

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When Davy Jones was in his Brixton school playground and his best mate (mark that – his best mate) whupped him a good-un upside the head, his eyes span round like fruit machine wheels, finally settling on the blue and brown we know and love. If only his best mate had whacked him a few more times, maybe hoping to get a jackpot pay-out of a pair of cherries, we may have been spared the pair of lemons we actually got. The pair of Tin Machine albums.

Taking the piss out Tin Machine is thoroughly redundant, since even Bowie does it. Indeed the smugness engendered by the world and his wife when they note that they were not fooled by Tin Machine masks the publics generally folly. You see the very thing Tin Machine was trying to be (ie late eighties Genesis) your man in the street lapped up in droves. No there is something almost quaint about the underachievement of Bowie’s first band. Sure it was noisy, squally nonsense played by old blokes in bad suits, but this was the eighties and it was probably worth a try. Anyway, the name lends itself to Din Machine far too easily to have ever been a serious venture.

No, tis to Bowie post Tin Machine we look to if we want to see the proper definition of a pop chameleon. Your lizard chameleon of course is well known for being able to change colour to blend into the background. As long as those colours range from green to yellow. Similarly, Bowie in the nineties has been able to blend seamlessly into any musical trend: from the green of rock to the yellow of industrial. Let’s look at those nineties albums in full:

Black Tie White Noise
Bowie said: The closest I’ve come to summing up my whole sound whilst being informed by house and dance music.
It actually was: A selection of songs with bad production values set to cheesy dance beats which oddly managed to sound a bit like Nine Inch Nails.
The critics said: A partial return to form.
The Public: Didn’t buy it.

1: Outside
Bowie said: A multi-charactered concept album about art, murder and technology.
It actually was: A dull album featuring some funny bits where Bowie pretends to be an old fella (he is) and a 14 girl over a backing that sounds a bit like Nine Inch Nails.
The critics said: A partial return to form
The Public: Didn’t buy it.

Earthling:
Bowie said: My pre-millennial stab at understanding modern England – from pastorialism to Drum’n’Bass.
It actually was: Bog standard Bowie filler material with skittish jungle beats which sounded a bit like Nine Inch Nails.
The critics said: A partial return to form
The public: Didn’t buy it.

Hours…
Bowie said: An honest self-reflective look back on my career set to serene trip-hop beats.
It actually was: An embarressing attempt to get autobiographical over ambient yawn-hop which still manages to sound a bit like Nine Inch Nails.
The critics said: A partial return to form
The public: Didn’t buy it.

So in summation: Bowie wasn’t hit hard enough when he was a kid, and his next work will most probably be his take on UK Garage which the critics will call a partial return to form. I for one am looking forward to a UK Garage album that sounds a bit like Nine Inch Nails.

DAVID BOWIE – Five Easy Pisstakes

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DAVID BOWIE – Five Easy Pisstakes

1. ‘Kooks’, his touching tribute to his infant son. “Will you stay in our lover’s story?” “No, Papa, I will not, for you have given me the stupidest name on Earth, you bastard.”
2. Giving a fascist salute at Victoria Station. Quite apart from the fact that it’s a fucking stupid thing to do, in a fascist state Bowie would not have become a decadent uberleader, oh no, he’d have been persecuted to hell and back for all sorts of righteous reasons, e.g. having a wonky eye.
3. Was there really no better rhyme for “Major Tom’s a junkie” than “funk to funky”?
4. ‘Memory of a Free Festival’ – Jumping Christ, have you heard it? It takes a lot for a song to be improved upon by the ministrations of Dario G, but this surely manages it. Even the Monsoon Bassoon would blush. “The Sun Machine is coming down and we’re gonna have a party, who ho ho”. What’s that David, I didn’t quite catch that, you’d better repeat it a million times. No bloody wonder the festival was free if this was on the bill.
5. Pin-Ups – it was the FIRST EVER COVERS ALBUM, smarm the Bowiephiles. Yes, and what a grand tradition that sparked off, eh? Lots of over-indulged rock stars doing bad songs worse to wriggle out of a contract, oh joy. Frankly if Daz did kick the trend off he should be up in chains at The Hague a.s.a.p.

DAVID BOWIE asks ‘Is There Life On Mars?’

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DAVID BOWIE asks ‘Is There Life On Mars?’

Tanya answers: No. Most scientific studies have shown that Mars is wholly inhospitable to life having bitterly cold nights, and a wafer thin atmosphere, not to mention a paucity of water. Whilst there might be a very small chance of single celled organisms surviving at the polar caps, all evidence so far has suggested that this is not the case, and only the romantic or foolish would suggest otherwise over such massive odds.

Tanya asks: What exactly did you mean when you said Mickey Mouse has grown up a cow?

David Bowie does not answer. He merely walks away sheepishly. Look at that caveman go.