Posts from July 2000

Jul 00

DAVID BOWIE: Low – Blank

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Possibly a 1977 version of Blankety Blank had this question set as its Supermatch Game. Low- Blank. It would be a bit unfair though because if you are referring to the Bowie album of said name, so many words could have filled the blank. Low Quality for 50 blanks. Low Point Of Bowie’s Career for 100 blanks. Low threshold of boredom made me turn it off and fling it disgusted into the street – your winner at 150 blanks. After all Low is merely a Brian Eno wankfest coupled with a few off-cuts from Diamond Dogs.

Don’t you wonder sometimes, about sound and vision? Well, yes and no Dave. I wonder why the song is a five minute long intro of course, as if to say that you could not really think of any more tunes, chord progressions or lyrics beyond telling us the colour of your room. Hmm, Electric Blue, still at least it wasn’t his own Bowie designed wallpaper. (Bowie, being a polymath likes to dabble in wallpaper design, dotcom millionairing and laying paving slabs for Lambeth Council – so I hear). If you’re always crashing in the same car, I would suggest with your millions you should perhaps get another car. Probably a chauffeur as well just to be on the safe side.

Its side two though, where Eno takes over, and we have nonsense chanting that makes Low the Bowie album even Bowie fans don’t ever listen to (yet say is his best). Its akin to Britney Spears getting Mr Oizo to record the last six tracks of Oops – I Did It Again. I understand that Dave was coked up to his eyeballs at the time with Iggy Pop, but he could have at least got Manfred Mann’s Earth Band to record these tracks. Eno is to music what Eno is to hair. Lacking substance. Sure Bowie did some chanting, but you don’t buy a Bowie record to hear him going ‘Om’ over a Fairlight. Quite what your motivations might be are not quite clear, but I’m pretty sure the ‘Omm-ing’ rates pretty low on the scale.

Low is called Low because Dave Bowie was feeling Low when he made it. Not surprising really. Still, I recommend seeing a shrink in future.

DAVID BOWIE – Mr Mime Strikes Back

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DAVID BOWIE – Mr Mime Strikes Back

This may seem a funny thing for me to say, but there’s too much hate in the world. Prejudice, for example, disgusts me. Racial prejudice, prejudice against women, against the disabled, against mimes…..hmmm.. No, on reflection, prejudice against Mimes is great. Interesting how the ‘inside a box’ mime (paid tribute to by Alice In Chains’ “Man In The Box”, a horrible dirge precisely as pleasing as watching a mime do his mumming thang) includes calm hand-on-wall action and does not include the screaming, panic, desperate hammering, scraping of fingers to the bone and final choking agonising death that would ensue if you were actually to seal a mime in a box. Not that I’m suggesting you do. Obviously.

Anyway, another entirely reasonable prejudice is that against David Bowie. He is richer than you and everyone you know put together, and he has got that way by acting the arse for thirty-five long years. Though very few of his later foolery beats his winsome 1967 performance piece, “The Mime”, a story about a young man who starts to mime with the aid of a magic mask, but he misuses its powers and GETS THE SHIT BEATEN OUT OF HIM…OK, no, I’m sorry, his face becomes the mask forever or something equally cod-symbolic. I would check but I’d rather pluck out my eyes and fry them in a big pan than see it again. In more enlightened times one dredging of this performance from the video vault and Bowie’s career would have been firmly in the stocks, but alas this was the late 60s, and in a pre-videogames age miming was seen as a regrettable but acceptable use of a young man’s time.

So, to recap. Miming = hateful. Bowie = hateful. Miming plus Bowie? You do the sums.

DAVID BOWIE – Waste Of Space Oddity

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A concept single whose concept pretty much traded on being the aural equivalent of one of the longest, most tedious films ever set to celluloid. Space Oddity – Space Odyssey – do you get it? Granted the song is shorter than the film, but runs a close second to The Ra Band’s “Clouds Across The Moon” for the most woeful science fiction song ever. Science Fiction is in itself a genre riddled with cliche much like rock so when the two come together you get a synergy of badness that nearly always engenders a one hit wonder. Pity that was not the case with ver Oddity.

Bowie, having been in the game already for five years with no success (Mannish Boys anyone?) threw all but the kitchen sink into this one. Cod countdowns, acoustic guitar and silly voices which must have been the inspiration for kids TV space programs like Button Moon (they even used a tin can for their rocket). But Bowie did get to the heart of the loneliness of being an astronaut – something that your average punter in 1969 could connect with. Notwithstanding the fact that all the Apollo missions at the time always sent up three people at a time. Oh, didn’t I mention that it coincided nicely with men landing on the moon? What a coincidence eh, imagine the chances of that happening, a song about space at the same time as the moon missions and a major science fiction film.Frankly the fact that it only made it to number five should be proof enough of its lack of quality.

Yes Planet Earth is predominantly blue, but not completely. No, there is something you could do, you could have not bothered making the song and gone and worked down the chipper where your bisexuality would have gone down nicely with some Haddock. Space Oddity – A melting pot of futurism and folksie whimsy in the troubadouric tradition or the late sixties version of Star Trekkin’? You choose (I’ll give you a hint – it’s the second one).

IHM LYRIC WATCH 2: Jeru The Damaja

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“I put MCs on the ceiling like Michelangelo did the Sixteenth Chapel” – Jeru The Damaja, “Black Cowboys”

What about the other fifteen chapels, eh Jeru? Not to mention that, well, there aren’t any MCs on the Sistine Chapel. I’ve looked. God, yes. Man, check. Loads of cherubs – well, no problem with that. MCs……no. Unless Faithless were wrong and God is an MC, though given that this would put the Creator on the level of Normski I have to say I doubt it.

(Contributions for IHM Lyric Watch gratefully received.)

THE VELVET UNDERGROUND – New Age (from Loaded, 1970)

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THE VELVET UNDERGROUND – New Age (from Loaded, 1970)
It was Mark E. Smith, of course it was, who came up with the ultimate indie rock snob put-down: “He couldn’t tell Lou Reed from Doug Yule. Confession time: I was that clueless indie boy. Back when I first heard Loaded I had no idea of the VU’s absurd history, I only knew that they were some kind of important rock thing and I should best get my head round them as soon as possible. Deep in my heart I didn’t like any of it much, and Loaded became my favourite album pretty quickly. As Yule writes in his article on the making of the album, “Every song was looked at with the understanding that there was a need to produce some kind of mainstream hit.”, and it showed: Loaded still sounds like a sweetened, edgeless singer-songwriter album.

But I didn’t realise then that there were two singer-songwriters at work, and you were only meant to like one of them. Some of Doug Yule’s prettily anaesthetic tunes were some of my favourites, after all, the dazed “Oh, Sweet Nuthin'” and “New Age”, a wide-eyed mock-epic which seemed beautiful to me when I was 14. Now? Well, now I can reluctantly concede that Yule’s critics had a point – it’s a cloying track, though still a little better than the several Reed-penned knock-offs that clog the record (“Train Round The Bend” et al.). In fact its gospelly builds and stylings and big soft rock fade-out sound queasily familiar in our giltless age of Richard Ashcroft solo records, and coming to the end of this review-purposes listen I’ve decided I never want to hear it again.

That makes me rather upset – my memories of Loaded were good ones, my untutored, out-of-context schoolboy listening memories, sitting round in massive threadbare armchairs with “Sweet Jane” on the stereo because it was the only record my friend and I had which the rockin’ seniors would let us play. I didn’t want to know about Lou and Doug, didn’t want to know about how the one with the banana and that frightful German woman was the Best One, didn’t want to know about Squeeze for God’s sake. And now I’m 27 and I know all of that crap and where does it get me? It gets me to buy a dear old record which I’ve not heard for years and hate it.

John Cale News

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John Cale News is a neat and sharply designed site and does what it says in the title. Photos of Mr.Cale if that’s your thing. Right now I’m listening to Inside The Dream Syndicate Vol.1: Day Of Niagara, a first release on Table Of The Elements of some of the legendary music made by Cale, Angus MacLise, Marian Zazeela, Tony Conrad and La Monte Young in the early 60s before Cale went off to co-found indie rock with some band or other. Frankly the world would be a much different place if all those mid-80s indiepop bands had been listening to this stuff and not “She’s My Best Friend”.

La Monte Young has reacted with predictable squawkings to this release, predictable because of the lengthy dispute between him and Conrad over who owns the rights to the tapes, made between 1962 and 1965. Young says the music was all his composition, Conrad says it was improvised by the group. Since Young owns all the tapes and has them locked in a big old safe somewhere, the argument has been somewhat moot until now, with the “re-discovery of a fresh cache of tapes”. Conrad and his ally Cale have had the best of the argument in the media thus far, because historical interest in this music is obviously pretty high: this release is an opportunity for them to put their case further, and an opportunity for us to hear what the fuss is about.

If you buy Niagara for historical reasons only, you might well be a bit of a wanker. You might also not like it: on first listen I personally like it a hell of a lot, and I’m trying not to think of the contextual stuff because the implications are too boggling. This is heavy drone music. Heavy not because it’s unchanging – as is often the case with this stuff, initially monolithic sound just teems with movement once you’re deeper inside it. No, it’s heavy through its high-minded intensity. A lot of ‘minimalist’ music, no matter how enveloping, comes off like one person’s attempt to express or simply reach some transcendent reality. But this group minimalism, whether improvised or composed, feels different, like these five people are trying to overpower reality, or for a half-hour’s time replace it. Very highly recommended.

Jul 00

“Nick Hornby would never write a book about what’s on his hard drive” – Radiohead bassist Colin Greenwood, talking about the Napster thing. A more convincing argument for the MP3 revolution is tough to imagine, frankly.

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“Nick Hornby would never write a book about what’s on his hard drive” – Radiohead bassist Colin Greenwood, talking about the Napster thing. A more convincing argument for the MP3 revolution is tough to imagine, frankly.

God Almighty, is there

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God Almighty, is there no end to it? The Official Worst Band In The World have some more material to foist upon us. Split up, yeah yeah. Actually the worst aspect of this story is Mr. Corgan’s prose style: give a pop star a keyboard and they think they’re a Beatnik.

Hmm, new nice-about-music NYLPM faltering, I sense. — In Review

New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 230 views — In Review is a writerly music/culture weblog which reminds me vaguely of the Josh Blog with more ‘attitude’. Two writers, haven’t read through it all yet but there’s a good sense of a dialogue going on, seems stronger on alt.pop than other stuff. It mentions poor old Epic Soundtracks in the most recent entry. He was a nice guy and because of that I’ve never really wanted to listen to his music: I just remember him as a good-natured, shambolic customer who brought in good stuff sometimes and was always friendly, a real rarity in the world of second-hand retail. Then I learned he made records, and then I learned he killed himself. So I never bought the records, because I didn’t want to not like them.

Vic Godard

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Vic Godard: continuing the music Tom likes theme, here’s the page I can find which comes nearest to breaking away from facts and anecdotes and actually wrestling with why Subway Sect were such a terrific band. Everything else is oh-how-obscure-they-were and that-Vic-Godard-such-a-character. And even this page doesn’t really knuckle down to matters, but it has a go: “Subway Sect’s most appealing feature was their opposition to rock. They believed punk to be about change. They thought that it would change the nature of music but soon found that it merely perpetuated rock.”