Posts from 11th October 2000

11
Oct 00

boston — peace of mind

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boston — peace of mind: what is so perversely appealing about this? summer and joy pervade the helium harmonies, the meticulously-crafted and sports-car-sleek just-enough tough-pop guitar riffs, and the snappily driving beat. nearly as bluesless, more coolly efficient, and a lot more fun than kraftwerk. the precursor to “never let you go” indeed. for four minutes, aor is justified.

What better way to celebrate

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What better way to celebrate the end of my alphabetical toils than with a good bit of PORN. (Josh, you wanted filthy links on NYLPM: here they are.)

OK, this is really the new Add N To X video, “Plug Me In”, for which the analogue Camden pervsters hired adult actresses and made a film with them, attaching cameras to various sex toys. Apparently it’s all about empowerment and art, though one suspects the attendant publicity has been more than a tasty fringe benefit. You can judge for yourself by following the link. Have I seen it? No, silly, I’m at work. It follows on from their cartoon robot smut video, “Metal Fingers In My Body”, which came free on a CD single and resulted in my then boss ‘confiscating’ it. Forty minutes later he called me into his office. Uh oh, I thought. “This CD-Rom, Tom,” he said. I looked suitably sheepish. He continued: “I can’t get it to work.” (That link via Oh!Skylab, to whom I say hi.)

Z is for….”Zoom”

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Z is for….”Zoom” by Fat Larry’s Band. Why write about bad music? Because every song, dreadful or sublime, means something to someone somewhere, and in a sense it’s the critic’s job to find out why. Usually that someone’s you, but occasionally and importantly not. The questions of why people like Celine Dion, or the Get-Up Kids, or UNKLE, are more interesting to me than the question of why I like the Magnetic Fields, say, because the mindset of people liking those acts is both tantalisingly close (they love music) and utterly alien (the music they love seems to me shockingly awful). What do they get out of it? How does it fulfil them? The day I stop asking those things is the day I stop writing.

Not that that’s got much to do with “Zoom”, a schlocky post-disco romp, heavy on the glutin and light on the appeal. But then again….”Zoom” was the song my friends chose for first dance at their wedding last week. When I heard about it I was mildly concerned that they’d blown it, that a smog of arched-eyebrow irony would obscure a lovely moment. Silly me: it was funny and moving at the same time, and though I never want to hear it again I’m glad I heard it properly once. So what am I saying, that anything’s good? No, just that if we lose sight of context – or rather, if we try to be all objective and authoritative and I-The-Critic about music – we lose our big advantage as listeners. I want (at least today) a criticism that’s as ephemeral, as inconsistent and as true as pop is. Picking 26 songs by what letter they started with seemed like a good way of doing that – six weeks later, I’m not so sure. But I hope you enjoyed it anyway.

“Kid A”

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“Kid A” will debut at #1 on this week’s Billboard chart. 209,000 copies of the album were sold in the States in its first 7 days of release.

Y is for….”You Wear It Well”

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Y is for….”You Wear It Well” by Rod Stewart. Half a phone call, a golden riff, and a masterclass in how to talk a girl round. It’s the delicious balance between Rod’s abjection and his geezer cheek that wins it, the knowledge that all this contrition might just be a put-on. And the knowledge, too, that in the end it’s the ambiguity, not the apology, that’ll get her back.

It’s just such a fantastic song, too. “I ain’t forgettin’ that you were once mine / Wrote that lyric without even tryin'” marries meta-pop cleverness with subtle sucker-punch pleading, and if you don’t grin at “I won’t object if you call collect”, then you might as well give up now and listen to Muse. Quittenton’s guitar, now achy, now triumphant, adds needed beef to Stewart’s masterful, but unusually coy, performance. And it all swings too, and hard! Rock and roll gets little finer.

I like Jonathan Romney

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I like Jonathan Romney: he’s pretty much my model of what an intelligent, engaging arts journalist should be. And here he is talking about Kid A. I’d basically agree with what he says about the response to the album, with the proviso that applauding experimentalism and ‘bravery’ shouldn’t be a knee-jerk response. A record like Blur’s 13, for example, deserves nothing but brickbats for its cynical plundering of Sun Ra, Krautrock, etc – the only ‘artistic vision’ evident there was a vision of ripping off a few styles Blur’s fans hadn’t heard yet. Kid A has its derivative moments, and I still can’t say I like it, but I can at least respect it. (I’d still say, also, that the puffing of a ‘proper’ album to follow in the Spring seriously blunts the bravery idea, but it’s unfair to judge that record until it comes out. As if that’s stopped me before.)