Posts from 16th January 2001

16
Jan 01

Oh yeah

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Oh yeah, it should also be said that if you’re planning to sign up for Amazing Pop Game (Hurry Hurry! Only 12 places left!), then don’t expect instructions or explanations until Pete and I have written them. It probably also helps if you have some interest in the British music ‘scene’, but if you didn’t you’d surely have got sick of FT by now.

Enough hype: what of a link? Via the evergreen (well, everpurple) Pearls comes Rocks Back Pages, a collection of archive pieces by rock criticism ‘legends’ about rock music ‘legends’. The presence of Shaar Murray, Reynolds, Savage and Toop in the line-up prevents this from being too much of a washout but they’re not represented with their best writing and for me the whole concept smells a bit fusty. But then I’m bored of so much rock writing – where’s the snap, the excitement, the self-indulgent joy? I don’t want to hear about which records are good, I’ve got friends and Napster for that! I want rock writing where you can’t guess what’s coming next from the first fucking sentence.

There’s some original content, by Barney Hoskyns as far as I can tell. Whoever it is, they’re hardly stretching themselves or us with their neat and boxy out-of-ten roundups of 2000’s great and good. Who’s this site for, Martians? Also, any website which feels the need to tell its readers, in 2001, that hip-hop “isn’t going away” is not speaking my language. This stuff is going to a subscription model (they claim) so check it out now and then go back to rockcritics.com which is free, lively, and has people like Frank Kogan, Phil Dellio and Mark Sinker writing for their interactive bits. Colour me envious.

The other thing you should read – and quite probably already have – is Fred’s short but moving eulogy to James Carr.

Do you want

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Do you want, O loyal readers, to take part in some kind of fantasy pop league game? Many have attempted this holy grail of interactive pop community content technology bleeding edge interface killer app, but all have been shite. Until now! We have invented the “Ginger” of the pop zineblog world. Probably. Anyway we’re going to have a stab at it in the grand tradition of AICON and Duel!, so write to us if you fancy playing. It will take all of 5 minutes of your time every fortnight. Beware! Places are likely to be limited. Everybody else will just have to be entertained by the so-very-amusing page that results, which you won’t have to be a player to enjoy, we promise.

The Limey

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 325 views

The Limey There were some seriously drunk people in the Lime Bar by eight o’clock. So drunk, in fact, that they were dancing at the bar to The Best Big Beat Anthems In The World…Ever! which was being played on a loop. It was enough to make me want to hear “Praise You” none more times.

Along with the usual selection of shooters, mixers and a-pops, the Lime Bar was couragous enough to serve draught Amber lager. This is a frothy beast of a drink, combining the gnats-piss taste of Fosters with the zonko alcoholic properties of Ayingerbrau.

To be honest, the Lime Bar was just a bit sad – loads of salarymen dressed up as underage drinkers. When “Get Off” by Prince started playing, your reporters made their excuses and left.

FIVE…

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 289 views

FIVE… Only bottled beer served. Fine if you like the Polish beer “EB” (unlikely).
4… Club Nite Tonite and every night. Fine if you like jazz/funk.
3… Buy a drink and get your change back on a plate. Do they really think you’re going to tip the barman?
2… House cocktails a-go-go. “A house Martini served any way you want” – I’ll have mine in a pint glass please.
1… Guys in suits talking to toffee-nosed Prada-wearing birds.

A-brrrrrrrgggghhhh….
THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO!! Whoever decided to put five foot high portraits of the Tracy family on the wall of Sosho Match must have forgotten that, in addition, Thunderbirds are SAD!! This bar’s Ikea-style logo doesn’t prepare you for such sixth-form interior decoration. It does make you think, though – surely Alan and Scott Tracy are (at best) half-brothers, given Alan’s resemblance to the milkman.

Sosho Match is on two floors. The upstairs L-shaped bar was packed at 6.30pm, with lots of the tables “Reserved” for Business Analysts who were unlikely to turn up. Don’t sit by the door, as it’s v. draughty – the convivial doorman was wearing two or three overcoats.

A better bet is to go downstairs (assuming it’s not pre-booked). There’s a large leather sofa there, should you be in need of forty w*nks (sorry, winks). Or you could just go home.

Sloshed in Sosho

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 326 views

Sloshed in Sosho Here’s the much-delayed report of last Thursday’s boozathon. Not much in the way of pub action here – it’s all bar-related, I’m afraid. Time to find out how the other half drinks.

DON’T LET ME FUCK UP, WILL YOU?

I Hate MusicPost a comment • 457 views

DON’T LET ME FUCK UP, WILL YOU?

Freak Scene was apparently named after someone saw J Mascis and said “I’ve just seen a freak”. Spelling was never the beating heart of the grunge seen – I mean scene. Not that Dinosaur Jr were grunge of course. Oh no, they came before grunge and just got caught up in the wave by – er – doing exactly the same thing. A bit too reliant on the guitar solo of course. But your bog standard Grungosaurus.

The only reason that anyone ever liked Dinosaur Jr was the fact that they swore on their records. Now swearing is naughty, and your standard indie kid does not – in general – approve of swearing. It shows a lack of intelligence, is uncouth, those terrible hip-hop people do it – and of course it might cause a fight in a pub. No swearing is in general a bad thing. Lacksidaisical, half-assed slacker swearing by American though, indie kids are all for that. It shows that they are for real, hard and genuinely stupid yanks. Its okay to admire such people as they are striking a blow for the anti-work culture which of course indie kids – being students – are all about. So Dinosaur Jr were their favourite Swearosaurus’s.

In particular they loved Freak Scene. Watch while slacker dude says “Fuck” lots in a properly constructed sentence. Unfortunately one of those sentences was “Don’t let me fuck up will you” – which he instantly rhymes with “you”, which would pretty much be defined as fucking up in the songwriting business. Though this fuck up fades behind all the other fuck ups the song commits thil the whole thing collapses in on itself as some sort of super heavy fuck-up black hole. Indeed the only way to stop Mr Mascis fucking up would be to get in a time machine and completely wipe out his family line. Starting with his grandparents just to be on the safe side.

Of course this whole argument goes to show that Philip Larkin is the most Indie of poets. Because he swore on one of his poems. The only poem by Larkin that anyone knows, and they only know the sweary bit. Sad to think that a Hull librarian spawned sweary indie rock: They fuck you up your post war poets. They don’t mean to but they do.

Luckily the Junior went the way of their parents (who fucked them up) – killed by the plummeting meteorite that was their lack of talent. The record buying public soon realised there was nothing special about a bloke who couldn’t sing hitting his amp with his guitar. Infact everyone around that time was doing it. Coupled with the amateurish five year old record sleeves, it was quite obvious that the green mind in question was putrid and not working. Now I delight in going to record fairs and stamping on old copies of Bug. I refuse to let him fuck up, but if he needs a friend – there ain’t me. Fuckers.

POP-EYE 14/1/01

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POP-EYE 14/1/01

I get all the best weeks. Tom has to grope around trying to write interesting things about Rui Da Silva – a known impossibility – whilst I get the pop charts version of an extremely rare astral conjunction. In this case it is the equivalent of the Sun moving into Xerxes: two historical chart happenings. First – the Baha Men have moved out of the top ten. And second, for only the second time in history the UK does not have a number one.

So bye-bye Baha Men. Its a massive drop to for them, seven to eighteen and methinks it may not strictly be precipitated solely by lack of sales. You see the Baha Men foolishly have another single out next week. It will – of course – bomb like a Messerschmitt but the record company have recognised that ‘Who Let The Dogs Out’ may scupper its chances. The savvy record buyer will go in to the shop, see said dogs record and buy it – because it is better than whatever pasted down reggae / Wimoweh hybrid the Baha’s loose on us. So they have not been sending copies of the Dogs to the shops. Eventually reducing their final profits. So Bye Bye Baha Men – it was nice to know you.

But back to the more shocking news. The last time Britain did not have a number one was when ‘God Save the Queen’ by the Sex Pistols topped the charts and the BBC forgot to mention its existence. Listening to Mark Goodier this week much the same happened – it was almost as if some form of static interference got in the way. Certainly I could distinguish nothing resembling a song.

So to lower in the charts. 2-4 is the remains of last week. Trance Da Silva, Steps and their baroque piece of chancery – and of course Fragma with the bird with the silly voice singing. At five, gallantly aiming for the ‘number one in January when no fucker buys records’ is Britain’s answer to the question ‘Are there any good British rock bands’. This answer is no. Feeder, an equal opportunities band, rock in with Buck Rogers: a tune which breaks the mould of modern rock tracks. Quiet bit, loud bit, quiet bit, loud bit. Forty five years of rock and roll and no-one had thought of that before. The track – of course – is nothing to do with the pilot catapulted into the 25th century, or even Tweekie – his improbably voiced metal pal. Instead Feeder are playing the Ash game, where song titles bear absolutely no relation to tracks (Goldfinger anyone) which warms us up for the return of the Northern Irish scallies in a few weeks. Oh – and Feeder appear to think you can get ‘cider from a lemon’. I think the phrase here is : paging Tanya.

Where-oh-where has this new slang of ‘Smile’ come from? Last year we were told about a ‘secret smile’ which was thinly veiled reference to a ladies front bottom. Now Sharlene Spitteri and her band of anonymouses bang on about her ‘Inner Smile’ – which makes her feel wonderful. I daresay it does, especially since your career was revived when you invented ‘The New Plagiarism’ four years ago. By use of the Marvin Gaye’s ‘Sexual Healing’ rip-off that was ‘Say What You Want’ Texas have shown how you can write new songs that remind you of old songs without giving up any of the publishing rights. Robbie Williams, Steps and even U2 are eternally grateful. ‘Inner Smile’ by the way is Texas by numbers, which is all number twos.

Eight. Mis-Teeq. Which it remains for me since i don’t think i have heard it. Still, calling a song Why? leaves you open for obvious jokes.

Nine. Camels. Santos. Sweet. Impossible to dance to. Dance record. Pointless. The looped orchestral bit is rather intriguing on the first five listens. Thoroughly annoying afterwards. But worth a listen at least.

Unlike the battle royale of the DJ’s which seems to take place of page two (of five) on Ceefax’s chart page. I was lead to believe that the ding-dong battle for the top of the charts this week might be between David Morales and Fatboy Slim. Not if they are charting at eleven and sixteen respectively. Morales effort is inoffensively forgettable. Cook’s has Macy Gray on it and a thoroughly annoying video. Victory – as it is – goes to Morales. But I think the Chemical Brothers said this best: ‘Superstar DJ’s – there they go’ career wise anyhow.

The superstar DJ sandwich is filled (in a Spinal Tap way) at thirteen by Creed. This will be a disappointment to anyone involved in AOR. It is however a thorough victory for UK pop that in a week where they cannot even muster a number one, they can relegate this heavily pushed record to the ‘unlucky for some’ spot. We did not fight the Counting Crows wars to let some jangling gruff voiced men into our charts. The posters may have said ‘Five million Americans can’t be wrong’ – but the British public rightly said ‘Why not? They’ve been wrong before.’ The audio equivalent of voting for George W.Bush.

Not much more of note, unless St Ettienne’s Boy Is Crying slipping in at 34 is your fancy. I quite like it, but secretly know it is not the future of pop as we know it. Black Jesus by Everlast limps to 37 due to the concerted campaign against it by the church. Plus Jews, Muslims, Hindu’s and even the usually calm Buddhist were seen burning copies due to its lack of anything resembling sonic quality.

Oh, news flash. There is a British number one after all. The reason I did not hear it is that it is so bland, so unremarkable it makes everything else in the charts look like genius, and since Creed are in the charts that would be a tall order. Jennifer Lopez, or J Lo as she likes to be called now (as if sounding like a supermarket version of Diet Sunny Delight is a good thing). She tells us that her Love Doesn’t Cost A Thing, which is good to know – since the expense of paying for her hotel rooms, grape peelers and own hand woven tooth floss will rack up any fella’s credit card bill. At least the love bit costs nothing. And, from the sounds of it, neither did this song. This would only be a deserved number one if it was a chart of blandness.

THE BEST FIVE (Ha! You’ve seen these before)
EMINEM – Stan (10)
DESTINY’S CHILD – Independent Woman (Part 1) (17)
WU TANG CLAN – Gravel Pit (24)
SUGABABES – New Year (30)
DAFT PUNK – One More Time (35)

Renovation

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Renovation: I have updated the links list and kicked off a few of the ones which are either defunct or retired or I really never go to. I have also – a large but actually quite pointless if you look at my stats page task – updated the archives. But anyway, now would be a good time to tell me if you think I’ve overlooked you, linkwise.

A World So New

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The Avalanches – Since I Left You

It’s summer in Melbourne, and stinking hot. I take solace where I can find it: stealing my sister’s fan any time I can, sculling bottles of juice at three in the morning, and listening to The Avalanches’ Since I Left You almost constantly, because context is everything and I’m determined to have a good time.

And I could end the review right here by telling you that this is what Since I Left You promises: the ability to infuse wonder back into everyday life, to make context where there was none. It’s a rare trick managed by few albums, though off the top of my head I can also think of Talk Talk’s Spirit Of Eden, Orb’s Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld and Primal Scream’s Screamadelica. Three wildly divergent albums perhaps, but what they all share is a very unassuming presentation of brilliance that you can drown in or merely let it wash over you as you get on with your life. Call it background music maybe, but instead of it fading into the background, it transforms it. Whatever you plan to do today will turn out differently merely because Since I Left You is playing. Needless to say, I’ve been using this album as medication to stave off depression when going to work.

The listener begins to understand some of the band’s aesthetic on the second track, “Stay Another Season”, which announces itself by stealing the bass and guitar parts from Madonna’s “Holiday” and transforming it into a lazy disco-funk number with Jamaican chanting, before suddenly veering off into an eerie, cavernous dub-groove of minor key piano cadences and horses neighing. The first rule of this album is that everything is sampled (apparently they can reproduce it live, and I’d be fascinated to know how). The second is that just as the listener thinks the band has settled into a comfortable groove, they’ll suddenly flip over to something improbably different. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to “Two Hearts In 3/4 Time” which is divided between old men chanting and whispering “money” , then the sound of guys moaning a waltz of “Ooh yeah/Oh yeah” and then a girl absent-mindedly singing “la la la” over a gorgeous french disco-pop backing Saint Etienne would be proud of, only with a Jaco-like fusionist bassline. Perhaps you could think of this album as DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing with pop aspirations, or Public Enemy’s Fear Of A Black Planet if Public Enemy were camp, or The Beta Band’s self-titled album with production values. Any of these conceptions would be limiting.

It’s plain from the outset that The Avalanches have a love of sound construction, and the unifying theme behind the swirl of styles that pours through the speakers with montage-like rapidity is a desire to let the sounds do the talking. And so, with some exceptions (the Bacharach influenced pop of the title track; the LSD-racked country-blues torchsong of “Tonight Will Have To Last Me For The Rest Of My Life”; the My Bloody Valentine haze of “Extra Kings”), the band generally draw on primarily electronic styles marked by their familiarity with sound itself: house, hip hop and armchair techno reminiscent of Plaid or Boards Of Canada. That list implies a fractured scramble between styles, but the album is in fact made up of one track, and the flow is so natural and unforced that when listening it’s just easier to mentally divide it up between the fast moments and the slow moments. The edges of the genres are blurred as well ≠ the segue from the raggafied bounce hip hop of “This Flight Tonite” (complete with awesome Kraftwerk synthesisers, computer game bleeps and a surprisingly limber sampled breakbeat) to the thumping house of “Close To You” is so cunning that it’s hard to remember that the band is flitting between two distinct styles.

Despite the strong grounding of memorable basslines on most tracks, the band also have a love high, trebly sounds: flutes, clarinets, recorders, strings, harps, xylophones, glockenspiels, sleighbells, synthesisers, computer bleeps, whistles, soprano opera singers and girls’ coos swoop through the mix like butterflies alighting on a melody for a moment, before vanishing in a flutter, only to reappear, nestled among the musical foliage. It gives the album a sparkly, spangly air: the title track opens the album, and is swathed in effervescent harp cascades and Tinkerbell tinkles, and a woman’s breathless gasp of a vocal, “since I left you/I found a world so new!” It sounds not so much like a cry of independence as the excited exclamation of a young traveller writing home. And indeed the whole album could almost be a piece of aural travel writing, a show-and-tell for a band themselves stunned at what they found in the world outside their original minimalist hip hop template.

The intermittent party vibe of the album is largely a result of the group’s incongruous leap into the world of house music. Their take on the style on tracks like “Radio”, “Close To You”, “Diners Only” and “Live At Dominoes” is something like a collaboration between The Beta Band and Basement Jaxx: at once both precise and ramshackle in its messy approximation of house’s sleek groove, and absolutely overburdened with a profusion of sonic detail. “Radio” is a squelchy riot riding on a deathless disco bassline and drenched in wah wah guitar. While the kickdrum keeps pace throughout, it sounds inexact and coincidental, as if a caveman were banging on a giant drum and only happened to be keeping 4/4 time.

“Close To You” and “Diners Only” (really the same track, although they have enough ideas for five) take this amateur-house aesthetic one step further, careening from shimmering flute and computer bleep driven phased disco to a sort of voluptuous swamp-funk of kitchen-sink percussion, latin piano and, bizarrely, jingles from the 50s. Toward the end the flutes flood back in, creating a hypnotic groove spiralling upwards into “A Different Feeling” , a rapturous mixture of a disco string loop and raining video game bleeps that surprises with its sheer unexpected loveliness no matter how prepared I am for its arrival. The album’s centrepiece numerically and emotionally, “A Different Feeling” turns poignant towards the end, easing it into a bittersweet coda of haunting strings and uneasy synthesisers. After constantly building for the first half of the album, The Avalanches now set-up the second for an uneasy comedown in the glorious tradition of Screamadelica.

When he next track, “Electricity”, combines a nasty Sly & Family Stone funk-groove with hauntingly ethereal aria vocals, you know that the spell has been broken, revealing an even wider palette of emotional material for the band to work with. And while there are real highs later on (the comically overblown Bacharach-meets-RZA-meets-turntablism of first single “Frontier Psychiatrist” or the heaven’s breath ambience of “Etoh” being prime examples), the tracks are infused with a sort of nervous knowledge that “this can’t last”, and correspondingly try to work even more ideas into their sonic templates.

It’s difficult to think of many albums as consistently ambitious as this, but this album seems to me to be spiritually in tune with landmark efforts like A.R. Kane’s I and Disco Inferno’s D.I. Go Pop; taking the former’s wide-eyed wonder and the latter’s revolutionary sampling aesthetic, Since I Left You also shares their sense of accidental importance, pointing a hundred different ways forward. Here is an hour’s proof that sampladelica is not a dead concept, an empty corpse left for vultures such as Beck with their post-modern inferiority complexes to pick at for passing value. And best of all it’s the most heartbreaking, eye-opening, pulse-setting, foot-tapping, ear-caressing fun to be had, this summer or any other.

Tim Finney

Tim

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Tim told me that The Avalanches had made his favourite record of the year. So I asked him to review it. And here we are.