Posts from 27th January 2001

Jan 01

Tim asks the million $Australian question

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Tim asks the million $Australian question: why do some repetition-based tracks sound good and others not? My first thought is something Bill Drummond said in The Manual. He basically theorises a time when records which will come out which are identical and machine-tooled, and one will still be better than the other because of something which with requisite hipster embarrassment we will call ‘soul’.

Now the idea of ‘soul’ has become irredemably tied up with certain sets of stances and mannerisms, so it’s possibly best to either tie it tightly to a particular genre of vocal music or to ditch it entirely. But what Drummond is talking about, I can recognise, a kind of spark or spirit which animates good pop and leaves bad pop floundering. I suppose that it would be possible to isolate this spark, measure out how much of it is down to production and how much to context and how much to familiar buttons being musically pressed, etc. etc.

But I don’t think I’m very good at doing that – I’d prefer to leave it to the more introspective writers and concentrate on talking about the effects the spark has on you, and trying to find more examples of it. I’m also – sadly – aware of how uncomfortable even writing this kind of thing makes me, as if I’m about to devolve into some nodding old rockpress hippy any bloody minute.

The Creation Records Story

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The Creation Records Story is, as tweenet put it, “what every thirtysomething indie kid in London is reading this Winter”. I’m not thirtysomething but I’m still finding it a fascinating book, partly in its subtle reminder of why exactly it was I got interested in indie in the first place, beyond all the bad peer-group aspects: the ethos of loving and listening to exciting music. Which, appearances occasionally to the contrary, is what Freaky Trigger is about, too.

I never liked Creation Records much because they seemed to be too limited in the range of music they found exciting – the great thing about Cavanagh’s book is the way that other mavericks and obsessives keep wandering in and out, many of them with much broader tastes and less stifling visions than Alan McGee. Sadly it’s the McGee tendency that’s ‘won’. The spirit which led Orange Juice, for example, to put together Chic guitar work with a Velvets influence and flightily romantic lyrics seems completely lacking nowadays.

Something which crops up occasionally in the early part of the book is the cyclical theory of pop, which you still get people proposing, especially in relation to the current ‘downturn’ (and I hope I live through many more downturns just like it). Anyhow the idea of course is that every n years music revolves and gets ‘good’ again, but of course nobody can really agree on when this happened last (if you’re American you say 1991, if you’re British generally 1988 or 1995 depending on taste) or even how many years separate each cycle.

What everyone who thinks like this does say is that it should happen again but that it hasn’t yet. The unfortunate thing is that it has – what are Limp Bizkit, Slipknot, Amen, etc. etc. but a big-scale rock revival, galvanising a huge swathe of kids who identify with the fuck-you sentiments on offer? The ‘rock cycle’ is well underway, it’s just that this time you, o scenester, o critic, o twentysomething, don’t like it. And bully for you. I don’t either. But nobody said the ‘new Kurt’ or the ‘new grunge’ was going to be any good! You’ve had one ‘revolution’ – why the hell do you deserve another one?