Posts from 17th April 2001

17
Apr 01

Ladies and Gentlemen the triumphant return of

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Ladies and Gentlemen the triumphant return ofAm I Cool Or Not?

In these enlightened times

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In these enlightened times when almost everybody has a favourite Backstreet Boys song it’s both saddening and strangely heartening to note that in the shadowy corners of popular culture there still lurk people carping about the Monkees being manufactured. We should perhaps seek to preserve them and their quaint practises.

Indie Rock Porn

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Indie Rock Porn

No, seriously. It is. Over 18s only. You will be amazed to see an XXX site – actually it’s barely half an X – with all the defensive snobbery you know and love from your favourite zines (“for men who actually get laid” sets the tone nicely). All the women are skinny and have awful music taste (or claim to). None of them look remotely like indie rock girls. Which is a shame ’cause I’d pay good mon…ahem. Only joking.

Bangsheet

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Bangsheet: vaguely punky (the word I use when there’s a picture of Lester B on the front page and I’ve not heard of 50% of the music under discussion) webzine whose focus is on having writing that’s as interesting as the music is. A laudable ambition so go have a look.

Thankyou

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Thankyou Swish Cottage for reminding me of this: now I just have to find my own copy.

See! See what you’ve done with your so-called ‘blogmeets’??

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See! See what you’ve done with your so-called ‘blogmeets’??

Nude As The News reviews Radiohead’s

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Nude As The News reviews Radiohead’s Amnesiac – the backlash begins. Musicological stuff aside what seems to bug them is that it’s bitty, slight, Yorke fucks his voice up loads and that it runs its ideas into the ground. These are all pretty much the things that make it my favourite Radiohead album. A Dazzle Ships for the ’00s, I’m saying. (Oops, link credit time, this is from Us Vs Them which you’d better go to right now.)

ABBA – “The Day Before You Came”

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ABBA – “The Day Before You Came”
Abba’s second-last single is mundane and spooky, terrified and tender and startlingly original – a song about an office worker which dares to empathise? “Fitter Happier” made by humans? Quite an achievement, even if at 19 years’ reach it’s the unpredictably dated details you pick up on, of offices full of stray papers and 9.15-5 working hours. Even if, too, the overall mood is numb and haunted, Agnetha faltering over the details of her past life, seeing it through the wrong end of a telescope. “I suppose…I think….I must have….”

What’s getting in between the singer and the song is the “You” of the title, the gap that must be filled, that she didn’t even know was there, this enormous indistinct life-completing You whose presence in the song is announced by synthesised angels, screaming. Hearing that undead choir we shudder, what were they thinking this Swedish pop band, perhaps we scrabble to our biographies and imagine two divorced men at the end of their rope trying to write love songs with iced-over hands.

It’s tempting sometimes to imagine “You” as, I don’t know, Death or something, which is a silly way of hearing, an attempt to duck out of taking “The Day Before You Came” as a love song. A subjectless love song which says that love is something we use to prise open our routine oyster lives and that once opened up you can’t shut them again. A fearful love song where the throat closes around the lover’s name. A thin love song which zipping tight the laptop with dew on the grass outside seems, awfully, relevant.

BASEMENT JAXX – “ROMEO”

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BASEMENT JAXX – “ROMEO” (MP3)

when modern music looks into the past for archetypal lovers, it usually comes up with two results, men whose individual approaches to amor could scarely be more different: romeo and casanova. casanova was your love ’em and leave ’em type, a guy who had many lives, so when a songwriter is looking to portray an individual who knocks gals off their feet, leaves them swooning, but ultimately breaks their heart, they sometimes call him a “casanova.”

on the other hand, romeo is devout, willing to give his life for the one he loves, and let there be no mistake, he loves only one (indeed, quite often, whenever romeo is mentioned in song, his beloved juliet is not far behind). lyricists looking for images of the idealized lover will many times turn to romeo, comparing the protagonist of the song with the pride of the montagues.

in basement jaxx’s “romeo,” however, the romeo detailed in the lyrics is anything but ideal. “you used to be my romeo,” singer kele le roc laments, indicating that, whatever it is he has done or, perhaps, HASN’T done, has led him to fall from grace and, like casanova, to trample over her breaking heart. this leads one to the conclusion that, within every casanova, there is a romeo who has, intentionally or not, led a young woman astray. this lyrical exegesis really tells you everything you need to know about this latest single from brixton duo basement jaxx, a tale of love lost, yes, but one with the promise of new, better love on the horizon.

does this all seem like stalling? like i’m reticent to review this new single by the basement jaxx? if you answered “yes,” then you’re absolutely correct, since first hearing it, i’ve been grappling with what to say about this slippery eel of a record, one that not only eludes your grasp, but gives you a shock when you finally think you have it in hand. what’s eventually going to happen here is that i’m going to compare the jaxx to, yes, you guessed it: daft punk. i know, i’ve been comparing them to everyone: radiohead, the avalanches, the nasdaq, family members, etc., but unlike the last two examples, i think it’s an apt comparison here. here’s why!

with their first album, daft punk released homework which was at times a very good record, and at other times, meandering filler. so when the duo released “one more time,” they did so in a world without expectations, where mixmag was yet to proclaim discovery the greatest album ever. “one more time” is a thoroughly enjoyable single, and while it was rife with their particular trademarks, it remained a genre exercise and gave us no clue as to what to expect on the full-length. the basement jaxx’s remedy, their first lp, immediately established them as not only dance gods, but saviors of modern music as remedy opened our eyes once again to what exactly a dance record could be even if the record itself, as this critic writes it, hasn’t ultimately lived up to all the praise.

emerging in a post-discovery world, a world they very much had a part in — don’t kill me — discovering, the fellas of basement jaxx are expected to knock our heads clear off our shoulders. i personally didn’t know just what to expect, but i knew it had to be something, if you get me and i’m not being terribly vague: something that you can’t quite articulate but you’ll know when you hear it if it is or it isn’t. on first listen, then, “romeo” wasn’t: like “one more time,” it’s straightforward house, though also like that track, it features the trademarks of its creators: shimmering sounds, chest-caving bass, and a pulsing, frenetic energy that’s always threatening to go nova. and also like “one more time,” if early reactions are to be trusted, a good if somewhat puzzlingly innocuous single is no indication of what’s to come.

while “one more time” proves to be quite helpful in bringing to light the similarities shared by daft punk and basement jaxx, discovery shows us just exactly how they differ. unlike discovery which contained one poodle-metal solo too many, i expect both “romeo” and rooty to be embraced by the dance massive and especially the purists. daft punk started out as an indie cover band called darling, their current name a quote from an nme review of one of those old songs. their roots are in pop, as the new album proved, they simply use dance to their advantage, like a groovier, less jaded pet shop boys. even though one of them djed with thom yorke in college, both basement jaxx live and breathe house music and it shows in the finished product: to put it simply, daft punk rock headphones, basement jaxx rock clubs. what both groups do and might do a bit too well is generate expectations, however once one is done lingering on what “romeo” isn’t, the more you appreciate it for what it is as the track reveals itself to you in all of its house-rocking splendor, reminding you that it’s quite often foolish to judge music by your expectations, doubly so when you’re unable to say just what those expectations are.