Posts from May 2001

23
May 01

LUDACRIS

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LUDACRIS

Ludacris is the kind of guy your mother warned you about. But then so is your average flasher, and Moby aside nobody offers them a record deal. “What’s Your Fantasy” is a three-minute job application for Fiesta Letters, and ‘fantasy’ is the right word: a glance at Ludacris’ weaselly form lets you know that in this case his name is no joke.

In any other case, though….look, you people keep telling me that rap is still a thrusting young artform and the peak of musical creativity. In which case, why has it only taken them twenty years to run completely out of good names? Ludacris? Juvenile? Nelly? P.Diddy? Make a bit of effort, for pity’s sake! And “undie” rap is not immune (incidentally I have ecological problems with undie rap – vinyl is non-biodegradable, you know, and burying unwanted records underground is merely evading the issue). A member of highly-touted avant-hop combo cLOUDDEAD is called, aptly, Why? Too lazy to use the shift key, too lazy to think of a good handle – though the one he’s picked will at least kick off a few fights. Ludacris’ real name is, obviously, Chris, which simply makes the whole thing worse. Might we expect him in the future to join forces with Apauling, Terryble and Silly Billy?

21
May 01

LLOYD COLE AND THE COMMOTIONS – “Why I Love Country Music”

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LLOYD COLE AND THE COMMOTIONS – “Why I Love Country Music”

“We feel fine / We’re killing time / Well what’s the crime?”

One of the first pieces of music criticism I remember reading was a cold dismissal of Lloyd Cole and the Commotions’ Five Easy Pieces which said something like, oh he overreaches himself, writing these naive sketches of situations he can’t possibly have lived. As if the first album’s heartsick-student persona was any less unliveable for me, 15, listening! But the seed of doubt was planted and I started mistrusting the record, and mistrusting my own reasons for liking it – that I hoped I’d grow into some of these situations, that they seemed dramatic and tragic to me. If that was the reason Lloyd had written the songs, though – well, that seemed a bit of a cheat. They had been showstoppers in my heart’s secret theatre: now they were just short stories, as matt and unreflecting as the ones I picked apart in English Lit classes.

Still I liked Lloyd’s flared, quavering voice and the hooks seemed to come in packs: I sold a copy and soon bought it again, cheaper. And of course the stories all came true – the lost weekends and brand new friends and minor characters and perfect blues all rolled into my life sooner or later. They weren’t as neat or dramatic as Lloyd had made them seem, and I understood what that critic had been talking about. That by writing the songs Cole had made these people narrower-than life. That by finishing the songs with a neat turn of phrase and a chorus Cole had given these people a bit of drama, and somewhere in the unspoken distance, the chance of an ending.

Which is unrealistic, you know.

And that makes me like the songs more again. Country music works like that too. The couple in “Why I Love…” listen to country, and drink, to escape something awful and dark at the heart of what used to be their love, but also I think to deal with it. In “Faron Young”, Prefab Sprout lambasted country songs – “They offer infrared instead of sun / They offer paper spoons and bubblegum” – and years later Paddy McAloon would shamefacedly admit he was wrong. But he was only half-wrong – what the music offers is a simplification, sure, but that’s why it’s great. Country music provides a language for the couple’s – for our – pain, turns something too big to think about into a song you can sing along to.

I can never remember, though – couldn’t when I started writing this, even – whether Lloyd Cole’s song is called “Why I Love Country Music” or “Why I Hate Country Music”. I’d like it even more if it was called both.

THE PUB OF FAILURE – Revisited

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THE PUB OF FAILURE – Revisited

Those with long publog memories will no doubt remember The Blue Posts Pub Crawl which took place just before Christmas last (after which it is safe to say that the Rupert Street Blue Posts – or the pub of sexism as it became known – has installed itself as a firm favourite). Nevertheless said Route Of Kings was sullied by the fact that we could not get in the final Blue Posts, that in St James.

Another Saturday, another excuse to go drinking and finding ourselves at a loose end in Shepherds Market (the kind of place that has Twee TM branded on it) we decided on another stab at The Pub Of Failure. We reckoned that since last time we tried (10:20 on a Saturday) the place had just shut, an 8pm stab at the place would finally allow us to finish this page of our Eye-Spy book. Unfortunately Big Chief Eye-Spy will have to be delayed again. Big Chief Pumpkin Publog was nary resigned to the fact that at the day we decided to go at 8:05pm, the pub shut at eight. At least this time we managed to get inside the damn thing.

So we ended up wending our maerry way through the pub desert that is St James (where every pub shuts just before you get there) to end up at my latest find – the Glasshouse Stores on Brewer Street. Nothing overwhelming to say about the place, its yet another Sam Smiths which pretty much meets the Sam Smiths formula (two levels of differing trad style decor) music without a jukebox. However it is notable for being the only pub I know in Soho with a Bar Billiards table. And for that it should be praised.

I’ve been travelling round the country a lot with work lately, and usually end up on licensed premises, since the meeting I go to take place in pubs. A few recent visits are worthy of a few notes.

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I’ve been travelling round the country a lot with work lately, and usually end up on licensed premises, since the meeting I go to take place in pubs. A few recent visits are worthy of a few notes.

The Elephant and Castle, Wakefield – Situated opposite Wakefield Westgate station, it looked a like a dream. Station pubs are often crackers (The Swan and Railway near both Wigan stations is a favourite), and this looked magnificent. Imagine a Leslie Green tube station with brown exterior tiling instead of oxblood and you’ll have the idea.

But wait – a man stumbles out looking and acting like the father in ‘Rita, Sue, and Bob too’. Apprehension. The three police horses and van outside aren’t a good sign either. Ah, here comes a middle aged respectable couple exiting as they begin a civil Saturday night around town. And so we enter.

Which was a mistake. To use the vernacular, the place was a khazi. It had for some god-forsaken reason, been renovated.There was a lovely reconditioned ceiling design, which was helpful, as looking up was a good idea so as to not make eye contact. In case I was engaged in conversation, I pondered where to declare myself from. Saying London might incite resentment, whilst the true answer (Manchester) might re-awaken Wars of the Roses sentiments, so decided that if asked, I would say ‘Workington’ since whilst Cumbria is resolutely northern, the far coast of that county is so remote as to mean that they have no rivalries in far-flung places like Yorkshire, mainly as most people don’t know where it is. But then there’s always Rugby League emnities…

Luckily, it wasn’t needed. The man nearest looked like he’d wiped his bum on his grey jumper, but I didn’t dare use to toilets to find out whether there was a shortage of paper. The dominoes were set up, which I took as a good sign, but it wasn’t too last. A party arrived who were beginning their Saturday night fun, and the banter started. I can’t honestly remember what comment preceded this particular gem, but when one woman opined that ‘I’ll tell you who says so, my fucking cunt says so’, we thought we should make like Sunday newspaper reporters and make out excuses and leave.

This place is amazingly also residential.

Ye John O’Gaunt, Lancaster – My favourite pub where I used to live is still a good ‘un. The World Dryer Corporation model is an antique model, when the company was based on Edgware Road, and still works brilliantly. The same toilet has a wonderful thing that every pub should have – a padded cushion over the urinal. Whilst I don’t have too much truck with the dedication on the cushion – Oliver Reed RIP is a bit too Loaded – I appreciate the facility. It really does make that aspect of pub drinking almost a pleasure, which has got to be a good thing (I think). The beer is excellent too, and so is the impressive single malt collection. The food is just right and the pub as a whole is a well run tight ship.

The down side is the sad affliction many a good pub suffers from – namely, Jazz, which usually means the CAMRA folk aren’t too far behind, and in this instance, they’re not. A certain times, the pub becomes unusable, as various acts perform to a packed crowd making conversation impossible, movement less so. There’s also the annoying kick out time habit of playing the Monty Python theme tune (can’t remember the name of the Sousa march it really is) which bespeaks a revue-type mentality and accompanying sense of humour running through the pub that is confirmed by cartoons from Punch in the toilet. Admittedly, they seem to have got the funniest cartoons ever seen in Punch, but nonetheless, that would involve reading it for years…

19
May 01

A TOUCH OF CLASS – “Around the World”/LA MONTE YOUNG AND THE THEATRE OF ETERNAL MUSIC BRASS BAND –

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A TOUCH OF CLASS – “Around the World”/LA MONTE YOUNG AND THE THEATRE OF ETERNAL MUSIC BRASS BAND – The Second Dream of the High-Tension Line Stepdown Transformer From the Four Dreams of China

The second on my walkman’s tape player followed the first on my walkman’s radio. Pop ghosts still hovered above the soft-focus drones fading in and out of shimmer. Meanwhile engines churned and wheels ground in the heat.

Mirages.

NIRVANA – “Smells Like Teen Spirit”/PEARL JAM – “Even Flow”

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NIRVANA – “Smells Like Teen Spirit”/PEARL JAM – “Even Flow”

Two tracks that together helped define the “Seattle sound.” What seems most striking now is that if they’d been released five years sooner, by Husker Du and Whitesnake say, they would have been on very different radio stations, on different MTV shows, discussed in very different magazines, with fans on opposite sides of the classroom. Kurt Cobain’s tongue-in-cheek interview comment “Potheads and bookworms unite!” was perhaps the real rallying cry of the grunge revolution.

18
May 01

Elidor bows out

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Elidor bows out (temporarily, we’re assured) with some of its best-ever pieces. An essay on the Skitz album, Countryman, which has been getting heavy and well-deserved net buzz; a review of Eve’s Scorpion doubling as frenzied personal writing; and a very useful piece explaining the relevance of the BBC Radiophonic Workship to today’s forward-thinking pop music. All accessible from the link above. Good luck with the new site, Robin.

Thousand

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Thousand: with another special mystery guest star!

Sonicnow

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Sonicnow asked for a link and a link they have got – indie-ish e-zine with interviews and features.

Other stuff – there’s still two-and-a-half hours to demand that NYLPM/me reviews a song for you. One track each please – for people who’ve suggested more, I’ll pick the ones I can find. Thanks to everyone for their suggestions, now I just have to track them down using the magic web.

IMPORTANT! If Mike sent you a pop music focus group ballot and you want to take part then please fill it in and send it to him cause apparently people have been slacking (not least me in typing up the UK jury’s votes, alas).

N’SYNC – “Pop”

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N’SYNC – “Pop”

Pop’s not dead. “Pop”, though, is barely twitching, a patchwork of modish elecro tics (yea even unto the bitchin’ treated guitar) sewn together by N’Sync’s hamster-tough singing. They keep calling their pop “dirty” when really they mean “untidy” – their song never coheres as an idea or a tune, unless of course the idea is to send up the self-justifications of ‘proper’ musicians, perpetually moaning about people classifying their music and how they just make the music they like. (Presumably “if anyone else likes it, it’s a bonus” didn’t scan well enough to make it into the song.) But sadly I doubt it – N’Sync mean it, or we’re meant to think they do.

So “Pop” makes for uncomfortable listening, and not just because it’s a song celebrating body-shaking pop impact which tells but doesn’t show (wasn’t this meant to be a garage track? Good grief.). To work as the fuck-you comeback it half-wants to be it would need to get much more personal – name a few names, call out the past-it pop-haters and mealy-mouthed rockers. But it pussyfoots around making excuses for itself, and it never dramatises its pop pout to give you-the-listener a way to get inside the song, either – there’s no “living in a disco / forget about the rat race” epiphany here, for sure.

Still, better to send N’Sync down these referential rabbit holes (the album is called Celebrity!) than to let them write their own songs. Defensiveness is written into every chartpop career, and it’s generally the midwife of decline. But pop stars singing about being pop stars (N’Sync; Survivor; Lopez’ deliciously bratty “Play”) is at least a fresh way to dodge those whispers that they’re not for real. The damage, though, is done the second the stars start listening in the first place.