Posts from June 2001

25
Jun 01

THE BYRDS – “We’ll Meet Again”

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THE BYRDS – “We’ll Meet Again”

Here’s the great thing about The Byrds when they started: they’d hit upon a pop sound so vital and viral that every song on their first album could sound the same and you knew they sounded the same because they just had to. They’d heard “jingle-jangle morning”, and sung it, and then taken it as Chapter 1 Verse 1 of their personal pop Book of Genesis – everything sounds just like that phrase says it will.

So Mr. Tambourine Man is samey and eclectic at the same time. The joy is in hearing every song-style – dream folk, political ballads, bad lover pop, sad lover pop or wartime schmalz – heightened and ripened by those sunburst guitars. Although “We’ll Meet Again” is almost a step too far: a loopy but (in Anglophile ’65) just about logical choice which first time had my jaw flopping in laughter and wonder and my finger twitching at the FFWD. They’re doing it as a joke – the queeny Vera Lynn voices, the “hay-ay-ay” mock chorus, the bored-now fuzz-fade – and in the end the quality of the song rests on the way those guitars jingle-jangle even their holders’ intentions into reverse, and turn something throwaway into something pop.

MusicJournalist.com

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MusicJournalist.com: it’s a site for music journalists. Not being one, I don’t know how useful they might find it. Heh.

24
Jun 01

MANDY MOORE – “IN YOUR POCKET”

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MANDY MOORE – “IN YOUR POCKET”
mandy moore, light of my life, fire of my loins. my sin, my soul. man-dy-moore: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. man. dy. moore.

in the teenpop world, there are four female singers: britney, christina, jessica, and mandy. of these four, only young mandy moore (17!) is a nymphet. there was a time when britney was one, it lasted for about four minutes, the duration of the “…baby one more time” video: she was girl on the brink of womanhood and she shall forever remain so as long as that video lives on in the mtv archives and in the hearts and minds of men and women this world over. christina never was one; christina is offensively sexual, and she just continues to flaunt it with the “lady marmalade” video. jessica, oh jessica, white as snow, and just as pure; jessica is lost to us forever, as anyone who’s seen the video for “irresistible” and the accompanying ad campaigns will sadly attest. besides, anyone who has to talk about their virginity so frequently and at length radiates far too much sexuality in the first place.

ah, mandy! mandy who makes me feel equal parts humbert humbert and kip winger. mandy is the epitome of the nymphet: precocious, eminently lovable, and chaste. sex is never mentioned when mandy is around for fear that it’d offend her delicate sensibilities. for the length of her admittedly short career, mandy has been woman-child and at 17 she shows no sign of becoming hardened, of plunging into the abyss of adulthood. though we know it impossible it seems that she may stay the way she is forever; that we know it is impossible is just why we must cherish her while she is how we see her today, a flower nearing full-bloom.

“in your pocket”! is a great single, it’s the best thing jennifer lopez has ever done. and, though i’ve not seen it, i’m nearly certain mandy won’t be resorting to showing her stuff in the video either, a cheap ploy to increase heart rates while increasing sales. in my mind’s eye, i envision it as enrique iglesias’s “rhythm divine” video, except non-sexual. an apt comparison because “in your pocket” has the same kind of balearic sway, the kind that was so hot just a year or so ago but has now disappeared almost entirely to mandy’s benefit since it helps to distinguish the single from the eden’s crushes and jessica simpsons of the world. even the lyrics are good and the metaphor clever — “among the many muted faces” it begins — and, unlike many of the maturing teen acts out there, one doesn’t have to worry about “creative control” when it comes to mandy: she’s far too busy trying to please everyone, slowly turning the male population of this country into mandy’s boys. (oh, how it is working!)

a year or so ago, she was merely a cute face amongst many, a teen whose debut was released twice and barely managed to go platinum; now she’s as cute as ever, making commercials, making good music and has her own mtv talk show called mandy (!). she’s the type of girl who would’ve unknowingly broken my heart eight years ago. but, yet, i am not so old: mandy, i’ve slipped my heart in your back pocket: please don’t sit down: if the years have taught me anything, it’s that my heart breaks far too easily.

22
Jun 01

For points of comparison

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For points of comparison: Across the Atlantic and a few hours later, I spun a couple of records for the benefit of Philadelphia rock-types taking a breather from the U.S. Maple show—reaction highlights included seven (seven!) people making joyful noise when i opened my second set with Van Halen’s “Panama,” satisfied grins at the opening lick of “Bathroom Wall,” and waves of somewhat shocked recognition passing over peoples’ faces when they realized the inspiration for The Grace Period‘s “Fuck Amen.” And I don’t know about you, Tom, but putting on “Overload”—which I’ve done every week before this one since I only just received my copies of “One Touch”—makes people dance for me, even without the benefit of any Stateside radio airplay (unless you count my Saturday afternoon radio stints).

Too Many Words?

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Too Many Words?: Oh, you can never have too many words about music!

First, there’s Neumu.com, a new endeavor run by Michael Goldberg (the former editor-in-chief of Addicted to Noise, once THE pre-eminent webzine for all things musical & hip). (Of course, now Addicted to Noise has been swallowed by the once-pertinent, now-negligent Sonicnet. Ugh – they went from reviewing Fuck’s first album to the horrific “Me. Music. Mine.” marketing campaign during the dotcom boom. Avoid at all costs.) Neumu is a multi-media site, with features on the Big Bands (REM, Radiohead), photographers (this week – renowned Seattle photographer Charles Peterson), and other such things of truth & beauty. The stable of reviewers does include various ATN alumni, but there are a few inspired screwballs in the mix as well – most notably, Anthony Carew (the Gravitygirl webmaster, a fine repository for FT-like goodness), and John Darnielle.

Ah, John Darnielle. He writes wonderful songs under the Mountain Goats nom de guerre. He writes wonderful music critisism for the New Times LA. He publishes his own ‘zine, called Last Plane To Jakarta (a ‘zine which is currently on-line, by the way – click here). He embraces music in toto, from Emperor to Destroyer to the Steve Miller Band. (And, yeah, the Backstreet Boys, too.) And, if you believe his bio from the Neumu website – “He is persuaded that advertisement-free media will soon usher in a new age of enlightenment and stimulating intellectual discourse.” He’s a good, good man.

DJ Cockfarmer’s Club Sussed Playlist

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DJ Cockfarmer’s Club Sussed Playlist

Spot the desperate token indie records put on to try and get people dancing. If you like the sound of this then DJ C-Farmer is available for weddings, parties, anything. And he’ll be on the decks on July 5th, hopefully, at Sussed II. The order of play was not as listed below!

Sugababes – “Overload”
Morrissey – “Piccadilly Palare”
Buzzcocks – “Boredom”
Britney – “….Baby One More Time”
Smokey Robinson – “Come Round Here (I’m The One You Need)”
Teenage Fanclub – “What You Do To Me”
Serge Gainsbourg -“Bonnie And Clyde”
Glenn Campbell – “Wheres The Playground, Susie?”
The Shangri-La’s – “Give Him A Great Big Kiss”
Pulp – “Lipgloss”
Daphne And Celeste – “UGLY”
The Smiths – “Panic”
Broadcast – “Come On Let’s Go”
The Byrds -“Feel A Whole Lot Better”
Daft Punk – “Digital Love”
The Magnetic Fields – “I Don’t Want To Get Over You”
Missy Elliot – “Get Ur Freak On”
Subway Sect – “Ambition”

Get some sleep, man!

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Get some sleep, man!: Mike’s 24-hour foray into our popcult unconscious is over, and I hope everyone’s enjoyed it as much as I have.

And you never know, when Mike recovers, he might post to Land Of A Thousand Dances, his new weblog, which Freaky Trigger is proud as a prince to be hosting. It’s the replacement for Cultural Artefacts Of The Moment, and if it’s even half as good as that it’ll be very good indeed.

The other new permanent FT feature which we’ve not yet made much noise about is Moments In Love, a sister page to NYLPM. One great pop moment and a snip of writing about it, every day: think of it as a Freaky Trigger desk calendar. At the moment I’m writing it, but I’ll probably open the page up to suggestions before too long, and maybe implement a comments system too.

21
Jun 01

THEY DON’T WANNA BE COY: Basement Jaxx – Rooty

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The eternal quandary: how to follow up a landmark debut album? If you’re Basement Jaxx, the answer is simple: make another one just as spectacular. It’s hard to believe that it’s now two years since Basement Jaxx’s Remedy seemed to revitalise house music, simply by reminding the dance community that — gasp — it was possible to create music that was clever and fun at the same time. Unluckily for us but perhaps luckily for the adventurous duo, it’s a lesson that didn’t appear to sink in. While more cerebral dance producers are finally embracing house’s sensuous beat in numbers previously unheard of, the populist “house revival” that the Jaxx helped instigate has done little but raise the profile of already entrenched musical orthodoxies: tasteful deep house, well-oiled disco cut-ups and sleek Ibiza floorfillers. Where was the revolution? Where was the raft of likeminded producers ready to follow the Jaxx in their quest to — as Armand Van Helden put it — take house music and fuck it in the ass? Notable exceptions such as the mighty Daft Punk aside, the pickings have been decidedly slim.

The sensation of a value gap is forcefully, thrillingly confirmed upon hearing the first single of the Jaxx’s new album Rooty, the delightful ‘Romeo’. A punchy vocal house number that draws equally from contemporary R&B’s robosoul and 2-step’s cheery rhythmic friction – and even surprising bursts of trance-like synth oscillations — ‘Romeo’ packs everything that’s currently missing from the commercial dance landscape into three and a half minutes of gorgeous pop perfection (not to mention confection). With disconcertingly direct vocals courtesy of Kele le Roc and its surprisingly emotional climax, ‘Romeo’ sounds less monolithic and all-embracing than, say ‘Red Alert’, but it’s correspondingly more startling, personal and affecting, not to mention a lot of fun.

It also only hints at the stylistic excesses the duo traipse through on the rest of the album, tapping everything from 2-step to eerie Gainsbourg pop to psychotic jungle-fuelled R&B. In its divergent wanderings, Rooty sounds very much like the colonisation of the alien planet first discovered on Remedy. Where on their debut the duo seemed anxious to fit every possible idea onto each individual song, here they’re content to choose just one or two concepts and take them to their logical conclusions, at times landing closer to pop and at others impossibly far away.

So, on the one hand, there’s the sparkling, euphoric disco of ‘Just One Kiss’ and the belting diva anthemics of ‘Do Your Thing’, both more straightforward and immediate than anything on Remedy. More often though the duo come off as even more schizophrenic and crazed than before, plunging depths of overheated desire rarely touched since Prince’s pioneering work in the eighties — check the fractured funk of ‘Breakaway’, or the album’s centrepiece, the dark porn-house of ‘Get Me Off’. Apparently the track was initially offered to Janet Jackson for her latest album, and you can see why she decided to pass. All dirge-bass, squealing rave riffs and pummelling house beats, “Get Me Off” replaces Janet with a succession of high-pitched, panicky singers pleading for a painful-sounding sexual fulfillment (“don’t wanna be coy/it’s time to get me off!”). Meanwhile a DJ/slavemaster whispers seductive commands: “give your body to the beat…free your body with me.” It’s hardly unsurprising that even the bondage-happy Janet might balk at the uncompromising luridness of it all.

In between these two extremes the duo explore a great deal of uncharted territory — “Where’s Your Head At” is the heavy metal/house hybrid Armand Van Helden has been trying to perfect for years, although he wouldn’t have thought to include the punk hollers and philosophical ragga chants that Basement Jaxx throw in as a matter of course. “I Want U” puts R&B through the ringer, gatecrashing the song with sudden bursts of furious drum & bass pounding, and distorting the curiously British-accented diva to within an inch of her life, her vocal finally reduced to a wordless, psychotic looped tick, like a love-struck alarm bell. At other times the music simply defies description or attempts to pigeonhole: how to define the lascivious, rolling stop-start rhythms of “SFM”? Avant 2-step? Latin Dancehall?

It goes without saying that Rooty is unlikely to match the sort of seismic impact that Remedy created two years ago. The world has grown accustomed to the Basement Jaxx aesthetic, and the blueprint laid down by the first album hasn’t been replaced so much as expanded upon. Still, when you’re so far in front of the competition it takes a while for the rest of the world to catch up, and two years on Basement Jaxx still comfortably outpace everything else on offer when it comes to crafting wildly fun dance music. On the evidence of Rooty they can rest comfortably for another two years. They’ve certainly earned it.

Tim Finney, 21 June 2001

DREAM IN THE DREAM WITH ME – Air: 10000Hz Legend

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We live in the future, baby, you and me. How does this make you feel? The centuries have been erected with this very goal in mind, thousands of years of popular culture have been building up to this. Time had been enjoying a prolonged childhood for too long now; turning 21, with all of its accompanying freedoms and responsibilities, so intoxicated mankind that seers, artists, authors, musicians, and poets have been foretelling its coming since the last time the clock zeroed out, some hundred years ago.

Initially, the dreams were fairly modest. Skyscrapers? Motorized transportation? Flight? As each dream became reality, writers of fiction and fancy upped the ante, envisioning buildings that kissed the heavens, cars that flew, and men on the moon. Within each of these inventions, ambitious yet flawed, fantastical minds could see each form idealized; trapped inside the rough creation, they saw the future straining to escape. As the years were hammered away from these innovations like excess marble from a statue, perfection escaped only to see itself de mode at birth, its patrons having moved on to new whims.

The sound of gunshots and bombs awakened the dreamers to the nightmare that was real life. Alarmed by our ever-increasing capabilities for self-destruction, their visions becoming bleaker as war and fear took hold of the globe in its thankfully tenuous grasp. The future, if there was one (if), was plagued with conflagrations that threatened all of humanity and invaders from the sky, “aliens” (gee, who could that be…). To the young mind, with no concept of real fear or pain, blissfully unaware of that adult-word “consequences,” this all undoubtedly seemed great. The new millennium seemed like it was going to be a pretty fucking cool place to be. Having lived through it all, as a youth, no less, and therefore naturally given to romanticization and idealization, I can tell you this much: The future ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. Name me ten important ways in which life in ’01 is different from life in ’91. Sure, MP3s are great, but cell phones alone are argument enough against progress. We should be living on Mars or the moon, at the very least, not trapped in our bedrooms on T1 lines. I mean, for fuck’s sake, Dippin’ Dots are still the ice cream of the future and the Visi-Phone has yet to become readily available. To quote William H. Gass, “I was born…For this? I dress. I wash. For this?” To quote the t-shirt that, to the best of my knowledge, exists but in my mind: “My parents saw the new millennium and all I got was this crappy t-shirt.”

Where’s my robot butler? The kid in Rocky had one and that was, what, 20 years ago?

What? Air? Yes! I haven’t forgotten them. Let me attempt to tie all of this up as neatly as possible. With their last album, Air soundtracked the film, The Virgin Sucides, a tale of suburban angst and ennui in the 70s; with this new album, 10,000Hz Legend, they’ve created the soundtrack for the 21st century. Not the one we live in, no: it’s the soundtrack for the future as imagined by bored kids, stoned out of their minds, in the suburbs of the 1970s: It’s the soundtrack for modern folks who hoped things would’ve turned out a bit differently

Study the sleeve-art: It tells you much of what you need to know about the album. It looks like Arizona, sure, but let’s call it Mars instead. If one were granted access into the compound in which the two blurred gentlemen appear, they’d hear 10,000Hz Legend wafting through the speakers — it’s space age bachelor music (as opposed to the — capitals and italics important — Space Age Bachelor Pad Music of their debut LP Moon Safari). Perhaps, while you’re enjoying your wine and cheese — some customs never die — one of the cute boys of Air will play you a piece or two.

The future, as Air have chosen to interpret it, is like Blade Runner in the hands of Hanna-Barbara or David Lynch helming a live-action Jetsons. In this future, Air have written themselves out of the picture; the music is instead performed by robots that they program themselves. For 10,000Hz Legend, they’ve set the dial for Prog-Rock and it’s prog as only a robot could render it. Like the robots, my knowledge of prog is limited to the input I’ve received (human speak: what I’ve read or been told about it): I’ve never knowingly heard a prog record, though Greg Lake’s “I Believe in Father Christmas,” which served to turn me against said jolly fat man, may count, I don’t know for sure. What I do know is that the All Music Guide defines it thusly:

Progressive Rock…incorporates elements of European and classical music to rock & roll music, resulting in long, complex instrumental passages and dramatic, grandiose flourishes

Sounds good, eh? In this definition, there’s no mention of capes or smoke machines or H.G. Wells or wizards or ice skating or King Arthur. The robots, then, have taken all that was good about prog and distilled it into 10,000 Hz Legend. And since they’re robots and therefore INFALLIBLE, they’ve rendered it perfectly: the Kraftwerk (the original robots!) pulse of “Electronic Performers”; the lethargic beauty and electronic poignancy of “How Does it Make You Feel?”; first single “Radio #1″‘s electro-glam thud; from a different 2001, “Radian” is the cry of the Monolith — vengeful and mournful; and OMD covering “Live and Let Die,” better known as “Don’t Be Light.” It’s not all good: Beck is best left in the past and “Wonder Milky Bitch” isn’t sexy or funny, it’s just cringeworthy and ill-conceived. Since they’re on for so much of the record, I’ll give the robots the benefit of the doubt, and ascribe it to: HUMAN ERROR.

While the future constructed by Air does indeed sound like a great place what with its complex instrumental passages and grandiose flourishes, its technology and advances can be a bit frightening to simple-minded folk like you or I, merely a hair’s breadth away from the 20th century. That’s why it’s so refreshing, so reassuring to discover that the future, despite all of its advantages, still deals with many of the problems we ourselves wrangle with on a daily basis. Like a lack of communication; an inability to explain one’s self properly to the one they love; the difficulty of finding something good on the radio; the hassle and stress created by a regimented life; and despairing over where to find a good blow job nowadays. Their problems are our problems, and vice versa!

In many ways, then, they are still the Air we’ve known (and loved!) for some time now. Many reviewers and “critics,” lazy types mostly, have exclaimed that the new album represents a “new direction” for the band (and a number of them hint that it’s the “wrong” one. “Prog-Rock?” More like Frog-Rock. And I say that with love). If Moon Safari was lyrics/music: Bacharach/Wilson/Gainsbourg, 10,000Hz Legend can be attributed to: Gainsbourg/Eno/R. Waters. The major difference is that all of the homages to Bacharach, the rage at the time, have been replaced by a more atmospheric, expansive production style. What they’ve always been — and still are — are modern kids bringing old music into the future. The future they bring the sounds of the past into is alluring, one that while very little like our own, illuminates just what makes modern life brilliant and depressing. It reminds us that we’ve not yet seen the future: despite what we think, it’ll always be one step ahead of us (and ahead of this record!); we may never see it, but from their privileged position, Air assure us that it’s still something worth dreaming about, something that should, with a gleam in our eyes, always be looked forward to. Or at least that’s how it makes me feel.

Strange Fruit News

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Strange Fruit News: Strange Fruit are lynchpins of the London indie scene, and have done an awful lot of good things and generally made London a happier place to be if you’re a fan of indie and indie-pop music. Which even I, occasionally, am. And they’re in trouble, of the money variety – not through mismanagement or anything, just through awful luck (and by dint of being nice people, too). So this gig is an important one for their continued viability – it’s Trembling Blue Stars and Ballboy, it’s on Saturday and it’s Downstairs at the Garage, and if you like those bands or indie music in general, and you can make it, then probably you should. There will be dancing and drinking too, but of course!