Posts from September 2001
Freaky Trigger updates — yes, you read that right. After dealing with a little of this and that, three new articles for your perusal — Fred S. discusses Mercury Rev’s All is Dream, I tackle that one myself along with efforts from some groups from my past and David R. meditates on the MTV 2001 Video Music Awards. Comments as always are more than welcome.
Last Plane to Jakarta is today and by some distance the best music zine on the ‘net and I’m ashamed for not having linked to it before. Truth to tell I didn’t look at it before because I knew it would be better than what I’m doing, and I was right. Reason enough to try a bit harder.
What is “Panic” about? Dismissed and attacked since its release as small-minded, or snobbish, or even borderline racist, The Smiths’ anti-disco broadside continues to intrigue. On this thread, The Pinefox calls it a “yoking of two ideas” – a revolutionary fantasia and an attack on dance music – and claims that it’s the second of the two that’s made the press running ever since. What he doesn’t ask is how these ideas might fit together.
The origin of the record, also as described on ILM, is Morrissey’s hearing a Radio 1 DJ playing a bit of pop fluff (Wham, apparently) after initial reports of the Chernobyl disaster. This horrified him, and I’ve always heard the song’s verses literally – a vision of England not in revolution but in catastrophe, and a vision tinted with disgust at the ghastly gulf between the potential severity of, well, everything and the shiny escapism of pop. A pop The Smiths were and are tangled in – “Panic” still gets played in discos itself, week-in week-out.
“what’s going on?” is a great song: it was great for our parents; it’s great listening still for us; and it’s especially great if you’ve got a cause. any cause, really. it could be aids, it could be helping victims of terrorism (or, to be more politically correct, victims of failed u.s. military policy in the mid-east). leave it to bono to realize: “bloody hell, it could be BOTH!”
and, oh yes, it is. “what’s going on?” features an a-list of stars, though, really, who let the guy from savage garden in?; if you couldn’t be on tribute to heroes, you’re on here. (if you couldn’t be on here, you’re on the montel williams (!) helmed “we are family”; God knows what michael jackson is doing with his “what more can i give?”; even elvis is reaching from beyond the grave, releasing a single of previously released material such as “if i can dream”) an incredible array of talent — the backstreet boys to nas; britney spears to nelly — take on an incredible song and the results are…well, incredibly bland. a fellow more churlish than myself would say: “surely, the victims have been through enough!” it’s no “voices that care” but it’s still better than “hands across america” — can someone remind me of what that whole thing was about? — and i hope it sells lots and lots of copies and gives equal help to the victims of 9/11/01 and the victims of aids in the african sub-continent.
SUM 41 — In Too Deep
Here’s a snotty little question: If (as suggested by some critics) Blink 182 is the new Replacements (and pardon my incredulity, but if Mark Hoppus & Tom DeLonge can even come close to approximating 1/100th of Paul Westerberg, then I’m the new Iggy Pop, and I’m in sore need of some peanut butter and broken Schlitz bottles RIGHT NOW), would that make Sum 41 the new Husker Du? (And, on an even less serious note, would that make Green Day the new Suicide Commandos? Oh, the mind careens like a coffin beset by roses‘) If they keep on pumping out smart little pop songs like this — ‘like this’ meaning ‘not as seemingly simplistic and three-chord happy as those Blink fellas; I could be a bit biased, yeah’ — then I might forgive them for rapping on their first single. Might.
Neither version of “Love Hangover” has anything very much to do with a hangover. The song, written for Diana Ross and then covered by The Associates, is in that cynical, wonderful tradition of soul songwriting where every metaphor – a moon landing, a jury trial, a police chase, a rainstorm – pointed straight at love. You can imagine one songwriter batting the title to another with a “Now, use that if you can” grin – how after all to match the bleary hammerings of the morning after with the thin, clean flutings of Miss Ross? Do divas even get hangovers?
Sure enough Diana’s version is a sun-through-windows reverie, a cloudy champagne buzz, and you doubt she is waking alone. Three or so minutes (or hours) of bubble and swoon in, Alka-Selzer is served on a silver tray and the song skips into the very lightest kind of sugar-spun funk. It’s tingly and infectious, it makes you want some of what she’s got (which is the idea) – it’s magnificent, mais ce n’est pas l’hangover.
But the Associates, oh! The Associates – their tumbling version is as far from the paralysed thunk of a drink-sore head as you can get, but only because it’s woken still doused and inflamed. Billy MacKenzie flips the original guitar-line into a hysteric’s giggle-riff and scats his way through the song accordingly – which would reduce it to babble, except Rankine keeps the music so tight and tightly wound. The whole is flushed, teetering, filled with a chaotic passion, perpetually bursting. Listen to Ross and you come out warmed – listen to MacKenzie and you come up purged. Neither has very much to do with a hangover – both have a great deal to do with love.
A Loafer’s Discourse: why I’ve not been writing much, why that has to change. Tangentially related to music.
THE BEACH BOYS – Fun? Fun? Fun?
I was cornered by a man with what can only be described as yellow hair in my local gin palace last week, something which perturbed me greatly. I dislike being cornered at the best of times, but when I have to fear not only for my life but a prime glass of Bombay Sapphire and Schweppes my battle skills are somewhat impared. However with my free hand I managed to tug on his ridiculously scraggy beard and ask why he was disturbing the peace of the juniper berry.
“The Beach Boys” he breathlessly forced out, as I applied pressure on his thorax. “They must be your weakness.”
I finished the fool off with a quick knee to the solar plexus and removed his No Fear T-Shirt, rightly thinking that he would have no need for it anymore, having looked fear in the face and been very, very afraid. But he did leave me and Sapphire musing (for which do not mean making terrible records in the style of Anyone Can Play Guitar). You see the truth is I have never really considered the Beach Boys worthy of my aprobation. A couple of surfer dudes, a madman and a dead guy really should not concern me. And their record – and indeed records – speak for themselves. Especially “Fun Fun Fun”.
As a child I was always wary about anything which advertised itself as Fun Fun Fun. As far as I could understand things could only really be Fun, and most things described as fun were not even that. Where is the fun in a fun sized Mars Bar? Where is the Fun in Fun by The Blue Aeroplanes (I’ll tell you that actually, watching their “dancer” spazzing out and knocking the half arsed Gerard Langley into the drum kit). Ripping the wings off of beatles is fun, as is ripping the piss out of The Beatles – and Wings. The day I had my first gin and tonic is about the only time I have experienced Fun Fun. But never have I reached level three of fun, the so called nirvana of Fun that the Beach Boys made it to.
So let us examine what it is that creates the third degree of fun? the clue is in the line
“And we’ll have fun fun fun til your daddy takes the T-Bird away”.
T-Bird can only be short for Thunderbird. Yes, this song is merely the Beach Boys paean to underage drinking. You can see them hanging round phone boxes with their acned faces sureptitiously sipping from litre bottles of this foul fortified wine. Being lary to honest decent citizens whilst their young brains go wild on this nasty cocktail. It probably led to Dennis Wilson glue sniffing round the bike sheds whilst Mike Love graduated on to two litre bottles of Strongbow and Spesh. As for loopy old Brian Wilson – the reason Smile was never released is nothing to do with a nervous breakdown. What do you think the 20/20 on bottles of Mad Dog actually means? Its the number of years it takes simpletons to recover from the hangover.
With their 1995 album See You on the Other Side, Mercury Rev created a world for the listener to inhabit. It was a world where adagios and allegros lived together in peace, where the boundaries of the staff were not strictly enforced, where tones were free to be polygamous; sounds of different colors, genres, and creeds coexisted harmoniously. World building is a difficult thing to do and takes a lot out of a band — don’t believe me, just ask the Lord — and maintaining it is nearly as difficult, so for their follow-up, 1998’s Deserter’s Songs, they staked out one particular corner, an America romanticized, as only a Canadian can do, by Robbie Robertson, only more inhabitable and, therefore, less realistic. Deserter’s Songs, whose childlike sense of awe and wonder concealed a masterful sense of composition, hearkened back to an era when there were still frontiers unexplored and riches undiscovered. As it begins, All is Dream, the new album, is what happens when one gets lost in the unlit backwoods of America, when astonishment gives way to fright, when the fairy tales are stripped away and the nightmare sets in. On All is Dream, Mercury Rev leave the confines of their upstate New York estate, with the listener in tow, only to find themselves lost in a world of their own making.
If people needed a reminder that the music video was first envisioned as a promotional vehicle for a recording act, the MTV Video Music Awards was more than happy to provide such evidence. Macy Gray presented an award with her dress serving as a billboard — the front offered the release date of her newest album; her ass had the words BUY IT stretching over both cheeks. Both Mark Wahlberg and DMX were kind enough to dispense with the usual teleprompter-prompted camraderie and gave shout-outs to their respective products. Usher was nice enough to sing a bit of his newest single (purely for the benefit of co-presenter Estella Warren, who probably would’ve plugged her last movie, Planet of the Apes, were it more topical).