Posts from 2nd January 2002

2
Jan 02

TATTL, 3. The Dungeon Family Problem

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TATTL, 3. The Dungeon Family Problem

Two artists nudge one another for positions on the lower end of any list I make – The Wu-Tang Clan and the Dungeon Family. Both late-release records by multi-member groups, neither of which I’ve had time to pay the attention to I should. Drop them both in the interests of fairness? The thing is that I want to include the Wu despite myself, and I want to exclude the Dungeon Family despite its being, on some level, the better record.

So the DF problem is “To what extent does the lack of standout tracks lessen an album?”. To my pop way of thinking, not all LP cuts are equal. On Iron Flag, the Wu-Tang Clan produce two classic tracks (“Rules” and “Uzi (Pinky Ring)”) and a handful of entertaining ones amidst a lot of stuff that sounds, to be fair, like a bit of a rush job. But those two tracks light up the whole record, make me want to like all the rest more.

On the DF CD meanwhile, only “Crooked Booty” comes close to standing out, and that in part because it starts the album off. But overall it’s a more consistent effort – the production is more exciting (or at least modish), there are fewer tracks which bore and my finger never itches for the skip control. Which is the better record?

I’m still inclined to say the Wu. There are some tracks so good they can pull a whole record behind them – and often you end up finding that the rest of it grows on you too. And actually I can come up with good aesthetic reasons for preferring the Wu-Tang album – the band know how to use their star MCs better, so the whole thing comes over as charismatic even when the ideas on display are pretty paltry. (There are surely few worse guest appearances than Flavor Flav’s senile performance on “Soul Power”, one entirely based on him noticing that “two” rhymes with “Wu”.). The Dungeon Family – as a fusion of existing acts – have to be more democratic, which leads to some tracks never quite taking off as the mic is passed dutifully and no one MC really shines. Both albums rate a POSSIBLY.

(A variant on the Dungeon Family problem is that my singles best-of list might well end up just being killer cuts from my favourite albums.)

POP MUSIC LAWYER WATCH

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POP MUSIC LAWYER WATCH

1: Flavor Flav: “2002 – representing the Wu” Soul Power (Black Jungle) – Wu Tang Clan.

Suddenly it becomes all too clear why Old Dirty Bastard went down for five years. The Wu Tang Clan hired Flavor Flav as their attorney. A man who, let me remind you, spent most of the eighties asking what the time was whilst sporting a huge school clock hanging round his neck. This is not the smartest cookie in the jar i can tell you.

A NEW YEAR FABLE

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A NEW YEAR FABLE

Here, let me tell you a brief tale for 2002, an update of an old favourite. Say, for instance the tale of King Midas, the man who wished that everything he touched would turn into gold. Soon he realised that this was not the heaven sent blessing he initially presumed after turning his dog, his wife and worst of all his entire mini-bar into metal. Not to mention the logistical problems of going to the toilet. It did however take Midas a whole afternoon to recant his wish and go cap in hand back to the genie, or whatever wish granting deity had decided to play this trick on him (my mythology is a bit shaky – the TV show they used to teach us with at school had lousy bouzouki playing which drove me to booze).

Retell this tale these days however with everything King Midas touches turning into Gold – the much lauded album by the “clues in the name” artist Ryan Adams. Midas wouldn’t have it for more than a second. “Gold – by Ryan Adams”, he would say “why this is more than worthless”. Though he may pause in the tricky toilet situation alluded to above as when the bog roll turned to Gold – by Ryan Adams – it would have been uniquely suited to wiping his arse on.

Adams is a pasticheur of the worst sort. Its not just that his name is a bit like Bryan Adams, every single one of his tracks sound like someone else. And don’t say he steals from the best, sure a few of the tracks rip off The Who (=rubbish) , sure a couple more start like The Stones(=rubbisher), but when he opens his mouth he sounds nothing less than a latter day Roachford. All this for well over seventy minutes – Christ, most forms of torture invented by the Nazi’s didn’t last that long. Oh look, there’s a song about prostitues. There’s another about New York – what revolutionary topics for songs those are, not been done before. I understand he used to be in a band called Whiskeytown. Surely every second rate pub blues band in the world has been called Whiskeytown at some moment (between bing called Free Beer and Plus Support).

I can see that last years attempt at reigning back my hatred was misplaced. 2002 I am taking no prisoners. Ryan Adams, Bryan Adams, Victoria Adams – you are all the same to me.

In an attempt to help Tom out in his quest towards a Top Ten List

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In an attempt to help Tom out in his quest towards a Top Ten List I present that ever unreliable staple – The NME’s version. In this modern age of the NME not knowing who its constituency is, it is odd how old fashioned their Top 50 albums are. Not old fashioned in they sound like old records, or are even judged on the general idea of what an old fashioned NME reader liked. More that the list is exactly the same as any NME Top Fifty albums of the last ten years.

So here is a guide how to construct an NME Top Fifty records list.
a) There will be a new “scene” which you have championed this year. The two lead artists from this scene must be in your top ten. The cooler one preferably at Number One. (Check – The White Stripes & The Strokes at No.1).
b) Your top 5 will contain a randomly chosen rap album. Hopefully the best of the last year, just to keep street cred intact.
c) An album you think your readers like should be in the top five (Starsailor). And the rest of the albums you think they own fill up fifty percent of the next 50. (Hello Elbow, Pulp, Air)
d) Any album by any previous top five album maker will be in there (Bjork, Radiohead, Mercury Rev…)
e) Any album by Spiritualized will be in the top three.

Their top ten singles actually show more signs of a focus group type survival of the fittest bent. Because having both GURFO and Can’t Get You Out Of My Head as a top two is nothing other than revelatory. Compare and contrast with Smash Hits anyway.

Any help Tom?

Happy New Year

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Happy New Year to all those who occasionally rear their heads at the publog. Its January – which can only mean one thing – the pubs will be empty of those part time drinkers whose lack of knowledge of pub ettiquette make December that little bit harder to get through. So mines a pint of lager please.

But just a quick plea for publicans out there – put your heating on. Its a bit nippy and too many of the (unsurprisingly deserted) pubs between Christmas & New Year were letting in huge breezes from the door. Its nice to warm our cockles in front of an open fire, but make sure the rest of the room is adequately toastie too. And yes I do mean you – Sam Smiths pub owners. Cavernous pubs like The Chandos & The Olde Yorke are lovely things, but a pint of D Pils and goosebumps don’t mix.

cantankerous jukebox

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cantankerous jukebox: Jess’ novelty-fatigue is an illustration of why my wallowing in the mainstream this year – no, last year now, blimey – has probably been healthier than I credit. The only suggestion I’d make is that he drops the old vs new oppositional pose – I’ve bought as much old music as new for as long as I can remember, and they lend each other sense. (And yeah Jess I know – or guess, anyway – that the cantankerousness is less serious than the fatigue). Shun new music by all means but don’t think that the old isn’t in perpetual conversation with it.

(And why ’84?)

Hooray!

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Hooray! (a welcome return.)

TATTL, 2. The Wire Problem

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Or – “What the fuck happened to my attention span?”. 2001 was the year when I gave records less space than ever to ‘grow on me’. After spending the mid-90s learning to appreciate all kinds of out there shit, and after spending the late-90s convinced that a disposability ethic was the only sane response to our pop times, I found myself this year wanting to have my cake and eat it, i.e. I want an album that makes me say YEAH on listen 1 and I’m still getting things out of on listen 20. In other words, this was the year when I went all conventional.

Some of this is down to the fact that lots of the ‘mainstream’ records I bought this year utterly satisfied me, while lots of the ones I bought last year pissed me off. So I was spending so much time listening to Basement Jaxx that I had no time to check out Jan Jelinek. Some of it is down to moving out of London and living alone: in a time-poor situation re. visits to the capital, shopping in Rough Trade loses out to sitting with friends in pubs. So if it wasn’t in Oxford HMV it probably wouldn’t end up in my stack.

So why is this the Wire problem (magazine, that is)? Well looking at The Wire – not so much their Top 50 records cos it looks to me like they’ve shifted mainstream too, but the rest of the mag – it’s talking a musical language I still (just) know how to speak but which doesn’t any more speak to me. I feel guilty that I’ve not heard Fennesz, or the new Le Tigre, but guiltier that I’ve not really had the urge to. And worse, those Wire-endorsed records I have heard this year I’ve ended up mostly not liking. Cannibal Ox, for instance – “The F Word” was a splinter in my heart all right, but a lot of the rest ended up feeling like looking at ice scuptures wearing just your underpants – yeah it’s impressive, but bloody hell it’s cold and uncomfortable too.

“But that’s the point!”. Yes, I know, that’s why I feel bad. But maybe I shouldn’t feel bad. I spent 2001 in an unsympathetic workplace with headphones on, or sitting on my own in a mostly unfurnished house. I’d nobody to blame but myself for being there, but since there I was, I reserved the right to turn up the colour a bit on my pop life. (Mind you, Cannibal Ox still gets a Top-10 POSSIBLY).

TOWARDS A TOP 10 LIST, 1: The Kylie Problem

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TOWARDS A TOP 10 LIST, 1: The Kylie Problem

Or, “How much account in a Top 10 albums list should you take of the fact that you like albums you just bought more than the ones you bought in January?” This is particularly acute with a pop record like Fever, which two plays reveals to be excellent. (Records I buy in Supermarkets are always ace).

The songs on Fever are good in direct proportion to how much like “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head” they sound. So the ones with the same frosted hypno-electro production are pretty much ace, but so are the ones which use the same tune. The opening tracks are a bit rubbish in comparison but actually this gives the album a sweet little narrative, i.e. Kylie sets out to make album, records two adequate tunes in previous style, makes “CGYOOMH” and then spends remaining nine tracks tweaking it gently.

(“Can’t Get You Out Of My Head” is itself of course scientifically brilliant by the above law, as it sounds exactly like “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head”)

I also like how Kylie has tried to construct some kind of Ultimate Disco Record by calling all the songs things like “More More More” and “Burnin’ Up”. Like a lot of good pop stars she uses her relative lack of identity as a virtue – Fever is a better disco LP than Daft Punk because (despite Kylie being a massive star and DP dressing in robot suits) it’s a lot more faceless. That doesn’t make it a better overall record of course. But even so this gets a PROBABLY on the Top 10-ometer.

(Oh, the answer to the Kylie problem is “Fuck perspective, let’s dance”. Obviously.)