Posts from 18th January 2002

18
Jan 02

It’s nice to see that quality shines like a beacon

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It’s nice to see that quality shines like a beacon even in the complex mire that is the US charts. Its our little pop princess Kylie taking the US charts by – if not storm – at least a mild shower. Firstly I like the way the British press thinks of Kylie as one of ours – despite her being Australian she has lived in London for almost fifteen years now. But more importantly is just how damn good Can’t Get You Out Of My Head is as a single. When the unfortunately delayed pop focus group appears, I’m sure it will be placed top five – because its yet another Cathy Dennis number where resistance is futile. That said, anyone who saw Ms Dennis on TV last week will testify, the green eyed Norfolk lass is mad as cheese.

I disapprove of even noticing celebrities in pubs

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I disapprove of even noticing celebrities in pubs – not that either Sean Hughes or Paul Morley can be described as celebrities in any usual sense of the word. And as has probably been mentioned here before – the Hogshead is the chain pub I most approve of. Good beer pretty well kept, spacious but not barn like. I could do without them moving more sofas in (the sofa law in pubs is simple – red, leather) but in general the atmosphere works. Kate’s chain pub hell may well be more to do with her not drinking. Hah!

TANYA’S RAINBOW OF RUBBISH: Blue Monday – NEW ORDER

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TANYA’S RAINBOW OF RUBBISH: Blue Monday – NEW ORDER

New Order Question One: How do you replace a dark genius like Ian Curtis?
A: You get the drummers wife in.

New Order were – as everyone knows – formed from the ashes of Joy Division. Now I don’t know whether you have ever seen anything made out of ashes but they are pretty insubstantial and dull. Grey, bland and flaky – all words which happily describe the Order – especially mid-eighties. There was only so far they could trade on the reputation of being that tragic band whose mate topped himself. After all, people started wondering why he topped himself when the reason is plain to see that he was trying to get away from the other three. Of course Mr Curtis there is no peace in heaven (or to be more precise “suicides hell”) – especially not now the drummer from Feeder and Zac from EMF have joined you too.

New Order Question Two: Your singer has killed himself. Who do you get in to replace him?
A: The fella with the dullest voice in the band

Blue Monday is a truly stupendous record. It is so audacious it should be called a piece of conceptual art and put in a gallery – preferably one with a very good lock on the front door. Still everything made by Factory Records was art, from the bongs knocked out of a Panda Pops bottle by Shaun Ryder, to the Brylcream stains on the leather upholstery from Tony Wilsons hair. Manchester was a great place to be in the eighties, as long as you had the right kind of firepower. Blue Monday came out of this period of experimentalism, and is a unique collaboration between a drum machine, a drummers finger and a typical Barney Sumner stream of consciousness burble. If indeed he was conscious. I have it on good authority that not only was Sumner asleep during the recording of Blue Monday, but he had actually been replaced by the prosthetic head out of the lousy BBC TV version of The Hitch-Hikers Guide To The Galaxy. You know, the one that could only say “hey” and then broke.

New Order Question Three: How Does it feel, to treat you like I do?
A: Fucking terrible Barney. Stop singing.

A song which is merely a man reprogramming a drum machine constantly is not my idea of the most successful 12″ single of all time. And nor would it be if this did not prove an early example of my own influence on the British record buying public. You see I found out that due to that whizz of economics Mr Tony Wilson’s incompetence – Factory Records actually lost 49p for every copy of Blue Monday they sold. This was due to its unique packaging which made it look like a floppy disc. Only four times as big (still Wilson never had a sense of scale). So out I went, telling the kids to buy, buy, buy – in a vain attempt to bankrupt the bastards. I failed on that attempt, but my trip to Manchester did at least introduce me to the source of the final downfall of Factory. Shaun Ryder’s first wrap of cocaine.What I like to call Fac 666 – ha ha ha….

My Chain-pub Hell

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My Chain-pub Hell continues. Hogshead last night with fellow-pub-loggers Pete and John. However, Crouch End’s famous ex-funeral parlour venue was graced by not one, but TWO celebs. Sean Hughes and (I think) Paul Morley, only I was too star-struck to go and check properly. He was wearing signature polo-neck and zip-up cardi, as modelled on I Heart Clip-shows, and had the same hair-do, so it’s almost a shoe-in. Obviously pub etiquette dictates that one DOES NOT interfere with celebrity drinking, and I passed my test with flying colours. I also saw Victor Lewis Smith on the tube this morning, and didn’t bother him either. Aren’t I good?

Freaky Trigger News

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Freaky Trigger News: the much-touted Strokes! Special! won’t be up until Monday or Tuesday cos family news means I’m not going to be working on the update on Sunday as I usually do. Sorry to keep you waiting but I’m sure all the regular features will bubble along.

STOP YOUR SERICULTURE

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STOP YOUR SERICULTURE

A sort of reply to Dave’s post:

The point about the Human League, of course, is that their tours aren’t reunion tours – they never broke up (well, they did, but before they got famous). They’re still a working unit, still have something to contribute – so the comparison was a compliment as much as a diss. I’m not saying Mission Of Burma should get less respect, I’m saying the Human League – art-synth pioneers who watched their styles go pop and then rather than bitching about it went and did it in the charts better, an 80s band whose occasional albums get respectful-to-rave reviews today – should get more.

80s nostalgia plays a part, of course it does, and it does for Burma too – what else would you call the wave of good-feeling that Michael Azerrad’s This Band Could Be Your Life has unleashed for 80s indie-rock? It’s useful to remind ourselves that – a glut of sarky celebs pimping their memories on TV notwithstanding – “nostalgia” can be a good thing, if you’re willing to turn it round and call it “learning from experience”. I went to that Wire tour too, and liked it – it was blank and compacted and noisy, a working-through of the project the 80s Wire had set themselves, only with a 70s setlist. They played “The Drill” and then played “12XU” – and of course they were the same song. “We’ve been doing this since the beginning,” they were saying, “Catch up.” Those kind of disappointments I want more of.

(Course, “nostalgia” can be fun even if there’s no great artistic task uncompleted. I stopped writing this to get up and jump and air-bass to ABBA (The Visitors remaster – a messy but compelling record, go buy it), and if they got back together I might very well turn up and gawk and…well, god knows why I’d go, but I probably would. To pay respects, I suppose, like Dave says.)

Can you use a pub up?

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Can you use a pub up? This question seemed urgent and key last night, sitting in the All Bar One in Edinburgh’s Exchange Plaza. The point being: is there a limit to the number of times you can visit a pub (especially such a notorious compromise choice as an All Bar One) after which you cannot even enjoy the simple pleasure of sitting in it with a drink, and friends? I was trying to remember a number of the times I’d ended up in that pub – mostly with members of the same group of my friends, as it turned out: meeting someone I was staying with after work some time before I moved back; a neutral rendezvous with food during the Festival a few years back; a couple of birthdays; and now after TF’s viva. Lunches with a now-ex girlfriend; a shared bottle of wine with same shortly after our break-up as we mulled things over; a lunch for a friend returned from Canada. But sitting there last night, I felt I’d reached the limit of my tolerance. The mirrors, the high ceiling that seems only to push up the noise levels, sofas so far apart that you can only speak to the person next to you and the group conversation breaks up. Has this pub been worn out? Have I used up my allowance of this particular drinking point? But as my companion, as ever much wiser than me, pointed out, perhaps it’s just that being an All Bar One, it’s a RUBBISH PUB.

NO WHISPERS, NO RADIO, NO SCREAMS

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NO WHISPERS, NO RADIO, NO SCREAMS

So I ask Tom which Mission of Burma songs he’s heard. Oh, ‘Revolver’ and some other ‘famous’ one, he replies. (Probably that ‘Academy Fight Song’ thing.) Why don’t you like them, I ask? Oh, their tunes aren’t much cop, he offers; ‘I couldn’t see what was so interesting about their music.’ I shelve my stunned disbelief for a minute, because it’s easy to see that folks not really tuned into the Amerindie thing won’t be able to appreciate Mission of Burma’s finer points. (And, as much as I like the records, they just don’t SOUND that good.) So blah blah blah, and then I mention to Tom that I’m going to see Mission of Burma TWICE this weekend (on Friday evening & Saturday afternoon) — perhaps it’s a bit of overkill, but there’s a good chance that they’ll never get together again. Of course, now I sound like a Kiss / Eagles / Fleetwood Mac fan, which brings me to:

TomFT26: hooray for 80s nostalgia
popshots75: Indeed. Is it nostalgia, though, if you weren’t there?
TomFT26: yeah – its just even sadder
popshots75: Feeling frisky, are we?
TomFT26: heh, no. its just i dont think mission of burma touring again and the human league touring again deserve much different treatment.

Oh, no, Tom, but that’s where you’re wrong (sorta). The Human League are bonafide — at least, they were, once upon a time. They’ve had a taste of success, seen the world, hung a few platinum records on their wall, rocked the words of many a kid. Mission of Burma — they haven’t been so lucky; hell, their lead guitarist / singer was struck with tinnitus from playing too loud. What kind of sick joke is that? Influencing a large number of kids to pick up a guitar and do what comes naturally is all fine and good, but it doesn’t pay the bills.

Critics often say that such reunion tours are nothing more than an opportunity to relive past glories, make sure there’s no meat left on the corpse, bulk up the IRA before returing to the cabana for another pina colada. It’s a chance for folks to live in stasis, return to their halcyon days, see their idols again (or for the first time). For groups like the Mac or Kiss or even the Human League, it’s a return to glory days. What happens when a group never had those glory days? The Human League have a niche on countless 1980s retrospectives; they’re as much a part of that decade as Duran Duran or legwarmers. Mission of Burma (in the eyes of the almighty dollar) is reduced to a track on some K-Tel compilation and a massacre at the hands of Moby.

To be totally impartial, Tom’s right; Mission of Burma’s return shouldn’t be revered any more than any other group strapping on their guitars and giving it another go. The same frission enjoyed by those in-the-know scenesters watching Roger Miller ravage his guitar to the tune of ‘Mica’ or ‘The Ballad of Johnny Burma’ is no different than what most folks felt seeing Nicks & Buckingham rip into ‘The Chain’, or watching Don Henley & Glenn Frey exchange icey stares during Joe Walsh’s guitar solo in ‘Hotel California’. Talk all you want about ‘punk rock’, ‘integrity’, ‘aesthetic principles’, even ‘DIY’ — history has a way of forgetting those qualities when plotting the Big Picture.

The closest I ever came to this feeling was seeing Wire on their equally improbable reunion tour in 1999. There they were, older, slower, deliberate — not what I expected, of course (only being aware of their 1st two albums at that point, completely unaware of their move towards a withdrawn, sterilized, mechanized ideal). Honestly, it was a bit disappointing. I got ’12XU’ and ‘Mercy’, but not the way I wanted them.

That’s the problem with reliving nostalgia — it’s never as ideal as you’d like it to be. But that’s only if you want to go back to the past, completely ignoring the tens of years long since passed. I imagine most of the people going to these shows aren’t too dissimilar from myself — this is a chance to maybe catch a glimmer, a spark, some sign of what has become a myth. Looking at this picture of Roger Miller (taken during one of the NYC shows), I don’t see a middle-aged man playing music that’s beyond his grasp, some pathetic jerk trying to turn back the clock. I see the seed of a passion that has gripped and inspired many people, a passion that brings them all to pay their respects to this music and the ideas that brought it to life, ideas that can’t be squelched by any amount of cynicism or doubt.

I hear the sound of marching feet.