Posts from June 2002
timothy white, r.i.p. – somewhat lost in the midst of the news of john entwistle’s passing was word of the death of billboard editor-in-chief timothy white who died at the age of 50 of an apparent heart attack last night, just as the magazine was going to press. anyone who had his enthusiasm for music, loved the beach boys, and wore bow ties frequently is aces in my book.
Eminem is currently one of the most popular recording artists in the U.S. Clearly a lot of kids can relate to what he has to say (Eminem spends quite a bit of the opening track, “White America,” making sure we know that). We can look at that reality. We can analyze it. We can come up with theories about it. But as critics, it’s our job to separate what is popular from what is good, and what is art. That Eminem’s recordings are popular does not mean that they are good … in fact, they aren’t.
According to Mr. Goldberg, supporters and fans of Eminem’s work are out-of-touch fogeys that wouldn’t know their ass from a colostomy bag. I wish I were a teenager trying to cheese off my ‘rents with some well placed fuck-yous and BIIIITCH-es. Alas. Clearly folks are out of step with decency if they’re praising the groupie-bashing Eminem revels in (helpfully illustrated in the lyrics to “Superman” Goldberg quotes). Obviously, all of the intelligent and smart things Em offers up over the course of the rest of the album should just be pushed aside and ignored, since mutli-platinum rap artists never make disparaging comments about homosexuals or Jews or women or anyone else. They don’t include ladies in their stage shows as caged dancers swimming in uncanned Schlitz. They don’t talk about the Holocaust being a fraud, and Jews as the root of all evil. They don’t make videos filled with stripper’s poles and butt floss. And, of course, any work of popular culture (or “art”, if you’re willing to take that fateful step) that risks offense is only worth the time it takes to transfer the work into a sanctioned waste disposal unit.
Instead of taking the high road and dismissing Marshall’s recorded output in such high and mighty tones, I wish Michael Goldberg simply took the time to LISTEN to the album he’s dismissing and weighed the good with the bad. Dunderheaded comments like his only inspire dunderheaded comments like mine, which simply perpetuates the hype that’s given Eminem the exposure and power to become a vociferous critic and proponent of pop stardom. Sure, gasoline’s wet, but you don’t see firefighters rushing to use it.
Expertise – is the first of three new pieces on Freaky Trigger, talking about hip-hop and football and writing and, well, stuff. It’s joined by Ronan’s review of Jon Carter’s Totally Bugged Out mix CD, and by my look at Talking Heads’ ‘African trilogy’ – a piece written originally for Papercuts magazine about eighteen months ago.
There’s lots of stuff coming up in July – another C90Go, the Focus Group, hopefully a few more pieces by me, and The Jubilee Stuff, a state-of-the-nation address by none other than The Pinefox. But for now I’m off to Glastonbury – have a good weekend!
What is a summer record? Obviously having a release date around June coinciding with the one sunny week we have had here in the UK helps, but what is that magical ingredient that make “Walking On Sunshine”, “Echo Beach” or “Summertime” so evocative. Ok, actually it isn’t rocket science. Talk about summer or summer associated things in the song. Meld that with something a bit upbeat, but perhaps a touch laid back and frankly you should have it made. Which is where Athlete come in. “You’ve Got The Style” is not far from a note to note remake of their previous single “Rockscene”, which was interesting in as much as its drum machine patterns and lacksiadaisical lyrics marked out as not being part of the rockscene it talked about. A sort of less together London based Gomez, this is the kind of jam along stuff which sounds pretty lazy and certainly contains one of the worse rhyming couplets to hit pop this year: “Oh, its getting hot in here/ Must be something in the atmosphere”. And yet it talks about summer (British summer in particular), its laziness is actually an asset and has a canny way of surprising you with key changes, mumblings and a chorus which – when it can be arsed to come in – works a treat. All of this is a round about way of saying that this ramshackle singalong is for me this years summer song. If only they had not tried to rhyme “about it” with “climate”.
The phantom drink… By which I am not refering to the demon drink – that I can quite happilydeal with. Instead its the extra drink I received in a round last night which I could have sworn I had not ordered. A small discussion with the barmaid ensued, and she was a barmaid who we had generally been keeping on-side (well Tim had managed to charm her anyway – which is an interesting thing to watch in itself). I had not ordered the cider, I said – though admitted that the round was identical to one I got two hours previously which had involved the appley brew. Barmaid (bar manager possibly) then applied the sucker punch which was unbeatable: “I’m sober and you’ve been drinking all night”. Except I had not – definately – ordered that cider.
Anyway the customer is always right and she did not charge me for the pint, but I walked away apologising and trying to remember. I am not a forgetful drunk, and yet she was a thoroughly competant barmaid. In suppose the main reason to recount this story is to warn you if it ever happens to you, and also to show that whilst the customer is always right, in a pub that can take on slightly more argumentative proportions.
David Wild and David Plotz give the ’80’s a poke with a long stick to reassure themselves that, yep, they’re still dead. Inanity ensues.
If they want to be comtemptuous of their subject, fine. It’s their perogative. The problem is the form their contempt completely disables their critical faculties. Criticism connects the dots, compares x with y, spins narratives from discrete facts — which I guess is to say that a critic that does his job realizes that, strictly speaking, there’s no such thing as a fad, and that every historical fact has its reasons and its consequences. But none of that for the two Davids. They’d rather remind their readers, again and again and again, of the distance between the writers and their subject, and their subject’s almost total disconnect from history. Even when they admit to moments of the sublime, they’re tucked away into the safe irony of the “guilty pleasure.”
So we get the cute but utterly pointless personal sub-anecdotes of that by-gone time. Hey, David Wild scored in the ’80’s! Yeah, like I give a fuck. And David Plotz offers even more needless reminiscences, embarrassing but “ingratiatingly” so, ha-ha-ha, boy, weren’t we all innocent cornballs then but we’re not now! Right? Right?
Since they figure since they can’t connect with the eighties, nobody else can either: ergo, David Plotz states matter-of-factly that the eighties revival has not occurred. That’s a claim that…well, fuck. Did either of them live through the same decade I did? The 90’s, I mean, not the ’80’s: 1984 at Crowbar started all the way back in 1991 or maybe 1990 even, the very grandaddy of 80’s revivalism, albeit less a “cocaine-fueled Members Only-themed ’80s” party than a chance for gay folk to relive their prom night the right way. Then you got minor little counter-exceptions like Daft Punk and the only Adam Sandler movie not worth obliterating; now we’ve got Cleopatra Records and The Cure vs. Missy Elliot bootlegs and the nu-electro movement.
This myopia for past and present events isn’t especially surprising. Like its older brother, the 70’s-themed Have a Nice Day series, it’s a vision of musical past that self-consciously passes over The Great Men (and Women) of Pop History and certain critically-acceptable subcultures. These are the organizning concepts with which most rock writers rely on to understand rock history. These writers assume anything that retained some degree of autonomy from these cultural prime movers must merely have quirks and dead-ends. So of course, this means the power ballad is now dead (not as long as Celine Dion or Marc Anthony has a job) or that “man-machine-hair-gel” was a “chimera” (last time I checked, non-acoustic sound and hair-care products were in just about every nook and cranny of the Top 40 and elsewhere).
I’m not asking either writer to love ’80’s music, or 00’s music for that matter, ’cause it also take a beating. In fact, I’d prefer it if they were more splenetic; it’d mean that something other than their smugness was at stake, plus it’d save us from all the smarmy Corey Hart refs. But it’d probably also mean they’d have to be a little more serious. Well, I hesitate to say “serious” because that implies a kind of academic approach that, while fun, is not something I expect to see in a general-interest webzine. OK, how about achieving a cool (but not humorless) rationality next time? Is that too much to ask for?
UNDERWORLD – “Two Months Off”
Darren Emerson may not be in Underworld anymore, but he’s certainly left his mark. At the beginning, a moody up-tempo shuffle beat swings its way underneath a sampled monlogue of a woman talking some nonsense about things a lovesick schoolgirl has scrawled onto the back of a notebook. This leads into some uplifting warm synth stabs, all mixed in with ethereal swirls and chanted uplifting lyrics about bringing light into the dark places. At the end of the day this is enough for me, but when the cowbell kicks in it just becomes the best song ever. I’ve spent several days dancing in my chair at work to this. It’s even better than “Kittens”!
VITALIC – “PONEY PART 1”
whenever i listen to sylvester’s “(you make me feel) mighty real,” i think, “this is music to snort coke to.” or, more craftfully, “mighty real” played as bianca j. got off one white horse and onto another in studio 54. the production is oleaginous and there’s an amphetamine-kick in its acceleration, but the intensity of sylvester’s vocal, an almost gospel-like fervor, suggests bright lights and packed dancefloors.
listening to vitalic’s poney ep, and “poney part 1” in particular, makes for a similar yet obverse experience. gone are the strobes and dancing girls, replaced instead by dark alleys and desperate men (and women). the production is not so far removed from sylvester: there’s a similar thickness, but the darker elements of the former are amplified and the kick drum seems uncannily persistent. synthesizers scream and vocals processed from a bad dream call out to the listener — if one chooses to accept it at face value, it’s music to mainline heroin to.
or maybe it’s the music that plays when miss kittin and her famous friends have sex every night in the back of her limousine, which is to say that, beneath the surface, it might just mean nothing at all. i can make one link between “mighty real” and “poney” with no vacillation whatsoever: no matter one’s drug of choice, and i’ve tried this at home, both still sound fantastic. and you can dance to them too.
BEDWARD THE FLYING PREACHER
By Prince Far I and the Singers and Players. Not that I know anything at all about this reggae nonce sense (not even as much as Tom, whose excellent article on reggae you should go and read on FT) but I KNOW WOT I LIKE! And I like stories about preachers. You’ve got ASWADS version of ‘Son of a Preacher Man’ for a start! Not many people know of this track but that’s because it’s TOO GRATE. Ahem. Prince Far I here tells a story of a flying preacher. Called Bedward. Who falls and BREAKS HIS NECK! As a goth in practice this sort of ‘danse macabre’ is wot I look for in my popular beat music. Anyway. The most important thing is that on this track Prince Far I proves himself to be the Jamaican Mark E. Smith. His intonation, the playful subject matter and yet the underlying SCARINESS all make this all I need to know about reggae. Also the fact that Singers and Players released an album called ‘War of Words’ which is an OBVIOUS tribute to ‘War of the Worlds’.
P.S.: TIM MUST GO!
LOUISE MUST GO!
An excellent theory we came up with on Saturday morning: Britpop existed primarily because nobody had invented Big Brother yet. Self-obsessed twentysomething so-called every(wo)men desperate to be catapulted from new town obscurity into short-lived celebrity – for a brief period in the mid-90s they achieved their goal by picking up guitars and knocking out simple pop songs. But now technology has improved, and a grateful nation can gorge on pure wannabe personality without such nasty sonic middlemen. Seriously, though, doesn’t this look like the perfect BB line-up? And if they’d got famous this way you would never have had to hear the records!
Brett – inexperienced bisexual (just like Adele). Moody. Fancies himself.8th
Cerys – Shouty drunk Welsh woman. Nominated every week but the public never seem to tire of her wine-swilling ways.3rd
Damon – in-house romance with Justine! Devious. Meets the fate of all BB lotharios and voted out.7th
Gaz – the sort of cheeky chappie who always wins, curse it. Winner.
Jarvis – campily sensitive house intellectual – clearly a role model for Alex. 2nd
Justine – token posh housemate. In-house romance with Damon but does she fancy Brett?4th
Louise – the other housemates just ‘cant take’ her ‘controversial’ opinions! 10th
Rick – thick, ugly, makes continual dirty jokes. Viewers tear hair out weekly as they are denied the opportunity to vote for him.5th
Skin – Blimey a loud lesbian skinhead! Picked by Channel 4 cos she’s “in your face” in the sure knowledge that viewers will vote her out in week 2 and they’ll have done their bit for ‘diversity’ once more. 9th
Sonya – the one nobody notices is there until nominations start to get a bit tough a week or two before the end.6th
P.S.: This is such an obvious idea that it’s probably been used by the NME or something. I didn’t nick it but apologies if so!
P.P.S.: Tim must go!