30 September 2002
Towards an essay on John Cage.
Reading a book on American Avant Garde music, i finally saw a picture of the inside of a prepared piano. There were the nuts and bolts I expected, but also near the bass end of the instrument-some where between the B and F Keys were two Dairy Queen parfait spoons standing like sentries.
I have a friend who studies music at the University, and he always tells me that Cage was a better theorist then he was a musician. He Introduced me to Cage- so I thought he was right.
I have seen a few scores, and their squiggles, lines, patterns and maps disagree with the standard staff notation- but they are more beautiful, like the aesthics of scores are important.
Listening to Sonatas for Prepared Piano and the Summer Works again, I am mystified. They are not noise- they are too careful and elegant to be noise.
Randomness appeals to me-in that a butterfly waving its wings in thailand causes typhoons in Florida way-its a nice way to think that you are making change.
I hate Metal Machine Music but admire it, because it makes me think. I love Cage, as a writer, as a musician and as a person. More Importantly the music is lovely, it seduces me..
Another friend once taught me the word aleatory, and told me it meant chance and some of Cages work is like that, I mean playing along to a fish , or four radios or the infamous 4:33
I used to go through life being annoyed by sounds. But now I find myself saying- oh i like that, oh thats a nice sound.
When I was a kid I loved the sound of Scratching Records or Cassette Tapes Starting.
Most of Cages work seems instinctual, going back to the place where any sound is comforting.
For a long time I thought of getting Noise is Music; Music Noise tattooed on my arm, i am still thinking about it.
Anthony Easton in FT /New York London Paris Munich • No Comments
28 September 2002
Jerry the Nipper on broken hearts, epic soundtracks and the immortal majesty of Baxendale
When your heart is not so much broken as subject to a spectacular compound fracture… When the plans you conscientiously drafted for months now seem as grandiose and daftly ruined as, yes, a cake, left out in, yes, the rain… When you find yourself cut adrift and washed ashore on the out-of-season seaside resort of your mid-30s… Well, when all that happens, there is nothing to do but to work out which pop song is going to soundtrack the latest scene in that long-running fiasco, your life.
As I type this I worry… this must all sound very Hornbyish: Emotionally Distant Man of a Certain Age Seeks Refuge in the Foul Second-Hand Shop of his Heart. But I’ve never been very good at compiling lists, being blokeishly anal about being analytic, stitching up a wound with surgical precision.
It’s just that I feel that so many of us, plugged into scenes and screens before we walked, now make sense of our lives as movies or tv shows, forever being re-edited. Don’t misunderstand me: I don’t mean to suggest epic delusion or monstrous egotism. But I’d like to consider how we now have a sense of memory as not so much a passive recording, but rather something that is actively composed. Entire reels rustle forgotten on the cutting room floor, hoping for reinstated afterlife in expanded editions on undreamt-of media (with voice-overs and complaints from minor characters and notable critics). Directors and writers who handled several runs with immaculate professionalism are ruthlessly dismissed mid-season, their material reworked by ambitious newcomers, their scripts doctored to rude health.
And somewhere amid this frantic post-production, the re-casting and re-shooting, the hopeless, retrospective quest for continuity, The Studio must find time to commission the soundtrack. It’s a serious business: you can’t be slapdash. The daily rushes might be cut to a tune that later proves unavailable or unaffordable, though this can create its own dippy serendipity (think how much poorer the dawning dream of ‘Donnie Darko’ might have been if Richard Kelly had sufficient budget for his first choice of song: INXS’s ‘Never Tear Us Apart’).
Those legendary first seasons, my teenage years, have remained unaltered for a while now. They were directed, for union rates, by Hal Hartley, Bill Forsyth and the Phil Redmond of early ‘Brookside’, and were blessed by a soundtrack from Morrissey, Marr, Tennant and Lowe. You may notice that the film stock was specially chosen by Derek Jarman for its sensitivity to the very pantone blue of the cover of ‘Hatful of Hollow’.
Die-hard snobs maintain that this was classic Nipper and the show should have been quietly discontinued, before it jumped the shark, to live on in syndicated immortality with those perfect episodes of ‘Fawlty Towers’. Many feel that the ‘University Years’, complete with a gimmicky exchange season in the United States, were messy and unsatisfying, and point to the turnover of directors – including disastrous stints by Leo Carax and a young Richard Linklater – as the prime culprit. Nevertheless the soundtrack – a baggy mix of New Order, The Sundays, The Stone Roses, MBV and Mary Margaret O’Hara – continues to sell healthily.
Since then, some would say, the show has lost the plot as definitively as the post-school seasons of ‘Buffy’. But who now would give up those Mike Leigh scenes on the council estates of Stevenage? That gorgeous tracking shot down the Westway on the first drive into London, skillfully cut to Jeff Buckley’s ‘Grace’? The epically bleak year when the only thing on the soundtrack was the first Portishead album? (In a classic case of internet contrari-wisdom, a breakaway clique of hipsters maintain that the 1998-2000 ‘Café Years’ are as good as it gets, and a significant part of Michael Winterbottom’s wayward oeuvre.)
Critics have dismissed this latest mid-season V2 of melodrama as a typically desparate attempt by a fading show to claw back sliding ratings. But the soundtrack poses its own problem.
The wry, disillusioned classicism of The Shins’ ‘A Call to Apathy’ was an early favourite, though ever since James Mercer took the McDonalds and Gap shilling I fear he may have priced himself out of the market. The rights to ‘Goodbye Lucille No. 1′ were sadly unavailable. That damned Sophia Coppola beat me to ‘More than This’. Stephin Merritt, with the characteristic hauteur of the auteur, has failed to return my calls. And the Scissors Sisters’ ‘Comfortably Numb’ was deemed ‘too ironic’.
So, provisionally, subject to full Studio approval, I have plumped for Baxendale’s ‘I Built this City’. From the chuckles at the back, I realise that this may seem a quixotic choice. Older viewers may remember the band’s guest appearance in a 1999 club scene – much-mocked at the time as a new nadir.
But I continue to love the band, in the tender way you love your own lost causes. They showed up on the toilet-circuit at the fag-end of the nineties, with a handbag full of songs that suggested a Southern Jarvis Cocker had been rummaging through the Pet Shop Boys’ bins. But they put their swag together in a way that was all their own. They raged against the twee retreat of their spacetime, but their pop entryism owed just as much to the eponymous Leo as it did to the Human League. ‘Top Deck’ cheerily promised that they were going to ride a routemaster to the top of the Pepsi Chart. If you triangulate a point between Jonathan Richman’s ‘Roadrunner’, the Smiths’ ‘There is a light’ and the PSB’s ‘Paninaro’ you will find ‘I love the sound of dance music’, neglected and forgotten, waiting for you to kiss life into it. The videos they never made were directed by the Phil Redmond of ‘Hollyoakes’ and scripted by the Kevin Williamson of early ‘Dawson’s’.
And, in my circles at least, they mostly met with the special disdain reserved for failed wannabees. I would see them sometimes around London, with a watery mix of duty and expectation, half hoping they might, like a stopped clock, or Pulp, chime with the times by sheer persistence and accident. They made a defiant anthem from their situation: ‘Ghetto Fabulous’, the only time Belle and Sebastian are likely to be sampled in a song that hymns Rodney Jerkins. And, just when my faith was guttering, they brought out ‘Your Body Needs my Sugar’, which, in a kinder world, was the song Kylie chose to follow up ‘Can’t Get You out of My Head’.
So… not the obvious choice to represent the mix of bitterness, regret and distant hope I need for my soundtrack. But when I came across ‘I Built this City’ – available now on the new Robopop compilation, or, in blatant violation of international copyright laws, from your favourite p2p – I fell in love all over again. Perhaps I’m just being especially sentimental, overpraising an old friend, but right now the track seems perfect for my needs. In its defiance and surprise, it warns us against the temptation of growing prematurely wistful, writing off the possibility of novelty and adventure.
It begins, choppy with funk guitar, in familiar territory: Tim Benton is out of his mind in love with a new girl. But this time he’s not content with the Spector route of building a cathedral of sound around her. He’s going to build a metropolis.
I scattered paving stones
The first night you took me home
I made a street on that first love feeling
I built the airport the following evening.
The song builds, block by block, purposefully piecing together the architecture of desire…
Carparks and traffic lanes
Follow the curving of every new bridge
Oh, I created them in your image!
…ascending, through three-part harmonies, into the title and best chorus of their career. Where they used to seem technologically dated, they’re now pro-tooled-up, if not quite in the premier league. This is a sleeker, more competitive Baxendale, but nothing we haven’t heard before.
But the song is driving on, the urgency of the pulse promising that the conceit of the chorus isn’t its final word.
The skyline in summertime
The sunset in your design
How can you say that you didn’t want this?
I stole the blueprints from your office!
Well, by now the fanfare of the chorus is less confident, not so much a proud boast as a reprimand. And then, as you listen, with your own heightened sense of the deceit of desire, keenly attuned to the potholes lying unmended in what seemed such a smooth road to the future, Alex Mayor, previously a stylish but underused player in Team Baxendale – in the way that Eric Cantona was underused at Leeds United – storms the microphone, seemingly channelling the livid falsetto of Curtis Mayfield and playing a guitar that hasn’t been touched since an early Benitez/Madonna session, and sings.
Don’t tell me that my highrise has to end
That you’re never going to be my only friend
Don’t try to tear it down to the floor
Cos it’s happened before
I’m going to build this city again.
It is – I’m afraid you’re going to have to take my word on this – a stunning moment. Not so much a band moving up a gear as discovering a gear they never even suspected they had. And as a private pop moment, happening at a certain time, in a certain mood, to a certain person, it’s IT, the reason we all keep buying and filing and downloading and listening: a piece of secret public art, out there, floating around on the airwaves and on the file servers, waiting for you to complete it, so it can read your mind and – for a moment at least – frame the very possibilities of life.
This is heady stuff, and Tim seems a bit taken aback by it himself. So much so, that he’s moved to take a breather in a classic Baxendale spoken interlude (no one since Oakey has carried these off with such rueful aplomb).
I’ll meet you at the top of the tallest building, with the sunshine on my back. I’ll be working hard to make up for that interest that I’ve lacked. Oh it’s such a boy thing, focussing on something you can see, instead of giving back the good things that you gave to me. Oh, I’ve built so many cities that have collapsed into the mud, and sung so many songs for girls I never understood, but you come up here and tell me that you’re only passing through, but I… I built this city for you.
And here’s the final melody in the song’s jarred harmony: after the pride, the anger and the denial, right here at the calm eye of the song is a terrible loneliness, the eerieness of the financial district early Sunday morning or the evacuation simulation. The relationship planned and blueprinted and built… and then deserted. A ghost town of the heart. In this part of the city, Baxendale are the number one pop group of all time, but only because I’m the only one still here, the only one still listening.
But the song can’t stop here, as much as it’s run out of fuel and hope, just as the endless agonising reel at the raw end of a relationship doesn’t stop when you’ve ticked off all those classic stages of grief. All the hurt and anger and pride and loss just have to keep whirling around, none of your moods believing in each other. It can only wind back on itself, revolving like a locked groove you’re powerless to lift the needle from. The only real way it can end is in a slow fade, drifting out until… Until it’s magically superceded by new song, a song that really understands you, that was waiting all this time for the perfect moment to teleport into your life and onto your definitive soundtrack.
I’m confident that my endorsement will be just the thing to give Baxendale that final push into the stardom they deserve. And I’m equally confident that there is still life in this old show, despite the doleful rumours that it won’t be recommissioned, that the actors and situations are tired, that the lead has seen better days. There are always new seasons, new stories, new songs. And if a romantic lead feels typecast and walks out for a better role? Well, there are always spin-offs.
Stephen in FT • No Comments
27 September 2002
MENACE OF THE CORRUPTING SEX-FEAST SHAME-CULT BITING INTO OUR YOUTH – THE LYSERGIC SUPER-MEN POISED TO ENSLAVE OUR VERY SOULS. By Al Ewing.
“ANGELS BEAT MY HEAD OPEN WITH A BIG ROCK… THEIR WINGS WERE MADE OF HUMAN FACES AND CHARLES FORT WAS THERE…” ANGRY YOUNG MAN ON VOYAGE OF DARKNESS AND STRANGE BEAUTY – WILL YOUR CHILD FALL UNDER HIS EVIL MENTO-SPELL???
Bastion paper of This Island Nation, THE FREAKY TRIGGER, can at least Reveal the Mind-Bending Atomic Terror of the BEAT-NIK and his Filthy Ways. We have the facts and can tell you exactly how many Young Minds have been irredeemably Warped by the terrifying FRAZER IRVING and his sinister Cult Of Personality – and the answer is “too many to count enow!” This modern-day Rasputin’s shameless yet shameful Influence is felt among the Youth People the world over – SEE THEM SHAKE TO THE HYPNOTIC BEAT OF HIS TOM-TOMS in a SPECIAL PHOTO COLOUR SUPPLEMENT – NOT FOR THOSE OF A GENTLE DISPOSITION it can be yours for a mere two and six. HURRY HURRY. Do not wait. THE BEAST IRVING inspires raptures akin to Bacchus with his ‘op-art wood-cuts’ AS YOU MAY SEE. “His art has no equal” say those under his Spell while they divest themselves of their garments BY FIRELIGHT. Anger him not for his rage burns like A HOT TORCH as was noted by Our Reporters during an Audience with the Awesome Figure.
Even now his Wicked Genius may be found within the pages of Teen-Age Periodical THE 2000AD, but shield the eyes of your Daughters and Sons from it lest they become Shrieking Maenads. Only those of an Iron Decency could abide his latest Art-Work, ‘FROM GRACE’, without tearing their clothes away and dancing around a standing stone, while his ‘JUDGE DEATH’ work for THE MEGA-ZINE is used in Bedlam to put a Righteous Fear into those poor souls imprison therein for reasons of immodest temper.
NOW READ ON.
‘Underworld’: an upcoming film about a love affair between a werewolf and a vampire who represent warring clans. Coincidence or conspiracy?
Coincidence…?… No such thing. This is all I will say on the matter.
When it comes to writers, you’ve worked with the cream of a crop of cream. Who’s been your favourite?
Gordon Rennie mainly, tho working with demon-child Si Spurrier has opened my inky eyes to a new generation of weirdness.
What works best for you in a script and what don’t you like seeing?
What works best for me is a good story, told succinctly. I like some good solid dialogue (but not too much otherwise it cramps the pix) and a story that has an actual structure as opposed to just scene after scene of linear action and boring old shite. What I hate seeing is where the script tells me what to draw. Camera angles, colours and composition are welcome at all times as long as they are relevant to the storytelling, but when it’s a pretty open panel/page and I get these dumb directions it makes my blood boil. I also hate reading boring stories. Something has to happen every page or I get tired and fall asleep whilst drawing it.
Is there a single episode of anything that you’d like on your headstone?
I care not for any writing on my tombstone, as I plan to be incinerated anyway.
I’ve just read the first episode of From Grace, which made its debut in 2000AD this week, and it’s top. Is there anything about this latest series that you’re particularly proud of?
The fact that I did it all in Photoshop. Way back in 1996 I was a technophobe, one who hated the idea of machinery taking over from real artists, and I was deeply threatened by anything that wasn’t paint or pencil. Since then I’ve changed tho, and now I’ve turned completely to the dark side and I am soooo proud of the fact that I can create anything I want with a Mac and a Wacom tablet. They said it couldn’t be done. A few years ago.
While we’re about it – by the time this sees print, Necronauts will have in all likelihood come out in easy-to-buy-and-devour trade form, but I am weak > from unwrapping a Quality Street and have not the strength to plug it. Can you do me a favour and do so?
The Necronauts is a Lovecraft-esque adventure starring Houdini, Lovecraft, Charles Fort and Arthur Conan Doyle. It tells the hidden truth behind the fate of Houdini and of a sinister alliance between mortals and the unspeakable ones. It’s all drawn in glorious black and white with a section at the back with sketches and things, is priced £7.99 and should be available in all good bookshops, online or in the real world. It’s a rollickingly spooky read with some cracking art.
Real-life Necronauts available here. Lil’ Billy wants to be a comic artist. What advice can you give him?
Hmmm. I hate this question. With a passion. If I get asked one more time I’m gonna start answering with some real venom, like “swallow razor blades” or “drink urine and sacrifice your grandmother” etc. Don’t ask me again. Or suffer the consequences.
Where do you see UK comics going in the future?
I really dunno. I reckon their merry path thru modern culture is faaaar from over and it’s gonna be interesting, but I am no fortune teller so I cannot predict any folly such as these questions demand.
How can somebody survive and prosper in the event of an invasion of mutants with scorpion DNA?
By sucking razor blades and drinking urine whilst sacrificing their grandmothers to spider goddesses. In Dagenham.
If you could eat the still-beating heart of any comics professional and so gain their strength, who would it be? And would you feel pleasure in the act?
Alan Moore, but I’d feel no pleasure as I am in the process of giving up red meat.
If you were marooned on a desert island and could purposefully exile any musician or band to your lonely hell and force them to live out their joyless existences playing music for you, their despotic tyrant, who would you pick? And would you keep them in tiny cages or just on a big leash tied to a stake?
Well whoever it is they’d get shit after they hit a certain age. This is the unwritten law of musicians. But at the moment I’d pick The White Stripes cos A) I just got the latest collection of tunes and B) because if I got really bored I’d force them into some incestuous porno act. And I’d probably not use cages or leases but a huge ring of fire.
What are your influences outside the comics field?
Another annoying question. I like art of many types like “impressionism”, “abstract expressionism” and I also like art nouvea/deco and I like music and movies and thinking weird things.
What’s coming up in the future of Frazer Irving?
Well this is another annoying question, as my path through life seems to be quite a mercurial one at the moment. Hmmm. A lightbulb in my living room just conked out. And then it just flickered. Is this a sign? I have no idea what will be next for my arty skills, as I’ve just this day finished From Grace for 2000AD and am still working on Judge Death for the Megazine, and I have to take a few days out to gather my wits and consider what I’d like to do next. I have a 5 page Terror Tale in Prog 2004 of 2000AD, but beyond that nothing is set in stone yet.
But in the immediate future; sleep. After a Dr Who dvd. And tea.
Al_Ewing in FT • No Comments
Adventures In Eating, Part One
It was possibly the tastiest piece of meat I’d ever eaten. Seasoned, seared on all sides, and roasted in the oven for 25 minutes. After resting for a further 15 mins it was carved, a nutty brown on the outside and a juicy, tender pink in the middle. Once in the mouth the meat had a taste not unlike beef, but it was sweeter, and yet gamier at the same time. The accompanying gravy was glossy and a deep brown. This was my first taste of horse, and it was fantastic.
I had previously been a vegetarian for about eight years, initially through a combination of girlfriend pressure and that most dangerous of all sentiments – student idealism. Unfortunately throughout those years I started to become more interested in cooking and eating good food, with this came the nagging suspicion that, by not eating meat, I was missing out on some fantastic delights that I hadn’t eaten before I turned veggie.
I had been eating fish for a while and knew that it was only a matter of time before I gave in. It finally happened on New Year’s morning 2002, and the foodstuff that pushed me over the edge? Yes, it was full English breakfast – bacon, eggs, sausage, beans and toast. It was marvelous, all the fantastic flavours I remembered of old, only even better. Absence must have made my heart grow very fond of cured and spiced pork products.
So that was it, my cravings for meat had won – roasted belly pork, tender and succulent with its attendant crispy skin; roasted chickens, unadulterated apart from a lemon in the cavity; the Spanish Chorizo sausage, oozing its spicy red oil. Descriptions like this had had me salivating for a long while – finally I got the chance to try them all, and by god did I enjoy them.
This was like having a whole new world of tastes and textures to explore, but right at the back of my mind was still a nagging doubt that I was missing out on things. The average punter seems to get by with a very limited range of meats – chicken, pork chops, the ubiquitous sausages and bacon, an occasional roast on a Sunday. This wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to try everything, to find for myself what was good, what would excite me, It was thinking about this while planning a trip to France that led the aforementioned horse to come trotting into my head.
The French love their horse, indeed whole aisles of their hypermarkets are dedicated to it. They know a thing or two about food over there so why shouldn’t I try it? Just because a foodstuff isn’t sold over here doesn’t make it bad or wrong, no matter what social mores dictate.
We bought un tranche de cheval from the hypermarket, cut in the French style, i.e. trussed up in string with a strip of fat attached to each side. Raw, the meat seemed unusually bloody, and the smell was verging on the metallic. (possibly due to the very high levels of iron that horsemeat contains) You can probably tell from the first paragraph how much my dining companions and I enjoyed it. What a discovery we’d made! But for some reason this made me all the more intrigued to try other foodstuffs that, while not wrong or reprehensible, were considered to be slightly ‘unusual’. It wasn’t even for the novelty factor (or maybe only a little bit). Once again that nagging feeling was back. There were more experiences out there that could be just as revelatory as the horse, I just needed to find them. But what was it to be? I considered all the ‘novelty’ meats like alligator and kangaroo but something put me off them. The fact that they were so easily available for one thing, you can go to any number of restaurants in London and try them, plus they were what I suppose you would call exotics, from distant shores, whereas I wanted to try things from a little closer to home.
My inspiration arrived soon after, from two sources within a very short space of time. I was talking to my friend JD about my little project and he remembered a piece he had read by Julian Barnes in the Guardian Review section. In it he describes a conversation with a game butcher about what meats they can provide him with. Obviously the list is the usual game fare such as partridge, pheasant and venison, but something catches his attention: the last type of meat on their list is squirrel, whole or filleted. He asks the butcher the difference, only to be told that most people prefer to buy it in fillets, as whole ‘it looks just like a squirrel, only with no fur’ YIKES! So of course Julian buys some, but never gets round to cooking it. For shame!
This is where my inspiration comes in. Squirrel, a natural, indigenous creature, nothing fancy at all, but how would I find some? Of course a good journalist would have a contact number or address for the supplier at the end of the article, but no such luck. So I had to set out on my own.
My first stop was Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s biblically proportioned River Cottage Cookbook a how-to manual for the self sufficient. An incredibly useful book that I thought must have some leads for me, and indeed it did, two: Yorkshire Game couldn’t help, they could provide me with all sorts of venison, rabbit, pigeon, or hare….but no squirrel. The other was a shop in Kingston called The Game Larder – listed in the book as supplying squirrel, but unfortunately they never answered the phone, and since then I’ve been told that they have closed down. So then, a blank drawn there, but hey, I’ve got the whole internet at my disposal, it must be easy to find someone to sell me squirrel, right?
Not so, unfortunately. I contacted an organization called The Guild of Fine Foods, who I found by googling ‘squirrel recipes’. Unfortunately they couldn’t help either. Their representative who emailed me back gave me two options, the first was a company called Osgrow (www.osgrow.com) which looked promising – a company specialising in unusual meats. Yes, they could supply me with eland (a type of antelope). Yes, they could supply me with rattlesnake, or bison. But Squirrel? No, sorry. The other suggestion from the Guild themselves was to get an air rifle and ‘pop one off’ myself. I did contemplate this, but the thought of what a Walthamstow squirrel may well be eating put me off somewhat.
My next stop was at a message board I subscribe to, initially a request for information on squirrel came up with a blank, but then I found a response from a former gamekeeper’s assistant from Devon who used to shoot the rodents on an estate and sell the victims at a whopping £15 per pound in the estate shop and sell out every day! Unfortunately this and the fact that squirrel are a bugger to skin was all the country gentleman could impart. It seemed that the purchase of squirrel in this country was a darn site harder than I had ever imagined that it would be.
So there I was, back to square one. Does anyone have Julian Barnes’ email address?
To Be Continued…
chris in FT • No Comments
This is my kind of competition. Play “Spot the Pint” and win some beer. Lovely.
John in Pumpkin Publog • No Comments
26 September 2002
Neko Case-Bonus Track on Blacklisted
The album is over and you almost take it out of the player, and then static, crickets, the rushing of water are all heard, so you listen. A guitar starts in, then Nekos voice, then a Wurlitzer playing an old fashioned waltz. The sound cuts in and out though and static interupts the flow, every so often you hear spanish ballads or southern preachers. She has made an experimental country song, where found sound and noise are more important then her voice. It’s a drama, one that features a place in Southern Texas where the signal is rarely found and you settle for what you got.
Anthony Easton in FT /New York London Paris Munich • No Comments
‘You can do anything you set your mind to, man’: positivity, from the man who brought you ‘Kim’? As curious a concept as emotional maturity from the man who bought you ‘Drips’, but this is Eminem in filmland and normal service doesn’t apply. Of course Shady’s negativity and immaturity are part of what makes Em as infuriating, compelling, tiresome and exciting as he all-at-once is, so ‘Lose Yourself’s more wholesome stylings are mildly disappointing as well as mildly heartwarming.
All he’s doing, though, is playing by genre rules. The poor-kid-redeemed-through-music trope is one Hollywood has long welcomed with open wallet, and it’s attractive to musicians too for the opportunity it gives them to remythologise themselves. Audiences are a different matter, though Eminem’s picked a better career point for his autobiopic than Mariah Carey did — so there’s nothing to say 8 Mile won’t be a Flashdance sized hit for grittier times. On ‘Lose Yourself’ Eminem swaps a steel-and-stone world for the trailer park, and he’s typically upfront about the money-motive for losing himself in the music. But he’s believable enough — the almost-him kid protagonist starts off with vomit dried on his jumper from nerves and a rap half-forgotten. The trailer park is par for the rags-to-riches course, blah blah, but the vomit sticks with you.
The Flashdance connection got mostly set up in my mind by the music, though — ‘Lose Yourself’ continues The Eminem Show‘s fascination with the sound and dynamics of rock music, building an ultra-simple beat around a tightly coiled guitar riff which hums with the same hi-gloss tension as ‘Eye Of The Tiger’. It’s effective and it doesn’t sound like anyone else but it’s bombastic too, and the track constantly runs the risk of exhausting you (like its cousin, ‘Sing For The Moment’).
The music and the flow set up an expectation problem, too. Eminem’s such an efficient rapper now that he can build up the drama in a verse from almost nothing and the big chorus-release ends up a letdown, because he’s not very good at ‘serious’ choruses (eg ‘Cleaning Out My Closet’). He’s like one of those toy clockwork cars which you pull back and pull back and pull back until the revs are going mad and then you let it go and it hits a table-leg and just stops. This almost ruined ‘Square Dance’ but it didn’t quite because the end-of-verse payoffs were so good. But there’s no intense serious ass-fucking in ‘Lose Yourself’, just a big head-of-steam build-up and then a chorus which says you’ve got to lose yourself in the music and take your chance man. It’s motivational, but in a business-lunch way not in a jump-out-your-seat way. Such, perhaps, is Hollywood.
Tom in FT /New York London Paris Munich • No Comments
25 September 2002
The Dedbeat Festival – more backpacker and IDM names than you can possibly imagine playing live and sets over 5 days but from our perspective this is mostly interesting for hosting the debut live performance of MC PITMAN!
Tom in FT /New York London Paris Munich • No Comments
23 September 2002
grave robbing never sounded so profitable: i read this news – about another round of tape and EP raking by jeff buckley’s label (is it right to call it a “former label” when they’re still pumping out the product long after he’s cold in the ground?) – wanting to write some scathing attack on the sorry state of major labels, cultural/capital necrophilia, and the risible notion of bending the man’s fans over and dicking them for all they’re worth. but…it’s just exhausting, even to think about. jeff buckley’s one studio album (and previous collections of mixing desk farts and live tapes) had a far more sizeable impact than one would have expected back in 1993, appearing a coffeehouse-step too far out of the kick-time routines of alt-rock proper. he blossomed, darkly after his death, on the other side of the atlantic where his falsetto, garbled emoting, and a penchant for non-verbal frippery that would make robert plant blush made him a star to people like coldplay and travis. in america, he spawned a cult amongst those who idolize tossers like nick drake (who at least had the dignity to off himself rather than drown like a rat.) unlike his father, his gift was never some presupposed supernatural endowment (far too studied, too faux-masculine in an attempt to run from his old man), nor did he tweak it or his music (a vaguely pleasant alt-AOR concoction of folk-pop, Television-like jangle & chime, and strangely emasculated blues) in any way that might upend it into areas of disquiet or unease or revelation.
no, buckley made his album, and was about to make another before he died. if he had continued, obviously his star would be markedly different, perhaps with a large, stable fan base, but certainly less of the Worship he enjoys now. to say that this 5 CD boxed set, not one of which contains more than 4 songs, many of which are either live or alternate takes of songs already released, all of which are available as highly collectable EPs is anything other than a fast cash move on a waning property — well, you’d have to be a LOT less cynical than I. (I say — a bit more sloppily — what I wanted to say here, just replace the notion of indie labels with majors. not hard, these days!)
Jess in FT /New York London Paris Munich • No Comments
josh blog is back, hurrah. It seems to have been back for ages, hurrah. My ISP wasn’t picking it up though, boo. As casually insightful as ever. He quotes me about Dexy’s and yes Josh I remember saying that and no I don’t know where either but it sounds smarter this time round.
Tom in FT /New York London Paris Munich • No Comments