Posts from April 2003
The whole thing is absurd, a drama queens lament, an over the top gothic grief session for the overly dramatic, it has to be done with a certain starkness, because if it doesn’t it is camp melancholy.
This is where O’Connor works so wonderful. She has turned into a dirge, a song to sing at wakes, to kean at graves. The poetry is here, and her voice has the somberness to keep everything in check, even if the arrangement of piano and string is a bit too voluptuous.
I’m having one of those days where everything sounds terrific, so please bear that in mind if I say something ridiculous, maybe something like ‘A.D.I.D.A.S.’ is the best single of the year so far. I’ve been wrong plenty of times before, after all. I was wrong about that Mis-Teeq album, for instance. Sitting in the office it sounded like self-denying R&B pastiche. Sipping cider in Brittany it sounded like self-confident R&B panache. God knows what ‘A.D.I.D.A.S.’ would sound like if I was still on holiday. I wish I could find out.
I like that he’s called ‘Killer Mike’, by the way. It makes me think of the bloke from the Young Ones. I’d heard a Killer Mike track before this — ‘AkSHUN!’ — which was good but a little harsh. ‘A.D.I.D.A.S.’ isn’t harsh. It’s mostly two overlapping hooks — one synthed one sung — the synthed one is slightly better but they’re both terrific – interspersed with goof-raps that tell you nothing much, adorably. Killer Mike likes women not men but that’s just him; wear a condom, kids!; maybe Killer Mike thinks about sex too much.
Maybe he does. If he didn’t, though, we wouldn’t have a song. (‘A.D.I.D.A.S.’, fabulously, means ‘All Day I Dream About Sex’). If Prince didn’t, we wouldn’t have a song either. ‘A.D.I.D.A.S.’ sounds like Prince might sound if he took sex less seriously, the way those of us who aren’t Prince have to take it to stop going loopy.
(Not that Prince took sex seriously all the time, but even my favourite Prince album has an air of real fit-to-burst desperation about it, while Killer Mike is dreaming about sex like Porky’s does, mostly for effect and laffs. At the end of the day he’s probably happy with his hand.)
(That would be Dirty Mind, obviously.)
(‘A.D.I.D.A.S.’ is the best single of the year so far.)
Let’s Do Lunch!: Vintage Frank Kogan, on Disco Tex and the Sex-O-Lettes, Times Square and Slade
In case you somehow missed it, Ian Penman now has a blog.
If you don’t know who Ian Penman is or why you should care (whatthehellswrongwithyou?), hie thee hence.
In Honour of Good Friday, ten unconventional songs about G-d, that move past messages of conversion, either to Gods side or against it.
1) Rebel Jew-Silver Jews
The geography of Texas, the glory of a girl named Michelle and ‘The Rebel Jew, who died for you’ all tie in to an aching ballad that cries for a sense of liberation and freedom.
2) You’ve Gotta Serve Somebody-Bob Dylan
He snarls as he wrestles with Jacob, his own personal history, and his instincts towards God. He does not want to serve but he depends on the divine and other humans, and that grates.
3) The King of Carrot Flowers-Neutral Milk Hotel
Christianity tells us that someone died for the sins of the world, and rose again, which means God loves us. Anyone who buys into this is desperate for love, and the repeating of love me, love me in this song becomes a mantra to that desperation.
4) Her Way of Praying-Jesus and Mary Chain.
Sex comes through acts of devotion. Acts of devotions come through sex. There is an awareness of this here.
5) Jesus-Velvet Underground.
Lou Reed looks for order to be brought from chaos, and grace to be restored, even though, like the rest of us, he doesn’t deserve mercy.
6) Belle and Sebastian-If you’re feeling sinister.
The worlds too dark, and its citizens are too lonely, and you are unable to believe though you desire to. All the church can do, and all this song does, is give you confirmation, not that he is the risen lord or that it’s his way, but that you are human, and you are small in the cosmos…
7) Low-That’s how you Sing Amazing Grace
To be part of the Body of Christ, there is a need to sublimate your own. This is 7 minutes of despair and longing, but she submits at the end, and hears the hymns. It is not an easy birth but with nothing left to save, there is sweetness here…
8) Jesus was a terrorist-Jell-O Biafra and No Means No
Its not all personal, the explicitness of Christ’s message against Rome was of revolt, his message to the Jews in power with one of contempt.
9) Last Years Man-Leonard Cohen
All that is of the world is seduction, and once we are awake we need to give this up to a larger ideal. The conflict here is human, and inside every one of us, we wait for both Cain and Jesus, or the pleasures of the world and the pleasures of heaven.
10) Is Jesus Your Pal-Gus Gus
Atmospheric, low key, in Icelandic, which means I’m not really sure it’s about Jesus, but pretty enough to cause at least pause.
I’m off to France for a week, so no updates from me (and no Focus Group either, sorry). Hopefully NYLPM’s other contributors will pick up some of the slack and run riot while I’m away. Have a lovely Easter Weekend!
If I were a painter I would spill great splashes of yellow and
red over the end of this trip
Because I am quite sure we were all a little mad
And that a raging delirium was bloodying the lifeless faces of
my travelling companions
Blaise Cendrars, La Prose de Transsibérien et de la petite Jehanne de France (1913)
rail / pavements that reflect the cyan air and hopeful light. At the local stations no-one knows where you are going: crazy realization that they don’t care, wouldn’t follow if they could. Mid-morning London Bridge: beyond the rush hour, before the coffee aromas are phased out by tired dust-mote sun. Waiting for a train, boarding and loading, scanning passengers, watching silos and oast-houses pass, should not feel as momentous as this. Bat and Ball. Pluckley. I never knew they were there, in a world bereft of adventures.
motor / parallel lines, the plains of the South, early afternoon’s unclouded canopy, settlements fleeting by: across country, Kentish fields, Last Orders, highway strips, someone else’s random indie. (Other people’s indie’s full of corners you’d forgotten.) How the road cuts out and outpaces the kids, on their diligent railway rides: from the capital with bags and badges, disembarking in vast numbers at necessary halfway stations and creating floods of flesh, crisis crowds of coats and hairslides. Trains that cram with captive travellers, standing room on the midday shuttle, wan platform gazes from the noontide faces left behind. I don’t really understand the kids: I’d better try not to say too much about them. They don’t like me anyway.
supplies / the bus stop though where they swelter at three o’clock, in rows too long to be collected by a single vessel: the brats who boarded earlier and think the visitors are freaks to be repelled. The station you stand and take pictures of and can’t remember why, opposite the mart in green and orange whose overpriced affairs look like bargains next to where we’re going. Pylons, streams, gulls, grass. Seaborne skies, roadside stragglers, second guessing. Plans, anticipations, alightings. London is a mere stopover, a waystation in this narrative: demoted for once to a stage from which to bounce the last leagues. Convergence is the big idea, the sudden gathering of family resemblances who’ve come down countless lines that finally funnel into one or two. Within hours the camp is filled with refugees from the rest of the world.
shells / ‘I Fought In A War’, first time in ages, from its quiet opening drama to the revenants of Marvin and McGuinn and the vocals soaring terrifically out of tune with the strings oncoming like a nine-ton truck. Though memory’s a frieze I always think I heard it first in someone else’s chalet, liked it instantly. The chorus seems to dip so eloquently, even as that top note repeats four times. I hear it again on the balmy bright fading evening, with a glass of poor white wine in my hand. Birds twitter; the clouds range deep blue to pink tinge. Those about to post-rock, I salute you. Right now, down there, on the coast, surely, they are –
here / arriving? No, you rock up in the afternoon, ready for the evening, as if the entertainment were worth anyone’s hurry. Plugging in the stereo and spinning the first disc into happiness (call it – the Supremes). Sorting things, unpacking clothes to wardrobes (improbable action, too civilized for what’s really about to happen), shoving suitcases under beds. Stepping into the centre of the chalet, where a couple of others slouch at a table: their language and postures are casual, louche: weird code that says, we’re on holiday, but also, don’t let’s get too excited about this. (How little bodily effervescence: how little leaping into the air and kissing the sky.)
there / Someone puts the TV on. The TV is irrelevant, tremendously so: it speaks from its customary world, its weekly sphere of news battles and robot wars. Speaks to that world as well: to people who have not today escaped routine and habit. Not to us: but we pick it up anyway. Unlikely thrill, to watch it go through motions of the ordinary world, when you think you’re on a trip to the extraordinary one.
Curiosity of watching Top of the Pops here – because this is a supposed other of Top of the Pops, or: because we love pop, you and me, that’s why we’re here: and the BBC is broadcasting pop to us though it doesn’t realize we’re here, in a world of (different) pop. How much more exciting does a mediocre Top of the Pops become, at a pop festival, basted in the ways it does and doesn’t fit.
crockery / loading cans of beans into the cupboards, vegetables into the fridge. Gin and vodka share their own shadowy closet. You see the teapot, cups and saucers, and think: how much has been laid on, though we’re not gonna need it all, are we? Mariah Carey is on TV. Someone turns the sound down, puts something on the stereo beside it: something new, like new music is what one would want to listen to, or like if you come here you ought to listen to new music, or a trip to elsewhere is when you would try to get into it.
lists / the lovely light is fading, the minutes must be passing: it must be time to be out there, doing something. Has anyone got the schedule? The labour of scanning it. It says – every reading aloud of the schedule will include ellipses, will be studded by dots if anyone transcribes it: it says, Threnody Ensemble… no, they’ve already been on… what time is it again? Well, Dianogah have been on for 10 minutes. – Who? – I don’t know… They sound like a dragon out of AD&D. Have a look at the brochure thing. / But we should be doing something, going somewhere. Out on the balcony the clouds scud slowly over flat rooftops. 45 degrees across some other self is leaning out and looking, while somebody talks behind them in diminished chalet light. Below the grass is green in shade and evening sun, some folk are crossing it, they’re going somewhere: you wonder why you aren’t. Other chalets likewise have their TVs on: you see them when you wander up and down the balconies, peering sideways into muted rooms of slumping people, open doors, faint sounds, television light, stunning girls, other planets.
slow / drinking in the day, growing sluggish in the sun. Paradox of drinking here: it’s a task to be undertaken seriously, commenced as early as possible; there’s a lot to get through, and an aim in sight, which must be – intoxication? Like that’s how you need to be to get the most from all this. But the route to that goal, trodden across hours of light and shadow, is wearying: it tires you out, all this drinking, makes you slow and sodden, strips the energy you need for – for what? for all the drinking you still have to do. What else?
scape / the grass is lime, the paths are grey, the road is faded black tarmac, the sky’s still passing with the time. We are all fading out all of the time but maybe we fade slower here: or maybe we fade faster but when we get back we’ve faded less than if we’d never come. People are walking both directions: to the centre and away: to the labour of fun, and towards respite. The zones, the monkey, the superhero. The crocodile, whose playground or ride or train I think I’ve never quite located or recognized or grasped. The sandpit, the pub: I think we have to call it a pub, more than a bar, and less, come to think of it, than a boozer. Picnic tables, tarmac, steps, bouncers, straps on wrists, brutality that doesn’t happen. The serenity of the early-evening bouncer, next to the later-night ones barring doors, setting up queues round corners as the temperature drops.
hub / the front door. Scale, scope, breadth: walk through the doors like you mean business (but what business? there is nothing serious to be done here). Gaggles coming and going, across the screen, the radar, the interior vista: left and right, in and out, a purposiveness you don’t have. (Groups, collectives, friends, chatter: maybe you don’t have that either.) The way the stairs lead up to music, the sense of direction and hierarchy – halfway to bogus, for you don’t really want to hear the music; but you’ll have to do it some time. The other corridors: the bogs where surprising tunes play: ‘Time After Time’, was it?, ‘Walk of Life’? Billy Ocean? – and make you think, that’s the best thing I’ve heard all weekend. The way the walls are full of adverts for other people’s eyes, for cabaret or entertainment upstairs, stewards’ doings, gift shops, cocktail nights, things that aren’t for you, but haven’t been removed for you. Alien world, environment of strong and knowing incongruity: none can come here and not feel the wilful lack of fit, the sometimes wild inaptness of their presence. You take it that’s part of the point: which may just show how good at finding ways to fit we are.
contrast / Spring is here, the sun is shining: maybe sweet as dew and blossom, maybe a heavy beating blaze. So where are we? We’re in the dark, in the hangar, in the shadows, straining to make each other out: another sketch in the comedy of incongruity that marks this place. Maybe it could be mapped on to the perversity of the alternative, the sullenness of indie: the people who were afraid of the sun; the kids who wanted to live in the dark. Maybe – especially as this place seems to grow more metallic by the year, more facial hair and infant nihilism. But Camber Sands started as twee, and residue resides; and twee is all about the sunshine and the flowers (and the rain, and the snow). Who owns the sun and the air: indie village greens and recorders, or Rock with its crowded festival fields, longhair leather meadows? Heading into the dark, you are in flight from one or the other.
queen / through the cavern crowds of the second stage and out the other side: the sterilized burger zone (why will you buy one of these, after blowing Budgen’s so much cash?), the bouncers at the door to the Queen Victoria. The way this world is going on without you: the hundreds you don’t know, with their lives of plan and purpose, fun and intent. The ones you do, doing their own thing: surely they’re here for a reason, a better reason than you. (You don’t have a reason: you just came in, remember, and there was no reason given.) The little round tables, the tacky patterned carpet, the pictures on the walls of the elevated corner where tradition bids us gather. Who’s here: xyz; characters abc. Combinations, permute any six from seventeen. The order, the shape they form, the relations they’ve entered: arbitrary, changing, never identical from one entry to this place to the next. Go out, come back in an hour, the pattern will have altered. ATP is flux and flow, tides and waves, come and go. Kaleidoscope. The bar is thronged with young people (how did they get to be so young?): too many maybe to hang around wade through or wait for, but then what else is there to do? It’s 9:36: Shipping News have started upstairs. – What are they like? – I don’t know.- 1 2
Would you believe me if I told you 102 Beats That Part 2 was finally up? No? Well don’t click that link then.
(It’s not ALL up – just the stuff I have, which is most of it. If you’re reading this and thinking ‘Blimey I didn’t ever write my second review’ then do it and send it to me and I’ll put the missing jigsaw pieces in as and when I get them and announce them here. If you couldn’t write it, or you did and I lost it, then don’t worry, I’ll sort something out.)
Tom’s Top Twelve
BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN – “Jungleland”
JIMMY SPICER – “Super Rhymes”
BOOMKAT – “The Wreckoning”
JX – “Son Of A Gun”
MIS-TEEQ – “That’s Just Not Me”
THE COSTELLO SHOW – “Suit Of Lights”
PRINCE – “Condition Of The Heart”
LIGHTNING BOLT – “Assassins”
TOBIAS BERNSTRUP – “Young Boys”
BRIAN ENO – “Sky Saw”
ANDREA DORIA – “Bucci Bag”
DEAD DRED – “Dred Bass”
JUNIOR SENIOR – “Chicks And Dicks”
2003 is – commerically speaking – the Year Of The Ambiguous Pop Duo. t.A.T.u. are the most important band in Europe, of course; the White Stripes are at number one; Junior Senior’s “Move Your Feet” looks set to be in the Top 10 until the Last Trump sounds and even when it does it’ll probably be accompanied by the hokey yelling of a bearded Dane. Even Erasure are having hits again. (MORE PROOF that these concepts are buzzing round the UK’s morphic fields – in the pub last night we were posing the question “What if Prince Harry joined a synth duo?”)
Junior Senior though need to make that next level push for immortality. The White Stripes have launched several new magazines and a whole radio station; tATu have done well in magazines too, sort of; but JS’ bumbling jollity extends from music to gimmick – they put their cards on the table too quickly. “Hey gay, get outta my way! / Hey straight, you’re always too late!”. If this is a single – and it should be – the video needs to be joyfully, pansexually, filthy.
Meanwhile, where will Duomania strike next? According to HEAT magazine (thanks Emma!) we’re promised “big twists” for Pop Idol 2. I think that the winner and runner up should only get their fat contracts if they have to form a duo, especially if they hate each other. Especially if one of them has to stand behind a bank of synths/drumkit. Especially especially if they have to secretly marry…et cetera: pop comes up with its own beautiful gimmicks with no need of TV’s help, is this year’s lesson, but the reality boys could at least try and stay in the game.