Posts from July 2003
Tom Ewing’s Bit
Almost everybody else I was with hated the Rapture. I loved them. I know the songs on the much-leaked album quite well, but that wasn’t why. The thing was, by Sunday afternoon I was sick of Glastonbury, I just didn’t know it. I was sick of the sunshine, the good feelings, the optimism, the chirpy cynicism of those cunting Q handouts, the remorselessly chugging music – I may even have been sick of indie girls in bikini tops. The Rapture, a band who have released no actual records in Britain and whose most famous song was known to maybe one-thousandth of the Festival, were put on the second-biggest stage at six in the evening. Did they win the crowd over? Did they bollocks – they played the spikiest, trebliest, scrappiest set of the whole weekend. Camp falsetto, ear-basting guitars, baking-soda disco rhythms – it was fucking horrible and I adored every second. Finally Bez came on to reward us and remind the Rapture about ‘fun’. They played ‘House Of Jealous Lovers’ and we freaky-danced like the good little masochists we were.
My theory: much great pop music eventually turns out to be ridiculous, and more ridiculous music turns out to be great. Adam Ant’s axiom: ridicule is nothing to be scared of. If you love ridiculous music, as The Darkness might but probably wouldn’t tell you, make it more so. They gaze into the powdered face of schlock-metal and do not blink. Justin Hawkins has flames on his belly and a nice line in the splits. He also has two or three thunderously fine tunes – just as well, otherwise The Darkness would be pastiche, a metal Barron Knights, not the weekend’s most winning band.
The apex of hippie craftsmanship.
Cale headlined to a half-empty new bands tent on the Saturday night, most of his crowd I’d guess lured away by Radiohead. I’d take one of Cale’s frozen-over ballads over any Radiohead song (even the very good ones!), and sorry to sound like a snob but Music For A New Society templates the Thom Yorke stance and pushes it into places that I suspect are just too stark for a five-piece band to go. It’s such a powerful record that I don’t even like it, but I certainly respect it, and respect is what carried me through most of John Cale’s set. New songs, made with synths and laptops and old session rockers by the sound of it – away from the man’s aura I suspect that they were rubbish, and there was much relief among the Dads when ‘Venus In Furs’ started up. Highlight for me was a gleeful ‘Paris 1919’ – directly afterwards Cale, with a horrid glint in his eye, played a gut-churning V/Vm style glitch-grind racket. After two disgusting minutes he started singing and we realized this was a version of ‘Fear’. The man next to me had been shouting for it all night.
2 MANY DJS
The not-so-secret of 2 Many DJs is out: their set, give or take a Benny Benassi, is an indie disco. We twigged this when they played ‘She Sells Sanctuary’ – the looks of delighted recognition among Steve, me, Alan et al were I fear a piteous sight. ‘Cannonball’ we knew about from the album of course (their set had a dispiriting ‘hits’/’new stuff’ dynamic to it, its only flaw really), but when they started on ‘Fool’s Gold’ we could only laugh. ‘They’re just taking the piss now,’ said Steve. Next stop Kennedy.
THE LONDON LLOYD WEBBER ORCHESTRA
If by any chance you’re reading this, and you were camping by the new bands tent this year, and on the Sunday night your Moby-induced chill was disturbed by a bunch of fuckwits playing Performance: The Greatest Hits Of Andrew Lloyd Webber on the world’s cheapest cassette recorder, and singing along, and holding the player above their heads, and trying to do a comedy falsetto to ‘Memories’, and then putting on some dancehall which sampled ‘Eye Of The Tiger’…we’re very sorry, very sorry indeed.
Andrew Farrell’s Bit
I probably said half a dozen times over the weekend that festival bands are to bands what airline movies are to movies (or internet downloads to singles): if it looks like it might be a good idea, there’s no reason not to try it. You’re hanging around anyway, right?
So people go to stuff, and wander into to stuff, and experience things they hadn’t intended to (cause that’s the point, maaaan). So there’s probably no reason to imagine that everyone at the Vice Party on friday night (in what used to be the Rizla Tent) was there to listen to Erol Alkan, or the Audio Bullys or because it was a great time last year, or even because it was open after midnight. It might’ve been some or more or less of these, but they were there to dance.
And Erol slapped on the chart hits, and at some point a serious bassline was heard, and whooping started. Everyone liked the hell out of this, whatever it was, and it was going to start. And it was White Stripes’s Seven Nation Army, and everyone went on loving it. And singing. And dancing. And dancing.
And then it was Saturday Night, and 2manyDJs, and the continued search for that moment again. And they play Seven Nation Army to an equally loud reception, and then a few minutes later, the guitars play a song I’ve known for ten years, and me and my friends are rocking out to The Cult’s She Sells Sanctuary, and so’s everyone. DJ Swamp had the slot before and was rubbish, playing a trick-heavy set that included murdering Smells Like Teen Spirit. As luck would have it, 2manyDJs are packing Lithium, and they show how to do it.
And then it was Tuesday back in Dublin, and I’m dropping by a computer game store on the way into work, and they’re playing a bootleg of Bootylicious over Smells Like Teen Spirit, which I’ve heard before, and thought it was pretty clever, and I realise that it isn’t just clever, it’s great. I used to love one, and now I love the other as well, and I’m not alone. Both the songs have ascended to the same heaven, and they’re still not the same song. It’s girls versus boys and both sides win.
(Ironically, Erol’s proper set in the Dance Tent was pretty much identical to the Vice one)
Steve Hewitt’s Bit
RECOLLECTIONS OF THURSDAY CANCELLED DUE TO PERRY
Friday, and, before the rain, The Darkness. Now, I was quite pro The Darkness before this and it was my enthusiasm that got several people off their behinds and over to the pyramid at the unreasonable time of half past ten. And it was so worth it. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a band win over an audience quite so spectacularly. Where to start? Costume changes, Justin playing guitar behind his head, that cover of street spirit? Don’t give me that blah, blah, they must be ironic and knowing bollocks, this is PROPER ROCK with screechy high-pitched vocals and everything, but more importantly, an ability to write damn good pop tunes and share the fantastic time you are having with the audience. To use a phrase not often heard since the Gay Dad debacle, The Darkness are The Best New Band In Britain.
Saturday, and after wandering back from the cabaret tent via dancing to The Smiths outside the herbal high tent and the tastiest chips ever (well that’s what they tasted like at the time, I was possibly not entirely sober), I walked past the dance tent, silent and deserted, the ground inside strewn with thousands of empty beer cups and water bottles. Four pure white scans roved over detritus, making their patterns for their own amusement seemingly. I stood and watched for a couple of minutes until the lighting guy moved onto his next pre-set for the following day.
Sunday afternoon, and after feeling a bit tired and low in the morning, I met up with the gang once more in time for the Sugababes. Looking around at the sunburnt smiling mob I felt yet another (non-chemically enhanced, I assure you) rush of love for this four days of madness. Oh and the Sugababes were alright too, but it’s not really about the music.
Then to top it off I spotted the ace of trumps in indie t-shirt bingo (if that’s not too mixed a metaphor), a Sultans Of Ping FC WHERE’S ME JUMPER t-shirt. The girl wearing it seemed somewhat bemused when I told her she’d won, pity we didn’t have an actual prize to give her…
Tonight we went to see Junior Senior do their thing at HMV. By the time we got there they only had one song left, ‘Rhythm Bandits’, which they’ve dollied up a bit for single release. There wasn’t the same vibrancy and love in the air as at their Glastonbury performance, of course, but on the other hand you could get much closer up. Junior is very pretty; Senior looks like a big gay walrus (in a good way). He jumps up and down when they play while Junior rocks forward and back. Afterwards Isabel queued for 50 minutes to get a CD single signed. She told Senior that he made lots of people very happy and he apparently looked at her like she was mental (in a good way). She’s right though: the all-ages, vaguely uncool crowd certainly seemed pleased. Junior Senior are a force for uncomplicated good in the world, unless maybe you’re the kind of person who appreciates dance tracks for their polyrhythmic intricacy (or still has nightmares about big beat, which JS comprehensively redeem). ‘They use the same drum sample on every track’, sniffed the HMV cashier, as if it could possibly matter.
Top Fact About Daniel Bedroomeyes gleaned from this entertaining Guardian interview – he has hypermobile shoulders! When oh when will the first pop star with Alien Hand Syndrome step forward and end the stigma?
Brad Paisley’s hot new single (number 4 on Billboard Modern Country Charts), Celebrity, is kissing cousin to the Buck Owens classic Act Naturally,which was a cover of a Beatle’s tune, the only problem is that no one has seemed to parse the layers of artifice that mark these calls for authenticity. Its an irony country often does but rarely notes. In Act Naturally, the only way to gain the material success he may desire is to play at being natural. The authenticity required of a country singer is made a fool of, realized that it is as fake as anything else, that by the mere act of performance one loses any naturalism. But that was then, and now when everyone is expected to perform, when Andy Warhols 15 minutes are held more dear the most of the ammendments of the constitution, the concern is for something different.
Its an old complaint now, that you do not need to do anything to be famous, that content is gone and it has replaced with shiny suits and reality television–soon their will be a prefab star for every demographic but what is weird is how hurt he feels. There was a program called Nashville Star, but it was pure cult, and none of the contestants got movies or made it to the charts. Just like Buck Owens was noting the irony of performance in his age, Paisely is noting the irony in his.
But i am less convinced of Paisleys, as i noted before, his delivery is so angry and snarling that it smacks of sour grapes and desperation. The traditional Nudie suit wearing, discovered by Dolly, good old boy that showed up at the Grammies three years ago is gone, and so is the aw-shucks boy next door that was in last year. He is playing the fame game as well as anyone else, and the number one hits come in just as long as he keeps playing the game.
Its old, its hypocritical, and if the didn’t have a very good twang, it should be avoided.
THE CORAL – “Pass It On”
I’m still fond of what the Coral do but on current form there will come a point two or three singles down the line when the band give in and actually start playing the spoons on a record.
Paul Morley’s new book is out, and flicking through this morning I quite by chance discovered that NYLPM gets a mention, as [one of] “the best places to go for writing about modern – past and present – music”. The complement is more backhanded than that quote suggests, but still it was a nice surprise. The book looks very interesting indeed and has a lovely cover: you should buy it. But we’re on page 120 if you feel like saving your money and skipping to the really good bit.
Nobody’s a virgin these days, and just as well — as schticks go Britney’s was one of the worst, a smokescreen working to hide (you might almost think on purpose) the fact that some of the best pop records of the time were being issued in her name. Then the records got less exciting and the gossip took over. And as for Jessica Simpson, who was pushed as the cleaner, purer, godlier Britney, she might actually have really been a virgin but nobody cared and everyone’s forgotten about her.
Now she’s back, so what? Turns out she had a second album out and nobody really noticed, turns out she got married too — so much for the virginity thing, except she never tried to be coy about that like Britney did, and ‘Sweetest Sin’ is a full-on, gale force ten celebration of losing it.
When I lost my virginity it was fumbly and rubbish, but if I’d been a model and my partner a pop star maybe it would have been as gauzy and heady as ‘Sweetest Sin’ implies. One thing Jessica gets dead-on about playing ‘the waiting game’, though – as the day approaches you can think of very little else. For all its overripe MOR glory, ‘Sweetest Sin”s soul is sweaty-palmed and obsessive. Sung by anyone else, it might just be schlock. Sung by the wonderfully unsubtle Jessica it overpowers the listener completely — it makes me think of Kenneth Williams or Charles Hawtrey in a Carry On film, confronted by a heated and unstoppable Joan Sims. That’s not entirely a good thing, but no other record achieves it.
(I downloaded this song because of the same singer’s ‘I Think I’m In Love With You’, one of the absolute belters of the teen-pop era, and mostly unheralded. That song does the same sort of thing for infatuation as ‘Sweetest Sin’ does for lust — tackle the subject in an utterly conventional but frighteningly direct way. Also, of course, I like the tunes.)
Introduction & Nos. 20-16
Welcome to the Eighth Freaky Trigger pop music Focus Group.
What’s all this then? We took twenty recent hit singles and got a focus group to rate them each out of ten and comment on them. You were allowed to play a joker on one of your scores, which would make whatever you played it on count double. To bulk up the statistics a bit we also played all 20 records at a Freaky Trigger club night and handed out a ballot for people to fill in. We also sent the ballot to a few people who couldn’t make the group itself, mostly from outside the UK.
How does it work? Each record has an average score out of 10, and also a controversy score – the higher the score, the more it split our panel. The result is a TOTALLY SCIENTIFIC determination of which pop is Best.
What happened to the Seventh Focus Group?? Um….er…we used to run the Focus Group every six months, with 35-40 records and a lot more participants. These took a lot longer to do and by the time they appeared they were often a bit out of date. Finally the seventh focus group never actually saw publication – I still have a huge Word file full of edited comments and will do something with it soon, so your commentary has not been wasted!
Why wasn’t I invited? We’re trying to keep the numbers of participants down, so I just grabbed some names from my address book and sent it out to them. Get in touch if you want to be included in the next group.
Who are these people? See the Top 5 page for a list of commentators. Thanks to everyone else who filled in a form at the club night, and thanks also to Alan Trewartha whose handwriting defeated me at the editing stage – sorry Alan!
20. MADONNA – “American Life”
Squirly squirky squirly squirky squirly squirky squirly squirky. Ptunt ptunt ptunt ptunt. Fffffffff. Nnn-nn-n-nn. Uh-uhhhuh-uhhu. Strum-strum-strumstru-ahh-ahh-ahheh. Ghhhhhh-eah ghh-ghh-eah-eah. Stopstartstopstartstopstartstopstart stompstompstompstomp untuntuntunt sqee-ee-ee-ee-ee blat fft ink shhshhshhshh vrhhhhhhhhh ykykyk bleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.
She’s being a bit of a ponderous grown-up which is entirely her prerogative. This is really really ace, and I quite like the rap, so there. 8 (AL)
Raps as well as Brett Anderson. Good squidgy noises. Dreadful lyrics. 7 (SH)
The funniest song in the Focus Group – ever. Like watching a particularly nasty car crash. That more cars keep crashing into. When she raps a plane crashes into the whole sorry mess. 5 (PB)
The most disappointing of the selections, what was innovative has become old, what was fresh has become narrow. The only way she can hook up with Missy is a gap ad and everyone but her knows the producers that she should work with. For the first time since the 80s I no longer care what she produces. (The odd thing is that the sung vocals, stripped of their annoying production seems technically strong) 4 (AE)
I live in Archway / I buy things off eBay / I clean my own kitchen / But here I am bitching. 2 (MH)
**JOKER** This used to be my playground. **JOKER** 2 (JB)
A poor entry to her canon, entirely sunk by lyrics written for an O-Level English Empathy essay. 1 (MA)
That rap! Oh that rap! I quite like her Gap advert song, coz it’s like her old stuff. 1 (JL)
She should know better. 0 (AC)
Maybe this isn’t really totally unlistenable. It’s semi-OK until the rap…but the rap is so excruciatingly awkward it leaves me convinced that her once-peerless gift for saying exactly the right thing at exactly the right time has completely evaporated. She bares her soul and renounces the masks that made her both a star and a critical object of wonderment, and reveals herself to be obsessed with personal authenticity, somewhat insulated from the “real world,” and given to keeping people as pets — in other words, a dismally ordinary celebrity, something Madonna never before was, and never was supposed to be.
Five years from now, drag queens will not be doing routines to this. 0.0 (MD)
19. ROOM 5 feat OLIVER CHEATHAM – “Make Luv”
Does what it sez, convinces you to do what it sez. Extra credit for deployment of cricketchirp guitars (I stand defenseless before thee). 8 (JB)
All bow down before the advertising industry. Or bend over. 4 (MA)
I wore Tom’s Lynx in Barcelona and no women danced around me. 2 (IS)
A night out in Cleethorpes. 1 (TH)
This is a cunt’s trick. “I like to party / Everybody does.” Right! So stop spoiling our parties! Room 5 has just taken over from Room 101. 0 (PB)
Offends most parts of me. 0 (AC)
Much though I love them Daft Punk are to blame for this. Fucking awful. 0 (TE)
18. COLDPLAY – “Clocks”
smart enough to let the hook be song, savvy enough to have his voice break on the word ‘home’, fast enough to skip past Radiohead directly to U2. 7 (JB)
Cocks more like. Better when he does not sing. 5 (SC)
I’m sure my boss would like this. This is just them recording their piano exercises. Rock on Grade Three! 4 – oh, and cocks more like. (MA)
Usual sludge. Nice piano. Also cocks more like. 3 (SH)
Tick tock, please stop. 3 (JL)
Cocks more like. The Moped version is much better. Strangely the song has made me acutely aware of the clocks in the room. Not their worst. 2 (PB)
The weepy and melodramatic nonsense a housewife hears in the record store while birthday shopping for an ungrateful son. She buys the album, thinks for the first time she was 17 she is cool. She isn’t. 2 (AE)
Cocks more like. More relentless than Benny B. Shut up you self-satisfied heir to a caravan fortune tosspot. 0 (TH)
17. FAST FOOD ROCKERS – “Fast Food Song”
Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! And it’s clever – ‘eat to the beat’. 10 (IS)
Eat to the beat! Best concept ever! A 10 for sure if it mentions Dallas Chicken. Ley change! Oh sod it. 10 (SC)
Cheap novelty, making the food is sex metaphor for the umpteenth time, so why
have I been humming it for an hour? 6 (AE)
It’s catchy, it sort of reminds me of Steps first single, when you thought they were just going to be a karaoke novelty act. FFR will be number one by Christmas, just give them an Abba or Bee Gee’s song to cover. Along with the Cheeky Girls watch them dominate the Tweeny market. 6 (JL)
How angry must the marketing director of Burger King be? Harmless playground fun and bonus points for planned obsolescence band name. Exactly as good as Electric Six. 6 (TE)
Pop is all about this: doomed romantic adolescents lay their souls bare. Passion and excitement and love. 4 (TH)
Never really convinces you of its desire
for or love of fast food (or “fast food”) the way David Trout’s “Fast Food
Song” did, and to pull off something like this requires you gotta mean it, man. 4 (JB)
Far too much verse! I had no idea! Needs a Scooter remix. 3 (SH)
Amiable chooon that would be much improved by being about ANYTHING apart from fast food and/or getting it on. Sparks would have done this so much better, and probably have. 3 (AL)
The first song played entirely on a polyphonic mobile phone. Fast Food Rockers promote healthy eating – and unhealthy listening. A song to get obese to. If you like this you are fast food rockists. 2 (PB)
Why is she singing in an American accent? This is how Steps started. 0 (MH)
My childhood set to a pounding beat. This is not good. Unrealistic portrayal of service in fast food places. 0 (AC)
16. PINK – “Feel Good Time”
When did Pink become my dealer for catchy sing along pop? When did she figure out when to make the perfect chorus? This must have come like a golden shower from Heaven, because something so perfect could not have contained itself in the studio. 10 (AE)
Beck wrote this ; it would be better if he sang it. 7 (MH)
Pink is the single worst artist currently working in any field of the arts anywhere in the world. I quite like this one. 4 (TH)
Destiny’s Child were assertive, sassy go-getting – attitude fired through hooks and beats to inspire admiration, ambition and respect. What on earth possessed somebody to replace them with Pink? 3 (MA)
She doesn’t sound like she would know any kind of good time. Her wretched vocals spoil what is quite good fun, hooky backing. Pink – stink more like. 3 (PB)
For god’s sake Pink stop trying to sound hard! The American Robbie. 2 (TE)- 1 2 3 4
He’s mostly forgotten now, but for mandatory plays of the wonderful I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday, and as the answer to the trivia question of whose was the first record played on Radio 1, but I think Roy Wood was a truly great pop star, for lots of reasons.
1. He made loads of terrific singles – a string of fine hits with the Move and Wizzard plus the one ELO single I ever liked, 10538 Overture.
2. The look: he wasn’t terribly lovely, so went for entertainment, with a colossal beard and yards of false hair in every colour of the rainbow, which he would pull out in handfuls as he performed.
3. The show: if you catch any of the old performances on TOTP2 or some such, especially those of Wizzard, there will be costumes (I fondly remember gorillas playing saxophones), dancing, backing performers and lots of larking around. There may not be any act ever who offered more fun TOTP performances.
4. With the arguable exception of George ‘Shadow’ Morton, one of the greatest geniuses in the history of pop, no one ever understood Spector’s production better than Roy Wood.
5. He made the soloest album ever – on Boulders he wrote everything, sung everything, produced everything, played nearly forty different instruments (sitar, clarinet, banjo, bagpipes…) and (the clincher) he painted the album cover.
I think he should be regarded as some kind of national treasure, personally.
AMY STUDT – Misfit
What Pete misses in his comments below, correct though he is about the quality of Studt’s songwriting, is the best enunciation of the word ‘arse’ in the charts at the moment. There’s no lame ‘ass’ in evidence here; no, our girl Amy goes for a full, rounded, rolling ‘arse’. Misfit? Miss Fit more like.