Posts from 28th July 2004

Jul 04

Getting it wrong

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 341 views

Getting it wrong — indirectly inspired by the comments below on the latest from Simon. I now wonder how much somebody getting something wrong intrigues me as a result, by which I can mean creating music and/or (more importantly for this discussion) hearing it. It seems to me that there can be less a question of challenge and surprise at hearing something ‘different’ than there is a question of hearing something wrong, with the definition entirely up to the listener or the commenter on same. There was a comment on ILM about somebody who said that it took him forever to come around to liking Phish because he wasn’t hearing it correctly, but the more interesting part of it all was the idea that at one point he felt he was hearing something wrong. What I like about the idea is of course that at one point he felt like he was in fact hearing it correctly, but what I also like about it is that it is not necessarily teleological. There is as much chance of never getting a revelation on the road to Damascus as there is of getting one, and more to the point it shouldn’t necessarily be called a revelation at all. More later, perhaps.


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A-Z of Europop: very useful.

Looking Askance From ’63: well-written and diverse MP3 blog.

Lots could be said about Simon R’s latest post – clearly we’re meant to hold our leftist hands up in horror and defeat at the mention of ‘market forces’, but market forces are (theoretically) what govern the whole of a market society (i.e. niches and mainstream). Simon’s sneaky name-and-shame gambit can be swiftly turned back on him if you give his self organising autonomous etceteras their secret name of “entrepreneurs”.

a celebration of the critical strengths of

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a celebration of the critical strengths of not bothering actually even to listen (or indeed read): obviously i can see why this saves time – it is EXTREMELY handy to have a little codebook which tells you in advance where good music must come from, what country, what neighbourhood, what process, and allows you to discuss it in “depth” without ever having to hear any of it

“Pop today is reworking and recombining materials that in greatest part originally came from [Self Organising Autonomous Cultural Activity]. Pop has no resources of its own, apart from the archive of its own earlier reworkings of SOACA material.” Even if this were true (it’s not, of course – “pop” has lots of resources that undergrounds don’t have) (yes yes and vice versa), it wouldn’t say ANYTHING about relative quality of recombinance/reworking versus “original” in re either their respective intended theatres of operation (a local “underground” vs the vastly scattered atomised outreach of the world’s public – or more properly, small but still scattered segments of them), or – just as important – the unintended theatres they spill into.

What Simon is saying pretty much boils down to the old Musician’s Union slogan “KEEP MUSIC LIVE”: but the effects of transmission-at-a-distance, to outsider audiences not “in on the codes”, by means other than word-of-mouth, and our involvement in these – how we use them, deal with them, bounce off them – are PART OF THE WHOLE STORY.

(Also: the notion that ANY of these scenius-type undergrounds operate outside the reach of the market – or that small local organisations are intrinsically or more radically anti-market than large ones – is just silly. The demand for constant novelty is nothing if not a market demand: the underground=>overground model is entirely shaped by market ideology.)

I probably feel the way abt the buzzphrase “transcending binaries” that he did in 1988 abt “pride and dignity”, but the point JUST TO STRESS IT YET AGAIN is not the the goofy 12-ft-lizard strawpopist belief that the “only good music is music in the top 40” (let alone that “everything/anything in any given top 40 is good”), it’s that the assumption that the processes by which a hit gets made can NEVER produce surprises, or challenges or shocks to yr own soundworld, is (historically) completely unjustified (in fact the entire history of pop/rock/rap clearly testifies to exactly the opposite). And if this all changed sometime in the last decade – which of course it may have done – then the change has to be explained (what’s the economic analysis?) (we cd always blame downloading i spose). Obviously undergrounds produce effects chartmusic can’t; vice versa is also the case. Local scenes go stagnant precisely bcz (walled off from the great outside) they STOP being able to challenge themselves: mass media is a vector from and a link to the world outside yr little scene (yes sometimes a very treacherous or destructive link) (treachery and destruction are challenges and shocks).

I don’t entirely trust Simon’s ears on this specific issue anyway: not only does he “hear” nothing in chartmusic except what his theory tells him he will hear, he has always pretty much explicitly argued that theory’s prejudgment OUGHT to be the organising principle of cultural apprehension – and he’s cheerfully admitting he’s NOT LISTENING (ie interested) ANYWAY!!

[UPDATE: OK, looking at this post again this morning, it is a bit harshly and unjustly expressed (esp. as Simon is someone I like!!) More temperate exploration of ideas in the comments box.]

THE SQUARE TABLE 7/ Lou Reed – “Satellite Of Love ’04”

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THE SQUARE TABLE 7/ Lou Reed – “Satellite Of Love ’04”


Lou Reed must surely have one of the most horrible voices in rock: a weak, blank, tissue-thin method-acting smug smirk. I’m fairly sure it’s why I’ve never been to New York. This remix takes a smarmy track, locates its pretty hook, applies said hook liberally and improves things greatly – but that void of a voice is still all over it and any joy the mixers inject is soon spent. 3. (Tom)

So we take the jazz hands equipped ending of Satellite Of Love and make a song out of it, only occasionally breaking into the dirgey bit that preceeded it as some sort of anachronistic ‘verse’. No, sorry, it doesn’t work. The reason the end of Satellite of Love is the best bit, is that it is THE END. You can’t make it the BEGINNING and THE MIDDLE and hope to have the same effect. 2 (Pete)

Really, Lou, it should have been “Sally Can’t Dance.” 2 (George Kelly)

Well, the bouncy opening made me laugh. I can’t tell if it’s serious or taking the piss. I really like the original – I think it’s the loveliest thing Lou ever did. This seems to strip away the beauty in favour of an absurd jolliness, which Lou’s laconic vocals hardly fit. It could almost be part of a Jive Bunny Lou Reed megamix (I have a friend who does very convincing Chas & Dave style versions of anything, and much of Lou’s Berlin works particularly ‘well’ in that style). I’m all in favour of remixing rock classics, and of treating them with complete disrespect, but I think this is misconceived and pretty dreadful. 2 (Martin Skidmore)

I don’t know why they need a radio edit now, and a radio edit that seems to take out most of the lyrics, and one that makes it sound like bad Bonnie Tyler. Dull, dated and strangely completely balls-less. His girlfriend is doing shit for NASA, maybe she could teach poor Lou about interesting developments in new satellite technology. (Is this label revenge for the bizarre ego trip that was The Raven?) 2 (Anthony Easton)

This seems to lack the spark and charm of Supermen Lovers ‘Starlight’ or countless other happy dance pop anthems. I can imagine maybe liking it if I was 6 years old again (big VU fan I was back then of course) but twenty years later this is just offensive in its half-assed approach and lazy production values. Only fun in the ‘Happy Shopper Reduced To Clear’ sense. I think I’d even rather listen to ‘The Raven’… 2 (Steve M)

The original’s a great enough record that it still packs a pretty powerful pop punch rejigged, and I won’t mind if this comes on when I be clubbin’, but it’s still a pretty lazy record. Highly inferior to Junkie XL, “Are You Ready For Love?” and yes, even that Neptunes remix of “Sympathy For The Devil”. 4 (Daniel Reifferscheid)

I honestly found nothing either appealing or unlikable about this track. It’s just as if I’ve wandered into a Gap and can’t get out. Don’t suppose it helps that I’ve never been much of a Lou Reed fan. I imagine I must be missing something here but for the life of me I couldn’t tell you what it might be. Best I can muster is a shrug. 4 (Forksclovetofu)

My sister has this tinny little radio preset to some station devoted to R&B (spelling?) and they’ve been playing this Lou Reed track quite a bit. But it doesn’t sound good on a tinny radio. If all you catch is this voice going ‘Satelli-i-i-te’ over and over again surrounded by all this static, you’re not going to like it. Maybe if I listen to it properly I might like it, but I’m not too keen on the ‘Satelli-i-i-te’ bits anyway. 4 (Bushra)

Some glam-pop influences seem to have re-fought their way onto the dancefloor they’ve been absent from since the messy last days of the Walton Hop. Kompakt recently took things to a logical – and maybe too obvious, too much given away – end with that “Hot Love” mash-up slash cover slash homage. Though the Bowie axis of glam rock is less dancefloor friendly than the Gary Glitter one, Dab Hands is convinced that this song can be turned into a floorfiller by using the most catchy part of the original, the classic coda in all its camp splendour, as the leitmotiv for a remix. The actual verse of the original song, along with its playful piano phrase, is used as the breakdown of the song, a nice touch that nearly lives up to the task of revitalising the charms of Lou Reed’s “Transformer”. Sadly, the rest of the track doesn’t feel as inspired and inspiring. 5 (Diego Valladolid)

Peculiar incongruity corner. but, y’know, in a pretty entertaining way, a club mix you can’t actually dance to, Lou Reed himself sounding peculiarly out of place… it’s a very happy record. Maybe too happy. The kind of happiness that tends to arouse suspiscions. If The Polyphonic Spree were to ever live up to the single mix of ‘Soldier Girl’, it’d probably sound somewhat like this. 7 (William B Swygart)

The Lou Reed original was always a grotesquely indulgent piece of Reed egoism – winkingly ironic, falsely naive, ponderously slow. Stripping it down to its bare essentials and forcing it to dance is a fitting fate, and it makes it sound a hell of a lot better. Don’t know what this says about Reed and his song, but this is as pure a slice of cutesy, sunny day, children’s music as you can get. Perversely, this piece of pop-cheese is a whole lot more soulful than the original – indeed it’s closer to the knockabout fun of the Velvet Underground’s version. 7 (Derek Walmsley)

This is how I like my remixes: stripped of its 70s jacket, Satellite Of Love 04 feels instantly NOW. Despite my reservations – expecting Groovefinder to merely slap some wishwashy housebeat underneath Loud Reed smug vocals – I rrrreally love this track. Every space has been filled, every beat has been placed. It isn’t the glam love song it once was, but then that already exists on Transformer. 8 (Stevie Nixed)

Yep. Lou Reed shakes-a-puddin’. Better than “A Little Less Conversation,” not quite as good as “Rubbernecking,” but Lou’s alive and Elvis is in Arkansas, so score one for the wild side, what the heck. It’s got a good beat, and I would’ve danced to it, except I was sitting down, so I did the appreciative “that’s a pretty snazzy beat” headbob instead. Bonus points are awarded for conjuring the image of Lou Reed: Disco Diva (doo do doo). I hope he’s saving this for his Bridget Jones’ Diary project. 8 (David Raposa)

More SEQUEL than REMIX, this version picks up where the original left off, when it really started to sound like it was going way up to Mars. Perfect. Like “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door”, I always felt that “Satellite Of Love” should have lasted at least 3 minutes and eight seconds longer than it did, because it found such a groove at the end. And here it is. The Polyphonic Spree on dexys, this one. Should be longer still. 9 (Henry Scollard)

The Indycars on Channel 5

Do You SeePost a comment • 388 views

The Indycars on Channel 5 are, in one way, ideal viewing at about half-one in the morning. The commentators are unfailingly dull , and the action (My brother: “So basically all they do is keep turning left?”) gets squished into forty minutes with little regard for bothering to explain when they’ve cut from one bit to another bit that happened half an hour later, which isn’t much help as the editing is of the usual random hacking standard of most of the sports programmes Five imports from the US. Lead changes are about as frequent as they are pointless. Round, round, round they go. And again. And again. Eventually someone wins, but you’ve fallen asleep long before all that.

However, there’s a slight problem, in that you may well not have fallen asleep before the ‘grid sequence’. This isn’t good, because the grid sequence is one of the most indefinably eerie things currently on television. What you get are computer-generated models of the cars rolling out onto a black and green wireframe reconstruction of the track. Then, above each car, the disembodied head and shoulders of its driver, announcing their name and the car number. “Tony Kanaan, Car 33.” Then it moves on to the next one. The whole exercise is conducted with the minimum of atmosphere, these one-second glimpses of complete strangers, no music or anything, just disembodied heads checking off the name and number, almost like they’re heading off to their own cremation. Brr.

Still, at least it doesn’t feature James “Look Mum! I’m Out Of Murray’s Shadow!” Allen, which is a sort of blessing.

Do they take us for fools?

Do You SeePost a comment • 879 views

Do they take us for fools?: few forms of media are worse than the Radio Ad* but the new Toyota one takes some kind of cake (possibly Battenburg). Vaguely geezerish regional bloke talking about the joys of youth – “going on dates”, yes go on then, “popping down the chemist” – WINK WINK – “got to her house – how was I to know her dad was a pharmacist?” – cue ident. Hey, HOLD ON A BIT. This is surely a rubbish, poorly-paced radio remake of the not-too-distant Levis TV ad with the identical situation/gag (but considerably more flair). Have they no shame? How this relates to Toyota I know not – of course I can remember the brand so THEY HAVE WON. Even so, poor show.

*(recent partial exception: Average Noodles.)


Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 246 views

Picoletta: food blog! Only just got going. What amazes me is the VAST list of food blogs on its sidebar – we have been lagging in our linkage, there’s a veritable gobblesphere out there…

Downhill Racer was on BBC2 last week late

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Downhill Racer was on BBC2 last week late, and a drunk me stayed up to watch it not remembering how it ended. IDIOT PETE. This is a sports film. For all of its slightly unusual sports subject, it is as formulaic as they come. Bobby Redford is the blonde haired ski-ing Natural (really). Gene Hackman is his stick-up-arse coach. It is the dichotomy of training versus skill couched in the non-experimental world of the Hollywood sports film.

The final sequences say it all. Redford, races second to last. The world champ does a world champy kind of time, leaving Redford to break the kind of time his lack of discipline usually lets him down on. Hackman keeps him informed about the course (loose snow). In an admittedly tight and exciting sequence, Redford bombs down the hill and just breaks the champs time. Uproar. This is the first time an American has done this in the Olympics. The networks and fans cheer him.

Of course, someone else is coming down the hill. The last competitor. We hear quietly in the background that he too is very close to the time. Celebrations continue. No American has even been in the medals in the Olympics. Redford is keeping an eye on this other skiers time, but everyone else thinks it is all over.

This is a Hollywood film. It is all over. The other skier falls. Redford wins. But no American had even been in the medals before. Surely silver would have been an equally great accomplishment, and also underline a message about counting our chickens. In ski-ing, as in show-jumping or gymnastics, only the last competitor truly knows what he is racing against. In many ways it is a pure way of competing, truly against what your potential is. In many other ways (including spectacle) it is a rubbish way of deciding who is best. In sport you have to work best against a deadline. Downhill Racer could have hinted to this, but retreats into the same old cliches.

Whatever happened to show jumping?

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Whatever happened to show jumping? These days it is barely seen on television, probably just as part of three day eventing in the Olympics (and trust me, there is plenty of time over the next few weeks to talk about horse walking sideways). When I was a kid though show jumping was everywhere. One of the few times a year I was allowed to stay up late was for the finale of the Horse Of The Year show. No-one in my family particularly liked horses, but there was a feeling that this was an important event. These days, it does not even get a look in.

This was prompted by a brief view of the show-jumping at Hickstead on Belgian television. The Belgians were coming third so it was perhaps due to their high standing in the sport that it had more presence (the Brits were second though.) The initial interest was flickered by the generic yet different layout of the course. I wondered if the obstacles were regulation (pretty much yes) and if the order and distances were also ruled upon (again yes, but loosely). However the whole thing became much more humorous when a show-jumper, name of Robert Smith turned up.

As our brains clicked over trying to think of suitably horsey takes on Cure songs*, we watched Robert make a good fist of the course, with just one fault. There is something about this kind of horsemanship which, if it were not for its utter pointlessness, would be very impressive. A near miss on the water made us all wince. And I remembered that here, like in ski-ing and bobsleigh, the attempt to beat an already extant time can actually be quite thrilling. (Which prompts me to say something about Downhill Racer on Do You See here). And then the question came up: Robert Smith – is he any relation to Harvey Smith? And then I remembered why everyone liked show-jumping in the seventies. Harvey Smith – the class warrior who conquered show-jumping. More to follow on class, show-jumping, Harvey Smith and why my parents watched show-jumping. After I have asked them.

*Which were nigh on impossible. One for the comments box I think.

In praise of fresh corn

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 369 views

In praise of fresh corn — I realized last night that corn (or maize if you will) on the cob is truly a divine food. Basically I’m lucky enough to have a couple of friends who raise a number of plants on a small plot of communal garden, and have done so with great success, and I always offer to help out a bit and reap the according rewards. So right now I have a slew of tomatoes that I’m going to try and make into a soup tonight plus some fantastic cucumbers, but last night was cooking up two ears of picked-not-more-than-a-hour-previously corn via a quick boiling, a little bit of butter, salt, pepper and Parmesan cheese. And I was a happy man.