Posts from 28th July 2004

Jul 04


FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 287 views


Part of the joy of my recent trip to Venezuela was the chance to exchange CDRs with a good friend down there (thanks again Miggie!) and among the goodies I received were three efforts by Soda Stereo, one of those bands I knew existed but didn’t know anything by or where to start. All were good in their own way but the first one I listened to was Dynamo and knowing nothing about the band I thought this might have been their first effort (hardly — they had already been around a decade by the time it was recorded in 1992).

Because if it had been, then goddamn would it have been The Great Lost Goth/Shoegaze Record of all time. And in a way it still is — one of my fellow All-Music Guide reviewers said this album was the band at its “most eclectic, most ignored, and most experimental”, and I suppose the only immediate comparison point might be the Smashing Pumpkins’ fascinating Adore. But more accurately it suggests how Chapterhouse might have had a more lingering influence than anyone would have credited it for at the time as well. Loops and textured guitars and quite a hell of a lot of the Cure, and more.

Putting this more into a bit of context, as noted it wasn’t a debut effort, and by the time of its release Soda Stereo was in ways the U2 or maybe the Simple Minds (guitarist/singer Gustavo Cerati had a major Jim Kerr jones in the vocals, thankfully not quite the late eighties blowhard, more the mid-eighties scaling up for arenas) of South America, wildly popular on an international level beyond its home country of Argentina. So maybe this was their Achtung Baby but cripes, does it work so much more effectively than that release, no chest-beating anthems, more a kaleidoscope of sound from a band wanting to try more than they had. Based on the earlier efforts I’ve now heard, they had something, but this wasn’t merely dabbling but full on bootstrapping, lovely singing, variety throughout, pushes all my buttons very easily.

I see more clearly now why Chuck Eddy values early nineties Latin American rock as he does. Mind you, maybe he actually hates this.


Proven By SciencePost a comment • 323 views

OWL. Is this Science or Engineering then?

Surf entrepreneurs take note

TMFDPost a comment • 227 views

Surf entrepreneurs take note: I can’t get too worked up over a degree in surfing being available – hey, if you want one it’s your student loan repayments – but the reasons for offering one seem disingenuous. Surf graduates will help the UK “grab a slice” of the $2.6bn surfing industry, we’re told. But the UK surfing industry, such as it is, does pretty much as well as it can do, given that to the best of my knowledge you can count the surf-worthy UK beaches on one hand. At the moment, we are told, Australia, Hawaii and California make all the money out of surfers. The injustice! TMFD would humbly suggest that this is perhaps down to them having i) beaches and ii) great big waves in the iii) same place, rather than their superior education systems.

(By the way why are these degrees called “Mickey Mouse” rather than anything else?)

I recorded then watched Channel 4’s ‘X Rated: The Pop Videos They Tried to Ban’

Do You See2 comments • 1,693 views

I recorded then watched Channel 4’s ‘X Rated: The Pop Videos They Tried to Ban’ the other day, and spent much of it’s duration begging Jayne Middlemiss (unfair to single her out, and hardly new to pick on TV talking heads but never mind) to actually venture her own opinion for once rather than just stating the obvious as if it was somehow learned rather than just basic observaton.

But when Jayne did manage to state a view with what seemed like a shred of actual ‘this is what I – not the producers – think, actually’ emotion, I just felt even more embarassed for her and the programme. The view in question amounted to indignation regarding the video for Prodigy’s ‘Smack My Bitch Up’. More interesting than the video (meh) was JM’s minor outburst, the lingering camera only serving to accentuate the pompousness of it all, and the sense of pre-meditation. Do the programme-makers use the likes of Middlemiss and Gina Yashere i.e. TV presenters with no apparent knowledge of the subject they are discussing other than the press clippings or videotapes they may have seen just before filming, because they want to make them look stupid?

The shrewd editing of 2 Live Crew’s Luther Campbell so that he appeared just as conservative and hypocritical (deeming TATU ‘sick’ etc.) as the buffoons who petitioned to have his material banned from record stores in the 80s also a case in point. If so then this would be the only thing I learned from the predictably but still disappointingly banal look at naughty music videos. Other ‘revelations’ (Trent Reznor obsessed with S&M, Jonas Akerlund ‘not’ out to cause controversy, rock stars and rappers equal in exhibiing violent and misogynystic behaviour alongside a penchant for titillation, duh) all second hand. Too bad they couldn’t get a word from Pharrell on the supposed rationale of N.E.R.D.’s ‘Lapdance’ video (the naked women representing politicians, obviously – but that’s old news too I guess).

Paul Morley may get tired of describing the chaotic abandon that accompanied Frankie’s glorious rise to the top of the charts, but it’s always fun to portray the early 1980s as footloose and fanciful – nobody really seeming to understand the exciting new music video genre at the time, but figuring that adding breasts or cunning allusions to sordid sexual acts would be enough to get tongues wagging, eyes goggling and sales soaring. Somehow it worked then, but the cynical and relatively lazy approach of C4’s retrospective evening-fillers ends up only entertaining by default but largely unsatisfying. And afterwards? Not the music videos themselves in all their assorted glory but a repeat of Bo Selecta (breasts and cunning allusions to sordid sexual acts – but without decent tunes over the top, bah). How about a new series of Mirrorball instead? Please?

yes yes but can he write?

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 206 views

yes yes but can he write?:

For years I have loved almost everything abt Alexander Cockburn’s The Golden Age Is In Us: Journeys and Encounters, 1987-1994, from the cover inwards: it’s kind of a blog, actually – snippets of pieces published in print, thoughts abt pieces he failed to write, replies to reader letters, diary entries – and reflections on the three deaths which shadowed the time covered: his mother’s, the Soviet Union’s, and his close friend Andrew Kopkind’s.

The last part of the book also dwells a lot on Kopkind’s own collection of his radical journalism, The Thirty Years’ Wars: Dispatches and Diversions of a Radical Journalist 1965-1994, which wz being put together in the last months of Kopkind’s life. I’ve planned to read the latter for ages, but always put it off: I think unconciously anticipating being disappointed by the tastes or allegiances of someone whose writing I admire (esp. when I don’t always admire his politics). Anyway I finally did a month or two back: and it’s a lovely book. He writes as if he were Cockburn’s grown-up brother – by which I mean that they share certain stylistic flourishes (and Kopkind was the elder by a decade) – but where AC is funny and debunking and playfully unreverential and psychologically shrewd, Kopkind, a genuinely radical leftist in US terms (though far from party-minded) is – despite the elegant belle lettrist clarity of his position – endlessly fascinated, understanding, even gentle with the rank and file of the other side, a gay Jewish East Coast semi-brahmin writing peerlessly, unpatronisingly well about (for example) sex-disgraced televangelist Jim Bakker. He was close enough to the Weather Underground that he calls the collective by its own name for itself, ‘Weatherman’ – he knew personally two of the three Weathermen who blew themselves up with a bomb in the New York Townhouse in 1969 – but he had begun covering Civil Rights agitation in Selma for Time magazine, before travelling to Hanoi with Susan Sontag: this is where he discovered his own politics. In the 70s he covered the rise of Gay Lib, Glam, Disco and the ‘New Age’, and is good on all of them: particularly sensitive, I think, to the growing sense of alienation many in the anti-war movement had from the organisations, strategies, tactics and language which had grown up as a late 60s conduit for this generation of dissident politics, and how many fled for psychic shelter or nourishment under the cultural umbrellas which sprang up as the monolithic counterculture (always a bit of a fiction) came to pieces.

In its desperation and frustration the American left – the left everywhere – has convinced itself that writing like a bunch of snidey daleks is proof of the best intransigent militancy. But actually arguments and anecdotes which show how a politics springs out of and expresses a lived life – Cockburn’s loyalty to and love for friends and family, the tenderness with which Kopkind moves down into the psychosexual subcurrents of friend and foe – seem to me fifty times less frightened and more political.

NYLPM in “cynical” claim!

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 345 views

NYLPM in “cynical” claim!

According to today’s Guardian, the coincidence of “Dry Your Eyes” and Euro 2004 (as mentioned repeatedly round here) was “a fluke”. “I’d like to claim genius, that we sat down and went, ‘Let’s time the single for Euro 2004,’ but I can’t” says committed Manchester United fan Tim Vigon.

Can we believe him?