Posts from 4th August 2004

Aug 04

THE SQUARE TABLE 9 / Terror Squad Ft Fat Joe – “Lean Back”

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I’m not proud of losing touch with hip-hop, even the most commercial big-production hip-hop, so much but facts are facts and that’s what’s happened. All it needs I’m sure is one or two great CD-Rs to make my ears twitch again, but meanwhile this relentless heaviness is making me feel heavy, sluggish, unwilling to dance no matter how much I like the noises. I am heavy, come to think, and frankly that short-of-breath chorus is an unpleasant reminder even if it’s a top pop gimmick. 5 (Tom)

The mix of the rhythm is all on the one-drop kick drum, which feels like an explosion has gone off down the road. A string sample ominously hovers like helicopters overheard. Rhythmically, it’s similar to Vietnam, and indeed it went down a storm when the DJ spun it at the recent Mobb Deep gig.

The vocals are basically hand me downs, standardised big ups and a tired old “gucci sweater” ripped from the Wu Tang; but hollered over this party tune it’s great.

A serious single. Any forthcoming album will be rubbish. 9 (Derek Walmsley)

Even Lil’ Bow-Wow be throwin’ it up! How hot is that beat? Hot enough that the OK Player boards had a lengthy argument about why Scott Storch (previously of “Things Fall Apart” and “Phrenology”) didn’t give this to the Roots. But why hate on Terror Squad? They surf the wax without making waves and choosing to let the beat carry them rather than versa vis is definitely the way to go. I appreciate Fat Joe and Remy Ma (she’s gonna blow up afore too long, without doubt), but the rest of his crew sounds like a slightly weaker Flipmode. The loopy Arabic strings and the spastic hooptie bass is what makes this car go. There’s not a reason in the world why this shouldn’t be one of the ten summer songs of ’04. Please sir, c’n I have summore? 8 (Forksclovetofu)

When indie kids finally conceded that they couldn’t dance they invented a genre which even they could get into with their bodies as well as their ears. They – or some unkind individual – called it ‘shoegaze’. ‘Lean Back’ claims to introduce an equivalent groove-free dance to hip hop, for all those bangers and ballers too fat to get down low. The backing is pretty cool, splenetic plastic prog-hop with a nice bassy thump to it. By the way, have you noticed that that crotch-grabbing dance Eminem does comes spontaneously to small children in need of a wee? 8 (alext)

Disappointingly not about bacon, but that bombastic cello (violin? I don’t know) riff makes up for it. There’s a hint of Eastern tonalities in it, a bit more Timbaland than Adam F perhaps. I didn’t realise this lot were still going – I thought the group had stopped after Big Pun died, and with Fat Joe’s solo success I assumed that was it. Anyway, I like this – very strong music and beats and delivery, even if the lyrics don’t amount to very much. I imagine it must be a big club hit. 8 (Martin Skidmore)

Most misleading song title of the year! I’ve heard this described as a Summer hit, but it seems far too focused on the traditional NYC Hardcore despair to provide unambigous good vibes, even if it comes with its own dance. Still, with DMX retired and MOP gone Rock, this serves a purpose – will Fat Joe ever graduate to the big league I wonder? 7 (Daniel Reifferscheid)

Ooooow yelling over boombastic contrabass strings and then Fat Joe comes in. “Lean Back” slides over the dance floor like a bull-dozer. There’s no avoiding it. You have to move. Never for a moment will you pay attention to the lyrics – that hook gets you dancing, smiling at the line “my niggas don’t dance, we just pull up our pants.” I mean how can you not smile at a line that contradicts your movements? So the strings thump at your stomach, Fat Joe is a bit too oily in his flow, Remy a Lil’Sassy. If you ask me tomorrow morning I’ll probably have forgotten the song, but then it was never about the future on the dancefloor. 7 (Stevie Nixed)

Ain’t nothin’ wrong with a little Hokey Pokey. Cinch that belt, G. 7 (David Raposa)

No fun. Despite the exotic and insistently funky rhythm, this is dirge-rap, and Terror Squad (or at least this particular track) are the hip-hop equivalent of Evanescence. With its menacing undertow, this will sound great as background music when ballplayers step to the plate, but I’m just not in the mood to be scared right now. 6 (Henry Scollard)

It’s OK. They go to a club and make a point of not dancing so you know they hate fun for real, which makes them hard, and makes them Goth, and beause they’re hard Goths they’ve got big fuckoff ork synths (percussion limited to cowbell and bass thuds that are practically unnoticeable on MP3). Why no real strings? I suppose real strings wouldn’t achieve that queerly ‘Arab’ quality quite so fluidly, orchestras also aren’t as user-friendly (you can’t fuck around with an umpteen-member string section the way you can with a computer/synth to achieve a queerly ‘Arab’ sound), and maybe cost-efficiency, too, though with the conspicuous consumption details in the lyrics I’m not sure that’d matter. What is the sound of money being spent nowadays, anyway? 5.5 (Michael Daddino)

He bangs on about committing “grand larceny” and “armed robbery” and then what does he start talking about? Pulling up his pants!!! What? He’s a big kid look what he can do, he can break the law AND wear big kids pants too?? And what does “my arms stay breezy” mean? This grows on me the more I hear it though, and I give it four Bernards Matthew Turkey Dinosaurs out of Ten Chicken Burgers. 4 (Sarah C)

Reminds me that my summer holidays are over. 3 (Diego Valladolid)

Sensible advice about pulling up ones trousers whilst dancing, that whole showing of your underwear thing is a massive dud, I agree. 3 (Jel)

I declare the war on Terror Squad begins now. This is a lumpy old dirge. Some nice secondhand Timbaland middle-eastern strings, whilst Joe belches over it. Not enticing a second listen, making me wish the first listen had not happened. 3 (Pete)

I find this abrasive and abusive, bullying and angry – the pounding gives me a headache, the lines about half the niggas having scars on their face, the loco kid, i can rhyme until i die, the bouncers don’t check us, thats what the fuck i call a chain reaction, fry that cracker, these faggot niggas, all of it is gutter, it’s all angry and it’s all looking to come after me.

The music backing the words isn’t much better, with the squealing of fireworks or bombs, the click clack of drum machines, the martial leanness, the command to lean back has a rapists smarmy charm, especially when coupled with brags about how he fills his pants.

Maybe this is my own essential racism, my geographical lack of understanding of the nature of this kind of track, my ethnic lack of understanding the language and my political fear about being a cultural tourist, but I have yet to hear anything so aggressive as this. (I feel an odd sort of shame that I have not grokked hip hop yet,
with how ubiquitous it has become.) No mark given (Anthony Easton)

Evil under the sun

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 206 views

Evil under the sun — I’ve been reading Donald Rayfield’s Stalin and His Hangmen for the past few days. Good read, not quite as well-written perhaps as the recent similar study of Hitler’s inner coterie The Devil’s Disciples by Anthony Read but equally compelling as a study of men who organized repression and murder for the state, or more particularly the person who ran it. Worth a read if you’re a history wonk, to be sure, but the other day I was struck about how calmly and easily I could read about it in the light of a summer afternoon in California in a comfortable enough suburb, waiting for my bus to take me home. It was less a realization of ‘how nice it is not to have to worry about this stuff, I am in the best of all possible worlds,’ more a sense of how the 1920s and 1930s in Russia seems like little more than murky black and white photographs, where millions perished and were reduced to text on a page.


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Trip through the city, sonically

FOR ONE MONTH ONLY – go and read the links we’ve put on the sidebar, ignore the glib descriptions if you’d prefer. All worth a look.

Did anyone go?

All of a sudden, London has a skyline” (photos)

Tooting Lido 360 degree tour (lovely)

“Yes, I’m Dick Whittington!” (slaps thigh)

Grecian Earn Update

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Grecian Earn Update
Regular readers will, I know, have been chewing away at their fingernails and wondering feverishly: “how are the Freaky Triglets getting on with their Grecian Earn?”

As you’ll see by our totaliser here, we’ve made it more than a tenth of the way to our ultimate goal of ’500 for the City. Current earnings stand at ’63.61, from the following sources:
Belle & Sebastian ticket sale: ’30
Trig Brother 4 Earnings: ’25
Club FT requests: ’04
Indie Amnesty earnings: ’04.61

There will be a whole lot of indie amnesty happening over the next few weeks, so keep your eyes peeled.

Contributions (of money or indie records which you would like us to put beyond your use) still much appreciated. Money-raising ideas similarly welcomed.

Hearty English cuisine

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Hearty English cuisine — one of the first things I’ve also noticed ever since visiting London for the first time in 1992 is the places what sell food. In that hey! they’re the places that sell food in America! So seeing all sorts of Pizza Huts and KFCs and all that fundamentally saddened my foolish and naive 21-year-old self, because I thought that being in London would mean that people ate…

…well, honestly, I didn’t know what they would eat. Fried beer or something, groats dipped in black puddings, whatever it was that was talked about in the various books I read set in London (though I think this was mostly Sherlock Holmes material, come to think of it, so I guess I was also expecting urchins and dudes with pipes climbing over walls).

So, KFC etc., and in recurring visits I seem to have noticed similar such — well, I could snootily call them incursions in the name of the Great Big Corporate Things. There’s already some talk elsewhere on one of the comments for a post below about how Subway stores have settled throughout the city, and I figure bubble tea shops are next if they’re not there already. I’m not complaining, I was long since disabused of the reach of global brands. Well, I might complain about Starbucks.

I’ll have more to say about food in London at another point, as I’ve had my encounters. But I don’t think I’ve ever actually had the alleged native English food anywhere when I’m there (pubs aside, but you know, they’re pubs — they transcend time and space [don’t they?]). I assume the only places that market themselves as restaurants selling such food are strictly for tourists without friends in London to tell them what is wrong about this idea. If it is judged as wrong. Perhaps those who live in London like to take their tourist friends to places like that to scare them.

I think the closest I’ve ever gotten (depending on who you talk to) was when I was wondering what the hell a fast food chain called Wimpy was doing with a name like that (shamefully I had forgotten my Popeye-loving youth). Enthused, various ne’er-do-wells who may or may not post here insisted that in my lack of direct knowledge of a Wimpy was a perfect excuse for a Wimpy FAP. And did one happen? NO. Instead people wanted to go get drunk and dance. So why can’t that be done at a Wimpy? If Saturday Night Fever can show Tony Manero and his coterie being ridiculous at a White Castle, then I tell you it can happen in London as well. Just not at a White Castle. That would be wrong.

Pub Olympics

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 1,458 views

Pub Olympics: the idea of a pub olympics has long been a pet one and often half-heartedly discussed among my fellow disciples of Organised Fun. However I now have the power to turn idea into action – for our work charity each country is putting on some kind of olympic fund-raising event and, of course, I suggested the Publympics as a UK one. The question now is – what events should there be? Naturally I have a few ideas but I thought I’d throw it open to the Publog comments box massive.

Tickle Talk Update

Do You SeePost a comment • 553 views

Tickle Talk Update
An essay on editing, with case studies. Possibly the last essay from the third greatest ever BB contestant, but easily the most interesting, and only coincidentally agreeing with my feelings on the matter. Many BB fans manage to hold strong, to the point of conspiracy theory, views on ‘biased editing’, but only by overlooking the logistics of the show – the tv crew don’t have very long to cobble together a lot of rather dull footage, and they can only do it a day at a time.

Like a good scientist Tickle even sums up his conclusions with bullet points. Bless. I love his amateur “i’ve done a bit of telly” schtick. And I’m not being sarcastic.

Long Dark Tunnel

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(Confessions Of A Metropolitan Claustrophobe part 1)

Living and travelling around and through London is easy on the Tube, despite all it’s flaws. But take it away and the nightmarish urban journey takes on a new dimension. Around six years ago now I decided I really couldn’t face travelling underground anymore – more for fear of irrational panic attacks and subsequent humiliation rather than a feeling I was actually in genuine danger. Quite what brought this on other than an over-active imagination I’m not sure. Delays between stations were always tense. Perhaps some see no difference whether it’s underground or overground – the simple fact that you are unable to womble free is an inconvenience irrespective of where and on what level it takes place. But something about the tunnels got to me in the end. Where once I adored passing through them, taking regular carefree trips around the city exploring everywhere and anywhere, somehow despite having grown up and having learned how to apply rational thought to situations far better than I had been able to as a child and adolescent, a fear took hold – merely the fear of being trapped, unable to move, unable to escape – and never knowing exactly when you would be able to again… (actual answer: couple of minutes, nine times out of a hundred).

Ridiculous? Of course. Irrational phobias tend to be ridiculous by default, though they can be quite reasonable at the same time. It might make more sense if some traumatising incident had happened to me on the Tube in the past, but thankfully no. I was not on that late night Northern Line service that ended up hurtling backwards past three stations one night because the driver fell asleep on his Dead Man’s Handle. Nor was I on the Victoria Line morning service when one train broke down at Highbury & Islington causing the two just behind it to stop in their tracks for the best part of an hour. Weirdly however, I’ve recently used the subterranean Metro in Bilbao and the subways in New York and Chicago and I enjoyed them. You can feel a strange sense of indomitability far from home though, as if nothing can really hurt or flummox you, because half the time you don’t feel like you are really there.

Friends remain confused and bemused. But absteining had some advantages. I saved money and I got to see parts of London I had not before via the bus or the invaluable Metrolink. Confidence was gained in having a better grasp of bearings and alternative travel routes around town. Moving closer to the centre of the city also helped. Prior to that I had travelled underground maybe just six times in as many years, the most recent time confirming my fears somewhat – our Northern Line tube screeching to a half abruptly just before Warren Street, the engines going eerily quiet (the darkness through the windows, the silence – broken only by the occasional sighing and tutting from passengers, or the giggling from my American friends as I nervously played with my phone, all very unsettling). Of course about three minutes later we were on the move again, and I had not freaked out. Yet the reluctance persists. It’s habit now. Often I find myself hovering around the station entrances just wondering what the hell my problem is. Sometimes that torrent of warm air rises up from the escalators, followed by the throngs of addled gasping passengers. At that point I hop on the bus…

What to do? Hypnosis? Perhaps take part in those organised emergency drills LU invite the public to participate in as volunteers? Or stay as I am, confident at least that I’ll get from Angel to Brixton eventually… only not as a sardine. I do miss it though, the art works at Gloucester Road, never experiencing the sci-fi sophistication of the Jubilee Line extension first hand, the extraordinary way the passage from White City to Shepherds Bush seems to take three times longer than it should do given the distance on foot…In the meantime, submit your own tube-related horror anecdotes in the comments box if you wish. I’m off now to prepare another blog post, this time concerning what I have come to term as BUS RAGE…


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MORCHEEBA – “The Great London Traffic Warden Massacre”: The parking shop at Wandsworth Town Hall is a mass of low expectations thoroughly met – laminate zone maps on formica tables, chewed pencils on raffia strings, customers assuming staff are jobsworths, staff assuming customers are fiddlers or fools. I’m a fool: not a driver, I’ve acquired a car by marriage and have no idea which document is what. The staff suffer me as gladly as can be expected. In the lobby, traffic wardens come and go. If this fluffy, forgettable instrumental were to play there the mood would change not a bit.

HEATHER NOVA – “London Rain”: Imagine a Martian who understood only songs: the first thing it would learn about London is how wet the place is. “Nothing falls like London rain”, sultries the singer, out of nowhere. Except other rain, I suppose. “Keep me in your bed all day” she trills for the rest of the song. It’s all a bit Laura Ashley. One for fans of Shell off Big Brother, perhaps.


Do You SeePost a comment • 879 views

FT Top 100 Films

Martin Skidmore says:

I love this film. It’s full of great moments and scenes, beautifully shot, mostly flawlessly acted, with glorious cinematography. I love the scene with the petite girl (Zhang Ziyi) going into the roughest den of thieves in old Shanghai and starting a big fight, knowing she can take on everyone there. I love it when Chow Yun-Fat confronts her trying to get his sword back, and fights her armed only with a twig. It has everything – strong characters, romance, first rate action.

On the other hand, I got rather irritated at the attention and praise it got. This isn’t because it doesn’t deserve every bit of it, but because it isn’t something sui generis. This warrants the praise, but so do lots of other kung fu movies that get no critical attention at all. There is no reason why a few touches of art movie sheen make this in a very different class from the best Hong Kong martial arts fantasies. There was talk, after CTHD’s success, that Tsaio Hark’s next flick might get a general release, but it never happened, but he has made a few films I love as much as this (one to come here in about a week), and there are other great films starring Chow Yun-Fat, Jet Li and others, besides those who haven’t made an international splash. It’s the area of cinema most desperately in need of greater attention and affection, and I am disappointed that this one wonderful hit seems not to have made that happen.