Posts from 10th August 2004

Aug 04

THE SQUARE TABLE 10 / Goldie Lookin’ Chain – “Guns Don’t Kill People, Rappers Do”

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Pop Factor: 400

At Glastonbury, Goldie Lookin’ Chain were enormous; the dance tent was flooded with people trying to cram themselves in and catch a glimpse of the comedy Welsh rap troupe. You wouldn’t have got that sort of crowd for MC Miker G, more’s the pity. From our vantage point by a clothing stall playing 80s pop to drunks (i.e. us) we were able to see GLC’s crowd strangely thin out over the course of the performance.

I’ve not actually sat down and listened to this record, I know it from Radio 1, who have got gamely behind GLC and placed them on some kind of rotation. The first time I heard it I thought it was the worst record of the year. Now I just think it’s tiresome and awfully laboured, but it bounces along without getting in anyone’s way. I was sorely tempted to come over all K-Punk and decry the total lack of intensification (or indeed good jokes) GLC provide – I mean my god, when I was a student I fell for music that MEANT something and FELT something, I didn’t waste my time on idiotic rap pisstakes, what could anyone possibly GET out of this, etc. Then I remember Sultans Of Ping FC and retreat in shame. 2 (Tom)

Guns Don’t Kill People Crrraaahhhhhpaaaaaahs Do.

When was the last time a crapper killed someone? The toilet bomb in Lethal Weapon 2 did not kill anyone, and even the bloke who got stuck in the lavvie on that plane did not die. No, crappers never killed no-one.

Goldie Looking Chain on the other hand are obviously murderous young scamps who are attempting to corner the comedy rap territory. Except they are not even vaguely funny. Scratching from 1938 and rhymes that would have put Morris Minor and The Majors to shame. Shitty Looking Chain more like. 1 (Pete)

21 seconds to go times infinity for 6 (or however many) hawd gankstuh rapphus (wit billy clubs) making like they might be giants, dropping names and stiff old skool iambs like pigeon shit all over Trafalgar. Hip-hop US jingo fuckers knocking Dizzee & the Streets & anyone else from that side of the Atlantic don’t need more ammunition. 2 (David Raposa)

It’s Helen Love for people who’ve just discovered that ‘hiphop has
some quite good production’, innit? 2 (cis)

Backward-Looking Chain, more like. This ironic “rappers and violence” stance is just not very topical (15 years after Ice-T, 8 years after Biggie/Tupac). Not sure I get it. Reminds me a bit of the Black Grape song that sampled/plunderphonicked Reagan about 10 years after he was relevant. (Hell, they might as well have sampled Ten Years After). Even the dirty guitar riff and beastie-yapping seem pretty 90’s. Dizzee and The Streets have raised the bar in British rap pretty high, and this innocuous number just doesn’t cut it. 3 (Henry Scollard)

Streets-wannabes Goldie Looking Chain have come up with a mediocre Hip Hop version of Losing My Edge. Aren’t spoofs meant to be tongue in cheek? I guess not anymore. 3 (Stevie Nixed)

Guns don’t kill people, but tracks like this make me want to kill the people who make them. Annoyingly, this isn’t all bad: occasionally the banality of the sentiments being expressed matches the banality of the attitudes being attacked, and the song finds that awkward crossing point where the politician who likes to blame music or video games for society’s ills and the rapper who likes to pose with weapons meet on the road to heaven to receive their karmic payback from a mutant torture robot. But then if I’d had a decade on the dole to write a novelty rap hit, I hope I’d be able to come up with a couple of half-decent gags too. See you in another ten years boyos? 3 (alext)

Of course all kids should be doing this stuff, but it should circulate on downloads, not on the bleedin’ pop charts. Charismatic lads I reckon, and spending the odd 30 seconds with this tune is fun enough. The jokes don’t quite come fast enough, though, and it’s strangely un-hectic considering the bolshy, hyperactive 12 teenage piece behind it. They all rap the same, and there are multiple lisps are in effect. This is/they are a stoned joke. 5 (Derek Walmsley)

While the name Goldie Lookin Chain rings familiar to me, I guess not only because of its similarity with Gold Chains, I hadn’t heard them before so I don’t know how this song relates to the rest of their material. “Guns Don’t Kill People, Rappers Do” could be playlisted in indie discos and I could appreciate it in that particular context. At home at work at play I wouldn’t be bothered to listen to it, though. The Blockheads-alike groove makes me somewhat curious about the rest of their repertoire, even though I fear that everything except the namedropping will be as retro as this one song. 5 (Diego Valladolid)

Cali’s Gold Chains doesn’t seem to have the lockdown on ol’skool bigbeat whiteboy novelty hiphop anymore. Infectious, silly-ass twoturntablesandamicrophone tracks with shout outs to Scott LaRock put me back on the bus to junior high with the boombox pumpin’ License to Ill. Clearly these guys would love to be Britain’s answer to the B-Boys and I’m pretty impressed with how dead on they hit that note. Lord knows this type of throwback treadmill rap from a European source is unlikely to sell big numbers (or even turn heads) here in the states; I imagine they’d catch a serious beatdown opening for Jadakiss. Still, I’m amused. They’re no Mike Skinner, but they’ll do. 7 (Forksclovetofu)

First listen: I hate this! Horrible parody/novelty record junk. Morris and the Minors, grr, gah, grr!

Second listen: Oh, it’s quite good really. “From Bristol Zoo to BNQ” “saw it in a documentary on BBC2” haha…It’s deceptive! 7 (Jel)

Unlikeliest mainstream catapulting of the year, then? Impossibly sweary Newport posse find themselves on a major label and showbiz pals with the middle-tier of the music industry (Snow Patrol, SFA, The Darkness), and with the bizarre and slightly scary prospect of a second top 40 hit… I really rather like this. They’re not particularly good rappers, but there’s just something about their opening lines – “Guns don’t kill people, rappers do/I’m a fuckin’ rapper and I might kill you” – to these ears, that’s almost as good as, like, MOP or someone. It’s a nice, light, enjoyable three and a half minutes or so, with some genuinely dead funny moments and a half-decent tune wrapped around it. Bonus points for their first hit single being exactly the same as the one they’ve had up on their site for years, plus them hanging up on Wes live on air. 8 (though I’ve this bizarre feeling that’s an awful lot more than anyone else will give it…) (William B Swygart)

A dark tower, or two or three or more

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A dark tower, or two or three or more — I heard about them, tower blocks, I forget where at first. Didn’t actually see any until I came to London, though, and now that I think about it, probably not actually until my second time there in 2000. At that time I would be visiting my girlfriend in New Cross, and the train and/or tube line there would pass through a stretch of town where I saw things like Millwall’s stadium, a variety of low row houses, and tower blocks.

They creeped me out and still do. It’s not that I have something against apartment buildings per se — I’ve lived in a few, none so tall though, and in Coronado where I more or less grew up was a stretch of them down near the beach. So context and place and what I heard about them may be all in this case and probably is — all I know is that whenever I saw them I got a slow chill of desperation and oppression crawling up my back. Probably a fair amount of it is just plain stereotyping via inculcation, societally conditioned bullshit pure and simple. Heck, maybe not just a fair amount of it, perhaps all of it, I’m not sure.

I know nothing about the political and social situation that led to the creation of such places en masse beyond vague bits and pieces — supposedly the great era of their creation was the sixties and seventies, correct me if I’m wrong. I gather the idea was to create cheap but affordable housing, and I suppose in a place less prone to earthquakes than out here such tall buildings made a certain sense somehow. I will defer to those who remember what happened or who lived there to say more.

I don’t think they’re some sort of scar on the landscape transforming pristene London or any hogwash like that, there is no ur-London beyond consensual memory and its transformations. But something in particular about the way they look just seems to me less of a home and more of some monolithic escarpment or stretches of them, like the intent was less to house and more to block out the sun and glower down on the surroundings, to serve as a reminder of a power beyond oneself. It’s not comfortable.

Autocrat of all the Russian histories

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Autocrat of all the Russian histories — If I had my way (eight mansions worldwide, moving whenever the weather gets unpleasant, well stocked libraries for each one, etc.), there’d have to be a huge history section in said library and there would also have to be a large subsection on Russian history. The fascination is actually a bit familial — my parents had a couple of Russian history books around from their college days, and I suspect my dad had his partially because of his line of work (ie, commanding a submarine to keep a watch on the Soviet navy). A bit of ‘know your enemy,’ perhaps, but not just that — both my parents and my parental grandparents, who also had a number of such books themselves and who visited Russia during the height of the Cold War, were always at firm pains to make sure I learned to distinguish the people from the government, a valuable object lesson I hope I still keep in mind to the present regarding just about anywhere in the world.

So along with pursuing an intermittent but hopefully more informed than some awareness of Russian literature and poetry, I’ve read many books over time on Russia past and present, some well-known popular works (Robert Massie’s studies of Nicholas and Alexandra and Peter the Great, Hedrick Smith’s The New Russians), a few more specifically academic ones, and a wide variety of books that aren’t famous but aren’t unknown. Last week I spoke briefly about Stalin and His Hangmen, right now I’m working on W. Bruce Lincoln’s study of Nicholas I, who ruled Russia from 1825 to 1855 from a distinctly preserve-the-existing-order take on things, to put it mildly. But he’s also the most modern czar that I know little about, in comparison to those who followed before and after (though I really need to get around to that Catherine the Great biography I have).

But this is more an appreciation of Lincoln himself, who in ways was actually one of the first authors to specifically get me interested in finding out more about the country. In the eighties, he wrote a book called In War’s Dark Shadow, a study of the years before World War I, but steering away from the understandable-enough overfocusing on Nicholas and Alexandra in favor of a general societal survey. It’s been many years since I read it — I might take the plunge again after I complete the Nicholas I biography — but for me, when I read it in senior year of high school or so, I found it a fine balance of the anecdotal and the wider scope, placing a country and a time in a fashion that helped inform both the books I read later, fiction or not, and the occasional movies I saw set in the time period. Perhaps most recently would have been the stuffy-as-hell eighties film version of Anna Karenina with Christopher Reeve and Paul Scofield — wouldn’t really recommend it to anyone, but seeing the uniforms and fashions and appearances when I stumbled across the broadcast immediately made me guess it was late nineteenth-century Russia, and so it proved.

Lincoln did another book on the Russian World War I and Revolution-era times, got through it but it was pretty overwhelming in terms of size. His style in the Nicholas I bio, his first major book, is informative but sometimes repetitive and is best absorbed in bursts. But I’ll always think of him to one extent or another when it comes to reading up on a country that has always fascinated me and to which I’ll yet visit, one day.

Let yourself be loved down

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Let yourself be loved down — ILX greatheart Velveteen Bingo (the latest of his many incarnations) recently offered up a two-disc CDR mix of a collage of songs from the height of New Jack Swing — not just that, though! — called Velvet Bingo’s Rub You the Right Way Mix. Arguably the tracklisting could say it all for many, but the joy of the collection is hearing the unfamiliar with the well-known, even though it’s all contextual.

Thus, for instance, Nice ‘n’ Smooth’s “Sometimes I Rhyme Slow” — Mr. Bingo talks in that link about his longtime love of the song, but for me it was a totally new number that if famous I just had completely missed. And it’s quite something — I’ll need to hear it again to really get a sense of what it is that works the most for me, but it must have stood out at the time and just as much now, the confident delivery (with this nuance of emotion that made me actually stop to more closely listen more than once), the fluid grace of the music, all self-confidently commanding and just that cut above what could and would have been a nice enough effort. Surprises, new or old — always valuable.

Mmm tomato sauce I love you

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Mmm tomato sauce I love you — the next step in my continuing adventures with regard to tomato prep involved making my first sauce. The recipe itself (thank ya to Lalitree!) is wonderfully simple:

* Three fresh, vine-ripened tomatoes — dice ’em up
* Prep up whatever combination of two cloves of garlic, one green or red pepper or a yellow onion you would like (in my case I stick with just the onion) and saute in olive oil
* Add the tomatoes, simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, stir often, let reduce
* Add to the mix whatever you would further like — many enjoy a teaspoon of sugar, I’m not so much a fan of that myself. I added salt, a general seasoning mix and some red Chilean wine — next time I must add some fresh basil.

Serve over pasta and enjoy. My first attempt was a little too thin, should have let the water evaporate more, but still very tasty. Hurrah!

How Dr Who Made Me A Liberal

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How Dr Who Made Me A Liberal

“Inside the party, more than a few people know I’m a fan, so when a set of Doctor Who-related questions came in to party HQ from a fan group during the 2001 British General Election campaign, I was given the role of answering them (making the Lib Dems the only major party to do so).” Sadly the actual details of the Official Lib Dem Dr Who Policy are missing – unforgiveable! (Also check out the name of the party magazine, ahem.)

Christianity + Marketing = DOOMSDAY

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Christianity + Marketing = DOOMSDAY

(I’m assuming they’re Christians.)

Once upon a time

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Once upon a time New Left Review was in the vanguard of UK film culture, and once in a while it’s still capable of engaging. This piece on cultural tensions in Taiwan includes an interview with Hou Hsiao-Hsien which helps illuminate the background to his films, and those of Edward Yang and Tsai Ming-Liang. Hou articulates something I was trying to get at here, which is the problem faced by filmmakers whose funding comes from the international art-house/festival circuit, but who are concerned to make films about their own cultures. Hou, like Kiarostami, like Ken Loach, depends on mostly French financing to make films about Taiwan, Iran, Britain, whose ‘native’ film industries have been less than supportive. It’s a precarious double-bind, if you bear in mind what happened to British cinema after American capital disappeared at the end of the Sixties.

Swallows and Amazons

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Swallows and Amazons Talking Books
The people who own the rights to make audio versions of the Arthur Ransome books can’t be bothered, despite the lucrative enough trade that exists selling to car-driving tourists in the Lake District. All the same, The Arthur Ransome Society (TARS) produces wonderful readings, abridged, but abridged well, of all his work.

OK, forget the worthy book stuff, the reason I’m writing this, is that the reader of the books, and TARS member, is Gabriel Woolf. Better known to me as providing the wonderful voice (and as if it mattered, body) of the most evil entity in the Universe: Sutekh the Destroyer! The clue is in the URL of that last link. And if you follow a link trail on that page you get to which details a comedy sketch included in the latest DVD releases of Dr Who and the Pyramids of Mars, and then you get such marvels as “I bring you Sutekh’s gift of milk MP3. Pyramids is one of the best remembered Dr Who stories and the scene “I bring you Sutekh’s gift of death” was a key moment in the first episode of Queer as Folk where it was nicely juxtaposed with British Drama’s first ever (?) fisting scene. Marvellous.

PS. Just to justify my hatred of GUI web editors the site above has “” in the title bar! Thanks

To continue my

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To continue my theme of songs on a theme, two particular tunes have been haunting me this week. The first is by the dearly departed ironist Mr Johnny Cash and is called ‘Strawberry Cake’. The second is by a similarly dearly departed heart warmer and horn blower Mr Louis Armstrong and is called ‘Cheesecake’.

There is something so deliciously and nonsensically subversive about songs about cake. Cash’s song is actually *about* the Marie Antoinette inequality between the cake eaters and the non-cake eaters. In it, Johnny ponders the relative merits of a tramp he has seen and a strawberry cake in the hotel in which he’s staying. Next to the spoken word intro on the live album of the same name, its stupidly effective, especially with the back cover shot of Johnny gorging himself. Louis’ effort is nothing short of genius. ‘Cheesecake, gobble, gobble, cheesecake’ he intones, stripping Cash’s song of its hand wringing, taking on the role of that song’s tramp I suppose. The sheer joy with which he munches his way through the lyric speaks volumes. As do the backing vocals that sound like Animal from The Muppets.

But, of course, the much-maligned state of musical irony means that no one has bothered typing out the words for one of those multitudinous online lyric sites. Take this one, ‘real people, honest music’, scant regard for silliness. Yup, romanticised notions of ‘art’ mean these songs are curiosities at best. Harrumph, as ever. But it’s not hard to construct a tottering simile suggesting these songs are meta comments on pop music itself, that joyful pure pleasure-seeking, conspicuous consumption but ain’t it fun, ‘let them eat Busted’ and all that. And from this point of view, ‘MacArthur Park‘ almost makes some kind of self-referential sense.

So, with no further ado, any other cake songs? I want more than just lyrics or mentions of Cake and The Sea and Cake…