Posts from December 2005
This really is the last NYLPM post.
If you’ve enjoyed NYLPM, you might also enjoy:
– the NYLPM archives, which will be staying up.
– the rest of Freaky Trigger, which will sail on unaffected, though with fewer overall hits most likely.
– Popular, which restarts tomorrow with Chris Farlowe and will continue chronologically through the UK’s #1 hits.
So I will be spending 2006 on holiday in the late 60s and early 70s, but will still write a bit about music on various LiveJournal communities, and hopefully one or two things for the Stylus webzine. (If you have a music zine and you’d like me to write something, ask me.)
Meanwhile there are lots of other music blogs. When we started NYLPM in March 2000 there were about three, now there are thousands! Millions! Naturally I don’t actually read any of them but if I find a good one I might update this post with the links. Poke around on the sidebar in the meantime.
Happy 2006, 2007 and ever after. Bye!
This is the last NYLPM post*.
After five and a half years, 3,500 posts and something like forty contributors I’m pulling the plug on this blog. Once upon a time it was the best music blog in the world, more recently it was just something nice to have around, and even if its best days are some years behind us, a hunt through most of its 70 archived months will turn up something worth reading – a review, a snippet of information, an idea or two ready to be picked up on. I may well hunt through myself sometime, and point you to the best bits.
I’m ending NYLPM because – as should be pretty obvious – I’ve no use for it anymore. Readership has been declining, and it’s been declining because the blog has been neglected, and the blog has been neglected because ultimately I’m bored with writing about music in this format. I dabbled in MP3 blogging to spice things up but my heart was never really in it. When I got back from the EMP conference earlier this year I’d had three days of really stimulating conversation about music, I’d heard some fascinating papers, and I realised I no will or desire to write it all up here. So this cancellation is overdue, but I’m still very proud of NYLPM, in its heyday and after.
This blog was never just a solo effort, and my decision to kill it off is a rather selfish one. Apologies and thankyous to Mark, Pete, Martin and Anthony, who were the most regular current contributors. And mighty thanks to Mike Daddino, Ned Raggett, Dan Perry, Maura Johnston, Fred Solinger, Tim Finney, Sarah C, Tim Hopkins, Dave Raposa, Sundar Subramanian, Jess Harvell, Stevie Nixed, Carsmile Steve, Jel, Marcello Carlin, Dr Alex T, Alan Trewartha, Robin Carmody, Greg Scarth, Tracer Hand, Steve Mannion, Stevie T, Jim Cassius, Peter Miller, Mike G, Ronan Fitzgerald, Andy Kellman, Mitch, William Bloody Swygart, and anyone else who contributed and who I shamefully forgot. And thanks to the linkers, commenters and readers too. It’s been a real pleasure and I hope you remember us fondly.
This line was actually said at the end of an Xmo-special ep of the Wonder Years and it has served me well ever since. It can be used in voice over on ANY xmo-special. Add your own. As many times as you like. It’s always appropriate.
Number of times said this xmas holiday: 115 (so far)
For Christmas I got Never Had It So Good, the first part of Dominic Sandbrook’s huge new history of Britain in the sixties. Here’s what he says about the project:
“This book seeks to rescue ‘from the enormous condescencion of prosperity’…the lives of the kind of people who spent the 1960s in Aberdeen or Welshpool or Wolverhamption, the kind of people for whom mention of the sixties might conjure up memories not of Lady Chatterley, the Pill and the Rolling Stones, but of bingo, Blackpool and Berni Inns.”
We knew he shut down Radio Caroline but well will history judge him now we know he was key to stopping nationalisation of the breweries in the 1970s? Bloody left methodist fun hating tradition bah humbug.
In Incredible Hulk comics there’s often a scene where the ’emerald man-beast’, cast out from human society, finds something of fragile beauty – a flower, maybe, or a baby deer – which he then accidentally crushes with his mighty strength. Listening to the Troggs I find myself thinking “Hulk form beat group.” There’s a sluggish heft to the playing which sits oddly with the my-first-love-song rhymes, the ba-ba-bas, the way the chief cave-child picks his way so carefully through his lyrics. I’d call it pig-iron bubblegum, except that sounds kind of appealing.
Farlowe starts “Out Of Time” as conversation but it quickly turns into romp, a cathartic splurge of breakup bile and joyful venom. With most kiss-off songs you can dredge the remains for some spark of former finer feeling, but this performance is a document of a man discovering just how good goodbye can be. There’s not a shred of comfort here, and even the occasional tenderness in the arrangement – like the Spanish guitars – is mocking the trappings of romance. The result is a performance that’s infectiously funny and apallingly cruel. Farlowe attacks the chorus with a different glee every time, launching into it with that huge “Well!”, like it’s an invitation to a singalong, with a bunch of friends on hand to join in twisting the knife. By the end it’s a full-scale party and everyone’s invited except the song’s victim – “Out Of Time” turns into a demonstration, as well as a declaration, of her obsolescence. Farlowe’s so happy he can hardly form the words anymore – heaven only knows how his ex must feel.
aka What I Made For The In-Laws On Christmas Eve
1. Boil and mash some potatoes.
2. Brown some beef mince. Add a little cooking wine and some beef bouillon to make it juicier. I’d meant to do some onion with this but I forgot it.
3. Add raisins and chopped chestnuts and pine nuts to the mince (as much as you fancy).
4. Add ground cinnamon and clove (as much as yr liking for these spices dictates).
5. Cover with mashed potatoes. Cook for a bit in the oven.
6. 5 minutes before the end, put on some peas and switch the oven to grill and put some grated lancashire cheese on top of the mash.
7. Serve resulting shepherd’s pie with the peas.
I put in a little too much bouillon and not enough cinnamon (& forgot the onion) but even so this recipe went down very well indeed, many second helpings asked for which is always the mark of a good dish. It’s quite rich, but then it is Christmas.
(Also this may be cottage pie not shepherd’s, being as it hasn’t got any veg in it. I forget which is which.)
There’s never been another writer anything like Oates, and although she is clearly immensely admired and respected, I don’t think she is as treasured as she should be. She is – no contest – the most prolific serious literary writer ever, by a very long way, which is striking enough even if you don’t know that many of her books are large, nearly all of them are very intensely wrought in terms of feeling and prose, and they are extremely varied, as if she is always needing to stretch herself.
This book is her first aimed at ‘young adults’, the blurb tells me. I’m not terribly clear as to what that means, whether such a sector exists, but this is a little less intense than usual, in some ways, a little lighter. Normally her prose has the demanding gravitas and potency of a Faulkner or Patrick White, but this has less weight and more bounce and light. She’s retained all of the strength of feeling and richness of character from her heftier old-adult novels – the Big Mouth of the title is a teenage boy who makes some cracks at school that are reported to the police as death threats. He’s in the line of a number of other Oates characters for whom one incident turns them into legends, if only on a local scale (and this of course fits with her fascination with Monroe, as in the magnificent fictionalised bio Blonde), and she’s terrific on the image and the reality, the outside and the inside. The Ugly Girl is a really remarkable character, strong and complex and rich and unique and familiar, one of the most impressive creations I’ve read in years, sad and impressive and difficult. Not all that much happens after the opening incident kicks things into gentle motion, but it’s packed with beautifully incisive moments, with a fine and deep grasp of how social issues at school can cut and burn you.
I adore Joyce Carol Oates always, whatever she is writing about. It’s an analogy that’s hard to defend in any depth, but this book feels to me rather like a deeply serious towering rock albums artist suddenly making a great pop single. I enjoyed it immensely, and I’m sure anyone else would too.
Oddly enough I’m feeling happier about music, and writing about music, than I have for a couple of years. 2006 is going to be a treat: I want to get there quickly, not look back.
So I got a machine to look back for me. I was a late iPod adopter but it’s come in useful, and it has a neat little feature which counts up how often I’ve played each track on it. So this Top 10 is quite simply the ten current tracks I’ve listened to most. I left out one record – Inaya Day’s “Nasty Girl” – because it was on my wife’s playlists more than mine – but otherwise this seems an accurate half of a story.
That half of the story happened in my living room, and among my fellow message-board co-dependents. The other half happened away from headphones, further out in the world, finding or rediscovering or refreshing places for music to happen to me. Places like:
– Seattle, for the EMP conference. Jetlag and a hectic schedule meant I didn’t spend as much time with the people I met as I’d planned, but the event reminded me how exciting thinking about music can be (and also how boring it sometimes is).
– My office. I’m lucky enough to work with people who I actually like, and who like music enough to argue with me about it. Working there has made me explain things I’d dismissed as obvious and like things I’d simply dismissed. I’m also lucky enough to work at a place that has the radio on all day. Maybe it’s obvious – to everyone but me-as-was – but listening to the radio makes you a better pop critic.
– Poptimism. I’ve been DJing at club nights for a few years but Poptimism was the one that ‘clicked’, won its own crowd, and turned briefly into something special. To have it suddenly taken away was more than just irritating, but even if we don’t find a new venue in ’06 (and we will), it was a joy to do it, to give physical meaning and expression to our ideas about music, and to get ghastly drunk on cheap wine. Thanks to Steve, Pete and Alan, and thanks to everyone who came and joined in too.
10. Uniting Nations – You And Me: In Feburary I played for 300 or so people at my work company party. It was corny white-collar fuxx like me dancing badly to predictable records, but that didn’t make the delight we all took in filter-disco floorfillers any less glorious. “You And Me” hadn’t been released then but it makes me think of that night when the double-hit drums come in for the chorus.
9. tATu – All About Us: So the lesbian stuff turned out to be a (very profitable) metaphor for indivisibility, the suffocating dangerous closeness of a hyperbolic teenage friendship. The kind of desperate friendship which even as a teen you probably didn’t have but one could recognise anyhow. One of those records that makes me imagine that I might be in a film and that it might end, thrillingly, badly.
8. Field Music – You Can Decide: A song I was surprised to find on the list, I assume I listened to it a lot for Stylus’ Singles Jukebox UK, trying to find an angle. I probably failed and gave it a 6. Stylus gets a good deal of online flak for many reasons – some good – but I’m grateful to it for letting me write uncomplicated silly singles reviews when I needed to. Field Music as I remember make a gentle, slightly fastidious noise which is difficult to dislike or love.
7. Roll Deep – The Avenue: The vibe here is a pop musical, Summer Holiday or something, big characters bursting into rhyme just because they can. At first it sounded ridiculous and clumsy but it seems to have lasted just through exhuberance. “Feel a sharp pain in my left tit” – that’s the best bit.
6. Madonna – Hung Up (Stewart Price Extended Remix Dub): this is the best version, you get more of the ABBA (make that sample pay its way!) and less of the Madonna, which is how I like it. And Price makes the ABBA record tease in a way which is enjoyably un-ABBA-ish. I’ve only heard the Madonna album once but it reminds me of the ‘song-poem’ phenomena somehow.
5. Robyn – Konichiwa Bitches: I was sure Fannypack’s “718” would end up here, since I’ve been glibly saying it’s my favourite song of the year, but apparently far from it. “Konichiwa Bitches” nods to Fannypack in its closing lines and sounds like a charming home-brewed tribute to pop-hop. It got so many listens because of its payoff, when Robyn finally brings in the synths. It also became a huge cult favourite at work, which made me very pleased.
4. Missy Elliot – Lose Control (Jacques Lu Cont Mix): This is my wife’s favourite record of the year, and I played it even more in our car. She likes the opening couplets – “Cute face / chubby waist / thick legs / in shape” – I like the way Jacques Lu Cont has been so ruthless at stripping out Missy’s old-skoolisms for something more Euro-relevant, a sleek synthpop attack with a rough bootleg edge.
3. Rachel Stevens – Nothing Good About This Goodbye: I’ve listened to this track most because it’s Rachel’s best performance. So many people have mentioned her lack of personality that it’s become a cliche but it works in her favour here – she needs to sound bruised, subdued, slightly crushed, and she does.
2. Girls Aloud – “Biology”: If the year were a few months longer we’d see “Models”, “Wild Horses” et al. on the list too. “Biology” is a hard track to do justice to – its infectious confidence lets it get away with its structural chutzpah, and the tricks and easter eggs never get in the way of the song’s momentum. I especially like how the brazen blues intro is the part that repeats later, dropped in as if to say, “Well, now do you see what it was doing there?”. This is a walking through London song, I try and make sure it’s the last thing playing when I reach the pub.
1. The Killers – “Mr Brightside (Thin White Duke Remix)”: I was surprised to see this top my list but it makes sense – I listened to it incessantly when I heard it, and rarely switch it off now, it’s made the switch from inspiring to comfortable without ever slipping through ‘annoying’. When I started my new job the original “Mr Brightside” was barely off the radio and I grew to hate it, for reasons I can’t remember. All I hear now when I think of the original is what this remix found in it, qualities I’d hardly noticed myself. The remix slows it down, lets it flower into an epic of self-regarding heroic woe, vanity in vain, which might only be a stately bore but the beats give it just enough momentum and direction. It ends up in some unsought sweet spot between “Jungleland” and a ZTT 12″.
So that’s what I listened to this year.