mark sinker

12
Oct 19

how not to write about extreme metal, probably

Hidden Landscapes8 comments • 341 views

[This post originally went up at my PATREON: subscribers get to read posts and hear podcasts early — and help offset costs and time and help me do more of this kind of thing. Please share widely and encourage participation in the comments!]

“It might seem like ham-strung vaudeville from a media-saturated Western outlook, but this internationalised language of stock rebellion and theatrical posturing clearly resonates for youth in Indonesia, Malaysia or Singapore, and offers comfort and dignity to those still; ambivalent about buying into the post-feudal-/colonial environment that’s being rapidly constructed round them” — Kean Wong on metal in South-East Asia, and how it was interacting with political Islam, ‘Metallic Gleam’, The Wire 110, April 1993

Back in the mid-80s, my NME colleague Dele Fadele and I had a shorthand: ‘Nigerian Heavy Metal’. Of course there’s plenty of African metal around today, and this no longer seems even a faintly counter-intuitive idea – but even though it already existed (so Dele said), there seemed enough of an absurd tinge to this fact for it to seem useful to us.

Of course the seeming absurdity is in retrospect a tell, which was exactly the point from our POV. It’s a shorthand for a mockery emanating from the critical community and culture both we shared (meaning an NME-type hivemind)

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8
Sep 19

3 and 9 could show you any fantasy

FT + Hidden Landscapes4 comments • 196 views

[This post originally went up at my PATREON: subscribers get to read posts and hear podcasts early — and help offset costs and time and help me do more of this kind of thing. Please share widely and encourage participation in the comments!]

Sometimes I wonder if it all ended on 2 November 1982, the night Channel 4 began. Silver Screen, the NME film and TV section, was edited by Monty Smith then – and almost everything about C4 in its first instance seemed perfectly pre-designed to suit the Silver Screen worldview. Except of course Silver Screen’s internal logic and tone demanded a response at once slantwise and happily disrespectful. This tone was largely set by ‘On the Box’, a what-to-watch-out-for summary of coming TV schedules, which was a tiny ruled-off square of page adjusted weekly to fit available space, full of two-sentence film squibs written at speed, a dozen at most, more likely half that. As a workaround for extreme space limitation, it had begun to evolve into a kind of script, a long-running skit full of intra-office chitchat about specific personal tastes (who liked Herzog, who preferred Hitchcock), its sense of humour derived from deep expertise lightly worn. It was reacting, as often as not, against assumptions made and attitudes struck in other film publications, with authority treated more as a pratfall than a value – and its tone, smart and playful, judgmental and unfooled, helped entice you the reader into discovering more. You sensed that if you paid attention week-on-week, you got a lot more joy from it, and knowledge too [Footnote 1].

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28
Aug 19

they laugh a lot (behind the clean door)

Hidden Landscapes1 comment • 243 views

[This post originally went up at my PATREON: subscribers get to read posts and hear podcasts early — and help offset costs and time and help me do more of this kind of thing. Please share widely and encourage participation in the comments!]

Reviewing “Clean –– One woman’s story of addiction, recovery and the removal of stubborn stains”, by Michele Kirsch (Short Books, ISBN 978-78072-381-5)

Several years back I was grousing to a pal about a new book by a clever and successful mutual acquaintance, a history that encroaches on territory I had one day hoped to stake out (but of course I have done nothing about this, since my pop timing is always terrible). My gripe is this: music writers endlessly re-interview the wrong people — or more precisely, never enough of the right people. Revisit the original moves and shakers and they mainly double down on what went over well the first the time, especially conceptually. Which is the way a moment of open possibility get congealed back into cliché. “If you want to know what a radical scene’s actually about,” I airily declared to my chum, “you should talk to the club’s hat-check girl.”

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7
Dec 18

when the gang chooses you: or how the
puffin club turned me into a punk rocker

Hidden Landscapes4 comments • 289 views

[This post originally went up at my PATREON: subscribers get to read posts and hear podcasts early — and help offset costs and time and help me do more of this kind of thing. Please share widely and encourage participation in the comments!]

This is a lightly edited extract from a piece I wrote for Frank Kogan’s fanzine WHY MUSIC SUCKS (#11, pub.June 1997). The topic was “My First Record”; some of the tone is me not quite sure at that time who I am as a writer any more, especially in this context. All the square-bracket interpolations and footnoted annotations are new.

[…] The first LP I bought was almost certainly Slapp Happy’s Slapp Happy [in 1976]. It was on bargain offer in a local shop, and I remember the grins on the faces of the shop girls when I took it off their hands. But it was very nearly – which would have been hilarious – Metal Machine Music, which was in the same bargain bin. For some reason I decided against MMM. I think that I decided it was too popular: or – since this makes no sense – that someone I knew would have bought it, so I didn’t need to.

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26
Oct 18

the other kind of industrial

Hidden LandscapesPost a comment • 611 views

[This post originally went up at my PATREON: subscribers get to read posts and hear podcasts early — and help offset costs and time and help me do more of this kind of thing. Please share widely and encourage participation in the comments!]

Like many teenagers in the UK 40+ years ago, my non-school culture was basically two things: the music weeklies and strikes. One time my late colleague Steven Wells was reviewing a biography of Richard Branson for NME (Mick Brown’s I assume, published in 1988). “The 70s were a bad time for strikes,” said the book. No! wrote Swellsy, angrily and hilariously, the 70s were a BRILLIANT time for strikes. Management wrong, workers right, the side without resources flexing its collective muscle, the three-day week, no electricity for days on end, no one clears away the rubbish or even the dead… sorry, but for any distrustful, easily distracted young person this was all just great, as well as perfectly and morally correct.

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19
Sep 18

“ITES, REEL”

FT + Hidden Landscapes2 comments • 489 views

Being a melancholy appreciation on his passing of this nation’s pioneering reggae writer: the great PENNY REEL

“Sing great song, down inna Babylon, show them your culture, down inna Babylon”
— ‘M.P.L.A.’, Tapper Zukie

It was October 1978, and the NME interview-feature was titled ‘The Keith Hudson Affair: A Dread Tale’. It was written by Penny Reel, it was about this same singer-producer, Keith Hudson — who had of course worked with Ken Boothe, John Holt, Delroy Wilson and King Tubby’s toaster-DJ U-Roy, as well as Big Youth — and it launched into itself as follows:

“ONE NIGHT I AM standing outside the Jamaican pattie shop in Portobello Road partaking of the same when a car pulls up on the street and from it emerge certain characters from Kilburn by the name of Militant Barrington, Tapper Zukie and Jah Lacey, which is by no means an unusual combination to see, as these are very intimate idren and frequently keep each other’s company, except that now there is a fourth person with them in the rear approach, one known as King Saul.

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30
Aug 18

how not to write about jazz, probably

FT + Hidden Landscapes2 comments • 720 views

[This post originally went up at my PATREON: subscribers get to read posts and hear podcasts early — and help offset costs and time and help me do more of this kind of thing. Please share widely and encourage participation in the comments!]

A week or three back, my old ilxor pal Kerr put up a list of jazz genres on FB and asked his followers who could define them. And bcz we’re dicks, we gave him a dusty answer (mine, in full, was “I can!”). We played mean games; we suggested he google. And so he did — fair play — and of course the joke was on us, bcz the results (wikipedia!) were terrible, full of error and sententious assumption. Some true claims — especially in the endless lists — mixed in with much confused nonsense and (wikipedia!) inapposite citation.

My dusty answer wasn’t just about being a dick: Kerr’s question had landed right on top of something that’s bothered me for decades. Which is why people often write so badly about jazz — including people who know a lot about it (a lot more than me anyway). They can get the facts right — the chords, the analysis — but then miss the point. They write well about the players’ lives and character, and about the feel. But when they write about what the musicians actually think they’re doing, and think about what they’re doing, it all goes cock-eyed and dull — as if being fully conversant with musical technique and terminology acts as some kind of huge mental block.

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7
Jul 18

what even is a review?

Hidden Landscapes16 comments • 796 views

[This post originally went up at my PATREON: subscribers get to read posts and hear podcasts early — and help offset costs and time and help me do more of this kind of thing. Please share widely and encourage participation in the comments!]

It’s 1971, and here’s Nick Tosches reviewing Black Sabbath’s Paranoid in Rolling Stone. A friend (hi Kerr!) linked it on Facebook, alongside the cheerful question Is this the worst ever review of all time? Almost all of the 500 words are mood-conjuring the look and hideous feel of an occult orgy, little to nothing is said about the LP in question, or any other, and in fact the piece ends by misidentifying the singer as Kip Treavor, misspelled frontman of Sabbath’s rival satanic-themed rock band Black Widow (it’s actually Kip Trevor): “The boy whips out a 10″ personal vibrator, adorned in waterproof acrylics with the image of the Nazarene. He intones the words NUK KHENSU TENTEN NEBU and approaches her intendant fundament… impletion… across the room the fresh corpse of an illegitimate hippie baby is dis-impaled from the ceremonial sword of Baphomet. The myrrh is extinguished with the collected saliva of priests listening to tales of carnal abuse in warm, dark confessionals. The Shadaic numinae are chalked over with the mirrored sign of Ariael, the 11 rubies returned to the vessel of Dione.

But all the same I’m going to say, no, there are many many MANY worse reviews, and here’s why.

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5
Jul 18

all the world on one short shelf — remembering roy carr

Hidden Landscapes5 comments • 371 views

Putting together a collective history for a project like this, of something you were at one time near the heart of, inevitably ends up being a series of missed opportunities. Roy Carr, late of NME, died at the weekend, aged only 73 — and I’m sad because I knew him for a while and he was a nice man, always friendly and funny and just boundlessly enthusiastic. He ’s emblematic to me of a time I have complicated feelings and personal regrets about, and now I find myself wishing I hadn’t taken his talents and his presence for granted when I worked alongside him. Even in the 80s he was an institution: I should have grabbed my chance and sat him down and got some stories out of him. Everyone in journalism has stories of course, but he had a thousand, going right back into the early 60s, and they were generally hilarious and scurrilous and some of them could never be told publicly.

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27
Jun 18

from iceberg to titanic, and from titanic to iceberg, and from iceberg to titanic again…

Hidden Landscapes21 comments • 689 views

… but already it was impossible to say which was which (or sometimes you get what you pray for — and it isn’t really quite what you wanted: the MICK FARREN story)

[This post originally went up at my PATREON: subscribers get to read posts and hear podcasts early — and help offset costs and time and help me do more of this kind of thing. Please share widely and encourage participation!]

Hazel asked me in podcast 3 (the punk one) to name two pieces of punk writing that had had an impact on me as I first began to buy and read the music papers, so naturally I plumped for two pieces that ran somewhat before that (meaning, I suppose, that though I wasn’t thinking of this as I named them, that the impact was as large as it was despite being indirect). One was Tony Parsons’ ‘Thinking Man’s YobsNME cover story on The Clash from March 1977, a key marker in punk’s evolution: from here on, the music mattered because it was political, the voice of unschooled dole-queue youth — or at least you had to push back hard if you wanted to read it another way) [Footnote 1]. The second is from nine months early, same paper, June 1976: Mick Farren’s polemic ‘The Titanic Sails at Dawn’.

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