13
Jun 01

PULP – “Disco 2000”

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PULP – “Disco 2000”

This can’t be good for me. I know this can’t be good for me

he said as he pressed “play” again.

9
Jun 01

SONIC YOUTH – “The Diamond Sea” (Album Version)

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SONIC YOUTH – “The Diamond Sea” (Album Version)

We were dressed in dreams in those days, now weren’t we? Sonic Youth squandered fame many times, from the horrible not-even-pretending-to-try compilation and soundtrack cuts to their obtuse contempt in The Year Punk Broke. Here was a moment where they gracefully lived up to the status they’d earned. They weren’t a voice from a hidden counterculture anymore — they were the culture. (Top 40 debut for Experimental Jet Set, Trash, and No Star, don’t you forget it). Or one visible side of the culture anyway. And the culture or one side of the culture, oh hell, I and I think the people I hung out with needed fresh myths, needed a last slow dance, needed new anthems, new epics. Needed, in short, cheese. And Sonic Youth wasn’t just there to cannily deconstruct the cheese from outside — they were here to manufacture new flavours from new materials. For a moment, all those things, large-scale myth, belief in short, could mean to us, some of us anyway, could not seem other and alienating.

And we begin with a watery movie-fade ballad, with its earnest mythic lyrics. There was no irony here — this was meant and you believed or you didn’t. The harmonics break out like fireworks, not to blow up the ballad as they might have ten years earlier, but to celebrate and enhance it. The guitars push to climax and then lock into a grind dissolved only by one more plaintive verse. And we come to the churning drone, the slowly shifting scape where we stepped back and saw all we believed to have in front of us. Frozen, we could only watch fascinated as the feedback descended savagely. And it meant, of course, destruction and freedom and release and ecstasy all at the same time, so cheesy but so immediate, so visceral, so possible — it was then, wasn’t it?

Oh laugh. I do. Belief is always more risible than hip haughty detachment. It’s so much less embarrassing to believe in “Society is a Hole” than in some nonsense about looking-glass girls and jewelled water. But for 20 minutes, we — oh go on, I know some of you did too — felt and feel that nonsense. And you believe or you don’t.

19
May 01

A TOUCH OF CLASS – “Around the World”/LA MONTE YOUNG AND THE THEATRE OF ETERNAL MUSIC BRASS BAND –

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A TOUCH OF CLASS – “Around the World”/LA MONTE YOUNG AND THE THEATRE OF ETERNAL MUSIC BRASS BAND – The Second Dream of the High-Tension Line Stepdown Transformer From the Four Dreams of China

The second on my walkman’s tape player followed the first on my walkman’s radio. Pop ghosts still hovered above the soft-focus drones fading in and out of shimmer. Meanwhile engines churned and wheels ground in the heat.

Mirages.

NIRVANA – “Smells Like Teen Spirit”/PEARL JAM – “Even Flow”

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NIRVANA – “Smells Like Teen Spirit”/PEARL JAM – “Even Flow”

Two tracks that together helped define the “Seattle sound.” What seems most striking now is that if they’d been released five years sooner, by Husker Du and Whitesnake say, they would have been on very different radio stations, on different MTV shows, discussed in very different magazines, with fans on opposite sides of the classroom. Kurt Cobain’s tongue-in-cheek interview comment “Potheads and bookworms unite!” was perhaps the real rallying cry of the grunge revolution.

28
Apr 01

The Washington Post on Spin on punk

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The Washington Post on Spin on punk: My. I thought the description of Unknown Pleasures sounded good. Via Us Against Them.

21
Apr 01

Once upon a time

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Once upon a time there was going to be a FT noise issue and I was going to write a history of modern classical noise. There never was and I never did. But here’s a start.

5
Apr 01

THE MAGNETIC FIELDS – “I Don’t Believe In the Sun”

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THE MAGNETIC FIELDS – “I Don’t Believe In the Sun”

I put on Vol 1 of 69 Love Songs at work today. I thought it might sound deadpan and cynical next to the Top 40 we listen to. It sounded wimpier and sappier.

JOY DIVISION – “Glass”/”Digital”

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JOY DIVISION – “Glass”/”Digital”

There are those — I’ve met some, sad but true — who believe Joy Division songs might be lovely if only they’d turned the guitars up a bit and the drums and vocals down, if they’d turned down the reverb. But most of all, they’d find them just that much more palatable if Ian Curtis could sing, you know, hit his notes more often, strained less to show the underside of his vocal chords when going low, croaked once or twice less, maybe sung a little softer, a little sweeter. In short, they’d prefer Joy Division to sound like all the sweetly faceless slowcore covers of their songs. It takes all types to make a world, but such types are, simply put, wrong. For they ignore that Joy Division’s advances came in the starkness of the sound, the frustrated buried grind of the guitars, the factory echos. And they ignore that Ian Curtis sang perfectly, that Joy Division’s unique vision demanded a unique voice, one that strained to struggle, to rage above it all or to send grim despatches from behind.

Here are two perfect early pieces where the minimalism of punk is taken to its logical conclusion. Riffs nearly become drones, live beats grind mercilessly, guitars try to fight back. Even the handclaps in “Glass” become severe rhythm. And yet it is all possessed by a strange energy. Ian Curtis delivers two of his most forceful performances, bellowing prophetically. When I listen now, I wonder whether, if punk announced the death of classic rock, this didn’t announce the death of rock, pointing towards a time where beats and drones seem more compelling than anything rocking the present.

14
Mar 01

LOU REED – Metal Machine Music

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LOU REED – Metal Machine Music

made me less sad last night.

You’re a joke.

13
Mar 01

chuck eddy is god

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chuck eddy is god