“Saturday Night” has two big things going for it. The main thing is that it’s one of those iconically simple pop hits, like a “Louie Louie” for the Thomas Cook set. How can you tell when something is iconically simple and not just, er, simple? I’d say when it never actually ends up irritating you. Obviously that’s entirely subjective and I expect to be swamped with annoyed Whigophobes in the comments, but for me this record has lucked onto something sweet and primal. Not, though, irresistible – I’ve generally been pleased to hear “Saturday Night” and am content that it has made the world a happier place in some small fashion, but I wouldn’t own it, or put it on for fun, or even learn the dance. If anything, I like this most for its influence – the enduring post-Whigfield school of plinky-plonk smilecore Eurodance which produced feelgood gems (Ang Lee’s “2 Times”, ATC’s “Around The World”) through the rest of the decade. more »
24 February 2013
23 February 2013
So here they are. I haven’t gone through hunting YouTube/Spotify links because I was too
lazy terrified. more »
17 February 2013
I have as you might have noticed a kind of default setting for cover versions, amounting to “you can’t keep a good tune down”. Certain approaches are almost guaranteed to ruin tracks – think “advert pianos” – but in general pop songs are resilient little bastards, able to withstand much greed and deformation. So hearing The Troggs’ “Love Is All Around” for the first time, after years of weathering this other version, was a bit of a shock. Here was a song – a very lovely, surprisingly artless song – that it seemed really had been ruined by the pawings of commerce. Not that Reg Presley saw it that way, and why should he? If memory serves he objected loudly and publically to the eventual decision to withdraw this “Love Is All Around” lest it be number one for ever. more »
11 February 2013
The death that shocked me most that Spring wasn’t Kurt Cobain, or even Ayrton Senna. It was the passing of an owlish man in his 50s who people assumed – and hoped, in many cases – would be running the country before too long. Later on, John Smith’s heart attack became a locus for all sorts of counterfactual speculation – after the landslide of ’97 you heard people saying, well, tragic of course, you understand, but as things turned out not all for the bad…? And later – as the golden era of the Great Empathiser sank into a miasma of gossip, inertia and war – the wondering and what ifs turned sad and angry.
At the time – and since, really – what hit me was a sense of unfairness, based mainly on how hard Smith and his colleagues had worked. Also – and this didn’t last, at least not in this form – an irrational gloom, the feeling that things would never change, and that somehow the moribund, comical Tories would pull through again.
But then everything did seem to change, and quickly, with the facts of politics shifting last of all. more »
31 January 2013
The Ronettes’ “Be My Baby” came out in August 1963, started building radio play, then hit the Billboard Top 10 by the end of September. A kid hearing it on the radio that month, walking around Ronnie Spector’s New York City with the drums in their head, passing a newsstand, might have pushed aside the Uncle Scrooge and Superman and found something different – one of those new mags Marvel Comics were putting out, and good value too. Three of their blocky, dynamic, aggressively weird heroes – plus two ant-size ones – against some guy in a horned helmet. “The Avengers”.
It’s a coincidence, maybe, that the song Noh-Varr dances to in space is a voice from the very time and place the idea of “Avengers” was born. But coincidences are there to have fun with. 1963 is the year Marvel Comics really started to motor. Going into that summer they were still just about bet-hedging, running romance and Western comics and squeezing new heroes into two-for-one books still called stuff like Tales To Astonish. By the end of the year they had Spider-Man, they had the Avengers, they had a universe taking some kind of shape, and maybe – maybe – they had the first inkling that their comics weren’t being bought by kids. They’d broken through into teens, and college-age readers. Their comics were part of something far vaster, something pop.
30 January 2013
I see from my Twitter feed (Lena Dunham Panopticon Division) that the song “I Love It” by Icona Pop is “happening” now. That’s fine by me, I like that song. One reason I like it is because of its fiendish lyrical meta-trap viz.
SHOUTY ICONA POP WOMAN: “You’re from the seventies! And I’m a nineties bitch!”
POP CRITIC OF A CERTAIN AGE (THINKS): “You certainly are, you sound exactly like Shampoo.”
SHOUTY ICONA POP FANS: “Hahaha GRANDAD that PROVES YOU’RE OLD”
Devilish cunning. Anyway I wish them all the best and it will be interesting to see how actual young people take to the record.
15 January 2013
(While I am in slow recovery from virus mode, here’s an article from the Tumblr vaults.)
I have been listening to the Village People’s discography recently. Village People albums may not have seemed especially good value for money, because they are all very short. But! While lesser bands might have wasted their time and yours on things like “experimentation” or “developing their sound”, every single track on the first few Village People albums sounds EXACTLY like the Village People.
That doesn’t mean the Village People can’t surprise you! On their second album there is the valuable Biblical history lesson “Sodom And Gomorrah”, for instance. “GIVE ME! JUST FIFTEEN GOOD MEN!” bellow the VPs. There is nothing quite as striking on Cruisin’ but it does have YMCA on it. If you were going to make an equation for Village People song quality it would be something like:
Q = Y
Where Q is the quality score and Y is the extent to which the song sounds like “YMCA”. So by critical science we deduce that “YMCA” itself must be of the highest possible quality, and so it is. more »
11 January 2013
As a football-shunning nipper in the 80s it seemed to me that an FA Cup Final song barged its way into the charts every year, swayed through the top ten full of song like a beery fan on a train carriage, and was gone. And looking at this Wikipedia page – a memento to the rise and fall of the genre – I was basically right.
By the time I got to University, my terribly narrow social circles were broadening a little, and football was gentrifying a lot, so I had friends who bought FA cup records. The songs themselves were no better than they had ever been, often – to the extent that they sounded ‘up to date’ – quite a bit worse. But why should they improve? Who would it benefit? To criticise a club song for its music would be like criticising a souvenir scarf for its insulating properties. Cup Final songs were souvenirs, and maybe something to fuel your sense of belonging and anticipation in the lead-up – “belonging” being the emotion these bluff, comradely, incompetent things managed best and most often. more »
10 January 2013
Pop’s triumph is when a private language turns out to have been public all along. When the way you express yourself – visual, lyrical, physical, vocal – becomes something hundreds of thousands understand, like a word that was somehow always waiting to be said. This was Nirvana’s triumph too, and part of Kurt Cobain’s doom. His scraping, negating, self-scouring howls and sneers turned out to be a Rosetta Stone, a way for his fans to start making sense of themselves.
But the language he’d helped discover was too powerful – it went too far for him, made him fans he hated, and then rippled out still further, beyond Nirvana and Seattle. “Grunge” mutated quickly, from music to catch-all generational tag – I bought a lumberjack shirt from a British chainstore sometime in 1992, not really understanding why. It was very comfortable. I would never have had the nerve to buy Levis, though. They were for the fashionable, not the misfits. more »
9 January 2013
GET UR FROAK ON
While most of my online acquaintances were geeking out today at the thought of a new David Bowie album, our house was far more excited by the announcement of new Pokémon games – Pokémon X and Pokémon Y, the first on Nintendo’s 3DS console(1). The announcement was made by the President of Nintendo himself, in a style not far off the Queen at Christmas.
The announcement makes Pokémon creators Game Freak look canny – widely criticised for releasing this year’s games, Black 2 and White 2, on the older DS machine, the rapid follow-up of X and Y shows they’ve been simply holding off until they’ve got a game ready (and a high enough user base to make it worthwhile)(2). After all, if these games make their ship date it will end up that the gap between console release and first Pokémon game is pretty much identical for the DS as 3DS.
So, good business. But good games? The reviews for X and Y are likely to be very similar to the last few Pokémon games, because X and Y themselves are likely to be similar. In fact you could write them now: global franchise, remarkable longevity, but will these be the last, finally they’ve included ____ but a change to ____ is long overdue. more »