0: I Will Regret This
I discovered today I have a thousand songs on my hard drive. They last sixty-six hours, thirty minutes, and thirty seven seconds, and take up a bit over three gig.
This page is a documentary of my listening to them, no repeats, and taking notes. I won’t mention every single song. I might well say nothing of interest: we’ll see, shall we?
0001-0010: Too Much Booty
It occurs to me first of all that this is a sad, odd thing to do and will not read well.
It occurs to me second of all that Blur’s “He Thought Of Cars”, while quite cold and lilting and interesting, had its name changed by me to “!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” for a reason. The reason being I had two copies of it on the drive and I was going to delete it.
The strangest tracks you find on the hard drive are the ones you can’t remember getting at all – at some point in some way I downloaded this finger-clicking track called “Just Like Romeo And Juliet” and I can’t remember why on earth I thought it was a good idea. Is it a good track? It’s a track: it sounds like it was made by somebody remembering the 50s one time.
The Carpenters have never really sent me like Abba send me – there’s a steeliness in Abba absent from the downy Carpenter music. “Close To You” at least has Bacharach going for it.
I think the first bit of disillusionment I’m going to suffer from is the idea listening to all this stuff might reveal a shape, rather than a couple of hundred tracks I’m thoroughly sick of.
Bobby Conn is a smug, wretched arse.
Luther Campbell is also in his way wretched, but “Face Down Ass Up” uses its cornball disco sample with such dumb glee that I end up liking it. It’s relentlessly sexist-stroke-sexually reductionist and on this computer speaker I can’t really use the monster-production excuse. But…dammit. Maybe I’m a sexist.
Here’s another booty bass track – maybe I can find out here. This one’s called “2 Much Booty (In Da Pants)” – I think it’s marvellous, if only because it’s disco which is aimed at your arse rather than your chemically-overdriven nervous system. Maybe I am a sexist. There’s certainly too much damned booty in my pants – apparently the gyms coin it in in January.
“You wrote a book about yourself / The people left it on the shelf” – hollow laughter all around. Time to phone Isabel.
0011 – 0027: Paranoia, Derrida And Yoghurt
Afghan Whigs’ “66” proof that you can be slick (rollin’ drums, practised seducer drool/drawl) and sweaty. “Are you waitin’ for my move? Well I’m makin’ it.”
96 Tears is boring misogyny as opposed to booty’s gleeful same – thugbeat trancerock moves now seem a bit pompous in their monotony. Unpleasant memory of Stranglers cover may intrude.
Curious side-effect of this experiment will be not choosing songs to do exercise to. B & S’ “A Century Of Fakers” frankly inadequate.
THE SHERYL CROW ARGUMENT: Brief version – she’s good. Longer version – she’s good: snappy Springsteeny proper classic rock (touch of organ, lovely drawn-out vox), sympathetic lyrics (“junkie lo-fi pioneer”), a “What if the Pretenders were any cop?” boozy vibe to her. Damn me and my rock chick fantasies.
Scritti’s “A Little Knowledge” – never get tired of writing about this. Disappointed boy makes synths fall like Japanese rain over his delicate mourning world, then he grabs a radio and squeezes it to his heart as if it can tell him what’s wrong, at least tell him in better language than he can matter right now. Their best ballad.
The word boy is appropriate in the abject/dejected lover – as in this song – because rejection unmans you. It’s inappropriate to use for a love/lust object or at least strongly suggests that the luster isn’t after a particularly adult relationship.
Compare ‘A Pretty Girl Is Like A Melody’ which seems astonishingly rudimentary next to Green’s sweet nothings (also very robust mind you), despite its ‘wit’. We really have come fantastically far in our ability to articulate heartstuff in pop, I think.
Carole King’s “A Road To Nowhere” – breakup as an act of Gothic heroism. Titanic. The faltering pianos on Wilco’s “A Shot In The Arm” sometimes sound like the saddest things in the world but they’re lost to a phone call from Isabel, trying to sort out a blind date.
When Fred first taped me “Are You That Somebody?” (Aaliyah) I couldn’t get past the crying kid – now, I thought, a crying kid used as a rhythmic device is really interesting but ‘interesting’ doesn’t often make great pop. Then that kind of ‘interesting’ started to just take over pop completely, and something – another Timbaland tune as it happened – suddenly flipped my switch, and now this two-year old track is like swimming in the liquid future, which just happens to taste like chocolate. Cheers to you Mr Solinger.
I switch to headphones partway into “Abba On The Jukebox”, just after I stop wondering whether I’ve stopped liking it. I think briefly while getting a yoghurt about the analogue/digital argument Mike J and the La’s guy were having on the forum, and did I agree? I then think that I really do not have even the slightest knowledge. Maybe the guitars do sound overprecise NO NO FUCKING HELL TOM STOP IT. Bah.
I wonder if anyone actually went and read any Derrida because of Scritti Politti?
“Ace Of Spades” always makes me think of playing air guitar on the tables upstairs in the Wheatsheaf Pub on the High Street in Oxford. It does not make me think of eatng organic yoghurt which is what I am doing to it.
I suspect it’s quite uncool of me to like Leftfield’s “Afrika Shox” as much as I do (I am too snobbish by half), but its tough doomsaying electro is really doing it for me. The ineffable coolness of Bambaataa wins out again perhaps – here he sounds like some lost crazy prophet. And into “Airbag”, which does paranoia beats even better but of course less danceably. There are two Radiohead songs I think deserve the hype (bear in mind how vast the hype is). A whole album of “Fake Plastic Trees” would be unendurably maudlin. A whole album of this would be extraordinary. “Airbag” makes me want to believe everything written about Thom Yorke.
Death In Vegas’ “Aisha”: ridiculous. I keep it around ’cause Iggy is funny. Also because the second verse is so plainly a secret tribute to Cerrone’s “Supernature”.
0028 – 0053: Contemporary Is A Good Word Here
Something XTCish and off-kilter about the Aislers Set makes them very appealing: an inability to tell quite which way their songs are going to bounce.
My first dual song – a studio and live version of “Alien Being” by the Magnetic Fields – the former adds fuzz, the latter crowd noise and slightly more expressive vocals. Not one of Merritt’s most fascinating songs to begin with mind you, but this cross-comparison shit will get old quick – I find myself hoping rather desperately that I don’t have anything like Glenn MacDonald’s notorious fourteen “Kayleigh” versions awaiting me.
Even one version of “Kayleigh” would be pretty desperate.
French rap! I love French rap – I love the sound of French spoken fast, love trying to catch the words, love the beautiful legitimacy of other-language rapping. On “All N My Grill” Solaar gets to rap over particularly imperious Timbaland swishes and string-sweeps, too.
“I wouldn’t want to take everything out on you though I know I do” – I placed “Black Coffee” way too low in the songs of the year: letting it half sneak up on you like a wave is just scrumptious.
I loved “Aluminium Or Glass: The Memo” (Negativland) before I ever worked in the marketing industry and now I love it a little bit more with every working day. The shrill oversincerity of the magnificently meaningless “When we’re back to back I can’t see you / But when we’re face to face I do” captures the whole shebang like a beetle in a jar.
I wonder if a Paris Sisters compilation is in print.
For sentimental reasons I like one Grandaddy song, “AM 180”. Indie ‘songs’ are only ‘charming’ when you imagine them being sung to/at non-indie ‘girls’ for whom the sentiments and rhetoric and assorted faux-naif flimflam might be fresh (or possibly nauseating). Still I’m a sucker anyway and the kindergarten keyboard dialtone hook is bait enough. Whatever small achievements it musters though are nothing compared to the undying genius of the Subway Sect‘s “Ambition”: erotic neurotic sneering with everything at stake in every note. Over so absurdly quickly, but so damn beautiful.
And I was wrong about “American Pie”, OK?
Stephin Merritt‘s “Amnesia” is a mysterious thing of a song, odd senseless nonsense verses (nonense in the Lear sense more than the Awopbopaloobop sense) and a one-word chorus. It’s slight, simple, somehow compelling, over in two minutes, never released in studio form as far as I know (oh ho so maybe that’s why you like it Tom? Quiet non-existent reader,)
Pulp – “Ansaphone”: modern communications tools are making the civilised conduct of bad relationships – which is after all what most of them turn out to be – impossible. We should all go back to pigeons.
Dionne Warwick – “Are You There (With Another Girl)?”: not that insecurity required an answering machine to do its dirty work. The way the hooks build in this is just – mmmmm. Josh was saying to me the other day that craft should not be a dirty word and really, whoever listening to this should disagree?
I’d never noticed before how shark-toothed and structured the guitars on AR Kane‘s “When You’re Sad” were before – oceanic my arse, this is bathing in razors in every way save the driftwood vocals. Actually no, it’s a blatant Mary Chain rip-off, how could I forget? (Perhaps it was the scary drums.)
Maybe Julie London‘s vocals on ‘Round Midnight’ are too chewily sultry – it’s a clever song but somehow she lacks interiority – or maybe it’s too far past midnight for me to judge such things properly.
Oh Lordy, yet another album I’ve overrated – Piano Magic‘s “Artist’s Rifles” now sounds like Roger Waters recording his next album on Shinkansen. Low Birth Weight though I heard in the bus shelter on the iced-over edge of Headington and it was the truest record I’ve listened to all winter. Momus’ consumptive singing and the fairytale toyshop backing on “As You Turn To Go” on the other hand sounds deliciously fictive and makes me suspect maybe I underrated The Sixths but a quick memory-scan suggests definitely otherwise.
Bridget St. John is as heavenly as ever (now associated with Napsterguilt as I kick anyone who starts downloading this monster file off of me, even though it is as perfect a piece of ambient 60s folk as you could dream of) – her vowels have a distinctly Nico tint this evening, though.
What frightens me, right, is that on headphones, when you can actually hear the bass, DJ Assault sounds almost convincing. Then you get to the robolooped “Assault, I’m comin'” call and response vox and the illusion drops away rapidly. Three DJ Assault tracks in a row seems a coincidence – could the word “Ass” be involved? The aw-shucks goofball chorus on “Asses Jiglin” (note point-perfect misspelling) does the laughter trick.
Joy Division – “Atmosphere”: this is where the Foreigner thing sprang from, Sundar. Though a hundred compromises, as I said.
“B.O.B.” – OK, OK, concentrate on the beats, imagine I was dancing to it…..
……Jesus. What a track. Too tired to say any more, no chance of following that. Publish and be damned, then – or at least knackered.
0054-0058: Robert Forster And The Sound Of A Bath Running
“Baby I Need Your Loving” by the Four Tops is a song I have been waiting to write about and do justice to for three years now and a three-line entry in this thing is not going to do the trick but really, that broken line pause before “And lately I been losing sleep” is the most shivery thing in all of Motown, and the use of crescendos….I mean in a way you could say modern pop – the immensity and self-baring coated in hookiness and everything of it starts with Motown, and that Motown more or less starts its high period with that song.
Even Britney struggles to beat it. Though the early morning is not the best time for her.
Of course it would be “Baby Stones”, a song I’ve said everything about, that I get twice. Another flaw in my thousand-song monument to pop, le sigh.
I remember lying on a bed in 1994 at three in the morning wearing a full black coat and listening again and again to “Baby You Won’t Find It Again” by the Go-Betweens. I was drunk but not drunk enough. I was dumped and quite dumped enough. It had been two weeks which again was not enough. And no matter how often I listened to it it wasn’t enough. But I did find it again and dear reader if you’re nodding along so might you.
MEMO TO SELF: Delete the fucking focus group tracks when you’ve finished with them. Particularly David Bastard Gray.
0059 – 0072: Ouchmonkeys
Baby Bird‘s career peak is “Bad Old Man”, a late entry in the pop-song-as-character-study stakes (after multiple Blurish atrocities) but nonetheless a supremely effective triphop/britpop assassination of a Chris Evans-style mogul. On the jukebox on the Bull in Leatheread the denunciations would ring out most effectively, until the final tidal echo-drenched bars.
Bassline de Melody Nelson: if only people slightly less cool than David Holmes had gotten to it. Still the sinister essence of futile and deadly infatuation: if only my crushes could be that romantic, sigh a thousand listeners, not quite realising what they are wanting.
Boo! Blur got “Bang” left off their Greatest Hits, relatively injustly in that it’s no better than most that did get on but still its exclusion seems unfair. I remember Damon and chickenhead on TOTP: however alt.attention-seeking it was it increased the jollity of things by a couple of margins. Solo is FX-drenched but FKtive.
The Mull Historical Society goes on for seven minutes: it could go on forever. It seems to have cursed my server anyhow and I face an evening of endless connection faff. All in the name of some post-Creation hippie dreck, an entire band’s career build on trying to fake its way into being the last track on a Teenage Fanclub album.
The Divine Comedy were at their best going for a pop rip-off of Nyman. “Bath” is the lead-off track from Promenade, their only good album because it’s in a sense their only honest album. It’s also – horrible embarassing bits included – their most romantic album, in part because of all the horrible embarrassing bits. The kick-in of “Bath” for better or worse – I say better – sums them up.
For a long time I hated the false start at the beginning of “Be Honest” by The Wedding Present. I still think it was a bad decision for a song which sums up the band as well as any other would do – the language is occasionally stilted but the situation rings solid. “And if we’re really really going to be honest we might as well be brief” – advice rarely taken, alas.
I’d entirely forgotten I owned “Be My Baby” on MP3. Right now it’s the accent that does it for me.
Same with “Beasley Street” – John Cooper Clarke dissecting early 80s Britain with help from Martin Hannett and friends. Sometimes I find it overdone, sometimes dead-on: currently the latter, as it deposits menace like pennies in a savings account. They time the step-up just right, just in time as it happens for “sweethearts are physically sick every time they kiss”.
Among the half-dozen or so decent Beastie Boys tracks lurks “Cookie Puss” – dumb jerkoff bitch-talk which is way worse than say DJ Assault, but allied to sniff’n’scratch PoMo turntable gonzo sophisticate pisstake stuff which is a good deal better than say Mr. Bungle. Incidentally all British readers will forever associate Mr.Bungle with a giant spazmoid studded bear, ha.
Three songs with “beautiful” in the title and not one of them I noticed. Maybe because I was thinking about Eminem.
0073 – 0089: Expiry Dates
Something about “Behind The Counter” by The Fall I always liked, probably because of my three years in a ‘retail environment’ – it’s nothing in the lyrics but the heavy monotony of the drums, brain-bashing organ pushes, etc. seems to sum up the us vs them mentality of the shop assistant’s life terribly well.
We’d not have got away with playing the Pistols‘ “Belsen Was A Gas” in the shop, mind you.
In Mojo recently Bob Stanley chided the production on the Teardrop Explodes‘ Wilder – stuff like “Bent Out Of Shape” with its horned-up reggae lope was singled out for special criticism, of the drowning-song-under-production-foolishness kind. Maybe it’s because I’ve lived with the song for so long but I love it – the rueful tune and gleeful music complement each other in some queasy but entirely apt fashion.
Why do I have so many Blur tracks on my hard drive, concerned readers ask? It’s because I had planned to write a ground-breaking defense of The Great Escape and so saved the entire thing onto MP3 after borrowing it off Magnus, only to realise in the cold and sober light of morning that it is mostly shit and really that Blur are doing quite well for themselves without my riding in on my white charger to ‘save’ their reputations. Excuses, excuses. Anyway it’s me who suffers, not you.
ISAN are lovely. I need some more ISAN in my life. ISAN make these pitter-patter minimal pop electronica things – they did the beats on the last-but-one Piano Magic album – with music-box melodies and kids’ voices. Yes yes, it sounds corny as all get-out but “Betty’s Lament” is just….pretty. Soothing. I could do with soothing, though that wasn’t what I was thinking before the song started.
Gruf, who turned me on to ISAN, would argue that “Bewitched” is The Wedding Present‘s best song. I would agree, right now. It’s the running-on-the-spot breathlessness of the voice; it’s the frustrated crump of the guitars; it’s that awful metallic whine all through the song.
Billy MacKenzie RIP. “Beyond The Sun” would be a fragile thing anyway without the extra weight you can’t help but bring to bear on it. I found my clumsy obituary of Billy when back at my parents’ over Christmas – if anyone wants to read it they can get in touch. It’s so hard writing about dead people.
This is a dreadful time to be doing an audit of my hard drive because I’ve almost totally lost patience with mimsy indie pop. Such feelings come and go on a weekly basis, mind you. Hearing the New Fast Automatic Daffodils comes as a welcome surprise – never a great band, being in essence an updated A Certain Ratio with less ghoulish drive, but not bad. Suddenly it strikes me that knowing that the New FADS are a bit like ACR is a) a useless thing to know and b) may well actually be harmful in terms of the final cynical draining away of the innocent pleasure that was once to be gained from liking “Big”. Oh for a music taste trepannation.
Hooray, it’s DJ Assault, with a lexicographical conundrum – “You say bitch, I say slut”, he ponders in typically wristy style. Allegedly his new album has eighty-three tracks: the mind boggles. It is becoming increasingly clear that DJ Assault is some kind of artboy joke, mind you. And actually DJ Assault is a bit too strong meat for me this evening. (It’s worth pointing out that this entry is written under the influence of a general and pervasive unwellness. Off to the kitchen to get some milk.)
Oh dear, I seem to have missed some grisly focus group trance arse.
A long Spacemen Three track allows me time to check on the ruination of my kitchen – my hurried departure on Friday has meant I have left the pate out (a write-off), also the bread (dubious) and butter (nasty looking but fundamentally unharmed, I hope). There is also an unidentifiable malodourousness about the whole room which I’ll have to investigate tomorrow. Sonic Boom can offer me no advice on kitchen hygiene – he’s too smacked up to ever eat, so that’s hardly surprising.
It’s been far too long since I heard that snakecharmin’ “Big Pimpin'”. The “noise-noise-noise-noise” bit is one of the great pop moments of ’00, but again we come to the question, what about the lyrics, Tom? It’s dilemma country because on a conscious level I’m not responding to the lyrics at all – too fast and slangy to come over as much other than flow. On a subconscious level though I’m clearly understanding and responding in a positive sense. That said if 13 year olds who read Top Of The Pops magazine are clued up enough to understand the reality/fantasy dynamic of, say, Eminem, there’s little need for these frettings.
If you’re going to do vast and gothic, you should do vast and gothic. On Bows‘ trip-goth debut album there are only a couple of tracks which actually hit take-off speed and wind up as transcendently dreamily bombastic as the band want to be. “Big Wings” is one of them, its immense dark beats rumbling with a cloudy, persuasive sleep-logic. The Bjorky-vocals don’t even intrude, much.
Look, I am really really sorry that I have quite so many DJ Assault tracks on this machine.
0089-0105: Shocks And Mysteries
Let us journey back to the golden age of dance music criticism, before any of this electronica shit came and ruined things. What we have here is a rollin’ track which will mash up any dancefloor: the breaks are smooth and on the flip we bring the rewind with a darker edge, etc. etc. The reviews pages of Muzik would be full of this kind of stuff back in ‘the day’. I have no idea who this track is by in truth, also it has just dropped into a timestretched Whitney Houston sample, and not only that but it uses the “I KNOW you’re gonna dig this” vocal hook which was last heard on a Jive Bunny record. It is monster fine music for doing the hoovering to. Not, alas, that I am.
I wonder if this is the amen break. You’d think after listening to jungle for years I’d know what the fucking amen break sounded like.
Sweet Lord it’s a cover of “Black Hole Sun” by her out of Hugo Largo. (Mimi Goese). There goes my cred! It is better than the original, which pretty much goes without saying, though the original was the only Soundgarden song to have a tune. Possession of said tune meant that the standard why-you-should-like-Soundgarden argument included the bit about their amazing beautiful psychedelic melodies under the riffola. Yeah, and indeed right. The great benefit of the Mimi Goese version is that you can hear how piss poor the lyrics are. Nice treated slide guitar mind you.
The weird macho-political-jail-breakout dream-story which makes up “Black Steel In The Hour Of Chaos” is one of the most compelling narratives in pop music, this you know. It has probably the most iconic opening verse in all hip-hop – this you also know. What I’m remembering right now is the amazing shock of hearing the piano sample in the middle of Isaac Hayes’ Hot Buttered Soul: it was like a key down the back, one of those moments where you can understand critics who talk about some kind of essential unity in black music, where the smoothness of Ike and the Panther fantasia of D can be seen to overlap one another exactly. And then you start realising how this unity – this way of criticising pop by looking at the similarities between things, not their differences – is in no sense confined to ‘black music’, or even pop music.
So, similarities, then. Les Savy Fav‘s “Blackouts On Thursdays”, whose opening skid of guitar is everything good about indierock in one nonchalant spitting stab of noise (the rest of the song’s not bad too, especially the goofy-horrible stop-start shrieks (scratch that, it’s terrific)) – is it useful or accurate to detect some of PE’s diffuse revolutionary swagger here? Or is just the fact of playing them next to one another enough? Indie rock sounds best when it’s not being played next to other indie rock – a fucking obvious truth for a music whose claim to validity is providing an ‘alternative’ but one apparently lost on every indie radio station.
That’s indie rock as in something with some kind of roots in ‘punk’ I suppose, not the House Of Love, whose doe-eyed Velvets-worship just sounds dessicated and sloppy after Les Savy Fav. This is “Blind”, which HOLmeister Guy Chadwick would claim was his favourite lyric (it’s hippy drivel, sorry Guy). The guitar playing is pretty but generally this is evidence A in the case against Creation and their frightened paisley vision of what ‘pure pop’ might sound like.
Smog‘s dull last album stays in my collection because of “Bloodflow” alone: one of the few really mysterious rock songs of 2000. I’m not going to try to explain it here because it resists explanation, and because I’m eating my supper. But you should hear it.
“Get some serious drugs”, the BMX Bandits advise me. I listened to this track a lot when I was briefly considering doing just that, and while by any rational measure this is godawful simplistic sadboy drivel (and yes, on Creation to boot), I find its plain-spoken puppydog blatancy as endearing as annoying.
Garage-band tongues-talking from hypnotic cowboy Frenchies The Brummels: “Bof!” it is called, the catch-all exclamation you got taught in French when you were learning about slang. “What does bof mean?” you might ask the teacher, and he could not tell you. As it turns out it could mean anything from the secret of the universe to a dumb stoner giggle (the problem as ever with drug experiences is that they tend to miss out the stuff in between these two points).
“Bonnie And Clyde” by Serge Gainsbourg is the second best single of the 1960s.
You might say that chartpop’s emotional register is limited, rarely going darker than a kind of bright heartbroken yearning, rarely getting more ecstatic than a kiss (though that’s pretty ecstatic). But it does bright heartbroken yearning so fucking well that it’s hard to resist. cf. early Madonna, where for the first minute or so of every song there’s this amazing trembling quavering going on and you don’t quite know whether the song’s going to make it to the relative security of the chorus. “Borderline”, in this case, which also has her best early chorus, so winds up hard to beat, basically.
“Boredom” by Buzzcocks is the second best single of the 1970s. B-dum b-dum.
“Born To Make You Happy” by Britney Spears is the second worst single of her career. All her others, though, have clung to my playlists like limpets, so this is quite refreshing. The “oh my love” interjections are cloying, though, and there’s too much breathing – Britney isn’t human! She shouldn’t have to breathe!
In “Bound 4 Da Reload” by Oxide And Neutrino, there’s a really strange bit of sampled dialogue – “Ah! Shit! I been shot! I don’t fuckin’ believe this! Could everyone stop getting shot?” – the panicked politeness and weird nonsensicality of that last request I have to say freaks me out.
The sampled trumpets on “Bring The Noise” have always sounded to me and still sound to me like the S1W’s aerobicise music. The “radio stations” bit is one of the few occasions, though, where you could imagine the radio-won’t-play-this schtick being true. And – Sonny Bono?
0106 – 0124: Nostalgia
“Burnt Out Car” was mooted at one point as Saint Etienne’s follow-up to “He’s On The Phone”, and instead ended up on Casino Classics, buried among competent mid-90s remixes. It has the same doomy valium-noir feel as “Like A Motorway”, but this time remembers to include a hook or two. There are a lot – too many, I feel – of burnt out cars on the outskirts of East Oxford.
N’Sync are punchy, but you can’t shake the feeling they are simply being given the Backstreets’ cast-offs, and their singers are so whiny.
Low volume on computer speakers and the sound of a washing machine turning over – it’s the oldest washing machine I think I’ve ever seen and every load of clothes causes it to make a more and more frightening hissing and groaning noise – are not the best circumstances to be hearing the Quad City DJs in – the acceptable ‘face’ of booty, as Fred would have us believe, i.e. it’s not about arses, or only in a very polite way.
Noise Factory‘s “Can You Feel The Rush” has the same kind of tinder-dry beats Omni Trio used to use, but much more crudely deployed. At a push you can indeed feel the rush, mind you. But yet again it strikes me how much this music suffers from my beyond-awful ‘sound system’.
I’ve written about this before, but “Can’t Be Sure” is very nearly a perfect song – perfect if you’re in love, perfect if you’re not, a magnificently, pertly poised piece of fence-sitting jangly beauty. Cheer up, it might happen tomorrow.
David Bowie‘s “Can’t Help Thinking ‘Bout Me” has one of those terrific pop moments where a character in the song addresses the singer – calls his name, says “Hi Dave”. It’s breaking into the song, reminding us by dint of a tiny dose of reality that there is somebody singing, performing here. Which, you know, I rather like.
Andy bleedin’ Partridge has this bizarre skewed idea of pop which starts with Kasenetz and Katz and ends with……well, Katenetz and Katz. “Candymine” sounds so like a bubblegum ’68 outtake that the authenticity of it is just creepy.
“So turn down the treble and pump your bass / So your car can be heard almost anyplace” – if you don’t like L’Trimm you can’t be my friend. The beep-your-horns bit is…it’s like free jazz or something! Really! (OK, not really. It’s better.)
“Casting A Shadow” was a nice title for the Pet Shop Boys to give a flagrant Moroder-tribute B-Side: impressively floorworthy journey through dance’s hall of heritage, though the PSBs travelogue ends abruptly in 1993 – every time they try to get modern now it sounds depressingly like Jam and Spoon. All the PSBs’ recent material seems either melancholic or nostalgic – they have nothing new to tell us really.
A sudden hit of nostalgia of my own – walking along the seafront in Brighton, listening to this record on the discman….but this was March last year. Kelis sounds as good as it did then but I don’t want this silly stab of place and time getting in the way of things: ten months is too soon for that kind of overlay on my pop, damn it! I try to concentrate on the click-clack of the Neptunes’ fine-cut beats, but it’s no use. I have a terrible suspicion that despite everything I’m less happy now, but that’s the pernicious thing about nostalgia, isn’t it?
“You say I sample? Well sample this, my pit bull!” – PE still concerned about whether they’re getting their radio dues or not. If only Status Quo had formed a quasi-military organisation and declared war on Radio 1 their shitty records might still be getting airplay too.
Forced off to bed by Blur again – listening to “Charmless Man” (not that I recommend it) you can really really see why so many people – me included – hated them at this point.
(Morning update: Organizine is shutting down, which is a shame. Thousand will continue to be published using the mighty power of hand-coding, yeah.)
0125 – 0152: Iron Shirt
There should plainly be more songs like Max Romeo‘s “Chase The Devil” (best known for being sampled by the Prodigy on “Out Of Space”) – Max is going to put on his iron shirt, chase the devil out of Earth (or rather Eart’), and then for an encore he’s off into space to find another race. Nice one, Max! It’s all very well for the likes of Mr. T. Yorke to carp about the corporate infestation of everyday life etc. but frankly I don’t see him reaching for no iron shirt.
Iron shirt factor also low for Arab Strap, despite whomping beat of “Cherubs” making it Only Good Strap Song, in my current unforgiving mood at least. He can see cherubs- the vocal wooziness plus unforgiving beat adds up to post-drunken-shag euphoria quease quite nicely. The shag bit is interpretational but really, what Arab Strap song isn’t about it?
I never understood the words to “Christine” by the House Of Love – I suppose this is what passed for a ‘love song’ back in 1988. I remember being at school and making a list of my favourite EVER EVER bands, back when I knew about 20 bands that even existed, and an older boy found it and thought I was HIP COOL because I liked the House Of Love, the silly fool. The astute reader will notice that I have a lot of HOL songs – again this is because of optimistic recording of an entire CD of Peel Sessions none of which I have remotely been in the mood to hear again.
Ally among others avers that Darlene Love‘s “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” is the best Christmas song of all time – however this is not the case. I mean it qualifies as a Christmas song only by being set at Christmas – otherwise it’s a dumping song pure and simple, which unless you’re in the unhappy position of being dumped at Christmas renders it somewhat of a clunker, festive-wise. It’s obviously a brilliant record but I like listening to it between January and November, thanks.
“Driving South” is the point at which the Clientele‘s occasional Beatliness spills over into near-badness: I’m never going to enjoy a song which reminds me this much of “Dear Prudence”. Also “the silent Kingston stars” – look, lads, there is nothing wistful or romantic about Kingston. “6 AM Morningside”, though, is everything wonderful about the band in under two minutes – a great one to sample them with, Napsterites, since it’s not on the album.
Ooooh, Acen. I used to get more e-mails about Acen than anything else, back before anyone except mad Turkish Acen fans read the site. Usually they would ask where they could buy the album: if I knew that I’d own it by now. (Actually I think it’s on Amazon.)
Do you think it’s possible that it’s the slow but prominent drumming that bugs me with post-rock sometimes? Because I’m listening to Mogwai‘s “CODY” as an ‘instrumental’ not as a ‘song’ which is how I normally enjoy it, gloomy thing that I am, and those cymbals are really getting on my nerves.
Red Stripe tastes like treacle. I’m sure that wasn’t the case the last time I bought some.
A fine song to open a can too, shy alkie anthem “Coffee And TV”. Mumble mumble, strum strum, I thought this song was so overrated before I actually owned a copy, and now I think it’s rather – very, actually – sweet. The monotony and occasional curls of guitar at least admit to an amelodic aesthetic which is more than most ‘sweet’ indie does, and the lyrics are plain-spoken enough not to annoy me.
Julian Cope betrays his bourgeois roots by mentioning Hurree Ramjet Singh in “Colours Fly Away”. I betray mine by getting the reference, a reference which puts him squarely in a tradition of posh playground pop along with, ooh, Syd Barrett. And some other people probably. He’s in other traditions with Syd Barrett too, such as the tradition of guzzling a ton of acid. Where are the chipper English popstars singing about Quidditch and Hogwarts, eh?
(That would be a really bad thing, actually.)
Jay-Z‘s “Come And Get Me” sounds like the Future Sound Of London, just with a point to them. He “brought the suburbs to the ‘hood”. Not, you understand, physically.
Domestic comedy with Aaliyah and DMX – rubbery goofy bassline and DMX’s somewhat flummoxed dogtalk are the highlights of “Come Back In One Piece”. What times we live in when pop means this kind of thing.
Chat and fiddling with HTML intrudes and I have little to say about Broadcast anyway except that “Come On Let’s Go” is too fragile a pop thing to make any sense (as pop) outside of being track 4 on the Broadcast album. Actually I did think something else along the lines of “is the girl from Broadcast fanciable?”. Full disclosure and all that.
The one thing I never wanted to happen to me as a ‘rock critic’ – and so the biggest reason I never became one in the professional sense – is that I didnt want to get sick of bands I liked. (I was also a coward). Doing my own page means I can ration things like Pulp‘s “Common People”, which you might remember I fingered as the No.1 single of the whole fucking decade, and so in theory I don’t get bored of them. And listening now I am delighted to report that the theory has proved correct.
I don’t understand why “in the Garden of Eden / SYNDROME” works so well on John Cooper Clarke‘s “Conditional Discharge”. I don’t even understand what it means. I don’t even want to. Given the song is about STDs it’s not inconceivable that I could understand it better by listening hard to Fierce‘s “Cootchie Ride”. Or by doing something hard to it. Dammit, for once the Beastie Boys, James Lavelle and I agree on something. THERE IS NO MUSIC BETTER THAN BOOTY BASS.
Except the Associates, who are like Queen in some superconcentrated form – listening to “Club Country” is like drinking neat Kia-Ora. Except that would be horrible. What is it with this rock journalism and metaphor thing, I swear I’ll never get the hang of it.
0153 – 0178: Tidy Bags
Probably the best thing you can say about Kid Rock is that he makes this whole socially-irredemable American ladrock thing (Maura calls them ‘mooks’ I think) seem like a Good Idea. Probably because he actually seems convincingly degenerate, as opposed to the Bizkits and Korns of this world who still have enough liberal in them to want to blame, uh, society (man) or something for why they’re so (unconvincingly) fucked. No such attempts at self-explanation from KR, least not on “Cowboy”.
(It was intensely bizarre to find “Cowboy” in Shanghai Noon, incidentally, Jackie Chan being the most unfailingly polite film persona going.)
How did country and western music – not a style I know much about, incidentally – go from Patsy Cline‘s eye-watering “Crazy”, where the merest tint of honky-tonk stylings relaxes the pop into being something different, to the current unsubtle stylised mess, where that same mere tint just reminds you of how much is being lost. (Shania’s country-dance hybrid an exception here, kind of.)
“Crazy For You” was the record she put out at the low height of my minor Madonna crush: I never assumed – in fact I can almost remember thinking this at the time – it would stand the test of much, being a gloopy girly ballad which even at eleven I knew I wasn’t meant to like. But contra-expectations it has, probably because Madge’s untrained achy gutsy vocals tap the song into what Chuck Eddy writes about when he writes about Flashdance-pop, a kind of live-for-the-night working-girl fantasy that middle-class boys like me can still drool over.
Compared to all that the Pernice Brothers feel somewhat flimsy. Still “it’s hard to read a simple mind” is a reasonable putdown. An MP3 I keep around because I sold the CD last year sometime so I can’t code it up again.
PRACTICAL USE OF DIVERS SONGS IN GETTING ME TO TIDY ROOM:
Crooklyn Dodgers – “Crooklyn”: Passable, good on basic tasks i.e. newspaper disposal, removal of crockery to kitchen for further procrastination.
Julie London – “Cry Me A River”: Steady but slow progress on difficult CD collation.
Missy Elliot – “Da Rain”: Excellent: progress abounds. I even dare check discarded bag for potential decomposed satsuma (thankfully absent).
John Oswald – “Dab”: Useless. Fucking Plunderphonics. Good in theory for sure but in practise now sounds like Kid 606 without the sense of humour. Admittedly if I wasn’t tidying I’d enjoy this. One puny tin of Marmite removed to cupboard.
Steely Dan – “Dallas”: First ‘rare’ song I ever got off the Internet! The memory spurs me on to put out the washing and shove a new set on, including much-loved ‘pimp shirt’.
Blur – “Dan Abnormal”: Particularly shit even by Great Escape standards. I am siezed by possibly typical male paranoia re. what if the washing machine is not actually washing my clothes, just getting them wet?
Bass Tribe – “Dance Like A Freak”: this song is the work of a loving God. Kinetic imperative of Bass Tribe compels me to tidy like a freak and actually tackle the huge pile of assorted random crap in the bedroom. Reminded of possibly antipathy of neighbours to booty-shifting music. Switch to headphones and end of tidy session follows.
The current vogue for liking Cinerama baffles me a bit, because if there’s one thing David Gedge’s voice is good for it’s surely not singing ba-ba-ba sixties pop tunelets. So you’re forced to fall back on the melodies, which in the case of “Dance Girl Dance” just about gets you through (also it is a good stalker rock tune, always a genre I’ve time for). A nasty note is struck by “freshly shaven legs” lyric, though.
I can’t quite explain to you why I love “Moon River” so much – I’ve never seen Breakfast At Tiffany’s, perhaps that’s why, since the song can stand for me as some kind of ur-movie song, the source from which all sentiment flows. So many of the ballads I do like are shadows or reflections or odd tangential mutations of it: two people with something ahead of them, a something which could be each other or could not be, and a song which just lets the question hang there, unresolved and beautiful.
“Thunder, thunder, lightning ahead / Kiss you kiss you dark and long” – the same subject, if you like, and the clank of machinery, and the low halogen hums and swoops of the keyboards. Things almost fall apart when Karl Hyde starts speaking, but Underworld have done enough work by then to keep the song worthwhile.
The best bits of Slabco records are generally the opening sample, which announces the beat; the beat, initially at least; the topping. These are also the only bits of Slabco records, which suggests at the very least that the label has a well-defined aesthetic. On Land Of The Loops‘ “Day Late And A Dollar Short” the beats seem to speed and slow and not quite finish, the topping involves a didgeridoo and some chirruping, and the sample invokes the nameless fears that haunt modernity’s backstage. It’s the kind of thing you wonder if Radiohead shouldn’t be listening to, in other words.
They don’t make ’em like “Debaser” anymore. Still pretty much the benchmark against which all ear-thrilling pop sonics for me are judged. And then Le Tigre‘s “Deceptacon” starts up and the line of descent is for once crystal-clear. I badly misquoted the lyrics in NYLPM, oh well, the atomic crunch on the one-two-three-four drums probably did for accuracy there. I’d advise anyone who hasn’t done so to go and read the (really literate and interesting) lyrics on the Le Tigre site, but only once they’ve fallen for the song – or not – anyway.
Magazine certainly had a way with titles – “Definitive Gaze” is a great, mysterious name for a song, and while the attached track is no slouch it allows a bit too much free keyboard rein for my liking.
An MP3 entitled simply “DEMOLITIA” has been sitting on my drive for almost two years now. My memory of its acquisition is dim – I think (and the sounds back me up here) that it was done by crazed South American garage lunatics at some swampy point in the sixties. Anyway with a name like “DEMOLITIA” how could you possibly delete it? Most of the singing is tongues-talking and barking, backed up with loose but enthusiastic harmonies, you like to imagine cause somebody told these people it would sell better that way.
Amazing to think that at one time LTJ Bukem kicked ass – on “Demon’s Theme” the rainforest nonsense betrays his future and foolish course (to some crude extent), but the keyboard ripples are lovely and the bassline even on these speakers is a titan.
Detroit Grand Pubahs‘ “Sandwiches”: lazy porno miasma, has some – a lot, actually – of the languid weirdness of early Chicago house (Jamie Principle etc.), but the spirituality/sex balance there gave the music drive, whereas “Sandwiches” is simply physical, the sound of surrender. Whoever was asking on the forum about ‘godless’ music could do worse than start here.
Stuff going on in DJ Assault‘s “Dick By The Pound” (apart from the killer beat):
– explicit acknowledgement of male fear of the adult, sexual woman cf. “My pussy is so hairy / I hope it’s not too scary”.
– at the same time we’re back to will-you-still-love-me-tomorrow sexpol i.e. “I hope you just might / Wanna stay the night”
– constant references to “wet dreams” suggest that all may not be as it seems.
– o-ho! In Alasdair Gray’s Lanark the hero is a lonely alcoholic sitting in a hotel room trying to marshal his sexual fantasies towards some kind of acceptable conclusion. You get a sense of the same desperate frustration when Assault sings “Bitch don’t laugh / I’m a give you a tongue bath”. It’s the only time on the album that Assault acknowledges his own ridiculousness.