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Aug 01

Thousand

FT5 comments • 6,159 views

0881 – 0895: Anything Shit Goes Straight In The Bin

So why haven’t I done an episode of this for so long? Not unrelated surely to the fact that the next-up track is “Top Man” by Blur, which is the track you should play to Martians to make them hate Damon too, except of course that they would not understand quite why “He’s Hugo and he’s boss” is such a bad lyric. And and – crossing the desert on a camel light! And he sings it all in a slightly lower register making him sound even more pleased with himself!

I think – musical analysis here, for people like Patrick who accuse me of hating on Damon irrationally (whereas in fact hatred of Damon Albarn is the entire basis of post-Enlightenment rationality, or at least should be) – that there is a Squeeze homage thing going on here. Which makes me appreciate all the more that Squeeze managed to pull this kind of punny nonchalance off.

And now it’s over. There. That wasn’t so painful. Hardly worth stopping writing for a month over.

The best version of “Torch” by Soft Cell is the 12″, where Marc Almond and Cindy Ecstasy get talking. (Idea that should return: the 12″ as extended version of the song). That mix is supposedly the first mention of Ecstasy in pop music, which is a bit of a con since it’s used in a coy, euphemistic sense. (This is also how it was always used anyway in the early days of rave, though, so I shouldn’t complain.)

Now we have reached a curious juncture in 1,000, where my alphabetising ways have led me to a load of tracks identifiable only as “Track 1”, “Track 2” etc. This is because if Real Jukebox can’t find a CD it requires you to type in track details, and sometimes I (or whoever I’m downloading the tracks from, hem hem) am too lazy.

So what I think is happening here is that a whole heap of tracks from i)Disco Inferno‘s “Technicolour” album and ii) Warp Records’ 10th Anniversary “Influences” compilation are going to come up unidentified.

Luckily I can recognise all the DI ones as DI. “Technicolour” is an odd album in that song-structurally it really is quite basic indiepop, uptight-British-division. But the sample-triggering works so well and is so integral that you can’t begrudge it this, especially since the samples add to the sense of uptightness so well.

Ah.

Ah. Wait. This isn’t DI. This is La Monte Young. Specifically it’s the LMY track off of Ohm, which as o my readers you will know is a seven minute sine tone.

Do the intense mathematical sonorities of a sine tone sound good coming out of Creative Labs computer speakers? Do they arse.

That’s unfair actually, since this makes for fascinating listening anyway. I’m much more aware of the clash between the sound and the clack of my fingers on the keys, which oddly in 885 songs I haven’t even noticed or taken into account as a distraction. I’m also aware of that weightless in-amber feeling that dronemusic often induces. And I can vary the tone by rolling my head.

So of course I try exercising to it and it’s brilliant – the rhythm of my arms tensing and extending with the weights alters the balance of things in my ears just enough to turn the sine tone into a steady rhythm too. Mmmmmmm. Somehow I doubt this will catch on in the nation’s gymnasia.

Back to Disco Inferno. Their songwriting is anyhow quite focussed – short, choppy tracks delivered with gotta-getta-message-through force. The sample barrage makes it sound like the band are being bounced around in a tiny room, the songs crashing against brick walls. So the wonderful “I’m Still In Love” could be a pretty – if tense – song – “I’m still in love, I’m still in love, no matter what I say” – but every time the chorus starts the guitars trigger a host of sampled fireworks, turning the song around to dramatise the lack-of-control Crause’s singing about.

“Sleight of Hand” though, is just a schmindie song with loads of funny noises. Which is good, you know.

And track 5 of the DI album (you see the problem here) is a good one to play if you wanted to suggest that the band were gimmick-driven rather than innovative, because the footfall backing-track is so obtrusive. Which isn’t to say it’s not compelling but it takes some getting used to. Then admittedly you get that great synth-brassy sample being triggered which works wonderfully, so the anti-DI argument would fail, ha!

To be honest though it is a bit of a relief to get a garage track – no I can’t remember the name, the next couple of episodes are going to be rubbish I fear – after such a wodge of DI. I am so bad at describing garage so I’m not going to try.

Of course the other reason I havent changed the track names on this stretch is that I have no idea what they are. This is lovely, though, an indian-influenced drone track – I think it’s by Nurse With Wound and it’s their contribution to a benefit compilation for Ptolemaic Terrascope.

0896 – 0906: Hibernation In Reverse

I don’t know what this track is. It sounds a bit like Mazzy Star, a bit like Low, a bit Velvets-y, a bit twee. It’s pretty. I know it – “We have forgotten…how it used to be…”. I’ve forgotten more than that, mate. I’ve forgotten how much fun doing 1000 was, for one thing. I remember why I stopped. There were other things that seemed more important. They weren’t so important in the end, so here I am back again. I wonder what this song is: I wonder why I liked it so much as to turn it into an MP3, and so little as to not bother telling myself what it was.

This next track is Contempo. I gave Contempo an entirely sincere good review at a point when I felt a bit guilty that Freaky Trigger wasn’t bothering to ‘discover new bands’. They sound a bit like The Jam, a fact I blinded myself to at the time. I still quite like it, it rolls nicely.

Doing 1,000 has shifted now – when I started (in January which is itself testimony to how entirely this year’s been derailed) the songs were a mixture of old favourites and the freshly Napstered, which led a certain urgency to the project. Now, on the other hand, Napster is dead and I’ve bothered to buy myself a new stereo and my connection is slower so I don’t download very much at home (coming soon – Another Thousand Songs: The Laptop Years! Or maybe not). So 1,000 now has become like leafing through photographs from last Autumn and Winter.

Except actually this stretch of 1,000 won’t be like that because it’s all tracks I nicked off Warp Records 10+1: Influences before I gave it to John as a millennium present. This, for instance, is Nitro Deluxe‘s “Let’s Get Brutal”. It is as brutal as a flannel but the keyboard-skronk noises provide interest and momentarily divert me from reading someone on ILE talking about 69ing.

Old dance records sound so slow now – slower than old disco, slower than funk, slower than anything.

This is Unique 3‘s “The Theme” and this still sounds very good. Primitive, of course – it’s a four-note keyboard theme over some basic shuffly drum programming…so why does primitive dance music retain a mystique? It’s not just nostalgia because I wasn’t there at the time. Techno is derided as basic and repetitive but listening to this its clear that some part of its minimalist aesthetic may have been lost – even if that minimalism was never intentional.

Was it ever “the future”? (Thinking here of Dave Q’s Techno: The Nuremberg Trials thread on ILM). Well, no. It pretended to be – calling itself “the future” was a shorthand for something techno was trying to do/needed already to have done in order to exist – creating a conceptual space where a music this bare, this basic, this easy could seem radical and vital. It had to be messianic and initiatory in order to survive (this was not a conscious process I suspect). This makes techno sound like a con-trick whereas it seems now more like a big fundamentalist gamble – by stating its importance as massively as possible it might give itself the breathing space to big-bang into more expansive and more genuinely ubiqitous. Which happened.

The thing I like about 1,000 is that I don’t have to knock my ideas into too much shape.
What’s this? It’s a song called “It’s My Life” by Da Posse. It’s another house record – all the keyboards on these early house records sound so cheap they’re actually completely off-key.

The Ital Rockers make plain – if only in their name samples – the strain of reggae hiding in almost all early UK dance music. The actual music is shrill wobble-loops and an off-the-shelf beat, as per. At the end the machines go – briefly – wrong and GLITCH is born.

Seven minutes seems to have been the default length of an early dance trak. Hmm.

I can tell it’s Autumn again because Nick Drake sounds good again. I walked into town to buy bread and milk playing Bryter Layter and it was sublime, the instrumentals in particular. “Harvest Breed”, though, won’t sound so good while there are leaves left on the trees.

Phuture – “Acid Tracks”. This is a record-in-a-million but it’s also 12 minutes long so dear reader I may abandon you to do the washing up.

Observation: the percussion and whistles at the start sound straight from an early-80s punk-funk Factory 12″ – ACR or Section 25 or someone. You stop noticing this as soon as the acid starts, of course.

The genius was letting it run on so bloody long – what possible use did they imagine it would have? This was after all not done by art-noiz experimenteers, it was done by a couple of Chicago lads whose main concern was to knock out a B-Side that might get people dancing. (If I remember my history here!).

The drumbeats at the end are way Factory too.

(Juno – “Soul Thunder”) Something I am realising about these early dance tracks. They do not make me want – at all – to dance. Occasionally though I move my shoulders side to side in my chair.

0907 – 0923: Why I Love House Music

What Warp seems not to have been influenced by, judging by Influences, is how lustful much of early dance music was. “Dub Love” by Master C&J is sexy in the way that only very corny music can be – all moans, grunts, “uh!”s, and the kind of goofy things you cringe at when you read them cold but find yourself saying when the lights are out. Where on Warp do we find that now? Much Warp material now is organic, pulsing, sexual perhaps but rarely sexy.

House was also the last strain of dance music to keep one foot in the church as well as one foot in the bed. Adonis‘s “No Way Back” is the kind of stark small-hours soul-baring you don’t hear much any more – a pouring-out of damnation, desperation and need. Played back-to-back these songs grow still more electric, of course.

Even on a compilation as relatively straitlaced as Influences, you get an idea of the wonderful foolishness of house music. No Smoke‘s “Bora Bora” has a limber bassline, and infectious African chanting, and then mixes in purely cheesy dancefloor squeaks. In no other genre would this silliness be allowed to spoil the effect, to disrespect the chanting, to disrupt the bassline. And no other genre could switch so swiftly from that to the soul-bleaching austerity of acid or the judgement-day histrionics of Adonis or Jamie Principle.

This episode of 1000 is turning into ‘Why I Love House Music’.

So to counterbalance – “Morning After” by Fallout is gnashingly tedious and free of interest (mmmm, jazzy keyboard licks, except the point of fucking jazz is NOT to play the same one again and again), and doubly so for having a great band-song name combo.

Hmmm…am I saying that house needs vocals? I’m saying it helps, surely.

Christ! The vocalist on “Bang Bang You’re Mine” by Bang The Party is outrageous! He’s like a basso Billy MacKenzie! Every word he says seems to have been rolled eight times round a brandy-filled mouth. This is the best track yet! So posh! And he’s backed up by a sweet soul falsetto. “Bang The Party is an attitude” – the attitude being to annihilate ‘soul’ vocals by any means neccessary. I can’t believe I have this. I wish I could share it with you but it’s in bloody Real Jukebox .rmj format. Go and download it! The howling behind and camp up front is like Divine teaming up with Tim Buckley.

“Oh, we’re not a *band*. We’ve never been a band….no more words, just the snare, snare, snare”

A Silver Mount Zion‘s ’13 Angels Standing Guard etc etc” is my favourite Godspeed-related track (that I’ve heard), because it’s almost pure ambient, early Seefeel without the dub, just the phasing, but the phasing used for the corniest ends possible. Corn is what GYBE live on, of course, but dropping the crescendoes makes it work. The violin I could almost do without.

Somebody on ILM said that Young Marble Giants were a path not taken by pop. This is not strictly true – Pram are basically YMG redux, only I like them much more – but anyway there is something a little bit dinky about YMG which stops me engaging too much with them. It might just be that for a band with the bass so front-and-centre they weren’t all that good at writing killer basslines.

Kalexi Shelby – “My Medusa” is instrumental house but I’m not complaining this time. Hi-hats in a constant bustle and the reduction of acid flow to monitor-alarm blips gives it a greater sense of urgency than the genre usually allows for. Halfway through it seems like it wants to end and doesn’t know how to – the resulting gaps could easily freak a dancefloor (perhaps just into greater efforts, though).

Actually though, let’s face it, there really are only so many hi-hats a man can take.

0924 – 0943: Twitching Convincingly

Steve Poindexter‘s “Computer Madness” sounds as geeky as it reads – jolly invader blips, the parent of today’s happy-sad retro gaming music. One of the few times on the Warp CD where the influences are tug-on-sleeve obvious rather than a pervasive background murmur.

The “(Rainforest Mix)” of “Can’t Stop Acid” by Plez is exactly what it says – a loping acid house track with canned rainforest noise in the background. Corny but effective – it turns the generic synth whines, woodblock samples and chanting into an off-the-peg dancefloor rite.

I love paella. Too much to write about whatever’s playing while I eat it.

Even if it’s “Nude Photo” by Rhythm Is Rhythm. Oh, all right then. I like this song a lot. It’s more danceable than almost anything else on these Warp CDs – more stark and more driven, more enigmatic…but it is these things at the expense of the fun, liveliness and surprise that is so much a part of much early House music. I suppose it’s unsurprising that this vision of visionary and soulful robotics beat out – in some critical circles, in the minds you suspect of many Warp artists – the cyborgs fucking in drag of other housetrax, but it’s maybe a shame.

And, finally, “In A Vision” by Virgo Four – also more techno in intent (very Kraftwerk-via-Cybotron keyboard washes) with the odd bloop of acid to keep the interest. It’s a low key end to a gruelling and fascinating stretch of listening. Though in truth (thanks to downloading past the start-point) there are still over 100 songs to go I feel with this huge electronic bloc behind me that I’m onto the last lap.

Whether it shows or not I don’t know, but this is one of the 1000 episodes I’ve done most out of a sense of duty. I’d rather be fucking around chatting to people, or playing Civ II, or talking crap on the forums…but having so recently restarted the experiment I know that for its sake and mine I don’t want to let it fall by the wayside again.

I like Ladytron‘s “Playgirl”, but I still can’t quite see what people would get out of it other than – hey, early eighties!. Unlike Daft Punk I can’t see any kind of new emotional hooks there – maybe it’s just that I’m too close (in the sense of still listening to it, a lot) to the source material. Even the narrative – gutsy girl shagging her way out of a dead-end existence – seems like something out of a 1981 Alan Bleasdale play.

The Bee Gees’ version of “Tragedy” is richer, better-produced, funkier, etc. etc. than Steps’ – but damnation I cannot get with the Bee Gees because they sing like they’re wearing corsets.

I was interrupted by a phone call from my Mum which spanned all three mixes of Acen‘s “Trip II The Moon”. And then I did play Civ II. So there. Now it’s morning, I’m running a bath, and Spectrum‘s “True Love Will Find You In The End”. You wonder why Sonic Boom stopped making records like this. Perhaps, actually very credibly, he just got bored of them. Echo, echo, echo.

Sons Of The Pioneers‘ “Tumbling Tumbleweeds” (and yes, I downloaded it because of The Big Lebowski) has all the hazy spook of the Spectrum record at a fraction of the effort and with fifty times the heart. You can’t imagine the Sons ever seeing a prairie – you can’t imagine them even existing outside some 40s Hollywood sound-stage, thanks to the so-pert violins and the coconut clip-clops – but still this hokey record seems to be saying something true that Spectrum cannot.

My rip of Skitz‘s superb “Twilight Of The Gods” is fucked, and interrupts the track with crackling and skipping just when it goes into the final moody scratching. Hey Ethan, glitch-hop! And then you get Kid 606‘s “Twirl”, the high point of his PS I Love You wherein the Kid and his army of glitchbots get to werk on what sounds like a Vini Reilly guitar study. The skips are here too, speeding up until they become the quickstep rhythm. That’s how I like to imagine this kind of music – a horde of pet insect machines, some of which pop, some of which click, some of which skip and hop and jump and squeak. You could prolly dance to it, or at least twitch convincingly. It goes out like vapour.

No, honestly. No. 9.15 AM is too early for Daphne And Celeste (Or so he thinks until the pianos start.) “UGLY” makes me want a bowl of cereal.

Jesus, I’d forgotten how good this is. I’ve been playing “Ooh Stick You” in clubs a lot lately, and Isabel prefers that one, but this has the banjos, man! The pacing on this track is so perfect, and the voices, and….damn. Another one of those bands never really given their due in the focus group, unfortunately.

Thanks to the ‘net I get to hear Negativland‘s “U2”. Gee, thanks, ‘net. Not one of their best efforts, it’s a three-way tie for smug, the oleaginous Mr Kasem (who clearly I care fuck-all about, living in Britain), meeting the rinky-dink U2 melody (though any melody sounds rinky-dink played on a cheapo synth), meeting the behind-the-scenes self-satisfaction of Negativland, whose hardly-concealed contempt for everything except their own smart selves is infectious at first and wearying after.

Some Negativland is terrific – “Aluminium Or Glass: The Memo” for instance, and most of Escape From Noise. The most infernal Negativland records, meanwhile, have one of their ‘characters’ from their radio show going on at CD-length, showing Negativland to be basically a counter-culture version of Steve Wright and his Afternoon Posse. Anyway, on the “A Capella Version” of “U2” – which is seven minutes long – they get one of their characters (I don’t fucking know which) to read the lyrics of the U2 song, with absurdist detours. It’s insufferable. If you make it halfway some quite spooky collage stuff happens, then the funny voice comes back. This is a very bad record indeed.

0944 – 0968: The Usual Damn Ghosts

Now, thanks to write-ups and research and reissues, we know all there is to know about ESG, who can deny the appeal of their music is diminished slightly? The point about “UFO” was not that it did what it said on the tin but that it was what it said on the tin – a record whose origins and purpose were entirely mysterious. It still doesn’t sound quite real, not the work of a band no matter how intriguingly un-rock that band turned out to be.

There are few soul records bleaker, lyrically, than “The Beginning Of My End” by The Unifics – but it can’t convince me, because the same stylings (musically, vocally) used here to describe death are used routinely in soul to describe the tinest lover’s tiff. What we’re hearing here are the limits of the soul style – perfectly respectable limits (we can hardly ask pop to cope with mortality) but limits nonetheless.

“Unsolved Child Murder” by The Auteurs is a much sharper, finer record about death, because it’s written from a perspective which feels the aftershocks of death – the hundred demeaning, milling platitudes – as keenly as the death itself. This perspective is a callous one, but it’s all poor trivial pop can really aspire to.

Another of my one-time Top 100 singles – “Unworthy” by Thieves. I remember the first time I’d heard this – I’d bought it on some forgotten recommendation for fifty pence, and I was sleeping downstairs in my house, having given my room to a friend. I put the cassingle on my old walkman. I was absolutely unprepared for how immediately perfect – too perfect, even, too lush and giddy – it sounded. And for how someone so enraptured could also be so angry. This latter, I was to discover, was the grain of realism that sustains the song’s qualities.

The first time I heard Timbaland‘s “Up Jumps The Boogie” I heard a pop take on the bubbling hop-skip-and-jump Germanic dance of Mouse on Mars etc. (it wasn’t called ‘glitch’ then). Now I hear the next four years of American pop spilling lazily out, but if I try I can still hear what I used to. The most exciting parts are still those sudden jags of string, though.

The Fifth Dimension I have to admit I don’t like. They seem to have become exemplars of pop for people who think finickity orchestration is an end not a means, and the material Jimmy Webb gave them is either second-rate or spoilt by their chintzy arrangements and too-brash hippie vocalists. “Up Up And Away”, one of their hits, has plenty of both.

Compare, for delicacy of arrangements, Lambchop, who boast about a thousand members and use them with the utmost attention. (On “Up With People” half of them seem to be on handclaps anyway). Kurt Wagner’s perpetually amused lounge-wimp voice I think is a wonderful thing (go easy on the falsetto, though) – you might disagree. I love his textures so much I don’t even notice how hazy and sense-free the words are: I don’t need to, really. His voice makes me feel like the world we live in is sad, but in the end good.

Ride – even “Vapour Trail”, their apparently ‘best’ song – just seem really ghastly now. Completely noncommital vocals, clodhopping drums, and faintly naff arrangements spoiling a pretty song. Too much nostalgia when it comes to this band, I think.

“Velouria” was one of the earliest songs I can remember trying to persuade myself I liked more than I did. This was, after all, the new single by the motherfuckin’ Pixies, and while it’s sweet and fun and all that, it’s still not what I wanted.

Buggles sound tough and modern – but of course they do, this remains their era. Pop’s new constitution packaged as a novelty hit, in case anyone might (sluggishly) object.

Dylan‘s “Visions Of Johanna” sounds like it always did, because what it describes rarely changes. A late night, inside talking, outside nothing worth thinking about, except maybe someone who – – oh, and every now and then a line swims up out of the rhythm and the quiet and catches at something inside you. Not the goofy beatnik stuff, the jewels and binoculars, that’s just a cover-up, a bit of bunco so you dont turn away from the rest – Dylan knows very well you’ve got a Johanna and a Louise of your own, after all, and a conscience too.

Skitz‘s “Vocal Workout” is exactly what it says it is….except the real action’s in the cloudy, folky backing. Similarly, Cheap Trick‘s “Voices” is all about the singer’s mock-sincere sighs – rarely have a band so insincere used their insincerity so well.

ILM’s poleaxed currently so I’ll put my thread idea here for safekeeping – Taking Sides: “French Kiss” vs “Voodoo Ray”. I’m going with the latter – “French Kiss” is the soundtrack to a fuck, “Voodoo Ray” teases you by soundtracking the things that might, in some ’88-future, replace fucking.

I always forget this until I’m actually playing it, but Daft Punk‘s “Voyager” has one of the basslines of the year.

A complaint on ILM recently about how R&B singers sing about their phones and pages, the mundanity of the subject jarring with the rococo vocals they build around it. A rare alt-pop equivalent is Simon Warner, who unleashes a titanic, leonine voice on subjects like how the fuck he’s going to get his washing up done. On “Waiting Rooms” he finds a more suitable theme, singing about finding old photographs of his mother, and flooding suddenly with empathy for what she’s been through. It’s a mile over the top, but still terribly moving and for all the overegged orchestration it’s humble too.

0969 – 0985: Every Day So Many Drinks

I kind of understand the arguments against bling-bling rap – I mean in theory going on about your cars and watches all the time is very tedious, and I work with someone who bangs on about his cockfarming car so I know that in practise it is very boring too. But if T___ brought in a beat box and drawled like the Hot Boys who is to say I would not suddenly find his BMW praiseworthy? Actually I think he’s changed up to something else, but I’ve long since learned to turn my ‘phones up whenever he opens his mouth.

Are Belle And Sebastian Christian Rock? I was going to follow that flippant qn with some discussion of how the cameraderie of B&S fandom was a secularised version of a Church youth group, but I’m not sure how well that holds up to say the least. Anyway “We Rule The School” has finished now so I don’t need to cover up having nothing to say about it.

I am enjoying the Vengaboys and their comedy mis-spellings of Ibiza (“Eye-bits-uh!”) much more, to be honest. Looked at from one angle, Aqua are probably the most influential band of the last five years. I love all this stuff (except the Cartoons who are rubbish) – I believe the Vengaboys tried to get serious and do ballads and that was the end of them. A shame: Europop makes your charts and radios a simpler, happier place and anyone who thinks that’s a bad thing shouldn’t really be listening to the radio anyway.

“We’re In The City” by Saint Etienne is – I think – the first ever MP3 I downloaded. Oh wonderful new technology! Are you noticing o readers that I can think of very little to say about any of these actual tracks? I think the pulsebeat-plus-pop direction Saint Et are mapping out here is one they could usefully have pursued, how about that. As it is this isn’t even on the hits CD.

And “Weekend” by Black Box Recorder is the first MP3 I ever reviewed on NYLPM. What a host of firsts! I was rather over-enthusiastic and I can’t hear now what I heard in it then. I think I heard myself in it then, see.

I bought a Handsome Family compilation on the strength of “Weightless Again” – it’s still really devastating, like no other americana I’ve heard, a deep country soundworld turned to stone and tar by the crushing weight of a dead love.

One of my thousand tracks turns out to be an advert for RealPlayer!!

That should be RealPlayer, I suppose.

“Sometimes you’re better off dead…” – nice way to begin a career (except it wasn’t, the Pet Shop Boys put the crasser “Opportunities” out first. Had that been their first hit they’d have been a novelty act. But “West End Girls” got to the top because it felt like a novelty hit but on further consideration wasn’t, or wasn’t enough to stop people being interested in whatever happened next. Right again, Record-Buying-Public!)

PSB again, from the wonderful Actually – “What Have I Done To Deserve This?”. Neil Tennant, you start to think, is best when he speak-sings – his half-rap (“And every day so many drinks such pretty flowers so tell me…”) is the emotional climax of the song, not Dusty’s (lovely) singing.

I think I may have said something like this before, but The Wedding Present‘s “What Have I Said Now?” is a very realistic depiction of something entirely outside the range of my sixteen-year-old experience (a couple having a petty argument) but at sixteen I loved it. I still do love it, but that’s beside the point. I am faced with the awful conclusion that I loved it so much at sixteen because I was so subconsciously desperate for a relationship that I wanted to live through even the horrible bits.

0986 – 0997: Three Cheers For Checkout Chic!

The weight of risible or boring solo Spice Girls records (this Emma Bunton flimflam being one of the best examples, Christ!) has now made it impossible even for me to remember how fun and neccessary they once seemed. An end is surely in sight for the record-making careers of most of them: a disappointment, and a wasted opportunity. Mind you you could say that about most bands’ post-split careers, it’s hardly new or an insight.

This perhaps-penultimate episode of 1000 is brought to you straight outta Hangoverland. The nursery-rhymes and pitiless momentum of Swizz Beats’ production for Eve are not what the clammy swamp of my brain needs right now.

Beanie Siegel – who hugely irritates me when he’s called “Beans” because I don’t like beans – has a wonderful, choked-up glottal flow. “What Your Life Like” stakes out his claim to a high score on Realness Trumps, though I think the fantastic prison-life verses would be much better served with a less chest-beating chorus.

Something which as 2001 turns into 2002 needs serious questioning: harpsichord noises in R&B. More than anything else they’re going to be the carbon-dating key, I think, to locating a track in this stretch of pop history (eg their use in Ginuwine‘s “What’s So Different”). In five years these records will sound creaky, in ten years ghastly, in fifteen sublime again and the sound will come back. People who appeal to posterity never take into account how records’ reputations and meanings shift over the course of their lifetimes: yes people will still be listening to Radiohead in 20 years but what they hear in it, the cultural weight it carries, will be very different.

Is the Ludacris album any good? I keep thinking of buying it, I just haven’t yet. Jesus, my weakened mind can’t process the clicky-clicky stuff on this track today. (“What’s Your Fantasy?”). Is this glitch-hop?

“Whats Yr Take On Cassavettes?” is Le Tigre‘s weakest track by a mile. It’s either making some point about the impossibility of aesthetic debate in a politicised world, in which case it’s miserable (though luckily wrong), or it’s making ‘points’ about Cassavettes, in which case it’s dumb. Ugh.

Almost a year since I first heard Mazarin‘s “Wheats”. That’s not very important, it just seems a long time, is all.

Ned’s pronounced disregard of lyrics (as described in an upcoming FT piece) seems odd when I consider that it was him who introduced me to Sparks (via the medium of – ha – a quote from their lyrics in his .sigfile, back in the days when people had .sigfiles), where the lyrics are surely a part of the appeal (the fizzing keyboards and Mael’s weird boy-man voice maybe more so, granted). “When Do I Get To Sing My Way?” might be their best lyric – embitteredness is a very hard subject to do in pop, let alone this well, because it’s so much the anathema of the bright pop dream. I suppose when you’ve been going 25 years the bright pop dream doesn’t mean very much anyway. I think it’s nice that they’re brothers.

“When I Dream” is the sweetest thing the Teardrop Explodes ever did.

Maybe I’m going to start hallucinating harpsichord sounds on R&B records. Maybe I already have – I’m sure there were some on 702‘s “Where My Girls At?”. Apparently not.

“Where’s The Playground Susie” by Glen Campbell I listened to about 10 times in a row the other day and I’m all Susie-d out. It’s a diamond-hard record all right – I’ve written about it too much maybe. It’s also the thousandth song on the hard drive – but note please o gentle readers that as mentioned before there are a good few more to go.

The first one being “White Chocolate Space Egg” by Liz Phair, which Maura got me to download back when I first got Napster. Pete owns this album, too. I’d never heard a note of Liz Phair before and I quite like it – there’s something bombastic about it, like that something I like on the last Hole album, though I’m sure Phair has plenty more integrity and credibility than Courtney Love does.

This is really by-numbers stuff, sorry. [this = this writing not the songs which are mostly just there.]

Maybe I need a sandwich. “White Line Fever” by Merle Haggard is beautiful but doesn’t do the trick. The Clash get closer, surprisingly – all that bark and buzz is matching the goop and drone in my head pretty well.

In this fragile state, how do you think I am finding “Who Let The Dogs Out?”. Yeah, that’s right.

Actually it suddenly strikes me this is the first time in months I’ve heard this. How brief and bright the life of the novelty sports song. Now fuck off.

Atomic Kitten‘s “Whole Again” (which I have twice in two versions yay!) is the pop song with everything – generic beat, proper chorus, spoken bits, easily filth-adaptable lyrics. Terrible that it allowed them to put out certain other records but “Whole Again” remains the business.

Especially the re-recording. Three cheers for checkout chic!

It has been said before and now it must be said again. Moby is a cockfarmer. I’ll be really pissed off if all the remaining tracks turn out to be from the bloody focus group.

0998 – 0999: You You You You You

The hangover has died to a pained throb on the right side of my brain, a stilton salad has stilled the rolling queasiness, coca-cola has perked me slightly – onwards, with forty or so songs to go! (The alternative is going back to bed, which strikes me as throwing in the towel a bit.). I am rather sad that I seem not to like Stephin Merritt as much as I did. Maybe I over-listened to him – these things happen. But it’s been six months at least since I put on a Magnetic Fields album – I think part of it is that the records are so closely associated with my Southgate flat and the awful first few months of 2000, and it’ll take a long time for those links to erode.

Mind you, listening now to “With Whom To Dance” it’s still apparent what a magnificent songwriter he is. “With Whom” shows off most of his virtues – elegance, restraint, wit, a depthless sadness – and also spotlights the fact that he is his own best interpreter. The song also demonstrates his quiet mastery of production – the slight echo on the guitar making it sound like burnished copper.

Jim O’Rourke‘s Eureka was something of a disappointment, straying overly close to the High Llamas-Stereolab quest for perfectible production at the expense of all vivacity. But “Women Of The World” is an absolute tonic, a musical painkiller and full of gorgeous moments which belie its apparent repetitiveness. It’s not quite as sublime as the tracks on Bad Timing, but I still can’t hear it without smiling – the trill of horns in the first minute, the wonky harmonies, the gradual emergency of a march-step beat. (I swear it’s curing my headache!)

O’Rourke is taking the deft 60s pop production of Bacharach, Van Dyke Parks and the Left Banke and extending it, applying it to post-pop forms those masters did not anticipate (Parks perhaps aside). Belle And Sebastian, though, cleave increasingly closely to the textbook tricks of 1960s sophisto-pop: “Woman’s Realm” is one of the prettiest tunes on Fold Your Hands… but the pertness of the arrangements straitjacket it rather. Other recent B&S tracks avoid this, either by force of pop will or by making the intricacy of the arrangement part and parcel of the song’s appeal (eg “The Model”). But more do not – the new tracks played live recently and in the band’s BBC Session are absolutely mummified by their arrangements. Here again Stuart Murdoch reminds me of a house producer, many of whom sacrificed the vitality of their music in their search for sophistication – though Murdoch at least has yet to embrace jazzy licks.

Blimey, I’ve only just noticed the Eno/Byrne sample on Gang Starr‘s “Words I Manifest” – that shivery whining sound you hear occasionally behind the drums is from “Mountain Of Needles” or “Come With Us”. Ooh, I love recognising samples (though I love not recognising them too). Premier has a reputation for minimalism – at least he does with me, ha – but this is a very busy track and repays close attention. It also repays dancing. Guru doesn’t help it much, though – he so rarely ever says anything in his raps, it seems to me.

Thanks to Napster, I finally got to listen to “Work Is A Four Letter Word”, one of two Smiths tracks I’d never heard. It’s not all that good – lovely to hear it, of course, complete the jigsaw so to speak, and it’s not as if I ever thought it would be great….but I think a problem with file-sharing is maybe that it means mystique – on a general level and on a personal level – is harder to come by. This doesn’t apply to new releases as much as to bootlegs etc. – everybody can now hear “Cocksucker Blues” and hear that it’s a bit of a knock-off (surprise!), and it’s much harder for individual listeners to not hear the rare tracks that might otherwise have contribute to a personal legend.

One of the good things about the recent spate of Bob Dylan attention is that the latest compilations restore “Would You Please Crawl Out Your Window?” to the canon a little. One of my favourite Dylan singles, it has the Hawks on sloppy, rollicking form, it’s got a fun tick-tock drum hook and it’s a more sympathetic and less personal put-down song than “Positively Fourth Street”. A good time was had by all, you included.

The opening of Nurse With Wound‘s surprisingly mersh “Yagga Blues” is uncannily similar to “Hallelujah” by the Happy Mondays.

(“Yagga Blues” dispersed the final clouds of hangover and sent me into a pleasant doze. Nurse indeed.)

Now unfortunately I am stirred from my reverie by the pointless sounds of Coldplay. Coldplay would – and yes I know I’ve said this hundreds of times now about hundreds of bands but nothing ever fucking changes – be a tenth as annoying if it wasn’t made out that they were somehow important or interesting or worthy in their own right just because they write songs on six-stringed bits of wood.

The last long section of songs are those whose titles begin “You” – these are addressed not generally to the listener but to another character in the song, who the listener might possibly be expected to identify with (but usually not – the listener as always is expected to identify with/be the singer). The “You” in Radiohead‘s “You And Whose Army” for instance is Tony Blair, or is generally taken as being Tony Blair – listening to its playground-taunt appropriations is especially relevant currently, the Paul Marsden-Hillary Armstrong affair still filling columns as I type and exposing that playground tactics are precisely what the British government resorts to when it doesn’t get its own way.

The “You” in “You Better Believe In Me”, by Eddy Reader (one of the most energetic records ever made), could be the listener, on the other hand, since the singer’s pleas are so forcefully expressed they sound like wide-cast commands to whoever’s listening. Truthfully if you can’t believe in this you probably wouldn’t believe in anything – not that ‘belief’ matters as much in pop as people like to think.

“You Disappear From View” (The Teardrop Explodes, their final and disgracefully unsuccessful single) is an entirely unspecified “you” since Cope’s lyrics make little sense at the best of times. A forceful voice, some well-charted horns and a snappy bassline can turn the most utter nonsense into three minutes of pure significance.

And the “you” in the New Radicals‘ “You Get What You Give” is universal – the listener yes, also the singer and his many and vague targets. I still find it absolutely irresistible.

1000: Happy End

So the final instalment of 1000 starts with the geometric, gnashing guitars of My Bloody Valentine – “You Made Me Realise”, splendid and scary in its rigidity, one of the records which you felt really took things further, taking noise and guitar skronk and moving them somewhere where aggression need not be married to ‘attitude’ – something Big Black, say, never managed (or wanted to). Live was a different matter, but on studio and live versions MBV’s approach is to wield massive forces with atom-splitting precision. Whatever they’re playing, it’s not ‘rock and roll’.

Even Robbie Williams’ farting over its metaphorical face cannot dim “You Only Live Twice”, the gauziest and most seductive Bond theme. The great challenge of Bond themes is how to fit the books’ snappily aphoristic but basically meaningless titles into a pop context. Some fail, but have fun trying. Others succeed, and Nancy Sinatra‘s deathless tune is one of them.

More proof that I do still like Stephin Merritt: the Future Bible Heroes‘s “You Pretend To Be The Moon”. The music dramatises what Claudia Gonson is singing about – steely grey aloofness which might just be covering an immense and awful sadness. And nobody writes pathos like Merritt – “at least I try”, especially the way Gonson sings it, is a stinging blow right on a stiff upper lip.

Have I learned anything, doing this? “Did I learn anything?” might be a better question, since the long interruption in proceedings meant that the initial impetus and thought processes behind this experiment are long-singe lost. I think I’ve learned mostly that it’s fun sometimes to write on the fly, and that thoughts about pop music don’t have to be finished off in order to be interesting. These are pretty obvious insights. I’ve confirmed to myself that I like listening to a maelstrom of different tracks, styles and genres, that I like contrasts and truffling out odd similarities. I knew this before of course, but MP3 is – sound quality issues aside – the perfect format for it.

“With Whom To Dance” mas a miniature of why the Magnetic Fields are good, but the Sixths‘ “You You You You You” is a reminder of how easily Merritt’s gifts can switch to autopilot, particularly when other people sing his songs. The tricks are all the same, but the track simply doesn’t bite. I wouldn’t like to fall in love with someone who thought this was a good love song, is what I’m saying.

There is something unique and remarkable about ESG, but it isn;t neccessarily a uniqueness and remarkableness I want to listen to much – the same applies for a lot of what you might call ‘punk-funk’ groups, which reminds me I meant to buy the 23 Skidoo reissues last night and I didn’t, curses.

The first thing I’m going to do after I finish 1000 is delete a lot of MP3s, duh.

Carly Simon‘s “You’re So Vain” won’t be one of them, though. Faster Pussycat‘s version might be, but really both are valuable – the lyrics are the same but the change of performers and eras turn the records into time-capsules of their respective West Coasts (and illuminate the universality of the vain guy/gals in question, of course).

Life Without Buildings pose a bit of a dilemma. On the one hand they’re blessed with lightning energy. On the other hand Sue Tompkins irritates me. Back on the one hand you get the feeling that the lightning energy of the band is completely conditional on what she’s doing. They’re a band so close to being amazing and they have to settle for interesting.

Squirrelled away at the end of The Great Escape was the lovely “Yuko And Hiro”, one of Blur‘s best songs and a crashing reminder (for them, mostly!) that i) “experimental” doesn’t have to mean “sounding like Tortoise”, and ii) “experimental” doesn’t have to mean “lyrically tossed-off”. Yes, they put out a lot of crap around this time, but “Yuko And Hiro” is sadly adorable.

(Someone should make an encoder which doesn’t rip lame end-of-album ‘bonus tracks’. Ouch.)

The second-to-last track in 1000 is “Zombie Nation” by Kernkraft 400, a track with happy memories for me and once whose preposterous goth-trance moves hold up extremely well.

And the final track on 1000 is “E Proibido Proibir” by Caetano Veloso and Os Mutantes. “It is forbidden to forbid” – the group and singer were performing this protest song live at a festival in I think 1972: the military did not approve and a riot started, which you can hear in the background. Like most ‘confrontational’ live tracks (Dylan, Suicide, etc.), you have to fill in a lot of the mental blanks (there’s no way of telling that the crowd is enraged rather than enthusiastic, without being told (OK, the screams of pain are maybe a giveaway)), but it’s a good story.

And that’s it. I’ve enjoyed doing 1000 – please do let me know if you’ve enjoyed reading it. I wish I had some sweeping conclusion to write but really I don’t. There are, after all, new tracks and new bands to listen to all the time. Thanks.

Comments

  1. 1
    Admin on 2 Aug 2006 #

    Lookee what the web archive re-found (note some files still missing: 571, 638, 678, 737)

  2. 2
    Doctor Mod on 4 Aug 2006 #

    Dusty Springfield – “I’ve Been Wrong Before”: a Winter night, so cold it hurts your lungs to breathe.

    I have never seen such an evocative description of this song. Not necessarily how I’d put it, but I understand what you mean.

    I must have been about fourteen when I first heard this song. It was actually Cilla Black singing it on one of the US pop shows. (And, by the way, Cilla’s version isn’t half bad, if nonetheless tepid next to Dusty’s.) I remember my friends and I at school, discussing the next day what we felt was a really strange song. I think it somewhat scared me, but I couldn’t quite say why.

    It wasn’t long after that I heard Dusty’s version. Chilling, even icy, strike me as the right adjectives to use. The distant-sounding piano–Beethoven? Chopin? Debussy? Satie?–creates a Gothic ambience. (Gothic in the sense of the literary genre, not kids with black nail polish.) The woman in the gloomy house lit by candles only hints at a long ago romantic tragedy–but she reveals only the most basic details of the story of love gone. The piano’s melody moves relentlessly through various key changes but still returns to the same place and begins again, just as, one might imagine, the woman’s story will as well.

    In the end, there is no resolution, and the sorrow in Dusty’s voice suggests abnegation in the face of a new potential love, so great is the pain of the former.

    I’ve never imagined this song being sung by light of day, but I hadn’t considered the season. But as you say, it’s cold outside. And inside as well.

  3. 3
    Marcello Carlin on 5 Aug 2006 #

    Written, lest we forget, by young Randy Newman in his “I Think It’s Going To Rain Today” mood.

  4. 4
    research on 30 Jan 2007 #

    Logging into this website should be a requirement for anyone knowledgeable on earth these days…

  5. 5
    Admin on 30 Jan 2007 #

    One of the more common species of comment spam we (well all blogsonline journals) get is the “wow this site is great [LINK TO MEDZ/ETC]” – but of the 1000s of such spam, the wording of this one tickled me enough to let through. it didn’t even have a link in it to edit out.

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