I Hate Music

30
Jun 00

MOMUS

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Whenever our old friend Nicholas Currie wants to tell us how, you know, *radical* and *sexual* and *dangerous* his music is compared to all those *repressed* and *parochial* Brit-rockers (hmmm … Fran Healy hollering his way through “Turn” as though he was reading out somebody else’s shopping list, Paul Weller shouting “He’s the keeper!” as though he’s warning young kids off the sinister owner of some Hampshire museum … for the first and only time in your life, Nick, you’re right) he draws our attention to one song – an irritating and inconsequential little throwaway called “Coming in a Girl’s Mouth”. This, apparently, is the most subversive thing ever recorded, the jewel in his crown which places him millions of light years of subversion above Primal Scream, whose most recent album got its most positive review in the Daily Telegraph (for the benefit of those outside the UK, a rabidly right-wing, fanatically pro-tradition and indescribably backward-looking newspaper).

SLEATER-KINNEY

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Having “the rock” is often assumed to be a singularly male obsession. We chicks have got more important things to worry about that strapping on a set of leather strides, damaging our sleek body curves with ungainly guitar straps and standing with our legs 20 degrees apart. This is the misconception that Sleater-Kinney are here to batter down. They are chicks and they rock.

Well, actually no. Sleater-Kinney – a name more suited to a low rent one room law firm than a band – are merely the latest in a long line of trad rock bands peddling the fact they are women to give them that extra boost. For christ-sake, we had the Bangles, we don’t need another one. Of course the SK sound differs from the pop savvy nature of the mid-eighties girl band, but there is a direct line back to Suzi Quatro with all these groups. Okay, they don’t play on their looks (such as they are) because they are a proper, serious rock band. They do fast songs, they do slow songs but they do them all with a singular ineptitude. If they had put a bit of scratching on an early record they would probably be touted as the female Beastie Boys (oh hold on a second – that’s Luscious Jackson I’ve accidentally strayed on to).

My many years as a detached observer of pop music gives me the power to say that sex sells. The only thing that marks out Sleater-Kinney from The Dandy Warhols is that S-K are all woman. At least the Dandy Warhols appreciate that their female member is their biggest selling point, and she gets her kit off at every available opportunity. All the above may be a pretty generic set of criticisms to hang on just one band, but Sleater-Kinney Management Consultants have one more trick up their sleeve. It is quite common these days for girl bands to use the harmonising qualities of their voices to special effect. Sleater and indeed Kinney instead employ the member with the most caterwauling voice to bellow over the fast songs, scaring animals and small children wherever they go. I have seen the yelping on Little Babies make peoples ears bleed.

Still, let’s leave the last word to the girls themselves. The hint is in the album title. You buy their record and you will have All Hands On THE Bad Thing. It’s a bad thing. A very bad thing.

29
Jun 00

The Swingle Sisters

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cf. Stereolab thirty years ago.

Broadcast

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cf. Stereolab with a Brummie accent.

28
Jun 00

Stereolab

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ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba socialism ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba

27
Jun 00

The Specials and the first great ska revival

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How Special were The Specials? Undoubtedly some of them along the line went to a special school, if you get my drift. Certainly the dramatic decline of Terry Hall’s career suggests that education was not what he was all about.

Ah but take us back to the heady days of the first great Ska revival. The Specials were certainly at the Transit vanguard of this appropriation of tunes better suited to the Caribbean and transplanting them to the South Midlands. Ska is a joyous, infectious racket in theory – of course theories can rarely be proved in the cold light of day and instead what we got were a number of groups bludgeoning pissed down* Skatalites “classics”. But at least the Ska revival allowed lots of dumb groups (Bad Manners, The Beat) to bounce around and get their frustrations out in the carefully controlled atmosphere of the back room of a pub. Instead of beating people up on street corners (which I daresay Buster Bloodvessel may have turned to if he hadn’t got the funk.)

Problem is with any kind of dumb music, a band comes along and tries to make it intelligent. Two Tone Records gave us The Specials. Two Tone because, hey, some of them were black and some of them were white. Two Tone also because there were two tones in their music, the up beat and the down beat. And boy were they down beat. What The Specials did for racial integration in this country, they also did for political comment in song. Exactly nothing.

To try and explain the place of The Specials in a transatlantic context I will compare the first great ska revival with the second. Loathe as I am to point out that the Yanks fell for the same trick we did just fifteen years too late, I can try to make comparisons. If The Selecter are No Doubt, then The Specials were The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. The highpoint of The Specials recording career was “Ghost Town”, a song about people not going out in Coventry anymore. Of course they weren’t going out anymore, all they were playing in the clubs was fucking Specials records. Oh – Coventry is like Detroit. Pointless concrete city who’s football team never does anything.

Ska withered and died, and will do too in the States. There are only so many songs you can play with two notes alternating. One starting on the up beat and the other starting on the down beat. Terry Hall became the mathematically correct third of Fun Boy Three, the highlight of whose career was doing a duet with Bananarama. And there’s nothing special about that.

*Pissed Down is like being watered down, with an obvious substitution of liquids.

DRUGS – DO THEY WORK?

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DRUGS – DO THEY WORK?

I have a love-hate relationship with drugs in music. I – of course – am a clean living girl and would never take the things myself. Unless they were sleeping pills to avoid listening to the Velvet Underground. (I am not saying I would need sleeping pills to fall asleep during the VU – the VU do that nicely by themselves. Perhaps the Ramones would have been a better example. Though I often find one trick ponies, no matter how noisy, to be even duller than avant garde nonce-rock.)

Sorry, got sidetracked there. So much music, so little time. You see, drugs are responsible for some of the most appaling excesses committed to the ether. I’m thinking Jimi Hendrix, I am thinking the entirity of prog rock. I am thinking Acid House. Let us take The Shamen for example. Ebeneezer Goode, a track designed to glorify the marvelous powers of Ecstacy. And this was done exactly how? By inventing a character who bore an uncanny resemblence to Penelope Pitstop’s nemesis The Hooded Claw, who probably destroyed the sleep of a million ten year olds. Invented by a band who at the height of their success literally fell off a cliff, Ebeneezer Goode was an nasty piece of rave gone worse peddled to an audience who had not got over the demise of the KLF (me, I was too busy holding a year long street party). Rather than glorifying drugs, Mr “E’s Are Good” (geddit?) came on much like the rave generations version of Nick-O-Teen.

(Whilst off topic, Superman vs Nick-O-Teen. Superman, faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, piss-poor cover song by REM. Nick-O-Teen: bloke who smokes lots of fags, dressed like a ciggie and probably riddled with cancer. Not exactly a busy day at the office there for Supes.)

The E-generations contribution to music can be written on the back of one of Nick’s fag packets. LSD gave us Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds and possibly the worst period of the Beatles misbegotten career. And as for cocaine, show me a second album which does not have a song about charlie on it, and I’ll show you a band who’s first album did not go gold (it will be the same band). All this said though, I have a soft spot for drugs in music too.

Y’see drugs are the number one cause of mortality in your pop star. For every Boy George who manages to clean himself up and go on to the celebrity hat wearing circuit, we get a Kurt Cobain – opening up his mind the hard way. The drugs deaths of Brian Jones and Jimi Hendrix are reminders to all of us that there is capital punishment in the world of making lousy music. And even if the drugs don’t kill them, it usually marks a permenent demise in their recorded outlet, giving us three year sabbaticals and a joyous retirement into the Nice Price ranks. Why even last week young Billie Piper fell over in a wine bar due to a “mild kidney infection”. I know what that infection is called, and I also know the going rate for five grams of it. No – when I think of all the good that drugs have done music, in killing, maiming or curtailing careers – I cannot help but celebrate them.

Its like this, my drugs dillema reduced to basics. Without drugs, Nirvana would be a going concern, though possibly faded into sixth album obscurity like Pearl Jam. With drugs, we got the Foo Fighters. I think this one is too tight to call.

25
Jun 00

THE MONSOON BASSOON

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THE MONSOON BASSOON

A difficult one this, as a member of another rock band writes asking me to criticise a group I have never actually heard. Where is the sense of musicianly community, I ask you? I write back, pointing out that my ears have remained happily unsullied by the M.B., and receive this in reply: “Do you not think the name is enough?”.

OK, yes, good point.

There is a band who call themselves the Monsoon Bassoon: that fact should worry you, readers. Now, I know very well that every band has at some point given themselves a name like the Monsoon Bassoon – that point is at 14 years old, when they are sitting around in the bassist’s bedroom trying to think up ‘mad’ names and wondering how they can get the singer’s big brother to score them some cider. The stupid name is thought of, adopted, and discarded a week later, after a band member has actually had to tell it to somebody else. End of story.

But not for the Monsoon Bassoon: they bypassed the ’embarrassment’ stage and have now released several singles and an album under what is, basically, the worst band name in the world….ever (apart from Phish). This leads me to suspect that the band are, mentally, still 14 years old. If so, what music might they make? An untutored racket alternating between pointless show-offy bits and sheer caterwaulings, topped with nonsensical lyrics intended to give the false impression that the singer has ever taken any drug stronger than Benylin, I’d guess. A swift check-up with my musical contacts confirms that my suspicions are accurate in every respect, but also dredges up one more piece of information which reveals the band to be not only fools but complete arses to boot.

They don’t even use a fucking bassoon.

SEMISONIC

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SEMISONIC

If Semisonic were indeed semi-sonic, that would mean that they would be barely audible, and that could only be an improvement. Semisonic, in their skittish reconstructed way released a song called “Secret Smile” which was all about a woman’s bits. Had I been that unfortunate woman, I too would be at great pains to keep my “smile” secret, lest it be interfered with by another talentless John Denver look-alike.

They also released a song called “Closing Time” which is right up there with other drinking classics like “Tequila” and “I am a cider drinker”. Let’s hope they get a much-deserved lock-in and drink themselves out of a recording career, eh readers?

I HATE DUEL

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I HATE DUEL

Of all the foul inventions – a poll which forces me to choose between two behemoths of mediocrity like The Stereophonics and Travis, the least defensible acts doing the rounds in Britain. A poll which saw the swift exit of REM and the even swifter exits of Radiohead and Belle & Sebastian. A poll which denied even to quantify the blatant poorness of Placebo, Gomez and for what itís worth Idlewild. I could go on. Readers, give me the strength and courage to channel my anger at these criminals of culture, and for your own sake avoid the BBC2 coverage of that Festival of Arse – Glastonbury. I for my part will be watching intently, gathering my evidence.