New York London Paris Munich

Jul 04


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While tidying up at Stone Lanes, I reread Teach Mark S a Lesson: Louis Prima. As it’s set long ago, it doesn’t strictly speaking answer any argt which says “yes yes back in the 60s this situation obtained but now it doesn’t”; but I think it shd cast a doubt at least on the certainty that now it doesn’t/can’t (bcz there were underground-oriented tastemakers who were ‘but now it doesn’t” back then too, and they were WRONG, and not just abt rock etc).

Actually I’ve only had time to skim SR’s v.long and detailed reply (it’s Trig Brother in an hour!!) but this is at least to pick up on the idea that the “pop” free-lunch REQUIRES cutting-edge technologies/techniques. Old abandoned highpop techniques (= the technologies we no longer consider technologies) (technics is a good, more-general word) can often also deliver: is late 50s Las Vegas Cabaret an “underground”, a SOACA? Well, yes, maybe it IS in a way; but if so, then you have to admit that there are endless pockets of potential SOACA scattered all over the Corporate Machinery, now more than ever (and not just in cutting-edge communities: as marcello noted, repetition is NOT an utter cultural-capitalist evil; it may in fact be a major overlooked nurturing ground; the retreat from the hip as the escape from the demands of planned cultural obsolescence). And thrown up at (quasi)random they will have MORE power than if they reappear after being hunted down via the habits and cliches of any specific given critical microcommunity, no matter how smart or learned (in fact the smartness and learning may constitute a problem) (ie Prima encountered out of “nowhere” trumps most of the perhaps not-dissimilar stuff unearthed in the Incredibly Strange Music books); which is notoriously defanged by the semblance of “ironic appreciation” that project cloaked itself in) (possibly misleadingly, possibly a bit scaredycattily).

(All this depends on the assumption that market forces can deliver things at random: that they’re not just a mask for the 12-ft-lizard supercontrol of a ruling cabal: but justifying this will take us out of NYPLM and into PBS and besides i have a bus to catch and evictions to cheer)

THE SQUARE TABLE 8 / The Streets – “Dry Your Eyes”

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Was I ever in love? I called it love.

I mean, it felt like love.

There were moments when –

well –

There were moments when.”
8 (Tom)

The Streets finally have indie cred here. Painfully hip fashionable stores (the kind that stock Vice magazine amongst the Vintage) play Mike Skinner’s music beside Adam Ant and “Jean Genie” era David Bowie, which always struck me as silly – there is nothing glamorous or artificial in his music. He is the perfect British novelist, someone who plumbs the banality and pathos of middle England.

The single makes me cry. I have heard people say that it tells the world that boys shouldn’t cry, and i think that this is a dangerous misreading. He is begging, of course, but he has to be beg – there is nothing left, she is going to go, and the desperation is palpable. The drying of eyes is not machismo bravado, but an honest recognition of the futility of the situation.

I cannot think of an American hip hopper (fuck that – I cannot think of an American musician) that engages in this kind of emotional vulnerability, you could argue Marshall Mathers, but he is blessed with a multiplicity of personae, there is only one the Streets, and his life is so indivisible from the life of both Mike Skinner and all of the lads that he represents. (Lad as romantic hero, instead of hooligan – a new trope?)

The best thing though is the honest use of cliches. The dialogue has a verisimilitude – who hasn’t had there mates use the line, there is plenty of fish in the sea, as an attempt to clear the debris of a broken relationship, or don’t cry – because there is nothing to cry about. Or how that muteness comes, and all you can say is I can’t say a word, or that calling for the chimera of trust.

Even the sung intervals, while not technically brilliant, are revelatory – the mark of good singing I think is finding what your limits are, and what the song requires and using that in tandem (which is why Courtney Love is a Great Singer and why Mariah Carey is a Poor Singer). Mr Skinner’s aching, broken, soft pleading is exactly what is needed here, the cradle of melancholy and dust is sadder then any of the lachrymose ballads that the American Idol crowd brings.

Aside from the singing? The introduction of strings as signifier of romantic ballad is a good notice of genre, so that there is no real time wasted with superfluous introductions, and then it almost becomes a capella, the drums and guitars providing a skeleton, nothing over the top, nothing in excess, just what needs to be said, and what is said is said very well. 10 (Anthony Easton)

Dry Your Eyes is a lover’s discourse. But you’d be mistaken to think Mike Skinner is singing to his soon to be ex-girlfriend. The whole point of the song is that he was never able to express himself, let her know how he really felt. Not when they loved each other and certainly not now when all falls apart. So now, when she’s ready to part, what little he is able to convey is through motion – the (right) words are still stuck in his brain. The only listener is you. I love how he’s able to use all the cliches to his advantage. That’s what love is: you’d be mistaken if you think what you feel is really original. It’s happened a million times before.

Dry Your Eyes is stacked up with cliches – from the “plenty more fish in the sea” to the weeping strings. But then that’s what makes you understand this love song: you hurt with him. You can take a song (and relationship) apart and try to find what really moves you to tears (or smiles). There’s never really one thing. So with Dry Your Eyes, it could be the lyrics, the way Mike Skinner sing-speaks’em, the strings, the shuffling beat,… I don’t know. Nor care. I just feel. 10 (Stevie Nixed)

There’s vulnerability in those imperceptibly important movements of the eyes and the hands, in that unending stretch of time between learning the truth and acting on it, in the rumpled double-tracked vocals of the chorus and bridge, in those precious young & restless weeping strings, in the solemn funereal drum machine beat, in that first moment when the knowledgable Streets fan realizes s/he might’ve mistakenly changed the channel from Lock, Stock… to Love Story, in hearing Mike Skinner actually sing (mewl, even) one of the hoariest cliches available (“there’s plenty more fish in the sea”), and in realizing that other cliche about cliches being cliches for a reason. You always find what you’re looking for in the last place you look. 10 (David Raposa)

In lesser hands, this would have been career sabotage. In fact, the whole idea of a rap opera involving a conceit as flimsy as a money-swallowing TV set (still not sure how that one works) should be the recipe for a disaster of “Kilroy Was Here” proportions. But it SO works. It’s always facinating, but rarely this successful, when a rapper takes the plunge. Like last year’s “Deliverance”, a hip-hop power ballad for the masses to sing in pubs and sports stadiums. “Goodbye Lucille #1” from both points of view. 10 (Henry Scollard)

Cynically released to cash in on British sporting teams going out in everything, Dry Your Eyes is not a typical single and offers no closure. A song for the dumped, we never get a song for the dumper. So we feel sorry for Mike (though fans of the album will also be aware that he has also wronged her). But it manages to articulate the incohate rage, the helplessness and the idiocy of the dumping situation. In the Grand Don’t Come For Free movie, there won’t be a dry eye in the
house. The song is for us as well. 9 (Pete)

When Spain was defeated in Euro 2004, the song that was rising in popularity in our country was Aventura’s “Obsesion”, whose chorus goes something like “no, it’s not love, what you feel is called obsession”. So Dry Your Eyes has absolutely nothing to do with Spain supporters’ feelings about our team, and anyway in order to do so it would have said “dry your armpits” instead. I can guess that we relate to football in a different way than english supporters do. But what really matters is that I can really relate to the song itself – I never imagined that the “there’s plenty more fish in the sea” cliché could be so touching – and I think it deserves all the praise and chart success it’s already getting. 9 (Diego Valladolid)

A videotape, rewound, replayed, over and over. Your fingernails are biting into your knuckles; you didn’t know they’d got that long, maybe it’s just that you’re gripping too tight.

You should stop that.

Except, right, this is the bit where she. And then-

You know the movements blind, by now, you must. You’ve repeated them, rewatched them, so many times your hands started to shape them in the air, his side, her side. Sign language. Turn the volume off, overdub it, reword the words, more convincing, more like what you ought to say.

Doesn’t matter; still ends the same.

Rewind, play. 9 (cis)

One problem with storytelling albums is that individual tracks can often work less well as singles, out of the logical and emotional context of their story, and this does indeed lose some impact. Still, it’s interesting to consider it as a single track – would we associate this with UK garage or hip hop if we’d heard nothing else by him? Strummed acoustic guitars, weak singing, talking about your unsatisfactory love life – I imagine I’d be thinking indie, perhaps the territory of, say, Arab Strap, notwithstanding some quiet electronic beats late on. Still, there are some very strong and wonderfully evocative lyrics in this (not least the opening lines), and obviously having and knowing the album I have the benefit of context so I find it easy to like, but I wouldn’t think it will find him a lot of new fans. 8 (Martin Skidmore)

I like Dry Your Eyes, I listen to it on my minidisc all the time. There’s a noisy office person at work who likes having an audience to talk at. He’s this scary looking tough guy, facial expression always says ‘you got a problem?’ and he likes to talk about the muggings and robberies that have happened in his neighbourhood over the weekend. It’s really funny hearing this guy going on and on in his Brummie accent: ?I mean, I mean, if they say hand it over, I’m gonna hand it over, y’know what I’m saying?! I ain’t gonna argue, no sir!?

He also likes to talk music. I once heard him say the name ‘Joss Stone’ at least five times in a single sentence. Anyway, yesterday he walks up to the coffee machine, and you know what he was whistling really loud? Dry Your Eyes. I mean, what’s that all about? Dry Your Eyes isn’t something you’d whistle, is it? Is it? I like listening to Dry Your Eyes, but it’s not exactly chirpy or cheerful, so you can’t really whistle to it, right? Or turn it into a dodgy ringtone either? 8 (Bushra)

It feels weird to hear this outside of the context of “A Grand Don’t Come For Free”, much more so than it did with “Fit But You Know It”; it feels like a clip from a classic movie or something. 7 (Daniel Reifferscheid)

It’s got a sweet sentiment, I kinda like it for that. I can’t really imagine sitting back and listening to it though, and maybe it is a little too much like some guy talking over advert music. 6 (Jel)

Hard to begrudge the love expressed for this song by most here. But I just don’t share the feeling. It’s not me, not my life – not that that’s a pre-requisite for my enjoyment of a song (indeed perhaps it’s more a complaint…to have loved and lost in this way suggests a life well lived, possibly), but I’m having trouble even recognizing it as a good song. Good like Dido? Good like Coldplay? Somewhere between poignant and trite for sure, and either way somewhat painful to listen to.

The strings are not particularly tingle-inducing, the guitar link not particularly heart-tugging, we’re used to Skinner’s audaciously semi-drawn speak/sing method at least, and usually it’s entertaining. Here I’m not so sure.. Maybe it’s the eagerness of people to mention the ease, pre-meditated perhaps, at which this song can be tacked on to accompany sports highlights or whatever i.e. DYS hell. As happy as I am that Skinner has scored a #1 hit with this, I’m also a little disappointed because I think it’s his weakest, most unimaginative single thus far. 5 (Steve Mannion)

Jul 04

NEW ORDER — Technique

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NEW ORDER — Technique

I actually posted this all over on ILM but I couldn’t decide whether here or there was the best place to put it. So I split the difference.


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“Kerry obviously will never be a natural orator of Bill Clinton and Barak Obama caliber,” argues PolBlogger Billmon, “but there are some things he could do that would help a lot, one of them being to cut the hand gestures – those short, jerky motions that make him look like an automaton – about in half. Fortunately, his gestures became more fluid as he warmed up, but for the first ten minutes or so he looked like he was dancing to a Devo tune.” Self Disorganising Androidal Observers disagree: “He shd have moonwalked,” chirred NYLPM spokesbots Tik and Tok. “Spastically.”

Pop The Vote

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Pop The Vote

On the I Love Music board I am running a poll to determine ILM’s Top 100 albums and tracks of the decade so far, what with being pretty much halfway through it as we are (unless you’re one of those anti-Carterian date rockists). A lot has happened in the last five years in the world of popular music – some genres ‘dying’, some being ‘reborn’, some continuing to mutate and spawn demonic offspring, but of course this is a poll for individual works (albums and tracks – not JUST singles mind) and not genres, although it will be interesting to see which styles prove the most popular when all the votes are counted. Right now I see no clear winner for either the albums list or the tracks list, but it’s early days yet. Please check out the voting form here and submit your choices based on the list provided, nominations provided by the ILM contributors on a ‘Pick One Only’ basis, leading to some shocking/hilarious omissions I’m sure you’ll agree – and that’s before the final chart has been calculated. The deadline for submissions is Monday 16th August, 12pm BST. Happy voting!

Riffing on a theme borrowed from sinkah’s

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Riffing on a theme borrowed from sinkah’s rise and sprawl (the noise piece), k-punk on glampirism. Without wanting to re-open the engagements of the last couple of weeks, it does strike me a) that “Low” is very much the rockist’s choice of 70s Bowie (cards on table, I’m for Aladdin Sane) and b) that the trouble with this Deleuze stuff is in the way you tell it. If Bowie functioned as “a force of reterritorializion” by “fixating upon the most deterrorialized, most intense elements, and ushering them back into the fold of r and r and melody” this also means, as k-punk acknowledges that there must also be deterritorialization (although he doesn’t use the word): “a movement in the opposite direction : listeners sent off on voyages of discovery, flights from the self, invention of artificial identities”. Now I can’t claim to be an expert on this here D&G stuff, but it says here (Mille Plateaux, Introduction, page 10 in English translation):

How could movements of deterritorialization and processes of reterritorialization not be relative, always connected, caught up in one another? The orchid deterritorializes by forming an image, a tracing of a wasp; but the wasp reterritorializes on that image. The wasp is nevertheless deterritorialized, becoming a piece of the orchid’s reproductive apparatus. But it reterritorializes the orchid by transporting its pollen. Wasp and orchid, as heterogeneous elements, form a rhizome. It could be said that the orchid imitates the wasp, reproducing its image in a signifying fashion (mimesis, mimicry, lure, etc.). But this is true only on the level of the strata – a parallelism between two strata such that a plant organization on one imitates an animal organization on the other. At the same time, something else entirely is going on: not imitation at all but a capture of code, surplus value of code, an increase in valence, a veritable becoming, a becoming-wasp of the orchid and a becoming-orchid of the wasp. Each of these becomings brings about the deterritorialization of one term and the reterritorialization of the other; the two becomings interlink and form relays in a circulation of intensities pushing the deterritorialization ever further.

So my questions are, and perhaps someone who knows about these things could explain to me:

1) [Theoretical question] If the deterritorialization is pushed ever further, doesn’t that mean that the reterritorialization is also pushed ever further? But if so why privilege the first? Doesn’t this confirm that what makes this different from dialectics is the positive value attached to (‘life’) to ‘intensity’, and ultimately to positivity rather than negativity. Is intensity just ‘good’ (surely not, since as D&G say on p. 9: ‘one can never posit a dualism or a dichotomy, even in the rudimentary form of the good and the bad’.

2) [Bowie question] How does the model work for Bowie? Why isn’t the use of the experimental elements in pop the deterritorialization of the avant-garde rather than its re-territorialization? Surely on the D&G account given above, it must be both deterritorialization of one on the other, and vice versa? The avant-garde is deterritorialized, becoming part of the pop market’s commercial reproductive apparatus; and pop reterritorializes on it; but pop is deterritorializing too, and the avant-garde reterritorializing. I can’t find the analogies to explain this since I don’t know the D&G system well enough, but it does seem to me axiomatic that the process goes both ways at once, and that this defines what they’re trying to describe: the becoming pop of the avant-garde, and the becoming avant-garde of pop. a) now if this isn’t dialectics, what is it? and b) why isn’t this what mark s has been arguing?


Happy Birthday Kate Bush!

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Happy Birthday Kate Bush! A reader has emailed to ask that NYLPM mention that it’s Kate Bush’s birthday (don’t know if it’s a particularly significant one or anything) – NYLPM is happy to oblige. “Babooshka”, “it’s in the trees – it’s coming -“, side two of Hounds Of Love, comedy mockney accent, comedy Australian accent, doing Bronte as a pop song for yr debut single, doing JOYCE as a pop song for yr comeback single, U-U-U-Utah Saints, the video for “Sat In Your Lap” (my Dad would perk up greatly when Kate Bush was on TOTP), and pretty much everything else. National treasure. There are probably people who don’t like Kate Bush but I disapprove of them.

Hole–I’m Dying.

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Hole–I’m Dying.

When Ms Love sings I’m Dying, Please on this track, one thinks that she is begging god and her self just to let it happen…It’s sad and its tragic, Celebrity Skin is all about (among other things)surveying the death of her husband, and how badly she is at the task at hand. But that one song, with its ghostly acoustic intro about cripples dancing, its self loathing, its drug addled pain, and that deaths head chorus. Maybe its a love song to heroin, needles popping under skin and the sluggish, happy daze that ends up drowning. Maybe it’s a song to death, the whole fucking album is about death–who has promised her something. She needs to be under who’s skin ? It might be the typical creepy rock song, the obsessive desire song. But even if you strip it away from its time and place, its more death filled, more obsessed with the destructive powers of rock and rtoll, and less obsessed with its life giving possibility. They keep telling us that rock is Dionysus and his instincts in culture, but that not only requires destruction but rebirth. Here, is the sound track to the losing of control, power, skill, talent…Here more then anything, with its overly simple three chord harangue, and ravaged vocals, is the death, is the going into the underworld and never coming up. Its a suicidal gesture for someone not brave or stupid enough to commit suicide–and now, with the botched abortion (and the discussion about whether it was on purpose or not), the drug treatments, the shoplifting, the tawdry public falling apart, the essential instability, it seems a prophecy come true.

Jul 04

I’ve just been listening

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I’ve just been listening to a song called ‘Tupelo Mississippi Flash’ by Tom Jones. It’s on the flip of his 1970 single, ‘Daughter of Darkness’. Here‘s the lyrics. It’s one of Jones’ typically r’n’b b-sides but was written and first released by Jerry Reed. Jerry had written both ‘The Guitar Man’ and ‘U.S. Male’ for Elvis, so I guess you could see it as a typically country narrative conceit or maybe a simultaneous philosophical homage and sulk in honour of The King. But, as you can see, even without squinting, it’s about an A&R man. Which got me wondering about other songs about A&R men. And I couldn’t think of any. Now, I’m fascinated by A&R men and label politics, so, by a process of swift deduction, I guess other people could be too…

So, where are these songs to whet our appetites? There MUST be one about Dick Rowe, the guy who famously rejected The Beatles, but I’m damned if I’ve heard it. SURELY Berry Gordy will have done some. And, if there are plenty of songs about being a fan or a DJ and gazillions about musicians, why no A&R or label boss?

Any suggestions?

Pop Metaphors Vol.

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Pop Metaphors Vol. n: my favoured image for the interaction of underground creative scenes and the pop overground is the cocktail (or any mixer drink really): the booze is what gives the mixture its kick – but drinking spirits neat is an occasional pleasure at best. The metaphor can be extended in many unflattering ways but such is not the intention!