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What WERE We Thinking?
What’s coming up next year, then?
i) The Freaky Trigger Top 100 Songs of all Time. Determined on Wednesday night using our impeccable scientific method, this should surprise, delight* and prove a handy source of low-imagination updates through the first half of next year.
ii) On January 27th our Freaky Trigger Disco returns for 2005 with a special themed “00s retrospective” night. With half a decade under our belts it’s time to celebrate the best pop music of the last 5 years. DJs for this will be the usual mob with no guests currently confirmed – normal service resumes in February and then in March – fingers crossed – we’ll be celebrating a regular gig in the same venue for a year, the first time this has happened. We have very special plans for that one. The 00s night is happening at (of course) The Chapel Bar in Islington, on Penton Street, 7 to 12 or possibly a little later. Special 00s drinks prices! Free entry! We can neither confirm or deny the rumour that this entire night is an excuse for us to play “2 Faced” by Louise.
*if you’re a fan of the Awesome Toys.
Jesus Shit, yet again.
Raymond and I were walking from Nathan Phillips Sqaure towards Dundas in downtown Toronto last night, talking about things we usually talk about, rambling about a newish city—when we walked past the Marriot (owned by the richest mormon in the world), outside was a a priest in a black coat smoking and waiting for a cab–after talking to him for a few minutes, he told us that there was a catholic youth conference happening in one of the basement ballrooms, and he had just finished saying penance.
We walked into a hotel that looked like a rip off of Michael Graves in Toyko, all mirrors and bad accents, and down the escaltors, and i heard the praise band–the update, post modern spectacle of 70s folk masses, with the same songs and the same delivery as the modern music baptist services–the kind of thing the Hidden Cameras mock in there live shows–and i started singing along, i was at the edge, looking at all of these people, with hands raised, like farmers waiting for rain, and i knew the lyrics and i started singing, humming really softly.
I was seduced, it was never the power of christ that compelled me and when I was leading that shit, sorting out speakers, teaching lessons, going to board meetings and bitching about the sameness of the music, i was trying to refute its hypnotic power. Being in that place though, in the dark, with the over head lights, and having 1000 charasmatic catholics sing w. their throats like islam at mecca–but having it happen in a downtown ballroom…it seemed at least partially a betrayal of catholic history, but also a recognition that music seems to be less and less about “skill”; even (esp ?) religous music and more and more about spectacle…and if one isn’t careful, one will be pulled in.
We don’t often talk about covermount CDs here, and I suppose most of them aren’t worth a lot of attention, but I have one here that made me go out and buy a few albums by the people on it, so I think it’s worth highlighting here.
The free magazine with it is Hip Hop Connection, which is not much of a bonus, though it is an improving mag, with some decent writing here and there (I liked their Eminem review, for instance). But when you only pay £3.25 for a CD, you can hardly complain if the attached mag isn’t too great. The point is the music, and here it’s from two closely related (in that the owners are brothers) labels, and the artistes are at least partly shared. Psycho+Logical belongs to Necro, and as you might guess from the name, he is very into horror – this is the hip hop equivalent of Scandinavian death metal or some such, all horror movie quotes and dramatic, scary music. There seem to be some associations with Slipknot and Anthrax. Frankly it’s pretty laughable lyrically, and I’m not sure why I like it here and not in metal – probably just because I love hip hop and dislike heavy metal, and find this strong and forceful rather than lumbering.
It was the Uncle Howie half that made me buy some CDs, though, especially by Non Phixion – though most of the other tracks here are by the members of that group, producer and label owner Ill Bill, Goretex, Sabac. They’re white Jewish guys from NYC, and although there are still Death Rap aspects, they sound kind of like the Wu. That’s what hooked me, I guess – I’m generally more interested in hip hop for the sound than the rhymes, and rarely pay that much attention to the lyrics, unless they grab my attention and convince me I should. Here it’s the sinister and potent beats that grabbed my interest, kind of hungrier post-RZA style, and I can firmly recommend Non Phixion’s The Green CD (and the earlier The Future Is Now sounds about as good), which is going straight into my 2004 top ten. If you like NYC hip hop, this sampler is very much worth trying, for the price of a CD single.
A Long Hot Summer by Masta Ace
Most of my albums of the year are ones where I’ve seen plenty of discussion about them on I Love Music – Streets, Big And Rich, Smile, Tom Waits, Dizzee and so on. I just did a search on this album title, and found no threads, and three single-digit-posts ones on the artiste.
He’s been around a long time, and it’s partly because he has announced that he isn’t making any more records that makes me want to mark this, but it’s mostly because I think this is a really tremendous album. It’s one of the most lyrically interesting hip hop albums I’ve heard in a long time – mature and intelligent in ways that don’t lose strength and freshness, thoughtful and rather wistful, lovely and tuneful but with musical muscle backing it up – it sort of puts me in mind of the Wu if the RZA were looking for beauty rather than sinister force in his music, if you can imagine such a thing. He also has terrific flow: his big influence on Eminem is well documented, though Eminem has I think surpassed him in this regard, but they aren’t far apart in style or standard, except Ace is much less of a comedian.
It’s the lyrics that are the great strength here, setting this above just about any genuine hip hop record this year (well, maybe excepting Ghostface’s Pretty Toney Album). It’s the words of a mature and honest man who’s been at this for a long time, fairly successfully without ever being a superstar, and wants to tell us all about it, a kind of musical autobiography that seems to be saying a lot of new things, while not abandoning the staples of hip hop, the girls and money and bragging and so on. It’s full of strong and original rhymes. I’m sure it’s one of the albums of 2004 that I’ll be going back to regularly in years to come.
POP FACTOR: 760 CONTROVERSY RATING: 187
This one has it all!*
- Classy Cocktail Kylie but with added good song!
- Smooth and modish production
- Genuinely good lyrics (“I don’t believe I’d fall in love just topass the time”)
- Great whispering bits!
- Middle eight that gets the moves going on the office party dancefloor (as proven last Friday, cheers Ms Minogue)
- A proper ending, and quite an arch one too.
*except a good singer. Oh well. 8 (Tom Ewing)
One of the greatest singles of the year. Unlike a certain other single recently reviewed by the Square Table, this is immediate (without kitsch), fluid (without limpness), and permanent (without obnoxiousness). And the lyrics (“I don’t believe I’d love somebody just to pass the time / but I believe in you”) are great too. 10 + JOKER (Atnevon)
As opposed to her asensual dreams of late, Kylie has slipped back into the lush orgasmic universe with “I Believe In You.” A Moroder-synth-throb produced by Jake Shears and Babydaddy from the Scissor Sisters, this is a song dedicated to Pop religion: Kylie and the listener are willing to believe the dream. The endless repetition and the robotic synth beat are enchanting. It all feels remote and alluring at the same time. This is “I feel love” for the 21st century, a coke-filled fantasy you can’t escape. 8 (stevienixed)
So light perfect for day dreaming. Treads the space inbetween “Spinning Around” and “Slow” perfectly and although throughly constant in pace it never bores or drags. Could have been so easily spoilt by over complication but thankfully isn’t. Kylie has left the dancefloor people. 8 (Paul Thomas)
It feels Kylie-by-numbers from the word go, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The Scissor Sisters turn in quite a decent string-laden tech-disco production complete with fiddles (so hot right now!) adorning the middle eight and ending nicely. Kylie’s breathy chorus almost operatic were only her voice capable of such grandeur (I’m quite glad it isn’t I think), but it’s well conceived, and concealed. It illustrates the difference between laziness and effortlessness pretty well, as despite the ‘knocked out sharpish’ feeling I can’t help but get from it, there are some sublime moments that strike me as as perfect as anything from the cream of her earlier work. 8 (SteveM)
K is for Kyle and K-hole and that’s just being redundant. This is what the girl in that old “Whipped Cream and Other Delights” album cover must have felt like: oily and beautiful and swimming in soft soft white. Not many songs make me want to turn on the iTunes visualizer to “watch along” but that’s exactly what this one did. Couldn’t be more vapid and dreamy and that’s just fine. But listen, could I just touch you? I mean, to make sure you’re real and stuff? 7 (forksclovetofu)
Like an old pair of shoes, new Kylie singles these days are pretty comfortable and reliable. She may misfire now and then, but we believe in her! The only complaint I have about this collaboration with the Scissor Sisters is that her voice overpowers the shiny synth hook in the chorus, when it should be the other way around. Otherwise, business as usual. 7 (Michael F. Gill)
We take Kylie for granted now, but who thought, nearly twenty years back when she had a hit with ‘I Should Be So Lucky’, that she had any chance of a long and successful music career? Anyway, this is another good single, sweet and pretty, with a slightly mournful almost-’80s electro beat (maybe that’s what made me think back to her ’80s stuff, though obviously she didn’t sound like this then), which doesn’t entirely match the very positive lyric. It’s a nice tune, and the production layering is very attractive. A drawback is that her voice doesn’t really get the expressiveness it reaches for in parts, but I don’t think that turns out to be very costly to the overall success. I dislike the silly noise on the ‘joker’s always smiling’ line (exactly the kind of moment of aural humour that Shadow Morton always got perfectly right), but otherwise I like this. 7 (Martin Skidmore)
The Product has been perfected over many years, but the visible seams and stiches on the music (and body) spoil the effect almost totally. Here, the [half-]track is merely an 80s pastiche that sound uncomfortably similar to New Order played at +16 (tightly sequenced bassline / nervous singing / vague melancholy / crap lyrics written on a napkin). It’s merely a langorous electronic backdrop for another identikit sexy video, the vocals slow and breathy to allow Kylie to sashay leggily around red-mouthed in shot without breaking her couplets. Despite a rather lovely arcing melody in the chorus (they’ve have around ten years to perfect pop kylie of course- a ludicrous amount of time), it’s as ersatz as the photoshopped girls in a glossy men’s mag. Summoning up enthusiasm for it is like trying to arouse yourself staring at the Girls Of FHM 2004. 3 (Derek Walmsley)
The Pogues in Brixton
I was lying flat in a London Osteopathy clinic last night. The Doctor was manipulating a disc in my back, trying to stop the sciatic nerve shooting pain down my leg. He advised me to go home and take a bath. Instead I went to a Pogues concert.
I last saw the band about fifteen years ago. I remember reading an article suggesting now was the time to go as Shane was technically dead. Yet, here he is, 2004, dedicating songs to Joe Strummer and Kirsty MacColl.
OK, he’s forgotten most of the lyrics and his face is fat, but most of the audience looked worse. He covered his mistakes with some yee-has and a silly dance and this wasn’t an impress me crowd anyway.
There’s a kind of homoerotic air at Pogues concerts. Big beery guys with arms around each other. Occasionally they have human tower ideas that end in heaps and puddles. I’m sure some of them even enjoy rugby, but I forgave them last night and got caught up in it all.
Oddly, my back feels a little better this morning.
This is a blog by Yancey Strickler, long time ILM head – he alerted me to this a while ago but I’ve been idle with the inbox. Good stuff for the indie modernists among you.
aka The NYLPM New Year Quiz
Doing my ‘tracks of the year’ presented me with a dilemma. I’ve heard little and paid attention to less, attempting a ’round-up’ would just be pompous (so go and read Jess’ instead). But I do have favourites and the atavistic desire to list them cannot be denied.
So here are my top 31 tracks, in reverse order – or rather here is a lyric from each of them, which you can use to identify said Top 31 in the comments box. No write-ups, sorry, but if there’s anything you feel is particularly indefensible you can request some sort of justification from me. No prizes for that matter, well probably not. But if you’re sitting out the last days before
31. “South Philly muthafucka kill at will”
30. “Darkroom Danny can’t see with the lights turned out”
29. “Call the police there’s a mad girl in town”
27. “I found a fox, chased by dogs”
26. “Seen your eyes go left right, left right, left right, left right”
25. “Highlights and a pitbull, you’re looking fierce girl”
24. “The joker’s always smiling, in every hand that’s dealt”
23. “I took a sip from my devil cup”
22. “Made an album, over 100,000 people bought it – thank you”
21. “I must confess I’ve been a very bad boy”
20. “It representin the struggle, man”
19. “Is that a new boy stuck on your shoe?”
18. “Life is moving faster now”
17. “You gotta hang around in limbo for as long as I take”
16. “Weapons underground mean the planet’s safe and sound”
15. “Well he’s my boy of gold and he’s not very old”
14. “Is it just the margaritas or are you talking to me?”
13. “You’ve never had it all – all in one woman before”
12. “What if they say that you’re a climber?”
11. “2! 4! 6! 8! 10! 2! 4! 6! 8! 10!”
10. “No further questions, you have passed my test”
9. “Got no worries in my diary”
8. “I was gonna be late, so I picked up my pace to run”
7. “We all went down to the party Friday night and had a drink or two”
6. “Rock me shock me any way you know, but I guess I kind of like the status quo”
5. “Should’ve fluttered my mascara like a butterfly”
4. “My style is the bomb di di bomb di dang di dang diggy diggy”
3. “Like a circle made of flames, no telling where it started burning”
2. “I walk into the room passing out hundred dollar bills”
1. “Such a strange way of having fun”
(There may well be spoilers in the comments box)
In 2004 I disliked more music than ever before. In 2004 I started listening to the radio everyday at work. These things are not unrelated. These were the records I hated most, based on far, far too many listens (thanks XFM!). And yes, some of these are obvious picks and some are cheap shots and it’s all very predictable but I want to take whatever tiny, petty vengeance I can on these fuckers for making my year that little bit worse.
20. Eminem – Just Lose It (for the disappointment, and then the tedium; it really doesn’t get any funnier)
19. McFly – Room On The Third Floor (if I was a McFly fan, I would be stoutly defending them on the grounds that they’re pretty much indistinguishable from Razorlight.)
18. Dido – Sand In My Shoes (just for the gall of her trying to colonise people’s summer holiday memories so blatantly)
17. Michelle – All This Time (the kiss of death for Reality Pop, you’d have thought.)
16. The Killers – All These Things I’ve Done (an average sort of record until the towering inanity of “I got soul but I’m not a soldier” is repeated again, and again, and again until foaming madness beckons)
15. Busted – Who’s David (or any of the other ‘grungey’ ones that are the band’s mile-wide Achilles arse)
14. Badly Drawn Boy – Year Of The Rat (the abyss of the mid-tempo songwriter strum gapes before us)
13. Morrissey – I Have Forgiven Jesus (even the stronger performances on his album have a touch of the automatic about them, but where the tunes desert him the result is embarrassing)
12. Maroon 5 – She Will Be Loved (agonisingly constipated)
11. Jamie Cullum – Frontin’ (only this low because i) it didn’t get much airplay and ii) I hate Cullum less since realising that the tastefully shot clouds behind him on the wretched new album cover look very much like a sulpherous jet issuing from his arse)
10. Franz Ferdinand – Matinee (yes, alright, Take Me Out is terrific. But if there’s ever been a smugger moment than the ‘Terry Wogan’ chunk on this I’ve not heard it. “Michael” is dreadful too, they have a knack of writing choruses which are niggling but somehow clumsy too.)
9. NERD – Maybe (actually, who needs Jamie Cullum?)
8. Band Aid 20 – Do They Know It’s Christmas? (it’s drab but not awful until the shocking last minute or so. Fran Healy: Woo!)
7. Wolfman – For Lovers (god almighty THAT VOICE! I’m no fan of the professionalisation of singing but this is going way too far.)
6. Joss Stone – Fell In Love With A Boy (not that a ‘great voice’ is any guarantee of quality if you’re just going to use it for bad Jamiroquai impressions)
5. REM – Leaving New York (so portentious, so empty – how do they carry on?)
4. The Dears – Lost In The Plot (makes Pete Doherty sound like Al Green. Genuinely painful singing.)
3. Brian McFadden – Real To Me (laughable and desperate)
2. Jet – Look What You’ve Done? (even Oasis stopped short of actually nicking the Beatles’ lyrics on one of their ‘homages’. Jet are the worst band in the universe ever.)
and my least favourite single of 2004?
1. Razorlight – Golden Touch (again, just strong enough a song to get into your head without you ever getting a gram of benefit from its being there. The final straws came when after saturation airplay I heard it on a loop in WH Smiths every morning AND my boss decided to use it on a ‘motivational’ presentation. Ocean Colour Scene live again – well done all concerned.)
SPECIAL HATE UPDATE: Two astonishing omissions! “Whatever Happened To Corey Haim” by The Thrills and “Cannonball” by Damien Rice, both forgotten because their repulsive shuffling passivity makes such a non-impression unless the blighted things are actually playing. Insert both between #s 1 and 2 please.
Human After All
For many of you out there, there may be none more seismic a newsflash over the festive season. The prospect of a new Daft Punk album has excited me for some time, but hang on, it’s not been mentioned on The Raft, only NME from what I can tell. And, that title! Those track titles…it’s all rather fishy isn’t it? Risky to speculate either way if you want to avoid getting a plate, getting your words, putting those words on said plate, and eating your words…BUT if it IS true then it did bring to mind an interesting ‘tactic’ for bands as they bid to distinguish their new great work from the last. Supposedly, by denial or retraction they go forwards…almost too keen to convince everyone this one will be different from the previous effort, at least in concept and premise. Not that another Discovery or Homework would probably be a good idea, I think I just adhere to a rather ‘boyish’ (and both appealing yet disturbing) ideal about machines or indeed man-machines being superior to the human, an ethos that’s resulted in some of the most amazing, dynamic electronic pop music of the last 30 years or more. And I hope Thomas and Guy-Man still recognise that and don’t ‘sell their turntables and buy guitars’ (to paraphrase ‘Losing My Edge’) as it were.
So I think I’d prefer ‘We Are Still Zer Robotz’ for the title…