New York London Paris Munich

Jun 05


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Here is how you become a pop star.

1. Go to record company.
2. Say “I am a celebrity can I put a single out?”
3. Repeat 1 and 2 until someone says “Yes”
4. Release record.
5. If the record is good enough* you will now be a pop star by dint of being famous already. If it isn’t you won’t.

Worked for Kylie and Jason, it’ll work for you.

*sadly this utopian claim is actually untrue. Paris Hilton’s “Screwed” is a great little pop record, a mite self-knowing but at least it doesn’t duck out of the ‘made-by-someone-famous’ factor entirely. It has stiffed hugely.

I’ll Have A Long Skinny Dylan Please

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Shock! Horror! Dylan sells rights to music to be played in EVIL StarbuXor. As the cossetted article points out, Dylan has been doing this for forty years. And anyone can play any record in a shop they like if its had a commercial release (its covered by PRS after all). Mind you, getting Dylan with a shot of espresso might be the biggest shock since he went electric.

Jun 05

My Glastonbury Highlight

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There will be much, much more on this front but from a pure visceral piece of musical fun there was really only one place to be in Glastonbury. That was the Roots stage in the Dance Village which unfortuantely also seemed to only ever have about thirty punters in it. Nae matter. The festival finished with Seeed: and their Glastonbury Dancehall Dancing competition which was tremendous fun (and Seeed’s German dancehall was pretty top too). They also get bonus points for asking “Glastonbury: Are You (Still) Alive!”

However same stage, two nights before, while 808 State were playing their own records at themselves I stumbled across Swami. who used to be DJ Swami but is now a six piece bhangra rock rap act who for sheer energy wiped the floor with anything on the John Peel Stage (and could probably teach the Go! Team a little bit about being a live act). More information on Swami here. Don’t mind the moody photo, they were lovely boys on stage.

Jun 05


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YOU DECIDE can ads PWN good art?
is the art PWNd by ads good?

when ILM is funny it is very very funny

Jun 05

The ‘ain’t goin’ to Glasto’ mix…

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For those of us not down at Worthy Farm this weekend who sort of wish we were, 30 seconds out of every minute.

Alvin Lucier ‘I Am Sitting In A Room’
Dru Hill ‘In MY Bed’
Samantha Fox ‘Love House’
Basement Jaxx ‘City People’
Lloyd Cole & The Commotions ‘Lost Weekend’
Shrek ‘Stay Home’
Radiohead ‘Pyramid Song’ (pyramid…misery…DYS?)
Death Cab For Cutie ‘We Laugh Indoors’
Vitalic ‘No Fun’
Underworld ‘Mmmm Skyscraper I Love You’
Joachim ‘Come Into My Kitchen’
St Etienne ‘Side Streets’
O.M.D. ‘Electricity’
The Futureheads ‘Decent Days And Nights (Max Tundra mix)’
The Housemartins ‘Me And The Farmer’ (a great song to turn you off the countryside)
Sean Paul ‘Concrete’
Daft Punk ‘Television Rules The Nation’
Slowdive ‘Beach Song’
Air ‘People In The City’
Yello ft Stina Nordenham ‘To The Sea’

Jun 05

Blobby blobby blobby

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If this is true, and BB has had Maxwell “shelling prawns to the sounds of Aqua, Chesney Hawkes and Mr Blobby” then can we assume that a) BB is trying to ease the strains of the task by playing dickboy great pop tunes; or b) BB hates fun?

Jun 05


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Whilst away I had the privilege, nay pleasure, of watching some Fox News. Its output was probably at about two in the morning, however what was interesting was a five minute package of Palestinian Rap. There was much pooh-poohing that this “uniquely American” musical form could translate to an oppressed group who, let’s not beat about the bush, are Fox News viewers’ enemies. But the piece did show how artists can express their frustrations through their work. Then undermined the whole story by saying that these are actually the only rappers in Palestine, and no-one actually likes them.

The piece then really undermined itself by never telling us the name of the group. So I’ll tell you (cos I know them): it was Dam. I am not saying that anyone watching that piece might be stirred to do any further research, or interested in them, but if they are they can look at the ArabRap website.

Jun 05

The chances of anything coming from Mars…

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How is the Martian battle cry in Jeff Wayne’s War Of The Worlds spelt? It is one of the most recognisable sounds in pop but Wayne himself never has to verbalise (unless earlier editions than mine come with a libretto!). Orbital sampled the piercing war-shriek on their debut album, titling the track “Oolaa”. But ‘oolaa’ fails to satisfy as a spelling, for three reasons:

i. The double-o and double-a might suggest that the two vowel-sounds which make up the cry (NB it is not confirmed that Martians have ‘vowels’ so I am using the Earth equiv.) are of similar length: this is untrue, as the cry is made up of a forceful and triumphant ‘oo’ and then a tailing-off ‘laaaaa’ as the Martian seeks its next kill.

ii. The break between syllables is dramatic, more dramatic than found in most Earth words – while I would agree w/ the brothers Hartnoll that the two syllables are not separate words I think some kind of punctuation, a hyphen maybe, to separate them would be appropriate.

iii. Personally, I’m not convinced by the ‘oo’ spelling. The cry seems more alien, and to come from further back in the (human) mouth, than the mundane ‘oo’ of boot or hoot. It seems closer to a ‘u’ sound – maybe the spelling should involve a ‘uu’, or even better, a ‘uu’ with some kind of accent on it! If anyone knows the character number for u-umlaut we can take these speculations to their next level.

Jun 05

he probably thinks that if he makes sneery jokes about dido then the kids who read the nme will think lenin is “cool”

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and thus, inevitably, a column in which mark steel gamely ploughs his way through a crit of THIS KIND OF THING (viz: Live8 in particular, charity protest in general). Fraid you have to subscribe for the complete “764 words approx” but here as a taster is the BIG JOKE COMPLETE WITH SET-UP: “Bob Geldof is at his most potent when he speaks with fury at the inertia of world leaders on such issues. But the message is weakened when the corporate bodies are involved, as their participation depends on diluting the demands made on them. Similarly, it’s harder to take the campaign seriously when one of the performers will be Mariah Cary. She probably wonders why Africa doesn’t simply sack its manager, and get one who demands better caterers and a champagne well in the dressing room.”

Obviously it’s easier to “win” arguments if you get to i. make up your opponents’ answers yourself, and ii. make these answers very silly. I wish I imagined that Steel wd do as well in real-time cut-and-thrust political argument w.Mariah C.: sadly I’ve actually seen him as a commentator in grown-up news-studios up against unfolding events and brassy announcer-bimbos. the day ken livingstone beat frank dobson, steel was on the couch to shill for the (since binned) socialist alliance – asked for his reactions he sidestepped the invitation to say anything pointed and/or funny (MAYBE EVEN BOTH EH??!!) about the victor – in other words, about the political situation as it actually existed – in favour of his pre-prepared dobson gag. in his good-natured dim-carthorse way, he insisted on ploughing wordily through this. the shiny-haired newslady waited till he finished, “well, that was a big load of nothing,” the gist of her assessment. PWNED!!

Even on his own time – with writing, unlike improv, you have every chance to hone your words to best effect – he blunders his way uneasily through the paragraphs. When it comes to political substance and stance you feel he spent he spent the last few days desperately reading up what he should know and needs say – handy talk-point anecdotes; shorthand big-sweep outrage-punctuation graf-closers; all nervously cobbled into something that he hopes doesn’t contradict itself – only (as per his contract-w.-the-big-media-devil) to tumble it all away for the sake of the kind of knee-jerk alt.cult scorn which will at least ensure he can hold his head up on never mind the buzzcocks. “similarly, it’s hard to take the column seriously when… ” he “probably thinks” that mark lamarr is the new trotsky arf sigh

Jun 05

My theory of everything

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It’s not often that Simon Renolds reminds me of Alexis Petridis, but his 10th June comments on blissblog have a definite echo of Petridis’s Lost in Music Guardian Review cover story from last October. As professional music critics both Reynolds and Petridis confess to feeling a little overwhelmed by the sheer volume of music released, in the case of the latter, and the generally ‘pretty good’ quality of most of it, for the former. Neither is a stupid man, and both are tantalisingly close to identifying the most significant developments in popular music at the moment, but neither is able to bring those developments into focus.

Let me ask you a question: what did the death of John Peel mean? Not on a personal level, but on a cultural one. The fact that Peel could not be replaced might be due in part to the man’s enormous and unique appeal as a broadcaster, but what it really signals is a massive structural shift in the relationship between the popular music industry and the public sphere. Because criticism defines itself in relation to the public sphere, the inevitable result is a felt crisis for what we might call generalist critics: i.e. those whose role depends consists in taking an overview of popular music as a whole, rather than in specialising in one genre.

Petridis and Reynolds testify to the subjective side of these events: more records, higher quality across the board. This seems like a problem because for anyone whose job is to sift through the output of the music industry and identify the most important or the best albums of the year, this will seem like cultural entropy: fewer clearly-defined peaks in the year’s product making it harder to discriminate between releases. Of course, no critic has ever managed to keep all of the year’s music in view at once, or would wish too, as pretty powerful filters instantly rule out certain types of music from being considered for the kind of attention (broadsheet coverage, awards, mainstream TV) that defines this interface between the entertainment industry and public cultural recognition.

(An aside: my happy hardcore theory for which I have very little evidence, is that the happy hardcore and handbag tradition has been the most consistenly good genre in British music of the last fifteen years or so, and with a pretty strong track record of chart crossover hits. This is music based around basic rythmns, highly repetitive, and ultra-melodic, which has consequently never been seen as worthy of serious critical acclaim, and at the point where cheesy trance crosses over into Friday night office worker disco music, it is the most widely despised and abused form of British pop. Being blanked by the generalist critics, and abused by almost everyone else, has been the best thing that could have happen to it, although it’s subterranean influence can be felt all over the place (e.g. Crazy Frog, obv.) This also makes Dave Pearce the most important man in the UK!)

The objective side of these events is the increasing trend towards narrowcasting, not just in the media, i.e. the point of distribution of pop, but in the production of pop too. What Peel stood for was a space on Radio 1 for any — and more importantly ALL — kinds of alternative music. By the time of his death, this was completely anachronistic. The digital revolution in radio and above all the internet has made it more and more easy to direct what people want to hear straight at them. Why listen to all the reggae and jungle on Peel if all you want is twee indie-pop? Or why have to sit through cinerama when all you want is industrial and darkwave?

This seems like a bit of a shame to me: but then I’m aligned with Reynolds and Petridis on the subjective side of the dialectic. Most of the phenomena which obsess the bloggist/ILMweb fit into this pattern: the perceived decline of the charts, the weaknesses of the British music press, the tedium of miserabilist British rock (Coldplay/Keane etc.). The erosion of a central cultural public sphere cannot be acknowledged with that sphere, so what remains will feel and look hollow: the charts and the magazines both depend on a model where everyone has to take notice of some ‘event’ records. But the kind of popular rock music which has come to dominate that ‘centre’ is obviously a pompous and bombastic genre of its own, as more and more people simply ignore it, and its claim to grand cultural attention seems emptier and emptier. 6music for example, is a museum for old alternative musical forms, and there is a growing market for bands which don’t do more than sound like old bands, so their listeners can enjoy the sense of keeping up with the scene while not having to listen to anything unusual or unfamiliar. (And there’s not necessarily anything wrong with this).

So rather than thinking of the music world in terms of different genre categories, some of which feed into a central super-genre (which supposedly tells us about the nation’s cultural life as a whole), the decline of the centre means there are only the different genre streams, going stronger than ever. The division of musical labout inevitably means increasing specialisation amongst the workforce, and an increase in quality across the board. The law of diminishing returns will inevitably set in, meaning lots of very good but not brain-bustingly brilliant records being made. The renaissance of country, and of metal, are great examples of this I think.

This is good news for people who are obsessive about one genre, and for critics who focus on one genre. This is very bad news for anyone who likes to believe in the myth of a cultural centre (i.e. the myth which the cultural centre has projected about itself, and which generalist criticism has a strong interest in upholding, since its sense of cultural purpose is defined by it). However it is also good news for anyone who wants to hop across genres — pick pretty much any talked-about CD from one, and it’s liable to be relatively decent. Those critics who take genre seriously (e.g. obviously Eddy and Kogan) will not have problems dealing with this, in fact might not even have noticed the shift — which is not a new one, but one which has simply become more evident in the last year or so — since they weren’t so busy worrying about the centre in the first place.

I don’t really have a conclusion, and I suspect this will either seem obvious to you, or completely full of holes, so I’ll end with another aside, in place of ever getting round to writing about Rip It Up and Start Again properly. What it seems to me is the real motivation for the interest in post-punk is that this is a point at which alternative music as a shadow of the cultural centre / super-genre comes into being. So it allows the critic to fantasise an inverted world in which the alternative scene IS or becomes the actual centre: a pervasive fantasy in which Love Will Tear Us Apart beats Angels for whatever that preposterous award last year was. Simon is not simply imagining that things have changed, so the charge that he is being nostalgic is plain daft, but the most telling chapter of the book is the final one on MTV in which changes in media / distribution of music come into the foreground for the first time. There’s more to say about the ‘art’ question which overdetermines this and the nouveau-rockism issue. Anyway, this is all written through a hangover, so errors are inevitable!