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Jul 05

Cultural Imperialism (in a good way)

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sistrah becky heard a dancehall toaster* on a hackney pirate station doing an um hommage to Cräzy Frøg, complete with many excellent jungle-style samples etc…

APB to the knowledgeable – is this available on record (or whatever you pop kids collect these days)?

*warning: possibly completely incorrect nomenclature… she listens all the time but she is not actually compiling nerdy footnotes plz thnkyou

Jul 05

And more importantly, a great new dance blog

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In which some of THEE best writers on music, electronic beat oriented or otherwise — Jess Harvell, Tim Finney, Ronan Fitzgerald, Brian Mackro, Ethan Padgett, Vahid Fozi (correct me if that is not your last name, Vahid!), Andy Kellman, Phil Sherburne among others — share wisdom, knowledge and brilliant writing in equal measure:

House is a Feeling

Check it out.

Ned’s ego slosh fest alert about a new column

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First installment up on Stylus Magazine, called Scraping the Barrel. All thoughts, abuse, etc. welcomed.

Jul 05

warning: two-dimensional projection of N-dimensional diagram alert

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herewith (courtesy an f.kogan email a few days back) a MAP OF MUSIC, but organised by what criteria? (viz “adam and the ants“)??

i. i declare it scientific bcz
ii. i like the way the names kinda dance around

warning: it is addictive possibly

Jul 05

The Opera At The Gates Of Dawn

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So why did Roger Waters rejoin Pink Floyd for Live 8? Was it the sense of occasion? The putting away of petty squabbles for a greater cause. Maybe he discovered that Nick Mason hadn’t after all pranged his car in the street. All of these are possible, as is the possibililty that it give him a little bit of extra publicity for his new opera.

You read that right.


Anyone who has ever suffered through The Pros & Cons Of Hitch-Hiking or (shudder) Radio Kaos, will be well aware that Mr Waters grasp of narrative is shaky at best. So just as well that Ca Ira is an operatic history of the French Revolution, which comes with an in-built, if messy, narrative. Nevertheless it is an idea which reeks of the type of self-aggrandisement and Floyd nonsense that the Live 8 performance almost put to rest (for some people, if not others).

If only he had spent more time working on the title. Instead of Ca Ira, he could have called it Ci Ara, and then it would have at least had a sure-fire, if not strictly operatic, hit like Goodies in it.

Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town

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Hilary Clinton wants to send 100 00 more troops to Iraq, and when I was trying to formulate a response to this, i-tunes popped up with this song.

Its weird, it seems like i-tunes has replaced the goats stomach, tarot cards and dice as divination tool of choice. Its shuffling function provides a way of throwing the I Ching – connecting it to popular cultures ubiquitous search for meaning.

So, Waylon Jennings version of the song is on the stereo right now and though it is 25 years ago, the shock of familiarity stings. The first line that really comes thru is he chucking away the central point of the song, namely: “it wasn’t me who started that crazy Asian war/but I was proud to be my patriotic chore”.

It might be helpful here to get some context. His girl is cheating on him, and he cannot physically leave his room or his chair – and this isolation matches her loneliness; the actual suffering of an unjust war is made explicit. (I.e. “its hard to love a man whose legs are bent and paralyzed”).

In this gothic version of Coming Home makes one, of course think of the popular culture of resistance that provided a constant correction to the pentagons view of the war in Vietnam. But this song is more of a problem then the Hollywood lefts arrogance found in movies like Coming Home and the Deer Hunter, it gives the credit to the solider, as brave, as sad, as tragic, but as unwilling to be viewed as a hero.

I wonder what the implications of patriotic chore are in relation to the implications of this song. The man does not die but he has no legs and no useful cock and nothing but a sense of exhausted loneliness, which the person who was supposed to take care of him takes advantage of.

The work cannot even end as a proper Appalachian murder ballad, though it tries (“if I could move/I’d get my gun/and put her in the ground”)—violence begets violence, and the war across an ocean becomes a localized domestic fury and there is no solution, the song ends with ambiguity and exhaustion.

What needs to be said was this song was so popular that it became almost a country standard at the same time as the ballad of the green berets, for example. It was recorded and often a hit for Bobby Bare and Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings. The version by Kenny Rogers is advertised in several late night ads for K-Tel comps for Christ’s sake.

My question is then, where is this now? The closest we have to someone with the personae of a Waylon is Toby Keith, and he has been in enough Iraqi hospitals plus Walter Reed to know that this pattern of boys and girls with their arms and legs blown off cannot work anymore. Then there is Chely Wright, and her refusal to brook any dissent on the war, in the chilling Bumper of My SUV, or Clint Blacks silly and opportunist Iraq and I Roll a dozen of examples, but not one recent one I can think about that have the dissenting power of Ruby and her vet lover.

Any one has any ideas?

Jul 05

Can You Hear The Sun Scream?

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Someone, somewhere (mixmaster extraordinaire Steve M, an e-mail) mentioned Sunscreem earlier to me. I glibly shot back an e-mail saying that they were great and you should dis them at your peril.

And then I remember. Sunscreem were great. Not great in a “they are actually any good” sort of way. But rather in the way that they illustrated the realities of the great indie/dance wars of the early nineties. One the one side we had Faceless Dance Music (FDM) made by spotty teenagers in their bedroom. On the other we had Real Proper Bands (RPB) who made indie music, gigged and were – generally rubbish. One set made great, vital pop music (FDM), the others looked a little bit better on Top Of The Pops and played toilet venues near us.

Someone, somewhere (Sony Music, Soho Square), wondered if there was a way to fuse these two seeming irreconcilable musics. And we were not talking the Happy Mondays or even the Stereo MC’s here, whose hopalong grooves you could dance to but not in a eee-d up way. If only there was a band who sounded like the FDM but actually were an RPB. Thus uniting both factions.

Sunscreem was an answer. It was not THE answer, and they lasted one album with three hits. That album, 03 (like ozone) is synth heavy, treated guitars and the female voice up in the mix much like a lot of the FDM of the time. Proper songs (see all this terminology was unable to cope) we interspersed with acid-beatfest. And for the eight kids in Britain who really thought this was the perfect Frankenstein of pop, the RPBFDM heaven, it was the best thing ever. I was, as ever, one of those stupid kids.

Of course the actual answer to the war was the KLF, The Prodigy and, lest we forget, the Utah Saints: with Orbital mopping up people who hate anything that might be a novelty record. Basically Faceless Dance Musics who had killer tunes and learnt how to do it live*. Maybe sticking little lights on your glasses is not quite rock and roll, but strapping it to a decent sound system is. In wars between pop genres, the genre straddler is rarely the winner.

I still have a very soft spot for that Sunscreem record though. And I love the way that whenever it comes up on my MP3 player, it is only ever one of the two minute linking dance bits which sounded endearingly rubbish then, and sound endearingly rubbish now.

*The KLF did not do it live. But the records sounded like they were, which was a bigger stepping stone than you’d imagine.


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The first volume of this great-12″s-of-the-80s was a surprise hit – this second has confessed dynastic ambitions (see inner sleeve). Some staggering pop moments here of course – the widescreen bliss of New Gold Dream, the Annihilation mix of Two Tribes with its extended Reagan impersonators and “air attack warning” spiel. And the occasional surprise (erm, Hue and Cry?) because of course when your eyes glance over the listing in the shop, compilation magic takes hold and the stinkers turn invisible. Solidly enjoyable comfort food on the whole, with electric moments. But if I have a worry it’s the way the series is narrowing in scope – looking at the tracklisting you’d think 12″ culture was an idea that had sprung fully formed from the head of rock one night in 1983 while it waited for its raincoat to dry.

Whalesong Nein Danke

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After the two minutes silence I wasn’t feeling too bad, until I came in and the radio – 6 Music – was playing Sigur Ros, followed by Bright Eyes. It’s a rotten thing to have to do as a DJ, follow up a silence – you can’t play upbeat music, but the music that self-defines as sad feels absolutely inadequate. Sigur Ros’ one-size-fits-all emotionalism seemed unbearably naff, such a safe, enfeebled pick. So self-consciously ‘appropriate’. Of course what I really wanted was – well, I don’t know what I really wanted, like I said it’s a bad job to have, picking this stuff. But I certainly didn’t want the well-meaning emotional debrief of Sigur Ros. It made my mood worse. And then Bright Eyes – well. Concealed like a seven-foot bear in a hide-and-seek game in my Stylus comments is an anger that indie music, specifically this indie music, is so precious about its emotional verity and yet so bad at addressing the guilty awkward business of actually being sad.

Jul 05

Down with the kids

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Following a particularly grouchy Stylus singles jukebox I feel I must re-establish my tattered cred by posting an MP3, so here one is:

DJ Marlboro – Super Popozao

I downloaded this four years ago or so and have been raving about it, pushing it on people, putting it on mixtapes etc. ever since. I even wrote an essay about it, lost somewhere in the digital ether, comparing it to Orange Juice for reasons that escape me now. It is baile funk, which these days we all know about. This was the first funk track I ever heard and I think it’s still my favourite: it catches the lashed-together junkyard energy of the style so well.