Christmas Ain’t Christmas, New Year Ain’t New Year, Without The One You Love – heartbreak Christmas soul, upped here because of snarl-ups on the Poptimists Advent Calendar.
9 December 2005
5 December 2005
I have purposely avoided a) downloads b) reviews of this record, so my apologies to anyone whose observations I have unconsciously bitten. Here we go, with my as-it-happens write-up of the new Girls Aloud album.
Intro: Gone in a flash, sets the tone for a fast, trashy record.
Models: Something faintly Sleeper-ish, Transvision Vamp-ish about it, despite the electro overtones, very choppy, speedy, tacky, aggressively fun. You’ll have to be in the right mood for it.
Biology: Becoming my favourite single of the year, current favourite chunk: the “closer closer” bit.
Wild Horses: C&W overtones, Xeno-nonsense lyrics, now this is sounding like the grown-up Daphne And Celeste album. Some kind of science experiment to see how overstuffed a song can be with hips and still hang together? Anyway I’m lovin this one.
See The Day: OH NO!!!!!!! Worse by some distance than “I’ll Stand By You”, a weak song hugely overdone and aurely the only thing on here you can imagine S.Cowell really approving of.
Watch Me Go: SKA INFLUENCE! Saucy lyrics midly undermined by toffee-chewing lead vocal. And then YES!! A GA rap, about stripper vicars, so if this IS a Britpop album this must be Mansun.
Waiting: More Britpop ‘guitar’ ‘strut’, OK make that Stray Cat Strut, a slightly more downbeat and less exciting sequel to “Love Machine”, still pretty good but no highlight. Goes on longer than its hook deserves.
Whole Lotta History: The frustrating thing about GA’s Xmo cover ballads isn’t “oh god it’s a ballad”, only fools “don’t like ballads” after all. It’s that their writers are really good at doing pop ballads – delicate, touching songs with great choruses that will end up glued to my headphones when I’m feeling maudlin coming home after a night on Binge Drink Britain’s tiles.
Long Hot Summer: Well-placed on the album, though still GA’s weakest ‘good’ single, some really nice little blips and bleeps behind the pre-chorus though and the coda is satisfying. It is probably the most dancefloor-ready thing here so far: this is not a bangin’ album.
Swinging London Town: Very odd and I’m not sure if it totally works, again on the “if it’s a Britpop album” tip with a Pulp comparison, the weird spoken-word parts of Wicker Man or Sheffield Sex City springing to mind, undermining – but maybe creatively – the boshin electro bits.
It’s Magic: Not a Pilot cover sadly. I’m enjoying this but not loving it, a little too diffuse to make an impact though some good “synthwork” I guess. Maybe I’m just getting a little knackered by the effort of listening to a whole album, it’s been months!
No Regrets: Back in balladland, this isn’t anywhere near as poor as “See The Day” but is actually a bit under-produced, can’t seem to decide if it wants to be a stark drum-pad confessional or something more Manilow and falls between two stools.
Racey Lacey: A song that will hugely annoy many people, sounding as it does like Geri Halliwell doing Great Escape era Blur.
Overall: Mildly disappointing, even though there’s nothing dreadful apart from “See The Day” it feels like a weaker record than Neighbours, busier but less surprising and charming. “Biology” and “Wild Horses” total winners though.
2 December 2005
Jay-Z – “The Takeover”
Joe M says:
The Jay-Z attack on Nas in ‘Takeover’ is a masterpiece because he acknowledges that Illmatic was a great album, and even that another unspecified Nas album was insert equivocal hand-wavering gesture here okay. Then he adds “That’s a one hot album every ten year average”. This is pretty much the accepted wisdom on Nas: that he made one of the best debuts in hip hop history and never achieved that level of quality again. Saying this, rather than saying “You are shit in every way” as some rappers are prone to do on diss records, made at least a large part of Jay’s attack on Nas very hard to refute.
Andrew F says:
(The Takeover is) a near-perfect diss record, through disrespect into dismissal. Where most rappers come up with a good insult or two and off to the studio, this is pleasingly thorough, covering the target’s past, sexuality, street cred, business sense and basic rapping ability (“Yeah I sampled your voice, you were using it wrong”). It’s magnimanious in victory – Jay-Z has no problem saying that Nas has released two great albums, as long as he has made more and greater. And still, better to be the target of all this than the multitude brushed aside in the last line.
It’s been dark at 4 in the afternoon here, and I have been doing mostly admin work at home lately. I just came back from the hospital, I’ve been feeling sad,cold, ambiguous, lonely…Intensely lonely.
I don’t think its possible to write about how bad near arctic winters are. Edmonton is one of the most northerly cities in the world, and even with the lack of snow, and the relative mild weather, it’s isolating.
50 years ago, people close to hear would travel for card games and never come back (there is a Sinclair Ross story about this). infastructure came with industry and the military, but it still feels wild. It’s dangerous in a way that is more elemental then anything else–and its danger is in the stillness, the darkness.
There is no drama to the death from exposure.
Thinking about all of this, a month before Christmas, I put on Mathias Goene’s volume of Schubert’s Winterreise. Going through what seems proper for the cold—a sort of Winter Death Mix, you could have Dylan’s Visions of Johanna or Leonard Cohen’s Bird on a Wire or The Huron Carol or certain versions of certain hymns (the strange melancholy of Silent Night, the literalness of In The Bleak Midwinter) But nothing matches the melancholy of being alone in the cold like Schubert.
Goene is new, German, and his role has some controversy, because he’s much more somber then his predecessors, and much darker. He adds timber and complexity to an artist who is mostly known for basically sweet candy. I know this is supposed to be a pop music blog, and this is not pop (and I am not going to insult you by saying Lieder was the pop of the 19th century.) but its important, vital even, to have gravity when gravity is called for.
This is as dark as the grave, and cold as the ground (in the words of Blind Willie McTell)
Hyperion is selling Winterreise as part of their Schubert collection, for about 13 pounds.
1 December 2005
THE WEE PAPA GIRL RAPPERS: Wee Rule
Is it lame to like a song because it has Wee in the title. Of course not. Luckily, that is not the real reason why Wee Rule, well, rules. Though my description of why Wee Rules rules is partially about the idea of “ruling” in a UK slang kind of way. UK rap was still in its very nascent form, and this – along with Smiley Culture – defined (for better and worse) what we were going to get from the UK rap scene for ten years. Often it was quick snatched verses over a pop track. Or a slow, sonambulent Jazzy B stab at something credible. What We Rule does, in a minor sense, is bring it back to the playground.
You would not hear Run DMC saying that they rule. Or that they were skill. The Wee Papa Girl Rappers were clearly British, albeit leaning on dancehall roots. They were not an Althea And Donna for the late eighties though, this was clearly rap. And it managed to slip French swearing on to Top Of The Pops (and even point out it was doing it). It was a pop tune though, and probably led to more school projects where you write a rap about crossing the road. The Wee Papa Girl Rappers (one letter away from being the Twee PGR) told us they were rap, and were just a cheeky pair of South London girls (who have passed their French exams).
All this and the “Bomp-bomp-bomp-bomp” in the chorus: one of those killer stings that roots a tune in your brain for the rest of your life. The Lawrence girls may not have done much more, but were clearly paving the way for Mel & Kim and TLC (though both groups would probably have been able to traverse an unpaved road).
Alright, it does have Weein the title too. That is a bit funny.
Now it’s officially really actually December we can all start listening to Christmas songs. There had been some talk of doing a flood of Christmas posts on here, but it’s been pointed out to me that I have a list of best tracks ever to finish, so I’m going to concentrate on that instead.
People wanting some festive cheer should wander over to Poptimists, which always has a few MP3s going and is running an audio advent calendar. (You might also wish to visit Poptimists’ monstrous disowned sibling Sukrat). If that’s not enough for you, or if LiveJournal brings you out in hives, then I recommend this ILM thread for all yr Wobs greed needs.
30 November 2005
Smiley Culture – “Police Officer”
It has been 20 years since this simple song was released and about a dozen since I fell for it, playing it on a dare in an 80s disco. I have listened to it well over a hundred times, and I’m not tired of it, which isn’t something you can say for many records where the pleasure is in the punchlines.
Certainly more feted ‘story records’ don’t come close. Dylan’s “Lily, Rosemary, And The Jack Of Hearts” is by one of my favourite acts, on a really good album: it’s awful. The Shangri-Las’ death ballads are sublime but I don’t listen to them as much as Smiley, and I don’t smile at them as much either. What is it about this song?
Not the story, really, especially as the ‘twist’ is dumb: Culture’s already told the coppers his name a few lines ago. No, it’s the telling that stays fresh. That slight increase in tempo at the end when he knows he’s going to get away with it, and his natural cockiness reasserts itself, “me draw out me Parker”. The venal cop, all oily mangnanimity, “a favour for a FAYvour”. The bubbling pride, while the situation’s still in the balance, “number one was its number”. And the brilliant interrogation, switching on a half-beat between eager police and weary, hassled, contemptuous Smiley, “What you got in the boot then son? Me cyassete recorder.” Right then the police are everybully, and Smiley is you.
25 November 2005
i. a very dear friend = former drummer w.mike flowers p0ps
ii. he wz givin me a lift home after we met for his gf T’s bday meet at walthamstow dogs
iii. on his car stereo wz playin an old tape of a live show from i think 1996
iv. it wz TREMENDOUS! (partly just bcz excellent quality recording and technical performance)
v. yes yes of course you state that these songs were being performed in a “pisstakey” manner BUT
vi. this is frankly meaningless* and sez more abt YOUR DESIRE to let YOURSELF off the hook for
vii. likin these versions, and through them graspin things you never noticed abt viz various 70s bowie songs!!
viii. back to the tape: the technique wz exact and exactin (see iv.)
ix. => if the original song is any good — as wz NOT the only mf original that played — then a “non-serious” version cannot in fact dim the original’s strength, and may open it out (if you only hear the original w.automatic eras these days, as is sorely likely the case w.bowie)
x. bcz a key layer of light entertainment music showcasin had collapsed since the 60s — the val doonican/lulu continuum you could call it — it became necessary to invent a NEW SPACE**, and
xi. the way to DO this in the mid-90s (in the context of brit pop cool ew ew) was to PRETEND to be ironic
xii. but actually not, so NOT. qed. also plus hurrah!!
*(there is no material correlative as evidence, it is a face-saving assumption abt the intentionality of tambo and bones which actually indicts the prejudicial refusal to listen of mr interlocutor)
**the old space bein the one that eg scott walker and jim webb established their respective auteurdoms within; in the shrivelled*** space of the 90s both wd have had to be eg merely elvis costello and NEVER have found themselves a useable torque
***ok altered is perhaps better than shrivelled: as well as spaces that had vanished, new spaces also existed that DIDN’T in the 60s, viz the “rock press”, but there AWESOMENESS wz NO LONGER PRTOECTED BY TRIVIALITY (= there is NO equivalent in the 90s rock press to eg hendrix appearing on the lulu show)
VIM – Maggie’s Last Party. Just a bit of Iron Lady cut-up fun for the weekend – the music on this is really familiar but I can’t quite place it.
24 November 2005
Rescued from a LJ comments box, about the Rachel Stevens album (and the Girls Aloud one):
“That is kind of the problem though, it’s a terrific album partly because it’s a series of little revived micro-genres (‘the Bucks Fizz one’, ‘the Adam Ant one’ and so on) but it’s hard to sell that to a mass market and harder still if it’s going to be packaged in as dull a way as possible.
The other thing I don’t get is why there’s such a huge focus on FHM, Nuts, Zoo etc. in the promotion of pop acts – YES lots of men buy these mags and they fancy GA, Rachel et al. but they DON’T buy their albums I’d bet and a large potential market might be put off by it as it reinforces the “totty not talent” anti-manufactured line, obv. this is a false opposition but it’s a false opposition believed by a great many people.
The Spice Girls got big not so much from showing off in the lad mags but because they pushed the gang-of-mates angle, dare I say it that GA’s marketing people need to be thinking more Lambrini?”
First impressions of the new Madonna album: too little variation, she’s fallen for the bangin’ pop JLC style – and who wouldn’t – but she doesn’t have many ideas what to do with it, vocally, so a lot of the time it sounds like she’s making it up as she goes along over the top of some (great) grooves. The one about “New York” takes this to an amazing/awful extreme, there is one bit where she says new york ain’t for whiny little pussies and it’s like a poptastic Lou Reed! The one with the Arabic sample shd be a single probably.
Fans of more thoughtful criticism should look at the revived Church Of Me.
I have about 200 Christmas songs sitting on my hard drive and I want to write about them.