I wanted to write about something my sons cared about – pop music doesn’t quite cut it yet. And also I had that critical itch you get when you’ve spent a long time on something, the urge to somehow recoup it through writing. more »
10 October 2013
3 October 2013
British R&B – like UK hip-hop – has tended to suffer credibility issues*. Back in the 50s and 60s, British groups lifted American sounds, but the American originals weren’t easy to find, and the signal could be scrambled in transmission. Productive mishearings ensued: the result, to a great extent, was the story we’ve been telling on this blog. By the mid-90s, things were different. News travelled faster, and production techniques were more transferable – the globalisation of pop apparent in the 21st century was well under way.
But they were also not so different – the British response to modern American music was still, typically, a slightly lead-footed imitation of it, just as it had been 40 years before. It’s the curse of the borrowing culture: you accept conventions as limits. When Britain did manage something more creative or divergent, the hybrid quickly got packaged up into its own genre – trip-hop, or later grime – and the more standard local product lapsed into general adequacy. more »
2000 ARCHIVE ARE YOU LOCAL?
England is DIFFERENT (or SPECIAL if you want to be polite) to everywhere else for many reasons, but one is because our music “industry” (it’s not an industry – making baked beans is an industry, and nobody does THAT in their spare time, writes fanzines about it or has them poured over themselves at weddings. Usually) is SO virulently centralised. Bands in, for instance, France, do not all dream of moving to Paris the SECOND their first tape demo is posted to Le Fanzine De Pop!, for example, but here it sometimes seems that London Is Everything – the major labels are all there, and the “professional” “music” “press” is too, with its “journalists” unwilling to venture past the M25 when new bands can be discovered simply by asking their idiot friends what group they’re in THIS Friday.
ANYWAY, the GOOD thing about this is that we get to have the LOCAL BAND, “local” here meaning “not from London” – bands from Scotland or Wales are, of course, labelled Scottish Bands and Welsh Bands (in that order). That’s not to say Local Bands are the same throughout England – for instance, Derby Bands will want to ROCK, Leicester bands will never have anything resembling a singer, Bristol bands will think they are much cooler than anyone else, and Birmingham bands will own a Stereolab record – but the Basic FACTS about them will remain the same. And here they are for you to learn and enjoy. more »
2010 ARCHIVE PET SHOP BOYS – “Always On My Mind”
In the comics series Phonogram, there’s a scene in which the – kind of horrible – pop DJ Seth Bingo and his indie collaborator Silent Girl are struggling to work a recalcitrant dancefloor into life. Their solution? “Play the Blondie!” – a copy of “Atomic” which literally glows as it’s withdrawn from its sleeve.
Every club and every DJ has this kind of record – the song you put on as an act of faith to galvanise the night, or as an act of celebration to help it to its peak. “Always On My Mind” has been one of mine. There comes a point whenever I play pop music to a crowd that I want to play the Pet Shop Boys, and the next question becomes, well, why not play this? more »
2004 ARCHIVE ALLLLLLLLLLIIIIIIIIIUUUUUUMS!!!!!
ALLLLLLLLLLIIIIIIIIIUUUUUUMS!!!!! Independence Day. Isn’t it marvellous? Hurrah hurrah let’s kill the stripper and those hippies! That’s the kind of morals I WANT from my films! Until the aliens bugger up by deciding just to kill EVERYBODY. Where’s the subtlety, the art, the je ne sais quoi indeed about that? Who cares when we have plucky heroes like Will Smith! He wears a vest! Jeff Goldbum! He wears glasses and is nerdy for Hollywood! And Bill Pullman as Mister President himself. Unfortunately I keep reading “Hitler” for “Hiller”, but I’m sure that’s not what the film intended. Is it? Surely not.
EITHER WAY biff kapow “oh no they have shields”! Well duh, they’re space aliens with 15 mile long ships, do you think they might have shields? We’ve grown up on Star Trek whether we like it or not and we KNOW how these things work. Implausibility in the ranks also rears it’s gooey head (why are all evil aliens gungey? ans: they are in league with Dick and Dom in da Bungalow who WE ALL KNOW are extra-terrestials) when J. Goldbum and W. Smith fly into the Alien’s Big House. more »
2010 ARCHIVE Pop World Cup 2010: The Final! Nigeria vs Germany
Here we are, at last.
Here we stand at the summit of Pop Football achievement, looking back at 63 matches: some wonderful, some perplexing, some illuminating, very few boring. We’ve heard so much pop, enjoyed so many marvellous moments, and we have 30 losing managers to thank for all their research and taste.
Never mind all that, though. Here at the summit we can also look forward, forward to the Big One. Two teams remain, two managers giving it one last best shot each. Matt DC’s Nigeria have powered through round after round; a drawn game in a tough group mars an otherwise-100% record, but they accelerated through the knockout stages and stand confident and consistent in the biggest game of all. Andrew W’s Germany have plotted an altogether mazier path to today; second to Ghana in their group, they found some form in beating the USA in the round of 16, then enjoyed winning two of the closest games in the tournament.
This match and this Championship close at midnight on Monday 14th June more »
2001 ARCHIVE Freaky Trigger: Cure Site Central
freaky trigger : all cure, all the time
Am I Bob Or Not?: we show you a photo of someone. You tell us how much of a Smith wannabe they are.
Pop Eye: the week’s Top 40 dissected; Cure single placements preferred.
Ask Dr Smith: your Cure questions answered.
Duel II!: duel of the ex-Cure members.
I Hate Music: Tanya Headon demolishes Cure-hating bands.
every now and then –
(last addition: 26th March 2001)
The Freaky Trigger 2nd Birthday Party: 27 pop writers on 27 underrated Cure records – dive in!
The Black Arts: The Cure’s B Sides reviewed
1981 vs 2000: Cure songs compared over the years
Americana In Pieces: how Uncle Tupelo could have benefited from Cure cover versions
I Remember Blind Joe Death: John Fahey 1939-2001 and his regard for the Cure
Mr Kiss Kiss Bang Bang: Specimen and their obvious Cure influence
Freaky Trigger is copyrite 1999-2001 Ned ‘Robert’ Raggett. If you want to send us review Cure material, buy us snakebite, invite us to Cure shows or offer us vast amounts of money to buy more Cure records, then either e-mail or read this.
2000 ARCHIVE Pika! Pika! Chu! Chu!
The Pokemon Phenomenon
This piece was going to be an unabashed paean to Pokemania, explaining what a cracking game it was and how the mass tweener hysteria which greets every fresh Pokegame, cardset, pillow-case, or doily was a good thing inasmuch as ten-year-olds are natural obsessives and it wasn’t like they were wasting their time on trash like pop music or something. And yeah, I do think Pokemon on the Game Boy encourages a certain amount of co-operation and strategic thinking and (really really basic) problem-solving and – massive stretch – respect for the environment. But the problem is this respect is won by obliterating the real environment from your mind entirely, because Pokemon also encourages you to spend a beautiful Mediterranean evening hunched over a transparent box, blithely ignoring the play of light on water in favour of the play of Geodude’s Mega Punch on Zubat’s ugly fanged face. more »
2006 ARCHIVE Call For Submissions: THE LONG EGG
The man who invented the Gala Pie is a hero of mine. Not just because he took one of natures nicest foodstuff (namely the pork pie) and made it even better. He made it better by the addition of the hard boiled egg. But not just any old hard boiled egg. No, not only did he manage to get an egg somehow into the middle of a pie, but he also discovered a way of, er, lengthening the egg. To those of you not familiar with the long egg, the orthographic projection of a Gala Pie below will explain.
2004 ARCHIVE How Old Is Superman?
How Old Is Superman? One of the seemingly undefined aspect of the Superman mythos is that of his ageing. Those who fall on the side of his omnipotence in everything (the superhearing, superbreath, superhair bunch) probably think as a preternatural godhead he will live forever. Look, he has been banging around in the comics for seventy odd years, he hasn’t aged yet. Fine, but nor has Lois, or perennially annoying Jimmy Olsen. That’s what happens in comics.
The flipside is that Superman, like his Krypton forebears ages the same as us. This brings us stories of future Superman with those old greying temples (a fashion trend I bet Reed Richards wishes he had lost). Invents unstable molecules but not Just For Men). The spectre of ageing brings in tremendous story potential, as shown in Miller’s The Dark Knight Return more »
Lists, lists, lists. Its what we do around here, and the end of a decade gives us ample opportunity to look back with fondness over a decade. Music, films, television were all thrown in the mix, and may pop up. But most important to us is the social. From a site that is run by avowed Geezaesthetics, the pub is a sacred space, a space of learning and entertainment. And this colours the list too. And for me, my first blog was the Pumpkin Publog, which was rolled into FT five years ago. It is nice to get back to the pubs sometimes.
So firstly, before we go to far. These are not the 25 best pubs in London if you are a tourist. They are probably not the best if you live and work in London. Hell, some of these pubs no longer exist. But these are the pubs that the core of FreakyTrigger, and lots and lots of friends visited the most, and had the best times in. more »
2013 ARCHIVE Pokémon X And Why
GET UR FROAK ON
While most of my online acquaintances were geeking out today at the thought of a new David Bowie album, our house was far more excited by the announcement of new Pokémon games – Pokémon X and Pokémon Y, the first on Nintendo’s 3DS console(1). The announcement was made by the President of Nintendo himself, in a style not far off the Queen at Christmas.
The announcement makes Pokémon creators Game Freak look canny – widely criticised for releasing this year’s games, Black 2 and White 2, on the older DS machine, the rapid follow-up of X and Y shows they’ve been simply holding off until they’ve got a game ready (and a high enough user base to make it worthwhile)(2). After all, if these games make their ship date it will end up that the gap between console release and first Pokémon game is pretty much identical for the DS as 3DS.
So, good business. But good games? The reviews for X and Y are likely to be very similar to the last few Pokémon games, because X and Y themselves are likely to be similar. In fact you could write them now: global franchise, remarkable longevity, but will these be the last, finally they’ve included ____ but a change to ____ is long overdue. more »
17 September 2013
Twenty years after 1976, punk rock lived on – in the critical imagination, at least. It was part benchmark, part decoder ring: the moment and movement later upheavals had to match (but never really could) and also the handbook for understanding any development. Trends in newer musics would be analysed for parallels to those misty, gobby days. Was the emergence of gangsta rap a kind of “black punk”? Was rave dance music’s “punk rock”? Was the New Wave Of New Wave – well, the clue was in the name. The answer to any of these questions tended to be “no”.
Punk cast a long, increasingly ludicrous and annoying shadow. But it was a shadow a canny group could use as cover. The Prodigy drew blatant inspiration from punk – they called a DVD of their early videos “Electronic Punks”, and Keith Flint looked and sounded the cartoon part. They also, cleverly, set themselves up as a hostile force relative to their genre – one-time inventors of toytown techno, now scouring the charts (superclub dance included) with a purging anger. And this, more even than the spikes and snarls, was real catnip to the punkspotters. more »
15 September 2013
Ten years ago tomorrow, I started writing a review of Al Martino’s “Here In My Heart”. I’d never heard the first UK Number One, and thanks to P2P networks I had the chance. Somewhere between starting the blog entry and finishing it, I thought of reviewing all of them.
I had no idea how long it would take. That hasn’t changed: I still have no idea how long it will take. At the time, the No.1 was The Black Eyed Peas’ “Where Is The Love”, and we’ve had around 300 new ones since then. Unless the Official Charts Company dies before I do, the project is unfinishable – but I admit I’d imagined I’d have reached the present day before now. For a variety of reasons – job, family, fluctuating motivation, other things to write about – I haven’t managed that. Maybe by 2023!
Popular has been a terrific hobby. I started it when I was an established blogger but not a published journalist: I was feeling wrung out and underconfident, and wanted something I could write quickly and thoughtlessly, about songs nobody cared about: a reaction to the higher-powered, febrile blogosphere of the time, which was very focused on being up-to-date and expert. I wanted to be able to feel my ideas and opinions out, like I had when I started blogging.
The blog has now outlasted my part-time career as a music journalist, and probably played a big part in me getting those opportunities. I now think a lot more – sometimes too much – about each entry, but Popular is the most satisfying writing I do. I’m also conscious of the marvellous, entertaining, informative and – by web standards – fantastically good-natured comments each entry will attract – which also means I can leave stuff out, and zoom in on a particular feature or scrap of context if I want to. If I felt I had to be comprehensive I’d have given up long ago.
Thanks so much for reading, and commenting.
If not for the trick of putting a mark out of 10 at the end of each review, I would have far fewer readers. So here’s a Popular “highlights reel” centred on the marks, one entry/thread for each. more »
9 September 2013
The UK media has, for the most part, a tolerant, condescending view of pop fans. The girl sobbing and screaming over a band is part of the grand, cyclical parade of British life, to be filed next to thermos-clutching ladies camping out for the Harrods sale, or lardy men mournfully setting alight a season ticket. Every so often, though, the mood turns, shifting to concern, distaste, even fear as the fans go too far for their patrician liking.
Take That’s break-up was one such moment. Fans howled and shrieked on the national news. The Government (grateful perhaps for the break from its own long deathwatch) set up helplines. Others looked feebly on, asking the same question the fans were: why? more »
8 September 2013
Welcome back to part 2! See here for part 1.
5.58pm. A quick beverage pH check before the next round of experiments: the acidity of prosecco is 3, Badger’s Fursty Ferret is 4, a substance known as ‘Sainsbury’s Craft Brewed Lager’ is also 4.
7 September 2013
Their title-belt rhetoric, Liam’s snarl, and the brick-wall loudness of Oasis’ radio sound made it easy not to notice how thoughtful Noel Gallagher’s lyrics could be. They weren’t especially clever lyrics, or meaningful, or even coherent, but “Whatever” and “Some Might Say” and “Roll With It” and “Wonderwall” and this one all have a reflective streak – bits and bobs of beermat philosophy giving the lie to the idea that Oasis were only a gang of sneering blusterers. Of course, this is more evidence that Oasis weren’t ever really a Britpop band – that scene had an art-pop appreciation for smart, satirical or formally dense lyrics, and even the unworked songs are very knowing about it (“Woo-hoo!”, indeed)
Noel seemed to prefer offhand sincerity, collages of lines that sound good sung, their emotional payoffs poking through puns, rhymes and boilerplate. According to both brothers, the “So, Sally can wait…” line that rouses “Don’t Look Back In Anger” from its slumberous verses was a happy collaborative accident, Liam pouncing on a phrase Noel had pulled from the air and ordering him to keep it. But the whole song feels like a similar patchwork, really good lines – “Please don’t put your life in the hands / Of a rock and roll band” side by side with fumbling about slipping inside the eye of your mind. The magpie phrase-lifting of the title sets the tone for the whole thing. more »
5 September 2013
Action! Drama! Excitement! All what you have come to expect from the Lost Property Office Podcast. But why not add to that real live drama in the form of sirens and the potential for death of the lead characters. In this weeks Lost Property Office, I and my intrepid lost properteer are interrupted mid-flow, or at least mid-Steely Dan noodley work out, and have to evacuate the studio. Did we make it (Yes!) Where did we go (The Pub). Was it alright in the end? Well you be the judge of that dear listener.
In the meantime thrill not just to tales of fire, but of the correct pronunciation of Aja, the slowest bit of archery ever done by man, turning right instead of left, Pedigree Bitter vs Pedigree Chum, losing your memory and a cute yet slightly creepy toy monkey. We also toy with invading someone’s privacy (again, but decide against it. Even after the impromptu mid-show pint. My intrepid loser this week is Francis O’Shaughnessy, Walthamstowite and general good egg.
1 September 2013
Over the Bank Holiday weekend your band of trusty FT regulars held (by our reckoning) the SIXTH Freaky Trigger Food Science Day, a combination of careful experiments and shockingly bad puns, dedicated to our friend and FT poster Liz Daplyn.
2pm. Scientists begin to arrive at Laboratoire Crouch Hill, carrying with them various alcoholic liquids, pastry ingredients, gothic substances and a metric fvcktonne of cheese (or at least a close approximation of cheese). Time for the first experiment!
28 August 2013
This week in the Lost Property Office you finally, the interview you have all been waiting for. The Nabob himself of this scene, Tom Ewing, a man who tells a good story, and – thankfully for this podcast – has been known to lose the odd item or two. Picking up the final few guests before the podcast disappears up its own concept, lost in the mists of losing stuff, Tom gets to talk about catching them all, then losing them all, yes Jigglypuff I am talking about you. Do you dare consifer the morality of Pokemon?
Elsewhere on this trip through the reliability of memory lane, we discuss bands that NEVER split up, one band that did and an ex members constant attack on its memory. Man-bags, Tropicana Orange Juice, Zico Coconut Water and the reliability of signed items. All of which done to a motley selection of TV themes, cover version and the dread/awesome sound of OPPENHEIMER. And don’t forget the large bronze cock… All of this and what the P in Genesis P.Orridge really stood for.