Posts from 6th May 2000

May 00

EMINEM – Our House, Green and Gold, The Showdown

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EMINEM – Our House, Green and Gold, The Showdown (all MP3)
The thing I like best about Eminem is (cue universal amazement that I can say such a thing) the fact that he’s true to himself. He could very easily pretend that he has the instant, easy vocal flow that is supposedly necessary to succeed as an emcee, which he clearly does not. When I hear his voice, I hear a man turning his geeky, gawkish, overgrown-schoolboy vocal funklessness, which all hip-hop orthodoxies dictate to be a bad thing, into a good and positive thing (to criticise the milieu of this music as “white trash” misses 100% of the point, because his triumph is to widen the scope of hip-hop beyond its cliches into his own experiences). To hear his direct, ill-timed, unfunky speech over incredibly tight, demanding rhythm tracks is a fascinating contrast, but Eminem consistently wins the battle.

It was this man who provided the most unequivocally extreme moment I’ve ever heard on radio (Blue Jam had nothing on it), while appearing with Tim Westwood (who he could teach a few things about turning allegedly negative qualities into positive ones). All accepted means of expression were beyond him, it was simply unbridled, uncontrolled, unordered shouts and screams, a private, internal language understandable only to those few completely removed from the restraint and lack of expression that once characterised British people (and, as such, very close to the linguistic and emotional heart of pop music itself). And therefore the closer he gets towards the norm of hip-hop (“The Showdown”) the less incredible his music is (although still very, very good). It’s “Our House” which is the great moment here, a metallic, half-deranged screaming suburban dystopia which is the most extreme example of Marshall Mather’s genius, as the first great emcee with no sense of The Funk. Some will doubtless say Eminem-by-numbers, I say it renders the whole suburban fratboy rap-rock explosion instantly obsolete, exposing it for its amateurism, appalling production and atrocious emceeing (there are a few exceptions, but very, very few). Not that we didn’t know that anyway, but it’s good to have one of pop’s great sensationalist genii confirming it for us.

“Time and Curiosity: Journey to the Outside”

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“Time and Curiosity: Journey to the Outside”: I’m uncomfortable with ‘outsider art’ because so much of the ‘appreciation’ of it boils down to mean-spirited kitschery. And yet obviously there are a lot of people for whom this stuff exerts a genuine, if occasionally troubling, fascination – Irwin Chusik’s book on Outsider Music initially looks like an opportunity for its readers to pat themselves on the back about how ‘out there’ their tastes are, but this essay, adapted from its afterword, says some sensible and interesting things nonetheless.

TINY TIM – “Ever Since You Told Me That You Loved Me (I’m A Nut)”

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TINY TIM – “Ever Since You Told Me That You Loved Me (I’m A Nut)”
I can’t take Current 93’s own music in more than short bursts, but I can hardly think of a musician I’d rather have make me a compilation tape than David Tibet. His obsessions, musical and otherwise, are almost always fascinating: step forward the late Tiny Tim, who Tibet befriended, worked with, and deeply respected. Tim is best known as a novelty act, who wowed a giggly crowd at some sixties festival or other and then had a one-off hit with “Tiptoe Through The Tulips”, an old music-hall standard sung in his campy, reedy voice with ukelele accompaniment. A glance at a Tiny Tim discography and you realise how much the man loved his brush with fame, and how keen he and his many labels were to recapture it – he reprised his single hit again and again, with increasing indignity.

But according to those who knew Tiny Tim, this eccentric, polite little man was never much interested in stardom of itself, but was motivated instead by a genuine desire to please and delight his listeners. He seems never to have understood rock, or its myriad attitudes and complexities: he liked playing the old songs, bringing out the joy in them. Listening to “Ever Since…”, that desire comes through powerfully: after a whirling birdsong introduction, the song swings fast and very hard, and after your initial shock at its shrillness you come to love Tim’s deliriously happy, wittily expressive singing, too.

I didn’t know anything about Tiny Tim when I heard this song, and I was surprised at how catchy and enduring it was. So much music from the late 60s seems unreachable now, fossilized by reverence or by its own faded poses: I can appreciate it for certain but it doesn’t really say anything to me, and this does. Tim’s music is gimmicky and unfashionable, and the suspicion lingers that he was a troubled man whose difficulties were exploited by a music business keen to sell freaks to the freaks, as is generally the way with ‘outsider art’. But in ten years of distrusting the idea of ‘sincerity’ in music, I’ve hardly ever had my sour contentions slapped down as emphatically as by Tiny Tim.