Posts from 11th May 2000

May 00

MODEST MOUSE – “Dramamine”

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MODEST MOUSE – “Dramamine” (from the album This is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About)
Damn it, I like Modest Mouse now. Quite a while back, whenever it was I bought this oh a whim, I thought the elliptical, meandering songs and the whiny, barked vocals did it in. “Dramamine” opens with a gentle riff that make me rock back and forth, one that sounds as if it’s descending into the song, which lies in wait. Though they do sort of spastically attack later, it turns out the opening riff isn’t just an opening, it’s a foundation: it becomes almost mantric, anchored by Jeremiah Green’s shuffly, punchy drumming. As westernhomes points out, it’s as if they have some sort of “compulsive indie rocking disorder”. Nevertheless, it works, evoking both the long drives of the album’s title and the uncomfortable relationship referred to in the lyrics: “We kiss on the mouth/but still cough down our sleeves.”


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PET SHOP BOYS – ‘Shopping’ (from the album Actually)
Actually is the keynote album for late-80s England: this kind of brittle, cynically commercial chartpop was, it turned out, the only way oppositional sentiment could survive above-ground (all the other entryists crowed about it and failed, the Pet Shop Boys just got in there and did it). And Actually is oppositional alright, educated and decent people looking out over a country sinking into hysteria and greed and trying to describe it. When Actually came out, ‘Shopping’ came in for plenty of mockery, its Casiotone ‘S-H-O-P-P-I-N-G’ chorus seen as an asinine reflecion of an era’s values. But check the verses: ‘I heard it in the House Of Commons / Everything’s for sale’. It’s a song about privatisation, plain and simple, conflating the Government’s sell-off of Britain’s ‘family silver’ with the rampant City salarymania into one neccessarily banal metaphor. And Actually is full of this stuff: humane, politicised, catchy as hell and with a headlock on the Number One spot. Hats off.


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MADNESS – ‘Embarrassment’ (from every Madness Greatest Hits album)
Two-tone is a defining moment for English pop, for the obvious reason spelt out in the label‚Äôs very name. White pop music, meet black pop music. The result is still, over two decades on, occasional dancefloor heaven and often brilliant pop. Madness put out one single on 2-Tone (the straightahead-ska Prince Buster tribute ‘The Prince’) and then leapfrogged into a Top 40 residency which lasted several years. They were much catchier than most of their peers, which lost them a certain amount of hardcore respect, and their likeable silly streak (their riotous videos are hands-down the best of any pre-MTV band) obscured – though it shouldn’t have – their remorseless way with a groove.

But Madness had a problem – that same remorselenessness, and their jolly-bootboy look, was attracting a bad crowd, skinhead NF supporters who saw the band as a way to get all the beat they wanted and none of the roots. What to do? Write a breakneck 180-second single about interracial marriage and the bigotry that ensues! Sadly ‘Embarrassment’, a character-song, wasn’t obvious enough to shake off the undesirables: after the fact, though, it stands as one of Madness’ hardest-pumping, cleverest and greatest tunes.

The music blog explosion:

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The music blog explosion: where are they all coming from, asks westernhomes? It’s not Napster, it’s the proliferation of easy-blogging tools like Blogger, and it’s just the sheer obviousness of the links/reviews/thoughts format as a way to cover music. I worry to some extent that Freaky Trigger is neglected because of the time I’m taking to write NYLPM, but on the other hand, with the amount of stay-late work days I’m having, FT would be neglected anyway.

I’m currently feeling more enthused about and connected to music than I have been since I first got into Usenet, and the proliferation of good, gutsy fansites is a lot to do with it. The lesson, O readers – START A BLOG. Or at least tell me why not…

Mind you, I suspect steal this blog! would be somewhat perturbed to be described as “an indie rock weblog”, given the vicious chatwar I had a couple of weeks ago with it’s creator over which of us was less indie and more pop (he won, easily, damn it).

Enough self-referential nonsense – back to the content!

The Vinyl Exchange: Crate Diggin’

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The Vinyl Exchange: Crate Diggin’: “Diggin’ means that you have forty dollars in your pocket and you can’t decide if you should either get that original Meters LP or take your girl out for your four year anniversary. Diggin’ means that you buy the LP and make yourself believe that your girl will understand.” Some e-mail debate recently about digging-in-the-crates and hip-hop, so here’s a long and very interesting series of confessions from the heart of Obscurity Culture. The debate, roughly speaking, runs as follows: on the one hand, diggin’ is just anal one-upmanship and sonic effect (including post-production) is the important thing. On the other, diggin’ is a vital part of hip-hop culture and it matters a lot if you don’t know where a break comes from.

I’m on the former side, as you might have guessed – a lot of the guys in this article would disagree most strongly…


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THE SPECIALS – “Do Nothing” (from the album More Specials)
The downside of living in Suburbia, which I gloss over in my semi-paean, is that it is indeed, in general, in real life, really fucking boring. Which the Specials, in this loud, woozy piece of grand orchestral skank, confront. The Specials started off as a hurlyburly dance band and expanded their range swiftly and radically thanks to Jerry Dammers’ political leanings and Terry Hall’s incarceration of metaphysical hangdog disgust. “I’m just living in a life without meaning” he moans, and it strikes home on three levels – boredom-critique, philosophical howl, just some lyric to another great slow-paced dancehall stomper.