Posts from 28th May 2000

May 00


I Hate Music1 comment • 560 views


“I want you to dis Blondie, because I don’t believe it’s possible”, writes a naive reader, but you see this attitude is precisely what makes Blondie so hateful, the belief of their fans that the band represent pop perfection when really they were an OK new wave group who nicked their best ideas. Nicking ideas isn’t a problem, obviously – this is pop music, after all – but if you’re going to swipe stuff, do it better than the originals, for goodness’ sake. Blondie’s eager, clodhopping version of “The Tide Is High” is excruciating once you’ve heard The Paragons, their Moroder-disco stuff is a pallid sham (you could only dance to it in exactly the same ironised spirit which it was made, which is why “Atomic” et al. have become so popular at foul 80s kitsch nights), and let’s not even approach “Rapture”.

As for their early, guitar-y, ‘sassy’ stuff, if it’s not a xerox it certainly sounds like one: again, their synthesis of the New York Dolls, Shangri-La’s and the Ramones is about a thousand times more interesting if you’ve never heard any of those bands. Blondie’s main appeal was their adolescent bitchiness (“Rip Her To Shreds”), and certainly they do that passably well, and certainly there’s always going to be a segment of the audience for whom that kind of catfight-pop is the epitome of what the music can be, but let’s leave them to their Daphne And Celeste records and move on.

Still though, as pop stars, as icons, they passed muster: pity they weren’t happy just being pop stars. They had all these experimental roots, don’t you know, which once they’d put that frivolous disco stuff behind them they needed to show. So you got a couple of bad albums pre-retirement, and then one unfeasibly dreadful one post. I’m not sure which was worse, the cod-sophistication on the jazzy reunion tracks where the real Debbie’n’Chris strutted their stuff, or the cod-unsophistication of the money-grubbing singles. No Exit? No Escape would have been more appropriate.

Screen Ravers

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Screen Ravers: Simon Reynolds on rave movies – perceptive comments on Human Traffic and the upcoming Groove with little of the disillusionment that’s characterised his recent writings. Nice. (This link grabbed from a symmetric plastic narrative, a weblog maintained by a DJ which is pretty interesting).

They Came From The Stars (I Saw Them)

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They Came From The Stars (I Saw Them): live review of an extraordinary new band, fresh up on FT.

If you wanted to take part in the

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If you wanted to take part in the Pop Music Focus Group you should have received a ballot today. And quite possibly you’ll have received one even if you didn’t want to take part. If you’ve not received a ballot, and want to play, shout at me.

Reactions to my soul questions

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Reactions to my

  • soul questions
  • : josh blog goes off on a sort-of-tangent to what I was talking about and looks at some of the underlying issues involving ‘tendencies’ in criticism with typical intelligence. I think he’s right in that I don’t like “rockist tendencies” – I view it as a school of thinking more than as a prejudice, though. Anyway, two points I’d make in response to Josh:

    i) What Josh doesn’t mention is what I think matters: which ‘tendency’ in music criticism and thinking is currently dominant, the ‘default position’ in criticism, if you like. One big reason I’m opposed to ‘rockism’ and ‘soulism’ is that they seem to be models for describing how pop music was 20 or 30 years ago, and they have increasingly little use as ways to think about how music is now. But on the other hand they still seem to be the fallback positions even for indie-rock zines such as Pitchfork. As the dissonance increases between the ways pop is developing and this dated model of what the music is, all that’s going to happen is the continued decline of rock criticism into fawning on the one hand and points-scoring nostalgia on the other.

    ii) I think the most a rock writer can do is represent and explore their own prejudices and tastes intelligently – anyone who comes into popcrit trying to be ‘objective’ should make a rapid exit. That said I agree with Josh that listening to things in different ways – role-playing yourself as a listener, if you like – is important and useful. But in response to his comment that this is why he finds it difficult to write negatively about things – surely that’s just another form of listening, taking a record and trying to dislike it, finding its weak spots. The musical equivalent of covering and countering an opponent’s arguments in a debate, perhaps…

    Fred meanwhile answers the questions one by one, and I have to say I’d pretty much agree with his position. I should say that I’m under no illusions as to the total irrelevance of rock criticism in society, though: when I wrote “societal weight” I didn’t mean ‘influence’, I meant whether or not the way critics were writing was unconsciously indicative of wider trends in society.

    California Preening

    New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 190 views

    California Preening: “He will vilify his record company. ‘They’re all bean counters,’ he snaps. ‘They call my music product: it’s art. They call me a rock star when I’d rather be described as a musician.’ “. Preach on, man! But who is this indie-rock warrior fightin’ for his rights as a recording artist with a capital goddamn ‘A’? It’s…well…it’s Don Henley, who as this amusing article reveals has taken to performing ridiculous hip-hop parodies of his old hits, in an attempt to highlight the creative bankruptcy of something or other (he says rap, but your mileage may vary).

    EMINEM – “Kim” (MP3) Eminem is conceivably the most commercially lucrative purveyor of the consciously, proudly

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    EMINEM – “Kim” (MP3)
    Eminem is conceivably the most commercially lucrative purveyor of the consciously, proudly ugly in pop music ever. This track could conceivably be to him what “Hippopotamomus” was to Nick Currie – the moment when even his defenders turn round and say “enough is enough”, when the NME turns into the Daily Mail. And this is on an album which will almost certainly displace Britney as US#1 after one week. These are extraordinary times.

    I don’t think I’ve ever heard a more extreme track, at least in terms of its vocals – Em’s every word is a scream, a vicious, animalised cry, a bloodthirsty demand for his prey (the most telling moment is when he, literally, bites ), almost beyond any recognisable human speech. You know exactly, what the female screams in the background are. Nothing else has ever been such a convincing description of the experience of physical abuse, presented as a mock-opera with mournful classical sample, which strengthens the grotesquerie, presenting it as something important and meaningful, to be built up as a dramatic event for our entertainment. It is, quite literally, vile . It is capable of shocking the unshockable. Essentially I like it a lot, but I’ve never been more morally doubtful about anything I’ve liked. Beginning with the sound of a lullaby, the final sounds suggest nothing less than the destruction of a woman, her body left to rot in a countryside signified by outrageously out-of-place birdsong.

    I don’t think I’ll play it for at least 48 more hours. I know I’ll return to it from time to time, aware that this is an important place for pop music to go and that censorship is evil, but also that visiting this particular place can make even the most confirmed liberal feel censorious.

    friday matinee

    New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 344 views

    friday matinee: good heavens, another weblog about music? But what kind of music, I hear you cry? Could it be….INDIE ROCK?! Why yes, how did you guess?

    Joking aside, Friday Matinee is honest and also has a great clean design (weblogger speak alert, mwah mwah), and, you know, if you like indie music you should check it out. Should there not be a webring for all this good stuff?