Posts from 2nd June 2000

Jun 00

Every breath they take…

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Every breath they take…: “The domination of mainstream hip-hop is a triumph for sampling in the same posthumous way that the Eagles’ Greatest Hits becoming the best selling album of all time would be a triumph for the nomadic spirit of Gram Parsons.” Look, everyone! It’s the Guardian‘s regular pop writer Tom Cox! And he’s talking out of his arse again! Oh, of course he’s not wrong about Puffy and Richard Blackwood making really bad records, but let’s look at this ‘domination of mainstream hip-hop’ again.

In England, it doesn’t even exist – Will Smith, Puff Daddy and that’s pretty much it, maybe ten singles a year in a chart with fifteen new entries a week. Now, both those men sample very obvious things. I’d say Smith does it well, Puffy does it badly. But that isn’t even a movement, let alone ‘domination’.

And in America? Most of the big-selling hip-hop at the moment is being made without using samples at all, as far as I can tell: it’s synth noise and drum machines all the way for the likes of the Ruff Ryders stable. Now, I’m sure Cox has his problems with that too, but Puffy is hardly king of the hill anymore. And the producers that do use samples tend to do what producers have always done – they look around a bit and find out what works: is the Egyptian flute sample from Jay-Z’s “Big Pimpin'” common currency? Hardly.

In other words, if Cox’s argument was any more straw-man it’d be holding hands with Judy Garland. Either Cox is dim or ignorant enough not to have realised that Blackwood is a typical TV novelty act (the modern equivalent of his beloved 1974’s Benny Hill) and that nobody likes Puff Daddy anymore, or he’s just cynically writing this kind of nonsense as part of his campaign to get us all listening to the fucking Wondermints. Either way he shouldn’t be doing the job he is.

There are a hell of a lot of ways to attack mainstream hip-hop, and sampling for that matter, with bite. Unfortunately for Cox, they all rather require listening to some.

Let me count the ways

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Let me count the ways: it’s a review of 69 Love Songs, from the Guardian. And it’s appropriately awed.

Tom Cox has a go at sampling culture in the Friday Review

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Tom Cox has a go at sampling culture in the Friday Review, claiming one minute that nobody is using sampling to good effect, the next that nobody really pays attention to the charts, the next that all the interesting sampling takes place in the underground and the next that the charts are rubbish. It’s an awful, curmudgeonly, stuck-in-his-ways piece of journalism and it’s sadly indicative of the Guardian’s music coverage.

“I write, admittedly, from the perspective of someone who believes 1974 represents popular music’s zenith,” he says, and it’s a pretty major point in his article. Can someone who appears not to like hip hop in the slightest (which is what he’s really having a go at – other genres which involve sampling are hardly mentioned) really comment on the artistic merit involved?

“How must Grandmaster Flash feel that an indirect antecedent of his Adventures On The Wheels Of Steel is Richard Blackwood working a lame rap about his lame stand-up career around the chorus to Mama Used To Say?” Personally, I couldn’t care less about the chorus of the song. What annoys me more is Blackwood’s idolisation of Will Smith. That and the fact that he’s sampled the hit from BDP’s “South Bronx”, which seems a blatant attempt to gain an ounce of credibility.

The article does make me wonder what Cox thought of The Adventures Of Grandmaster Flash… at the time. How would the fact that Flash used a song based on a replay of the bassline to “Good Times” fit into his theory? He cites Run-DMC and A Tribe Called Quest as examples of groups who use sampling creatively and use interesting samples. Well, I’m sorry to tell you this Tom, but their biggest hits were a remake of an Aerosmith tune and a song built around an entirely obvious Lou Reed sample respectively. Next time write about something you have at least a vague knowledge of.

The article is saved for one reason: the following sentence amuses me.

“The average top 40 artist [is] committing the ultimate sin: using a multi-coloured, multi-textured palate to create nothing more than a straight monochrome line leading back to nowhere.”

There’s nothing quite like using a multi-coloured palate, is there?

Mind your own business

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Mind your own business: charming, I’m sure. A review of the new Belle And Sebastian album, which in my sensitive wimpy way I am liking quite a lot now. Incidentally, it –

– STOP THE PRESS! A gorilla? “Not planned” lies band… –

– anyway, it isn’t too surprising that B & S won’t talk to the press when the press don’t exactly make too much effort to listen to their records properly. “The Chalet Lines” on the new record is a first person account of a rape, and one handled a lot more straightforwardly and sensitively than, say, “Polly” by Nirvana – although whether that’s sensitively enough is another question. But for NME’s reviewer to describe it as ‘a brittle song of half-forgotten romance’ is, well, a bit of a mistake.

News Unlimited | Brother beyond

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News Unlimited | Brother beyond “I’d become the music industry Orson Welles. Everybody wants to take you to lunch, but nobody wants to give you the money to make the motion picture” – Scott Walker talks to The Guardian about his curatorship of London’s Meltdown Festival. Lots of meaty stuff on that, some interesting if familiar bits on his untouchable 60s career, and tantalising references to a new album (and tour!). Also, a look at and brief chat with Jim O’Rourke and Smog, both of whom are playing Meltdown at Walker’s request: “O’Rourke is dismissive of people who take music too seriously. When DJing, he has been known to play Led Zeppelin and Alanis Morissette back to back, both to antagonise people and because he thinks they are great. He says he’d record the Spice Girls in a minute”.

Satoshi Tomiie: Full Lick: Pitchfork Review

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Satoshi Tomiie: Full Lick: Pitchfork Review: “UK garage is so exciting it makes me weep and reach for my passport” – and this in Pitchfork, no less! In Paul Cooper they seem to have at last found somebody who can write fairly convincingly about danceable dance music. They should give him a singles column forthwith.

Tanya Headon would be proud

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Tanya Headon would be proud: Tangents’ Marino Guida lays into Dylan, but ends up in endearing Tangential style reviewing lots of other records instead. When they’re as good as the Triffids’ Calenture, I can’t complain.

THE ORB – Evil 39* Cheers!

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THE ORB – Evil 39* Cheers!

Perpetual Dawn – Perpetual Yawn more like.

Dr Alex Patterson – Doctor of tedium did not invent ambient music. He refined it – much like Shell do not invent the oil, they refine it and turn it into a substance that primarily (from a long term ecological point of view) creates pollution. Dr Alex, and his early doors collaborator Thrash – never was a man so wrongly monikered – hit on the fine idea of dance music you cannot dance to, hence laying the ground for much of the nineties worse aural excesses.

The Blue Room? The Poo Room more like.

Thrash left due to creative differences. Who was going to create the tea can be the only obvious difference they had. Did no-one realise that the Victor Lewis-Smith sample on U.F.Orb was the high point of their career? They did nothing with it, just tagged it at the beginning of Towers Of Dub.

Towers Of Dub? Towers of Shite more like. (Yeah, I’ll admit that one doesn’t work so well.)

When you are reduced to making witty updates of Jean-Michel Jarre tracks, without the lasers, your career is over. One can only wonder how it came about in the first place. I knew a guy once who loved The Orb. Late at night he used to take the speakers from his stereo, place them on the floor one foot apart, place his head between and listen to Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld stark bollock naked on the floor in the dark. We can only imagine what he did in those two hours to amuse himself. He used to call this Orbing. Ladies and gentlemen, I rest my case.

Assassin. Yes please.

* The Orbs’ live album (imagine – oh the humanity) was called Orb Live ’93, in as much as it purported to be an accurate representation of the bands live performances in the year of someone’s lord 1993. It was dull so I won’t argue with that. However, Dr Patterson noted that Orb Live’93 read backwards was Evil Bro’ 39. And wait, did not World War 2 start in 1939? And an evil bro could be an evil brother – brother taken in the sense of black slang as in person: my god they must mean Hitler. Sheesh – well spotted Pogo, you should join the Jehovah’s Witnesses with logic like that. (Early doors JW’s thought the world was going to end in 1914. When it didn’t they revised their prediction to it being “a bit of a bad year”.) Anyway, 1993 in reverse is 3991. I look forward to seening the evil brother of that year with trepidation.


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DUEL!: Richard Ashcroft vs Moloko! Ugh.

As an aside, I’m really sorry for not attending to my e-mail that much lately. I’m going to put aside some time this weekend to attend to my sprawling inbox, so those of you who’ve written expressing outrage as some ill-thought-out view or other will get your replies then.