Posts from 10th July 2000

10
Jul 00

Yahoo! UK & Ireland Picks of the Week

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Yahoo! UK & Ireland Picks of the Week: FT doesn’t usually trigger its own trumpet samples, but on this occasion comment is perhaps called for: We Rock. Who’d have thought Yahoo! UK was so poor that a crumpled tenner would suffice?

THE CHARLATANS – BAGGY OF SHITE

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THE CHARLATANS – BAGGY OF SHITE

Or – for our American cousins – The Charlatans UK, because for some unknown reason there is another band out there who thought that having a name which suggested they were only superficially any good at their profession and deep down they were cheating us was a good idea. Its like calling your band “We Are Shite” – which I daresay would be seen as ironic and I better copyright now. (Shortened to W.A.S. – and hence could explain the name of Was Not Was. Ie: We Are Shite Not We Aren’t Shite).

The Charlatans were proponents of a musical style known inexplicably as baggy. This term came from the loose-limbed way of dancing that needed to be applied to shimmy on down to theirs, or the Happy Mondays or The Stone Roses music. Late scene stealing copyists they had one hit with a Hammond on – which I could forgive if it were truly “The Only One I Know” of their songs. Then, post the release of their superfluous second album “10.5th” it all went pear shaped and their keyboard player was sent to prison for taking part in an armed robbery.

You obviously don’t make much being the keyboard player in a third rate baggy group.

When he got out they recorded an even more lacklustre album which had the unfortunately untrue “Can’t Get Out Of Bed” on it, and the more words than the actual song had in it titled “I’d Never Want An Easy Life If He And Me Were Ever To Get There”. At which point the keyboard player Rob decided that prison had not been good enough and killed himself by driving into a tree. The baggy scene had died some years before, so now the Charlies went the way of many extant bands in 1996 – they Oasified. And fannied around getting shuffly loops put on their records by The Chemical Brothers. This period of their career is the least interesting. Though they did manage to get another keyboard player in who was indistinguishable from their previously unique ivory tinkla.

Of late they have decided to go prog rock (or Radioheady) and write songs called “Forever” which true to their name go on forever. If there is one thing they have in their favour, they were always literal minded. But being second rate and jumping on the band wagon of ever new musical style does not make you any good. Instead the nameless facelss backing band, and Tim Burgess (a man with child-bearing lips) should come clean and tell us how lousy they are. How they have pulled the wool over our eyes. How they are Charlatans.

Oh. They have. Must be the record buying publics fault then.

Pika! Pika! Chu! Chu!

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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.

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Misfit City

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Misfit City‘s second issue has kicked off. MC have this strange way of organising their updates into issues, but I’m not complaining – expect intelligent, finely-written reviews of obscure British acts, often with a progressive or experimental tinge (British readers: think the Organ fanzine if you ever read it, but more writerly). Small bands are the meat and drink of most music webzines, but a lot of the British ones seem to be covering the same (American) ones that Signal Drench et al. do – it’s nice to see a UK zine with more interest in homegrown talent.

So Many Channels, So Few Alternatives

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So Many Channels, So Few Alternatives: article on the decline of alternative radio (in Cleveland at least). One commentator nails the obvious cause – when alternative music got onto radio in the first place it locked itself into the fashion-cycle of popular taste, and decline was inevitable. The fact that most big alt.acts were putting out sub-par product certainly contributed.

Most of the article, though, is devoted to getting moist-eyed over a dead alt.rock station, and planning the fightback. “”I’m not going to watch kids I see in middle school and high school having to grow up with only canned gangsta or pop role models,” Rossman says. “Molded consumers make bad fellow citizens, in my humble opinion. Having these kids never hearing views or satire expressed in songs like Lust for Life, by lggy Pop, would make me very bummed.”. He should move perhaps to Britain, where I suspect that only the profoundly deaf will not have heard the satire (??) expressed in ‘Lust For Life’, due to its post-Trainspotting status as adland’s #1 track. A swift visit to any pub with a jukebox on a Friday night would set the fellow straight on Iggy’s potential to improve his fellow citizens.

That aside, quotes like this bring home how uncomfortable I am with alternative music culture – aside from the dubious idea that kids listen primarily to music for ‘role models’, there’s a pushily evangelical streak in a lot of pro-alternative writing, which tends to combine grossly patronising statements about people being ‘molded’ or ‘sheep’ with the smug suggestion that everything would be alright if said people just listened to Iggy Pop.

It’s a rare indie rock fan indeed that can resist having the odd parasitic pop at the mainstream, and generally the closer these people actually are to the mainstream the more they’ll flail against it – my untested theory is that someone into RATM and Radiohead is more likely to bitch inanely about how much ‘pop sucks’ than someone into Cursive. Sometimes I think writing about other genres could benefit from a bit of this thick-skinned arrogance, at other times I just wish these people would stop patting themselves on the back and think a bit more.

All the sites I link to are completely beyond this criticism, of course. Oh yes.

Special and ongoing thanks to John at Us Vs Them, by the way, for very helpful advice on design and readability issues. Hit his site a hundred times a day.

BIRTH – Found A Way Out

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BIRTH – Found A Way Out
In MacDonald’s, Robbie Williams’ “Angels” is playing. And a lively young mum is talking to her child, who looks about four or five: she starts singing along to Robbie. “This is such a cracking song,” she exclaims to her daughter, her voice bubbling with enthusiasm for the music, the kid, everything. “Now you listen to it, because in 20 or 30 years your children will be listening to it too.” It was a genuinely sweet moment. Who is going to sing along to Birth? I’m asking because Birth wants to – or says he wants to – make classic pop music, classic blue-eyed soft-pop music to be exact. The whole of Birth’s project rests on a double idea. That soft-soul like Hall And Oates represents a creamy pop pinnacle, and that nobody’s doing that sort of thing now.

Like most pop records which are secretly acts of pop criticism, it falls down. The notion that Hall And Oates are better than Travis isn’t really a controversial one, but Travis aren’t Birth’s competition: Robbie is, and Ronan, and Celine at a pinch, all of whom certainly are doing ‘that kind of thing’ nowadays. And on the evidence of the deeply pleasant, thoroughly unmemorable “Found A Way Out”, Birth doesn’t have the resources – financial or hookful – to compete. It doesn’t help that “Found A Way Out” has no emotional centre – not even a centre as corny as “Angels”‘ – beneath its precise sense of style: you get the feeling that Birth is banking for support on that segment of the critpress who love the idea of somebody doing something this faux-unfashionable but who would never be seen dead buying a Williams or Keating record. Such people surelty exist – I’m one of them, almost, and I adored a track like the New Radicals’ “You Get What You Give”, which married gobsmackingly naive lyrics to a platinum-barbed hook and lush, cut-crystal AOR production. But I can’t even remember what “Found A Way Out” is about.

Birth knows his chops, and the single slides down very nicely: in fact it’s close enough to making its aims that I’d certainly be interested in hearing the album. But in the end it sounds like gameplaying, the sort of learned shuffling of pop’s deck which inspires endless writing and precious little listening.

Is it only me that actually thinks the

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Is it only me that actually thinks the Crawley Love Parade sounds like quite a good idea? That playlist is good and if Altern8 re-formed I’d be there like a Meatloaf out of hell.

My Science Project

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My Science Project took down the Nu Generation track! Yay! But then ranks it in the top 3 pop singles of the year! Nay! And then says it samples Aretha Franklin! Nay, nay, nay!