Posts from 13th July 2000

13
Jul 00

If you’re thinking of helping top bloggers come up with amusing gangsta rap parodies of popular marketing slogans, maybe

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If you’re thinking of helping top bloggers come up with amusing gangsta rap parodies of popular marketing slogans, maybe Enculturation can help you understand the medium. It gives me immense pleasure to dismiss this lengthy, footnoteful, carefully written article as wank. One paragraph on the music (which straddles the postmodern and the modern, you’ll be delighted to learn), a billion paragraphs on the lyrics, a reference to Walter Benjamin writing in 1969 (30 years after his death!), more equivocation than you can shake a stick at, and no evidence whatsoever that the author has listened to hip-hop with anything other than handkerchief-to-nose academic disdain.

The magazine which this comes from is running a music special, revelling in blurbs like: “This essay attempts to open up a conversation between a theory of reading and a theory of listening by explicating Roland Barthes’ essay “Listening” and the music of Tortoise”. And let me swiftly say that I have no problem at all with the Roland Barthes component of that sentence. Needless to say I will read it all with due care in case some nugget of insight can be panned up from the sump, but I’m not holding my breath, especially not where Tortoise are involved.

Depeche Mode: Bite one

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Depeche Mode: Bite one

Chances are if you grew up in the 80s or 90s in Britain – you may have received a letter like this:

Chere Tanya!
Ca va?! Je suis ton amie de stylo, Marie France. J’habite a Rouen, j’ai quatorze ans, j’aime les lapins et Depeche Mode.”

Now hang on, rabbits, I hear you Marie France, and I do like your novel use of coloured felt-pens and use of little hearts over the “i’s”. We have an understanding, an entente, if you will. But Depeche Mode! I must protest. You are French, I am English and you certainly would not catch me in a T-shirt proclaiming “Hurry Fashion”, not outside Tokyo. It’s not just the semiotics; no, no, Marie France – think of the music, think of Martin Gore’s perm and his own sense of (hurry) fashion, and think of the music again. Am I getting through?

Well, who can reason with the French?

To business: Violator – the worst album ever recorded. The proof – Personal Jesus, “reach out and touch, yeah, ding-ding-a-ding ding”. Supporting evidence: “Cle-eean, the cleanest I’ve bee-een”. Furthermore, “Words are vairy unecess-airy, they can only mean harm.” Unfortunately, Dave Gahan, he not lyrically-blessed boss, did not opt for self-censorship in the light of his discoveries during the creation of “Break the Silence” those unecessairy words kept on coming, the axis of silence and violence was skewed disconcertingly for me and for others.

How could he stop himself anyway? This was a man who had long been pained by a competitive world with nightmarish visions of selfish grabbing hands, literally grabbing all they can. It was only fair that “Everything Counts” should be re-released to serve as a grim warning (to impressionable French and German teenagers, largely), and to earn more money for the Mode, n’est-ce pas Marie France?

Just remember, Depeche Mode in their least offensive moments provide foot-fodder for the girlies who want to prance and air synth to “Just Can’t Get Enough”, and that, my friends, is pretty damn offensive.

RONAN KEATING – “LIFE IS A ROLLERCOASTER”

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RONAN KEATING – “LIFE IS A ROLLERCOASTER”
beating tom to the punch…on his own blog, no less! but keating is a little too foreign for my blog, so here we are.

anyway, young ronan is embarking upon a solo career as you might’ve heard. aiding him in this quest is gregg alexander, better known as the guy in the hat from the new radicals. alexander disbanded that “group” when he decided that he wanted to make his living as a producer. with what will surely be the undeniable success of this record, he’s certainly on his way. it seems like a relationship that will prove beneficial to both men: alexander gets fame and fortune for his half and keating gets a gem of a record like “life is a rollercoaster” for his work.

and a gem, it is. if you’re like me, the words “ronan keating solo record,” are enough to fill your heart with utter dread, but you have nothing to fear, really. before i get into it any further, let’s get out of the way: the lyrics are dire. as tom pointed out to me, “you almost got us punched in a fight” is indeed a line in this song, and “life is a rollercoaster, just gotta ride it” isn’t the most profound statement you’re likely to hear this year. but if you’re willing to dismiss a song on lyrics alone, well, then, you’re not very pop to begin with, are you? (that
said, the closing repeat to fade sounds like “don’t bite it…”; if this is the case, we’re venturing into very strange n.w.a. territory here.)

alexander’s production style is very recognizable: cooing backing vocalists who sing things like “hey baby” and “hey sugar” without a trace of irony; a super glossy m.o.r. sheen; and details on top of details. it’s extremely smooth and eminently listenable — if alexander worked in the 80s, he’d be rich beyond his wildest dreams and his music would be used in every teenager coming-of-age flick. it’s gorgeous stuff and absolutely made for headphone listening (check out the guitar that comes in at the 2:30 mark). for his part, keating does his very best not to be irritating or loathsome, and whaddya know, he succeeds. he’s never
been a bad vocalist, per se, he just tries too hard sometimes: on “life is a rollercoaster,” though, he’s just along for the ride. (groan)

as far as i’m concerned, the record isn’t about keating — it’s all alexander. in the press release that announced the new radicals breakup, he described himself as a mutt lange-type looking for his shania twain. in the unassuming guise of ronan keating, perhaps he’s found his muse. while it’s not on the level of “you get what you give,” “life is a rollercoaster” remains great, if inessential stuff. and even if you don’t agree, you have to admit: it sure beats the hell out of stuff like “when you say nothing at all.”

VH1 : 100 Greatest Songs of Rock n’ Roll

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VH1 : 100 Greatest Songs of Rock n’ Roll: constantly updating their hit parade of their ten biggest wanks, link courtesy of SwallowingTacks, who contrasts it to the Mojo list. And people wonder why Tanya thinks like she does….

JOE MEEK

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JOE MEEK

Joe Meek, eh? – what a cult. Time’s a funny thing – take a record like “I Hear A New World”. It was done in 1960, you know. And believe me you will know, because anyone into Joe Meek will tell you so, again and again and again. Why? Because it is the only remotely noteworthy thing about the track. Had this nonsensical druggy goop been issued in 1970, it would have been laughed off worlds Old, New, Borrowed and Blue. But no, it was 1960 and hence Joe Meek is a genius! A forgotten hero! An analogue pioneer! This despite his ‘weird’ tracks being gimmicky tat (he recorded toilets flushing…..backwards!) and his ‘normal’ stuff being Cliff or Alma with a bit of echo on. His biggest hit as a producer was “Telstar”, a cash-in record about a satellite which sounds unimaginably futuristic….if like Joe you imagined the future as a place where people play Ennio Morricone knock-offs on the paper and comb.

People into Joe Meek are the worst kind of music snob – they’ve missed every contemporary bus going, but if they’re too slow or bored to discover new stuff now, at least they can stake claims to all those ‘forgotten genii’ who lurk in pop’s lobby, just waiting for the right advert to come along and usher them through the main doors. No matter how many people eulogise Joe Meek or, worse, rip him off, to these fans he’ll always be underrated. Piffle: he was a pitiable nutter whose fusty records stopped selling and who ended up murdering his landlady. Some hero.

Real player

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Real player: here’s an interesting little interview with an A & R man at BMG, focussing on his views of MP3 and online music. Can you spot the contradiction here:

How has the internet changed the music industry? What it is going to do is to empower further the artist. The worrying thing is having to listen to all the unfiltered music that’s out on the web coming direct from its creators.”

Empower the artist, heh heh. His main point seems to be that MP3, as a medium, will be a fad. Well, maybe or maybe not, but what he’s not considering is that once you have a listening demographic in place who think of music as something that you get for free, all the innovations in the world aren’t likely to help. People pro- or anti- MP3s or file-sharing are thinking technology and they’re thinking commerce, but they’re still not thinking culture.

Beatles head list of greatest songs

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Beatles head list of greatest songs: surprise surprise. This is the list that Fred linked to yesterday, but the Guardian helpfully provides the full 100. “In My Life” isn’t the worst song in the world but it’s still pretty cloying. However #s 25 and 97 go some way to making up for it.

THE PET SHOP BOYS – Kings Cross

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There is nothing special to mark this track out from any other slow PSB track (ie – Chris Lowe had let the drum machine go down the pub). It marks the end of the Actually album like any other piece of introspective Neil Tennant nonsense. And I certainly do not think that Tennant is stupid – anyone who can survive those years on Smash Hits must be some form of evil mastermind (peddling pop – to the kids). Nope, I just have one teensy problem with Kings Cross.

“Dead and wounded on either side – You know its only a matter of time”

Now Tennant, and Lowe when he’s not reading the news, released and recorded this record before the Kings Cross Rail Disaster. Presience of thought, astral conjunction? No, its obvious that somewhere along the line the massive brain of Tennant noticed the fixtures and fittings of the tube station and realised that with a heavy build up of sweet wrappers and a misplaced cigarette – the whole place could go up in smoke. So – you would think – off to the Health And Safety Executive with him toot sweet? A few hours out of your ironic pop star lifestyle to show the flashpoint situation under escalator two. How hard would it be to get the London Transport Safety Officers to accept that whilst you have no formal training in H&S matters, you are well aware of the basic theory behind fire training – and in particular British Standard 04365 on flameproofing of wooden mechanical structures? As long as they weren’t wearing those silly stick on eyebrows and the ripped of of Devo dunce hats I reckon a major inspection could have saved lives.

Alternatively you could just write a song about it.

The Pet Shop Boys – how do they sleep at night?

Kathleen

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Kathleen wants songs about people called Kathleen. Surely the Tindersticks did one, on some limited edition single. And equally surely it was a cover of something…..the name Townes Van Zandt crawls into my mind. Only one way to check: yes. I’ve not heard the Zandt version, but I recall the T’sticks one as being a gloomy affair as per usual.