Posts from 24th July 2000

Jul 00

Tomorrow I’m going to see

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Tomorrow I’m going to see The Magnetic Fields perform live, and I know some of you are too. Pre-show drinks are a definite possibility. If you want to sort out a meeting, drop an e-mail to me here during the day tomorrow. Pip pip!

“The last two members of Boyzone to go solo…

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“The last two members of Boyzone to go solo, Shane Lynch and Keith Duffy, are to record a cover of the Milli Vanilli single ‘Girl You Know It’s True’, which is expected later in the year.” – who says pop stars don’t have a sense of humour?

CRAIG DAVID : The great lost Dickens novel

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CRAIG DAVID : The great lost Dickens novel

Very few people know that Craig David was the name of Charles Dickens’ first ever novel. Unsurprising since it was never published. This was due to a couple of problems: the first being that Dickens felt that having a character with the same initials may paint it as too obviously autobiographical (like reversing the initials for David Copperfield made this impossible to guess). Mainly the problem was that Craig David, much like his musical namesake, really wasn’t much cop. Still vestiges of the novel remain in manuscript form for the enlightened commentator (or in this case me) to pour over. Note how many of Dickens regular themes are already apparent, plus the appearance of favourite later characters in a nascent form.

Craig David is a young stable-lad from South London. A confident if brash eighteen year old he is happy working hard knowing that he will reap his rewards in a later life and maybe meet a nice lady. However David falls upon Hard Times and is forced to make a living using his meagre talents and honey smooth singing voice. It is not long before he is destitute.

Enter The Artful Dodger. Yet to turn into the cheeky young scamp we see later in Oliver Twist, this prototype version is a pair of grandfathers peddling lollipops and other things “The Kids Like”. Soon to spot both vocal potential and a complete lack of business acumen in Mr David they drag him off to start singing at late night mummers plays and such like in the UK stable scene. David is a natural Mumming Champion (MC) and soon becomes a sensation. As Dickens says, Craig David is all over your – ahem – boink, and it really is at this part of the book which Dickens usual air of earthy verisimilitude really lets him down. David shacks up with girl after girl (though always careful not to go too far on the first week) and generally getting a little bit big headed.

What follows is a split from the Coffin Dodgers (as Craig wittily puts it) and a solo career. Picking on autobiographical tales such as Fill Me In – about the cess pit outside his youthful dwelling, and Seven Days – about not going too far with the nice young ladies in that all important first week, he wows the country. He then signs a very big deal with an American publisher, at which point we get the classic reversal of fortune British literature is so fond of. David travels to America where they do not understand his yokel voice and the appeal of a dance which only has two steps. They rightly note that this is no different to walking, which they can happily do without the repetitive metronomic beat Craig attached to his chats. Even David’s amusing way of saying his own name no longer appeals, despite guest slots saying his name on Smashing Pumpkin and U2 records (who were both around back then) no-one buys them.

So David returns to his land of birth, gets a job in a stable in Upper Norwood and shovels shit for the rest of his life. The Artful Dodger dies few years later, the old chaps succumbing to the low mortality rate of Victorian England.

Craig David is by no means a good book, being hackneyed and falling for many of the standard rise and fall plots of the day. As a historical document it is rewarding to note that both Bono and Billy Corgan were as insufferable in the 1850’s than they are now. Nevertheless it is instructive to see the roots of a great artist – and in many ways it is possible to see A Tale Of Two Cities, or Nicholas Nickleby in Craig David. Much like in Re-Rewind you can see a man, shovelling shit.

The Boy on the Bus

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The Boy on the Bus: scary Eminem fan freaks out guy on bus. Well written, but slightly disingenuous in its implications. I’ve been freaked by kids on buses and trains, been beaten up by one bunch. Some of the kids probably had band patches or t-shirts or were copying styles or moves off of their favourite artists. Some of said artists probably did the same when they were those kids too. The lesson? Adolescent boys – particularly adolescent boys who are stupid, poor or both – are aggressive creatures, and sometimes they focus that aggression through music.

The boy on the bus was antisocial, scary, horrible, but he didn’t actually do anything. Which isn’t to say he won’t next time. But what the article, in its conversational impartiality, seems to hint is that if it weren’t for his Slim Shady attitude he wouldn’t be doing it at all. That’s possible.

But I think it’s as likely that if it weren’t for Shady giving him a walk to walk and a talk to talk, giving him cool boundaries of action, even if those boundaries scare you or me, he’d have lashed out before now, or for real. We can’t know either way, that’s the point. We can’t know without knowing each individual kid, and we’ll never know each individual kid, but we do know Eminem, or we think we do, and so we try and project.

That link via Catherine.

Don’t play that song again!

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Don’t play that song again!: The most irritating songs of all time, as voted for by dotmusic. I have to say “We’re Going To Ibiza” has grown on me somewhat. But other than that, hard to fault this predictable list and it’s good to see Chris De Burgh getting his licks. I think the Teletubbies have been rather hard done by – surely the quintessence of an irritating record is that, as with “The Birdie Song” and, say, “Don’t Look Back In Anger”, they refuse to lay down and die.

Pop Music is shit

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Pop Music is shit. I get the impression sometimes that people think NYLPM will roll over and put its paws in the air for anything as long as it goes Top 10. I say thee nay! There is a whole cartload of pop music out there which is just as calculated, predictable and hokey as the form’s critics would have us believe, and to make matters even worse is rubbish to boot. No, we like pop just fine, but we’re discerning about it, just like you all are with your indie rock (heh, heh). Here’s a capsular selection of recent hits which haven’t made our exacting standards. First in an occasional series.

5IVE – “We Will Rock You”: Dicey repositioning alert! 5ive have always been the nearest thing to ‘tough guys’ the British boyband boutique offers, and they’ve remained acceptable for precisely as long as they’ve not actually noticed this, having their biggest and best hits with stuff like “Keep On Movin'”s delightful Haircut 100 shuffle.But what with the recent and farcical marijuana spats, and now this horror, it’s obvious some dingus in marketing has spotted 5ive’s latent greaser potential and is pushing it hard, much as he would a recalcitrant turd. Queen are actually credited on this, and hearing the enervating guitar histrionics at the end it wouldn’t surprise me if May,B. had given some kind of sonic endorsement, but really, even without their input “We Will Rock You” would have been a joke. A song that rocked as hard as pyjamas in the first place is unlikely to be toughened up much by a boy band singing it, and so it proves. Misjudged to bits.

KYLIE MINOGUE – Spinning Around: That’s Jason spinning in his commercial grave as he witnesses his ex’s ‘return to form’ with this undiverting bit of neo-disco. All the years of desperate grasping for indie cred have been revistionistically purged, and Kylie is apparently back doing what she does best: simple pop for that segment of the market with more disposable income than sense. What nobody seems to have noticed in their rush to praise hits like “Shocked”, “Je Ne Sais Pas Pourquoi” et bloody al is that “Spinning Around” sounds nothing like them. Kylie puts on a sultry diva voice which sounds bogus and unsubtle, and the chorus slips from your head like dandruff.

MELANIE C – I Turn To You: But who? Who does she turn to? Well. Can you guess, readers? The video, you see, has Mel with long fair hair extensions, standing on a rock overlooking the sea and, and waving her arms about as she sings a techno-pop tune with a ‘spiritual vibe’. Do you think she’s got a Madonna record in her collection? Mel C’s solo career has been remorselessly useless, careening from bad pastiche to bad pastiche with only one relatively high point (the good pastiche on her Left-Eye duet). A recent compilation of the tracks Moby borrowed for his Play has been making someone a pot of cash – I’m sure Mel C’s record company could do well for itself along similar lines by releasing the Northern Star Companion with tracks Mel has found hem-hem inspirational.

More soon.

The Godfathers of Britpop: the dichotomy of the mid-90s

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The Godfathers of Britpop: the dichotomy of the mid-90s – it’s a new article on Robin Carmody’s Elidor site, and I hope he won’t mind me saying that it’s taking a pop at what has become really quite an easy target. Britpop is a conservative genre, yes, but at least what it was looking back at was progressive and radical. This is why Robin’s political analogy – Britpop = Major – misses its mark: if anything, the Britpoppers were the equivalent of the Old Labour stalwarts peppering their every speech with references and reverences to Attlee or Bevan.

Robin also focusses on the ‘Brit’ part and misreads the ‘pop’: they may have been made using guitars, but a lot of the ‘classic’ Britpop singles are marvellous, energised pop music. The rhetoric about sweeping crappy dance-pop and boybands away was just rhetoric after all, and there was no more substance to “Alright” or “Yes” than there was to any East 17 track. A lot of it – most of it – was crap, but five years on it should be possible to cut through the smokescreen of journalistic nonsense and appreciate the cheeky pop heart of the music a little more.

Not to mention that, ultimately, revivalism is revivalism – you can talk about context and reclamation all you want but in the end there’s no higher ground won by harking back to 70s funk, or early Moog experiments, or analog e-z listening, or TV theme weirdness than there is by ripping off the Beatles.