Posts from 4th August 2000

4
Aug 00

NICK DRAKE

I Hate Music9 comments • 1,124 views

When he’s consciously “English”, at least he doesn’t jump around telling us so, falling over himself in his enthusiasm to inform us how removed he is from those nasty, quasi-black-American rock’n’roll johnnies of the last 15 years, unlike pretty much everyone who was idolised in the sixth form and university common rooms of Britain in 1972 (when Drake was recording in fully deserved obscurity). The tentative praise must end there, and for good.

For Drake was *above* everyone and everything around him, and to understate things he never kept quiet about it. His entire musical output is full of self-centred, piteous whinges about his isolation from the uncaring world outside, how wonderful things had been back in the innocent 50s in his affluent home, innoculated in the heart of middle England. Try “Do you feel like a remnant of something that’s past? Do you find things are moving a little too fast” (“Hazy Jane I”)? Or how about “Forgotten while you’re here / Remembered for a while / A much updated ruin / From a much outdated style / Life is but a memory / Happened long ago” (the odiously claimed “eulogy” of “Fruit Tree”). And for a real treat, try the cringemakingly outdated rural traveller / loner / doubtless former servant analogies of “Poor Boy”: “Never sing for my supper / I never help my neighbour / Never do what is proper / For my fair share of labour / I’m a poor boy / And I’m a rover (!) / Count your coins and throw them over my shoulder / I may grow older / Nobody knows / How cold it grows / And nobody sees / How shaky my knees” … excuse me, I think I just coughed up a lung after typing out that last line.

This is pop music, Nick. It changes fast, it’s cut and thrust, it’s *modern*. If you feel left behind by the pace of the modern world, join a Tapist monastery. Why is it that this man’s exaggeratedly distant, I-want-to-slow-everything-down Romanticism is regarded with such reverence while Ian Anderson’s minstrel-in-the-gallery shtick is universally laughed at, when in truth they’re both as cowardly, reactionary and fearful of modernity (while I’m at it, fuck knows what Drake would have made of the early ’00s) as each other? Don’t believe what you read about the astonishing range and variety of Drake’s lyricism – it’s the same themes of rivers, sunsets, lost boys, lost love, life, death, with perhaps just a few more songs about sad young middle-class girls on “Bryter Layter” (the album – or specifically, the two “Hazey Jane” songs therein – which invented Belle and Sebastian, so that’s another reason to hate him) and the much-vaunted “bleakness” creeping in more on “Pink Moon”. As for the “last songs” on “Time Of No Reply”, they’re even worse, especially the blues cliche of “Black Eyed Dog”.

Drake’s virtual canonisation since his death in 1974, thousands of erstwhile prog fans kissing his grave weeping “We were wrong, we were wrong, how *could* we have thought Emerson, Lake and Palmer were more talented than you, please forgive us” is a sign of one of the great global cultural malaises of the last 25 years, the cult of the young boy who Died Too Soon, up there on his pedestal, validated forever, impossible to question, as untouchable as the Queen Mother. It’s a sad story from a culture that was still, just, above that pathetic level in the early 70s. Time for the myth to be broken: Nick Drake was a just-below-average mediocre melancholic post-hippy singer-songwriter, nothing more, nothing less. The pay-off line just has to be the sort of catchy slogan which enrages the man’s gatekeepers – Tanya Says: Drake = Fake.

MacArthur Park: What’s It All About, Jimmy

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MacArthur Park: What’s It All About, Jimmy – page full of clippings and links related to “MacArthur Park”, Jimmy Webb’s metaphor-heavy angst epic, which has long been a source of cheap gags re. its supposed impenetrability. In fact “MacArthur Park”, while a bit absurd, is clear as day: it’s only the fact it was sung by an Actor rather than a True Singing Artist that gives it a bad rep and lets Dylan off a thousand lyrical hooks.

The oddest thing here is Webb talking of writing a ‘sequel’ to MacArthur. There was a sequel, in 1969, called The Yard Went On Forever, an album which I thought was abysmal the first time I heard it and am gradually coming to think is one of the best records of the whole 60s. Do by all means track it down.

RIAA vs Napster

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RIAA vs Napster: Glenn McDonald’s ‘position paper’ on the topic. The War Against Silence, Glenn’s staggeringly long-running (and just staggeringly long, period) music review site has taken a Jeremiac turn of late, and this is no exception. Culture is fucked and monstrous, nobody ever uses Napster except to download commercial crap, sensitive indie listeners like me are doomed. A vast oversimplification, but not so vast as to completely mis-state his position. Meanwhile I am boggling at Mike’s ability to find eighteen versions of “The Dark End Of The Street”, not all of them by any means bad – a dumb completist impulse not a thousand miles away from buying every Tori Amos 2CD singles set.

This week’s proper TWAS deals with the Belle And Sebastian and Black Box Recorder albums, two records I found more or less disappointing. McDonald likes them more than me, but his gloomy tone holds, spiced a little now with condescencion. “This is why thoughtful people become more serene, but don’t seem to get happier: they know that the only meaningful triumphs are quiet, narrow, partial victories over worthy enemies, and that wild ecstasy is contrived and inconsequential.” This after concluding that ‘uplifting’ pop music songs are ‘for biding time with until you die’. Now, I’m sure McDonald believes this with all his heart, but frankly if this kind of pinched position is what listening to obscure music for years gets you to, I’m sticking with the Top 40, biding that time, and dying shallow but at least happy.

Smashing Pumpkins Star To Quit Music?

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Smashing Pumpkins Star To Quit Music? – the official Worst Band In The World seem to be carrying out the Worst Split In The World. The idea, my friend, is that you split. See? Not write another 14 songs and carry on going for a couple of years before you do it. Leave the industry, do us all a favour.

Bill Grundy Interview

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Bill Grundy Interview: as if you wanted it, a transcript of the ‘notorious’ Sex Pistols/Billy Grundy interview, which I visited to confirm my suspicions re. Steve Jones saying “You fucking rotter” to Grundy. Rotter?? Who the hell said ‘rotter’ even in 1976, apart from Roger the bloody Dodger? Anyway, all is quiet on the music front but we’ll see if we can’t get something a little more substantial later.

JOHN CAGE

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JOHN CAGE

John Cage, so his fans will insist on telling me, was a musical pioneer. Without him, music as we know it wouldn’t exist. As such, he is a complete bastard.

If Cage could be forgiven one thing, it would undoubtedly be the fact that with 4′ 33″ he produced the one piece of music I could possibly bear to listen to. It is completely silent.

Surely, Tanya, I hear you say, you can’t find anything bad to say about silence? Well, no. But 4′ 33″ isn’t silence; it’s silent music. Apart from being utterly pointless, it’s such a waste of the beautiful peace. I can sit in silence in my flat, but that doesn’t mean that a load of pompous idiots in ridiculous suits and snooty bints in cocktail dresses would want to come and listen to me making absolutely no noise. Why? Because it’s NOT EVEN MUSIC!!!

I hate music. I also hate music without music.

By the way, Cage is celebrated for inventing turntablism. Twat.

Music with stupid titles that my pseudo-intellectual workmate showed me last night

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MUSIC WITH STUPID TITLES THAT MY PSEUDO-INTELLECTUAL WORKMATE SHOWED ME LAST NIGHT

Last night I went to a workmate’s house for a dinner party. Fine, thought I, it can’t be so bad. That was, until he broke out the music of the shameless: jazz. This, ladies and gents, was the same workmate who introduced me to the tragic Sign Of 4 album I mentioned on Monday. Through gritted teeth, I asked him what he would be playing. When he replied, I spluttered a mouthful of gin and tonic across the room in hysterics. I give you the playlist:

Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays – As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls. (WHAT?!)
The Sign Of 4 CD3, “The Balance Of Probability” – including such gems as Trichinopoly, Antecedents (in which one of the “musicians” “plays” egg beaters) and In Quest Of A Solution.

If this is music, find me a four year-old child, some pots and pans and a recording contract. Oh, and pass me a dictionary and a pin and I’ll come up with some song titles.