Posts from 30th August 2000

Aug 00

FLOWCHART – Flutter By Butterfly

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FLOWCHART – Flutter By Butterfly

For a while there, childhood was the last frontier. The clumsy-beautiful melodies and quaint analog dreams of kinder-techno starlets Boards of Canada and Plone turned dance music into a playpen. These bands imagined childhood as a landscape every bit as exotic as 50s Hawaii or the 60s Moon, and one quite as crammed with carefree sweetness and crushing poignancy. I never quite trusted them and their slightly cloying take on infancy. Their childhoods may have been swimmily spent in hallucinatory bowers, but it fell to a band like Daphne And Celeste to capture the real, cruel rhythm of the playgrounds I remembered.

But Flowchart’s 1998 single is the prettiest thing I’ve heard in weeks, and on first spin it fits squarely into that whole naive tradition.It has children’s voices, bright-eyed one-finger melodies, and the production makes it sound as sharp and unreal as Christmas morning. But it’s got something else, too, some trace memory perhaps of when electronic music meant dancing and release. And so “Flutter By Butterfly” builds and peaks like it had a fieldful of faces to entertain. It sounds like “Smokebelch 2” played on a toy radio, or a nursery “Little Fluffy Clouds”. That obvious, that ravishing.

Supremes Taken To Extremes

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Supremes Taken To Extremes: (via scrubbles). More things wrong with this piece than I can really be bothered to list, some specific to his put-downs of the Supremes (which are right – Diana Ross is not the world’s greatest singer – but rest on his explicitly leaving out the contributions of the backing band and songwriters to the music), others more generally thick. Some talk of purity if you like that kind of thing. “Just about anybody on the Motown label was more soulful” – but the whole point of Motown is that it didn’t confine itself to being ‘soulful’. Etc.

The central problem, though, is that this guy is writing as if box sets were meant to be listened to in one sitting. Would I sit through five discs of the Supremes straight off? Christ no. Would I sit through four discs of Joy Division in one go? No also, but it didn’t stop me buying and enjoying Heart And Soul. The point is simply to have those four discs, to have a greater range of material than a best of allows, plus the possibility of mining a few more gems from the sets. That’s why box sets are a ridiculous indulgence, and why people still buy them. I honestly can’t think of a single band who’ve recorded more than three CDs worth (probably two CDs worth, come to think of it) of ten-out-of-ten, essential material, but I can think of plenty where I’d want the option of stretching out boxwise and judging for myself what that material is.

Via everywhere, but specifically

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Via everywhere, but specifically kempa, the art for the new Radiohead album. It looks like a 15 year old’s cover for his sci-fi fanzine. It’s Cthulhoid, cheap and horrible. I really rather like it.

Discover HIP HOP

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Discover HIP HOP: I know I did.


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Notebooks out plagiarists, as Mark E.Smith has been known to deludedly say. I, as usual, have an ambivalent view on plagiarism. Yes it is lazy, artistically corrupt and just plain dishonest. That said it stops a new abominable tune being written.

Paul Weller is no stranger to a) being rubbish and b)plagiarism. Much of his career has been spent ripping off the Who, Eric Clapton or Modern Romance for chrissake. If anyone knows where he half-inched the tune for “Sweet Pea, My Sweet Pea”, incidentally, then let me know so I can go round and scoop out their giblets. That said – the crime committed on “Start” by The Jam is notoriously horrendous. Not only is the bass-line a note for note rip-off, it rips off one of the most churlish songs ever written. The Beatles’ “Taxman”.

To call “Taxman” churlish, or merely like a churl, is to suggest that something out there could exhibit more churl than this simulcra. This is not possible – and I urge the makers of The Oxford English Dictionary to add this definition to their organ post-haste:

CHURL a. cf “Taxman” – George Harrison (The Beatles Revolver)

Yes popstars often have little economic understanding, and yes their huge and monumentally undeserved earnings are often taxed so greatly that they may only take home a million quid net. That said, Taxman is a folly of gargantuan proportuions. For George Harrison to complain that his swinishly vast wealth was the upshot of such hard graft kind of downplays the contributions of both Lennon and McCartney on the songwriting front. Now I’m not saying L’n’M’s songs were good, but they did at least write some (for their mate George to rip off in turn). From Revolver onwards George Harrison discovered the Sitar and made appalling plonking noises for the next ten years. When he needed a hit he went straight off and nicked the tune. “My Sweet Lord” ended up not troubling the British Taxman too much.

No, for George to complain about tax is like the Queen complaining about ancestors. It comes with the territory. At least do a Mick Jagger and fuck off out of the country for 349 days of the year. If Harrison had been a payroll administrator or an accountant charged with doing corporation tax returns his ire at Messrs. Heath and Wilson might be justified. Instead suggesting that the Inland Revenue are about to instigate some bizarre foot tax is not very insightful. Besides, the taxman is obviously completely right to be nicking 95% of George’s money, as has been amply demonstrated since the release of his monster whinge, with rivers of money flooding to such obvious chancers as the Maharishi and the Natural Law Party. Mmm yes, much better Yogic Flyers than a dialysis machine, eh George?

Anyhow, as bad as we admit “Taxman” to be, this does not mitigate the fact that Weller used the selfsame tune to make an even worse track. The Jam were no strangers to thievery. Indeed Pete Townshend had placed a restraining order on Weller to prevent him ever doing his windmill guitar technique (though it has already been proven that Weller has gone deaf in a copycat stylee). So after briefly aping Dylan on “That’s Entertainment” (which was about as entertaining as you can get before reaching the Open University) Weller nicked “Taxman”.

“Knowing that someone in this world, feels as desperate as me” Weller says, talking about looking for atune, but there are limits! Paul then suggests “What you give is what you get” (putting him at ideological loggerheads with The New Radicals). The Jam gave us a nicked Beatles song, what they got was a number one – seems hardly fair.

Hardly seems fair George not taking them to court either, since he was so upset about the taxman legally taking his money and spending it on education and the health service. You’d think he would be more pissed off that some jumped-up young turk with sticky-up hair stole his tunes and spent thge ill-gotten gains on Parka Jackets. If he had, think what we might have been spared. The Style Council, Weller solo, Dee Cee Lee, Ocean Colour Scene.

Weller says in “Start”: “Knowing that someone in this world loves with a passion called hate”. That makes no sense at all, par for the course Paul, but personally speaking I hate with a passion called hate – and I hate this bassline.

The thing about Oasis

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The thing about Oasis is (was?) that not only did they make lazy commonsense music but they also inspired lazy commonsense journalism, like this John Harris piece. They were the perfect band for listeners to switch off and party to (no bad thing, though they weren’t the soundtrack I’d have chosen), but we don’t pay journalists to switch off and party, we pay them to think a bit, and judge a bit, and write something interesting at the end of it.

The hidden story of Oasis is the story of how the British music press caved in to lairy populism – when the band’s second album came out it got lukewarm reviews and everybody bought it. So what, you might have thought, you could say the same for the Robbie record. But with What’s The Story, the press lost their nerve, about-turned their opinion, and for a couple of horrible years Oasis were critically untouchable. The flatulent hosannas which greeted Be Here Now probably did more to kill off the UK music press’ reputation than a million silly Romo movements.