Posts from August 2000

30
Aug 00

BE THANKFUL I DON’T TAKE IT ALL

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BE THANKFUL I DON’T TAKE IT ALL

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.

29
Aug 00

BLOODCLAAT GANGSTA YOUTH – Kill Or Be Killed

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BLOODCLAAT GANGSTA YOUTH – Kill Or Be Killed

Fetish-packaged in a flimsy white paper sleeve with mock-reggae 7″ label (and a jukebox hole!), this is in fact DJ Scud, one of the newer signings to the reputedly stale Digital Hardcore roster. Stale isn’t the word that springs to mind playing “Kill Or Be Killed”, though ‘pointless’ might do. But that’s not a bad thing, sometimes. Scud gets to indulge a few Yardie fantasies with a lot of violent patois talkover, and then the ‘beat’, a monstrous and slow metallic hammering, comes in. The rest is noise. It’s great, violent, cheap, posturing, bad boy stuff, and the version, with less of the chat and a sludgeful stalking bassline, is better still.

My guess is that DHR lost its touch when it started concentrating on full-length albums. Much as I liked the odd Atari Teenage Riot track, I still don’t think I’ve played Sixty Second Wipe Out once all the way through. On a 7″, though, the label’s particularly crass noise aesthetic works perfectly, and their increasingly destructured approach sounds way thrilling. If like me you’re a muscle-free speccy whiteboy crit who fancies a nice wallow in ersatz fucked-up aggro, Bloodclaat Gangsta Youth will sort you out nicely.

And speaking of

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And speaking of Tangents, here is that very Mr.Fitchett talking about Baxendale and Daphne And Celeste. Not a bad article, but what is this we see in the D & C bit? “You know I’m always a bit sceptical of people who are, shall we say, fans of more left-field music, when they profess a passion for some hyped up teen-pop sensation. It never quite rings true, always smells a little of some kind of search for inverted cool: as in ‘I’m so cool I can even like naff teen-pop and it doesn’t mater; and the irony of it is it only makes me cooler!’ Hmmm.” Several slaps with a wet haddock for that one, Alistair! (Not that he’s talking about me, but what’s the good of reading anything if you cant take it personally?)

On the other hand I’ve had long years of being put on the defensive when it comes to chartpop and people assuming I like it ironically. I still don’t think I do, but my reaction’s shifting a bit from saying “No, no, I’m for real!”, to saying, “How do you know how I like music? And why does it matter?”. I think a lot of music discourse – mine certainly included – suffers from making assumptions about motive (but it’s such fun). I don’t know why I’m attracted to a song any more than I know why I’m attracted to a place, or a taste, or a person even. The reasons might be ‘good’ ones or they might be ‘bad’ ones – I want to impress other people, I’m fooling myself, I’m projecting some kind of fantasy. So as a writer what can I do? I can analyse the reasons all I want, but that doesn’t change or stop the attraction. Hmmm indeed.

A Ramble With Pram

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A Ramble With Pram: an excellent piece by Kevin Pearce which manages to pin down that consistently charming and intriguing group as well as anything else I’ve read about them. From your official favourite e-zine Tangents, which has exploded with life over the last few days, editor Alistair Fitchett contributing no less than five (typically strong) pieces on various pop crannies.

What I like most about the Pearce article is how he starts with the assertion that Pram are his favourite band and ends up deciding that he’ll probably, maybe, sometime buy their new LP. This gets something very right about a certain type of listener and the whole idea of ‘favourite bands’. I’m still very uncomfortable even having a favourite band, as it seems to leave so very much out, and Pearce’s implication seems to be that you can pick favourites with a combination of respect and whim, something I’m definitely in agreement with.

28
Aug 00

It’s bank holiday weekend

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It’s bank holiday weekend in the UK, so no posting from me at least. If anyone else is having difficulty getting to the I Love Music forum from the links on this page, can they e-mail me?

Oh, and Tanya’s back.

THE STONE ROSES – “Fool’s Gold”

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THE STONE ROSES – “Fool’s Gold”

Now here’s a classic, eh readers? “Fool’s Gold” is a seamless genre-smashing marriage of funk, rock and dance, a classic which will live forever as a reminder of when the scene was good and baggy beats ruled the pop charts. Even I couldn’t find anything to criticise about this nine-minute masterpiece, surely!

Well.

Let’s examine those claims a little more closely. First of all, funk. Is “Fool’s Gold” a funky record? No. It has the rhythmic drive of a man stirring porridge. John Squire is, you see, not a very funky man: you need only listen to the Seahorses to understand that. (Ian Brown has been called funky, but only by the Goodies. And his cellmates.) How were the funky massive worldwide fooled into believing “Fool’s Gold” to be a cast-iron funksterpiece, then? A hundred thousand ageing baggy boys pitiably trying to recapture their teenage years can’t be wrong!

My suspicion is that the wah-wah led them to this erroneous conclusion. Unimaginatively but usefully named by its accursed inventor, the wah-wah pedal is an implement fitted to a guitar which makes it go “wah wah”. It was used on every record between 1971 and 1975 and then banned by an international treaty, for sounding exactly like the way your ears sound if you put your fingers in and out of them when you’re in a fast car with the window open. I.e. rubbish. John Squire cannily judged, though, that the Pavlovian response to a wah-wah pedal appearing on a record in 1989 would be to declare the record funky despite all rhythmic evidence to the contrary, and so it proved.

Funk is shit anyhow – it’s a genre named after smelling bad, for goodness’ sakes – so what about “Fool’s Gold”‘s claim to be a slice of dance genius? Hmm. It seems to me that the record falls down in one crucial regard here. You can’t dance to it. Now then, hold off on the reply buttons lads, I know perfectly well that the last time you were down the indie disco you moved about for nine minutes to this song in what you felt was a rhythmic fashion. Problem is, that wasn’t dancing, any more than what Mr I. Brown does with his elongated arms is dancing. I’m sure that the shuffly flailing movements you produced as you farted about in your yellowing band t-shirts would be of interest to primate anthropologists and specialists in muscle spasms, but dancing they were not. The Roses were well aware of “Fool’s Gold”‘s danceability problems, but the scam had to continue, which is why they vetoed every remix, for fear that one of the Djs involved had stuck, I don’t know, a beat or something into the song.

Obviously “Fool’s Gold” doesn’t rock either, it just meanders grimly for 540 seconds and then mercifully fades. As band-defining statements go, it’s onto a definite loser (and it’s a song about gold prospecting, a subject whose pop potential was exhausted by 1850). People remember it mostly because of the baffling regard in which they hold the Stone Roses, a bog-standard psych revival band whose idea of musical innovation was doing a song backwards every now and then. It’s worth considering that none of the bands ‘inspired by’ the Roses have sounded remotely like them (Primal Scream sounded a bit like them, but in 1987, and to be less original than Primal Scream is quite the feat). They’ve mostly sounded like the shower of dog-mouthed pub-rock chancers they undoubtedly are…but you see, they had attitude.

Attitude apparently consisted of repeating what a good band you are three times in every interview, like Dorothy in The Wizard Of Oz saying “There’s no place like home”. Oh, and if you poured paint over your bandmates it would help too, though this aspect of the Roses’ attitude has been low on imitators. Pathetic, really, but a generation of lazy geezers lapped it up – you don’t have to be good at anything as long as you give it a bit of front. And they all formed bands, the fuckers. Cue the 1990s, the grisly low point of five ghastly decades of British rock music, and it was all the Roses’ fault.

27
Aug 00

James Brown – Moby-esque cross-media overexposure

I Hate Music1 comment • 610 views

James Brown – Moby-esque cross-media overexposure

Ahhhhhh! (Or should that be “oooowww!”) The joys of summer, the smack of leather on willow, the strawberries, the cream, Wimbledon. But what’s that I hear? It seems the boys in the backroom at the BBC have been having a light-hearted fiddle with their editing equipment. Bless them – they’ve put together a series of amusing out-takes and pratfalls from various sportsmen (and women).

Look! There’s a pigeon on the playing field!
Look, look! Rain stops play!
Now this is good, there are some spectators in Union Jack wigs! Ha ha!
Tim Henman misses a shot, but does the splits!

But best of all, it’s all soundtracked by “I Feel Good” by James Fucking Brown. It puts me in mind of that other hilarious montage of sports stars falling over, accompanied by “Get Up” that I saw yesterday.

What’s on the other channel? Oh it’s a tea-bag advert with those crazy chimps – well bugger me, if they aren’t playing “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag”. Post-production must be a very incestuous but literal-minded world, mustn’t it? It is not hard to imagine how it happens…

[Fade to:]

Somewhere in Soho, various people in garish YSL shirts and big glasses sit round a glass table. One young hipster is up at the flip-chart mocking out a story-board for an Indian spices ad.
Ad exec 1: Anyway guys, those are the rushes of the first execution of the Schwartz campaign. For the background music, I thought we’d have “I feel good” with the line about “sugar and spice”…
Ad Exec 2: Excellent work Barni! Puts me in mind of that wicked campaign for Slumberland with “Get Up” as the background music. (Continue ad nauseum).

JB – The Funky Drummer

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JB – The Funky Drummer

Let’s not forget James Brown’s unique contribution to the proliferation of crummy dance music. How many bands, eighties and nineties, pilfered one of The “Please Please Please” Man’s frugging riffs to beef up their cojones-free tracks? And how does JB respond to his funk and soul spawning anonymous house and techno music? Well, it is reported that, at Polygram, there is a whole department whose job is to listen to records to check for unlicensed James Brown samples.

You sad tossers.

JB – You’ve overstayed your welcome

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JB – You’ve overstayed your welcome

Nowadays, it is impossible to think of “young” James Brown (a poised, suave young buck, supposedly) without being reminded of “old” James Brown (a wizened, fogeyish old criminal, allegedly). Not content with his years of success and touring, he insisted on contributing “Living In America” in 1985 to the soundtrack of “Rocky IV”. What better background music for Apollo Creed getting the shit punched out of him by Dolph Lundgren. “Got to have a celebration” = fuck off, you sad git.