Posts from 4th September 2000

4
Sep 00

H is for….”Hit ‘Em Up”

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H is for….”Hit ‘Em Up” by 2Pac. Greg tells me there are other records I need to hear before I can fully understand Tupac’s fatal diss, though rightly points out that a track which begins “I fucked your bitch, you fat motherfucker” doesn’t leave much room for interpretative nuance. “Hit ‘Em Up” is boilingly aggressive, and what’s most effective is the way ‘pac doesn’t even sound riled, just cold. He walks through the track, finding every possible way he could back down, every little chink which might let people say, “Well, he didn’t mean it, it was only a rhyme”. And then he shuts them all off, not least with his scorched-earth closing monologue, where Tupac won’t even do Bad Boy the courtesy of rapping his insults any more. It’s a horrible, addictive, hilarious song, and yes, with hindsight it stinks of death, though if that doesn’t put you off listening to Closer or “Black-Eyed Dog” it shouldn’t put you off listening to this.

G is for….”Garden”

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G is for….”Garden” by The Fall, from the 1983 classic Perverted By Language. Their records at that point were a mixture of lively sarcasm and a thick, inscrutable brutalism. Knotty riffs, garage monobeats and fat, menacing keyboard work underpinned Mark E. Smith’s gnostic rants on tracks like this. “The first God hung in the garden” he mutters, opening an eerie, imagist narrative whose symbolic meaning is unclear, but whose creep-out power works more like a Francis Bacon painting than a rock song.

The

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The Spiller article Tom linked to gives me the impression that it was written by an indie fan. (At this point I admit that I don’t read Tangents so I’m going entirely on the one article here.)

“Groovejet” is, in effect, no different to recent FatBoy Slim output: it’s obvious and tired and cliched and it’s absolutely fantastic on the dancefloor. The only substantial difference is that FatBoy Slim would not use a vocalist who’d give a performance so thin and dull as Sophie Ellis-Bextor gives on “Groovejet”. Indie fans can make as much of a fuss over the “girl done good” situation which arose, but Sophie is ultimately working as a session singer, and that’s exactly what she sounds like here. If pointing out the fact that Sophie appears on the record gives it indie credibility then who can blame the promoters for doing so? Well, she doesn’t sing it very well but, you know, she used to be in theaudience so it can’t be all that bad, even if it is bloody dance music.

Personally, I’ll dance to it for sure (or would have done before I got fed up of hearing it – about a month before it came out) but I won’t try and pretend it’s anything more than popdance fast food to me. Tom said in his review that “Spiller [has] turned respectable heads.” That’s all great, but it’s those not-at-all-respectable pop kids’ heads that generally get it right, and if “Groovejet” can only manage a week at number one, who are we to argue?

F is for….”For Doz That Slept”

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F is for….”For Doz That Slept” by Black Sheep. Marvellous slice of party hip-hop whose only lyrics are “Fuck you”, sung, rapped and scratched in every which way you can think of. Courtesy of the mighty Brian M., who says he wish he could play it last song at every bash he DJs. A capital idea.

MADONNA REALLY THOUGHT SHE COULD SLIP THIS BY ME?

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MADONNA REALLY THOUGHT SHE COULD SLIP THIS BY ME?

She’s just like the Queen Mum these days – is Madonna. Everybody loves her for dropping sprogs, going out with rubbish British gangster film directors and finally given up the idea that being a prostitute come porn star is in anyway breaking down any boundaries. Admittedly only the first and last of those points were real similarities with the Queen Mother – though we could also cite lousy bridgework – until she took that gold tooth out. No, everyone loves Madge these days, everyone but me. You see she’s called a single Music.

I Hate Music.

The single follows her recent furrow she’s ploughed of doing what Mojo magazine would describe as dance. This means it actually resembles nothing which is playing in any club, and is produced by some old bloke who probably worked with Bjork recently. Indeed recent Madonna has been so producer-centric that its quite possible that she just phones her bits in and gets back to titilating the tabloid press and thinking of more stupid names for offspring. (Rocko – puh-lease. This isn’t Public Enemy Number One, and Guy Ritchie is certainly no Jimmy Cagney.)

Joking aside, Music does indeed sound like her performance was faxed in, to be phoned in by some work experience girl at Maverick Records through two pillows. There is apparently something suductive about not being able to hear a tune properly, coupled with jittery anti-beats. Instead it just means that people turn their radios up and bang the speakers to try and make them work properly. With any luck they will break their equipment. As for the video, I suppose it is good that much of the song is obscured by a woeful Ali G turn, and some up high in the mix kung fu kicking sound effects. Still, compared to the rest of the song, a pin dropping would be up high in the mix.

Obviously I was never going to like Music, but it has almost been precision tooled to relight my ire. “Hey Mr DJ put a record on“, the ex-Mrs Penn says, which is tantamount to inciting violence in my opinion. Of course people talking to DJ’s are rarely this open, the usual tack is “Hey Mr DJ, play something good” or “Have you got any bounce?”. Perhaps Madge is asking the DJ to put a different, better record on – because she acknowledges that this half arsed piece of tripe is not going to fool the masses who bought Beautiful Stranger thinking it was by a Beautiful Stranger (and not some familiar old hag who had not released anything for ten years which could be sold on its musical content over ready visibility of her tits).

It is the chorus – as it is – which makes me want to point out to the people making this her tenth number one – that this was the woman responsible for Hanky Panky and Dear Jessie. Like The Beatles and Primal Scream before her (imagine that, Primal Scream having the same idea as someone else – just after) Madonna trots out the trusty old reason to hail music as a god. You see Music, makes the people, come together. This is supposed to be a unique selling point. Music is good, because it brings people together. Much like hospitals, prisons and car crashes. Yet Madonna doesn’t sing about – say the Nazi concentration camps, making people, come together.

Look, get over it you saps. Just because she has had a couple of kids, has removed her gold tooth and recently learnt how to smile – Madonna is still the woman who released Justify My Love. You know in your heart that this is a rubbish single, at least you would if you could hear it through its cleverly obfuscating production. So join with me. Hate Music.

E is for….”Everything Happens To Me”

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E is for….”Everything Happens To Me” by Julie London: this irascible reviewer/fan accentuates Julie’s sultriness, but on this wittiest of songs what gets me is how well she uses arched-eyebrow resignation to paper over heartbreak. One for sipping gin to.

D is for…”Don’t Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder)”

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D is for…”Don’t Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder)”, one of the more sublimely wimpy cuts from Pet Sounds. Kathleen found this article, which takes a pop at that album’s canonical status. Fair enough, Pet Sounds is an overrated record (how could it not be?), but attacking it for lack of innovation seems to miss the point. What keeps me coming back to the album on occasion isn’t its magnificent arrangements, harmonies etc. etc. but the nimbus of romantic fragility which wreathes the record. The indiepop constellation assembled for Caroline Now, the recent Brian Wilson tribute album, weren’t there just because of his pinpoint production skills, they turned up to pay respect to a man whose love-songs-for-losers godfathered a good part of indie’s fey heartache aesthetic.

EVERY ONE A CAPTAIN KIRK

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EVERY ONE A CAPTAIN KIRK

Attentive readers will recall our discussion of Sting’s efforts in preventing the world from perishing by nuclear fire, viz. “Russians”. But he wasn’t the only 80s pop star concerned about our planet’s inevitable doom. Also seeking to forestall hideous mass death was hairy-pitted German pop starlet Nena, whose “99 Red Balloons” posed a pertinent and worrying question to the men with their fingers on the button. To wit: “What safeguards can you take against 99 harmless children’s balloons being mistaken for a deadly nuclear attack amd plunging Earth into a boiling cauldron of atomic fury?”

From the relative safety of our post-Cold War world, we may find it easy to mock this question. After all, Nena seems not to have twigged that a balloon, red or otherwise, looks fuck all like a nuclear warhead. It is several hundred times smaller and floats in a semi-random pattern at low altitudes and inconsequential speed, whereas your ICBM is a big phallic thing which roars through the upper atmosphere at hundreds of miles an hour. In summary: missile – dangerous. Balloon – not dangerous. Even the most gung-ho of military minds is unlikely to say “This is it boys, this is war”, when confronted with 99 floating red balls, especially since if left be for a few days these ‘weapons’ will turn into 99 shrivelled red rubber foreskins.

So yes, easy enough to scoff. But maybe those cold warriors knew something we don’t. After all, these balloons are made of stern stuff. You see, after an apocalyptic worldwide confrontation caused by the balloon/missile confusion, one of them survives (as does Nena, rather unjustly given whose fault the whole thing is). It strikes me as fairly implausible that with the human race and all its works having perished, a small spheroid of very thin rubber would manage to escape, so we must seek another explanation. Clearly ‘balloon’ was a codeword for ‘deadly atom-powered Zeppelin’, and Nena’s plangent prayer for peace is in fact a secret cry for re-armament of the glorious Fatherland. Ja!

C is for….”Circa”

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C is for….”Circa” by Flare, aka LD Beghtol of 69 Love Songs fame. This is the first Flare I’ve heard, and it’s every bit as lugubrious as I’d expected. Beghtol’s smooth, cold voice always makes me think of soapstone, and while it suits the track perfectly “Circa” is still a slightly unengaging listen. The lyrics, a withering put-down of a tedious date, are polished, and the arrangement is stately….but for this listener the track never really made the cross from finely observed detail to general resonance.

B is for….”Balham To Brooklyn”

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B is for….”Balham To Brooklyn” by Turin Brakes, a Spartan, folky London duo whose State Of Things EP has come as a surprising pleasure to me. It’s impossible to describe the band (or song) in a way that doesn’t make them sound like arse, unfortunately, but you get harsh acoustic guitar, a touch of electronic atmosphetics, Fahey-style fingerpicking and a Dylanish way with a tune. Escapes, departures, and life changes are the theme, especially on “Balham To Brooklyn”, with its narrator running to America for reasons he can’t (or doesn’t want to) articulate. Perhaps it’s that theme which has made the record so attractive to me lately.