Posts from 17th September 2000

Sep 00

Q is for….”Queen Bitch”

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Q is for….”Queen Bitch” by David Bowie, his awfully precious tribute/come-on to Lou Reed, complete with wet-lettuce glam chords and “bibbity-bobbity hat”. It’s a feeble reminder of Bowie as he was before Brobdignagian drug guzzling blasted much of the feyer parts of his brain to bits (though to be fair some of Hunky Dory is excellent), but this is the letter ‘Q’ and pickings are frankly slim.

P is for…”Paris 1919″

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P is for…”Paris 1919″ by John Cale. A dense, cryptic (you might say nonsensical) song which hit me like a truck when I heard it. As somebody who likes to play cards so close to his chest their backs could be tattoos, I have a liking for love songs that are so knotted and abstruse they needn’t even be love songs. In the Paris 1919 original of its title track, though, the swirl of the orchestra and the lift in the chorus left me in no doubt what kind of song it was. Cale uses the words, meanwhile, to sketch an impressionist post-War world, crammed with strangeness and art.

In 1992, he included “Paris 1919” on Fragments Of A Rainy Season, one of the handful of live albums worth owning. Here he sings gruffly, and stabs the tune out on piano: his delivery is matter-of-fact, and though the “Efficiency, efficiency” lines ring truer than the chorus, the most perfunctory performance couldn’t fully erase the joy in this song.

Hooray for The War Against Silence!

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Hooray for The War Against Silence!: only in Glenn McDonald’s remarkable column would you encounter this poser: “a friend contributed the following semi-rhetorical question, intended to enliven social gatherings: Are your romantic problems epistemological, ontological or teleological?”. In the column from which this is drawn, McDonald goes on to consider why he’s been single for a very long time, and then individually analyse fourteen versions of Marillion’s “Kayleigh”.

O is for….”O Superman”

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O is for….”O Superman” by Laurie Anderson. Mike once took me through what this record was ‘about’ (to my shame I cannot remember….hostages?), though he didn’t mention why on earth so many people bought it. I was aware it had been a kind of avant-novelty hit, but somehow I’d got it confused with Black Lace’s “Superman”, a childhood favourite of Isabel’s, and had lodged in my mind the notion that Laurie had got to the toppermost of the poppermost singing “Brush your teeth….comb your hair….Superman!” and so on, while doing a funny dance.

Which is frankly more likely than the truth, that a seven-minute single in which the ‘rhythm track’ is Anderson going “Ah ah ah ah ah ah” forever somehow captured the public imagination. But there you are – for all the misunderstanding and dislike the 1980s attract, it was very possibly a more adventurous time than now, where ‘edgy’ tends to be synonymous with ‘adolescent dysfunction’. Like a lot of political art where the emphasis lands on the art and not the politics, “O Superman” is vague, but I suspect that’s what has kept it from dating. In any case, you get something out of Anderson’s low and loopy invocations of airplane etiquette and electronic arms. And the production is muted and lovely: Anderson shrewdly guessing, perhaps, how terrible her synths would sound in a few years were she to overdo them.

We interrupt your regularly scheduled blogging

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We interrupt your regularly scheduled blogging to bring you this, which just landed in my inbox. Hmm.

Untied EP
Rating: Infinity

I considered committing suicide after hearing this album. I realized that no earthly experience could ever rival the sheer joy I had just experienced. I re-read every version of the Bible in search of Their names. I sold every material possession I owned and purchased audio players and copies of this album. Next Tuesday I have scheduled a doctor’s appointment concerning an inner-ear implant that would enable me to listen to this record uninterrupted for the remainder of my years.

This simultaneously absorbs and obliterates every creative effort of humanity. I collapsed fourteen times in fits of crazed euphoria trying to verbalize my thoughts about this. I am trembling. This “music” ( if you have to limit it to that ) makes every form of sound you have previously experienced ( Beethoven and The Beatles included ) sound like a constipated hamster being fed through a blender or the last piercing shriek of dying roadkill. This will change the way you think about everything. This IS everything.

This entity we mortals have come to know as “R A D I O H E A D” has reinvented art. We should stop shipping food and supplies to third world countries and begin airdropping copies of “Untied”. I was legally dead for the 42 minutes that this “record” occupies, if it is even possible to comprehend this within our understanding of space-time. This is the best thing since creation. This will stop all wars. This is everything. This is everything.

This cannot be from the same world that produced evil. You cannot understand this…all is here…this will be your life… I cannot…continue. The tranquilizers are wearing off…. I am returning to the light… I will see you…in..the…next…life.

-A new being

Other news: Elephant 6 collective plans Yanni tribute

“With apologies to Pitchforkmedia and Brent DiCrescenzo”, my correspondent concluded. I can’t think what he means. Thanks, whoever you are!

America’s Greatest 20th Century Music

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America’s Greatest 20th Century Music: 15-minute radio programmes exploring the genesis and importance of the “100 most important recordings of the century”. Yeah, yeah, but this looks like detailed, varied stuff, and they’re covering all sorts of genres and they’re doing it, sensible people, one song at a time. (via Musics)

N is for….”Neville Thumbcatch”

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N is for….”Neville Thumbcatch” by Peter Wyngarde, from his misogyny-chic ‘classic’ When Sex Rears Its Inquisitive Head. I don’t have that LP, just this song I dl’ed from Brian: listening to it I’m in two minds as to whether I want the album. A wry tale of adultery and gardening, “Neville Thumbcatch” has two things going for it: Wyngarde’s timelessly patrician voice and the rococo pop backdrop. That aside, the backing vocals annoy me, the lyrics aren’t funny, and you get the uncomfortable feeling that those pearly patrician tones conceal a deep contempt for the entire enterprise, anyway.

But meanwhile the instrumentation is frilled and elegant, and I could listen to it for ages. This late-60s, highly-ornamented ‘progressive pop’ is something I’m finding fascinating at the moment, probably because of working on a piece about Richard Harris, another actor-turned-pop-star whose two Jimmy Webb-written records are, as Fred Solinger put it, the “last great lost classics of the decade”. Wyngarde’s tasteless frippery seems a kind of ill-favoured relative of Harris’ grandiose masterpieces: if anyone reading this can think of records which mined similar territory, please get in touch.

An amusing translation

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An amusing translation of Basement Jaxx’ “Jump N Shout”, courtesy of this new music-centred weblog.

Where the Hell Do You People Get This Stuff?

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Where the Hell Do You People Get This Stuff?: here’s an interesting piece on teenpop, written from an oppositional but clear-eyed point of view and focusing on the curious fact that everyone who despises it seems to know a great deal about it, when in fact teenpop is entirely escapable. The central premise – that the tedious Husker Du, say, are forever and naturally superior to the fluffy Debbie Gibson – is weak, but it’s an intelligent essay nonetheless.

Josh tipped me off to this bizarre review of the Senor Coconut

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Josh tipped me off to this bizarre review of the Senor Coconut Latinized Kraftwerk album. Bizarre in that it rests on a premise that Kraftwerk were not only “empty” and “cheesy”, which is a limited but not ridiculous viewpoint, but also on the idea that nobody’s listened to them or taken them seriously since the turn of the 80s. Except of course those catch-all villains, the ‘hipsters’. Given that Kraftwerk have a good claim for being the most influential band since the Beatles for their “electronics + rhythm = music” equation, this is…odd. (I always took the Ramones a lot less seriously than Kraftwerk!)

It brings home the extent to which the last fifteen years have seen music, and music listening, schism. To a bulk of listeners who went along with the dance ‘revolution’, Kraftwerk seem to have Godlike status. To those people who doggedly stuck with rock, they’re some forgotten novelty act. In Britain, where the two tendencies have stayed more convergent than in most places, pieces like the Splendid review would be unwritable: the world of the American indie rocker continues to seem like curious and inhostpitable terrain.