Posts from 27th September 2000

27
Sep 00

S is for….”Shot By Both Sides”

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S is for….”Shot By Both Sides” by Magazine. There aren’t many lyrics which change the way you think. There aren’t any lyrics which changed the way I think. But there are a few which summed something up better than I could ever hope to.

It helps of course if you have that tightrope riff at your heels, Magazine’s flat-out greatest service to pop, reeling up its scale, popping your ears with vertigo and ecstasy. But even so, “I wormed my way into the heart of the crowd / I was shocked to find out what was allowed” are probably the truest things alternative music has let itself utter. Rock critics, heed them: repeat them every time you want to use words like “mass” or “sheep” or “herd”; consider them every time you pout and preen yourselves for being so averse to the ‘mainstream’. The widest part of the river is, after all, generally the deepest.

Zepwar!

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Zepwar!: Fred is a good friend and a perceptive listener, but his logical faculties seem to have deserted him here. I don’t dislike Zep because they rock too hard, silly, I dislike them because they don’t rock enough: I like my rock fast, hard, and loud, and preferably without some caterwauling castrato hippie on top. As for me being unable to appreciate Led Zep because I’m a wimpy Brit….what nationality were that band again? (Mind you, I am a wimpy Brit, albeit one who bought a Motorhead best-of at the same time as that Zep disc. But I still rock harder than Fred.).

There was a red rag in my Zeppelin review – my gross generalisations about the blues – and there was a bear pit, which Fred merrily leaps into with his mind/body dualisms. You can’t think about Zep, he bleats, you need to feel them. That’s a cop-out argument at the best of times, the direct equivalent of fans of Zappa or Mr.Bungle upbraiding people for not being clever enough to ‘get’ the music: you can think music and feel it, right at the same time. More on this in the forum, if you like.

I’ve finally updated the archives.

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I’ve finally updated the archives. And! We have some new team members, though a few of them have been new team members for quite a while now and haven’t posted anything…! But Pete you’ve already met.

Splendid gets in the first review

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Splendid gets in the first review I’ve seen of the new Godspeed You Black Emperor! album. Cleanly-written stuff from Editor George Zahora, with the basic message that if you liked their other stuff, you’ll like this, and if you didn’t….well. I’d take issue with his saying that GYBE agnostics are “unwilling to get involved”. I love to dive into music and have it take me over, but this band don’t do that – they’re solid, if samey, and they know how to manipulate you pretty well, but they never manage the transcendence they so desperately, desperately hope for. Their titles, actually, are the best things about them, with Lift Your Skinny Fists… rivalling Fold Your Hands…. for the boldest monicker of 2000.

Simon Reynolds

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Simon Reynolds provides a quick once-over of the current electronic music scene. It’s uninspiring stuff, because Reynolds sounds so uninspired himself by all the micro-genres and scenes he’s so briefly covering. Younger critics are starting to cover this stuff with much more enthusiasm – time for a holiday, Simon? (via DJ Martian)

R is for…..”Rock And Roll”

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R is for…..”Rock And Roll” by Led Zeppelin.

What on Earth can you say about Led Zep? Well, you can say first of all how ridiculous they sound, how ponderous and overwrought. In 1970, souping up the blues with earth tremor drums and bludgeoning virtuosity must have seemed a neat idea. Actually, no, it must have seemed like the ultimate fuck-off terminus of Rock, like the whole damn point of music was to let Robert Plant holler his horny, preposterous lyrics over this cacophony. Guitar and groin, and the devil take the rest.

But that only made sense if you believed that not only was pop music forever linked to the blues, but that the link was a progressive one, that rock was an advancement on the blues and could so be expected to develop towards louder, faster, more thrilling, more ultimate expressions. In the work of Led Zeppelin, among others, this implicit progression was symbolised by the band’s unwillingness to let their rip-offs go credited to the original writers: those blues tracks, why, they were almost ‘standards’, whereas Zeppelin was art.

Once you started listening to the blues, though, maybe things changed. You might have noticed that the old tracks were lots better – subtler, fuller of character – than their studious imitators or rock-out adaptors. Or you might have noticed that the old blues was timebound and repetitive, interesting for certain but hardly the fountainhead of everything musically worthwhile. Or you might have thought a bit of both. Either way, it shook up that notion of linear development; either way, progress of the Zeppelin kind wasn’t neccessarily worth the effort.

Anyway, twenty years after there’s a hundred different, better ways to make pop music than Led Zeppelin even knew about. It’s no wonder I came to them now not expecting much, less wonder I came away with little. They are, in the end, a foolish band: Plant’s reedy yelp is easy to recognise, but also very easy to mock, and though millions of fans would disagree it doesn’t convince me for a second. It’s not that I’m over-analysing them or that I can’t ‘get’ them: I’m suspicious of intelligent people trying to wriggle out of analysis, it usually means that what they’re urging you to take on trust doesn’t stand up well. And I ‘get’ Zeppelin perfectly: they made loud rock music, but so does anyone if you turn the volume up.