Posts from 12th October 2000

Oct 00

GRACE JONES – “Slave To The Rhythm” (12″)

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GRACE JONES – “Slave To The Rhythm” (12″)

“Ladies and Gentlemen….” What Eighties pop had more than anything before or since is a sense of scale. Long tracks previously tended to be messy jams, or primitivist slogs, or rococo rock cathedrals: there was little sense that the pop climax could be extended past its four-minute bounds and made perpetual. Then disco came along and did for that notion: but the hedonistic sprawls of Moroder and Cowley are still arranged function-first. Off the dancefloor, they’re hypnotic and beautiful, but they don’t, exactly, feel like pop singles.

But disco’s birthing of the 12″, and the easy availability of sequencers and synths, made real skyscraper music possible. With a Fairlight to hand, 12″ mixes could become true epics, every moment sculpted, humble tracks turned into magnificent modernist constructs, titans of pop engineering. On the floor, this was ‘dancing about architecture’ made literal. The twelves of tracks like Frankie’s “Two Tribes”, Propaganda’s “Duel”/”Jewel”, the Pet Shop Boys’ “Left To My Own Devices” and this Grace Jones anthem dwarfed their radio edits, mocked them, made it for the first time inconcievable that an eight-minute pop song could be one beat shorter.

Listening now, the awe remains. Grace doesn’t even start for four minutes, letting the listener tour the track instead, silently making them gawp at how pristine, how pricey everything is. The crisp picking, the sweeping Afro-disco beat, the space and gleam in the production: is this, she asks us, not perfection? And of course perfection has its price – Jones’ hymn to the dance is an amoral celebration of sweat and slavery. Dangerous imagery at any time, but still exciting – a powerful metaphor for a romantic clubber’s ideal of total submission to pleasure.

Could Britney, our era’s cyborg S & M symbol, ever aspire to the opulent vastness of “Slave To The Rhythm”? Could she create an eight-minute track so cold and grand? The answer is surely no. Pop nowadays, even teenpop’s energetic confection, is just too fucking human to attempt anything so monolithic. Well, almost: cyber-diva R & B is the nearest thing we have now to the mechanist utopia of those mid-eighties tracks. But where Fairlight-driven 12″ mixes were big-canvas prairies of pop, the Pro-Tools era song prefers microscopic details, a clockwork thicket of sounds. Grace Jones now would be compressed and vocoded into a diamond-hard version of herself, a necessary upgrade for a quickened world.

I want my money back

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 305 views

I want my money back – a cry you will rarely hear me say in a pub. Nevertheless I was piqued into an argument with a bar manager last night in that usual battle of the little man versus the large corporation. Not strictly a pub, I was drinking in the University of London Union bar (henceforth known as the shithole that is ULU) not out of choice – merely because it was raining and I wanted to watch the football. Accompanied as I was we made a sally to the shithole that is ULU to get two pints a stand uncomfortably to watch the match. Two minutes, and one sup after we got our beers, the coverage broke down.

Premise number one: I went to drink in ULU because it was showing the match.
Premise number two: I would not have drunk there unless they had advertised it.
Premise number three: While entrance to the bar was free, there is an implicit contract when you enter to buy a beer else you would get thrown out.
Premise number four: We had not drunk much of our beer.
Conclusion: We were entitled to our money back.

Of course the bar manager was having none of this, instead squealing that they had paid ’160 for the privilige of showing the game which they probably would not get back. I replied that this was nonsense, and they would probably have a good case for lost earnings. I obviously did not get the ‘4:30 back, but stay tuned publogeers, because I’m not letting this one lie.

I am not sure however if this weakens or strengthens our case.


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Another day, another magnificent hip-hop single. It’s almost easy to take this year’s embarrassment of riches for granted: things are so good right now that you can almost lie back and pretend nothing astonishing’s happening at all, almost waste your time fretting over album rock or indie sevens or snidey back-and-forthing over Britney and Christina. Almost. But what’s goin’ on is this: hip-hop, having struggled to prominence commercially and artistically, is now where rock was 35 years ago, unstoppable and untoppable, bossing the chart and using the freedom of the Top 40 as a slingshot to double its acceleration, to gloriously bastardise itself, to gobble up rock, pop, rave, disco, and dance just like it used to eat up dusty funk records and old breaks. The world is its crate.

Well, that’s my story, anyway. “It’s OK”, an Outkast offshoot that’s a carnival to “Bombs Over Baghdad”‘s riot, starts off with the cheapest synth you’ll hear outside a Future Bible Heroes record, and then slides into the creamiest chorus you’ll hear outside…I don’t know, Heaven? If you want to be boring about it, it’s the song the ’83-vintage Prince would make if he was alive today. Thankfully Slimm Cutta is alive today, so we can leave comparisons like that to history, and just enjoy this lazy digital funk for itself. When he rhymes yum yum with bubblegum you know he understands: when his guest-star Dre drops in for some cyber-tweaked cross-gender psychedelia at the end of the track, following Alice down into Wonderland, you know, yet again, that this is a special time to be listening to music. And you let the track stop and repeat and sit back knowing that tomorrow you’re likely to hear something even better.

Ally reviews a new Sarah Cracknell EP

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Ally reviews a new Sarah Cracknell EP, so I thought I’d point out that Cracknell’s Saint Etienne bandmates have co-written most of the songs on the new Shampoo CD. Now, I’m not going to buy it any more than you are, but there is a chance that they’ve been saving all their, you know, proper pop songs for that. There’s also a chance that they’ve been saving all their ghastly Wendy James style cast-offs for it, and this second chance is a little bit higher.

It’s that time of year again

New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 294 views

It’s that time of year again: Son Of The Son Of The Freaky Trigger Pop Music Focus Group is almost upon us (well, about a month away) and this time so as to avoid missing out any really really obvious records I’m asking for nominations in the forum.

Arts: Tim Cumming on Miles Davis

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Arts: Tim Cumming on Miles Davis: NYLPM’s descent into the gutter continues. No, no, it doesn’t: this is an overview of Davis’ electric period – nothing new precisely but it’s well done. If you own the records this’ll send you back to them (except my copy of Get Up With It is on vinyl and thus impossible to get at, damn). If you don’t then read this and you might want to. Sadly the online version lacks the picture of Miles in a magnificent puce shirt.