Posts from 26th June 2002

26
Jun 02

Expertise

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Expertise – is the first of three new pieces on Freaky Trigger, talking about hip-hop and football and writing and, well, stuff. It’s joined by Ronan’s review of Jon Carter’s Totally Bugged Out mix CD, and by my look at Talking Heads’ ‘African trilogy’ – a piece written originally for Papercuts magazine about eighteen months ago.

Also, from the archives:
David Sim reviewing 69 Love Songs
– me reviewing Robert Crumb’s That’s What I Call Sweet Music (one of my favourite pieces from the early FT)
– me talking about Fight Club

There’s lots of stuff coming up in July – another C90Go, the Focus Group, hopefully a few more pieces by me, and The Jubilee Stuff, a state-of-the-nation address by none other than The Pinefox. But for now I’m off to Glastonbury – have a good weekend!

ATHLETE – “You’ve Got The Style”

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What is a summer record? Obviously having a release date around June coinciding with the one sunny week we have had here in the UK helps, but what is that magical ingredient that make “Walking On Sunshine”, “Echo Beach” or “Summertime” so evocative. Ok, actually it isn’t rocket science. Talk about summer or summer associated things in the song. Meld that with something a bit upbeat, but perhaps a touch laid back and frankly you should have it made. Which is where Athlete come in. “You’ve Got The Style” is not far from a note to note remake of their previous single “Rockscene”, which was interesting in as much as its drum machine patterns and lacksiadaisical lyrics marked out as not being part of the rockscene it talked about. A sort of less together London based Gomez, this is the kind of jam along stuff which sounds pretty lazy and certainly contains one of the worse rhyming couplets to hit pop this year: “Oh, its getting hot in here/ Must be something in the atmosphere”. And yet it talks about summer (British summer in particular), its laziness is actually an asset and has a canny way of surprising you with key changes, mumblings and a chorus which – when it can be arsed to come in – works a treat. All of this is a round about way of saying that this ramshackle singalong is for me this years summer song. If only they had not tried to rhyme “about it” with “climate”.

The phantom drink…

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The phantom drink… By which I am not refering to the demon drink – that I can quite happilydeal with. Instead its the extra drink I received in a round last night which I could have sworn I had not ordered. A small discussion with the barmaid ensued, and she was a barmaid who we had generally been keeping on-side (well Tim had managed to charm her anyway – which is an interesting thing to watch in itself). I had not ordered the cider, I said – though admitted that the round was identical to one I got two hours previously which had involved the appley brew. Barmaid (bar manager possibly) then applied the sucker punch which was unbeatable: “I’m sober and you’ve been drinking all night”. Except I had not – definately – ordered that cider.

Anyway the customer is always right and she did not charge me for the pint, but I walked away apologising and trying to remember. I am not a forgetful drunk, and yet she was a thoroughly competant barmaid. In suppose the main reason to recount this story is to warn you if it ever happens to you, and also to show that whilst the customer is always right, in a pub that can take on slightly more argumentative proportions.

David Wild and David Plotz

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David Wild and David Plotz give the ’80’s a poke with a long stick to reassure themselves that, yep, they’re still dead. Inanity ensues.

If they want to be comtemptuous of their subject, fine. It’s their perogative. The problem is the form their contempt completely disables their critical faculties. Criticism connects the dots, compares x with y, spins narratives from discrete facts — which I guess is to say that a critic that does his job realizes that, strictly speaking, there’s no such thing as a fad, and that every historical fact has its reasons and its consequences. But none of that for the two Davids. They’d rather remind their readers, again and again and again, of the distance between the writers and their subject, and their subject’s almost total disconnect from history. Even when they admit to moments of the sublime, they’re tucked away into the safe irony of the “guilty pleasure.”

So we get the cute but utterly pointless personal sub-anecdotes of that by-gone time. Hey, David Wild scored in the ’80’s! Yeah, like I give a fuck. And David Plotz offers even more needless reminiscences, embarrassing but “ingratiatingly” so, ha-ha-ha, boy, weren’t we all innocent cornballs then but we’re not now! Right? Right?

Since they figure since they can’t connect with the eighties, nobody else can either: ergo, David Plotz states matter-of-factly that the eighties revival has not occurred. That’s a claim that…well, fuck. Did either of them live through the same decade I did? The 90’s, I mean, not the ’80’s: 1984 at Crowbar started all the way back in 1991 or maybe 1990 even, the very grandaddy of 80’s revivalism, albeit less a “cocaine-fueled Members Only-themed ’80s” party than a chance for gay folk to relive their prom night the right way. Then you got minor little counter-exceptions like Daft Punk and the only Adam Sandler movie not worth obliterating; now we’ve got Cleopatra Records and The Cure vs. Missy Elliot bootlegs and the nu-electro movement.

This myopia for past and present events isn’t especially surprising. Like its older brother, the 70’s-themed Have a Nice Day series, it’s a vision of musical past that self-consciously passes over The Great Men (and Women) of Pop History and certain critically-acceptable subcultures. These are the organizning concepts with which most rock writers rely on to understand rock history. These writers assume anything that retained some degree of autonomy from these cultural prime movers must merely have quirks and dead-ends. So of course, this means the power ballad is now dead (not as long as Celine Dion or Marc Anthony has a job) or that “man-machine-hair-gel” was a “chimera” (last time I checked, non-acoustic sound and hair-care products were in just about every nook and cranny of the Top 40 and elsewhere).

I’m not asking either writer to love ’80’s music, or 00’s music for that matter, ’cause it also take a beating. In fact, I’d prefer it if they were more splenetic; it’d mean that something other than their smugness was at stake, plus it’d save us from all the smarmy Corey Hart refs. But it’d probably also mean they’d have to be a little more serious. Well, I hesitate to say “serious” because that implies a kind of academic approach that, while fun, is not something I expect to see in a general-interest webzine. OK, how about achieving a cool (but not humorless) rationality next time? Is that too much to ask for?