Posts from 19th September 2005

Sep 05

Dilettante Vigilante

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 261 views

Bits of Nick Southall’s latest Stylus essay fits comfortably into a growing trend, anxiety over download culture and the hyperconsumption it allows. The cynic in me suggests that critics worry about this new world because it’s harder to find a place for paid music criticism in it (beyond the most bare-bones get-this-or-don’t listmaking). My more open-minded side is alert to the probability that things are being lost as listening becomes ‘casualised’.

“When I was 11 I would listen constantly to Misplaced Childhood by Marillion and I adored it, when I was 15 it was The Stone Roses, when I was 20 it was XTRMNTR; at 24 I listened to more records than I either care to or am able to remember, and I recall barely anything of any of them.” It’s a disservice to just quote this part of Nick’s essay, because the paragraphs following interrogate this nostalgia with typical subtlety. But this is the bit the Stylus comments box section seems to have picked up on, and this is the bit that I seem to have seen in one form or another several times recently, a lament for the loss of a particular mode of listening in the face of an apparent avalanche of mere hearing.

So I thought, when I used to listen to particular records over and over again, why did I do it? Some of the reasons – not all conscious – would have included:

1. lack of options: I couldn’t afford many other records so had to listen more often to the ones I did have.
2. enjoyment: I liked hearing the songs enough that I didn’t feel much of a need to listen to others.
3. an attempt to recapture a moment: listening to the songs gave me an echo of a feeling of intense excitement and discovery I had when first hearing them.
4. identification: I related strongly to the songs and used them almost ritualistically to shape and shore up my identity.
5. socialisation: I was aware that my fandom of a particular band or record defined me socially and so took part in that fandom to define or maintain that identity.
5a. pseudo-socialisation: in the absence of actual communication with other fans, listening to the records allowed membership of an imagined community.
6. comfort: self-explanatory, and found more easily in the familiar than the strange.
7. exploration: I detected something profound – musically or even philosophically – in the records and wanted to listen more to understand it better.

So what’s changed for me, and how much of it is attributable to age or experience rather than changes in consumption patterns? 1 is clearly irrelevant now – it was a negative reason to listen anyway and vanishes when circumstances change. 2 and 6 (enjoyment and comfort) are linked and remain a part of what I get out of music, though probably my patience is less now, I wear songs out more quickly. 5 still applies, though my social consumption of music is more positive now and less fearful, and because it mostly happens in the context of DJing a fairly rapid turnover of favourites is encouraged. 5a has genuinely been wiped out by the internet – I can’t imagine a kid now being unable to get in touch with other fans of a band. Unwilling, maybe. 3 – the recapture of a moment – happens less, because the moments of revelation happen less: I’ve heard a lot more music, and I’m more familiar with my own reactions, and so I surprise myself less often.

That leaves 4 and 7 – identification and exploration. I don’t feel the same strong identification with music very often any more, but I don’t want to either – it has its unhealthy aspects. I do love the way music can let you step into a mood, a feeling, a situation, and then take it off like a costume three minutes later – but this way of using music is improved by variety listening. As for 7, I’ve come to realise that my ear is too cloth to ‘get’ a lot of the musical activity in a complex track, and I’ve also come to realise that – in my opinion – most of the ‘profundity’ in a piece of music gives itself up pretty quickly. In one way this is circular – I find attempted depth tiresome, so I listen to ‘shallow’ music, so I find less depth, etc.

The point of all this being that when I actually analyse it the changes in how I listen to music are mostly down to changes in me, not in the way I consume it. I’ve been an evangelist for “dilettantism” and P2P not because it has changed the way I listened, but because it’s proved so fantastically appropriate for the changes that were already happening. If I was 16, though, reasons 2 to 7 would still apply, and I would still listen obsessively to favourite records despite all the soulseeks in the world. The only thing that would have changed is the etiquette of sharing or hoarding my obsessions (and so how to define the ‘other’ to my fandom) and the social element.

Giant Rabbit Attack

Blog 73 comments • 8,601 views

PIEDMONT: ITALY A sad looking corpse of a giant pink bunny is found on a mountainside. Authorities are hunting for potentially dangerous giant drunken Jimmy Stewart plundering the Alps somewhere.

Alternatively it could be art.

Song Que – the new Wong Kei?

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 1,206 views

Okay, the staff are not theatrically rude, as they are in Wong Kei, and this Dalston Vietnamese is much tastier. Nevertheless it is dirt cheap and about as filling as I want my food to be. And it is my first Vietnamese in London that does food like wot I ate in Vietnam (yes, I have been to Vietnam, sorry).

Just up the Kingsland Road, with arcane rules about what door you should push (because they are bust, rather than anything cultural), it is the first place in London I have seen doing soft shelled crabs, deep fried and nicely spiced. Unlike previous London Vietnamese I have tried which err on the side of Thai hot or Chinese, Song Que delivers Hanoi and central Vietnamese food with all the requisite French influences. The Pho with Tripe was fantastically hearty, and the beef salad had the right hints of absolute freshness. Lots and lots of food, and nothing cost more than a fiver. The staff can be a bit absent minded or inattentive if you are trying to order more beer, but this is a minor gripe considering how great the food is, and how long the menu is.

It is one of those cheap and cheerful places that wears it Fay Maschler recommendation on its sleeve (about four copies on he wall). When Fay raves about cheap places she is rarely wrong (Great Nepalese!) and Song Que gave me some of the best cheap food I have eaten in London for quite some time. I was torn, because I had also had an Ethiopean food invite in the afternoon (and you KNOW how much I like Ethiopean food) but the right decision was made. Part of me is tempted to try another of the ten Vietnamese on this part of the Kingsland Road, but why change when you have found a great?

Tintin On Stage

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 410 views

In what might be his most daring adventure yet, join boy journalist and his grizzled hairy friend, and Captain Haddock the first stage production of his exciting adventure. At the Young Vic at Christmas.

Rumours that Tom Ewing has been seen muttering “Blistering Barnacles” to himself over the last few months are purely coincidental.

Shark (Jeans) Tale

Do You SeePost a comment • 327 views

All the things which are wrong about Shark Tale are ironically all the interesting things about it. The fact that most of the jokes do not work unless you know who the vocal talent doing the joke is (Will Smith is playing a yellow fish, therefore it is a bit rich him breathing the “white fish” nature of other fish who are a myriad of hues). The underwater, surface analogies are remarkably lame and not thought through (the money is clams, I get the gag but how exactly do whales pay for their whale washes?) But chief on the list is the incessant product placement. The puns are lousy, and the products remain clear. And we should expect much, much more.

I have now seen the first six episodes of Lost, and the first season of Arrested Development without any adverts. I get in the cinema after the adverts play. I rather like adverts, but its not what I am paying for, and they waste my time. So how do they advertise at me? And if they can’t, why would they bother paying for the programmes? This is not so much of a problem with blockbuster films, they clearly make their money back. But what is the business model for a TV show? Outside of the BBC the general idea is that they are being paid for by advertising revenue (DVD sales is new income stream admittedly, starting to twitch – cf Firefly and Family Guy’s films and new series). The only way I am going to be hit by a moving image ad is in the show itself. 24 has embraced this up to a point, but the premise of Lost doe not seem all that conducive to product placement. In many ways we may be going full circle, back to when TV shows were made by commercial wings of networks. How much product placement can we take? How much do we want the shows?

UPDATE: BBC on product placement claims. Come on Auntie. There’s product placement on films you show and boughts-in, why not save licence fee money?

Food Science – the meme spreads

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 1,155 views

Seen at Victoria this morning, an advert for Holiday Inn with a picture of an egg and the text:

“Poached. Boiled. Scrambled. Then fried?”

the idea being that Holiday Inn will do your eggs any way you want, even the atomic way! Quite how this meme spread I am unsure since the atomic egg hasn’t actually been written up yet.

POPTIMISM #5 Giveaway CD Details

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 684 views

On the cover is the smiling face of Al Martino. Sorry ladies, he’s 78.

The theme is ‘underrated number ones’

1. LORD ROCKINGHAM’S XI – “Hoots Mon”: Big end-of night feelgood stomper.
2. FLOYD CRAMER – “On The Rebound”: Piano boogie underrated by me who only gave it a 5 in Popular. It’s a tonic!
3. JOHN LEYTON – “Johnny Remember Me”: Joe Meek produced tale of GHOSTS.
4. LIEUTENANT PIGEON – “Mouldy Old Dough”: THE DON.
5. THE HONEYCOMBS – “Have I The Right”: More Meek magnificence, primitive and faintly berserk.
6. THE EQUALS – “Baby Come Back”: I always mean to play this at Club P and never remember.
7. FERN KINNEY – “Together We Are Beautiful”: One for that special person out there in the crowd tonight.
8. BUCKS FIZZ – “The Land Of Make Believe”: It’s about Thatcher OMG111!!
9. PAUL MCCARTNEY – “Pipes Of Peace”: As chosen by guest DJ Tim Hopkins, moving lament by the big man.
10. CULTURE BEAT – “Mr Vain”: As chosen by Pete. Call him insane etc.
11. TAKE THAT – “Babe”: Spooky tale from the pen of G Barlow.
12. DOOP – “Doop”: How exhausting is this to dance to??
13. AQUA – “Dr Jones”: The Good Sugarcubes (TM) describe a romantic idyll.
14. 5IVE – “Keep On Movin”: I promised someone I’d play this and forgot but at least it’s on the CD – the best number one Haircut 100 never had.
15. A1 – “Same Old Brand New You”: Ending with a big tune (in my mind).