Aug 01


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0444 – 0468: Baths Again

Why do I get off on contentless surrealist word-rushes when it’s Ghost Face Killah and not when it’s Beck? Hold on, actually I don’t so much even when it’s Ghost Face – which is why I prefer his flows on The W where some kind of content seems forced upon him to his ramblings on Supreme Clientele, fine though that album is. Meanwhile Beck’s “Loser” sounds like a relic.

Coil‘s “Lost Rivers Of London” – what an evocative title. So evocative that you forgive the moaned vocals and dated-sounding synthwashes of the actual song. A lot of the UK Underground stuff seems to have missed opportunities, technology wise. What eeriness there is here (and it’s still more than in most tracks) comes from the knowledge of John Balance’s alcohol problems – “I will drown myself in the lost rivers of London” indeed.

Most surprising bit in Timbaland And Magoo‘s “Love 2 Love U (Remix)” – when Magoo drawls “bird bird bird, bird is the word”, out of nowhere. This 1997 track still sounds good but it does sound old – a good sign, a sign that things are moving very fast.

Fuck off the Powerpuff Girls.

My enjoyment of the Magnetic Fields is too dependent on the lyrics: if I’m getting inside and behind the words then listening to them feels like living in a musical – if not then the songs just sit there, squat there even. The curious thing is that when I am feeling them then I’m also aware of the vocal texture and the care taken in the production – the lyrics enhance everything. I’m aware that my general predisposition to emotional topsi-turviness means I’ll be needing these songs again but for the moment the Magnetic Fields may not be my favourite band. It was nice to have a favourite band for a while, at least.

I’m not feeling anything much this morning, come to think of it. The fact that it’s Saturday and I have to go into work to do some repetitive if important stuff may not be helping this. I’m aware that every minute spent typing this, chatting to Josh, coding new pages is a minute that could be spent away from the Internet, tidying the flat or going into town, and while I immensely prefer doing the first three things (maybe not the coding) the latter are starting to nibble at my mind, stopping me reaching the levels of idle contentedness I’d want from a quiet morning. Also let’s face it, the words just aren’t coming today.

I may have been a bit harsh to the Powerpuff Girls. But really, it’s like listening to the Tweenies or something.

Sixteen minutes of Donna Summer. OK. How to approach this? The nearest thing I can muster to decadence this morning is a big hot bath, so for the duration of “Love To Love You Baby” this is where I will be. We’ll see if that improves things.

“Love To Love You Baby” still strikes me as a radical track – an assertion that a music dedicated to a) dancing and b) fucking could work at length, and more than that, that such long tracks were a natural form for the music (though of course LTLYB was received as novelty). Disco is often linked with punk, in opposition or in uneasy tandem, but maybe it’s pop’s answer to progressive rock: this music, this shallow love music, can create its own epics, loosen its structures up and stretch them out, even (cheekily, campily) aspire to the same ‘respectable’ forms prog liked to touch on.

A track by Steps is not ‘good’ in any generally accepted sense – it’s rhythmically boring, the tune doesn’t go anywhere, the lyrics are hardly worth talking about, the arrangement is rote, the singing is shrill. So why does it work? Why do I like it? Once I answer that question I’ve cracked it, I think. Current suspicion: something in the texture of the canned pop sounds attracts me, sparks my pleasure centres like the shiny shivery production gloss on tech-house tracks is meant to for ravers. (Maybe I’ve had one too many fizzy drinks and I’m prone to sugar flashbacks).

0469 – 0506: One Of Those Days

One of those days: I need to be excited and inspired by music again, I need a spark of something, not just things which are interesting or that I can contemplate and compliment and comment offhandedly on. This is down to reading David Cavanagh’s book on Creation Records, not as I say a record label I ever had much respect for – still though the book has left me with the uneasy sensation that something somewhere has gone terribly wrong, that we are settling for polite agree-to-disagree discourse rather than the screaming vainglorious epic rubbish that fanzine writers used to trade in.

I am sick of talking about music. I blame the music, not the talk. I want music which can’t be talked about. Richard Harris‘ “MacArthur Park”, for example, something so foolhardy it creased critics up the world over, which remains a byword for overreach and absurdity. The point of criticism is to run at tracks like this until you hit the wall where criticism won’t do, and then to pick yourself up and try again. I have nothing but pity sometimes for those writers who preferred a Velvet Underground or Doors LP to this on the mere grounds that they were better.

On DJ Assault‘s “Madatcha” the speeding piano vamp plus slower soul vocals gives the impression that Assault is trying to calm things down but his music’s hurtling away from him. Too fast, out of control – electronic music with its lock on rhythm and pace manages this illusion well – instrumental passages from rockers denoting ‘loss of control’ tend to be embarrassing, because so ineffective.

The handful of songs I put on this drive from Robert Crumb’s compilation of 1920s pop have come to be among my most treasured, and I think my review of them is one of the truest things I’ve ever written. Crumb comes at these songs bemoaning pop’s grisly loss of innocence, holding them up as an untouchable standard – I love them because they mingle so well, stand up so well, against the best of the years that came after. They have It – that cocky playful spark, that winking no-stakes gamble with history that we might as well call Pop – nobody might hear these tracks, everybody might, nobody will remember them, who cares anyway?

Evolution of the word “me” as pronounced in teenpop songs – Mandy Moore‘s fabulous “may-eh” is surely some kind of peak.

One of the hidden sub-narratives in Cavanagh’s book is the decade-long quest for a retro-psychedelic band which could actually compete on chart terms. When Creation was set up this wasn’t even explicitly the aim but the book charts a gradual progression, a refining of the formula from the shambolic Laughing Apple and TV Personalities through the Loft, the Weather Prophets, the House Of Love and then on to the Stone Roses – in each case there are symbolic scenes where the torch is passed (reluctantly or otherwise) to the successor band. The reason perhaps why the charts became the acknowledged target of the movement (around the time of the Weather Prophets’ ill-fated Mayflower) is that the style by nature had no way to measure its ‘progress’ except in scalar terms, the essential innovations having taken place twenty years earlier. But the 80s were still a time when the notion of ditching innovation entirely was not a comfortable one: so the Stone Roses, who eventually did take the retro-psych style firmly overground, had to be couched in rave rhetoric.

MF Dooom‘s “Rhymes Like Dimes” – so rare to find an underground track so unassumingly likeable, particularly the sung soul hook and the slapdash ending. Proficiency plus pleasure: more please.

Have I said this before? That the biggest test of any version of “Moon River” is how the singer takes the word “huckleberry”? Miss it out and you miss the corny, big-hearted point. Andy Williams smacks his lips on it, puts a wink in the song – it’s not as romantic as the Danny Williams’ version but it will most certainly do.

Ed Rush‘s Torque came with a warning sticker warning you about the noises on one of the tracks, which I thought was very funny. So I bought it. There used to be much consternation in dance circles about the speed with which Ed Rush worked – tracks would be produced in a single night, much of it taken up by the smoking of (literally) insane quantities of the heaviest skunk. So some people reckoned Rush was just a chancer – a successful one it seems since almost every drum and bass track I’ve heard since owes his style a fair whack. “Mothership” is as crude as you’d expect a paranoid rush-job (geddit) to be, but it’s also weathered shockingly well: the toothgrinding frenzy of breaks towards the end still works brutally well, ditto the arsebusting bass stabs Rush is aiming at. So the constant Sabbath references might well hold for influence as well as sound.

The drumming on “Motorcycle Emptiness” is just shocking – it sounds like it should be off a Soup Dragons song, for goodness’ sake.

“Like A Movie Star” is Stephin Merritt‘s most romantic song – which is saying quite a lot, as contrary to your possible opinion the man has written a ton of romantic songs, kinked or faltering occasionally but that’s a reflection more of his times than his talents. “Movie Star” meanwhile approaches pefection because it could be sung by anyone – infatuated, requited, dumped – and would be beautiful whichever. The moment I heard him trip over the “so I got absolutely nothing done” I knew I was listening to something wonderful: story of my year, too.

0507 – 0543: Got Back

I like big butts and I cannot lie. So when it came to selecting a Mos Def track for download it had to be “Ms Fat Booty”. I didn’t like it much. Now I like it much more but still there’s something which doesn’t hook me about it. The beat is all right, the rapping obviously is proficient, the hook is pleasing, but, dammit, he just doesn’t sound engaged enough, like he’s more concerned about his brain than her booty. (Her brain not her booty I could take….sort of.)

For all that Sara Cox uses it to back up her mannered morning crap-spouting I find the pop blips and goofy post-acid squelches (odd how the word “squelches” has come so totally to mean that certain kind of sound) of the Chemical Brothers‘ “Music:Response” rather fun still. The beat has not weathered terribly well and nor has the Aaliyah sample (initially the most striking thing about it), but sentimentally I think there should always be a place for this kind of bluff, basic student-oriented dance.

“I don’t get around, I don’t fall in love much” – how many other bands make angst sound as menacing as Pere Ubu?

The tiny little trumpet break in Amira‘s “My Desire” suddenly reminds me of ska. I love the little nudges UK music gives itself.

Oh knackers, I’ve just broken a glass. Happy now Fred? Meanwhile “My Dreams Are Getting Better All The Time” shows the nasty side of Tiny Tim, i.e. it’s cloying novelty pop.

Flip And The Dateliners – “My Johnny Doesn’t Come Around”: a girl group track made up solely of tonguey, plummy vocals, ghostly choral backing vox and echo-chamber bongos? Plus surf organ finish? Yes please!

There needs to be a name for the particular quality of ambitious unpompous American grit and seriousness which makes it likely that Greil Marcus will dig a record. Such a name is needed because the quality – something a little like ‘po-faced’ but not quite – clings to a record so that even when you’re enjoying it you’re very aware of the Marcusian way in which you enjoy it. In this case the record is the Geto Boys‘ “Mind Playing Tricks On Me”, which just as Greil says is excellent. Sigh. There is little that spoils a record more than the knowledge that Greil Marcus thinks it says something profound about America.

“My Name Is” sounds so slow now. Not the beat (though it’s hardly zippy) so much as the flow: Eminem’s not often a fast rapper but this is so measured – he’s making sure every single word is understandable first time. It’s the whiteness of his voice more than his skin which has made him crossover so big (that and the perspective, too).

Someone said that the best thing about 1,000 was finding out about the embarassing tracks I have on the drive. So just for them, Placebo‘s “Nancy Boy”. What was I thinking?

“Journey with me into the mind of a maniac / Doomed to be a killer since I came out the nutsack” – I’m sorry, I’m sorry, you really shouldn’t listen to me, you know. This is the kind of music which gives fifteen year old boys a good name. The production on “Natural Born Killers” is slick and decadent, every sound buffed up, high on success: the hip-hop equivalent of 80s Big Rock.

Understatement (the sampled guitar figures, the phased keyboards, the lyrical tension) fights overstatement (the “c’mon!” shouts, Mel C‘s voice, the plodding beat) in “Never Be The Same Again”. It’s a draw. Luckily Left-Eye has the casting vote, even if she can only barely be arsed to use it.

After I’d got into the Smiths and had a newfound MATURE SENSIBILITY which meant I paid attention to MEANINGFUL LYRICS, the first record I heard and liked using these criteria was, uh, “Never Let Me Down Again” by Depeche Mode. I still have a soft spot for its kingsize petulance and stadium synth-angst.

The sudden breakdown into David Bowie’s “Fame” at the end of Public Enemy‘s “Night Of The Living Baseheads” is the main thing I can remember from my first ever encounter with the band. I was already getting pretty freaked by how much I was enjoying the repetition and the flow, when suddenly this irruption of something familiar just completely blew me away: one of those crucial moments when everything – or most things – you know about music suddenly seem up for grabs. Chasing those moments is why I keep listening: they don’t happen often but that’s all right, because the adjusting is the really fun part.

Nobody can have been surprised when the Wedding Present‘s “No Christmas” went quiet-loud. But surprise isn’t the point – the dramatisation of the moment when you think you’re OK and then the moment when you’re not is more like it. Incidentally, is this emo?

Whatever happened to jump-up? I understand techstep is still getting made, but I guess jump-up just got wiped out. Which is a shame – the pleasures in “Not Ready” (a Fugees rip-off dubplate) are very crude but they are most surely pleasures.

0572 – 0608: Skittish / Abject

Bands doing covers of pop tunes is a fairly common ploy, whereas bands doing covers of dance tunes is almost unknown. Which is odd, since the few times I find myself playing ‘air frontman’ it’s to some house monster, and the thought recurred again feeling the brilliant waveform bassline on FSOL‘s “Papua New Guinea”. I mean bands covering such tracks would be very bad by and large but you’d think somebody would at least have tried.

It is obvious to me that “Parade” by Magazine is heartfelt, intelligent, and original, the arrangement is striking, and several of the lyrics are cutting and creepy. So why don’t I enjoy it more?

“Passionate Friend” is so lead-footed, and the horns really don’t work. And it can’t decide whether it wants to be a storming brassy tune or a ba-ba-ba popkitsch tune.

My leg hurts and I’m in that kind of mood where I can’t seem to connect with anything I hear. Skittish, you could say. “Party Fears Two” and “Patterns (Remix)”, two of my favourite ever pop records, have passed without striking a single comment off the flint of my skull, other than some vague floating thoughts about ‘grandeur’ and how it’s a hard thing to get right. But what isn’t, in pop. I mean the Manics probably think some of their recent songs are grand: I’m sure Bono considers his useless life-denying bilge to be grand in some way, but there’s such a gap between a sound that could swallow the world and the burp that comes after.

Radiohead and Gainsbourg alike would have given their lungs (not much of a prize in Serge’s case) to write something as caustic and borderline nihilist and yet still celebratory as “Is That All There Is?”. Of all that I could write about this song, I will limit myself to: i) thankyou Mike, and ii) the way Peggy Lee sings “booze” is the best way to sing it in the world.

The chirruping sines and swings on Steve Reich‘s “Pendulum Music” sound like a jungle filled with clockwork or a steam engine singing to itself. Robin C. would like this I think.

People who say the Pet Shop Boys are ironic should hear “Your Funny Uncle”.

I wonder if people who live in Philadelphia hate “Philadelphia Freedom”. I think it’s quite cool someone coming to a city to rip off its music scene and admitting it in the song title – like if Madonna had called “Music”, “Paris”. The Elton John song sadly sounds like a great Philly Soul production with Elton John bellowing over it. Because it is, obviously.

Musical quotation, as opposed to sampling, can also be thrilling: the Glen Campbell reference at the end of “Photo Jenny” (Belle And Sebastian) moves the song into the same region of unfulfilled longing as “Wichita Lineman” but without seeming pushily aspirational – it’s as if the character in the song is listening to “Lineman”.

Melody: I like melody but more, I like just enough colour to bring the melody out. When a record is presented to me as being brimful of melody, like all those awful power pop things Alan McGee’s new label churns out, I distrust it. I want songs which are sparse then suddenly blossom, for ten or twenty seconds perhaps. (While listening to Nick Drake).

The Pixies: talking to Maura about one thing and another I mentioned something which I don’t often about the Pixies – how Black Francis as much as everything seemed a positive role model, a screaming fat guy in an indie culture which fetishises male waifness, as if shedding weight is the only way to challenge the macho culture indie ‘opposed’.

Orange Juice – “Poor Old Soul”: currently my favourite Orange Juice single. Coy lyrics, quick delivery, bumbling and bubbling rhythms and campy piano flourishes, and it starts with the words “Back with a vengeance”, and you think really, there’s no excuse for all singles not to. On Part 2 they kick into a chant, “NO MORE ROCK AND ROLL FOR YOU!” and they mean it. And you agree.

Robin Scott, on M‘s “Pop Muzik”, sounds wonderfully British and stentorian – like someone from a Pythonian Ministry Of Pop, come to tell the masses how to listen. The lyrics, though, are still spot-on – and, uh, endlessly quotable. (I do wonder sometimes if anyone who reads NYLPM wonders why it’s called that).

2 Live Crew really weren’t very good at rapping, now were they? NB: this does not make their records bad.

What the hell must somebody buying Bob Dylan‘s “Positively 4th Street” in 1965 have thought. This kind of calm, directed venom is rare even now, let alone then, let alone in the charts. A clever trick, setting yourself up as someone whose words were to be listened to, and then using them to settle scores. It’s brilliant – the Hawks playing it cool in the background certainly don’t hurt. The weird specificity of the lyrics – “paralysed”? – adds to the general aura of eavesdropping, but this is still a song that anyone can sing at some time and that can be sung about anybody too.

One of my long-cherished projects is to record a cover of “Positively 4th Street” with the ‘I’ and ‘You’ reversed – it would be possibly one of the most abject songs of all time.

0738 – 0764: Happy Birthday To Me

I’ve gone from kind of guilty appreciation of LFO‘s “Summer Girls” through guiltless appreciation to full-on liking. I feel like Chuck Eddy every time I hear it, now. The lyrics are apalling – “Macaulay Culkin was in Home Alone” (though they’re not actually any worse than a load of freestyle hip-hop lyrics, except some doofus actually went and sat down in a studio and wrote them). “You like hip-hop and rock’n’roll / Dad took off when you were four years old” – that’s an Eddy lyric and a fucking half. The chorus is terrific.This is what the kids who beat Wheatus up sound like.

I don’t like girls who wear Abercrombie and Fitch, though.

Wilco – “Summerteeth”. “It’s just a dream he keeps having”. Here’s what I dreamed about last night – I was in Italy, an assassin in Renaissance Italy, and I was hunting another assassin. We met, and stabbed each other – his blade was in my chest and mine in his and I just knew that if I kept on pushing I could hurt him more. You don’t need to be Freud for that one, eh. It’s in Wilco’s music, too, somewhere.

Yesterday I almost bought a stereo. I say almost because after being smoothed into it by a salesman I went to the cash desk and they didn’t have the model in stock. It was a nice stereo, the kind of stereo a twenty-eight-year-old man should have: not to anally audiophile, but tastefully designed and with solid, luxurious sound. Now every song I listen to I try to imagine on this phantom stereo (I’ll get a real one next week). I don’t think Disco Inferno‘s “Summer’s Last Sound” will be much improved. I think in fact its trebly paranoia might be weakened. Just as well I only have it on MP3, eh?

Bird of prey……Bird of prey…..FLY-ing high……FLY-ing high……fuck this, I’m off to make a phone call.

My brother’s phone may have been disconnected. Oh dear.

Surely Blondie tunes have been used more in hip-hop than any other pop group’s? “Rapture” is everywhere, of course, but the chorus from “Heart Of Glass” pops up on Noriega‘s “Superthug”.

Singing new words to an old tune is what Robbie Williams has made a career of. In some ways he’s the most hiphop-influenced pop star there is, which suggests to me I should think a bit more carefully before clamouring for a new Edwyn Collins to come together and marry different strands of pop.

When Ryan Schrieber started his recent Daft Punk review by writing out the lyrics in full to “One More Time” it was meant to be taking the piss, but what I was immediately reminded of was the way Richard Meltzer writes out – every word – the lyrics of the Trashmen‘s “Surfin’ Bird” at the start of The Aesthetics Of Rock. I saw the book once in a shop and immediately realised that here was somebody who understood music better than anybody else. For those three pages, I was right. “Surfin’ Bird”, like “One More Time”, is not the greatest single of its time or all time, but it is the most perfect.

The first MP3 I ever burnt onto this machine is Cheap Trick‘s “Surrender”. I burnt it because I thought it had one of the greatest choruses of all time. I still think this. (It’s in the sound of the long ‘r’ at the end of the word “surrender!”) Where can I find clubs which play this?

Already this site’s most talked about song of ’01, “Survivor” by Destiny’s Child is set to be an anthem, and deservedly so. (Men who get annoyed at “I Will Survive” are both sympathetic and a bit crap, I think). When the first drum tap seems to set the rhythm going like a Newton’s Cradle – that’s when I realised this is a killer single.

Damn, I wish I still had an MP3 player that worked.

Holy shit, I’m 28. What was playing when I turned 28? This is awful. It’s going to be something feeble that I didn’t even bother to comment on. Oh, The Chameleons “Swamp Thing”. Could be worse.

The first full song I hear in my 29th year is Guns N Roses “Sweet Child Of Mine”. It feels appropriate. As appropriate as anything. Happy birthday to me.

0765 – 0792: I Only Tell You I Love You When I’m Drunk

Oh yes it’s a corny song, it’s lumpy and heavy, but…“When I look at you, I get – “, da-dum ,“Such a feelin’!”…it’s pop, too. (World Of Twist)

Buffalo Tom – “Taillights Fade”: I heard this song once and it sounded like a prophecy. I was 19 or 20. The last thing I needed was that sort of shit, even vicariously. A year or two ago in the middle of the night I saw it on a newsgroup and hit download. Now it squats on my hard drive like a gargoyle, daring me to call it untrue.

“Take my tears and that’s not nearly all”. I seem to have come across a dark patch on the hard drive.

The one great advantage of the Magnetic Fields‘s 69 Love Songs box set is that you get Stephin Merritt’s stray exegesis of “Take Ecstasy With Me”. It’s about a couple whose relationship can only be held together by taking drugs. Apparently. So it’s about the end of a relationship and also the not-quite-end of a relationship, and that, and the conceit, and the title, the broken and hopeless way Stephin sings the chorus is what makes it his best song.

Now the Susan Amway version, not as good: prettier perhaps. I remember buying Holiday and being amazed and impressed that an American songwriter had called a song “Take Ecstasy With Me” and then doubly impressed that it hurt so much.

I need Al Green‘s Greatest Hits right now. Right now. How can I have been such a fool as to not have a copy of Al Green’s Greatest Hits on CD? Damnation, Tom, you suck.

“Take Me!” by The Wedding Present. I am not writing about this song. I am turning it up, but I am not writing about it. Fuck all that personal music writing stuff, really. What was I thinking? I could write a book but you wouldn’t want to know. I am going to go and cook pasta instead.

As a wise correspondent said, this is a song that needs to be the length it is.

And not just because it’s a good pasta cooking time, either.

When I was younger I thought that the tales of the road and “topless place” he walks into and the way Bob Dylan sings “I seen a lotta WIMMEN” on “Tangled Up In Blue” were romantic and exciting even though I knew that the song was sad. I suppose similar thoughts are why the narrator ended up with the road and the topless place and the wimmen. Now I hear the middle of the song and shiver, and one day I’ll hear “All the people we used to know, they’re an illusion to me now” and recognise it, too.

(The next section was written several days after the first section. For continuity’s sake, the same amount of beer had been consumed for each.)

Squeeze – “Tempted” is a masterpice of craft and it’s a kick to the gut emotionally, too. The sequence from “At the bedside empty pockets….” just rolls together so well lyrically, and crescendoes so well, and captures the mounting sweaty paranoia of adultery so clinically. Or at least what I imagine that paranoia to be like, you know? Or else I would have said fuck the rules and skipped the song.

When I sold my Pastels CD – oh happy day – I kept “Thank You For Being You” because I thought it was sweet. I think I was wrong. But if I delete it now I will never hear it again, almost certainly. It’s odd to think that, even though there are at least 40 years left on my clock (I hope), there are songs I will from this moment on never hear again. It’s also odd to think that I’ll be alive to hear the next 40 years of songs, mind you.

We’re in the songs that start with “The”! Hurrah! I’d been looking forward to the songs that start with “The” for some perverse reason. Unfortunately the first one is “The Beatles And The Stones” by The House Of Love, which I do not like. How do I not like it? Let us count the ways: it has bongos on it which are weedy even by the standards of indieland 1990, i.e. if you put the bongos out in a moderate rainstorm more noise would be made. It contains (well-rehearsed) risible lyrics about marrowbone-sucking and the country of Ietnam. It is fey tripe with no point other than that Guy Chadwick likes the Beatles and the Stones which, given he was palling around with Alan McGee at the time, can’t have come as a big shock to anyone.

The next song however is Bucketheads’ “The Bomb”. This tells us that sounds fall into their mind, like we presume a bomb. Much more like it. It’s great that the disco revival has been going on for seven years now and dance acts are still congratulated for how much like disco they’ve managed to get their songs sounding.

Surely I’ve not talked about Belle And Sebastian enough in Thousand? You don’t like Belle And Sebastian? Well UP YOUR ARSE, then.

This installment has run astray a bit.

People tell me that “The Boy With The Arab Strap” sounds a bit like Simon And Garfunkel. Surely they jest. At least I hope they jest because “The Boy….” is a beautiful and tender song and Simon And Garfunkel are princes of foolishness. You’d never have got me to believe two years ago that my heart would regularly be fit to burst on hearing a line about someone’s biggest wanks.

Liquid Liquid‘s “The Cavern” was ripped off for “White Lines”. This we know. Hence I downloaded it (thus ripping LL off further, but oh well). Unanswered was the question of whether “The Cavern” was as good as “White Lines”. As it turns out, not by a long (white line of) chalk. “The Cavern” has paranoia bongos and sounds like a marginally less wired and funkier ACR. “White Lines” however goes “Cane! Sugar!” a lot and makes some cogent and entirely ignored points about the war on drugs. No contest.

0793 – 0823: One Extreme To Another

Listening to Abba’s “I Am The City” – I am listening to Abba constantly at the moment, swapping between Abba Gold, More Abba Gold and the new Radiohead album (occasional moments of surprising coherence) – I suddenly get the connection between the Magnetic Fields and the Swedish band. Nothing I could put into words, you understand – they just sounded the same. And certainly nothing to do with “The Desperate Things You Made Me Do” save that the tone is, as they say, Abba-esque.

I can’t work out who Kathleen Hanna is so annoyed at in “The Empty” – “I went to your concert and I didn’t feel anything” and so on (I bet she spells it ‘yr’, too, but then she pretty much sings it “yr” so it’s excusable for once). Is it some spangly pop diva or is it someone like Sleater-Kinney who walk the walk but don’t talk the talk like Le Tigre does? O speculation!

“The Facts Of Life” starts and I’m trying to work out if it’s Atomic Kitten or not, so Black Box Recorder at least did their job. Whether they did a worthwhile job or not is quite up to you, o reader.

(Actually they blow it with “a disused coalmine”. Come on.)

Of all the “The”s in my section of songs that start with the word “The”, I’m possibly most impressed with “The Fox In The Snow” kicking off with “The” because it has no earthly need to but it feels very right anyway. Six or eight or ten years ago I’d have wanted to sing the song to somebody but I don’t think I’d have the energy now.

A sensible person was writing in a book Stevie Trousse gave me about lyrics and how the defining charm of the pop lyric is its epigrammatic quality – the way a single line jumps out. What this person didn’t say was that this quality shifts over time: a song you might have heard again and again over years of your life suddenly tilts to one angle and a line comes out to bite you in the back of the neck. The song is “The Great Dominions” by The Teardrop Explodes and in the middle of the lyric a line comes along and makes me feel guilty and small.

So much indie in this leg! Well I never.

Phew! Here’s The Horrorist. The Horrorist is a bit goth though, isn’t he? He sounds great after an undistinguished House Of Love track. I can’t think of anything to write about him: I don’t think I’d buy a full record by him. How insightful.

Several times recently I’ve been tempted to start “Hefner: Classic Or Dud?” on the forum in the hopes that the avalanche of righteous invective would be enough to put me off them forever. This kind of thing is why I have such a love-hate relationship with indie. I am trying not to be such a useless noncommittal fuck-up as it is and wallowing in my misplaced identification with Darren arsing Heyman is not doing me any good or any favours. I wallow in my misplaced identification with Agnetha and Anni-Frid too, to be sure, but Jesus at least they’ve got stomping tunes and my girlfriend can stand them.

Oh what am I saying, I like it. You can’t choose your relatives and you can’t choose your music taste either.

Speaking of the Teardrop Explodes, I wish they’d re-release Everybody Wants To Shag…. even if it wasn’t an official release, because in its warped dinky-toy way it was rather good, and it had the best title. “The In-Psychlopaedia” comes from it.

TomFT26: what should i say about jellyfish on 1,000
xo maura ox: brilliant and crisp and amazing
TomFT26: im not sure i actually think that at all
TomFT26: they sound like a tears for fears comeback single
TomFT26: which isn’t actually a diss because i have a soft spot for “sowing the seeds of love”
xo maura ox: wait wait
xo maura ox: which song is this
TomFT26: “the king is half undressed”
xo maura ox: ohh
xo maura ox: i love that
TomFT26: well i know because it’s on my hard drive because you told me to get it!
xo maura ox: well
xo maura ox: it’s just great pop
xo maura ox: very shiny on the surface
xo maura ox: but so complex
TomFT26: i dont know if the complexity works to the benefit of the pop though
TomFT26: it seems stop-start
xo maura ox: how?
TomFT26: well im on a different track now, but disjointed somehow, like they’ve bolted together bits they liked from lots of different songs
TomFT26: which I think is how a lot of 90s pop ended up working

The bit in Acen‘s “Life And Crimes Of A Ruffneck” where the Hamlet advert tune comes in sped-up makes me smile more broadly than anything else this evening. Thankyou Mr Ravzi.

I love the guitar solo on “Up The Hill And Down The Slope” by The Loft. I mean I love everything about the song, but the superchoppy guitar solo in particular, it’s one of those indie non-solos like the ‘solo’ on “At Home He’s A Tourist” by the Gang Of Four.

ABC as Shangri-Las for boys (not that the Shangris aren’t, but….)- he goes from one extreme to another and then “And all my friends just might ask me, they say Martin, one day maybe you’ll find true love…….”. Great pop moments? Now we’re talking.

0824 – 0850: I Was Right The First Time

Pinefox is always on at me about how I think Belle And Sebastian fans are sad, which I may or may not have said at some point but for the record, Belle And Sebastian fans are all endlessly lovely and as a gene pool for drinking companions can’t be beat. “Sad” as a disparaging adjective I think has had its day – all it means is people who put a little more of themselves into some things than other people maybe do. Being in love is “sad” in both ways. This all has very little to do with the Left Bankeian Chinese-puzzle structures of “The Model”, which still feels like a song that needs to be wound up before it goes.

Elvis Costello once blessed “The Name Of The Game” (ABBA) with some songwriterly compliment, and ever since I think I’ve tried in an embarrassed rockcriticking way to like it more than I do, but it’s one of ABBA’s most lumbering songs nonetheless (exception – that bassline, revealed as a “that bassline!” sort of bassline by the Fugees of all people!). Like other examples of their middle-albums stuff it lacks the immediate situational clarity they were so good at – the lyrics on ther verses are played down too much and the emphasis on the chorus means you have to concentrate on the song too hard before it makes sense (“Chiquitita” suffers a bit from this too, though when I did twig it I found it really moving.)

If you’d only read Kevin Rowland’s interviews you’d think him an infuriating prig – which might be true – but his constant talking about “soul” can only be understood by listening to his records, otherwise you might end up thinking, pace the forum, that drivel like the Poptones roster has it. Dexys’ Midnight Runners would set you right on that, maybe: hearing songs like “The Occasional Flicker”, hearing Rowland stop and start the songs to get his point across, hearing the absurdity and belief in it, hearing his righteous froggy voice demolish the whole idea of soul and rebuild it, feeling his absolute conviction that image and concept are essential to an inspiring band (something that Creation often had even when the music was drab, but which Poptones entirely lacks)…..understanding all this you might gradually become aware that soul is not neccessarily something you can measure in the distance between Cosmic Rough Riders and Tyde records.

(Caveat: I think ‘soul’ is a fucking useless idea.)

(Caveat 2: With Rowland and his constant references to the pop he loves and the records he loves you also become aware that ‘soul’ is what the listener not the musicians bring to the music.)

(Caveat 3: Rowland is still fantastic. I wish I had “This Is What She’s Like” on MP3)

What a top band name Beautiful Penis is. FT-philes will be unsurprised to learn I got this MP3 of Mr Otis Wheeler. Apparently the only ‘rock’ band on Stefan Jaworzyn’s record label, they howl like a mighty bear.

There are loads of famous George Jones records which I don’t actually enjoy much – “He Stopped Loving Her Today” for instance which while a staggering performance is still a staggering performance in the service of a dodgy trick ending. “The Race Is On” however is purest enjoyment for two reasons – (i)lyrical conceits which wobble like a Don’t Tip The Waiter game. Will George really be able to keep his metaphor up until the end of the song? (This dizzy sensation enhanced by the breakneck music). (ii)the drop-out bits where George twists his tongue around in a way which you might say anticipates, ooooh….

Eminem! In twenty years time you know exactly which Eminem tracks are still going to be written about and “The Real Slim Shady” isn’t one of them, which means that the up-middle-finger tightrope-tongue dumbness of the whole thing becomes even more enjoyable (his bum being on posterity’s lips for once, rather than the other way round). Will Smith line still raises a snort of laughter (and I like Will Smith!)

From somewhere I’ve got the idea that Lambchop‘s “Saturday Option” is about an adulterous affair. The words ‘Lambchop’ and ‘about’ don’t seem to fit together terribly well.

Is it completely irrational to think that Madness are an overlooked band? Their best-ofs are permanently in print but you hardly ever see them mentioned anywhere. The idea of a British pop band emphasising songwriting and rhythm as equally as they did is a bit baffling now, I suppose. Though post-garage there’s no earthly reason it should be.

Gripe about Aislers Set which I have aired in loads of places now. On rekkid: pretty mesh of high-mix low-intensity voices and tangled-up guitar hooks underpinned by (admittedly boring) beat. (see “The Way To Market Station”). Live: indie-gorgeousness of band wins hearts of London scenesters but! All subtlety in sound lost, hooks have to be guessed at, THUDDA-THUDDA-THUDDA indiebeat holds mix in pitiless iron claw. As if to mock me this song ends with a drum outro.

Now of course we expect our indie bands to get themselves into the Proper Charts, it is part of the “game” “plan”, but back in the day there was a special brand of indie song which was blatantly a shot at said charts and usually an entirely hapless shot at that. Most bands had one just as most bands had a five-minute set-ender (extrapolating from my limited knowledge of indiebands back in said ‘day’ obviously). “Almost Prayed” by The Weather Prophets is surely one such song.

It was a bitter disappointment to me when I discovered that The Wedding Present‘s “Dalliance” was not only not about David Gedge, but was in fact inspired by Jilly Cooper! I thought Gedge’s sledgehammer application of rock dynamics (pre-grunge – just!) was only fair really given he’d been going out with this girl for SEVEN YEARS and she’d binned him for an ex – and then it turns out to be the Jodphur-obsessed writer of Polo and Riders who’d been through this trauma.

This might be somewhat heretical, but I like the harpooned-whale guitars on Seamonsters a lot more than those on Loveless.

I should probably go to bed, but if we’re on “The Wind” by The Jesters – an astonishing performance by the way – then surely there can’t be many “The” tracks left. Together we can beat this thing!

It’s a testimony to the strength of ABBA‘s “The Winner Takes It All” that the performance overcomes the sessioneer beat and the fact that half the lyrics are a bizarre metaphorical/metaphysical conceit about Gods and dice. Actually the beat works – it turns the song into can’t-stop-the-music disco defiance (that piano break on “But tell me, does she kiss….”) and then pulls the carpet out from under you when the drums drop out.

The para above seems a bit cold, given this is one of my favourite recordings in the world. Oh well.

Scritti Politti – “The Word ‘Girl'”: for a long time, as a shy wannabe-intellectual myself, you understand – I thought this record had the greatest title ever. Now I would say top 20, maybe. The song itself is exquisite, the more so on the 12″ (and CD) where it gets answered by the toastings of “Flesh And Blood”, throwing Green’s exploitation-of-romance mitherings into beautiful relief.

“Well the rain hit the roof with the sound of a finished kiss” – obsession and regret in a place far from home, The Go-Betweens – “The Wrong Road”. We swaggered and staggered up the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, singing this or trying to, remembering broken lines of lyric and the tidal forward urge of the song. “Started out Oliver, ended up Fagin”, and the cymbals crash. I was trying to remember the music so I could forget something else, the fact that I was alone – I was trying to fit Grant McLellan’s aloneness onto me, so that I wouldn’t be or wouldn’t mind it. So what am I doing hearing it now, all unflinching strings and stoic singing? Who is he singing to?

0851 – 0880: All About The Ballads

TomFT26: much though i love “theme from taras bulba” (Jerry Butler) i can think of nothing to say about it
fsolinger: i think it’s very modern in its way.
TomFT26: why?
fsolinger: aimee mann could do a stripped down version of it for a sean penn film or something like that.
TomFT26: somehow i dont feel that as a recommendation
fsolinger: no, it’s not.
TomFT26: its kind of too fruity for modern tastes i think
fsolinger: yes, but you see that’s the thing.
fsolinger: the central idea of wishing stars and dreams coming true it what they’d cling to.
fsolinger: a serious artiste would sing the rather outdated words and it’d be ironic, see.
TomFT26: i can see it soundtracking some hanks/ryan monstrosity in a stripped down version
fsolinger: but it’s the main thought of it.
TomFT26: and it not being ironic at all
fsolinger: see, it works either way!
TomFT26: hooray
fsolinger: i’m surprised portishead never thought to steal those opening bars.
TomFT26: you realise of course this is your 1000 starring moment, a la maura on Jellyfish ;)
fsolinger: HOORAY

Pop stars owning words (see forum passim) – on “There You Go” Pink makes a damn fine stab at tripping “pitiful” out from under Otis’ Redding’s feet.

“There’s A Tear In My Beer”: pretends it’s pitching drink against heartbreak, when what it’s really using is black comedy and the company of friends (the band). Neither option is a hundred percent effective, but close enough while the song plays.

Nancy Sinatra is overrated with Hazlewood (the Lolita-dynamic gets old fast and the third-rate psych weirdness is just silly now – I’d rather take Sonny and Cher any day) but underrated comparatively on her own cf. “These Boots Were Made For Walking” which is a ‘bubblegum classic’, if thought of as classic at all whereas dreck like “Some Velvet Morning” is praised to the hilt by people (who admittedly probably think Nick Cave knows lots about love songs).

Nick Drake – “Things Behind The Sun”: has his second-best line, delivered with horrible calm, “And the movement in your brain / Sends you out into the rain…”

The Wrens – “This Boy Is Exhausted” (recommended by Nick Mirov if my memory serves me well). The singer’s diffidence inspires similar in me, i.e. I can’t be arsed to work out what he’s singing, but the title it is safe to say resonates. I hardly slept last night and I’ve been blaming the car crash because I prefer to blame the car crash.

“This Guy/Girl’s In Love With You” is my favourite Bacharach and David song. (I love how they wrote unisex songs). Dusty Springfield sings it like it’s a done deal, and her song swings. Herb Alpert, though….he’s not so sure at all – his music’s cornier but his singing’s quieter. He makes the song more of a reverie and when he comes to “my hands are shaking” there’s a sudden lurching mix of bravado and weakness which makes the song special for me.

Not sure why I keep “This Is Just A Modern Rock Song” around, given that I know it’s seven minutes long and very disappointing. The first three minutes are good, but they’re only good because you think they’re leading to something marvellous instead of Stuart Murdoch playing self-referential games and the band jangling muddily. So why, knowing that the marvellousness is never going to show, do I keep playing it?

Not to my beloved readers: I am writing this in a somewhat foggy and sleep-deprived state so do not be alarmed if it’s worse than usual.

The strings on “The Thong Song” give it an almost courtly, gentlemanly air – as if Sisqo is trying to express his, um, butt-lust in as mannerly a way as he can, while still keeping it very much lustful.

Madonna‘s “Next Best Thing”, off that awful film she did with Rupert Everett, is a) a good ballad, b) her best ballad for ages, c) lots better than anything on Music because the production is up-to-date but not obtrusive. It’s unsingleness is more than somewhat annoying.

I’m all about the ballads.

I should be about “Tiny Children” rather more than I am (it being a ballad), but Julian Cope sings it as if he’s wearing garters.

Great lost articles (“great” here a bit of a stretch) continued – a long thing about the use of static on records, both its earbuzzy tactile audio properties and its age-signifying ones. I kind of wanted an argument which would allow me to dig the static clinging to records like Cliff Carlisle‘s “Tom Cat Blues” and also deplore the tasteful addition of static to, say, back-to-the-old-skool hip-hop tracks and Mo’Wax 12″s. I don’t think I found it so the piece lay fallow.

I’m not really embarrassed about having a Beatles track on my hard drive, but I am a weeny bit embarrassed by its being “Tomorrow Never Knows” which is such an obvious one for me to have. Quite good, mind.


  1. 1
    Admin on 2 Aug 2006 #

    Lookee what the web archive re-found (note some files still missing: 571, 638, 678, 737)

  2. 2
    Doctor Mod on 4 Aug 2006 #

    Dusty Springfield – “I’ve Been Wrong Before”: a Winter night, so cold it hurts your lungs to breathe.

    I have never seen such an evocative description of this song. Not necessarily how I’d put it, but I understand what you mean.

    I must have been about fourteen when I first heard this song. It was actually Cilla Black singing it on one of the US pop shows. (And, by the way, Cilla’s version isn’t half bad, if nonetheless tepid next to Dusty’s.) I remember my friends and I at school, discussing the next day what we felt was a really strange song. I think it somewhat scared me, but I couldn’t quite say why.

    It wasn’t long after that I heard Dusty’s version. Chilling, even icy, strike me as the right adjectives to use. The distant-sounding piano–Beethoven? Chopin? Debussy? Satie?–creates a Gothic ambience. (Gothic in the sense of the literary genre, not kids with black nail polish.) The woman in the gloomy house lit by candles only hints at a long ago romantic tragedy–but she reveals only the most basic details of the story of love gone. The piano’s melody moves relentlessly through various key changes but still returns to the same place and begins again, just as, one might imagine, the woman’s story will as well.

    In the end, there is no resolution, and the sorrow in Dusty’s voice suggests abnegation in the face of a new potential love, so great is the pain of the former.

    I’ve never imagined this song being sung by light of day, but I hadn’t considered the season. But as you say, it’s cold outside. And inside as well.

  3. 3
    Marcello Carlin on 5 Aug 2006 #

    Written, lest we forget, by young Randy Newman in his “I Think It’s Going To Rain Today” mood.

  4. 4
    research on 30 Jan 2007 #

    Logging into this website should be a requirement for anyone knowledgeable on earth these days…

  5. 5
    Admin on 30 Jan 2007 #

    One of the more common species of comment spam we (well all blogsonline journals) get is the “wow this site is great [LINK TO MEDZ/ETC]” – but of the 1000s of such spam, the wording of this one tickled me enough to let through. it didn’t even have a link in it to edit out.

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