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Give me music and give me noise....

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Hang the blessed DJ

DJs at gigs are a sorry bunch.

After going to approximately 1,682 gigs in the last 10 years (I said approximately), I reckon I've heard about 14 interestingly DJ-ed ones. Not many, in other words.

The big problem? Predictability. You're at a garage rock-type gig, the DJ plays Jay Reatard, The Sonics and The Monks. How interesting is that? Or you're at a grindcore thing and ... well, no need to labour the point (like them).

It's the Henry Ford approach to music programming. Any style, as long as it's totally uniform.
It's not just this type of predictability either. It's also the bone-crushing obviousness of the selections themselves. If I hear The Stooges' I Wanna Be Your Dog one more time at a gig I'm gonna set my rottweiler on the DJ.

There are exceptions. About two years ago at an (otherwise rather so-so) gig in Camden the DJ displayed a modicum of flair and imagination by sticking on some groovily ancient-sounding ballads, circa 1935. At another in Stepney a set by the heavy gloom rock band Tenebrous Liar was followed by a batch of excellent reggae tunes, an intelligent counterpoint rather than a dunderheaded echo.

And what's worse than the dull stuff we get served week after week? Er, those times when they don't even bother getting anyone on the decks but just stick on a compilation CD. C'mon! Even Top Shop has a DJ.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

I predict a music post

There’s been a predictable flurry of people tweeting jokey I Predict A Riot-type stuff for days now and … I’ve had to rush back from my holiday to put a stop to it.

Stop THAT right now! It’s criminally over-obvious and there’s absolutely no justification for it whatsoever. If this descends into widespread use of references to White Riot, London’s Burning or I Fought The Law then I’ll have to call in the army …

Actually, though, after the somewhat jaw-dropping adoption of The Clash’s London Calling as the official Olympics tune, it does seem horribly inevitable that the alternative, riot-strewn answer to “brand London” could well be London’s Burning (Clash song, not mediocre TV series).

For my money London’s Burning is a typically over-rated Clash effort, marred by Strummer’s horrible garbled vocals and made boring by Jones’ stabs of guitar (plus yucky guitar solo) and the MOR chorus carousing. It has an OK sudden ending though: a final “London’s burning!”, with accompanying drum roll.

A few years ago I was at a Selfish Cunt gig when an unannounced woman appeared on stage: an apparition with creepy make-up, a strange hair/hat configuration and an odd flowing dress. In icily exact actor’s tones she recited a sort of poem that consisted of her saying “London’s burning … London’s burning … It’s fucking burning, I tell you ...” for around two minutes. In the backgound a trumpet played something mournful and despondent. Then silence.

It was about 100 times more alarming and disorientating than Strummer’s duff effort or Ricky Wilson’s sub-Blur bore. To me it was far more evocative of how it feels to be in close proximity to a riot. 

Monday, 1 August 2011

I wanna be … denounced to the police

The ridiculous-yet-sinister news that the City of Westminster police have been advising people to "report" those they suspect are "anarchists" provides an excuse to post the Sex Pistols' evergreen Anarchy In The UK.

My handling of the faintly threatening all-black 7" of this at a friend's house as a young teen was the (admittedly banal) equivalent of dealing in Samizdat literature. Forbidden goods!

I reckon the tune itself, if you actually listen hard, is not that great (unless you like lumbering rockorama juggernauts...), but - as so often with the SPs - the wit, snarl and bite of Lydon's lyrics and voice take it to an altogether different level. Enough has already been written about Lydon's millennarian caterwauling (Marcus, Savage et al), but it's still depressing to compare the register and ambition of this period to the walking parody that Lydon seems content to be these days (butter, tumble driers, weak self-referential "Johnny Rotten jokes"; panto can't be far off ...).

Few bands sound like the Sex Pistols in their pomp (I was wondering about the Dirtbombs recently, but it doesn’t really hold...). It's the attitude, not the music.

Latest news is that the Met has retracted the “shop an anarcho” call, which must be a relief for the poor plods patrolling the streets of Piccadilly. How would they have been able to differentiate between the "tourist punks" with their anarchy t-shirts and the real thing, the Proudhon acolytes, with their desire to see the overthrow of capitalism or even an end to all power structures?

Such is the confusion of modern life. Even back in 1976 Lydon could play with the myriad threats and their tags: “Is this the MPLA? / Or is this the UDA? / Or is this the IRA? / I thought it was the UK”.

I don’t know whether the police were monitoring McLaren, Glitterbest and the rest during those days (it wouldn’t be surprising if they were), but you can bet they or the intelligence services were watching fellow punksters Crass (Derek Shayler apparently saw files showing that both bands were being monitored by MI5). So much easier if the anarchists in your midst advertise that fact by er, singing about it …