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Give me music and give me noise....

Friday, 31 July 2015

Self Deconstruction-ing

Derrida eat your heart out: Self Deconstruction at the Pit Bar, Tokyo 31/7/15

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Music for when your flight crashes out of the sky

As I write this I'm listening to Joy Division's Isolation on the in-flight entertainment package of a Lufthansa flight 34,995 feet above the Ob-Irtysh River in the Khanti Mansi autonomous okrug of the Russian Federation.

Let's all sing along: "I'm ashamed of things I've been put through / I'm ashamed of the person I am." Er, OK! Ian Curtis's wonderfully uplifting lyrics there. Speeding us along.

So what's going on? I said, WHAT'S GOING ON!? A Joy Division "album" (Total: From Joy Division To New Order, Rhino 2011 to be precise) nestling alongside infinitely cherishable music from Kylie Minogue, Coldplay, Dire Straits and Biffy Clyro.

Jeez. Let's storm the cockpit or something. What's happening! Where has my world gone? If we've now got the likes of Transmission and Ceremony available to us on tinny speakers between the complimentary wine/beer and the foil-packed food on a plastic tray ... er, it feels like we've turned a corner. Gone down the wrong road. Or something.

One's tempted to ask: where's the mystery, that ineffable Factory aura, the strange otherworldliness of the JD/NO sound haunting the railway arches and underlit passages fanning out from Whitworth Street West and the crazed egomaniacal empire of Tony Wilson, Peter Saville and their gang? Gone! All gone!

Have we lost something precious ("my precious, my precious")? Hmm. It's certainly jarring to see that things have come to this, but it's not really surprising. We're (ahem) decades on from Joy Division now, many many years on from New Order's Balearic beats period, and of course also many years on from the deaths of Martin Hannett and Tony Wilson. Bands lose their way and crucially lose control of their music (they've lost control again ...). I doubt Joy Division would have wanted their music regurgitated as "press-here" inboard entertainment (or would they?), but commerce trumps all and the saleability of a few JD/NO tracks is of longlasting "value" to those who get to decide these things.

Total control: Joy Division coming to a headrest near you

As it happens the selection being offered for consumption to Lufthansa passengers is a pretty lukewarm version of the oeuvre: Transmission/Love Will Tear Us Apart/Isolation/She's Lost Control/Atmosphere/Ceremony/Temptation/Blue Monday/Thieves Like Us/The Perfect Kiss/Bizarre Love Triangle/True Faith/Fine Time/World In Motion/Regret/Crystal/Krafty/Hellbent.

But I guess this is the fate of any body of work when it chances to venture into the marketplace. It's cut to ribbons! Chopped up, sanitised, served up with the salty snacks ...

No, I'll try to forget this little airborne encounter with Joy Division's "dark, brooding sound" (Lufthansa copy writers) and return to Unknown Pleasures and Power, Corruption And Lies as if it never happened. Meanwhile, let's see what other gems they've got on this flight's music selection ... ah, that's better! Brian Eno's Music For Airports ...

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Songs of experience: The Fall are fuckfaced

Well, it wasn't always plain sailing - but I've got to the end of Simon Ford's Hip Priest, his rather exhausting account of the wonderful and frightening world of The Fall, 1977-2001.

It's a good book for people like me. Meaning: a useful chronological tour through the main events (hirings, firings, record releases, critical reaction, Mark E Smith's obnoxious ego) for people who may be longtime Fall admirers, though not fully-paid-up Fall devotees.

Yeah, I do, uh, dig-uh repetition, and I do totally rate a lot of their music: Dragnet, Hex Enduction Hour (maybe their best), most of the 80s output except their Brix-y pop stuff, Levitate, some of Mark E Smith's collaborative material (with Edwyn Collins, Von Südenfed, DOSE etc). It's amazingly good and a track record to be proud of (Check the record / Check the guy's track record ....).

But hey, less of the John Peel-esque rhapsodising. As far as Ford's book is concerned, the monstrousness of Smith's ego is what come across almost as much as the quality of the music. More, really. I can appreciate that Smith is, as Ford observes, wary of revealing too much in interviews and I can understand that part of his approach to being creative is to constantly throw a spanner in the works (interfering with band members' kit on stage, provoking arguments and sacking people over and over again). It's his rather effective destruct-renewal process, though doubtless sometimes more a case of clearing up the wreckage after yet another drunken episode.

OK, fine. But ... well, the semi-aggressive bar room bore routine is all rather wearing (as evidenced in some of his lager-in-hand interviews of recent years) and - I think partly as a result - I've failed to keep tabs on some of The Fall's recent output (meanwhile I couldn't bear that period where Smith was warbling away in pained-crooner mode).

Another part of the problem is the over-praising and all round obsessiveness of The Fall worshippers, the Prestwich ultras. If one more person calls Smith a "genius" or refers to him as "pop's supreme contrarian" I might just ... er, I might just record over my entire collection of Fall albums on C90 cassette. There! Take that, you bloody hip priest!

No, with Smith's "I am the great MES" shtick becoming less and less amusing over time, The Fall definitely constitute one of music's more clotted and claustrophobic affairs. Ford makes the rather startling point that Smith must have been on stage for just about longer than anyone else in modern music (38 years, thousands of gigs), but I doubt many people actually envy Smith his life. Certainly Steve Hanley, after 19 years of supplying (often completely distinctive) bass for The Fall sounds completely worn out by it all at the time of their infamous bust-up in New York in 1998. Understandably enough. If I had to hang around with anyone like Smith I'd be an ex-Fall member in about five minutes, but luckily some good musicians have been more patient and there's a huge musical legacy as a result.

In my opinion one of the least attractive things about mouthy Mark is his anti-intellectual posturing. He's happy to name the band after a Camus book and cite HP Lovecraft and Edgar Allen Poe as influences, yet he employs the autodidactic's disdain for other people's intellectualising. Which is rather hilarious when you see the sprawling infrastructure of something like The Annotated Fall site, with its quasi-academic notes on hundreds of The Fall's lyrics (for a taste, check out the notes to Spector vs. Rector: it's PhD-tastic ...). Truly, he has spawned a monster!

I like the Annotated site actually, not least for its William Blake etching on the homepage. Smith is a latterday, Kronenbourg-swilling version of the great old man of Albion. Singing songs of innocence and experience, and songs of fuckfaced fiends ...

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Kidnapped by a Rihanna video

... meanwhile, in another place - with softer lighting and more beautiful people - I wax not especially lyrical on the moral policing of women's attire while - shock, horror - admitting to having watched a Rihanna video. I promise Rihanna, I'll have the money by tomorrow ..

Superconductor (June 2015), Podcast #119

Just when you thought it was safe to venture into the musical jungle again - reassured that nothing more dangerous than a Tinie Tempah remix was lying in wait - here it comes, snarling, fangs bared, a dangerous panther of a podcast.

Or is it a leopard? Or is it even an animal at all? Er, dunno. It's maybe nothing of the kind. A trick of the jungle light, filtering in through the tangled canopy of massive trees with their dangling creepers and faintly ominous looking exotic plants. Who's to say? We need a guide for these uncharted forests. A musical guide - a ... superconductor! [Link now taken down; leave a comment for a re-up].

1: Robert Logan, Error message 
2: Amorous Dialogues, Party’s over, okeh? 
3: Heat Dust, Let them give up 
4: Vertical Slump, ? (Power Lunches, London 26/6/15) 
5: Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, That’s how I feel 
6: Kid Lib, WolfPack 
7: The set-up 
8: Beast As God, Against a dark background 
9: Long Limbs, ? (Audacious Art Experiment, Sheffield 20/6/15) 
10: Future Sauce, We’re the new 
11: Apache Tomcat, Drinking beers and telling lies 
12: Good Old Neon, Math champs, part 1 
13: Prinzhorn Dance School, ? (Tin Music & Arts, Coventry 13/6/15) 
14: Kid Creole & The Coconuts, Stool pigeon 
15: An inscription on the bottom 
16: Kooties, Headhunter 
17: No Form, ? (Audacious Art Experiment, Sheffield 20/6/15) 
18: Deller Consort, Strike the viol (Purcell, Olinda) 
19: Umreti Fit, Ubij 
20: Alton & Hortense Ellis, I’ll be waiting 
21: Superconductor 
22: Sauna Youth, ? (Old Baths, London 5/6/15) 
23: The Grand Old Ukes Of Yorkshire, Gangsta’s paradise 
24: Negative Vibes, Oppression Olympics 
25: Der Zirkus Brennt, This is the first thing I saw 
26: Police Drama, ? (Audacious Art Experiment, Sheffield 20/6/15) 
27: Lee Rosevere, Alleluia

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Down to Texas, Dubpod #10 (June 2015)

Yes brothers and sisters, another dubpod from the Niluccio on noise dub vaults.

This one comes after sampling a bit of reggae at a soundsystem in the (almost) deserted zones of Coventry's ghost-town hinterland.

And now ... we're all coming like a ghost town. Haunted by subsonic bass and the subterranean rumble of the speaker stacks. At least I think that strange moaning noise is the speaker stacks. No, surely not! It's not, it can't be ... it's the dub squid with its deadly outreached tentacles! Coming to ...take us down to Texas ...

1: Keith Hudson, Man from Shooters Hill 
2: Scientist, Mass murder and corruption 
3: Tristan Palma, How can a man be happy 
4: Take you down to Texas 
5: Augustus Pablo, Cassava piece 
6: Tenor Saw, Pumpkin belly 
7: Dub Syndicate, King of sound and blues 
8: Black Hunters, Brillcream (Leo) 
9: Scratch & The Upsetter, Zion blood 
10: Marching all to die 
11: Bob Marley & The Wailers, Dreamland 
12: The Slickers, Nana 
13: Alton & Hortense Ellis, Breakfast in bed 
14: King Tubby, Morpheus special 
15: Wayne Wade, Lord of lord 
16: Pumpkin lips 
17: Trade Winds, Some like it hoth 
18: Prophets/Vivian Jackson, Warn (version) 
19: Prince Far I, Mansion of the mighty 
20: Carol Kalphant & Clint Eastwood, African land 
21: To raise children 
22: King Stitt, Fire corner 
23: Sunn O>>>, Sin nanna 
24: Queen Tiney & The Aggrovators, Natty dread time dub 
25: Sun Shot Band, Evilous things (version)

Friday, 3 July 2015

Lost in Lost In Music

Like quite a few books before it (also films, records, TV programmes, places, people ...), I picked up Giles Smith's Lost In Music unsure whether I'd already read it. Twenty pages in I still wasn't sure. By the end: er, still not sure. Oh dear. My memory's obviously shot to pieces - or the book is utterly unmemorable and in about three years' time I'll read it all over again, saying "I picked up this book unsure whether I'd already read it ..."

Anyway, it's a nice enough romp through the writer's musical life - his childish infatuation with T. Rex, the yearning for pop-music-related fame and excitement, the desire to be cool and in a rock band (the two being coterminous), his bizarre musical obsessions (10cc, Stevie Wonder, XTC, Blue Nile). See - they are bizarre.

Lost In Music is ostensibly all about the deep pangs of nostalgia and longing that pop music supposedly generates in the receptive listener. And yeah, I can relate to that. The Buzzcocks' Ever Fallen In Love With (a song mentioned by Smith) kind of does that for me, as do about 500 other songs, each in different ways, depending on numerous factors - when I first heard them, how old I was, how they sound now after several years/decades, what the musicians have come to mean to me more generally over the years etc, etc. Smith's book starts out as if it's going to be pretty good on all this ... but, but ...

 ... but, he too often uses it all as the set-up before the mock-heroic punchline. He clearly loves the music he loves (or at least used to love it), but he just can't resist the pay-off joke. Sample: "This book is the story of ... one man's journey into the world of rock and then back to his mum's." Colchester is deemed funny because rock bands don't emanate form there and you don't see famous musicians in the street. And so on (and on).

He's Mr Self-Deprecation to a tee, but in bringing himself down  - however amusingly - everyone else has to come down with him. He used to be in a band called The Cleaners From Venus with a principled-sounding songwriter bloke called Martin Newell, but Smith being Smith has to joke about the compromises Newell makes under pressure from their record company (RCA).

For Smith everything's a joke in the end because he doesn't seem to want to take music seriously. He wants to be a comic writer instead - he's far more Nick Hornby than he is Nik Cohn. (Staying with the Niks, he positively loves making fun of his own slight association with pop-idol-to-be Nik Kershaw, but says hardly anything about his much more meaningful time hanging out with The Damned's Captain Sensible).

I dunno. It's undeniably amusing to mock teenage (and 20-something) rock pretentions, but ... is that all there is to it? Smith admits to having big musical blindposts (deafspots?): Neil Young and Bob Dylan being two of the biggest. Isn't this part of his problem in the end? A lack of affinity with what isn't pop music and what isn't naff? If he can genuinely say he likes stuff such as Crowded House and connect with punk and new wave only to the extent of admiring XTC, Elvis Costello and a few poppier things like The Jam, then ... well, maybe he was always failing to take music seriously enough in the first place.

It's all very well making some nicely-crafted jokes about pretending your first-ever single purchase was a Beatles record and not a Ronnie Hilton one (!), but if 20 years later you're still praising The Beatles and ignoring The Velvet Underground then ... well, you are lost in music. The wrong kind!

So that's the trap that Giles Smith is in if you ask me. The trap of the joke-meister. I've definitely read the book this time and I'm not really laughing any more ...