At Blahness, Guy comes to Madonna's defence, arguing that her musical strategy of the last decade, excepting the mid-nineties ballad phase, has always been one of working against the current of the commercial norm. I agree. So why do I still hesitate to champion her completely? I don't think it's the music itself, because I love so much of it, from "Justify My Love" right through to "American Pie". Indeed, most of the recent criticism towards Madonna ignores her music and focuses on her sudden, incongruous transformations in image. Criticising Madonna for inauthenticity is a pointless and thankless task (she's a pop star, geddit?) but maybe critics are unintentionally hitting upon Madonna's weak point.
I have to admit that I find her personas to have less and less impact with each new unveiling, but it's not due to the speed and incongruity so much as the fact that Madonna is slowly drifting away from her traditional position at the center of pop culture. Madonna as goth, Madonna as Indo-mystic, Madonna as geisha, Madonna as sixties-siren... they're all very photogenic concepts, but they're not achieving paradigm shifts comparable to Madonna-in-lace or Madonna-in-bondage, or in contemporary terms, TLC or Britney. I haven't heard "Music" yet, but even the title feels awkward (even more so than for LTJ Bukem's stab), a "subtle" foreshadowing of this year's model: the creative-but-less-emotional-studio-auteur-girl. Which is a nice, respectable image for Madonna, but only really meaningful if she had plans to keep it, which I suspect she won't six months down the track. Will we remember studio-girl in two years like we remember bondage-girl? The "Erotica" period has been Madonna's most widely renounced career move, but it still yielded, for me, her most enduring image, and her best music.
Given her new, anticeptic feel, I wonder how much Madonna can really tell us about ourselves now, rather than merely the idealised form of ourselves that critics feel more comfortable espousing. It's a quandary quite separate to the question of whether Orbit and Mirwais can come up with nice music for the new album, but ultimately it is just as important. If Madonna has "sold out", it's certainly not to the pop world but rather to artistic immortality, and although I suspect that here it is a case of too little too late, it does mean that she is seemingly stuck in a half-world between iconic stature and critical acceptance. Whether this can be resolved will be discovered soon enough, I guess, but meanwhile I'll be sticking with "Erotica".
The meme explained! So now you can be just as pretentious as the rest of us. I was thinking that it would be fun to decide just which words were the most pretentious. Maybe "interiority"? Let's have a vote on it! Mail me with your suggestions, and I'll post up the winner here.
While on the subject of pretentiousness, I was toying with writing a short piece on musical and lyrical intertextuality in r'n'b for my Text and Context scrapbook, because, you know, Samuel Beckett is fun and all, but "Bugaboo" is more fun. If I end up doing it, and it doesn't turn out totally banal, I'll post it up. My biggest challenge will be to avoid totally aping Simon Reynolds.
I'm trying to limit the amount of links I steal from other blogs (especially when it is painfully obvious that I share ninety per cent of my readership with the blog in question), so all I'll say is head on over to NYPLM and follow the link to what Tom describes as "a site that matters". That's an understatement. It's bloody brilliant.
Life rolls on. The party was a lot of fun, everything seems cleared up and maybe my life will one day become normal again. Still, there was much angst which will serve as blogging material. For example: it's bad enough merely assuming that people make snap judgements about you, but actually having it confirmed is something altogether different. So, a group of people I've known for less than two weeks have come to the conclusion that I run away from things. Do I? I don't know, but I wish I knew how they do. The other interesting thing about parties in one's honour: having all my friends together in one place reminded me of how many amazing people I know. It was absolutely lovely to see everyone again, and frustrating that there were too many of them for me to have a long conversation with each and every one. Which I need to have. I need to take advantage of the stability my friends offer me if I am going to retain my sanity. Much, much more important than relationships.
And finally, in regards to photos: I have no idea how they turned out, so their likelihood of being posted here is dependent on whether I or my scanner-equipped friend (thanks for the Buffy videos, Simon!) exercise powers of veto.
I've been listening to a lot of progressive house recently. I have no idea why, as it's never been an area which has particularly interested me - not because I take issue to its musical vanguard attitude, but rather because I tend to gravitate to dance music with da funk - jungle, hip hop, garage, big beat, jack house etc. But something about the glacial atmospheres of prog house has been sounding very fine over the last few days. You know the drill: Leftfield, Underworld, Spooky, Moody Boys, D.O.P., The Drum Club, Sasha & Digweed mix cds.... Long wanky ambient intros, pounding 4/4 kick drums with the occasional clattering breakbeat, clickity-clackity percussion simulating tribal rhythms, sensuous synth washes... It would be easy to hold the self-conscious "intelligence" and "refinement" of prog house against it, but the whole club vs. rave schism seems so distant now that I can quite happily take this music for what it is - excellently produced dance music.
The Drum Club's Drums Are Dangerous album in particular is exquisitly nuanced, soundscaped mood music set to a beat, achieving that soundtrack-style bittersweet vibrancy I'd usually expect from Spring Heel Jack or Orbital. Even something like Future Sound Of London's "Cascade", which normally I would dismiss as overworked ambient fluf, now entrances me with its gloopy rhythms and bright, cosmic keyboards, somewhere between The Orb and Tangerine Dream. I don't think my musical tastes are changing so much as accomodating. I feel like I could like anything now if I just put my mind to it. A good or a bad thing? All I know is that if you play some of this stuff back to back with Missy you'll suffer a major attack of dissonance. I learned the hard way.
Yeah, so I wasn't planning on blogging until after party, but you know, things come up. Big things, that leave you mentally gasping and thinking, "Only a couple of weeks ago, I was waiting for life to start; now all I want it to do is slow down." But life ain't easy, as Cleopatra-comin'-atcha made so perfectly clear.
So, right now I'm convinced that I'm a horrible, nasty person. I honestly don't mean to be. I think maybe because for a long time I was slightly insecure about my worth in other people's eyes, I underestimate just how much I can hurt people. It happens all the time, but today it was only with the best intentions. Have I lost a friend? A whole host of potential friends? Tonight will tell, I suppose. I guess I could go into details here, but it is my life we're talking about, and despite my need to come on here and vent, it wouldn't be fair to those involved. It suffices to say that I've discovered my big problem: behind my cynicism, I'm far too idealistic. I want "Born To Make You Happy", godammit! Today I was offered the choice of settling for something slightly less, and my whole nature cried out against even the concept of it. So is this the way it's going to be for the rest of my life?
It's my party and you're all invited! Well, if you can make it over to Melbourne anyway. Indeed, I am having a party tonight, which promises to be very interesting and provide loads of blogging material (perhaps photos if you're lucky...I might talk to some technology equipped friends). Right now though, I'm off to university for some crucial study, so I'll just leave a random thought before I go:
Ever get the feeling that someone is deliberately leaving the way open for you to agree with them on some issue although you've plainly showed no interest a number of times? I'm thinking that one of the ways that friendships and relationships work is that we take someone not like us at all and proceed to mould them in our fashion, while still demanding that they retain the spark that made them interesting in the first place. Like sophomore pop albums: the same, but different. Problem is, I dislike the feeling of being made over, and all it does is make me suspicious of the person who's trying. I mean, the arrogance of it all! Far better is the friend whose unconscious example inspires us to makeover ourselves.
I also saw my younger sister's school play last night. Largely written by the students, aged 13-15, "From Cool To Sick" ostensibly explains teenage life to the older generation, being careful to empathise that, on the whole, they just weren't going to understand anyway. All I know is that, sitting in the audience, I felt frequently confused and strangely threatened by the whole thing, while my father thought it was an excellent comedy. I think what I found disturbing was the overwhelming, cynical shallowness of it all. It's bad enough when adults complain that adolescents only think about music, clothes, presentation, parties, drugs and the opposite sex; when kids consciously choose to present that side of themselves it feels slightly sickening, like the kids on stage were somehow exploiting themselves.
Seeing my thirteen year old sister in a devastatingly short satin dress which positively clung to her body was disturbing enough on a personal level, but it was the simulated rave scene which got me the most - not in its overall accuracy; it was more like West Side Story set to The Chemical Brothers - but rather in the stone cold perfection of the actors. Even the incongrous "whoop whoop" calling the clueless teachers assumed constitutes raving didn't manage to detract from the chilling familiarity of these spandex and lycra clad girls of 12 or 13 dancing with vacant faces, every muscle in their still unformed bodies taut with the strain of self-presentation. If I was at a rave and saw this I wouldn't bat an eye, but having it fed back to me while I sat passively was bizarrely alienating and unreal, like hearing your own voice on tape and being unable to recognise yourself. What defines our generation, I think, is not a sense of immorality so much as amorality - teenage life is so complicated, so internalised and isolated from the overall concept of "society", it's like traditional values mutate into meaninglessly meaningful "codes" of behaviour. Those codes presented on stage did not comply with any recognisable moral conventions, and while most of them I understood, there were a couple of things in there I felt too old to pick up on. I'd hate to think that I was already crossing that generational divide, but I suppose I'm now in the position where I can partially eulogise my youth, and therefore I must be on the way to becoming the enemy. Scary...
Well! There's nothing quite like dancing all night to lift one's spirits. Of course, there's also nothing quite like not sleeping enough every night for a couple of months to leave one feeling lethargic and despondent, but I'll leave over worrying about that until I'm at work tonight. Did I tell you that I worked at the cinemas? Well, now you know.
Anyway, the musical selection of last night was mostly hard house (although considering that it was at a predominantly gay venue, perhaps that should be "hard handbag" or something?) with the odd trance number thrown in. Hard house is an area I know next to nothing about, although its ravaged female sighs and rippling, multitiered 4/4 beats (which strike me as verging on dubby) seriously go down a treat on the dancefloor. Very base, of course, but what's wrong with that? Huh?
More interestingly though is my love-hate relationship with current trance. How can I love a track so much when I'm dancing to it, when just the night before I was spewing forth vitriol at the music store opposite the cinema for playing it? I suppose the upshot of the commercial exposure is being able to identify the really excellent stuff, like that remix of Paul Van Dyke's "The Riddle (Tell Me Why)" which for the longest time substitutes the dewy sentimentality of the main mix with a cruel 303 bass riff, before finally exploding back into the original's melancholy triumph. It's enough for me to seriously consider attending the guy's show next month, his disturbing white sweater notwithstanding.
Music, meanwhile, is just as welcomingly brilliant as ever. Missy's album is still excellent, though her own contributions on some tracks seem to be somewhat skimpy for it to be a "Missy album". Perhaps she should have just have been creative director on an all-star extravaganza. My current favourite: "We Did It", a shuddering beat, the hook an almost lazy striking of some metallic object, overlaid with those sweeping, lachrymose strings. I don't know how Timbaland came up with the idea of basing a whole album around combining his trademark beats with baroque string flourishes, but by God it works.
There's a rapidly growing sub-genre forming within the post-Timbaland panicpop r'n'b/hip hop, of songs with this amazing latin vibe. Not latin in the Ricky Martin sense - some token Spanish words, a couple of session musicians and lots of pelvic thrusting - but really in the molecular construction of the music. I'm thinking of tracks like Eve's "What Ya Want", Missy's "She's A Bitch" and "Mr. D.J.", Kelis' "Caught Out There" and "I Want Your Love", Pink's "Split Personality" and "Private Show", even Christina Aguilera's "Genie In A Bottle". There's something about the drum programming in these tracks which is just indescribably lovely, simultaneously languid and frenetic, an incredible rolling groove constructed out of rigid, reticular beats. And that's really all that's necessary. "Private Show", for example, is little more than the latinesque beat, some Kraftwerkian synth squiggles and the everpresent, sticky-brittle swish of hi-hats. It's probably the most intensely rhythmic track I've heard this year, and it's so simple, really. Don't listen to the detractors, now is the time to be alive.
Funnily enough, despite a fairly active weekend-so-far, I can't think of any personal details to share with you all. Or maybe it's just that I don't want to. Consciously or not, I must be filtering this somehow, to present only a more respectable hologram of myself ("how boring must he be in real life?" you wonder). Which leads me to think: how are our personalities transmitted through this weird electro-nik medium? What have I really revealed of myself? What have I learned about others? It's not just limited to the net though. Everyone's just a tip of an iceberg (cliche I know), and if it's hard enough to know what makes up ninety per cent of myself, then figuring out other people is impossible. I hate not knowing what other people are thinking of when I say something. I hate not knowing what other people mean when they speak to me. And have you ever noticed that facial expressions are both fascinating and slightly scary? We really should have eyes in the back of our head instead, if only so we wouldn't subject eachother to the intensity of our gazes.
You'd think that after eighteen years I'd have at least a nominal handle on people, but each day just gets more confusing.
Why didn't I buy Missy Elliot'sDa Real World sooner? Hmmm.... maybe it was the fact that despite the impressive Matrix-style ghetto futurism of the singles so far, nothing had really, comprehensively bowled me over like "Sock It 2 Me" off Supa Dupa Fly. Plus, my favourite Missy numbers were always the most laidback, like the awesomely stoned (duh!) "Pass Da Blunt", and Missy's new ultra-sleek image seemed a tad anal in comparison.
Anyway, so I picked it up today, and I'm only halfway through, but man this is fierce! Particular favourite right now is the Eminem-guesting "Busa Rhymes". Starts off being a typically weird Timbaland take on Eminem's avant-lumpen circus hop, then shifts gears halfway to become ultra-scary, melodramatic uber-bounce (I like inventing new genres). More thoughts later maybe... Going out now.
Oh My God. Finally (started and) finished that legal essay. 2500 words. One night. Refugee Law. That's why there's been no posts. Sorry! Sometimes life does actually intrude into my crazy little world. Heaps of stuff tomorrow, I promise!
Am I the only one who finds ThinkDink and the positive blogging crusade in general somewhat crass? If people do have something to say, they should just say it. The mistake of course is assuming that the blogging community actually exists as a community in any external, practical sense, when in truth it really is just a bunch of personal websites, reflecting personalities. These people, generally highly intelligent, eloquent, vibrant people, shouldn't need to be goaded into following some Blogger Ethical Code. Their own moral code should be enough to tell them when something is shameful. But reading so many vapidly humble, apologetic posts by bloggers with electronically downcast eyes, I was the one who felt ashamed.
I apologise if my blogs are getting more frenzied. Life's in one of those high water mark periods of intense activity, and this blog's a big part of it. Notice how themes seem to be developing though? Last week it was blogging itself. This week, pop culture. What next? Here's an idea: choose a topic and Tim will rant on it!
Guy at Blahness links, rather unfortunately in my mind, to a Travis website. But don't lose heart! He also has some interesting things to say about yours truly. In a short rant about truth and falsity in pop culture, Guy questions my "religious zeal", writing that "while pop is fun, even self-aware people can fall into the trap of thinking that it is life." Ah, but it is! It is! Guy can talk about non-pop values like committment all he likes, but what did I ever learn about committment that "I Was Born To Make You Happy" didn't teach me? See, pop does reflect real life as much, perhaps more than the realisms of alternative music, because it's speaking to the world at large. I don't want to know about Damon Blur's relationship with Justine Elastica. I want to know about my relationship with everything around me, and the best pop is inclusive enough to provide that for me. Of course, as I noted in my Britney article, so do The Smiths. We take from culture what we need, jettison the rest, and commercial and artistic concerns be damned.
Case in point: elsewhere Guy says that when it comes to relationships, he wants the equivalent of Wuthering Heights, but his entire relationship manifesto sounds more like "Genie In A Bottle" to me.
Have I told you that life is weird? No? Well then: Life is Weird. My coming out the other day has sort of snowballed into me becoming a member of my university's Queer Action Committee. Which is great, but... The last time I was involved in anything vaguely political was two years ago when the anti-racist high school union I was a part of collapsed under the weight of misguided socialists and crazy megalomaniacs (Hello, Jess!). It turned me off political activism completely. So now, even the fact that I'm involved in a "collective" makes me shudder instinctively, makes me want to wash my hands. Today, sitting and listening to all these very nice people with their speaker's lists, and motions, and plans to politely destroy the Christian Union for inviting homophobic public speakers, I felt a chill of doom. Maybe I'm just cynical, but I can't escape the feeling that youthful activists always grow into hardened, unfeeling old people with an axe to grind and the energy of the new youthful activists to exploit...
What I just posted put me in mind of the whole Hip Hop Debate which was raging in NYPLM a couple of weeks ago. In short: take my previous post, replace "Britney" with "DMX", and "sex" with "senseless violence", and my arguments and feelings remain the same.
Hot damn! Tom finds a surprisingly astute Salon article on the Britney phenomenon. A lot of this has been covered before: Britney as sexpot, Britney as victim, Britney as a little girl, Britney as the manipulated manipulator. What this guy seizes on that the other journalists haven't is exactly why it's so captivating.
Check this quote: "Odd as it may sound, whenever " ... Baby" started up -- complete with its sounds of a man's hard inhaling and exhaling, seemingly literally breathing down our teen dreamgirl's neck -- or when the whip-cracking effects on another song, "Crazy," hit, I began having uncomfortable visions. I began, in fact, in some murky part of my mind, to have inescapably awkward and then downright ugly pictures in my head of what was going on in these songs. They sounded, after a while, like sounds emanating from elaborate S&M dens, or from lands of sexual purgatory and destruction -- or, at the very least, from places where everything's so fine and perfect that it's indelibly fucked (both literally and figuratively) up."
Of course, this is exactly why I love Britney. Then again, maybe being a carefree, amoral (highly promiscuous, loud mouthed, "fuck the establishment") teenager, I can't quite understand how Britney offers up "uncomfortable truths". After all, they're truths, aren't they? Just like evil multinational corporations are full of people-with-jobs who go home, have dinner with the kids and get fed their own advertising propaganda and capitalist lies, the media is also jampacked with people who have had their own moral ambiguities and crises, have had their lives and life choices manipulated by popular culture. Why then, does it find it so difficult to come to terms with someone like Britney?
Well, I suppose I don't know these people, or anyone but myself, so I'll simply share with you my own private maxim...
Thanks to the excellent (and aussie!) Virulent Memes, I took the Kill Yr Blog test, only to discover that "your weblog is actually quite boring, but your situation is not hopeless. Perhaps if you made a wee bit more effort on it, then it might be worth reading"....Of course this is not true. I already spend far too much time on this blog, but alas to no avail. Send sympathy here.
Well, who would've thought it? Not only is Skykicking still going strong, but I've even inspired a disciple. Actually I'll be receiving a very offensive e-mail for saying that pretty soon, but nonetheless I urge you all to visit Blahness, the soon-to-be excellent new blog brought to you by Guy Campbell, an old school buddy and coffee-drinking chum (check out them colloquial terms there). Blahness will be great because:
1. Guy's the only person I know who is just as much a pretentious pop culture vulture as I am.
2. He has a biting sense of humour, which will doubtless be directed towards everyone and everything in sight, including me. Indeed, if you ask nicely he might even share sordid stories with you I'd rather he didn't. Hmmm... that's assuming you care, of course.
3. While there's not much there yet, watch out all you guys and gals, because he has seen fit to post a particularly smouldering photo of himself to win you over. While I must rely on only my own imperishable wit...
Anyhow, go visit him, and if you tell him I sent you, he won't charge you a dime!
I think I first heard this track about eight months ago at a rave. In the chill-out room, which was incidentally none-too-chilled-out (read: I was dancing like a maniac and everyone was staring at me strangely). Stumbling upon it again after picking up Uberzone's Space Kadet EP for 95c was a rare pleasure. Listening to it again, I discover that it's not quite as good as I remembered it to be; but on the dancefloor, in my excited and loved-up state, it was the best thing I'd ever heard, so that hardly dimishes the track's worth. What is it, then? Not much really, just a slowly spiralling 303 acid line, some bleating synths and some hard-as-nails electro beatbox beats. Still, that's a pretty potent mixture, simultaneously referencing jungle, big beat, psychedelic trance and bounce hip hop in one glorious confusion of sound.
Why am I writing about it? Perhaps just as a testimony to the enduring anonymity of dance music. I was never expecting to ever find this mystery track, to hear it in any context except that of an ecstacy-filtered dance party, but even if I hadn't bought Space Kadet, "The Botz" would have held a special place in my heart, for offering me those fleeting minutes of pure transcendence...
And on the subject of pop, the top ten of the Aria charts (ie. Australia's pop singles chart) has been thoroughly overrun by shiny pop and r'n'b, banishing flaccid crap like Leah Haywood to the lower regions. While I applaud this, I'm somewhat surprised by the public's choices. I mean, seeing Pink at nine and Destiny's Child at number one pleases me, but Melanie C? Toni Braxton? Speaking of the latter, "He Wasn't Man Enough For Me" is Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins' least interesting production yet. He's obviously past peaking, which makes "Say My Name" his last gasp of creativity. I saw a televised live appearance of the new Child line-up performing the song on the Pepsi Chart show, and I must say I love the jump-squat-hipswivel routine they do during the fast bit (much like in the clip), because it makes those bits (which are some of the joyous pop moments of the year) the hook that stays with you, rather than the slightly grating chorus. As for the unfortunate homeboy styling of Pink's live performance of "There You Go", well, the less said the better. I was even more surprised though when I flipped from this to Channel V in time to catch Sisqo's excellent "Thong Song". We're living in a golden age, my friends.
Why is it that I'm so inexplicably drawn to pop culture? From Buffy to Britney, there's something really inspiring about the way mainstream culture stretches out its hands towards the immortal just by accepting its own disposability. And it's not that I like kitschness.
There actually seems to be a genuine will to experiment and play with conventions in the world of pop (in all its forms) that is currently missing in self-conscious vanguard-approach of "alternative" forms. C'mon, admit it, when was the last time an indie record hit you with the force of "Ooops... I Did It Again" or Billie "Surname, Please" Piper's "Day And Night"? And never mind that I can't remember the chorus to "Day And Night" no matter how many times I hear it. The point is that when it is on I'm completely captivated by it - helped no doubt by her shiny new (faux?) Swedish production values. I won't say that it is actually better for culture to be ephemeral, but I certainly don't think that it's wrong. We experience songs, movies, tv shows, books, heck our lives, one single second at a time. It's those seconds that count. And while a lot of culture stands up well to analysis, if Billie can tell me everything I need to know about my life in three minutes, I know how I'm going to absorb it. I guess I'm just an economical guy...
Random cool Buffy quote for the day: "I guess that would have sounded more commanding if I wasn't wearing my yummy sushi pajamas..."
Wow, big day. Chiefly: I grabbed my parents at about three o'clock in the afternoon and came out to them. Gee, that was an anti-climax. Within fifteen minutes my dad was back watching Fox News (for comic entertainment alone, I assure you). Which must be a good thing... positive thoughts anyways, hey?
Attention readers: There will not be any Skykicking updates today, as I have foolishly left a 2500 word assessment on Refugee Law (what the f*** do I know about refugee law?) until the last possible moment, and I actually have dreams of passing my first semester of uni.
Of course, I'll probably contradict this announcement before the day is through...
Note the new, improved Skykicking layout. Well, it's not exactly a style mag yet, but at least I got rid of the cursed frames. Also, note the first entry in my new Skykicking Archive. Now future generations can be part of the magic as well!
Why hadn't I visited My Science Project before? Maybe it was the incredibly... er... bloggy...blogname which caused my eye to pass over it. Anyway, I was clearly a fool, because this is definitely one of the best music-centric blogs out there. How do I know? Because he likes Destiny's Child and Aaliyah, silly!
3. The truth is that people in general are lovely. I lose sight of this quite often, and I become a bit of a bitch (me?). If you do regularly watch The Simpsons (and of course you all do), well apparently I'm very much like the woman at the Country Club Marge & Homer are invited to, who keeps on pointing out the flaws in Marge's presentation with no actual personally malicious intent. I guess I can see it. I can dismiss people quite casually, writing off their superficial flaws as metonomies of their entire character. And yet this is so misguided. It's assuming that I'm the protagonist in the story of my life simply because it's being narrated that way. What I really need is to suddenly find out that I'm just an extra in the tragic story of the person sitting at the back of my History lecture I've never even met. And people are sometimes so heartbreakingly lovely that it almost makes me sad to be myself. God, I sound like I've been drafted in to work on Jewel's next album.
2. Ideally, I'd like people (not necessarily net people, just anyone) to find themselves surprised in empathising with something I say or do. It's no good simply winning an audience if you don't also make them challenge their own reasoning for being won over. Breathlessly mentioning Buffy the Vampire Slayer at all possible junctures might get me some curious hits from fans, but I'd (cliche alert) trade them all for one e-mail from somebody saying, "I would never have thought that, but..."
1. This website is growing remarkably personal. Originally it was going to be mainly about music, interspersed with the odd rant, but really the truth is that I don't really want to write about music so much as just write in general. I constantly feel the need to frame my thoughts in my head, as if for posterity. Whether it's "how would I review this song" or "how will I remember this moment in fifteen years" is largely irrelevant. And you know, it's kinda funny how we have this grand public speaker existing only in our heads, pontificating wildly to an audience of exactly one. Surely, I think, my mind deserves more than this. And when Fred speaks about reaching out to the largest of possible audience, this is what I think he actually means. I think it is fairly easy to establish that we waste our intelligence on ourselves. More troubling is the question of whether the fiercely personal thoughts that plague us in our most private moments are not also somehow diminished by that very privacy. I'd like to think that as humans we are all thinking about more different things than ever before, but sadly we seem to be sharing less of it all the time. Do blogs fight this? Maybe, maybe not. But I feel like fighting it somehow, if only in this small way, and if only because I like the inherent drama of lost causes.
Number One Occupation Tim Has Learned To Shun: Sleeping. It's almost 4:30 am. I have to get up at 9:00 and sweep the backyard and vacuum the house before my parents arrive back from Sydney and my mum starts crying at the germs. But my body doesn't accept these things. I felt tired at 8:30, only three hours into my ten hour marathon shift of selling movie tickets to nasty people. My voice is gone, but now I'm wide awake, and in the mood to break my own self-imposed rules. So, over a series of posts, some thoughts...
Pearls That Are His Eyes links to the excellent Lo-Fi Electric Diary, run by Dickon Angel of Fosca. Now, I have no idea who Fosca are or what they sound like (even the mighty All Music Guide was confounded), but I like the way this guy thinks. Namely, because he dislikes Terris, Travis, Muse and all the other impossibly boring bands making the rounds in the UK right now. The fanzine run by other bandmember Rachel Stevenson is just too indie for me, but you might like it.
I told my hairdresser to cut my hair "really, really short this time". So he cut it moderately short. He's not a bad man, but he does have some moral and ethical issues about the length of my hair that annoy me slightly. If I want to look like a goddamned freak, then he should facilitate me. Instead here I am with hair too long to be unobtrusive, but too short to just flop down. I could probably use this as some clever metaphor for society at large, but I had four hours sleep last night and I've already philosophised too much this week. More musical content soon!
Tom nicely misinterprets my concerns over "anticipating feedback" in article 112 of Blue Lines. Read it anyway. But to clarify: I was actually thinking of his intimate involvement with market research. The practice of finding out what the most amount of people least dislike and serving it up to them in as stale and sanitary a manner as possible is one of the inevitable failings of modern society. I suppose the similar danger with blogs is that through the formulation of a "craft" of blogging, content and links might eventually be doled out like the creativity-devoid market niche mulch blogs are supposed to counter-act. Of course I doubt that that's actually going to happen, but if anyone sees content approval surveys on any blogs, be sure to warn me.
Meanwhile over at Steal This Blog Fred confesses to megalomaniacal ambitions for his fine blog, revealing the shocking truth - that we're all whores - while at the same time arguing that the truth isn't so bad. Then again, Fred's in a boyband, so what do you expect? Regardless though, he speaks the truth. Go visit him, and help him achieve his dream. Fred also tells me to lighten up, so from now on I promise that there shall be no more musings on the state of the blogging world for at least three days. And that's a Skykicking Guarantee!
Oh, to be young and single. Going out is lots of fun and all, but then you come home and flop on your bed, and you see "The Queen Is Dead" in your cd collection, and feel "I Know It's Over" just begging to be played. "And if you're so very, very handsome..." Hence a retreat to the world of blogging. Anyway, adolescent angst is, like, way overrated. Everyone I speak to is, when they get drunk and maudlin enough to admit it, desperate for a meaningful relationship, as if this is somehow going to solve all the world's ills. I have to admit I feel the anxious desire too. And yet my straight friends don't have this problem. For them the goal seems to be finding a girl with no emotions and large breasts. It gets me thinking about stereotypes... I had a really great chat with this guy from uni at a club tonight, and I'm thinking "Wow, we're really quickly becoming good friends." But of course this is all it will ever be, all I will ever allow it to be, and this guy, while charming, gay and probably available, just doesn't fit the bill. Why? because only doomed relationships are acceptable. Yay for me.
I take back what I said before about the internet community becoming less self-conscious, 'cause there's a hell of a lot of existential angst going on at nearly every blog I visit. The major issue seems to be the purpose of blogs: do we bloggers have some kind of ethical code we should run our sites by? What should be valued in blogs? The unsurprisingly delightful Oh Messy Life takes the pessimistic view that blogs are nothing more than a new psycho-capitalist construct: we're bartering our links, our witty comments and our cool technical-knowhow for reciprocal links of acknowlegement at other blogs. In other words, we're working our asses off to win brand loyalty.
Of course, I don't have a problem with this sort of practice. It's shallow, true, but the whole point of blogs, and anything on the internet, is that it doesn't just exist in a vacuum. I hate to get all intertextual on y'all, but surely a blog (and for that matter any personal representations on the net) is as much about the feedback provided by those reading it as simply the blogger's hard work alone. Anticipating that feedback is cynical, but so what? It's also cleverly preemptive and creatively stimulating. But again this is just my vaguely pro-capitalist bias speaking, and I can imagine Tom having something not so nice to say about anticipating feedback in general. But what do you think?
I was actually going to write about Donna’s stab at the “MacArthur Park Suite”, but quickly realised that would require a thesis. And besides, “I Feel Love” makes a great contrast to my own previous thoughts on Kraftwerk. Tom reckons that this Moroder helmed disco smash is possibly the greatest single ever. I can hardly disagree. Everything you need to know about dance music lies dormant, waiting to be discovered in this peerless technological wonderland. Donna does a great job of course, with her shimmering, ethereal coos and suggestive sighs, but really this is Georgio’s show, and Underworld knew what they were doing when they sampled the itchy, globular synth riff that is the song’s only hook to serve a similar purpose in their “King of Snake”. Moroder’s mastery is even more evident when Donna’s voice drops out and all you can hear is the stomping 4/4 beat and those crazy synth oscillations wobbling back and forth, while the sound of the synths themselves slowly morphs, as if they were spinning on wheels inside your head. Needless to say it’s difficult to take the “innovations” of a broad swathe of Euro-dance music from the nineties seriously after hearing this track.
What I think I like most though is that while “I Feel Love” is the most mechanically propulsive disco track ever, it’s also impossibly smooth. Those two extremes have tended to tug dance music in different directions right through this decade, to the music’s detriment, and hearing this music reminds me of what went wrong, and how it could still be right again.
Oh, and I’m not trying to swipe Tom’s tastes. I didn’t even realise he had “Trans-Europe Express” on his best albums list until I linked to his list for this entry. Honest!
It occurs to me that Skykicking doesn't really fit in with the top echelons of the blogging community, simply because I fail spectacularly at providing two of the main qualities of weblogs: cool links and elegant design. The second is because I'm clueless (can someone please tell me how I find out how many hits I'm getting?), and the first is because I don't surf randomly, so I never find much of note. However I'll lie and say it's an active choice; that by leaving out the window dressing I'm trying to focus the attention (of the readers, and my own) on the words themselves, so as to better wring out every last drop of worth from them. Certainly the stark simplicity of Josh Blog makes me all the more interested in what Josh has to say, quite apart from the excellence of his writing. On the other hand, blogs like Barbelith, which manages to find a balance between attention to content and more aesthetic concerns, are perhaps even more impressive.
I was explaining to this girl on the train home from university today that blogs were part of the reason I liked capitalism. There's so many people deploring the crass commerciality of the internet these days, but even if the signal-noise ratio ain’t quite what it was, I reckon the wealth of interesting material is far greater than it used to be. More examples of the blogging kind include Riothero, just because it's (deservingly) damn famous, and Catherine's Pita, because it's just fab. Oh and because Catherine linked to me! Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the way to my heart is pathetically obvious. Anyway, now that no-one considers the internet to be the future of anything except pizza delivery, all of the good stuff seems to have lost the painful self-consciousness which always hampered it before. The proliferation of blogs just makes this process explicit. To sum up: people who whine about the “good old days”, of the net, or music, or society in general, all deserve to die. Wouldn’t you agree?
On a related note, you should read Kathleen’s very nice article on Canadian Anglophilia at pearls that are his eyes. It’s sort of a reply to my article on Australian Anglophilia at Freaky Trigger, making me feel like something of a stuffy academic - and that’s quite apart from her searing criticism of my style. Just a clarification though: when I complained that Britpop Indie kids fail to form “any sort of revelatory dialogue between the song and the listener, or to bring about the personal revolutions both sides attempt to will into existence,” I meant that most of these kids are getting off on the image that British indie music conveys - both in terms of lyrics and associated lifestyle - rather than just the music, but really they’re not successful enough in assimilating themselves to that image because, hey, they’ve got real lives too. The “Englishness” is a posture: in the clubgoers, and often also in the song. So you’ve got a group of bands making music deliberately designed to convey a certain (false) impression which these kids are then deliberately choosing to (falsely) adopt, but there’s no actual communication going on. And then these people rant and rave about the plastic nature of American culture! Meanwhile I tend to find that at clubs that play dance music, the audience are really mainly there for the meaningless, unassuming pleasure of the music... at least at the clubs I go to, anyway.
I did express myself in a somewhat sucky manner though. Point taken.
I discovered that the headings under which I listed the blogs I liked were causing sadness, so note that I'm implementing a politically correct labelling policy for this site. In other site-news, I invite you all to write to me. Tell me why what I've written is so damn right/wrong, and I'll post it up. Think of the fame! The glory! The beautiful men and women doubtless scanning this page right now in search of some sensitive net-geek to sweep them off their feet! Ah, the impersonal romance of it all...
Why can't I study? It's a question I ask myself all the time, even on today of all days. There's a whole pile of photocopied papers pertaining to refugee law that I refuse to even contemplate reading. But maybe putting on "Trans-Europe Express" will help. I'm only just getting into Kraftwerk now, and I notice that when I listen to "Europe Endless" I actually start becoming less emotional and more inclined to work. Rolf & Florian's music and their image complement eachother so perfectly it's frightening. The other thing I think of is their reputation as the Godfathers of Techno in relation to their actual recorded output. In a sense its vastly overrated. While I can certainly see enormous similarities between this music and stuff by Derrick May, or Orbital or even Underworld, it's actually when these artists are furthest away from the dancefloor aesthetic that they begin to sound like their idols. Kraftwerk's world is too clean and shiny, seeming to advocate not bodily expression but rather bodily repression. The pulsating rhythms they employ aren’t about movement so much as a smooth, motionless glide. How they ended up siring electro and subsequently techno then is not an example of their vision, but rather a classic example of brilliant mis-interpretation (in other words, getting it right by getting it wrong) on the part of Black Americans.
This is not to dismiss Kraftwerk’s legacy though; “Trans-Europe Express” is one of the most amazing albums I’ve ever heard, just not for the reasons usually stated. What I love about this album is actually its delightful eeriness (check “The Hall of Mirrors”), and the group’s surprising talent for writing excellent, if disturbing songs. Songs which seem to scream “Slow down!” to the rest of the world by presenting just what we’re hurtling towards. That we didn’t end up adopting the cyborg-future they avertise doesn’t invalidate the power of their message, though arguably we have merely become inhuman in different, subtler ways.
In the end I guess it comes down to what you listen to music for: context or enjoyment (that’s an unfair manipulation, I know). Whether or not Kraftwerk presaged the future seems like an irrelevant question to me, because I’m much more interested in exploring the one they created.
More a garridge remix of "Back To Life" than a new tune really. So what makes this great? Firstly, it makes the unacknowledged debt UK garage owes to Soul II Soul quite explicit (though you'd expect that from someone on Jazzie B's label), and so catches that same relaxed, positivity vibe as the original track - albeit underpinned by more frenetic breakbeats and a thick bassline. Secondly, the production is sumptuous, simultaneously tight and very full-sounding, giving this tune the same extra oomph that Artful Dodger tracks have. Of course now that the UK charts are overrun by novelty garage tunes, something this good might get lost in the excitement - apparently this is the biggest chart assault by a new musical style since punk! Oh, and thirdly, the excellent video filmed in a nursing home. See grandparents sing and dance to da sound of da underground! Climaxes with this old guy hollering "Rewind, DJ! DJ, Rewind!" Your nightmares start now.
Everyone’s linking to The Liner Notes Preservation Society, so why should I be any different? However, while this idea is as charmingly quaint as any non-commercialised sector of the web these days, it’s another entry in my list of things that are Getting it totally wrong. Hmmm, perhaps if that list existed anywhere except in my mind, I’d post it up for your perusal. Anyway, liner notes can be cool and all, and the siteowners probably don’ t mean anything much by it, but the idea of getting into new music through them strikes me as fetishistic and pointless - a small battle in the ongoing campaign to turn music the product into music the statement. And you can just bet that the the bulk of political liner-notes come from self-apologetic fucks like Moby who want to put cred-winning “meaning” into their work without becoming Bob Dylan or Public Enemy. Isn’t this what the free-flowing cultural exchange of MP3s is supposed to counteract? Did Napster die for THIS????
I’m eighteen today. I have no real sense of what this means to me. The next few days will probably be interesting though. I sense personal upheavals ahead... I’ll be keeping you posted!
More relevant to all of you: You may have noticed some faults (or at least sudden changes) in the layout of this page. This is simply because with all this crazy Blogger technology, I can’t actually tell what I’ve done to the page until its actually posted. Hopefully now my site is looking a tad more respectable, this won’t be so much of an issue.
Having my own weblog has caused me to start looking at the countless others out there with a new interest. It occurred to me very early on that I’ll never get the design kudos or underground-links-cred that most of these blogs seem to possess quite matter of factly, but what I really love is the sense of personality each blogger demonstrates in spades. I never particularly liked personal web pages, partly because they’re usually stiff and impersonal, but mainly because it never occurred to me to care. But the information-overload of blogging, mixing humor, irrelevance and touching intimate details creates holograms of these real people which, accurate or not, are incredibly compelling. What is disturbing though is how all these people seem to know and reference eachother, sending me further into my spiralling “nobody cares” blog-apathy. Plus, a lot of discussion about DHTML. Current favourite blog: Psionic.nu, though I expect that’s because of a shared love of Buffy.
All Things Philosophical On Buffy The Vampire Slayer. My favourite tv show gets its own academia-stuffed fan site. Fitting really, since behind the conventions of the genre and the facile Generation X markers, Buffy is the cleverest (and the funniest) show on the box. Covering everything from Metaphysics to Ethics and Morality, the writers on the site swing between simplistic generalisations and hi falutin theorising (there’s even a section on Kantian ethics), but the show tends to support the weight of their convictions. Fans will find it insightful. The rest of you will probably be amused.
Get thee hence to Pleasurecraft, website for the many musical guises of Jason Sweeney, sort of the Australian Morrissey/Stephen Merritt/Aphex Twin/whatever he feels like being today. Why do you care? Because Jason seems to have a midas touch in spite of his foolhardy eclecticism, and because he's also a very nice guy.
I can’t seem to escape Moby’s “Play” album, and I don’t even own it. Between the critical acclaim, the radio saturation, the tv commercial backing tracks (latest offender: BBC World’s use of “Porcelain”), and being pressured by my friends to buy the album (and Macy, and Travis), my indifference for Moby’s genre-fusing trickery is fast becoming active dislike.
However, it occured to me that since I do actually own a Moby cd, I should dig it out and see whether it still held a place in my heart. Surprisingly, 1993’s “Move” ep does, oh yes indeed. I don’t know why “Move” works so much better than any of Moby’s work before or after. Maybe it’s because it was Moby’s last significant release before becoming the American ambassador for techno, following which the personality completely consumed the producer. Anyway, there’s no sense of the artist hiding anywhere inside this track, although there are definitely signs that Moby knows his craft, and that craft seems to be genre-fusing after all. With its delirious diva wail and cheesy, triumphant piano fills, “Move” is basically handbag house. But Moby wraps its uplifting melody in a cool, trancey Euro-production, while the emphasis on glistening textures, eerie harmonies and studio effects places it firmly in the progressive house camp. Now I’m not saying that this elevates it to some superior plane - “intelligent handbag” anyone? - but the use of musical craftmanship stolen from too overwhelmingly serious sub-genres, trance and progressive house, in the service of something so delightfully frivolous means far more to me than a whole album of self-conscious artistry. Moby’s real gift is for making anonymous, peerless house music, and right now he should be hanging his head in shame.
Other great tracks on this release: “Unloved Symphony”, which combines anthemic ambience with totally nutter breakbeats, sounding a lot like DJ Crystl’s “Warp Drive”, only harder.
You should all go to Blue Lines, the excellent blog run by Tom Ewing of Freaky Trigger fame. Why? Well, firstly because he did a charming (and unsolicited! Ladies and Gentlemen there is still integrity in this world) write-up of Skykicking there, but more importantly because it's the best blog I've come across so far. His 100th post alone promises, oh, four days worth of entertainment. This recommendation may be a tad gratuitous, since I doubt anyone has come here who hasn't been to Blue Lines before, but then again this whole blog is pretty gratuitous, so what's new?
Simply because I've got nothing better to link to, the photo gallery for The Cool, a play I co-wrote/directed nigh on four years ago. Indeed! Out of the mouths (or pens) of babes and all that. Anyway, the guy in the bottom-left corner of the page is my friend, and the two adults in the bottom-right corner are my mortal enemies. Why do you care? Um, maybe because it offers a chilling insight into the traumas, turmoils and 'tastrophes of the younger generation. Yeah. Let it be known that the pretentious definition of "cool" on the parent page was written by the enemies.
Melbourne music critic extraordinaire Anthony Carew relaunches his Gravity Girl website. Sadly the archive of old reviews and interviews has disappeared, but the wealth of new material will provide hours of diversion. With a few exceptions, Anthony's tastes run decidedly to the anti-pop, but he makes up for it with his relaxed, meandering, often very funny writing. In essence, the exact opposite of what I do, which is to over-pontificate on even the most superficial music.
NME reviewPink's debut album and get it mostly right, though it deserves way more than a 6. My only quibble is with the suggestion that Pink suffers from sameyness and "diva disease". Don't get me wrong, she does, but the implication that female r'n'b artists have to be wacky - like Kelis, Macy or Missy - to warrant attention seems to miss the point. While I love the oddball charisma that Kelis and Missy bring to their respective shows, the best thing about Pink's album (well, one of the best things) is that she knows that her producers are her major asset. She fits her songs around their grooves, allowing the sonic innovation of this music - surely the main reason why we're listening? - to shine through all the more clearly.
"I Was Incredibly Disappointed!"; "You Don't Say?"
So far I think I've really justified you spending your idle time at this site. In fact I think it has been a growing period for us all. Anyway, I'm about to go to a 21st birthday party, so there's no time to get overly-literate about the state of my life, the world etc. etc. What I will do though is post up the first entry in an ongoing list of my musical discoveries (or rediscoveries) of the moment. Eventually when I've amassed enough I'll be able to make a searchable index of these thoughts. Until then though, enjoy them for what they are, one at a time...
Tim's List of Excellent Musicks
1. Disco Inferno - Second Language
Thanks to Ned for this one. The dearly beloved, sadly departed Disco Inferno were, especially in the latter part of their career, always impossibly far out, but never so much as when they were making gorgeous pop songs. "Second Language" isn't pop in either the Britney Spears or the Oasis sense - when I listen to it I don't think "this should have been a top ten hit", realistically or bitterly. Rather, I sense in its boundless sonic vistas (spacey, Edge-style guitar chimes; unearthly, shimmering sample shards like sunlight refracting through prisms; and the endless, numbing click of cameras) a sort of overwhelming inclusiveness. Disco Inferno's music is occasionally difficult, but that was never their intention, and 'Second Language''s simple, plaintive chorus and rhapsodic closing guitarbased climax make it simultaneously one of the warmest and most alien things you'll ever hear. Such a far cry from the studied inaccessability of current 'post rock'.
I'm Tim, 18 years old as of the 15th of May. Just starting out in life. A fresh, innocent young babe at the sacrificial table etc. etc. Living out a relatively stable inner suburban existence in the temperate climes of Melbourne, Australia.
"Skykicking" is taken from a particularly excellent song by long-forgotten ambient-pop one shots Insides. No special significance really, but I thought it sounded decent. This blog is just a chance to let off some creative steam in a mildly pretentious way, without coming under attack from people who actually know me. Expect thoughts, opinions, reviews, ranting, declarations of undying love, the usual.
Why Do I Care?
Because rarely has writing been so passionate, inspiring and all-consuming in its voracious search for the lone kernel of truth that resides at the heart of this meaningless world. Or, because you enjoy reading ""crazy academic mumbo-jumbo" from someone too young to back it up with intellectual cred. Anyhow, welcome!