The best thing about being in a moping mood is the chance to construct the ultimate personal moping soundtrack, which is my current task. Results to go up in the playlist soon. Meanwhile, some non-moping songs that I've been liking muchly:
Snoop Dogg/The Eastsiders - Got Beef
This is the best bounce hip hop send-up since UK Garage outfit Da Click's hilarious "Baad Rhymes". Only this is, like, serious man.
LFO - We Are Back
Bass. Vocoders. Some more bass. Not LFO as in "Lyte & Funky Ones", obviously.
B15 (Zed Bias) - Girls Like This
The beginning of jazzy Garage? Perhaps, but this track is still crass enough and fun enough to live up to its title admirably.
The Aluminum Group - Chocolates
Okay, so this is mopey, but it's not going to be on my soundtrack so I'll mention it here. The most gorgeous thing I've heard this year, this Bacharach homage can literally bring me to tears, which is rare these days.
Global Communication - 14 31
Fourteen minutes of a grandfather clock ticking, with some ambient toss thrown over the top. Should be crap.
Jay-Z - Come & Get Me
Had this for about two months now, but I just love it more and more. Perhaps my favourite song of the year so far? Timbaland outdoes himself with this epic number, which starts off quite innocuously, before exploding into a wasteland of disembodied symphonics, cut-up vocals and found sound debris worthy of Talk Talk, and then slamming into one of the tightest, cruelest grooves he's ever done. Stunning.
Josh doesn't like the reviews of Stephen Thomas Erlewine, who seems to be head honcho at the ever-so-convenient All Music Guide. I pretty much completely agree. The guy (who is quite outshone by the direct evaluations of John Bush and Sean Cooper, or the vivid descriptions of Jason Ankeny and our very own Ned Raggett) seems to bear all the hallmarks of annoyingly competent reviewing: tedious intros detailing both relevant and irrelevant aspects of the band's history, despite AMG also providing comprehensive biographies; the requisite vague statements about "authenticity", "meaningfulness", "deepness" and "timelessness"; and the most amazing tendency to repeatedly flip-flop around a single idea I've ever come across. The man's crowning moment to date must be his orgiastic equivocation over the Oasis's Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants. To whit:
"If it were up to Noel, Standing on the Shoulder of Giants would have been a mellow, midtempo collection of mild psychedelia, spiked with hints of big beat and electronica to prove that he's with it. And that's sort of what the album is, at least in the most reductive sense. The question is whether that's a good or a bad thing."
Really, ladies and gentlemen, does any comment need to be made? Anyway, I guess it just annoys me that the potential for valuable musical criticism exists on all fronts, and yet it is repeatedly strangled by aging musicologists and past-it loudmouths who in an effort to either push the party line or prove their relevance fail to ever come to grips with the music itself.
The "in" debate this month within the blogging community is the point of blogging. The argument seems to be that if you're not actively picking away at the outer limits of what constitutes the concept of "the blog", you may as well give up now. Ah well, shucks folks, it's been nice knowin' y'all...
Seriously though, I wonder if perhaps everyone's not unconsciously fabricating a large part of the concept of blogging. The way I see it, you can view blogging in two ways: either it's a method by which we can transmit information, or it's a distinct activity which has an inherent specialness about it. I have to choose the former. The sense of community which arises from the (sad?) fact that most people who read blogs already have one or plan to make one might suggest that there is some common goal we're all working towards. Which is clearly untrue. Prospective bloggers are not, in my opinion, generally inspired to make blogs by the innovations of those they read so much as the technology being used. Blogger merely provides us with a technology that makes personalised web content easier and more exciting than before; the mission statement must come from within ourselves. The idea that there should be some communal mission statement is preposterous - the same standards were hardly applied when personal web pages started to proliferate towards the beginning of the last decade.
Why do I blog? Because I'm wordy and I need to let it out somewhere, but I don't have the time to write proper articles or have a regularly updated web page. You read this, I assume, because you're interested in what I have to say, and not because you're hoping for some glimpse of the future of the internet. If you are looking for the latter, then you may as well give up now, 'cuz this blog certainly ain't on the cutting edge; but for all those suffering from metablogging-related identity crises, I'll start a new debate: why the hell does it have to be?
The excellent Robin Carmody, who sometimes writes here but can be found in undiluted form here, has written an article on Luke Haines of The Auteurs. He demonstrates why Haines is such a brilliant songwriter by exploring the themes of last year's release How I Learned To Love The Bootboys,which was probably my second favourite "rock" album last year. Robin reckons the album is a scathing probe into the social wasteland of seventies England. I do agree, but being a teenage Australian I find it difficult to draw any revelations from this. What could I possibly gain from such an album?
For me though, Haines has always played a similar role as Morrissey does for so many. What I identify with in How I Learned To Love The Bootboysis not the profusion of period-piece details so much as the fundamental truths hidden behind them. If Haines is writing about the seventies, then he's writing about his adolescence, which in a way he always has done. From the Dickensian social mores of the first two Auteurs albums to the missing bodies and conspiracy theories of 96's After Murder Park, the underlying message is that isolation is a constant and comfort in others is fleeting and false.
The difference between Luke and Morrissey though is that Morrissey believed (or believes?) that his troubles were undeniably worse than anyone else's in the world, but Luke knows that his sort of misery traverses the entire sociocultural map. He can take solace in the fact that even if he's feeling spiteful and bruised, his enemies are probably feeling the same way or worse. This communal emptiness is the sort of thing that Thom Yorke wrote about on OK Computer,only without the sledgehammer obviousness or faux-Dadaist delerium; it's reminiscent of Pulp's Jarvis Cocker on Different Class, except that Luke doesn't burn with the same righteous proletariat energy as Jarvis, perhaps because he knows that the working classes wouldn't be any happier if they were the aristocracy. He finds the same rotting spirit inside both the lowest bootboy and the most arrogant uptown girl.
This philosophy was succintly summed up in the chorus of "Child Psychology" by Haines' side project Black Box Recorder: "Life's unfair/kill yourself or get over it," and further demonstrated in said group's recent "hit" single "The Facts Of Life", an anthem for the universal horribleness of teen lust. But while the messages presented by Black Box Recorder have greater clarity than Haines' other work, they also have less impact. In the same way that Belle & Sebastian use a wealth of individual details (names, places, sordid activities) to make stories that are thematically banal seem crushingly important, it is the settings and the characters of the songs Haines writes under the moniker of The Auteurs that make them seem both more than just didactic and more resonant. Luke's weedy "Hey kids, life sucks, and I know because it happened to me" delivery is much more affecting than Black Box Recorder's more direct "life sucks" lectures doled out using icy, impersonal female vocals. In short, we need more bands like The Auteurs; bands who make us ache to listen in on what we don't like to hear.
I'm interested in hearing Lil' Kim's new album, "The Notorious K.I.M" (what's with sucky album titles this year?), although not because I've taken much notice of her, or because I've heard any of the material. In fact most of my motivation comes from the promo shots of her decked out in copious jewels, a blonde wig and blue contacts and unnaturally lighted, light-coloured skin. She looks like some Bond-girl pin up. She also looks suspiciously caucasian.
This is taken from an interview promoting her previous album:
'Kim's had some issues to reconcile. Classic dark-skin, ghetto-bred black-girl issues of self-esteem. Body as profit. Style wars. Absence of sisterhood. Believing the men who useta call her ugly. "They all liked the same women," she says. "They always like that light-skin, European-lookin' girl. And I never was her."'
So why is this Queen Bitch giving in now? There are heaps of theories about rich black rap playas living large as some sort of elaborate pretense at finally ditching the ghetto and joining the white aristocracy. But Kim's approach is disturbingly literal, and whether they're ironic or not the photos I saw fascinated me. I'd always assumed that the bitch persona of Kim, Missy et al. was some sort of perversely affirmative community identification, but maybe that's just a pose until Kim has the chance to leave "her girls" bleeding in a ditch while she goes cavorting with the republicans.
I had to write an essay for my sister for her Film Studies class (I'm too nice, too smart, and too patient in waiting for my fifty dollars). It was about the Australian film The Castle, exploring why, despite the film's success in Australia and the creators' attempts to make it more US-friendly by replacing Australian cultural references with American ones, it still flopped over there. Here's one thing that occured to me pretty quickly:
"To Australians it might seem bizarre that American audiences would even require "cultural transfers". After all, Australians have been consuming unadulterated American material for decades. However, precisely because of our unlimited exposure to American culture, Australian audiences are better equipped to deal with unknown cultural references and themes in American films, to absorb them and to adapt to them. In much the same way that Australians accept new technology much faster than most other members of the West, we are more open to sudden influxes of new ideas about art, fashion, language and culture from foreign sources.
The conventions which govern American cinema, whether it is the burnished hero in an action film or the drawn-out relationship of two photogenic New Yorkers in a romance, have become the unrealistic and yet utterly prevalent stereotypes for human behavior in Australian culture. While we do not necessarily apply these idealized American codes of behavior to our own lives, we unconsciously place them on pedestals and refer to them as if they were in fact real. This tolerance has however developed through necessity (a lack of, or perhaps at some stage inferiority of, Australian cultural content to substitute) and for Americans, so used to being the cultural trendsetters, a wall of insularity still exists between themselves and outsiders. Since they have never needed to repeatedly interpret the codes of another culture on their screens, they canít do so as naturally or unconsciously as Australians can."
This is not to bemoan the absolute dominance of American culture within Australian society. As I've said before, I don't have a problem with it. My thoughts tend to run the other way: it makes me proud that Australian society (or at least metropolitan Australian society) is so flexible, so willing to learn from outsiders, and yet can still come up with a film like "The Castle", which is ineffably, definitely Australian. This sort of cultural dualism is a good thing in my opinion; it allows us as a culture to be more open-minded and diverse, and it challenges us to question our concept of Australia. Watching "The Castle" and, um, "Terminator 2" or "You've Got Mail" back to back invites a dialogue, an acknowledgement of the differences and similarities. What could one culture learn from another?
Once you realise that cultural dualism isn't defeat, the dialectic conflicts of assimilation vs. anti-assimilation or high culture vs. low culture being discussed on Mike and Tom's sites respectively seem both a lot less pressing and a lot more fascinating. Why should everything be reduced to an either/or position when you can have so much more fun flirting on the borders?
Bloody hell! What a weekend. Life is crazed, surprising, fucked up and beautiful. I'm going to need to undertake some major recuperative blogging (funny how blogging, which was once an exciting new development, has become perhaps the most "normal" aspect of my life at the moment). That, or hole myself up in my room and listen to Spiritualised's "I Think I'm In Love" a million times or more. Thanks be to Faj for posting in my absence.
Wow! The freedom to place my text directly onto the web, instead of merely having random paragraphs of my emails hijacked and held hostage on other people's blogs. Yeah, i guess i should enjoy the literary subversion, but i call it being taken out of context, goddammit! (the blaspheming Faj here, by the way)
Anyway, i just wanted to enjoy this newfound freedom, and while i'm here, to extend the dawson's creek/cliches ideas from Tim's previous blog. I would like to say, for the record, that i am not afraid of cliches, in fact, i think they are unavoidable. There are only so many permutations of the boy-meets girl, boy-loses-girl dynamic etc., which is why teen drama is so popular, and it was so valid for the first season of 90210 to be issue-based, eg the drug episode, and the teen-pregnancy episode. Modern sociology has shown the repeating 'patterns' in human behaviour, which if they are not cliches themselves, certainly perpetuate others. Nevertheless, just because the events of our life need be cliched, does not mean our experiences of them need be. As far as we know, there is no 'elementary particle' of experience of consciousness, and so the sense of self gained from experience and overall consciousness may be quite unique.
Earlier dramas, such as 90210, gained a lot of criticism for having such cliched events and dialogue, but i think the characters of these shows were merely expressions of the teen-cliches the show was trying to express, and the characters had no autonomy outside of the cliched dynamics of the relationships they had with their family, friends, and boy/girlfriends. I think Dawson's Creek tries hard to give its characters some realism and autonomy outside of the drama that ensues each week, but i think this is yet to be seen. The dialogue of the characters gives them a soul, but it is yet to expand beyond passively experiencing the neverending onslaught of cliches. If u listen very carefully, u can hear the muffled cries of the characters, "Help me! I'm trapped in this world of cliches!" The fear that the viewer can feel, is when they identify with the events of the program, and therefore identify their own identity with that of the characters, as Tim expressed previously. But our own speech and thoughts are not governed by underpaid underfed hollywood writers.
Fly and be free!
All complaints about coherence and content should be sent to me, but feel free to complain to Tim as well for letting me post this crap.
Thursay night is my major going out night, so now I'm fartoo tired (and indeed emotional) to actually write anything. Instead I'll give you an excerpt from an e-mail that the cultural horticulturalist that is Faj sent me about my comments regarding American tv shows. Faj is an interesting case: I'm iffy about him face-to-face, but he's an absolutely fabulous electronic acquaintance, full of inspiring pearls of wisdom. Here's one:
"While feeling constantly alienated by your musical commentaries, i did like ur comments made on Dawson's Creek, and have noticed the considerable change in the show. At first i saw it as a decline; the first season was brilliant. With its heightened state of reality, its own personal metalanguage, and transcendental characters, it replicated the experience of watching a play. However, recently, my face has moved from a smile to a cringe, as the show has seemingly moved towards Spelling-ville. I am pinged with self-doubt though. i fear my cringes at the show come not from the trite cliches of adolescent life that they depict (as i originally assumed), but from their depressingly accurate ones (am i really just another arts student who hopes to find artistic salvation where there is none? am i just another rambler, rambling self-reflexively in parentheses?)."
And I'll add a thought: realising that you are a cliche is not in my opinion the worst aspect of recognising your identity - unless of course you're an obsessively self-analytical person like Faj or myself. Far worse is knowing that you're the wrong cliche, or a not particularly interesting one. I'm totally predictable. Only not in an interesting way.
If I don't post anything when I wake up, I should let you know that I'm spending the next two nights out of the city, so blogging will temporarily cease. But Simon or Faj might post something to keep you interested.
I was just reading this article at Signal Drench. I suppose one of the major things I like about using the blogging format to talk about music is that there isn't the pressure of having to write a proper review, 'cuz it's just a blog post. I dislike the actual reviews I write (which is the reason why I haven't written for NYLPM in a while) because the struggle to fit in everything I feel I need to say about an album, or even a song, comes at the expense of writerly concerns (or vice versa), and even then it's generally only 10% of what I think.
I now find it difficult to not have an internal discussion about the music I'm listening to when I'm playing it, so I end up with heaps of diffuse ideas that just pop out at me, and which wouldn't tie in coherently in a proper review. Hence blogging, and posts which talk about different music but with a certain argument in mind. I think in general reviewers, both in magazines and on the net, feel the need to put the music ahead of their own opinions, in a sense. The concept of "giving every album a fair chance", as Signal Drench (who are nonetheless a great bunch) say they do, seems to slightly undermine what I think is the most valuable goal in music reviewing, which is not to pass out wise, even-handed assessments of albums so much as to inspire the reader to be as passionate about music as the reviewer is.
I really like Proven's diary entries. Even (or especially?) when they're written by someone else (note to PJ: get your own blog). So, personal stuff can work well when it's funny. I used to be funny once. I swear! One day I'll post the parodies of Xena I made up with my good friend David. That'll have you shakin' in your boots, ya doubters...
Piano Magic's Artist's Riflesalbum is stunning, and will probably be my vote for "rock" album of the year. Of course, if you're a Carducci fan, you might protest at its placing in that category, despite the fact that it's more "natural" than what I'd heard by them previously - their "Bliss Out" album, some tracks from last year's Low Birth Weight. The thing about Piano Magic is that, with some very fleeting exceptions, their music goes to great lengths not to "rock"; it's music as pristine as I can imagine being made with conventional rock instruments. Which doesn't necessarily make it any betterthan hoary rock music (see vast amounts of tedious Chicago post-rock). Nor is it particularly new (on the male-sung tracks they sound like a vastly-improved Jack, on the female-sung ones they sound like Australia's recently defunct Paradise Motel) but Piano Magic plough this vein so damn well that it makes external justifications for this album's quality unnecessary and irrelevant. Nice.
Tom and Josh have already discussed this Joe Carducci article about the perils of studio-centric music production, and of course both do so excellently (check them out!) so I'll try to keep my comments fresh. My favourite paragraph, as anyone who knows me at all will have already guessed, is this one:
"The only heat R&B, once the hot form, can hope to generate today is freezer burn. (Look at any hip-hop video: The sound is intimate, nearly reverb-free and at psychoacoustic odds with the image of the inevitable wide, high-ceilinged stage on which two dozen dancers are shaking four dozen butt cheeks.) In today's faux-R&B, the Tin Pan Alley pattern of the singles market has interfaced with the modern record industry technocracy completely -- aided and abetted by an increasingly cosmopolitan, increasingly ignorant audience. Indeed, this is an "R&B" that's increasingly sci-fi in its hysterical self-loathing flight from the American earth of roadhouse, kitchen, church, juke joint, whorehouse, etc. (Again, see those videos.)"
This paragraph amuses me because I agree with it completely, and yet fail to see how Carducci can be expressing a negative opinion. Sure, you can draw a comparison between Celine Dion and Destiny's Child and say that the music for both has a certain cold perfection - everything is immaculate and inhuman. But the disgust that Carducci might rightly feel for Celine's producers is misplaced when directed at Timbaland, She'kspere and Rodney Jerkins; Celine's music can be relied upon to be the perfect embodiment of a formula so bland, safe and entrenched in consumer consciousness that it tends to be actively insulting. The "formulas" used by the leading R&B producers however are at their best fresh, experimental and in a way risky. Sure, these guys are biting each other's styles, but they're also constantly slotting in new ideas, new tricks that potentially counteract the flawless nature of the music.
Carducci longs for the element of chance that once informed the recording of rock music - the "live" aspect where if something seemed to work in mid-performance, the band could go with it, rather than being slaves to the click-track and over-dub. I do like the idea of bands allowing their material to breathe; in many ways it's like the band is having an internal dialogue with their own songs, giving and receiving feedback which can lead the music to a closer concept of its most perfect state.
What Carducci perhaps fails to see is that R&B mirrors this feedback process, only on a broader, communal level. In a sense, every "important" R&B single over the past few years (we could say maybe starting with Blackstreet's "No Diggity" in '96) has been a bit of a manifesto, a collection of musical concepts which other producers use as a template for their own work, jettisoning some ideas and taking others further. It's obvious that without Timbaland's pioneering beat programming on tracks such as Aaliyah's "Are You That Somebody?", She'kspere would never have been able to come up with TLC "No Scrubs", but it's also obvious that the vocal-beatbox effects Timbaland used liberally during that period have failed to become a staple of the genre. And She'kspere himself has introduced his own innovations on tracks like Destiny's Child's "Bills, Bills, Bills" and "Bugaboo", creating beats that aren't just syncopated, but are in fact angular and unstable as they threaten to skip over themselves - still, he's already stopped using the now-banal bubbly "whoop-whoop" sounds that were all over his '99 releases.
You might say that all of music, and not just R&B, is built on this kind of communal experimentation, with artists feeding off each other's ideas. The point I'm trying to make though is that there has yet to be (and hopefully never will be) established a firmly enshrined set of guidelines about how to make clinically perfect pop music. The absolute stylistic gulf that exists between Max Martin (Britney's producer) and Babyface should be enough to prove that. Sure, studio-bound music isn't as "fiery" or prone to ill-timed guitar solos as some live stoner rock band might be, but the element of danger, the process of success-through-mistakes is still clearly present within the music, which is part of what makes it all so exciting.
But perhaps Carducci is simply getting caught up in that old red herring: what "rock" is supposed to stand for, and consequently what it is supposed to exclude. Like any staunch believer, he treats the creeping onset of the opposition (pop) as some sort of drug that we must be careful not to succumb to. But if pop is a drug it's not a narcotic, it's ecstacy: mindless, energetic, all-welcoming, and if it's made with the right ingredients it gives you a great buzz.
While waiting for the typically excellent Buffy to start last night, I caught the tail-end of the really banal Once And Again, the new series from the makers of Thirtysomething but designed for fortysomethings. The last five minutes contained this intense heart-to-heart between the main character and his daughter, with the two of them explaining their feelings using simple but poetic metaphors. Meanwhile this was being spliced with black-and-white interludes of the daughter talking about learning to ride her bike (yes, another metaphor).
It makes me think that all the complaints about Dawson's Creek's verbosity are misguided. Nearly every American show (hell, even Full House) has these scenes where the characters, usually the adults but sometimes kids as well, will suddenly know exactly what to say to make things right, or will have the perfect analogy for the situation and suddenly everything will become clear. Which is not real in the slightest. When was the last time you came up with a simple analogy for your life that worked smoothly, that even you understood, let alone someone else? Dawson's Creek may draw upon a wider vocabulary than most shows, not to mention real life, but the fact that the characters still confuse eachother, still have to struggle to make sense, seems to be much more realistic to me. Not that I particularly like Dawson's Creek anymore, but if it's a choice between that and Once And Again... Well, it's not even a choice.
Another Skykicking First! Being inspired by the excellent Saturn, I've implemented a new innovation: anytime I discuss any song in serious detail, I'll include a realaudio copy of the song, so you can find out if my airy descriptions carry any weight.
You can check out examples of this exciting offer by heading on down to the Playlist page. There are one or two files missing. I'll try and fix them tomorrow.
Or, if you're too lazy to go there, to mark the unveiling of this facility you can listen to Plaid's excellent remix of Studio Pressure's Relics, as discussed earlier. Enjoy!
Here is a sociology fieldwork test I did for Guy a couple of weeks ago. Apparently I stuffed up his expected results because I was "too self-aware", so he fabricated my answers, no doubt having me declare my indecent obsession with Christina Aguilera and my overwhelming grief over Princess Diana's death. So, for the sake of my ego:
Celebrity and Self-Identity
Do you find yourself regularly following "celebrity culture" (through reading magazines, wacthing entertainment news programs)?
On and off. I'll be totally clueless about some major piece of celeb-news, and then I'll surprise people with my knowledge of minute details in regards to something else.
If so, through what form of media?
Sort of take it in unconsciously: tv, newspapers, magazines (of the "Who" variety), conversations with friends.
Do you find yourself generally aware of the movements of famous celebrities, for example, what pictures they are making, the state of marriages etc.?
Only really the celebrities that interest me, or when the news is absolutely everywhere. If so, why do you find yourself interested in such things? I think its just human nature. We generally don't like opening up to people, so celebrities are sort of the perfect subsitute, sort of the "I have a friend, who..." trick. You can basically work out where you stand in relation to anything by using celebrities as a measuring yard, because if you name even the weirdest thing, chances are a celebrity has done it. Like, people don't just strike up conversations about the pros and cons of breast implants, or say the moral ambiguities surrounding it, but you can mention Dannii or Britney Spears and suddenly the way is open.
If something negative happens to a celebrity you admire, do you feel emotionally moved, saddened perhaps?
Not really, unless I feel a connection with that celebrity for some reason - say if they make movies, films or books that have really affected me. But I frequently feel disgusted with people who get emotional about celebrities for no reason other than the fact that they are celebrities.
What was your reaction to the death of Diana, Princess of Wales?
This is a good example: I just didn't understand why everyone was so overwhelmed. I mean, her death was "sad" for people who actually knew her, but what had Diana quantatively added to the lives of people in Australia apart from her ongoing appearances in tabloids? I'm not trying to discredit her - the point is that humans, no matter how good they are, aren't meant to be universally mourned. It becomes meaningless. So I was basically very polite about her death, but I was very confused by the seemingly sincere nature of people's grief. Although a lot of people were just being melodramatic, I think. It was an excuse for a media frenzy, so why not?
If you were moved by the death, can you pin point why?
Wasn't moved, so...
Now, a few years after the death, can you relate to the emotions you felt at the time of the death? Do you think your reaction was in proportion to the role Diana actually played in your life?
My emotions - a completely unemotional sense that it was a shame that Diana had died - were *exactly* in proportion to her role in my life, because she didn't play a role. I'd extend that courtesy to any nice-enough-seeming public figure.
With celebrities that you admire, how do you feel about the fact that in reality, you have never had contact with the? This being the case, what do you think about the fact that you know about their lives so intimately?
I think it's an incredibly good thing not to have contact with celebrities. The whole point is that we objectify them, and make them into what we want them to be in our minds. Meeting them would invariably be disappointing, confusing or both. Of course, when I do meet someone I admire, it's almost exciting because of the conflict between the image and reality. I start obsessively asking myself "which part do I like more?" As for the details, well, I feel sorry for the celebrities, but as I think I said before, its incredibly helpful in relating to people.
What about forming emotional bonds with people you don't know?
I don't tend to really. When it comes to the case of celebrities who have affected me through their work, I definitely used to form emotional bonds, but I can't anymore because of the deluge of stuff I sort through, and because I've come to conclusion that what I'm really identifying with is the work, not the artist. That probably sounds like I think I'm a superior being, but it's true. On the other hand, I don't think forming emotional bonds is necessarily a bad thing. I almost have a bit of admiration for people who do pointlessly, obsessively align themselves with some aspect of pop culture. There's something worthy in it, maybe.
What role do you think the media plays in this?
The media play an important role insofar as giving us what we want. I think it's easy to demonize them, but apart from the fact that they are often needlessly intrusive, it's wrong to blame them for making us fascinated with celebrity culture. I mean we have to take responsibility for it, although I don't think it is necessarily a shameful thing. But the witch hunt following Diana's death was appalling. And it was a witch hunt: the community was really trying to divorce themselves from that aspect of their personalities that they didn't like, so they were placing it all on the media's shoulders. Not that I feel sorry for the media - Diana's death helped them as much as it hindered them.
In addition to perhaps following or liking certain celebrities, do you have any celebrity role models?
Pretty much only in a glib, superficial sense. You know, like I admire Cher's agelessness. But its a meaningless admiration. And when I say it I don't know if its a compliment or an insult (the dreaded "irony factor" maybe). But I don't personally identify with celebrities enough for any of them to stand as role models for me I guess. I am definitely influenced by the product - music, shows, books, films - but the person who made them is meaningless to me. So, Buffy is a role model, but Sarah Michelle Gellar is an actor.
The celebrities that you admire; do they tend to share similarities with yourself? Dress sense, political views, for example?
My celebrity "role models" tend to be utterly different to me. In a way I don't know enough about myself to identify celebrities that are similar to me...are there any? I don't know... But yeah, I actually prefer celebrities who reveal something about life that I don't have access to, or won't go near. It's the fantasy element coming into play.
If so, do you think are natuarally drawn to people who are similar to you?
God, I really don't know. I don't know what defines people who I'm drawn to. Somehow I don't think that its similarity with myself.
Do you find yourself occasiojnally mirroring the actions of celebrities you admire - perhaps mirroring style of dress, or perhaps political views?
No, I only do that with people I've actually known, met, or seen. Trying to follow celebrity fashion is a thankless, expensive task, and I'm not interested enough to try (whereas, if I've actually met someone, their style would probably seem a bit more attainable). The same sort of thing applies to political views, the difference being that I would never trust a celebrity's political views.
Do you think you could be influenced by celebrities you admire subconsciously?
Oh of course, but obviously I can't really work out who or how. This would probably really work on a broader social scale - the actions of celebrities influencing the ethics of society rather than personal morality. So, Jennifer Lopez wearing that dress won't make people who are uptight about revealing their bodies change, but it will change the general standard of what is "decent" clothing.
What about celebrities you dislike? Do you avoid mirroring their actions?
It's not really an issue, because the problems and choices I face are so different to those of most celebrities. Ultimately, in morally ambiguous situations, I go with my instincts... which of course is influenced by the society like we talked about with the last question.
What are some other role models or people you admire? People you know personally perhaps?
No general ones, just bits of different people. I admire my friends because they're generally very strong, very sure of themselves. I admire people I've met who are intensely creative - actors, musicians, writers - where you can feel their energy. They can't stop doing what they do. I admire that, and wish I had more of it. Teachers have also influenced me a lot, I think.
Do you consider yourself religious?
What areas of your life do you find you have the strongest connection to? Work, university or the home for example?
I'm incomparably above and beyond them all.
Do you believe any of these areas strongly shapes who you are?
Everything shapes me. I know that I changed significantly when I started work, and again when I started university. Basically I think that we become who we are through experience, so there is no way that my environment doesn't influence who I am.
When you were younger, or now even, did you aspire to "be" any celebrity you admired?
I honestly can't remember.
Did you aspire to "be" anyone you knew personally, or someone you knew for work, school or the church, for example?
When I was in year three, I remember that I really admired the year sixes, in a general sense. I guess in a way I wanted to "be" one of them.
What do you see as the relationship between celebrity and self-identity?
Choosing which celebrities you like and which you dislike is very much a code for who you are, and it says a lot more about yourself than it does about the celebrity. For me to say "BRITNEY RULES! RICKY SUX!" shows that I am actively aligning myself with the aspects of culture they represent, or defining myself against it. So definitely, we define ourselves by celebrities, but in a way that is far less "dangerous" than might usually be suggested. We're using them, rather than being used.
Simon, despite wishing me dead with an alarming frequency, is an incredibly cool guy who should know that my failure to revoke his blogging rights was deliberate. Speak up, man! Anyway, he just sent me this utterly disturbing snapshot of everyone's favourite teen queen. Scary, no?
In a way, I hate amazingly-good-value cd sales. I end up coming home with piles and piles of stuff that I then don't have time to properly sort through. And despite the cheapness, I spend much more than I should due to the sheer volume of appealing stuff. Some recent unexpected bargains:
Marvin Gaye - What's Going On (because it's a classic, maaaan!)
Super Furry Animals - Outspaced (psychedelic whimsy and raging buffoonery)
Todd Terry - A Day In The Life (formulaic, but oh my what a formula!)
Justice - The Greatest Hit (surprisingly excellent jazzy-jungle venture)
Prefab Sprout - Andromeda Heights (approaching irrelevance, but still shimmeringly perfect)
Spiritualised - Pure Phase (the missing link between Lazer-Guided mantra and Floating In Space manna? We'll see when I spin it)
Certificate 18 Presents - The Widescreen Versions (techno cognoscenti take on jungle fraternity)
Special mention must go to the Justice album, perhaps because I wasn't expecting that much from someone who runs a label called "Modern Urban Jazz". However, not only is The Greatest Hit generally closer to Spring Heel Jack than Alex Reece - widescreen technoid panoramas spiked with occasional terrifying/unnerving noises reminiscent of Source Direct, the "jazz" references being, if anything, to Herbie Hancock circa "Mwandishi" and "Crossings" rather than Giles Peterson - but the breaks are surprisingly impressive for a '99 release; as nuanced as Foul Play or Neil Trix, and as plushly produced as Adam F. It begins to pale towards the end, as Justice includes a remix of a track by the mediocre James Hardway and some of his own downtempo experiments, but the first half of the album contains some of the best "intelligent" drum & bass that I've heard in ages. Then again, I'm beginning to suspect that this is a retrospective release rather than an album proper, so maybe Justice has converted to 2-step-sax-and-rhodes-keyboards banality since then. Can anyone fill me in?
Also on the jungle tip, check out Plaid's awesome remix of "Relics", an old-skool track by Studio Pressure aka Photek on The Widescreen Versions. I always thought that "Relics", one of the first hardcore tracks to allow fragile beauty into the mix (as well as presaging the xylophone craze in UK Garage), was severely overlooked in the rush to acclaim Rupert Parkes' later releases. Plaid recognise its potential though, and expand upon it, producing an otherworldly epic that still retains the original's kinetic impulses.
Mwa ha hah! Not only have I battled against Geocities and won, finally managing to install Blogger-powered archives stretching right back to this site's inception, but I have also added Permalinks as well, so now you need never forget a single Skykicking moment... Maybe one day I'll grow up to be a real blog.
I started getting a bit fluish last night (it has since gotten worse), which caused me to have bizarre dreams about the following:
Earlier in the evening, I had seen the film Edge Of Seventeen, which tells the story of Eric, a teenager dealing with the process of realising he is gay and consequently coming out during the eighties. It's a flawed film, and very much a period piece as well, but quite enjoyable nonetheless. One of the problems I had with it though was that I found Eric's rather dramatic swings between being "normal" and being very camp to be unrealistic. Later in conversation with my friends though I realised that this was simply because the character's experience of coming out was so radically different to mine: while he pretty much changed his entire personality numerous times in less than a year, my process has been one of smooth transition that's gone on for about five years, in which time I don't believe my fundamental or superficial nature has changed significantly (though who am I to judge?).
I guess because of the subject matter of the film, I was more prepared to unconsciously personalise and internalise its story, to pretend that the people on screen were real people who I perhaps knew, which I would never do with a conventional heterosexual romance film. Thus, when aspects of the film contradicted my own experiences, I reacted negatively towards them. Following this conversation though, I began to wonder: whose experiences were more "real"? Mine, or those portrayed in the film? Certainly everyone I went with seemed to relate to the main character more than I did.
This was all playing on my mind when I followed Mike's link to Planet Soma and checked out siteowner David's journals, starting from 1979 and getting as far as 1986 before finally retiring to bed. I found myself appalled and yet fascinated by the wealth of brutally personal information that was being shared here - David didn't shy away from being graphic about his emotions or his nefarious activities. However what elevated this above titillating, voyeuristic diversion was the fact that while David's journal is in present tense, the distance from the actual events allows the reader (and present-day David) to pick out plots, themes and story arcs that at the time of writing David couldn't see, and yet without all the cloying revisionism and attempts to contextualise that would clutter a biography. Despite the fact that David seemed to go through as many personal transformations as Eric did, there was an overall sense of direction, if not to his life, then to him as a character, a recognisable human - the Broadway production of his story was unfolding in spite of his best efforts.
And so, despite the fact that both the fictional Eric and the decidedly non-fictional David seemed to have a much worse time of it than I have had, I began to grow depressed. Where is my story arc? Would the Hallmark telemovie of my life have any interesting lessons to impart? An inspiring speech to close with? No. Or, at least not as far as I'm aware. I know that there are things I crave to fill up my life, but I only just realised that those things we all crave are probably things which will allow us to tell our story back to ourselves: love, family, material gain, a successful career, popularity and respect, commitment to causes, education... As if everyone's life is a rags to riches tale in which we define the currency.
These kinds of thoughts are dangerous, as I begin to judge myself rather harshly. I want a meaningful relationship, as do many of my friends, but maybe the reason why I have a sudden aversion to any real prospects is that I know that I really only want one because I feel it would make me a better person. Should I put people through hell/utter boredom just so I can jump a couple of points in my own estimation? And it's not just relationships. This blog, like so many blogs out there, is not merely the sum of its parts - links and reviews and witty observations - because it is also my attempt to provide some sort of narrative to life. The fact that so much of it is about musical discovery does not exclude it from being self-discovery. But I can't escape the fact that my life feels less like a Broadway musical and more like the Samuel Beckett play I'll be writing about tomorrow: nothing but endless routines spiked with shards of fragmented meaning, but with no coherent overall sense of purpose to take comfort in. So maybe that's why we blog. The shards are all we have.
And I know y'all hate these personal posts, but if I can't say it here, where can I say it?
This post was originally going to just say "One day, Jerwin, one day." But then I realised that those sorts of posts are needlessly cliquey. So, the photo situation: I still have some snaps to be used up on my disposable camera, and I have to somehow engineer some opportunity to use them, as I'm going to want the broadest range of pictures from which to choose the one I present to the blogging community. Possibly only my right profile etc. Then it's just a matter of utilising my good friend Simon's scanner, and presto! I'll be starting my own boy band maybe. Or... perhaps a solo venture with Jam & Lewis producing? Yes, it's all becoming clear.
This is getting so drawn out I should have a countdown or something. And an official webcast unveiling of the photo. Y'all shouldn't get your hopes up too high.
And as a nice adjunct to my Ghostface Killah review, my Wu-Tang name is apparently "Fiendish Observational Comedian"... which is quite fitting, wouldn't you agree? This link shamelessly swiped from The Rumpus Room.
Armand Van Helden'sKilling Puritans album is infuriating. Oh, there's a lot of great stuff on there: the filtered heavy metal of "Little Black Spiders", the sentimental disco hip hop of "Full Moon", first single "Koochy" with its absolutely punishing synth riff nicked from Gary Numan's "Cars", the second half of the p-funk-inspired, Basement Jaxx-imitating "Flyaway Love" and the dramatic, bombastic closer "Conscience". The problem is when Armand tries to be too clever, such as on the absolutely appallingly fiddly live drumming in "Breakdancer's Call", or the unnecessarily wacky combination of harmonica with african percussion that is "Swamp Thing". Or the way he insists on silly throwaway moments like the short electro-porn of "House Boxing", or the three minutes of EQ-wankery at the beginning of "Flyaway Love", or the interminable snatches of irrelevant conversation. It's one of the only records I own which I really can't just leave running straight through. And yet it's still great.
Armand obviously has issues. Half the time he realises that simplicity is the key, but then he tries to contradict himself just because he can. "Watch Your Back" is the most accomplished track on the album, a strange fusion of barely-controlled Jaxx-mania and the shuddering percusso-dub sound Leftfield use to come up with on tracks like "Afro-Left". It's pretty impressive, but it's no match for "Conscience", which throughout the whole track uses just a single, devastastingly easy chord progression. (sigh) Still, I guess Armand's hit-n-miss approach is infinitely preferable to the host of producers still churning out smooth, appealing, bland and indistinguishable house grooves.
I've restrained myself from saying it many times, but... It really bugs me that Mark is two years younger than me, and he has read "Ulysses" and I haven't. Dammit, I want to be the most annoyingly young smart blogger!
"What?" I hear you say, "surely you do not dare deny your love of Britney?" Well, I do! Sure, I think some of her songs are fabulous and generally she's pretty cool (and she likes Eminem! Weird...), but I don't feel any sort of emotion towards her as a distinct person. I think this is because, unlike the seeming stance taken by the adolescents on the page above or the randy old men offering discreet sums to Jive in order to relieve the poor girl of her virginity, when I listen to Britney's songs I identify with her character, not the guy she's singing to.
And who actually does identify with the addressed in songs anyway? As far as I'm concerned, Britney shouldn't appeal to dirty old men except for her looks; "Baby, One More Time" and "Born To Make You Happy" are songs designed to appeal to the masochists, not the sadists. If I listened to the latter from the perspective of Britney's lost love, it wouldn't bring tears to my eyes, but instead turn me cold, aloof and slightly fearful for my life. But I'm obviously wrong, as the need for guys young-and-old to adjust their pants obsessively while listening to Britney is apparently part of her appeal.
The May issue of Spin had an interesting but fairly typical article on the whole Napster issue. Except for this intriguing aside:
"Any company involved in music distribution and aggregation - record labels, MP3 Portals, even Napster itself - grows more dispensable as individuals equip themselves with an increasing number of tools to collect and disseminate digital information to each other. Already, there's a public-domain version of Napster called OpenNap - anyone who wants to can use it to run their own Napster-like file-exchange service... Along with MP3s, these programs allow you to find and exchange all sorts of file types - which intensely scares anyone who traffics in intellectual property. Soon, the TV, movie, and porn industries may be filing lawsuits of their own as Napster-style applications are used to brazenly distribute everything from bootleg copies of The Simpsons to term papers and class notes."
Indeed. More people need to realise that the issue is bigger than just Napster vs. Metallica. The whole thing strikes me as reflecting capitalism's cycle of commercialisation/regeneration. What surprised me about Napster wasn't the ease with which I could find illegal MP3s, but that, unlike MP3 portals, I wasn't bombarded with the equivalent of ad banners and autocatalytic springpop windows. Napster caters to our greed, for sure, but the facilitation of that greed is very personal: a person who likes a song keeps it in the access folder on their computer; a person who wants the song retrieves it from there. The lack of any crassness which generally results from the broadly-targeted advertising currently ruling the web is refreshing, and really important somehow. If the net has become hopelessly bogged down with people trying to sell us things, Napster technology bypasses that framework, allowing us to create intimate connections with unknown people in a series of exchanges that entirely disregards the foundations of capitalist methodology, while still being totally, utterly capitalist.
Napster offers a uniquely personal experience: sharing things of "value" (which is entirely abstract and private rather than economically definable) with strangers. Whether it's songs or tv shows or essays or autobiographical poems, the implications are enormous: we could theoretically napster other peoples lives. Information, already threatening to drown us, will become even more inescapable, as even a single file on a single computer can mutate into a web-meme that just weeks later might be as ubiquitous as the number one song on the radio. I think that not just present culture, but also the mechanics of culture, will be transformed by this enormously. The power of the dollar will reassert itself eventually, but by then the net - and the world maybe - will have become a very different place.
You're all so lovely! Many welcome back posts and e-mails have left me feeling warm and fuzzy inside. Or maybe that's the "welcome back" alcohol I consumed earlier. Today I was told that I probably go out and drink too much in order escape my stifling introspection and self-analysis. But then I just apply those faults to my drinking habits (cue long drawn out sigh). Anyway, my favourite beer has a web site. Yay.
While I was gone there was a big debacle over Tom's Best 100 LP's of the 90's list. Which is surprising because it seems pretty straightforward to me. Then again, I'm familiar with (and share much of) Tom's tastes. But still, I can't really think of any grounds upon which readers could attack it except glibness. Which is the whole point, innit? Anyway, in the spirit of catching up, I own and love: 2, 4, 8, 11, 12, 13, 15, 21, 22, 26, 28, 29, 30, 31, 35, 36, 38, 39, 40, 42, 56, 57, 63, 66, 68, 70, 73, 77, 79, 80, 81, 85, 87, 88, 98, plus a great deal of the songs on 17, 18, and 19. Which is actually much more than I'd expected, despite having read the list before. Maybe the first time I was slightly overawed by all that Japanese psychedelia.
Random Weird Thought: trying to catch up on everyone's blogs (see links left) has made me feel a bit left behind. While I know that, realistically, not that much happens in nine days, I still wonder if I've lost valuable time. I was saying a while ago that life was going really fast, and now I have this vague feeling that maybe it has surged on ahead of me and I haven't found out yet. As much as I'd love to throw myself back into the thick of it, I have to accept that instead for the next two weeks I'll be coddled and pampered while I slowly go insane. Great.
Random Cool Buffy Quote:
Xander: What do you feel?
Anya: Sad, afraid of living without you, and a little hungry.
Oh yeah: The Marshall Mathers LP is not the hip hop album of the year because by and large Eminem's jokes do become a bit less funny after a while, and as an album it's difficult to sit through - just too angry. What's weird is that on songs like "The Real Slim Shady" and "Who Knew" he's quite sly and cynically accepting of the demonic role he has been cast in by the media, but then on tracks like "The Way I Am" he gets all vitriolic and incoherent about it, even though in the chorus he acknowledges that "I am whatever you say I am." He'll be much better when he just accepts... actually it's probably better if Eminem doesn't write any more songs about fame. This album is enough for a whole career.
While indisposed, I've been listening quite a bit to Ghostface Killah's new album Supreme Clientele. A lot of different places have been tentatively hailing it as the hip hop album of the year so far, and while I haven't really heard any better as of yet (Jay-Z probably matches), I really don't feel comfortable with the idea.
Ghostface Killah, aka Dennis Coles, aka IronMan, aka Tony Starkes, aka The Wally Champ, is, as you of course all know, a member of the Wu-Tang Clan collective. But if by some chance you didn't, this RZA-guided (but largely disciple-helmed) outing is quick to remind you. Every track bears the unmistakeable Wu-trademark: about three different samples (say, an edgy piano run, some plangent guitar and dramatic strings) combine to make an unresolved, dovetailing loop, which is then repeated ad infinitum throughout the track. The drum loop is simple, relaxed and moderately funky, but not really the point. It's there to establish a loping sense of flow, and to focus attention on the sonic barrage on top. Of course you'd expect this to get a bit boring after a while, and on the Clan's limpid double-album Forever it certainly does, but basically it all depends on the inventiveness of the producers involved, which pretty much varies from track to track.
It's the usual inconsistancy of the Wu approach which makes Supreme Clientele stand out: nearly every track is on-form (although the overlong skits do annoy) and the best tracks ("One", "Ghost Deini", "Apollo Kids", "Buck 50", "Wu Banga 101") are very, very good indeed. As on his debut Ironman, Ghostface brilliantly combines the RZA formula with a reliance on funk and soul samples, which would be cloying if this wasn't defiantly a hardcore record. Instead, it gives the whole album a sort of divine purpose, implicating Ghostface within the long history of righteous black protest (made explicit on "Malcolm"). There's a polemic running through the songs of chronicling the black man's dystopian pain, such as on the makeshift gospel-blues of the interludes, Ghostface singing weakly: "Wu-Tang Clan and Ironman, lead us to the promised land, help us build upon this land, 'till we free all black man". However I can't tell if it's in deadly earnest or if it's all a big joke.
Whatever, the songs still go down a treat. "One" turns beautifully on a soul trio's delicate coo, a preponderous piano rumble and a surprised-sounding diva proclaiming the title, which becomes the basis for an inspired call and response towards the end. The real standout though is first single "Apollo Kids", a hard-driving duel between a buzz-bass riff and swirling, melodramatic disco strings. Of all the tracks, only "Mighty Healthy" resembles the kind of paranoid trembling-piano-and-detuned-guitar freakscapes that the Clan are famous for, and is better than most of those anyway, with the best kind of film dialogue sample: one that is completely boring in its original context, but utterly chilling in its new setting.
I realise I've skipped two important topics: Ghostface's rapping, and the infamous new single "Cherchez LaGhost". Both I haven't really absorbed enough yet to comment meaningfully on, though perhaps the latter will get a single review? So far I've only really pitched up snatches of meaning from the lyrical flow, partly because of Ghostface's rapid-fire, energetic delivery, which is all part of the fun anyway.
But back to the issue at hand: why do I hesitate in proclaiming this to be the best hip hop album of the year so far? Mainly because, despite all its charms, it's still so backwards looking. For all the quality of the songs, the Wu-Tang status quo is hardly challenged by this set. From the unaffecting beats to the pure extention of Ironman's innovations, there's nothing to suggest that this album couldn't have been made five years ago, and since I love hip hop primarily for its futurism, that seems weird to me. It's three years since RZA ceased to be the most inventive producer on the block, and I would expect that, if not him, then at least one of his disciples would try and play catch up with Timbaland, Mannie Fresh et al. Some would say the Staten Island school is bucking trends and remaining pure to their vision, but surely Dr. Dre has proved that one can expand on one's style using the tricks of today, while retaining and improving on the core idea of that style? Maybe it's silly to expect so much, but for me at least it renders listening to Supreme Clientele a curiously ambivalent, if very pleasurable experience.
Okay, so I survived. In fact I never came remotely close to dying, but still, nine days in hospital is a bloody long time away from my blog (oh yeah, and the rest of the world). I will now thank my trusty caretakers for their more than adequate performance (obligatory disclaimer: I am not a hag), and also all those who expressed concern over my sudden ill luck. Want the gory details? I had a spontaneous left pneumothorax, which required being hooked up to a bubbling pneumocath and receiving pleurodecis (sp?) surgery. What the hell does that mean? Never mind. But for medical incompetence, I might have been home on Monday, but maybe I should just be glad that it is all over and thank the stars for private health insurance.
Anyway, I'd really like to say that I spent my days writing blog entries in my little black book, but it's hard to inspire yourself when your backside hurts from excessive lying down and you start having really horrific psychological reactions to extended morphine intake. So really it'll just be business as usual, although my current pain and delicate state might mean more blogging action due to a restriction of social activities. But back to the blog...
Tim was to be released from hospital today after a speedy recovery, but silly nurses messed up the removal of some tube, and his lung re-collapsed... Looks like another week of recovery. Otherwise, he is still fine... And recently lectured me on the future of the music industry ("it will be interesting"). Obviously nothing much has changed.
Yes, yes, a power struggle indeed. But who shall triumph? Tune in to find out...
GUY'S RUMOUR MILL: According to Guy, Nicki French is re-releasing her hit "Total Eclipse Of The Heart" - it is to be re-titled "Total Collapse Of The Lung". But Guy will neither confirm nor deny this.
Tim is certainly alive, the operation, etc was all fine, fine, fine, and Tim is currently recovering in hospital. To the envy of several of his friends, Tim has ready access to drugs, and is currently spaced out in a world of perpetual indifference due to the wonders of morphine. And yet, Tim remains surprisingly chirpy.
Perhaps the most tragic aspect of this entire affair is the fact that Tim's sisters seem unable to cope with the lack of attention, especially his eldest who was hit by a car on Monday, but is in relatively good shape. We'll give you sympathy when you have tubes sticking out of you, dear. Eugh, some people. Anyway...
Guy and I shall endevour to bring you some guest bloggers over the next week or so....
As Simon has informed you, Tim has sadly suffered a collapsed lung and is currently awaiting surgery to get him back to full working order. He says he is otherwise fine and will no doubt use this incident for much future blogging material
So, pre-empting a power-struggle with the below Simon, lil' Guy (me) will be taking control of SkyKicking for the next few weeks. Now I have Tim's password, here are my options as I see them:
a)Disband Skykicking, leaving only a permanent link to my own Blahness, a brilliant blog. But shameless self promotion in the face of tragedy may be considered tasteless.
b)Disband Skykicking but for a list of all the stupid things Tim has ever done and other tidbits. Perhaps also too tasteless
c)Indeed, I could also arrange, in conjunction with Simon perhaps, a series of guest bloggers to keep alive the spirit of tim's pretentious prattle in his absense.
I'm not Tim. In fact, I bear little resemblance at all to Tim (hmm, well, I hope not anyway.... hang on, I have to be nice to Tim - eugh, read on). Well, you may have wished death on Tim many times (Guy....) but such jokes are now out of order. No, no, Tim is not dead. Well, not quite yet. It seems that Guy and I need not have planned our intricate death plans for Tim, as he is helping himself along the way. Tim's lung has collasped (again, it happened last year as well), and is currently in hospital, awaiting surgery. He will be fine, stress not, but it is pretty major, I believe. I will be keeping you updated (he he he), but in the meantime, please do not use Tim's name in vain.
On the matter, Lachlan says: "why does all the bad stuff seem to happen to all the good people, i mean, hitler was perfectly fit but killed thousands, and mother teresa was plagued with all sorts of horrid things her whole life, oh well, such is life i guess."
Well, Tim... Mother Theresa? I fail to see the connection.... Oh, right, Hitler, right...
Hang on, I started this thing with... "Must be nice to Tim", didn't I.... *sigh*.... this is going to be hard work....
Oh yeah, and administration note: all links on site should now be fully operational. Tentative assessments say "much better", although I also anticipated the allusions to girlishness. This is all part of my plan to distort gender-roles and blah blah blah. No, actually it's because I like pink. But you knew that already.
Hey, if someone was nice they could tell me how I can make it so that my links don't have to be underlined. Sometimes these simple issues can be absolutely impossible to resolve. I know it's probably laughably simple, but I'd appreciate it if you actually refrained from laughing.
My cats have taste. Of the musical variety. Kesia, the older, reserved and elegant grey tabby has a fondness for shaking her tailfeather to drum & bass and UK garage, while Zuleika, the sprightly, flighty whitesox youngster prefers a monotonous house beat, or hip hop. Specifically, Timbaland-produced hip hop. No kidding! I was playing Jay-Z's latest album, and she would flounce away when Swizz Beats or DJ Premier were in the chair, before coming bounding back in for the Timma-D cuts. She particularly likes the awesomely drawn-out reverse groove of "Come And Get Me", and I can't fault her reasoning.
And I'm wondering: what makes my cats like/dislike some of my music? My automatic assumption is that they get off on the rhythm and the bass frequencies, which probably seem radically different to them than they do to my ears. But is their appreciation purely physical? I sort of sympathise with the idea, because increasingly that's how I listen to music. I listen for the rhythm first, then for the melodies, harmonies and production details, and way way down the list of things I might consider whether this song seems inherently "better" to me than another due to some larger, unexplained forces at work. Example: I was listening to Tori Amos's "To Venus And Back" album today, and all I could think of the whole time was the bizarre profusion of rhythmic detail (like Talking Heads on overdrive) and the weird, almost eightiesish blur between the "real" and "synthetic" production-wise, making music that was neither organic, nor in any way robotic. Which is a strange way of thinking, because Tori fans are famous for their almost unhealthy connection with Tori's music; with her, through that music. Production would seem to be irrelevant, subsumed by something greater.
So I'm trying to convince myself that this breakdown of the ways in which I enjoy music is ultimately a good thing, but there's still something grand in the dangerous, misguided idea that a song could be "inherently great" - a philosophical purity. The other way suggests that one day we could in fact construct our own songs from a wizard program fed with our various likes and dislikes. Convenient? Yes. But a nice idea, really?
On my new Playlist page, I have an introductory look at Eminem's "Stan", touching on some things I'll explain a bit more in my review. I fear now that less exposed readers will be shaking their heads and mouthing the word "Eminem?" in dismay. So let me assure you, this is one hell of an excellent album. I'm not going to say that it "deserves to be treated seriously", because as some of my more flowery moments have demonstrated I tend to take everything somewhat seriously these days. Besides which, "The Marshall Mathers LP" is too self-aware to merely be categorised as "a serious album"... is this in fact one of the most self-aware albums ever made? More thoughts to come... Playlist is going to serve the function of my previous "Songs Of The Week" list, only allowing me to comment on each song as well. More will be going up so keep checking back.
So is Eminem's "Marshall Mathers LP" the best album of the year so far? On first listen complete listen I'm not prepared to go quite that far. We'll see though... I was going to write a lot tonight but I picked up a work shift instead, so bad luck. However, tomorrow you can expect: a short review of Eminem's album, as well as Armand Van Helden's new one; a look at the famous rock journalists, and; more random, senseless words. Hey, this ain't called the Think Blog for nothing, you know. As Tom says, I "always have a terrific amount to say". Which isn't as much of a compliment as it seems to be, but I thank him for the award anyway.
Immediate pre-exam trauma. This condition afflicts me suddenly and severely due to excessive not-studying over an entire semester. So I have an exam tomorrow and on Tuesday as well. I'm at work tonight. Something doesn't fit here. Oh yeah.... cram time! It's been squeezed out and now I am destined to fail in a humiliating fashion. What does this mean for you? Simply that it is doubtful that I'll be updating today or tomorrow. Come Tuesday night though, I'll post many lovely things for you all to ponder.
In other news, he says my design leaves something to be desired. I agree. Please understand that I don't have a) expertise in this area; or b) taste. Nonetheless, I shall be redesigning soon to make this place a happier, healthier community for all my precious readers. And that includes you.
As much as I enjoy his esoteric musings week in week out, I really think Glenn McDonald at The War Against Silence should focus on his own music more often, if only because his songs are so unassumingly artful. Confetti Beams rather surprisingly finds a clearing where emocore, electro-influenced indie-pop and isolationist ambient can quite happily co-exist without cancelling eachother out. Which I wouldn't have assumed existed before I heard it, but there you go.
This fits in with a lot of what I've been saying in my previous posts: pop is good, and experimenting is good, but successfully putting the two together in the same song makes something which is more than the sum of its parts. The trick here is not coming off deliberately "eclectic", which Glenn manages by drawing from weird, clashing ideas.... and of course by singing in such a ragged, unkempt manner (the "emo" influence). Actually the vocals do tend to distract me from the gentle loveliness of the lyrics - read them on his site to get the full sense of their elegance - so that they feel more laboured than they really are, as if this was the song Dawson Leery would write if he was serious about putting that John Lennon poster on his wall. In their place I prefer to imagine a more quiescent voice instead: perhaps Jason Sweeney (formerly of Sweet William) or Grant McLennan of The Go-Betweens.
I guess I've always unconsciously assumed that people who were too self-aware about their own musical tastes would make unconvincing music (known among some circles as the Bobby Gillespie Theory), and I've consequently shied away from making music myself (other reasons include rudimentary musical skills and no equipment, but that's hardly relevant). Because of that, what I think I like most about "Confetti Beams" is the sense that it could easily be a happy accident, not shaped by some overriding sense of what the music should achieve, of exactly which influences it should be drawing upon. It's entirely possible that Glen could have lived in a time capsule all his life and therefore not realised that pop music wasn't, by and large, focused around ambient drones. There are some lingering faults to be learned from still - the vocals are one, the ingratiating simplicity of the drum pattern verges on being another - but it is rare that you hear something which gives you a glimpse of the process of moving from apprentice to magician, with a vista of unrealised potential as wide as the horizon before you.
Okay, it seems that my previous post confused some people, so I just want to make a couple of points:
1. I have nothing against simplicity, or against the style in which Travis work. Indeed, one of my major difficulties in liking them is the fact that I love so many bands like them, that adopting a less distinctive version of the same seems pointless. Bands which write "simple songs" that I love: Wire, The Smiths, The Church, The Go-Betweens, The Field Mice, The Sundays... The list goes on. What's more, I don't think that Travis' songs are incredibly simple either; I'll admit the choruses are artfully obvious (not necessarily a bad thing), but so are quite a few of Pink Floyd's. Every Travis song I've heard has had quite complex arrangements, lush harmonies and "soaring" guitarwork. Saying that Travis are a triumph of the "heartfelt song" over "modern production values" is a fallacy - from the Godriched guitar to Fran's just-this-side-of-fey vocals, Travis are incredibly of their time: their swift transformation from sub-Oasis glamsters singing about prepubescent girls to the less difficult to handle Radiohead doesn't bother me, but I'm sure the Travis fan would feel uncomfortable explaining the market-savviness of it all. On a purely aural level, Travis's productions are lovely, but to me they seem to be the wrong kind of lovely: all wisp and no substance, only not in a good way like Geneva.
2. I can't stress this enough: I detest irony in music. The only thing I dislike more than irony in music is people who assume that pop music is by definition ironic, or people who can only appreciate such music on an allegedly ironic level. And hipness is a concept only cast about by those who love or hate Beck. As I am neither, I won't even go there.
I'll probably just get into more trouble for this, but I hate not having the last word.
Is Francis, - sorry, Frannie - from Travis a "sexy rock man-beast" or "a potato-headed gimp"? The mysterious, secret society dedicated to destroying music who have currently hijacked Freaky Trigger say the latter. I might not go that far, but I certainly draw a blank when I try to understand the animal magnetism he exerts over so many people I know. Why do people find him attractive? For all the daring of his mountain slope haircut (oh yeah and I know there's a special name for it, but I'm not quite that clued up), he's basically made of the same stuff as his band's music. In absolutely no way offensive, he's the people's poet without the coke habit or the ego, neither powerfully charismatic, nor twee enough to be interesting, pleasantly indistinctive and completely forgettable.
So I'm thinking: perhaps people lust after Travis for the same reason they think that "Why Does It Always Rain On Me" is a modern classic. In a world where the leading edge of "cool" is defined by the plastically perfect, the technologically hyperreal and the chemically enhanced, Fran's unassumingly natural there-ness is enticing precisely because it is so boring. When I think of the three critical-consensus-cum-crossover albums of '99 (Moby, Macy, Travis), it occurs to me that all three were praised for how "human" they were, for how they put an organic sense of soulfulness back into dance/r'n'b/post-Radiohead stadium rock. People are actively embracing music which offers them a mirage of "personality" and "feeling" because it seems to be lacking at both extremes, from ephemeral pop to abstract experimentalism (in fact "Play" strikes me as the most faceless, calculated thing Moby's done, but that's a whole 'nother gripe). It's an entirely understandable reaction to the overheated acceleration that characterises our society as we perch on the crest of the tidal wave of history. I can sympathise with this collective step back from the edge: right now, personally, life does seem too frenetic, too fast-paced, too much like I'm dancing to someone else's tune; and if I liked the damn song I think I'd play "Why Does It Always..." all the time. For all its apparent gloominess this actually must be the escapist anthem of the year; an anthem about stasis in a world where it is impossible to stop.
Trouble is, I sorta like the whole heatdeath-acceleration business, and consequently I'm drawn to music which posits itself firmly in the present looking forward. It's music characterised by its own velocity, but even more so than the sounds of the "street" from halfway through the decade (Wu Tang hip hop, jungle), the cutting edge sounds of today, from UK Garage through r'n'b and bounce right up to Britney, feels positively infected by the future. The spasmodic ticks and flurries, sampladelic mutations and dense, gritty-but-shimmering arrangements (plus the requisite Hype Williams videos) envision a world where humans have been warped by technology into something alien and thoroughly compelling (actually, Britney sounds like she's being molested by technology, which might be even better). And it's true that this is not, like, real or anything, but just as the hi-fi stutterbeats of the music easily beats the insipidly shapeless ebb and flow of Moby/Macy/Travis, the superficial "fakeness" is both more honest and just damn sexy than the studied "reality" of the critical darlings. It's also more willing to challenge conventional notions of sex appeal - for every Britney there's a Missy or Kelis. And while the cyber-Missy in the "She's A Bitch" video is sex on a stick, Fran, weird haircut or no weird haircut, is the boy-next-door as boys next door actually tend to be: worth ignoring.