Psst... what's so wrong with Scott Joplin anyway?
From my own perspective there are few more pleasurable things to do on a piano than tear through the Maple Leaf rag... also if its the Sting that is being besmirched, any film with a character called Kid Twist always wins my vote...
The Blog Is Dead
Because it started out as a bright hope for a cleaner, healthier future. Because it was to be democratic, personal, political. (and when you're tied to your mother's apron, no-one talks about castra-a-ation)
See. I'm competing with Philip to drop in as many references to the Smiths and Morrissey as possible.
Has it really come to this??
Blogs talking about other blogs talking about themselves.
And we don't even write anymore, because we all have jobs that keep us from staying up all night.
I say: kill the blog. Spill its blood. And do it now, before it's too late.
I am now a cartographer (temporarily) though sadly, here be no dragons or any other kinds of interesting beasts, just a sad commitment to customer driven projects and an infuriating obsession with acronyms...
Also the Ordnance Survey intranet blocks access to Blogger, so nothing from me during my compulsory lunch breaks... ('but I don't want to eat, because once I knew this boy, and he was a lot like me...')
Anyway, my only thought in the last few days has been about Kate Bush, and the quiet sublimity of 'Cloudbusting'... musically perfect, unexpectedly so with those juddering strings and the 5 second of sinister banjo that no one else seems to hear... But what really gets me... what makes the horizon flip every time I hear it, even though its probably the thousandth time, is the vocal...
'But every time it rains,
You're here in my head,
Like the sun coming out--
Ooh, I just know that something good is going to happen. '
Its horrible... the sentiment is so futile, but the delivery is so believable...
Ok, thats brief and worthless, but I'm only getting about 4/5 hours sleep a night at the moment, and don't seem to have a spare thought for myself...
lack of activity round here these days. well i'm stumped. filip and b., represent! all i will say is i am so totally delighted that summer appears to have gone, 5 months of sunshine, what the fuck was that about, right, back to proper weather now, thank god. central london is absolutely at its best in the freezing cold. looking forward to a lot of rain, please. EVERYTHING GOES GREY.
also NB the don dada k-punk has moved to a new home
. first post of the new era is cracking stuff on our beloved suburbs - those of you familiar with the wonderland that is Hedge End
will recognise the kind of place he's describing.
heronbone's back, hurrah
but that thing about the regions being rubbish is a bit upsetting, perhaps he's taking the piss, it seems a pretty unhelpful opinion to have! scott
nails it, it's not about sales figures or column inches or visibility or impact or influence or things like that, the non-london UK (everywhere that isn't london has something in common with everywhere else that isn't, and something important not-in-common with london) is a psychically different world, Everything Feels Different and this matters so much, i keep thinking of the difference between the way i feel standing on the corner of soho street and oxford street, which is a shrinking feeling, a collapsing feeling, and the way i feel standing ....well ANYWHERE else basically...flashes of country pubs....high streets...commuter villages...motorways...train stations...supermarket car parks
this world is different in important ways: Aldershot...Andover...Farnborough...Portsmouth...Lewes....Eastleigh...Haywards Heath...Swindon....Guildford...Waterlooville
frontier towns; cowboys with no guns; secret societies and hidden passages; old peoples homes in the local newspapers. This is a southern view, I don't know up north at all. I liked the view of Birmingham from the M6 when we drove around it once.
see: Simon Armitage 'Lest We Forget' for a proper articulation of what I'm getting at
'the provinces' are shrinking. we need mnemonics (sp?). Simon Armitage is very good at them. just go and sit in a pub in any of those towns on that list and things will be a bit clearer.
got into the lift at work this morning and felt there was someone else in there with me, it was empty, but i could feel something, maybe above me, maybe crouching on the ceiling, there was heavy breathing, and whispering, it was pretty unsettling, luckily i got out before it (WHATEVER IT WAS) said or did anything. not what you need first thing in the morning now is it?
Loving mr ingram's post
about dylan, vonnegut and the *real* history that persists behind the "facile dimensions of clock time." I'm not going anywhere near the theory and philosophy bits, jesus no, but want to blurt out a few bits that seem relevant before I forget:
- one of the chief benefits of the alien time-view in 'slaughterhouse 5' is that, seeing all moments simultaneously, if one of these aliens happens to see themselves/someone else in pain or suffering, they simply look away to a point when things are going a bit better, and cheer up. cf: the pop pessimism debate. the perceived nostalgia of someone like k-punk isn't backwards-looking, then, it's just paying more attention to a point when the possible future looked rosier - and hasn't happened yet - we're not living in the future - time has moved forward but pop maybe hasn't - we're waiting for the future - you get me?
- whole thing reminds me of a very funny book, e m forster's 'aspects of the novel.' no, wait. his idea being, it's no good to think about writers in terms of literary theories or socio-political trends 'n all that, because writers pay more attention to other writers than they do to anything else. his approach is to think of writers not in a line stretching back into history, but all sitting together in a room, looking over each other's shoulders and writing at the same time. in my more dogmatic days this book was a joke, an anti-historical laughing stock, who does he think he is, 'discarding the weighty historical view' or whatever he does. Then re-reading it more recently, oh dear, it all seems much more convincing. ie if 'enlightenment' (yucky value-laden term of course but still) is what we're aiming at, then there's no reason why a writer 1000 years ago should be necessarily further away from it than one writing today. this argument proves why bob dylan is great innit.
- dylan. had mostly always lumped him in with the "stuffy, irrelevant and classical" brigade, no doubt. part of the problem was, people were always saying, the lyrics, listen to the lyrics! which is a terrible way to try and get in to something as wordy as dylan. with my attention span, please! anyway, enlightenment (ha!) came one day when someone pointed out (cheers jake!) that what you have to bear in mind listening to dylan is a)the SOUND, think about it sonically, the rattling, steam-driven, train-whistle SPEEDFREAK kinesis of it all, the arrangements on eg 'blonde on blonde' are weird/wired as fuck when it comes down to it, the way that harmonica is the perfect aural analogue of dylan's voice, and the way it occupies exactly the same space in the mix, they just swap back and forth, man, instrument, listen hard enough and they become the same thing (kind of!), basically what I mean is
B) this was NOT stuffy nor classical at the time, it was a fucking trip! Re: the NYC VU etc link, I dunno any of the anecdotes but you don't need to, just fucking listen! There's all kind of drone and minimalist/repetitive shit on 'blonde on blonde' at least, (oh no I just remembered, I do know one anecdote, loving that story bout dylan and the beatles meeting mid-60s, swapping drugs, beatles discover pot and go hippy, dylan discovers speed and goes bug-eyed electric rattler)
- well now. not sure if there was a point to this, other than to work out in words my own peronal troubled history with bob. but there you go.
- oh yes, one other thing, this is funny, in a strange twist of Real World fate, it appears that I might, like, literally, know where matthew ingram lives, hahaha now I'm going to stalk him and go round and nick all his 21eme siecle silver records hahahahaaa watch your back!!!
fuck the glitz & glamma
well done that rascal. k-punk and somedisco and people on ILM fretting over what it all will mean. um. i dunno. what is clear though is that it must be easily the most unfriendly/aggressive/un-'assimilable' record ever to have won it. a fat note of jarring discord in the broadsheets, a scratch on the glass coffee tables of the nation! the decision
will be assimilated of course - check these dunderheads
on the BBC site already putting it down to wilful perversity, the judges trying to stay relevant or be controversial or whatever.
(re: judges decision-making process, who knows, who cares)
what won't be dealt with is the record. of all the instant cliche-narratives that become possible (dizzee becomes Famous, dizzee leaves the Underground, prize means nothing and dizzee goes on as before etc), the more exciting (and likely?) outcome i can see is, this prize will remain an aberration, dizzee is already mainstream enough in his world (simon reynolds' 'alternative mainstream'), the mercury will mean nothing or very little ('being a celebrity don't mean shit to me': dizzee = anti-Beyonce!), and things will carry on much as before. this event is a spike in the timeline, a freak storm, a One Night Only collision of cultural narratives that for 364 days/year have nothing to do with each other. can't even really see there being much interest in 'thinkpieces' in the papers: maybe a few perplexed items. give it 7 days: nothing will be said. back below the radar.
I wanted to go out and destroy something until the random selection of MP3s on my computer threw up 'What's Going On'... thanks Marvin, I needed that...
My ire had many causes, not chief but significant among them the half an hour of 'Cats' I forced myself to endure on BBC2 this afternoon. I hate the obese slack-thwack of live bass, it sounds so smug, so hollow... I know cats are famous for being genetically doomed to smile, but the makeup was grotesque, gruesome thin lips and mutton-chop hair extensions. The movements of the dancers were tired, slim toe dragging shimmies across the stage, both completely alien to the actual sublime freedom cats betray when they move, and also to any idea of a human moving beautifully.
Sonically it was loathesome, the bludgeoning of a perfectly nice anachronistic set of children's poetry, made to fit a disgustingly thin musical gruel. Swimming with stringy electric guitars, wet spongy brass nuggets and that all pervading constricting bass, that snakes around every sound and slowly squeezes from it all life, all originality, and the hope and expectation of beauty.
And the diction, dear God, the diction...
… and I said hello Satan I believe it’s time to go
He does get all the best tunes y’know… quite possibly the most iconic image in modern music belongs to him, the ambitious blues player kneeling at the crossroads waiting for the black carriage to roll past and the bony finger to beckon from the half-open window. Robert Johnson was a bad guitar player, everyone said so, then he disappeared for several months and came back a God (I like the way Holy Greil Marcus writes about Johnson but that’s another matter)… Son House and Willy Brown watched the kid they’d seen play harmonica and mangle a guitar borrow a chair and play better than either of them… everyone knew there’s only one place talent like that comes from, and it isn’t hard work and prayer.
So the devil is to blame for Rock n Roll, both in that everyone from Clapton to Page and every permed prima-donna in between worshipped at Robert’s black altar, but also if anything more tangibly because they indulged every sexual license, every drunked collapse, every finger-raising conflagration of talent conceived by their progenitor… they took the full course of bad medicine, got drunk on the wicked cough syrup and blazed the message across the radio, across countless ball-parks previously consecrated to a family game, to honest working class pursuits. They even tried to kill each other in public, kill themselves in private (a few succeeded after many moons)… They were long suicides, but make no mistake, even if you labour a lifetime over it, it’s still viewed as a sin.
Jesus, they were even writing songs about it… who knows maybe they aren’t allegorical, maybe I’ve missed the point. Maybe Robert Johnson did hear Satan knocking at his door one morning, and then go and beat his woman because the Devil had pussy-whipped him for his soul. I’ve travelled Greyhound, there’s no escape there – if the devil needs transportation that’s how he travels, with the freshly released ex-convicts, the unemployed, the soul-less, the curious tourist.
I’m not scared… the compact disc has denied me the opportunity to spin songs backwards, I have no idea if the drum solo from ‘In–a–gadda–da–vida’ opens up a portal to hell if you reverse it (it’s Rock and a-roll as the Rev. Lovejoy says)… those kids who shot each other after listening to Judas Priest I can understand, I feel the need to take my life once I get within a mile of the outskirts of Birmingham, so to have that chewy accent infringe on the crepuscular American desert must have been a shock… that’s what happens when you get shocked with a loaded weapon in your hand. So there he was again, dancing around the campfire, wishing that the Brummie acolytes weren’t quite so ugly (if I was the Lord of the Flies and Master of the Underworld, I might bemoan the fact that less than 10% of girls look good in their chosen uniform of black PVC and netting – attitude isn’t enough, not for this Prince of Darkness).
Even in Moscow the devil should have brought a song – that’s the only problem with Bulgakov’s account, there isn’t enough singing. The Cat should have been providing filthy arias on the trams, whiskers whisked around the city, trailing dirty lyrics as he went. That’s how it works, God gets everything else; poetry, prose, worship – the devil gets song and dance. Fred Astaire once butchered a girl to ensure he nailed a scene next day – or so I heard. Everywhere you have to be on your guard, the advance of Christian rock has been mighty, the ark is paraded around the city walls every day, and soon they might fall: to the concept of the Song, which seemed exhausted, they added the complexities of evil and misfortune.
Chief exorcist of Rome, Fr. Gabriel Amorth, in his 1992 book Nuovi racconti di un esorcista (published in English under the somewhat ambiguous title ‘An Exorcist – More stories’) has much to teach us. The place of the Big Black in music today is fourfold:
“Beat – The first important item is the rhythm, called ‘beat’ which mimics the sexual act. Abruptly, the listeners are caught up in a frenzy designed to produce a sort of hysteria. It is the result of the sexual instinct, which is aroused through the use of the beat.
Volume intensity – The volume is deliberately set to at least 7 decibels above the tolerance level of our nervous system… We become victims of a well-devised and calculated strategy to bypass the nervous system and achieve a precise goal: to bring the audiences into a state of disorder and frenzy. At this point the listeners, in a frenzy to actualise the beat, the rhythm they have heard all evening risk being lured as new recruits into the ranks of Satan’s apprentices, and then the songwriters will have realised their ultimate goal.
Subliminal Signal – Subliminal signals are transmitted at such a high pitch that we are unable to hear them. The brain produces a natural drug as a result of the stimuli it receives… This strange feeling induces us to seek real drugs and causes drug addicts to increase their intake.
Ritual consecration during a Black Mass – Before each record is released on the market, it is consecrated to Satan through a ritual that is a true black mass.”
So be careful out there, the pitfalls are clearly more than anyone had any right to anticipate. Shaking your hips in the wrong direction may lead to the loss of your immortal soul (if you haven’t signed it away already when you filled in the credit card slip for your purchase of ‘Justified’…
Ouija board, Ouija board
I finally got round to watching the Channel 4 documentary on spiritualism from their recent 'Psychic Night' (surely a misnomer, as they are talking solely about mediums rather than the more broad church of psychics)... anyway it seemed to me that they missed a fundamental point about the brief popularity of this faith. Rather like the other recent documentary on the Panacea Society who are still proudly clinging to Joanna Southcott's box (chortle chortle) this spiritualism documentary got it right in ascribing some of its popularity to the fact that it invited modern women into a newly created priesthood, that retained some of the trappings of the traditional Christian Priesthood.
However, surely more important than this was the way in which spiritualism transgressed the American Calvinist view of the afterlife. If at the moment of death you become instantly contactable by any passing Medium, this must be indicative that you aren't suffering spiritual purgation or punishment: there is no 'elect', just a teeming hotel on the 'other side' with a bustling switchboard.
They also missed the rather obvious point (though quite how I do not know) that the two upsurges in popular spiritualist interest occured in the 1870s and then again in the early 1920s; coinciding with the end of the American Civil war, and WWI respectively, when there was a considerable influx of new residents at said hotel...