"He would compress certain terrible truths into a flashing retort and would cast them into the hubbub of conversation, each time taking the chance that people would not understand them. But Talleyrand… had an abiding and magnanimous faith in at least one thing: in society as an echoing salon in which at least one ear is always hiding, ready to receive the word."
"I had the idea to develop an approach to comic narrative that would actually benefit from becoming entangled in internet fan speculation, gossip and research. So Batman R.I.P., with its huge canvas of potential suspects, its central mystery story (“Who Is The Black Glove?”), which has driven all kinds of inventive speculation, and its references to old stories and obscure Tibetan Buddhist practises you have to look up on Wikipedia, became an attempt to do for Batman what I’d done for The Invisibles in the ‘90s but with better technology. It’s an approach which rewards deeper and more engrossing engagement from readers. It’s proven very popular and will probably become commonplace. TV shows like Lost and movies like Donnie Darko generated the same kind of extra-narrative participation, if I dare call it that!” - Grant Morrison.
"Marvel and DC have realized that a vocal and attentive online audience doesn’t just open up marketing avenues, it liberates creators on the comic page. An online readership works like a distributed network of brains, able collectively to pick up and see stuff that the average reader might not have the patience for. This makes certain kinds of stories— like mysteries— much harder to tell, since the collective readership will chew through most sensible options before anything is revealed. But it allows comics like "Secret Invasion" and "Final Crisis", which exploit these networks, to flourish. Marvel does this by encouraging fans to speculate— who’s an alien, who isn’t, what have they been up to all this time? DC, meanwhile, encourages fans to annotate." Poptimist #16
Very nice article from Tom about Robots. But he didn’t mention Margaret Berger’s “Robot Song,” which is pretty much the greatest song of all time. I’ll upload it whenever it is they let me; for now you just have to enjoy Rhiannon.
Yeah, there’s one where Robyn’s boyfriend is a robot too isn’t there? In fact there is a great deal of HOTT ROBOT ACTION I missed out. I had a paragraph planned talking about how stuff like Max Tundra (which Dave likes but I find a bit…. too much) sounds like it’s been built by a bedroom nerd for a robot expo, and how tinkering is the positive indie response to robotisation, but it wasn’t really going anywhere.
808 State ft Bernard Sumner - “Spanish Heart”: Today’s MP3 is brought to you courtesy of my guilt for not having done my 808 State deluxe editions reviews yet. This is New Order’s Barney Sumner meditating over a slightly diffident State track - not a wholly successful collaboration but I like it more than the Bjork ones to be honest.
“I Found that Essence Rare” – Gang of Four (Words/music: Gang of Four, available on Entertainment!, EMI 1979)
A lot of music, especially in the punk/post-punk vein, revolves around a cycle of tension and release. Sometimes, the music creates the tension with fast, pounding rhythms that implore the audience to find release through relentless pogo-ing or slam dancing. Sometimes, the music itself builds in tension throughout the song, waiting for that moment of release. This isn’t unique to punk, though, as even my basic recollection of music theory remembers talking about resolving chords back to the tonic – the home base where the tones are exactly what the ear expects to hear. Perhaps we’re drawn to tension-filled music because it makes us appreciate the resolution that much more. Maybe we just like being wound up sometimes.
On “I Found that Essence Rare,” Gang of Four winds everything so tight that there’s little room for anything else. The guitars forge ahead devoid of any reverb; rather than letting the notes ring out and dissolve, they quickly forge ahead like knives chipping away piece by piece. Jon King’s words take a similar action, cutting into bourgeoisie culture of politics, tabloids, and fashion with direct, focused observations. Something strange happens amidst this tension – a groove develops. While funk musicians like to talk about getting “loose” when laying down a groove, Gang of Four achieves their unique groove as a sort of nervous twitch, like muscles that spasm slightly when held tense long enough. It’s a sort of claustrophobic, paranoid trance that manages to have some spring in it. There’s even a drum break in the bridge (granted, it’s more Mission of Burma than Parliament)
The only glimmer of release from this tightly-wound dissection of consumer culture comes in the chorus. Appropriately, the chorus shifts from observations of the outside world to a first person statement – there’s refuge from the demonic outside world within oneself, but it’s fleeting at best. Those same guitars come crashing through and bring back more images of hollow politicians and trash journalism. Then, it’s back to the nerves.
Finally, the onslaught stops, but there’s no real resolution. We’re wound up and dancing (twitching?) along, only to have the groove swept out from under our feet. Granted, it seems appropriate from a song with such a skeptical view of the world.
This is - for me - the most poptastic Gang of Four song! (i.e. unlike say “At Home He’s A Tourist”, which has that skronk solo in the middle, I could imagine this being an honest-to-god Breakthrough Hit). It’s also full of great phrasemaking (I used “Dressed For The H-Bomb” for a zine once). Post-punk was full of good sloganeers, a generation lost to the ad industry! But our collective gain I think.
"While the excitement might not be totally palpable amongst the under-twenties, regarding the idea of Girls Aloud doing a song with the Pet Shop Boys that sounds like St Etienne, it has to be understood that to some people this is like some kind of pop fantasy made manifest and thus completely exciting beyond all belief."
"i think in 65-66 it was still a race of potentially near equals, and that this was part of the thrill: beatle-success had opened a door and a generation of groups were jostling through it, in friendly rivalry; what skewed it was the speed with which the beatles in particular drew vastly far ahead of everyone else (in terms of sales rather than sustained quality); by 68, they’d kind of spoiled it for everyone (by ruthlessly exploiting their headstart to fund their retreat from touring — which no one else could afford — and their dive into pure studiowork; and last but not least by the incredible bitterness of their divorce — i assume groups had broken up before, but the public ugliness was i suspect surprisingly traumatic for those in their generation who took them as a model)"
[is called on ‘ruthlessly exploited’]
"i think the beatles were very consciously competitive from a very strong position — which would have been fun at first for their rivals, and annoying later (when it became obvious how enormous the advantage was, of concetnrated time in the studio — everyone else had snatched moments between tours; the beatles went in, as their dayjob, every day for several years)
touring wasn’t always especially lucrative in itself, more a necessary chore for less established bands to promote the work that made the money (singles and later LP sales); the beatles had simply carved themselves a total (and at the time totally unique) permanent holiday from this, and used it to concentrate on R&D (as opposed to retiring entirely and forever to yachts in the med, which they could well have done, if they didn’t enjoy being “toppermost of the poppermost” so much)
re the bitterness: i’m serious about this — the glue of early counterculture was the good feel vibe of the beatles, the sense of shared joy, and the group that did most to present this as a vast public communal option smashed it in a tantrum — i doubt the bitterness was worse than in eg cream, but the effect on the kids was just ugely more widespread; it cast a pall over the whole of pop culture, where any other group break-up just cast a pall over the relevant fans.
just to be clear: i’m not using the word “exploited” in a pejorative sense, i mean they grabbed an opportunity — but it’s also key that they saw it as an opportunity (as opposed to a problem) so quickly — and i’m using the word “ruthless” as much as anything to describe their own attitude to themselves — by 66 they didn’t (economically) need to come in to work day in day out, but what you take away from the obsessive nerd detail of mark lewisohn’s books, for example, is how driven they were; how culturally ambitious — it’s easy to take for granted in hindsight, because i set up a pattern everyone followed, which we’re now so used to we can hardly see; but there’s actually something a bit startling about how they responded to the pointlessness (bcz of teen-screaming) of touring…
obviously the downside of all being in the same room for four years is that they grew very fed up of one another.”
(Extracted from a Popular comments box, reposted because it is awesome & illuminating)
It’s an interesting theory, I guess. From my own point of view I think I’ve ended up like every other mid-30s music critic, balancing a dripfeed of new stuff against comfortable touchstones I keep returning to and puzzling over.
I know desire's a terrible thing, it makes the world go blind
"When in the twelfth century unsatisfied desire was placed by the troubadours of Provence in the centre of the poetic conception of love, an important turn in the history of civilisation was effected. Antiquity, too, had sung the sufferings of love, but it had never conceived them save as the expectation of happiness or as its pitiful frustration. The sentimental point of Pyramus and Thisbe, of Cephalus and Procris, lies in their tragic end; in the heart-rending loss of a happiness already enjoyed. Courtly poetry, on the other hand, makes desire itself the essential motif, and so creates a conception of love with a negative ground-note."
- Huizinga on the birth of indie! I’m lovin’ this book.
Charles Jackson - “Passionate Breezes”: On the Smokey Robinson thread on Popular today there was some discussion of David Toop’s awesome Sugar And Poison compilation, a collection of 70s and 80s soul ballads which deftly located quiet storm music in the ambient continuum. Some of it - like this mostly-spoken smoocher - is gorgeous bathing-in-milk gloop; some of it is so diffuse it’s barely even there; some of it is just magnificent songcraft. If you ever see it, or get the chance to download it, buy on sight.
“I hate electronic music,” says Katy Goodman, the trio’s bass player, over an iced coffee on a recent afternoon at Williamsburg’s Verb Café. “I’m so sick of overprocessed, overproduced sound.” Cassie Ramone, the group’s front woman, looks up over a layer of blonde bangs. “We like music that sounds like music,” she explains.”—
They may like music that sounds like music, they just don’t make it. But it’s not as if there’s not a big constituency for this kind of idea! It’s not as common to hear “I hate electronic music” as it was 10 years ago, but it’s not a rare opinion - I did a twitter search on Pitchfork after the 2008 tracks list came out and loads of the comments were “Hey when did Pitchfork become ravers?”; “Where are the guitars?”; “Hercules and Love Affair? Seriously?”
"Gerald’s approach to rhythm is almost decadent at times: frequently, painstakingly assembled interlocking layers of beats are placed almost on the edge of conscious awareness, or otherwise punchy rhythms become swallowed up in tidal swells of infra-red bass. On gorgeous reggae-jungle single "Finley’s Rainbow" the astonishing, counter-intuitive beats rain down with murderous fury somewhere far off in the distance; the effect is like watching a thunderstorm over a distant bay, with only brief moments of being lashed by the hail and the lightning."
Tim Finney does one of my favourite albums ever justice.
"The feeling of general insecurity which was caused by the chronic form wars were apt to take, by the constant menace of the dangerous classes, by the mistrust of justice, was further aggravated by the obsession of the coming end of the world, and by the fear of hell, of sorcerors, and of devils. The background of all life in the world seems black. Everywhere the flames of hatred arise and injustice reigns. Satan covers a gloomy earth with his sombre wings. In vain the militant Church battles, preachers deliver their sermons; the world remains unconverted. According to popular belief, current towards the end of the fourteenth century, no one, since the beginning of the great Western schism, had entered Paradise.”
tATu - “Robot”: OK, it might not be Tatu. But it is Russian. Well, I think it’s Russian. Eastern European at any rate. Oh look, it’s a cute sounding girl singing Eurodance about ROBOTS: this is no time to nitpick.
I’m thinking of starting some kind of blog or directory maybe of large-scale blogging projects, like my own Popular and this every-issue-of-Cerebus thing I’ve just encountered. Other examples would be the Pepys Diary-as-a-blog project, Matt Perpetua’s REM songs project and other discography blogs (Matthew’s is a rare completed example!) etc.
Does anything like this already exist? What else should go in it? Criteria - off the top of my head - would include:
Scale: At least 50 entries or projected entries.
Finitude: A clearly defined end point. (So general thematic blogs don’t qualify).
Predictability: The choice of specific objects under discussion needs to be external to the blog, i.e. much though I would like to avoid discussing 13 different Westlife singles on Popular, I don’t get that choice. The author(s) can choose what order they’re discussed in, but a criteria like this is necessary to exclude the millions of “post one song/photo/poem every day for a year” projects out there - worthy and often marvellous though these all are. This would also exclude “My Top [xxx] [yyy]” lists.
I don’t want to make it narrower than that really.
The Teardrop Explodes - “The Great Dominions”: Julian Cope gets metaphysical on top of what one is forced to call the “Atmosphere Riddim”. This is from Wilder, the second (and rather woolier) Teardrops LP. I used to have a great deal of time for Julian Cope and still retain immense affection for his stuff, though to be honest he lost me when he decided to be a Krautrocker rather than just writing about ‘em.
Hoodlum Priest - “Rebel Angel”: Hoodlum Priest were a 90s sampling/rock/dance/rap act, initially on ZTT records. Their records are quite rare now but the whole of their 1990 debut album - Heart Of Darkness - is freely available at www.hoodlumpriest.net (and I think their other albums and mini-albums are up there too). The rap element of their music - absent from this cut - is something of an acquired taste (to put it mildly) but everything else has a schlocky, magnificent malevolence. “Hail horrors! Hail, infernal world!”
“the frustrating overabundance of unnecessarily reworked material being hurled at listeners. Want more proof? Take a listen to the bounty of remixes clogging up music-blog aggregators such as Hype Machine and count how few actually move you and how many are there to give bloggers another reason/excuse to keep a band’s name in the elbo.ws headlines.”—
had to be said. (sorry it had to be said re: au revoir simone, who i was just starting to like a lot on that— hey!— aeroplane remix of friendly fires’ “paris”. there’s also a nice air france remix of this group. remix remix remix…) colly ftw.
I don’t know if this is so harmful as a phenom - there’s *always* too much music to pay attention to, so what if there’s more? But I think aesthetically the problem is that the ‘remix’ has become something neither fish nor fowl, not quite a cover, not quite a remix in the old school sense of a version designed to expand a track’s functional options (take it to the dancefloor, or in the case of dance tracks take it to different kinds of dancefloors).
In other words, stop all this blog-friendly fannydangle and put a bangin’ donk on it.
I applied for the UK Civil Service Fast Stream twice: both times I got as far as the final interview. The first time my plans were too radical for The Man - yes, that must have been it, nothing to do with my woeful underpreparation. The second time I got another job offer so didn’t turn up. If I had got through I would now be a great deal richer and would probably have never written a word about music or anything else on the Internet.
The civil service jobs described by Eggs sound a bit less prestigious. This song is from the last time I really identified with and felt enthused by indie: it reminds me of reading Peter Bagge comics and listening to the Festive 50.
In europe and america, theres a growing feeling of hysteria Conditioned to respond to all the threats In the rumoured layoffs by the soviets Valleywag said ”they will delete you” I dont subscribe to this point of view It would be such an ignorant thing to do If the Russians love their journals too
How can I save my little meme from Six Apart’s collapsing dream There is no monopoly in common sense On either side of the friendslocked fence We share the same blogology Regardless of ideology Believe me when I say to you I hope the Russians love their journals too
There is no way that we can know What goes on in the mind of the CEO Theres no such thing as a database flaw Its a lie that we dont believe anymore
The twitter feed says we will protect you I dont subscribe to this point of view Believe me when I say to you I hope the Russians love their journals too
We share the same blogology Regardless of ideology What might save us, me, and you Is that the Russians love their journals too
Aphrodite and Mickey Finn - “Bad Ass”: Jump-up jungle seems a weird 90s dead end, before drum’n’bass became what it is now and before the rest of hardcore spiralled off into 2-step and all that came after. But that doesn’t stop it being awesome, of course.
"Purposeful listening as a broad consumer activity is a pipe dream for old fuddy-duddys who really don’t understand why young people multitask. Music’s utility in everyday occasions is just beginning to be understood, and while that lays waste to the CD model, the fact is that the CD as it is currently constituted is the last gasp of the LP business model. New distribution vehicles like Guitar Hero and YouTube are version 1.0 of the 360 view, where music has a role in just about everything that we would want to remember."
(That’s from the comments on an otherwise slightly wishy-washy article.)
"Ah, yes… sanitised American nowhere towns and pretty young people wearing plaid. There’s a lot of it around at the moment. These ads are totally non-threatening and cool whilst appealing to a broad range of people…. But I’m bored of it now – it’s a visual and musical cliché. It seems to have taken over from vaguely harmless electronica as the ‘in’ sound of advertising…."
From the Idolator review: I’m a sucker for a leadoff track, and “Something Is Squeezing My Skull” doesn’t disappoint. The arrangement manages to sound like the Smiths but aggressive, the way Moz’s jumps to the final word of the title in the chorus gives me goosebumps, and the pharmaceutical list and refusal chant of the middle 8 barrels intro a practically …Trail of Dead-like coda. Morrissey: He rocked my socks off.
Good grief! This is actually terrific - best Morrissey track since…1994?
I want examples of pop music (in the widest sense) made last year that was by, for or about robots (in the widest sense). This will either be turned into a marvellous column in a widely-read interweb music publication near you, or will be forgotten about. Hopefully the former!
It’s another list! BUT! The list (though it is of course the most definitive of the year) is not why this is a good link - that’s down to the very interesting discussion on funky house, “poptimist” and wider British tastes, the vocal coding of “Put A Donk On It”, and why latin pop never seems to break out in England.