Forty pounds to spend at Amazon for my birthday. It’s like when I was 10 and got a book token! If I’d got a forty pound book token at age 10 I would have bought every Target Dr Who novelisation in the world. Have I got any higher brow? Let’s see!
And Then There’s This - Bill Wasik: This isn’t part of the forty quid, it’s something I’m going to claim back on work expenses. It’s the guy who invented the flashmob, writing about storytelling in a viral culture. I am starting to conceptualise What I Do For Fun (i.e. my critical work) as a kind of small-community small-project ‘thing’ so I’m thinking I might get ideas here.
When The Lights Went Out - Andy Beckett: History book about the 1970s in Britain. The 1970s are when I was a small boy, so I really remember them only as texture and fad, but everything I do know about their history is fascinating, especially the paranoid dread that Britain was on the verge of collapse. It might have been! Really looking forward to this one.
The Quatermass Experiment/Quatermass II/Quatermass And The Pit: DVD set of the BBC’s first experiments in sci-fi television, Nigel Kneale’s Quatermass series. The third of these I have on video, and it’s fantastic: genuinely eerie, intelligent, exciting SF, better than 95% of classic Dr Who, and I love classic Dr Who. So I’m very much looking forward to seeing the others.
I, Claudius: My relationship to TV drama is like the old school indie fan’s approach to pop - don’t bother me with it unless it’s at least 20 years old. Many hours of British character actors and Roman history: idyllic.
Louis Armstrong - some cheap compilation of the Hot Fives and Hot Sevens: Sorry, the actual title isn’t to hand. I don’t have any of this music, this is a £3 taster and then I can get the complete set later if I want.
Jefferson Airplane - Surrealistic Pillow: After some intriguing discussion of them on the Starship “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” Popular thread. It felt fun buying CDs again!
… is that they’re working in an area where it’s a legitimate part of the job to describe and comment on people’s appearances, and how we might feel about looking at them.
Is it not a legitimate part of a pop critic’s job? (Saying pop cos it’s wider than just “music”: rock would work fine too) It’s a very thorny and difficult part of the job, as you say it is for film crits. It’s a part of the job most people - me included - duck. But it’s legitimate.
Nobody likes hippies anymore. Nobody. I’m pretty sure “hippie” has long since become a synonym for “pussy” (thanks to South Park, punk rock and conserva-libertarian chic). And while I’d rather listen to Fun House a hundred times than Crosby, Stills & Nash once, I find something kind of weird and unfortunate about this that I can’t entirely put my finger on. Does aggro/”badass” tough-guy attitude have too much of a stranglehold on our idea of untouchable coolness?
How soon we forget our adobe slabs :( (or was it slats?)
I agree w/Nate actually: dude who I most often encounter these days selling insurance (he’s more fun than the animated phone, less likeable than the cartoon bulldog) fighting an old, old battle. Pretty feeble stuff.
“The gadgets of the information age have had nothing like the transformative effects on life and industry that indoor electric lighting, refrigerators, electric and natural gas ovens and indoor plumbing produced in the early to mid-20th century. Is the combination of a phone, video screen and keyboard really as revolutionary as the original telephone, the original television set or the original typewriter was?”—
Good quote. The idea that we live in a time of constant, accelerating change is one of the lazy modern memes that can get quite frustrating. Change on some level is a constant: but so is continuity. Change happens to different groups at different rates, with prosperity playing a very important role. Not all change is positive, and so on. The concept of change as an inevitable and largely positive force that one either adapts to or perishes is a concept that often serves particular interests and it’s always wise to remember this and think through those interests before you start parroting the idea.
At a conference last year somebody framed a panel question to me in terms of “a decade of unprecedented technological change”, and off the top of my head I said the most rapid change I could think of was 1913 to 1922: the overthrow of an established global diplomatic order, war and plague, the invention of the tank and of television and the mass electrification of large parts of the west.
1345 to 1355 would have been pretty “change-y” too. Any other candidates?
“People are dramatically more productive as founders or early employees of startups—imagine how much less Larry and Sergey would have achieved if they’d gone to work for a big company—and that scale of improvement can change social customs.”—
This post - or more accurately the Neil Perkin one that linked to it - sparked a minor personal revelation. I’ve occasionally beaten myself up over spending my professional career in large companies, a small cog in a bigger wheel, and hence feeling that I’ve achieved very little and not got much done. Sometimes I’ve blamed myself for this, sometimes I’ve blamed circumstance: neither very edifying. I’ve sometimes found myself regretting that I didn’t join a small company in my 20s, a start-up even.
Except reading this suddenly rang a bell in my head. “Dramatically more productive" - but hold on, I did have a start-up in my 20s. Not a tech or a business start-up, not one designed to make money (it has been a great success at not making money), but a start-up nonetheless. A cultural start-up, which changed the culture it was part of in ways eventually only I will remember, but I will remember them with satisfaction. Dramatically more productive? Oh goodness yes.
More importantly the product of this start-up wasn’t meant to be a philosophy of pop, or even much of a body of writing: the product was meant to be an improved me. More confident, more focused, more interested and interesting, a better writer. Did it ship? There are bugs. There are features not addressed. But, yes.
(This is why I will never stop being excited seeing people half my age who take having their own expressive space for granted, who get to work out what to do with it on the fly. Even if I don’t care for what they do with it - who cares if I do? I roll my eyes as much as anyone over the tripe that clogs up the internet but that single thing about it is just bloody amazing really.)
It looks like Pitas.com - the Tumblr of its day, a mainstay of the pre-blogger blogging scene - is down because domain names weren’t renewed. Mark Sinker, whose Radio Free Narnia blog is one of several he maintained on Pitas, tweeted glumly to this effect this morning. (I’ve also seem a lot of Tweets panicking about Diaryland though I can still get that.)
Even big sites forget to update their hosting sometimes, but perilously few use these small services any more and Pitas is already 5 days overdue its renewals. It feels like a credible end, even if it turns out not to be one. Combined with Blogger’s move away from FTP support it looks like the entire mini ecosystem of early blogging is going away - not that it matters (if people have backed their stuff up! if Wayback Machine has done its job!) except in the sense that the texture of a particular microculture might vanish: Pitas’ no-nonsense, easy-update pages attracted a lot of people who weren’t technically minded but were committed and often artistically inclined, which gave it a different flavour to a lot of other early blogging systems.
“and so streamlined and well-designed is pitchfork that frat dudes can get into wolf parade (stop pretending it’s not irksome that millions of people you consider morons are fucking each other to the tune of YOUR SACRED MUSIC THAT DESERVES TO BE HEARD AT LEAST WITH SOME DECENT BASS RIGHT? BUT IT’S PLAYING OUT OF THEIR LAPTOP SPEAKERS because YOU KNOW IT IS IRKSOME because you’re a snob no matter how hard you try to convince other people you’re not, you are. honestly you don’t even go to shows at venues bigger than webster hall and even that’s way too big unless like your roommate is in the band. and even if someone were to ask you why you’re not seeing a band at terminal 5 whose current album you really like you could say it’s too expensive or they suck live but you could probably scrounge up $26.50 if you really needed to (and also seeing the band at death by audio would be a real treat) if you didn’t get the sense that everyone else at the Terminal 5 show was going to be breathing out of their mouths).”—
Is the Internet trying to piss me off today, while I have work to do? Gaga is better than Beyonce? No. Here is what the Beyonce greatest hits album would look like:
Bills, Bills, Bills
Say My Name
Independent Woman Pt. 1
Check On It
Lose My Breath
Crazy In Love
Ring the Alarm
When Gaga can step to that, we can talk.
(Should we talk about the racial politics of Lady Gaga? We probably shouldn’t, right?)
I was just thinking now about how the “Telephone” song and clip is this amazing town mouse/country mouse dyad (neither are “mice” but blame Aesop for that metaphor): on the song, B’s guest spot eats Gaga alive, leaves her struggling to catch up on her own tune. On the video, B is an uneasy not-in-Kansas guest in Gaga’s world.
Not that it’s always so clear cut: Beyonce rarely if ever sounds as monstrously id-driven as Gaga’s “I don’t wanna be friends” on “Bad Romance” (still, EASILY, her best music, for whatever that’s worth). But only the very best of Gaga matches that alligators-on-leashes picture.
The industry vs artistry argument in the original post is weak I think: let’s not forget that at this point in Beyonce’s career we knew EXACTLY ‘who she was’ - fearsome platinum-hipped purveyor of man-crushing cyber R&B. “Fembot” and all that. Leaving that behind and exploring other aspects of your talent isn’t confusion or lack of commitment.
Fascinating (er FSVO of) conversation on long-gone board “Chatterbox” about indie rock zines, interesting partly cos it’s a snapshot of the indie zine world in 2000, when Pitchfork was the biggest player in the pond but still pretty much IN the pond, maybe flapping onto the shore of respectability lungfish style (the thread devolves into an entertaining all-comers fight between the Indiezineverse and Brent DiCrezcenzo). Signal Drench, Splendid, Us Against Them, Yahtzeen, Western Homes - all dust in the blogging wind now.
Here’s my poptimist-nihilist contribution:
"I’m a bit intrigued by the way the stuff that gets valorised in this debate is equivalent to the stuff that gets valorised musically in a lot of punk/indie writing, i.e. payin’ your dues, working for 2/5/18 years cranking out reviews to earn Respect….there’s something a bit deadening about it. What I like about Indieshite isn’t that they’re being nasty to indie rock zines (as I remember the original promise was to slag awful band and label sites as well - so how about it?) but that they turned up about a month ago and every post in this debate is mentioning them. Now that’s rock. Or punk. Or something. A flash-in-the-pan site which is brilliant for six months is worth more to me than something which is steadily OK for six years."
Obviously I took the latter option myself.
I am pretty sure though that this was the conversation that made me think a web board for Freaky Trigger would be a good idea: I set up ILM using the Greenspun free BBS tool about two weeks after this started.
(thanks to Mark Richardson and Maura for alerting me to this!)
Nitsuh has a column! I have been excited about this since getting the “column deadlines” email a few weeks ago and seeing him on it. He gets a pull-quote too, the lucky devil: I must remember to ask for one.
This is very good, anyway - a comparison of Joanna Newsom and Lady Gaga which is enviably pitched to start fights and get comments among Pitchfork readers. Nitsuh concentrates on the demands their fans make of them and of each other, and doesn’t touch on something intriguing about Gaga at least, which is the extent to which she encourages or makes demands on her fans to be more interesting - the whole “little monsters” tribalism of Gagadom. (I don’t know enough about Newsom to know what demands or encouragements she makes of her followers or fans: she doesn’t strike me as the Tweeting type, for instance, but maybe I’m overly influenced by the Unicorn Brigade there.)
Yeah: I am experiencing something over here. “Crunkcore” is pretty obviously not a scene I’m incredibly tapped into, so I’ll be relying on some Tumblr friends to correct me. But man: there are some 3OH!3 choruses that totally grab and fascinate me. You can even set aside the question of whether it’s likable or not, and just consider this: is this music not poking at the edges of something really important?
The answers to Nitsuh’s question are really interesting - a lot of NO JUST NO sentiment, don’t-even-go-there stuff. So I’m inclined to think he’s onto something.
Also, 3OH!3 and Ke$ha and even Katy Perry (still not heard Brokencyde) are the first pop to make me feel old. Maybe just 3OH!3 Not in a “I don’t get this” or “I couldn’t get this” way, I think I get it OK even if I couldn’t articulate it - but I don’t think getting it could feel natural. (At some point I’ll say “so what” and talk about it anyway, of course.)
Heh, Nate P answers “These are the times that try Poptimists’ souls”, but actually loads of The People Who Get Called That Word are LOVIN’ this and having amazing conversations about Ke$ha, and in the UK the grime crossover is still in full swing, Tinie Tempah’s at #1… my soul is untried! But yeah, 3OH!3 for me is definitely a ‘moment’.
“There’s a reason music of the eighties remains the antithesis of the word fag, its sad when you cant let it slip into oblivion where it belongs.”—Comment on The Communards on Popular. “That word you use…” etc etc
…I can think of LOADS of candidates for Person A (the genuine person who likes bad music) (I will name no names!) and very very few, IF ANY, for Person B (the faker who likes good stuff).
One reason I get frustrated with the conversations people have around taste is that I can’t think of anyone I know who I DO suspect of regularly fakin’ the funk music taste wise. I’ve been accused of it quite often but I also think I am a classic “Person A” for lots of people.
This is why I started off by stressing the “and” not the “or”. People sculpt their public self-image, of course they do. Some more than others, I’m sure. But the material they’re using to sculpt it from is still them.
“Why should we assume everyone who says they find enjoyment in something “genuinely” finds enjoyment in it, particularly when there are plenty of cases (the entire “guilty pleasure” concept, that news a while back about users deleting certain songs from their Last.FM profiles) to show that people often try to act as if they like things more (or less) than they “genuinely” do?”—
(that was Marc H asking me)
Well, we’ve had this conversation before I think! My attitude is that we can’t easily know whether someone “genuinely believes it” or not when they share a piece of information online. So we have several possible strategies:
assume everybody is honest
assume nobody is honest
do the work of filtering people into the honest and the dishonest, based on whatever criteria we think we can apply, and judge the information in part on that degree of honesty
If the information is “evidence about climate change” or “arguments about economics” or “detail on political choices” or some such then I would like to think I choose strategy #3! Though “honest” and “dishonest” are only part of the story, of course - or are possibly a bad filter to look at these things through, full stop.
When the information is “a piece of new music” on the other hand I think the strategy is a lot muddier. Say I am following two people, person A and person B, and they both share different pieces of music with me. I am pretty sure person A is sharing music because he has a deep love of it, and I am also pretty sure person B is sharing music because he thinks it will make him look cool. But the music person A has shared sucks, and I like the music person B has shared. Which do I keep following?
The actual answer is probably both, because I’m bad at unfollowing. But this is why for sharing stuff like music I prefer strategy #1, the assumption of good faith, which is really just an acceptance that I don’t tend to find that good or bad faith matters, pragmatically.
(There are all sorts of specific nuances to this of course: if there is an identifiable taste-clique who will, sincerely or not, always recommend the same stuff then I only need follow 1 or 2 of them to get an idea of what they all think: this isn’t a genuineness-non-genuineness filter so much as a simple signal-noise one.)
This sentence about the people born, roughly, between 1980 and 2000 may strike most people following my Tumblr as self-evident. But it raises what’s really the big question in an environment where people represent themselves through profiles and status updates rather than through the actions those profiles and status updates describe, right? Are people who share music every day on Tumblr “genuinely” finding pleasure in that music, or do they simply wish to broadcast their fandom to their peers? Do I genuinely expect responses to these questions, or do I simply wish to broadcast to my peers that I read the Economist and ask lots of rhetorical questions? Did I genuinely expect people to click through to that article about Kingdom I posted yesterday, or did I simply wish to broadcast to my peers that I had recently purchased a piece of limited-edition vinyl by a “Rising” artist?
As problematic as questions about what is real and fake can be, they’re pretty central to the “Web 2.0” experience, aren’t they?
Interesting word in Sean Fennessey’s fantastic Gorillaz review yesterday: “authentically”
I think the problem word is “or”. If you rephrase it all as:
"People who share music every day on Tumblr are genuinely finding pleasure in that music and they also wish to broadcast their fandom to their peers. I genuinely expect responses to these questions, and I also wish to broadcast to my peers that I read the Economist and ask lots of rhetorical questions. I genuinely expect people to click through to that article about Kingdom I posted yesterday, at the same time as wishing to broadcast to my peers that I had recently purchased a piece of limited-edition vinyl by a “Rising” artist."
it seems a bit more healthy and realistic, doesn’t it? We’re social animals - why fight it?
“The short clip of the group playing Ticket to Ride, was taken from the BBC’s Top of the Pops programme, and features as part of the sequence where the TARDIS crew look at various events from history on the Time-Space Visualiser… so it has been removed from the [non region 2] edit”
negating the scene’s punchline/joke/point
A shame, as you need all the punchlines you can get if you’re sitting down to watch The Chase.
Pink Floyd are known for their conceptual albums in which individual songs often merge with others to form larger “song suites”. The band argued that their music should only ever be heard as part of the full-length albums in which they originally appeared. They pointed to a contract signed in 1999 that stated their music could not be “unbundled” from its original context.
Fair enough, but then how come the tracks are separated on their CDs?
We got Freaky Trigger readers to vote on the best tracks in the Pop World Cup so far and these tracks came out as their Top 8.
You’ve got hip-hop from Nigeria and Ghana, jazzy pop from Holland, Spanish indiepop, sad Argentine glitchpop, a great Algerian rai number, blistering Ivoirian dance music and something relatively indescribable from North Korea.
The PWC isn’t just us dicking about with polls and football metaphors (though we love that bit!). It’s a way to discover terrific music from around the world - this download is highly recommended. I’ll follow it up with further highlights packages.
(Thanks to everyone who sourced the tracks! And thanks to Matt Perpetua whose single-artist download primers inspired this format.)
“Shortly after the songs release in 1987, The Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu (later to become The KLF) sampled extensively from the song for their composition "Whitney Joins The JAMs". Houston never officially joined The JAMs.”—I love the magnificent po-facedness of Wikipedia.
“Rather than something called Americanized Chinese being defined and then considered bad, the definition proceeds — at least to some extent — something like “there is bad Chinese food in America, and this (and not the good stuff) is Americanized Chinese food.””—
The argument in this article is quite interesting, but what’s even MORE interesting to me is the way “Poptimist” shows up in the headline with zero explanatory content - or even mention - in the piece itself. (I don’t think it’s exactly misused either, inasmuch as you can misuse this phantom).
“And so, by the time it’s filtered through to the Brits single, “You Got The Love” by the Source and Candi Staton has lost all of the original Source and almost all of Candi Staton. It’s practically homeopathic.”—
Mono Lake, a basin with no outlet, has built up over many millennia one of the highest natural concentrations of arsenic on Earth. Dr Wolfe-Simon is investigating whether, in the mud around the lake or in the water, there exist microbes whose biological make-up is so fundamentally different from that of any known life on Earth that it may provide proof of a shadow biosphere, a second genesis for life on this planet.
The startpoint of this Poptimist column was Marc H’s excellent cassette piece from a couple of weeks ago. I asked myself the question - “could a CD revival ever happen? And if so, why and what would it be like?”. You may remember me asking that question on Tumblr when the thought struck, and some of those ideas made it into the piece, which is written as a similar, fictional article from 2022. A rare incursion into science fiction!
I ended up doing a lot of background thinking on what I thought the main musical/pop cultural faultlines of 10-12 years time might be - the trends and values creative, independently-minded people might be embracing or resisting. That thinking is all embedded in the column but I’ve also done a load of annotations explaining my assumptions and references and put them on Freaky Trigger for anyone interested - or, less happily, baffled - enough to care.
Soon the cream of New York’s avant garde scene, including La Monte Young and the Velvet Underground’s John Cale, could be found hanging out at St Thomas’s bell tower, listening to Palestine’s explorations. But the early days of experimental music were highly competitive, with numerous composers vying to out-do each other with works of exceptional duration. “There was the uptown crowd, which included establishment figures such as Morton Feldman and Cage; then there were whippersnappers like myself, doing things in lofts in SoHo. I made a great enemy of Feldman by sending him an abusive letter that basically told him to shove his compositions up his ass. Before that, the longest pieces Feldman had composed were around 20 to 30 minutes. Then I insult him and he starts writing string quartets four, five hours long.”
Do you share articles via Instapaper or similar? It's difficult to find slightly academic, research-y commentary on new meeja and music. I want to read more of that sort of thing, and what I get from your Tumblr is ideal :-)
I haven’t ever used Instapaper! I am not actually sure what it does to be honest. Organising bookmarks is something I am dreadfully poor at, even with the occasional use of delicious etc. so I probably should use more document sharing tools…