Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Halloween hi-jinx with the chill spectre of Phil Spector

Galactic Mystery Solvers is proud to welcome its Halloween guest blogger Phil Spector, fresh from wearing fright-wigs, appearing in court, producing pop records in the 1960s, and generally being crazier than a stuck pig.

Hello kids. Mwahahahahaha! If, like me, you’re nuttier than a squirrel’s “crib”, and love nothing more than the grim Spector – sorry, spectre – of DEATH, then I guess you’ll agree that Halloween’s just the ticket. I like Christmas too, but that’s in December. Other things I like include pop songs with loud drums on them, automatic weapons, and Galactic Mystery Solvers – an Oxford-based music blog that takes a sideways look at indie rock, hip hop, dictionaries and 1997.

Alright already. Anyone who knows jack shit about my career knows that I cast a long, terrifying shadow over the music world. Here are some songs that reflect my frightful presence (on the music scene, that is!). These tracks might not seem “spooky” in the conventional sense – in fact, they might seem like a bunch of songs that in some way reference my oeuvre, but are otherwise unconnected. But they are, one and all, “haunted” by the chill spectre of – who? – Phil Spector.


Nation Of Ulysses – ‘Today I Met The Girl I’m Gonna Marry’ (from 13-Programme To Destroy America)

Darlene Love – ‘(Today I Met) The Boy I’m Gonna Marry’ (from Back To Mono)

Spiritualized – ‘She Kissed Me (And It Felt Like A Hit)’ (from Amazing Grace)

The Crystals – ‘He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss)' (from Back To Mono)

Isaac Hayes – ‘Ike’s Rap / You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling’ (from To Be Continued)

Righteous Brothers – ‘You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling' (from Back To Mono)

Monday, 29 October 2007

Porter Wagoner, 1927 – 2007

"Sometimes, when the light is right, his approach in one of his Nudie-type suits is like a fire coming. Like young Queen Victoria, like black elk in London." Johnny Cash

Porter Wagoner & The Willis Brothers - 'I'll Fly Away'

Porter Wagoner - 'Committed To Parkview'

Friday, 26 October 2007

'97 mentality

i know i ain't the only one:


Exhibit P

Onion's AV club: is 1997 the new 1967? A bit heavy on the U.S. indie (Promise Ring? Helium?), but it did pay homage this mighty entertaining Yo La Tengo video:

Yo La Tengo - 'Sugarcube'

Previously on '97 mentality

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Million Dollar Quartet vs Billion Dollar Remix

Those internets were on fire with rational debate last week. New Yorker critic Sasha Frere-Jones opined that his dream of musico-racial miscegenation had crashed on the rocks of a cruddy, whinging-whitey Modest Mouse album and some Trick Daddy records that were “too black, too strong”, or something. Slate columnist Carl Wilson said the problem’s not race, but god only knows it’s class. Specifically, he identified a caste of Generation Y-ers who refuse to get jobs after university, so are ruining things by still listening to indie pop when they’re in their thirties.

The internets seem to think Carl Wilson won, probably because he let Sasha Frere-Jones go first. But both critics think that something’s gone awry. Can it be true? A Galactic Mystery!

In December 1956, the Million Dollar Quartet of Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis got together for a jam session at Sun Studios, Memphis. Fifty years and a bit later to the day, feud-happy rap-moguls 50 Cent, Jay-Z, Diddy and Kanye West got together onstage at Madison Square Garden. Taking into account inflation, the result was a billion dollar rrrrrrremix of Mr. Cent’s pop smash, ‘I Get Money’.

In both cases, we have groups of rich men selling working-class black music to middle-class white kids, laughing amongst themselves as they do it. Both brought together the dominant popular music forms of the day – in the former case, gospel, country and rock-n-roll; in the latter case, club-rap, pop-rap and rap. But which is best, and has pop music moved on? GMS breaks it down:

The best pop music is full of great hair.
Billion Dollar Remix The late 80s wasn’t rap’s golden age for nothing: hi-top fades, jheri curls, rap mullets. These days? A poor showing. 3
Million Dollar Quartet is full of great hair. Yes, even Jheri Lee Lewis. 10

The joy of great pop is that you don’t have to listen to it for very long.
BDR is in and out like a crack team of management consultants. A one shot deal. 9
MDQ took all day about their business – literally! Until Cash went to do some Christmas shopping, and Elvis nipped out for a cheeseburger and some sex. 4

Lusty rabble-rousing
Go cat go.
BDR have been linked to their fair share of honeys, despite Jay and Fiddy having faces only a mother could love. 6
MDQ Marrying your 13-year-old cousin? Check. Shooting the telly? Check. Causing a forest fire while full of drugs? Check. Winding up June Carter and attacking a sink in a highly-praised but rather plodding biopic? Check. 9

The Lord Jesus Christ
The first pop star?
Those MDQ boys loved their mommas, and the Lord Jesus Christ. Most of their session is spent singing about how they’re going to meet him and have a chat. 9

BDR seem like a godless bunch, though Jigga has started rapping in Hebrew a bit. But maybe they’re just channelling their god-lust into the accumulation of worldly wealth. Praise him! 6

Investment portfolio
I get money, money I got.
MDQ were the first r’n’r megastars, and set the bar for TCB – takin’ care of business, that is! 7
BDR 50 took quarter water, sold it in a bottle for two bucks, Coca Cola bought that shit for twenty mill – what the fuck?! Diddy and Jay both have a Masters in Business Administration from the Correspondence College of Tampa, Florida. 9

“The pocket of the beat”
The best pop musicians discover the beat’s pocket, then set up shop in it. © Status Ain’t Hood.
BDR 50 struggles to keep pace (on his own beat). Diddy blithely monotones like he does on every track. But Jay saves the day with his limber, off-key flow, ducking and weaving, stretching his vocals out, picking “the pocket of the beat” like the artful dodger of pop that he is. Hmm. 6
MDQ Back in the day, the pocket of the beat had a different name: “shooby-doo-bop”. No egos on display for the Million Dollar Quartet – they all get involved. 7

Quality of death
C’mon, dying is rad.
MDQ Elvis carries the torch here, as Cash and Perkins passed on with some dignity, and Lewis is still with us. But Cash “shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die”, while Perkins killed, and was killed by, David Bowie in John Landis’ Into The Night. Score! 7
BDR Much as they glorify death, and the administration of such, all of these guys are alive. 0

Vehicle of choice
If there’s one thing that unites pop musicians, it’s automotive transport.
BDR 50 names all the different types of expensive car, and mumbles so that they rhyme. 9
MDQ were just hung up on Cadillacs. 5

Diddy’s ghostwriter earns his cheddar here, penning amusing non-sequiturs about “riding round in Miami on mopeds” and rhyming “million” with “ice grillin’”. 8
MDQ hardly wrote any of the forty-odd songs they play, the big frauds. 4

Searching critique of race and class
Frere-Jones would vaunt MDQ’s commitment to musical miscegenation, and Cash went on to record social protest pieces like Bitter Tears and ‘The Man In Black’. But in 1956 these boys weren’t exactly readers. Plus, erm, what Chuck D said. 5
BDR Digested Chomsky? Yeah, Diddy did it. Protested the WTO? Yeah, Diddy did it. 8

Million Dollar Quartet 67
Billion Dollar Remix 64

There we have it. Pop was slightly better fifty years ago. The three-points gap in the totals seems to imply that it’s neither class, nor race, but religion that’s made the difference. Maybe if that nice, god-fearing Kanye West had joined in, things would have levelled out. So, no need to fret, pop fans!

Million Dollar Quartet (Presley, Cash, Lewis, Perkins) – ‘Just A Little Talk With Jesus’

Million Dollar Quartet (Presley, Cash, Lewis, Perkins) – ‘I Shall Not Be Moved’

Million Dollar Quartet (Presley, Cash, Lewis, Perkins) – ‘Down By The Riverside

50 Cent (feat. Diddy & Jay-Z) – ‘I Get Money (remix)’

Monday, 22 October 2007

The Oxford English Dictionary of ROCK #1: Punk

I like punk rock. It’s got a cool beat, and I can bug out to it. Plus, if I want to shake my fist in the general direction of The Man, it’s just the ticket. Screw you, The Man!

But I’d like to learn more about these street-punks and their snotty ways. In the first (and possibly the longest) of a regular series, GMS seeks higher learning the language’s best and biggest repository of FACT, the Oxford English Dictionary. Here’s a definition:

punk rock n.

Originally: rock music played in a fast, aggressive, or unpolished manner. In later use: spec. a genre of rock music originating in the late 1970s, characterized by a deliberately outrageous or confrontational attitude, energetic (and often chaotic) performance, and (freq.) simple or repetitive song structures; the subculture or style associated with this music.

Gold Blade – ‘Punk Rock’ (from Do You Believe In The Power Of Rock’n’Roll?)

Mogwai – ‘Punk Rock’ (Live at All Tomorrow’s Parties, Camber Sands, 2000)

Straightforward enough, but there’s still debate about what, or who, counts as punk. Recently John Lydon suggested Green Day’s spiky hair and ripped clothing made them less like punk and more like “gorgonzola in old boots”. True punks might take this sort of argument outside. GMS takes it to the OED:

punk n.

b. A performer or fan of punk rock; a person who adopts the style or attitude associated with punk rock. In terms of appearance a punk is typically characterized as having coloured spiked hair, wearing deliberately ripped clothing, and using safety pins for adornment, either as a decoration on clothing or as a piercing through the ear or nose.

One-nil to Green Day. But wait:

1976 New Musical Express 17 Apr. 43/1 Johnny Rotten..has the makings of a good punk.

Honours even, then, for attire and attitude. Some mp3s:

Sex Pistols – ‘No Fun’ (Live at San Francisco Winterland, 1978)

Green Day – ‘She’s A Rebel’ (Live)

But which bands does the OED use to define punk? Hands up whoever said Sleater-Kinney and Green On Red.

punk band n.

2006 Chicago Tribune (Nexis) 29 June C25 Sleater-Kinney emerged out of the early '90s riot grrrl movement, a loose coalition of female punk bands.

punk style n.

b. With past participles (in sense A. 5), as punk-influenced, punk-related, punk-styled, etc., adjs.

2005 Uncut June 163/1 Their punk-informed country underpinnings evoke fond memories of fellow travellers like Green On Red.

Sleater-Kinney – ‘You’re No Rock’N’Roll Fun’ (live, 2005)

Green On Red – ‘Easy Way Out’ (from Gas Food Lodging)

Like the OED, punk is continually evolving. The latest addition to the dictionary’s definitions is punk-funk (added: September 2007). That sounds about right: about three or four years ago people were going “ape” for bands like Radio 4 and the Rapture. Rubbish, weren’t they? Turns out, though, “teeny-bop” act T. Rex invented punk-funk. Just ask the staff of Kingston, Jamaica’s Sunday Gleaner.

punk funk n. any of various styles of music incorporating elements of punk and funk; cf. FUNK n.2 2.

1974 Sunday Gleaner (Kingston, Jamaica) 24 Mar. (Mag. section) 6/2 T. Rex. Band with *punk-funk sound. Emerged with second coming of teeny bop, 1970. 1991 C. EDDY Stairway to Hell 45/1 ‘The Stroke’ ranks with the sleaziest, sassiest, strangest, slyest hit singles of the eighties{em}punkfunk for real. 2004 Uncut Mar. 58/2 The more experimental wing of the post-punk brigade,..the abrasive, sky-strafing guitar stylings of PiL's Keith Levene, the Banshees, or the non-linear, noisenik punk-funk of Gang Of Four.

Side-stepping that whole farrago, here’s some punk rap from the Cold Crush Brothers, funky for you:

Cold Crush Brothers – ‘Punk Rock Rap’

Who invented punk? The US and the UK have long disputed the title. The dictionary notes the old English origins of the word, generally meaning a young prostitute, but attributes the musical meaning to the US. Much as it pains me to say it, that’s substantiated by the relative number of bands cited as examples or inspirations: on the American side there are mentions for the Ramones, Stooges, Descendents, Green On Red, Sleater-Kinney, Angry Samoans, My Dad Is Dead and even Blink 182, as well as 1960s garage progenitors Shadows Of Knight, The Music Machine, and the Nazz. The UK falls just short with Sex Pistols, PiL, T Rex, Mick Jagger, Led Zeppelin, the Golden Horde (Irish, but that’s close enough), Souxsie and the Banshees, Gang Of Four, Elvis Costello (a “punkabilly”) and Toyah Wilcox (on a side note, no sign of the Clash). Interestingly, though, the bands against which punk was said to be in reaction (Pink Floyd, Cream, Genesis and Yes) are all Brits. Europe only gets a passing reference to the Raveonettes. Keep up!

Jeffrey Lewis – ‘The History Of Punk On The Lower East Side

Gogol Bordello – ‘Immigrant Punk’ (from Gypsy Punks: Underdog World Strike)

Scott 4 & Magic Car – ‘European Punks’ (from European Punks LP)

I once bought an album from a charity shop called Totally Punk. It was. Here is the best track.

Tom Robinson Band – ‘Glad To Be Gay’

And here are two more top tunes to complete our magical musical journey:

Kenickie – ‘Punka’ (from At The Club)

Magnetic Fields – ‘Punk Love’ (from 69 Love Songs)

Previously on the OED of ROCK

Friday, 19 October 2007

R.I.P. Alan Coren

One of the best that ever did it. As GMS' man on the street, C-Sonic, put it: "FUCK! He was my favourite Coren."

This just came on the stereo and says it better than I could:

Geto Boys - '6 Feet Deep' (from till death do us part)

Thursday, 18 October 2007

The Oxford English Dictionary … of ROCK

I love the English language. Even when I’m not speaking it, I use it for thinking or for writing a blog. But I’m not sure I love it as much as Sir James Murray, who constructed the Oxford English Dictionary in his garden shed at 78 Banbury Road.

Murray took historical usage, rather than any arbitrary notion of what counts as English, as the basis for choosing entries. As a result, the dictionary, currently about five times as fat as its French counterpart, is still updating, adding neologisms every three months. This is why, quarterly, following a “light-hearted think-piece” in the broadsheet press, we can arm ourselves with the fact that “Ghetto-fabulous is a real word now,” a comment which is sure to light up any dinner-party or private funeral.

My favourite words tend to be the rude ones. Used judiciously, they can spice up polite conversation. What’s new for fall? Cock-blocker:

cock-blocker n. coarse slang (orig. and chiefly U.S.) a person who cock-blocks

2004 R. BYRNES Trust Fund Boys 272 You're compounding things by being a cock-blocker.

Back to the point: OED is also my preferred tool for keeping up with the latest pop trends. NME and Pitchfork are constantly inventing new musical genres, but how am I to know what it all means, especially when Barrington Ennui, the bassist out of Burning Wednesday’s Veil, keeps saying his band isn’t really math-emo at all?

In a new series, maybe starting tomorrow, GMS casts a critical eye over the cutting-edge types of pop that youngsters are playing these days with their key-tars. Will ringtone rap get the OED seal of approval? Can glitch-tronica be defined? Any takers for Morrissey-esque? Can words describe the sheer um-ness of In Rainbows? You’ll have to wait and see.

Magnetic Fields – ‘All My Little Words’ (from 69 Love Songs)

Black Star – ‘Definition’ (from Mos Def and Talib Kweli are … Black Star)

Buy 69 Love Songs

Buy Black Star

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

"the gambler, he broke even"

Kenny Rogers' 'Gambler' is my gambling theme - containing, as it does, several layers of truth.

But I don't think I'll ever hear it the same way again after seeing this harrowing, soul-wounding interpretation from the Muppet Show. Wasn't this supposed to be for kids? Who thought a tap-dancing ghoul would be appropriate? And isn't that public intellectual Sir Robert Winston on the far right?

Kenny Rogers - 'The Gambler' (from The Muppet Show)

Live Review – Los Campesinos, You Say Party We Say Die @ Oxford C***ing Academy

Bands these days are younger than I ever was and own more records than I could have dreamed of at that age. Still, it’s what you do with them that counts. You Say Party We Say Die seem a little unsure. At their best, they’ve got a nice line in Atari Teenage Riot rar-ra pop, with a four-person vocal attack and fast, biting lines of riot grrrl noise. They do less well when trying to slow the assault down, and add a heavy groove, somewhere between Yeah Yeah Yeah’s cranky lurch-rock and CSS’ hipster aerobics. Still, they’re a likeable piece of indie cabaret, the frontwoman looking like Jennifer Beals, the bassist like Liam off of Coronation Street. And they keep the set down to 25 minutes, which is appealing.

Has it come to this?

Welsh seven-piece Los Campesinos make a breathless embrace of every indie pop sound ever into their calling card. From their fellow countrymen alone you get Helen Love-style saccharine speed-punk, Gorky’s blend of the wistful and the weird, and (as Drowned In Sound pointed out), even the ghost of Pavement-esque skronk-shouters Mo-Ho-Bi-Sho-Pi. The group’s democratic approach to vocal duties and to genre also encompasses some right-on ethics – songs about misogyny in the UK music press, organic free trade t-shirts, songs about All Tomorrow’s Parties (which they get to play, courtesy of Pitchfork), and about their touring buddies (‘You Throw Parties, We Throw Knives’). All very winning, though, like You Say Party, best delivered live, with giddy charm and brevity.

More fun:

Los Campesinos – ‘The International Tweecore Underground’, a ‘gimme schmindie rock’ for the myspacers.

These being the kids, stream their ‘ish here and here.

Monday, 15 October 2007

Scooby Doo and apple cider with the Tony Bennetts of rap

Think Differently, an indie off-shoot of the Wu empire, recently released the 2005 gig that half the Wu-Tang Clan (GZA, Raekwon, Deck, U-God) played with live funk band the El Michaels Affair.

It’s one of the very few noteworthy live hip hop albums, and is worth tracking down for the Staxed-up succession of Clan classics and solo tracks (even the cut from U-God’s Golden Arms: Redemption works out), but also for the between-song banter. In particular, Raekwon reveals himself as the temperance arm of the Wu, needling U-God for knocking back too much “apple cider”, and suggesting that his fellow rappers are “drinking cups like it’s the Gulf War.” He also suggests that the El Michaels Affair are “on some Scooby-Doo shit”, and that the Wu will soon be wearing silk, playing Vegas, and generally being “the Tony Bennetts of rap.” Cider, the Wu-Tang Clan and Tony Bennett are three of GMS’ favourite things. I can’t comment on Vegas, but my buddy Double S went there for his honeymoon, and said it was “fine as fuck”, or something along those lines.

Tony for Mayor

Here’s ‘Triumph’, with the Wu amusing themselves by doing impressions of RZA at the end. For an incisive verse-by-verse analysis of ‘Triumph’, head here.

Wu-Tang Clan and El Michaels Affair – ‘Triumph’

And also a version of Raekwon’s ‘Criminology’, with GZA dropping his incredible 'Illusory Protection' verse from Grandmasters.

Wu-Tang Clan and El Michaels Affair – ‘Criminology’

Buy Wu-Tang Clan and El Michaels Affair Live at XM Radio

Sunday, 14 October 2007

’97 mentality


Exhibit O

To rock or not to rock? That is the question posed by recently-outed literary types Idlewild. In 1997, they rocked in such a burn-your-face-off Pixies-covering-Bleach type of way that NME described them as “the sound of a flight of stairs falling down a flight of stairs”. In 2007, for a helpful contrast, they do not.

Head to Jamie’s Runout Groove for their 1997 7” single, ‘Chandelier’, plus messy-as-all-hell live versions of ‘Captain’ and ‘Self-healer’.

Previously on '97 mentality

Buy some Idlewild


Since the publication of this post, Idlewild guitarist Rod has attempted to recapture former glories by falling down an actual flight of stairs. Get well soon, that man.

Rodney P: good at videos

Northern Author has been good enough to upload his own compilation of rarities, guest spots and singles from UK hip hop veteran and legend (hell, they’re all veterans and legends in UK hip hop), Rodney P. His post got me noticing that mister P (no relation to Sean, Styles, Percy, Master, El-) has produced a string of entertaining videos on a low-to-middling shoestring, often featuring his buddies like Skinnyman and “people’s poet” Benjamin Zephaniah.

Here’s ‘Riddim Killa’, from 2004’s The Future, with a nice Warriors nod and some Cineplex larks:

Here’s Rodney and Terry Hall this year, featuring on Dub Pistols’ version of the Stranglers’ ‘Peaches’. I particularly like this one, with Rodney dropping effortlessly into a hilarious, leery white-van-man accent with more skill than Mike Skinner could muster. Me old mucker.

Here’s ‘Nice Up’, from The Future, with a kerrazy London cab concept:

His old group, London Posse, tended to stick to Wu-style low-budget mean mugging. ‘How’s Life In London?’ from 1993:

Buy a Rodney P record

Friday, 12 October 2007

Beirut: better than MIA and Radiohead

No Trivia, who thinks of something interesting to say to the internet almost every day, wrote a provocative piece about one of the best songs I’ve heard all year, the rrrrremix of MIA’s ‘Paper Planes’, featuring Bun B and Rich Boy. The original is the only really good song on her much-hyped Kala LP – sampling the best bit of the Clash’s otherwise stolid ‘Straight To Hell’, and combining playground rhymes with deadpan nonsense about “third world democracy”, cash registers and gunshots. The remix just adds a couple of nifty verses: Rich Boy sing-raps about an older woman (or possibly a car – these rappers love their metaphors!) in a style that’s somewhere between Nelly, lovers rock and southern soul; Bun B sounds like Bun B always does, which a lot of people like, and ends his verse by suggesting you “get your Robin Hood on, put some pressure on The Man”, which is a great thing to say, I reckon.

MIA (feat. Bun B & Rich Boy) - 'Paper Planes' (remix)

Brandon uses the remix as a jump-off point to air some strong reservations about MIA’s patronising attitude towards her ‘edgy’ and ‘marginalised’ collaborators (read: poor, and occasionally possessed of some strong opinions that she might not share). Fair points – MIA’s easy to expose as a liberal dilettante passing herself off as a visionary radical. Most of the time I can’t stomach her, any more than I can take the over-egged production and unalloyed, humourless unpleasantness of UGK, or the production-line shirtless southern rapper-dom of Rich Boy. But sometimes pop works best when it rides the fine line between exploitation and inspiration (or something) – “from Elvis to Eminem!”, as a Guardian music journalist might write – and the remix does just that. Trashy and transcendent, what?

I was planning to carry on in this pretentious vein and write something comparing ‘Paper Planes’ to Beirut’s new album The Flying Club Cup, another piece of work that gleefully robs from ‘authentic’ sources, this time appropriating Balkan folk arrangements, together with a heavily-romanticised vision of France. Nothing on the album stands out as much as the MIA song, but overall its Boho-schtick is much more successful, at points recalling GMS faves Menlo Park, or a cross between Neutral Milk Hotel’s more funeral songs and the gypsy oompah chaos of Emir Kusturica’s outstanding Black Cat White Cat. There are plenty of reviews out there. The ones that give it 8 out of 10 are about right.

Menlo Park – ‘Bicycle’ (from Greetings from Montauk, N.Y.)

Black Cat White Cat OST – ‘Bubamara’

Instead, I’ll direct you to the album’s website, which does something a bit magical. Each song has a video, in which we follow Beirut’s ‘Orkestar’ around Brooklyn, through bars, apartments, a garage full of ice cream vans, down to the river by night, and finally into a church, playing their ukuleles, fiddles, accordions and horns as they go. It’s not an altogether original device: the format simply expands upon French film-makers La Blogotheque’s guerilla-gig approach. Arcade Fire, who also bring the bells and whistles, made a similar one in support of Neon Bible earlier this year. Plus, if you’re put off by Beirut’s “I’ve been to Europe” aesthetic, you probably won’t warm to the inevitably romanticised Brooklyn that he roams here.

People have written a lot of about the communal experience of downloading the Radiohead album, listening to it and reviewing it at the same time as everybody else, amateur and professional. It certainly felt like a new way to experience music, but none of the chatter stopped my attention drifting after track three or four. Beirut’s gimmick, like their album, is better: instead of downloading or streaming the album while doing some work, the visuals forced me to stop, look and listen. Like a live gig shorn of all rock-performance clich├ęs and presented in a style sympathetic to the music, the compositions, the instrumentation, and the human element were enhanced. If every band did this … I’d probably skip the videos because there isn’t the time. But if it occasionally forced me to give a little more space to an album, that’s only a good thing.

Beirut are still stuck in the dark ages when it comes to demanding a fixed price for their art. But 40 minutes on the web and a fiver at amazon should suffice.

Beirut – ‘The Flying Club Cup’ (final track)

Menlo Park’s myspace

Buy Menlo Park

Buy Black Cat White Cat OST

Beirut’s Flying Club Cup Website

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Don’t know much about fiscal policy

Puerile rap-rock outfit Radiohead have bent reality out of shape and turned revolution on its head by giving their new album away for whatever people see fit to pay. Maybe you heard.

It’s a great gimmick, so great in fact that they’ve got a mention on GMS. But, serious-minded reader, I’ve gone into this and, you know, one can go too far. First the Charlatans, then the Oasis and the Nine Inch Nails, and now the sodding Jamiroquai have suggested they’ll do the same. For morons like myself on the internets, this is purely bad news. If 1% of the rabid nonsense written about In Rainbows is to be believed, it’s about a million points double-plus good, and gets better to the power of jam doughnuts every time you listen to it. This means I’ll be heading to their website and repeat-buying it for incrementally large amounts in a perpetual self-orgy of altruistic gratefulness. And what’s more, if some sort of state regulator doesn’t step in, who’s to stop me forking out £1234.56 for the Diplo remix of Justice’s cover of the latest Of Montreal single because of a particularly breathless entry on Or locking myself into an open-ended payment scheme to watch videos of R. Kelly swearing and wearing a false beard? Mo money, mo problems, like BIG said.

As a solution, GMS suggests we follow in the footsteps of nineteenth-century British statesman William Huskisson. No, not by stepping under a moving train. Shortly before he met his maker in the form of Stephenson’s Rocket, Huskisson masterminded the imposition of a sliding scale of duties on corn. Under this system, when the supply of corn to us British folk was good, and prices were cheap, the full tax would be in place. But in a bad crop, as the price rose, the duty would fall – hence stabilising prices for the consumer. Moderate, liberal and progressive in theory, disastrous in practice – corn merchants kept supplies off the market, and put out their poorest-quality grain, in order to force prices up and escape taxes, destroying the stability of the currency and popular faith in the justice of the market. Something similar happened with mid-western farmers and the gold standard with the onset of global competition and cyclical depressions in the later nineteenth century, but I forget how that went. Never mind, eh?

God bless the dead.

Though it didn’t work for Huskisson and his corn, that’s not to say it wouldn’t work for Korn, and for all of those cheeky pop-rock bands that people go on about. So here goes:

Let’s have a few firm markers. You can pick up The Bends or OK Computer for £4.50 at Avid Records in Oxford, and you should, because Avid’s a great shop, and those are great records. Avid has a sliding scale – if you buy 3 records, it only costs £10. So if you’re buying the two decent Radiohead records, you can get one of their crap ones for an extra quid.

Charlatans next: I picked up their best-of, Melting Pot, in a shop called Cash Converters for £3. That’s fair, as I listen to it once every three years, each time recalling that they had a few cracking singles, and were pretty consistent until Tim started thinking he was a country Curtis Mayfield. New Charlatans album, though? 65p.

Like Radiohead, NIN made two great records. There’s no further point in them. New NIN record: £0.00.

Like drinking air.

Oasis is where the sliding scale really kicks in. If offered me £4 to listen to a 40-minute album, I’d agree. Per-minute, that equates to just above the minimum hourly wage, so I could choose whether to get on with some work, or do the hoovering, with it playing in the background. Multi-tasking.

Listening to a Jamiroquai album would count as work, due to the general unpleasantness involved. So would have to beat my standard wage and offer me £10 for 40 minutes, or £15 p/h. Which would be alright, I reckon, because the guy’s shitting cash.

For the penny-pinched listener, hopefully, the impulses of aural pleasure and the need for cash would balance out: for instance, I might like to pay a little, often, for my weekly half-arsed but intermittently-entertaining Lil’ Wayne mixtape; in the long-term, this might cost the same as paying a lot, occasionally, for a rarer, more valuable commodity, like a My Bloody Valentine album, or a Radiohead song with a tune.

In either case, pleasure, appreciation and expense could be budgeted. I could offset it piece-by-piece, by downloading and listening to every Jim Jones mp3 posted on nahright for a couple of months. Or I could do it in one fell swoop, perhaps by spending an hour in the dark thinking about Akon. Mmmmm, Akon.

Akon, meanwhile, is thinking about you.

The basic point being, Radiohead’s system gives the listener rights and freedoms. What listeners also need are duties and responsibilities. Huskisson's sliding scale would force them to evaluate their consumption of art, and to atone for it through a cash nexus. This would leading to a keener appreciation of the value of good music, and of the sheer fetid stinking offensiveness of Jamiroquai.

I haven’t really thought this through, it occurs to me, so if anybody’s willing to try, let me know whether it works out. Also, if anybody would like to explain why In Rainbows is any good, drop a comment, because I'm baffled and my head hurts.

Until then, let's sneak in '97 mentality:


Exhibit N

Radiohead - 'Lucky' (live at the Glastonbury Festival)

Previously on '97 mentality

advertising industry stays on point

xfm are playing the new radiohead album in full. of course, it's nonsense, as usual. half-way through, an ad break featured two adverts for hair-loss products. sounds about right.

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Album review – Percee P – ‘Perseverance’

Indie rap imprint Stones Throw deserves credit for coaxing a debut album out of freestyling Bronx MC Percee P after three decades on the scene. The virtues of pairing him across a whole disc with tasteful beatmaker Madlib are more debatable: mister Lib takes inspiration on ‘Perseverance’ from the theme tunes of sitcoms that aired when Percee was starting out – all cheesy soul, Randy Newman piano licks and what sounds to these ears like a sample of Lindsay Buckingham’s ‘Holiday Road’, as featured on the soundtrack to National Lampoon’s European Vacation. The guest list shows more discretion and style – none of Diamond D, Prince Po, Chali 2na, Vinnie Paz, Guilty Simpson and Aesop Rock sounds out of place.

Percee P wisely ignores the halting, chopped-soul backing beats, delivering head-scrambling polysyllabic rhyme schemes as if he was still working with the fast drums, rumbling basslines and strangled jazz that featured on his early 12” releases. He’s understandably reluctant to narrow his range, covering as many bases as possible – nostalgic, aggressive, cerebral, spiritual, and so on. Occasionally this comes across as shapeless or stale – narrative songs imagining hip hop as a mistreated woman aren’t anything new, and nor are self-regarding trips down memory lane. More often, though – and especially when Madlib can muster some aggression – P’s verbal dexterity, self-belief and composure are enough to carry this welcome, if oddly balanced album. (B+)

More fun:

Unkut’s great T-Ray interview included some rare Percee P tracks.

Buy Perseverance

Stones Throw records

Two videos from Perseverance: ‘Put It On The Line’ has the best visuals:

‘Throwback Rap Attack’ is the better song:

Percee’s classic street battle with Lord Finesse – looks like they spent all day rhyming at each other. Rotten quality, thrilling scenes.

Part 1

Part 2

Monday, 8 October 2007


One hundredth damn post. I still don’t know why I bother, and long may that continue. See below for the sort of thing that bloggers do on such occasions.

Kyuss – ‘100 degrees’ (live in San Francisco, 1994, original on Sky Valley)

The Game – ‘100 Bars: The Funeral’

Prague – ‘A Century Of Fakers’ (Belle & Sebastian cover, from A Century Of Covers)

Wilco – ‘One Hundred Years From Now’ (Gram Parsons cover, from Return of the Grievous Angel)

Blur – ‘End Of A Century’ (from Parklife)

Mekons – ‘100% Song’ (from The Curse of the Mekons)

Raekwon – ‘100 Rounds’ (from Immobilarity)

Termanology – ‘100 Jewelz’ (from Hood Politics IV)

Sunday, 7 October 2007

Album review – iLiKETRAiNS – ‘Elegies To Lessons Learnt’

iLiKETRAiNS are what would happen if Alan Bennett’s History Boys put on a show to save the old clubhouse. Musically, they’re not exactly revisionists: Hope Of The States, delivered the same mix of formal attire, Morricone-bombast, and Radiohead’s sorrowful politics, but with a British wit and lightness of touch that pitched them as distant, moody cousins of the Libertines. Perhaps iLiKETRAiNS have learnt lessons from HotS’ miserable fate: their baritone vocals bracket them with more successful Joy Division interpreters like Interpol or Editors, and they achieve greater gravitas than either by rooting their cryptic set-pieces in dark and tragic historic events.

Occasionally the claims of history fail to excuse grating lyrics or leaden pronouncements. Their debut EP, ‘Progress / Reform’ felt more engaged, and showed more dramatic flair and musical panache. A lack of variation puts this album in a lower league than HotS’ impressive debut The Lost Riots. But in the long term, iLiKETRAiNS' commitment to sparking listeners' curiosity and sending the kids to the library, or onto wikipedia, redolent of the early Manics, may mean they can overcome the law of diminishing returns that blighted their peers. After all, there’s a lot of history out there. (B)

iLiKETRAiNS - 'Spencer Perceval'

Friday, 5 October 2007

on Anon.

morning, blog readers! occasionally i can be bothered to have coherent thoughts about pop music and write them out in complete sentences. but a lot of the time i leave that to commenters, who are always welcome.

one of the most deft and devastating i've received came from 'anonymous' (seriously?), and concerned singing sensation will oldham's duet with scout niblett, 'kiss'. i repost it in case anybody missed out:

"Im surprised to hear Will Oldham singing with Scout Niblett who doesnt seem to have much talent for music or singing. Her annoying voice struggles desperately to sound like Chan Marshall but just doesnt seem to get there. Its also a joke that Scouts trying to mime her way into this southern bell indie lead in America when its so obvious shes just English. Will Oldham is also spreading his overly used talents in too many pointless places at once, which gets very boring after a while. I pass big time on the Scout, Oldham duet thing. A desperate plea to be heard with no regards for all the migraines it will cause."

i mention this because will and scout have made a video for said song, which i think is very good. you should watch it, but maybe with your fingers in your ears if you've been migrained by scout before. i wonder what anonymous will think. the floor is open.

incidentally, put 'anonymous commenter' into the wu-tang name generator and you get 'well-liked assman'. is this you?

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

i got tha hook up

No posts for a while around these parts. GMS was planning on going to pop concerts by Richard Hawley, Lethal Bizzle, Poison The Well, Gallows and the Decemberists, and then saying what they were like on the internet. But a combination of incompetence and the unfailing desire of “the Man” to keep me down has meant that I’ve repeatedly failed to gain admittance to the NEW LOOK BEER-SPONSORED OXFORD CARLING BEER-SPONSORED ACADEMY MUSIC VENUE GO ON DRINK SOME CARLING IT’S BEER. To quote the Game: “I hate the system. I hate all systems.”

Get out of my face, "the Man"

But never mind – comment is free and goes on unheeded. Weighing in this week:

Not a Blogger weighs up the prospects of XXL’s ten next-generation MCs. Wit, passion and accuracy ensue.

No Trivia dissects an excellent new Raekwon photograph – which is more interesting than most of XXL’s next-generation rappers.

yoinked from

Daily Growl looks at two interesting new records: iLiKETRAiNS’ history-tastic post-Hope Of The States opus Elegies From Lessons Learnt and Jeffrey Lewis’ perverse decision to cover twelve Crass songs on 12 Crass Songs.

I likes me a bit of Belle & Sebastian, but not this much: indie mp3 looks at Bowl & Sebastian: Bowl Your Hand Child You Strike Like A Peasant.

Those crazy iNTERNETS CELEBRiTiES have done it again: ‘Cereal Is Dope’. They also posted outtakes, which are better, for my money, especially “When you wake up the next morning, get a fucking job!” and “Instead of being racist, make a fucking keg of cereal.”

Finally, my bro’ unhemmed wrote a post about the indie rock forays of the “I’m from
Barnsley”-style poet Simon Armitage, and the smugly self-deprecating “I’m from Northern Ireland”-style poet Paul Muldoon. And got a comment from Armitage’s band-mate. Bonus!

Coming up on GMS, maybe

’97 mentality: can we reach Exhibit Z by the end of 2007?

Los Campesinos live – if the BEER PALACE OF SWEET DELICIOUS CARLING BEER lets me in.

The Oxford English Dictionary … of ROCK