Saturday, 22 December 2007


In 1996 (just for the hell of it) it was Gina G singing 'Ooh Aah, Just a Little Bit', it was Euro '96, it was Oasis, it was Knebworth, it was Kevin Keegan shouting with petulance but also visceral, wild-eyed ardour at Alex Ferguson for being so cynical and mean-spirited, it was the end of the IRA ceasefire, it was Mission Impossible I, it was the International Year For the Eradication of Poverty, it was the Dunblane massacre, it was Alan Shearer, it was lime-green, it was big-platforms on trainers, it was bright orange, it was the Union Jack looking OK for a fleeting moment, it was the Nintendo 64, it was Bill Clinton signing the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, it was Tony Blair smiling a Clintonian rather than a Bushian smile that was nevertheless both hopeful and sinister, it was the death of Tupac, it was the film 'Independence Day', it was the publication of Chuck Palanuik's book 'Fight Club', it was David Foster Wallace's 'Infinite Jest', it was Our Friends in the North summing up the spirit of the age, it was Geri Halliwell, it was Dodgy singing 'Good Enough', it was the birth of Dolly the Sheep.

In 2007 it was Kylie coming back and singing '2 Hearts' in a dark, gothically decadent dress, it was Gordon Brown coming to power and saying very little, it was the BBC adaptation of Dickens's 'Oliver Twist', it was Amy Winehouse's drugs, it was the the intense, monochromatic force of the film 'Control', it was Britney Spears losing control with the world watching, it was 'immigration is getting out of control', it was George Bush and Tony Blair in decline, it was Don DeLillo's 'Falling Man', it was The Klaxons, it was Led Zeppelin reforming, it was black, it was 'everything is going wrong / but we're so happy', it was Lily Allen appearing in her (black) lingerie for GQ magazine, it was gold, it was ketamine, it was spidery shadowy lettering, it was Afghanistan, it was Iraq, it was Iran, it was David Lynch's 'Inland Empire', it was the BBC adaptation of 'Cranford', it was Calvin Harris singing that he had love and hugs for people, but only if they were born in the penultimate decade of the twentieth century, it was ostentatious jewellery, it was buckets and buckets of rain, it was Channel 4's T4 Unsigned bands competition, it was Northern Rock imploding, it was the total lunar eclipse in March, it was Nicolas Sarkozy, it was a sad, ineffable absence right in the middle of things with two syllables that said Maddy until nobody knew what it meant anymore.


Alexander the Great
Oscar Wilde
Roland Barthes
John Cage
Aaron Copland
Martina Navratilova
Tennessee Williams
Freddy Mercury

Tuesday, 18 December 2007


Pete Doherty (the music of whom is, it seems to me, frequently very good, but even more frequently hugely underwhelming and overrated) has often in interviews touted his admiration for Charles Baudelaire amongst numerous other romantic-outsider literary figures – Blake, De Quincey, Huysman, Camus etc.

There is a fairly evident line of interconnection between Baudelaire and Doherty, the latter having apparently modelled much of his artistic persona on the nineteenth century French writer often characterised as being the first archetypically ‘modern’ poet - modern because of his ironical world-weariness, his focus on urban squalor, and his alienated detachment from the oppressive mores of modern-industrial society, an attitude Doherty has, like many other artists in the last 150 years, updated for a new era in which this kind of romantic-rebel stance still seems apposite.

And, of course, there are the drugs. Baudelaire, famously, was a champion drinker and smoker of weed and opium, even going so far as to publish an article extolling the virtues of the two in 1860 entitled Poètes francais; Les Paradis artificiels: opium et haschisch, or ‘French Poets; Artificial Paradises: Opium and Hashish’. For Baudelaire, in the godless, spiritually vacuous modern world, experimentation with the two substances offered the possibility of an otherwise inaccessible salvation for the dislocated individual. Social and religious paradises might remain unattainably lost, but there was at least hope in reducing matters to a small-scale, radically subjective level where utopia, or at least a fleeting glimpse of what looked like utopia, seems reachable.

The intense idealism of Doherty’s artistic project is very much grounded in this particular Baudelairean view. Paradise for Doherty (often conjured as ‘Arcadia’, or the more place-specific Blakean ‘Albion’) is to be achieved through a visionary discovery of the magical colour underlying the greyness of the modern world, a process quite obviously (and contra Blake) helped along the way by the copious ingestion of mind-altering artificial substances. I can recall (but can’t source anywhere) Doherty talking eloquently about creativity a couple of years ago, evoking it as something like a process of ‘walking down a street and turning a brick in a wall that opens up a whole other world’. This, along with other of Doherty’s more poetic pronouncements, reminds me of lines from probably my favourite poem by Baudelaire - ‘Landscape’ - which depicts a similar (and pretty definitely drug-influenced) dream of a private idyll discovered in an urban setting:

And when the winter comes, in monotone of snow,
I’ll lock up all the doors and shutters neat and tight,
And build a fairy palace for myself at night.
So I will dream of bright horizons in the blue
Where fountains weep in pools of alabaster hue,
Of kisses in the glades, where birds sing night and day,
Of all to make an idyll in a childish way.
Riot, that rages vainly at my window glass,
Will never make me raise my forehead from my task,
Since I am plunged in this voluptuous delight –
Of conjuring the spring with all the poet’s might,
Of hauling forth a sun out of my heart, with care
Transmuting furious thoughts to gently breathing air.

There is much of this lyrical idealism in Doherty’s work, and such articulate vision is to be applauded. At the very least this emphasis on revolutionary individual discovery contrasts favourably with the kind of flippant, say-nothing posturing to be found in a ‘post-Libertines’ non-band such as The View. Getting beyond the squalor of the quotidian and fostering private dreams of escape is, it goes without saying, a necessary precondition for radicalism of all kinds, and, if drugs have the potential to provide assistance in this edifying process, then so be it. We all benefit from constructing imaginative fairy palaces in our heads at one point or another.

There is, however, also surely something dangerous in this casual advocacy of ‘artificial paradises’. I don’t want to misrepresent Baudelaire, as there seems to me a good deal of ambiguity on the subject in his work; the idyll in ‘Landscape’ is, significantly, a ‘childish’ one, and elsewhere, in a poem such as ‘Parisian Dream’, extravagantly lush, hallucinatory descriptions of the cityscape finally give way to the ‘horror’ of the poet-speaker’s ‘wretched hole’ as the vision subsides - there is clearly, as in De Quincey, a substantial acknowledgement of the dark side to the life of the drug addict-visionary running as a recurrent theme throughout Baudelaire’s body of work.

Nevertheless, the notion that a life founded on drug-induced visions might offer some kind of utopian solution is the standpoint that Doherty seems to have adopted as his own latter-day translation of Baudelaire, and it is one that must be fiercely guarded against in a present-day context where hitherto unimaginable levels of excessive drug-use run the risk of derailing any solid cultural opposition to the myriad of social ills confronting us. Drug misuse is in reality not an act of resistance to modern day capitalism, merely a confirmation of the doctrines of extreme individualism and personal choice that enable the system to continue to flourish. Isn’t an ‘artificial paradise’, after all, exactly what consumerism promises us? As such, it comes as no surprise that the most eminently marketable British musicians of today – Doherty, Amy Winehouse, The Klaxons, Lily Allen – are also figures whose liberal uses of chemicals are almost as frequently celebrated as their artistic outputs.

Around about the same time as Baudelaire was writing of artificial paradises, William Morris was advancing his response to a similar perception of the spiritual poverty and general dereliction of the modern world, attempting to point to the possibility of what he termed the ‘earthly paradise’. His affirmative vision of the future was founded not on private escapism, but on the idea that paradise could be regained through collective action – through socialism. Pete Doherty would do well to attend to Morris as much as to Baudelaire, and to take a leaf out of Morris's book in focusing on Arcadia’s earthliness, rather than on its druggy artificiality.

Thursday, 13 December 2007


Glasgow band Make Model’s new single ‘The Was’ is everything you could want in a twenty-first century alternative rock song - forward-looking melodic guitar music wonderfully free of the ruinous effects of both fashionistic frippery and cliché-driven conservatism.

Hung shimmeringly around a gorgeous harp sample and driven by a neat brass section and a vigorous rhythmic underbelly, ‘The Was’ manages to sound magical and humane without ever plunging the depths of a Belle and Sebastian-like cutesiness. The vocals are virtuously esoteric and un-egotistical, and there is a pervasive sense of a heart-felt communal project underlying the laudably adventurous arrangement.

This is romantic-futuristic folk-rock with one eye on America, but it is also more to the point a marvellous and affirmative indication that British indie might in the near future be able to drag itself out of the commercial, insular pit it currently inhabits.

Such optimism puts me bang in the mood for Christmas.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007


If you feel like loving me
If you got the notion
I second that emotion

If you feel like giving me
A lifetime of devotion
I second that emotion.

[Now that's the shit.]


Friday, 30 November 2007


[DJ Dan English and I are listening to the superlative compilation of recent Chinese alt rock, Look Directly Into the Sun: China Pop 2007]

ME: China’s gonna be the most powerful country in the world in twenty years' time y’know.
DEEJ: Really?
ME: Yep.
DEEJ: But what about America?
ME: It’ll fall behind.
DEEJ: But what about us? What are we gonna do?
ME: Who knows Dan.
DEEJ: Sweet. So … we’ll just have to rinse it til then won’t we?
ME: Or we could look for ways of adapting to the new order?
DEEJ: Nah mate.

Tuesday, 27 November 2007


One Thing – Amerie
Independent Woman Pt.1 (Pasadena Remix) – Destinys Child
Heard It All Before – Sunshine Anderson
AM to PM – Christina Milian
Get Ur Freak On – Missy Elliott
Can’t Nobody – Kelly Rowland
Toxic – Britney Spears
The Boy Is Mine – Brandy and Monica
Promiscuous Girl – Nelly Furtado
Crazy In Love - Beyonce

Monday, 26 November 2007


Having put off the inevitable for some time now, it seems the moment has come to concede defeat: the eighties are now inescapably responsible for the larger portion of the present era’s apparently limitless fondness for cultural copyism.

Perhaps the sixties held on to the title of Most Shamelessly Plagiarised Decade for far too long (what on earth happened to the seventies?) however, cultural relativism being all very well and good, it is something of an imperative that people recognise what an unusually awful period of history the years 1980-89 for the most part were.

Abandoning all forward-thinking momentum for an unabashed glorification of the sixties (idealistic, perhaps a little bit insipid, yet relatively innocuous overall) might have been unfortunate, but applying the same principle of hysterical retrogressive fetishism to a decade that attained to previously undreamt-of levels of socio-economic callousness and artistic awfulness is something that quite frankly scares the shit out of me for what it says about where we are in 2007, and more to the point, where we might be headed in the near-future.

It appears increasingly likely that David Cameron will get in next time around. If that isn’t a worrying enough thought in itself, it seems that our society is developing an ominous anticipatory passion for anything redolent of the last great Conservative era. An updated edition of The Sloane Ranger Handbook has just been published (is it just me or are girls everywhere beginning to look just a little bit sloaney?) and a new TV version of Brideshead is imminent, meanwhile the newspapers are full of reports that application numbers for private schools are soaring. Fashion is quite blatantly referencing the eighties left, right and centre, not least in what appears to be an absurd, untrammelled consumeristic decadence fuelled by the wide availability of ultra-cheap high street clothing.

Musically, the repetition of history is evident in the fact that the vast majority of British recording artists seem to be guided by an undeniably Thatcherite (and drug-fuelled) tendency towards solipsism, hedonism and greed (see The Klaxons’ suggestion that pop is an exclusively ‘escapist’ form, as well as Lily Allen’s comments on the need for working class mothers to ‘get their arses off the sofa to make some cash’, cited below) rather than political idealism or artistic vision, as was at least partially the case in days gone by. Thatcher’s dictum concerning the non-existence of society has apparently been realised to alarming effect in the British musical world. Where once it was possible to talk about musical communities and collectives founded on insurrectionary principles, it appears that the eclecticism of the nineties has merely succeeded to the kind of paralysing fragmentation, individualism and relativistic apathy that well befits an increasingly hegemonic consumerist order.

Good-time party music, drugs, fashion, celebrity – this is the essence of British music, both ‘alternative’ and ‘mainstream’ (if that increasingly meaningless distinction holds any longer) in 2007. The pre-eminent sounds of the year – New Rave and Electro – have borrowed from the electronic music of the eighties, but only in the most superficial, lazily copyistic fashion, so that the residual spirit of sixties-style radicalism and experimentation that persisted in the work of artists such as Cabaret Voltaire, Gang of Four, New Order, Human League, and the later collectivism of the Acid House period, have been almost entirely lost in translation. Intelligent, subversive pop lyrics have been exchanged for facile iterations of the retrograde trend (see Calvin Harris) and nasty, narcissistic sneering. The year’s most representative line, both for its egomaniacal mean-spiritedness and for its frighteningly close-to-the-bone summation of the present state of things came from Bodyrox: ‘You think you’ve got it all worked out, but you don’t know nothing, nothing, nothing’.

The eighties weren’t all bad. If there exists any fantastic hope at all in the present case, it is that we might in our manic pilfering get beyond the fancy dress and recover some eighties-style anti-establishment tendencies. In addition to the shallowness of the corporate surface currently being mined, the decade was also notable for a powerful strain of opposition to conservatism – both political and musical – that was to a certain extent done away with in the nineties of New Labour and Oasis. You only have to look at Rick from The Young Ones for an example of how this kind of radicalism might descend to ridiculous levels of naivety, but perhaps a little impassioned anarchism, even of the unsophisticated sophomoric variety, would make a welcome change in the current climate? If the signs are correct, and a new era of reinvigorated Thatcherism is upon us, we are going to have to start thinking about where we might draw inspiration from in establishing a solid counter-reaction to conservatism in all its odious cultural manifestations. The oppositional fringe of the eighties, with its Red Wedge, its Factory Records, its belligerent and subversive NME, and its Rick Young Ones, might after all be a good place to begin.

Thursday, 8 November 2007


With the penultimate year of the decade fast approaching, we are still awaiting a band/artist capable of defining the epoch. In the musical world at large, and certainly within the UK, no-one has been able to produce a consistent and durable body of work, nor effect genuine, lasting artistic influence on any social or cultural milieu you might care to specify.

Perhaps the last band of this kind was Radiohead. Indeed, it says much about the paucity of the present era that a band formed in the early nineties should continue to occupy this increasingly isolated position at the end of 2007.

Of course, there are considerable advantages to such fragmentation, and obvious problems with a ‘top-down’ music scene organised hierarchically around a handful of Great Bands. Moreover, in the history of popular music, the genre has at all times been sustained by one-off acts of brilliance just as much as it has been by long-term artistic achievements, by small collectives and individuals as well as by big-name heavyweights.

Nevertheless, it is an alarming fact that there do not seem to be any bands that appear likely to inspire the kind of widespread, longstanding devotion to a cause that accompanied the careers of the most notable bands of the last half-century. When we look back at the first decade of the century, will there be anyone at all to point to as an instance of what was both unquestionably important to us and representative of our time? You might be able to rattle off a string of apparently suitable candidates – The Strokes, Eminem, Destinys Child; Franz Ferdinand and the Arctic Monkeys in the UK – but though these figures will undoubtedly evoke the era, they will surely not occupy (even allowing for the inevitable aggrandising force of nostalgia) the same relation as did the Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Marvin Gaye, James Brown, The Jam, The Clash, The Smiths, Michael Jackson, The Stone Roses, or even Oasis, to their respective epochs.

Taking British alternative music as a specific case in point, it might be reiterated that there has not appeared in the last decade anyone capable of challenging Radiohead’s position as the most artistically important band in the country, a band whose work is simultaneously reflective of its time and able to appeal meaningfully to a substantial fanbase both within the UK and abroad.

Why is this the case? As the above list of bands makes plain, since its inception in the late seventies British independent music has suffered no shortage of hugely influential, era-defining bands. Alongside The Clash, The Smiths, The Stone Roses, Oasis, Radiohead, you could place The Sex Pistols, The Buzzcocks, Joy Division/New Order, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Happy Mondays, Blur, Pulp – the sequence stops abruptly with Radiohead. Why do we not have a similar list for the first decade of the twenty-first century?

Part of the problem lies paradoxically with the rapid growth in popularity of independent music in the UK since Britpop. Put simply, and partly as a consequence of the political climate initiated by the New Labour landslide of 1997, we have witnessed the large scale disappearance of significant minorities in our country, at exactly the same time as an insignificant majority has come to dominate our cultural and political life. In the world of alternative music, the effects of this can be felt in that we now have a series of bands who mean a little to a great number of people, and very few who mean a lot to the kind of sparsely populated small-scale communities that provide the conditions necessary for a band to evolve successfully.

Clearly, great bands do not arise out of snobbish bohemian coteries, the members of which can be counted on the fingers of one hand. However, one of the factors underlying the extraordinary fertility of British independent music throughout the eighties and nineties was its ability to achieve exactly the right balance of populism and exclusivity. Bands like The Smiths and The Stone Roses could rely on sizable and devoted communities of admirers in such a way that they were able both to sustain themselves financially and to develop artistically without the damaging effects of media scrutiny and industry hype. If The Smiths came out with ‘Hand in Glove’ today, it would go straight to number one, they would be touted by everyone from Elijah Wood to David Cameron, and Johnny Marr would soon develop a drug problem that would threaten the possibility of their second album ever seeing the light of day (I'm not trying to be facetious: this would happen. In fact, hasn't David Cameron claimed to be a Smiths fan? What is happening here!?).

The present climate is not one in which a significant minority (which in my mind is a term synonymous with the concept of a ‘great band’) is likely to flourish. Bands in the last ten years have either been too small to register or have been swallowed by an insignificant majority that seems to prevent any possibility of them attaining either real cultural influence or sustained creative development. In such a way, good bands that might in another era be capable of great things seem to peter out after an initial, wildly disproportionate deluge of interest. The Futureheads, whose fantastic first record fed into a second even more remarkable offering, only for their label to drop them because of lack of sales, represent an especially tragic instance of a pattern repeated elsewhere to differing outcomes in the narratives of Franz Ferdinand, The Libertines, The Strokes, and The Arctic Monkeys. All of the above have been or seem unlikely to survive for long past the frantic bursts of media attention that remove them from smaller-scale contexts in which they might be able to produce music of real worth for audiences that are worthy of the effort.

Monday, 29 October 2007


Only men rejected by men can keep
either truth or beauty in view.
The moment advantage has a
part in his studies or his craft,
his work perishes.

- Basil Bunting

Thursday, 25 October 2007


About Me:
IM MENTAL ME LIKE, na only joking im just proper mint, just ded, ded humble and that

Wednesday, 24 October 2007


I know many people have already pointed out the outrageousness of Ms Lily Allen's recent comments as regards class, but I shall rehearse them one more time for good measure.

Responding to what are in my view entirely justified recent attacks on her mockney accent in the masterly musical satire that is 'LDN Is A Victim' (see article below), Allen states:

'So what if we're middle class? Just 'cos your mum was too lazy to get her fat ass up off the sofa and make some cash. I shouldn't be able to make tunes, yeah?'




Sometimes a person will make a comment so spectacularly reprehensible on every conceivable level, that you begin to wonder whether anything they ever say or do can make amends.

Friday, 5 October 2007


The present increasingly desperate attempts by the commercial musical mainstream to adopt caricatured Indie! posturings having resulted in a vogue for an exaggerated, bogus colloquialism as regards the pronunciation of lyrics, now might be an appropriate juncture to reflect on the issue of accents in popular music.

The leaders of the current school of corporate-independent music – Lily Allen, The Kooks, Kate Nash - united in their predilection for placing an inordinate emphasis on ostentatiously enunciated regional accents in their work, might in self-defence point to a long tradition in popular music of adopting an alien vocal pronunciation in the name of good art. For all that the Beatles initiated a short-lived trend for their native Liverpudlian accent in mid-sixties pop, the larger portion of their vocals are consciously Americanised, if somewhat idiosyncratically and often erroneously (a comic case in point occurring in their cover of ‘’Til There Was You’, with Macca inserting a rhotic ‘r’ sound into the word saw: ‘but I never sore them singing’). Other of the notable British bands of the period – The Rolling Stones, The Who, Led Zeppelin, even quintessentially ‘English’ bands such as The Kinks - shared this tendency adopt American or ‘mid-Atlantic’ pronunciation. With punk arrived half-notions of authenticity giving rise to an aggrandisement of the demotic, but did the cockneyfied vocals of Joe Strummer really accord with his middle-class background (this is not to mention the Geordie Sting’s hideous cod-Jamaican travesties in the ensuing era)?

Good popular musicians, like all good artists, understand that creativity involves all manner of role-playing, mask-wearing, and experimentation with a multitude of disparate identities just as much as it demands fidelity to one’s origins (cf. Shakespeare’s ‘This above all: to thine own self be true’ (Hamlet, 1.3.78), alongside the countervailing, and perhaps more representative, view of Jacques in As You Like It, ‘All the world’s a stage … and one man in his time plays many parts’ (2.7.139-142)). Any creative process is fundamentally one of transformation through affectation, of development through the exploration and adoption of foreign modes. Conversely, clinging dogmatically to fixed, naively naturalistic notions of selfhood can get you into all kinds of trouble, not the least of which might be a tendency to produce boring, conservative art that endlessly repeats the same calcified puritanical half-truths, founded on the spurious notion that a straightforward artistic representation of truth is at all possible (cf. The Twang, Kasabian, latter-day Oasis &c).

So there is nothing wrong with attempting to expand artistic horizons by adopting an exotic persona. The deployment of an unusual vocal inflection might even allow you to realize otherwise unattainable creative goals. Would the Rolling Stones or Radiohead ever have been taken seriously if Mick Jagger and Thom Yorke hadn’t replaced their monotonic Home Counties accents with more sonorous and malleable American modes of speech? Isn’t this all Allen, Nash, Luke Kooks et al are doing by appropriating, respectively, ‘New London’ and Scouse accents?

Well, yes and no. On the one hand, as has been suggested, it is perfectly acceptable to try out new roles if the aim is to enhance your range of creative possibilities. However, a far less generous response might be expected if your aim in adopting a regional accent is not in fact artistic but motivated by a desire to co-opt the anti-authoritarian brio of the cultural margins in order to align yourself with a commercial trend for ‘edgy’ music that also evokes the ghost of alternative music of the past without retaining any of its original political or aesthetic impetus. For alternative music to retread shaky notions of authenticity is one thing, but what happens when the mainstream begins to disguise its naked corporate avarice by attempting to borrow an authenticity that was never quite authentic in the first place, capitalizing on the misconceptions of an aging demographic who, mindful of an adolescence spent listening to Old Indie, still naively equate external trimmings such as a distinctive regional accent with precarious if well-meaning concepts of ‘realness’?

The defense for the Kooks and co. is negated by the fact that they make a virtue (and presumably lots of money) out of borrowing the last scattered remains of the counter-culture’s rhetoric of legitimacy, cloaking their upper-middle class accents (which would give the game away as regards their Thatcherite, money/fame-oriented intentions) by posing as marginal figures in defiance of a mainstream they secretly epitomize.

Monday, 1 October 2007


whileyfication /wīl-if-i-kā’-shun/ n a deteriorative process of gradual dilution occurring over a period of time; an excessive, indiscriminate, uncritical enthusiasm, esp when referring to music
festivals; an ability to identify aesthetic or other value in the music of David Gray; a slow travestying of British alternative music through the incremental hybridisation of that genre’s artistic and ethical principles with those of MOR market-driven rock, the conservative singer-songwriter sub-genre, celebrity culture, fashion, consumerism, and other manifestations of post-Thatcherite culture (cf. William Burroughs on the American Dream: 'to vulgarize and to falsify until the bare lies shine through').

Friday, 7 September 2007


'What about that thing we were going to do?'

Higgs and I having just finished our marathon viewing of the Our Friends in the North DVD (all 10hrs 23mins of it), I would just like to say how fucking glad I am this wonderful social-realist document exists.

Our Friends in the North is an epic in the true sense of the word, in that it records and reflects back the recent history of an entire society. How rare is it today to come across a narrative that attempts to embody the story of a tribe in all its panoramic scope? OFITN parallels Middlemarch in so many respects, and it deserves to occupy a place on every British DVD rack in the same way that you might once have expected to find Middlemarch on every bookshelf in the country.

My personal favourite moment is when the southern policeman up north for the miners’ strike adopts a faux Geordie accent to piss off Anthony. What comes out is pretty poor, but not detectably different from any of the supposedly authentic ‘Geordies’ – Eccleston, Craig et al – heard in previous scenes, and a noticeable improvement on Nicky’s mother, who seems to have arrived in Newcastle via the Indian sub-continent (as well as somewhere Hebridean? Or perhaps Galway? There’s a definite Gaelic lilt there).

Thursday, 6 September 2007


'[Amy Winehouse] is fantastic, but her record is a retro record, and we have made the most forward thinking record since I don't know how long' - One of the Klaxons

Right. Much as I agree with the verdict on the Winehouse record, I feel this notion of the Klaxons as a 'forward-thinking' band deserves closer attention.

The Klaxons, as far as I can tell, are purveyors of competent melodic guitar rock, distinguishable from the surrounding mire of 99th generation Indie! bands because of an admirable (and long overdue) willingness to incorporate certain elements of the last 20 years of electronic dance music in their work.

Hence we are treated to copious amounts of repetition, falsetto vocals, the occasional synth and synth-aping bassline and guitar part, sporadic 4-kick drum-to-the-floor passages etc etc. There is also the propensity to cover classic rave tracks - 'The Bouncer', 'Not Over Yet' - and the attempts to invest live performances with some of the accoutrements of the rave scene: strobes, glowsticks, fluorescent clothing et al. For all of these things, and for providing a much-needed modernist jolt to a British alternative music scene currently wallowing in a second decade of endemic conservatism and rampant retroism, the Klaxons deserve our approbation.

However, the idea that this is some kind of radical new futurism, that the Klaxons have made 'the most forward thinking record since I don't know how long' [sic], needs some qualification. Like their antecedents the Stone Roses, the Klaxons are fundamentally a guitar band with a side-interest in dance music, with a sound much more closely related to classic psychedelic rock than to the rave records they tentatively borrow from, the most salient difference between the two bands being that the Klaxons are yet to produce anything as wildly futuristic and era-defining as 'Fools' Gold'.

Moreover, you hope that one day the Klaxons might banish the acid-solipsism that underlies their essentially romantic, nostalgic dream-pop, and that precludes their being able to recapture the one indispensible foundational element of old rave - its alchemical admixture of progressivism and communalism. 'Pop should be escapist', say the Klaxons, but modernisms and futurisms have always been at their most fantastic in realising that, to produce the genuinely innovative, you must also have a desire to share your ideas and innovations with others, over and above a drug-addled desire to escape into them.

This kind of navel-gazing will not do.

Wednesday, 5 September 2007



Girls on a two-level bunk:
To the sound of each other’s quiet cries,
they learn how to make love.

In the daytime they clean graves.


‘There is no them. There is only us’ – Bill Clinton


'Then he would say, “My name is Jonathan Higgs. I was born in North Carolina. My father was a doctor and my mother was a Grannie-woman. I have never been whipped”'.


"almoooooooooost but not quite, thank the holy mother fuck herself, just jumped outta me winda after glynis sed 'look at the moon' couldnt walk for a few days, but i divint need me crutches any more. beat every motherfucker up the great wal today with a fucking limp. basecamp here i come get in like"

No diggity: Rob Jameson is a literary genius.


Tuesday, 4 September 2007


Oh I wish I was a punk rocker with flowers in my hair
In ’77 and ’69 revolution was in the air …

The first thing to address is Ms Thom’s somewhat confused, confusing elision of two entirely distinct musical epochs. Most glaringly, punk rock, as many people are aware, was at least in part a violent reaction against the hippy movement, apparently the target of Ms Thom’s mention of flowers worn in the hair and ‘’69’.

True, recent revisionist theories have been propounded arguing for a reassessment of this notion, pointing to such sites of inter-movement agreement such as the shared interest in leftist politics, an underground press, an emphasis on individual expression and anti-authoritarianism etc. On this reading, punk was not a repudiation of the sixties generation, but a restatement/repackaging of the earlier era’s core values in bondage clothing, in much the same way some latter day commentators have argued that the Renaissance, Romanticism and Modernism were merely successive artistic convulsions in the gradual unfolding of a far more wide-reaching cultural shift towards ‘modernity’. You might say, therefore, that Ms Thom is attempting to give lyrical expression to such ideas, embodying the notion of a common ground between the punk and hippy movements by constructing sophisticated, almost surrealistic imagery, conflating two caricatured archetypes (a punk wearing flowers in his hair – fancy!), in the process demonstrating a remarkable awareness of certain currents in contemporary cultural thought.

However, whether or not this was Ms Thom’s intention, this assertion is unlikely to be supported by the remainder of the song’s lyrics, which continually reiterate a facile and erroneous running-together of the late sixties, the late seventies, and pretty much every other recent historical era, as part of the wider attempt to posit a mystified, vaguely-defined idyll that will support Ms Thom’s clumsily constructed myth of decline (I would also like to point out at this stage that Thom also rehearses the common (typically American, it must be said) misconception that 1969 was the annus mirabilis of the sixties counterculture. The 'summer of love', as many people know, ocurred in 1967, while 1968 has been dubbed (with possibly a hint of irony) the ‘year of revolutions’. Quite why 1969, the year of Altamont and Let It Bleed, commonly held to have been a ‘come-down year’ after the explosive events of ‘67 and ’68, is so widely celebrated is something of a mystery, although perhaps an inflated sense of the Woodstock Festival’s importance has something to do with it).

When music really mattered and when radio was king ...

Again, quite why radio should be judged an intrinsically purer technological medium than, say, music television or the internet (presumably the focus of Ms Thom's ire in this line), is not clear.

When accountants didn't have control ...

Do accountants run the world? Did they not in '69/'77?

And computers were still scary and we didn't know everything ...

So being frightened of computers is a good thing? And being knowledgable isn't?

And footballers still had long hair and dirt across their face

For a start, it should be faces. This is possibly the most baffling line of the whole piece.


(in no particular order, although the first two are about right)

1. Live Forever
2. Champagne Supernova
3. Acquiesce
4. Supersonic
5. Cigarettes and Alcohol
6. Listen Up
7. Fade Away
8. Slide Away
9. Half the World Away
10. Cast No Shadow

What a lot of 'away's. Perhaps the secret to a good song title is to incorporate as many 'ay' sounds as possible.


'Every epoch not only dreams the next, but while dreaming impels it towards wakefulness' -Walter Benjamin.

'The pictures I contemplate painting would constitute a halfway state and attempt to point out the direction of the future – without arriving there completely' - Jackson Pollock.

‘The future is already here - it is just unevenly distributed’ - William Ford Gibson