How NOT to write about music – 158. Slum Of Legs

Slum_of_Legs

Here’s the deal. Other pundits will give you more considered, nuanced takes on Brighton’s Slum Of Legs – whose debut self-titled album has just been released, four or five years later than some of us might have hoped. They will use words like “post punk jags” and “indie pop froth” and draw comparisons to names such as Mary Timony, The Ex and… oh just go and read the bloody thing, why don’t you? That’s all fine and good. That’s what decent critics do. Contemporise, extemporise, cheer lead. Shake those fluffy pom-poms. Look serious. Make relevant contextual (social, political, cultural) connections so the reader can understand without listening.

Me? I just say, have a fucking listen.

Me? I say, have a listen.

Critics do what critics must. I long ago gave up such trappings.

Me? Slum Of Legs inspired me to plagiarise a much-loved children’s book.

I view myself as a fangirl, camping out for days before the event in the hope of touching the hem of the anointed garment, throwing away marriages and happiness in a futile quest to put across my adoration for music.

Case study one.

I’m gone. Solid. Stuck here, thinking. Stuck here, thinking that Tamsin can articulate loneliness and hope and the thrill of the dance floor much better than I ever could. Stuck here, entertained thoroughly by all the shenanigans going on on stage. Stuck like glue. Stuck here. Of course it is sadder not to dance at all than to dance alone. Of course we all – kindred souls us; the trans folk, the gentile hipsters, the students, the old and weary – are stuck on the edge of a dance floor, not allowed in except for brief brilliant bursts of crimson. Of course my head is bobbing. Stuck, caught in a trance. Paralysed. Doll-like. The difference between Slum Of Legs and most anyone else is that if Slum Of Legs don’t get me, they’d tell me to my face. (Not Brisbane at all, then.)

Check the title of the blog entry again. I agree, with the benefit of years of isolation. that it is open to misinterpretation. At the time, all I wanted was to communicate was my passion for the music. And that was it. As I wrote in July 2015, “For 35 brief minutes I have found my home again. I leave just as Tamsin is pulling down the keyboard-player on top of her, and catch my bus with two minutes to spare”.

NOTE: the pull quote above is referring to the song in the YouTube clip.

Let the other critics do what critics must: validate, disseminate,  converse, add layers of understanding and enjoyment. It has been five years now, and I am still not quite ready to listen to the new Slum Of Legs album. Let me savour the anticipation (“Anticipation is so much better” – Delta 5) for a bit longer. Please. I will get back in contact when I have: some moments are too important to rush.

Me? I cannot do any of that. Right now, I want to savour the memory of when I saw Slum Of Legs perform for the first time – a mere month after our return from Brisbane – and felt that yes, there may be a place for me here after all. Let me savour the memory of a time when I had a home and friends and I was in love with Brighton and music and Slum Of Legs once more.

I walked down to the venue, savouring the warm summer evening. I caught the bus back home, with two minutes to spare.

I had a home.

How NOT to write about music – 157. Roxy Music

Roxy-Music

I have just discovered Roxy Music.

I am furious.

How is it that, in nearly 50 years, that not one of my friends or colleagues has seen fit to alert me to the inspirational greatness that is the first three Roxy Music albums? Is there some sort of secret music-lovers club that I have never been deemed cool enough to be a member of, some conspiracy wherein every few months or so elites of Roxy Music-loving people would gather and giggle and point in my direction and go, “look at him. He still hasn’t got it yet.” WAS IT ALL JUST AN EXCUSE TO MAKE FUN IN MY DIRECTION? I do not understand how this wonderment of riches, this delight of delights, this mad sprawl of art and artisan and piss-taking and squalling brass and demented vocals and random rhythmic breaks and sex and semen could have passed me by for FOUR DECADES.

I came to music in the late Seventies, Roxy Music were all about the crooning and smoothness, ‘Avalon’ and fucking ‘Jealous Guy’ with its fucking whistling, and while ‘Avalon’ was OK and all, hardly a reason to go back and check out what seemed to merely amount to art school preciousness and musicianly in-jokes, hardly a good advert for WHAT IS POSSIBLY THE GREATEST ROCK GROUP OF THE SEVENTIES. You bastard, laughing, elitist, music-loving fuckers. You never told me about the ferocity and squalor contained within Ferry’s vocals, the demented rhythms that keep going and going, the mistakes and jarring insertions. How dare you keep this from me!

Sure, I knew ‘Virginia Plain’ and sure I knew they were an influence on many I loved – Pere Ubu, Half-Japanese, Sonic Youth, anything from the early Eighties with pretensions of fun and deft illusion, most of everything I saw in the last Seventies that I loved now I come to realise it –  but come on! Why didn’t you tell me? I’ve told you fuckers often enough. WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME??? I feel like Caitlin Moran, furious, calling me up at Melody Maker from NYC in the early 90s, drunk and out of breath.‬

‪“YOU NEVER TOLD ME…A…BOUT MARGARITAS!” she yelled furiously.‬

‪I feel the same way about Roxy Music.

“WHY DID NO ONE EVER TELL ME…A…BOUT ROXY MUSIC?!”‬

For fuck’s sake people. You have had 50 years.

*As Tim Footman says (only now, mind), (only now, that I have finally broken through the barriers of silence and grand conspiracy to keep me un-illuminated), “Everything that is right and good in music begins [in ‘Re-make’] at about 1:06”.

Ten songs threatening to go viral in 2020

Microscopic view of Coronavirus, a pathogen that attacks the respiratory tract. Analysis and test, experimentation. Sars

1. The Knack – My Corona

2. Los del Rio – Macorona

3. Joy Division – (Self) Isolation

4. Tiffany – I Think We’re Alone Now

5. Buggles – COVID-19 Killed The Radio Star

6. James Bay – Pink (Corona) Lemonade

7. Corona – The Rhythm Of The Night

8. Gilbert O’Sullivan – Coronagain (Naturally)

9. Love – Coronagain Or

10. The Legend! + Crayola Lectern – The End Of The World (Skeeter Davis cover)

 

How NOT to write about music – 156. Kid Loco

Kid Loco

I was going to start this blog entry by listing some of the myriad ways that my mate Sadie is amazing – and make no mistake, she is amazing – but then realised that perhaps this is the sort of approach that has got me into trouble innumerable in the past, and figured that a different tack was required.

This morning, a woman collapsed on the train right next to me, keeled over onto a seated passenger, unconscious. There is a split second when you think she’s putting it on, or lost her balance – and then, as she rolls off the other passenger and onto the floor, “Oh my fucking God. Is she still breathing?” Someone is shouting “pull the cord” so someone pulls the communication cord, faces stunned momentarily, woken from their Monday glaze, already something to tell the office on arrival, but when the driver comes over the Tannoy they’re too nervous to speak, so you explain the situation to the driver, tell him there is a woman collapsed, just coming back into consciousness, sitting up, someone’s giving her some water.

The train pulls into the station, everyone scrambles to leave, some with the odd nod towards concern towards their stricken colleague, most everyone concerned about wasting precious time, and I’m thinking to myself “What if she’s really not OK?”, so I stick around as people brush impatiently past, make sure the conductor and driver arrive, only leave when reassured that she’s going to be OK.

I know Sadie would have done the same.

Sadie sings on this.

How NOT to write about music – 155. HotWax

79676238_147930953283938_8303796848468951040_n

Deadpan, drawling, drooling, sarcastic, NICE. Killer warped guitar solo that increases the sense of discomfort at around 2.27 minutes. Song builds and shudders as it builds, moody, Gothic (with a small ‘g’), hypnotic. From the knife capital of the south coast (I don’t know if that is still true) Hastings, and released just two days ago on YouTube, but if you were to tell me this was some great overlooked DIY single from the early Eighties/late Seventies complete with flanger and whooshing effects (rediscovered via Messthetics perhaps) then I would be inclined to believe you, not least because of the group’s flagrant abuse of echo, cymbals and three-note refrains.

I say this like it could be construed as a bad thing but of course it is not a bad thing at all. You can imagine Billie Eilish fans dancing down deserted mid-American shopping arcades to this. Well, you might not be able to but I can.

They really like cats and I really like cats and really, there’s not much to dislike here is there?

10 Least Read Entries on How NOT To Write About Music (February 2020)

Vira Talisa Dharmawan

These are all drawn from the last six months on this blog, five from the last two months.

Sigh.

1 (-) How NOT to write about music – 147. Vira Talisa Dharmawan
I have had cause to comment on my delight on the way YouTube algorithms can work in my favour, but man. This is a delight. Laid back Indonesian pop with a slight jazz inflection that goes for a walk on the beach and turns its shoulder just when you think you might say hello.

2 (-) How NOT to write about music – 105. Georgia
This is boss. This is banging. This is heavy metal. This is my frontal ear lobe, distorted out of shape by the sullen repetitive beats. This is Cristina. This is a (train) ride to nowhere. This is one too many late nights out spent shimmering in a dislocated spotlight, propped up by the bravado brought on by too much alcohol. This is knowledge. This is fantasy.

3 (-) How NOT to write about music – 115. Sarah Blasko
Gorgeous space. Gorgeous voice, too. Here, have a taste.

4 (-) How NOT to write about music – 117. Remember Sports
This makes me want to trace elephants, tumble down the aisle with a ring of commuters holding my hands, cartwheel across infinity and scream into the silence. This music makes me miss whole forbidden areas of Australia. This makes me to dance the street, chant the underground, race the fading taillights.

5 (-) How NOT to write about music – 154. Bloods
Just glorious rock’n’roll like I believed it should always be played… by females (and the occasional man). Just glorious, straight up.

6 (-) How NOT to write about music – 120. Victoria Monét
Everyone saying its a low budget video but their clothes probably cost more than my house

7 (-) How NOT to write about music – 136. Kim Petras
A good song is a good song; if you give me a couple minutes more I could nail the songs below remind me of; maybe it could be a capsule game for you instead – write in and join the community!; any problem I have with the idea of power ballads and soft rock long since evaporated and I feel all the happier for this

8 (-) How NOT to write about music – 148. Tom Waits
Not so much a blog entry, more a game of Spot the Connection.

9 (-) How NOT to write about music – 123. Låpsley & DJ Koze
Lifted out of my Great Pop Mixtape November 2019 for a little more emphasis, a little more oomph, a little less conversation a little more action on this cold wet miserable grey cold (have I mentioned the temperature yet?) Tuesday lunchtime.

10 (-) How NOT to write about music – 151. U.S. Girls
There is a sense of urgency, isolation, regret, no release, a late Seventies shuffle, honey-sweet vocals all the more disturbing for their honey-sweetness, a sax solo at the close.

How NOT to write about music – 154. Bloods

Bloods

I wrote this great post on Sydney’s Bloods a couple of years ago – so great that I feel no need to change a single word on it. Their music remains equally as damn fine: if not for geographical location I cannot help thinking that Bloods would be way, way better known. I mean, maybe it is simple tribute but I sure as fuck do not hear it like that – all the names below, I view this music as the equivalent of and equal to, no shit. Just glorious rock’n’roll like I believed it should always be played… by females (and the occasional man). Just glorious, straight up.

It’s Kim Warnick.
It’s Tobi Vail.
It’s Corin Tucker.
It’s Matrimony.
It’s The Go-Go’s.
It’s a taut coiled spring ready to pounce.
It’s The Pleasure Seekers.
It’s Blue Angel.
It’s Patty Schemel.
It’s repetition as a weapon.
It’s The Donnas.
It’s Bangs.
It’s The Detroit Cobras.
It’s autonomy.
It’s Dolly Mixture.
It’s Divinyls.
It’s Dogtower.
It’s Johnny Diesel.
It’s Au Pairs.
It’s Jennifer Finch.
It’s Coloured Balls.
It’s Shellshag.

IT’S WONDERFUL!!

Everything by them. Everything.

How NOT to write about music – 153. Celeste

celeste

Away from all the shouting…

This nearly slipped past me, unobtrusively. So glad it didn’t.

There’s a musical device called an appoggiatura, an ornamental note that clashes with the melody just enough to create a dissonant sound. “When the notes return to the anticipated melody, the tension resolves,” writes musicologist Martin Guhn, “and it feels good.”

The above paragraph was taken from my live review of Sam Smith in The Guardian, 2015 – and I was using it as a device to attack whiny Sam with. (I went on to point out that Sam Smith’s music is littered with dozens of these, often within seconds of each other. He relies upon them so much, it often feels he’s forgotten to write a song to match. This, depending on your perspective, is a wonderful gift. Tickets for his sold-out Brisbane show were going for $300.) I would like to use it once again now, to help highlight what makes rising star *OFFICIAL* Celeste so special.

“Like Adele, only with some finesse,” as one of my Music Journalism students remarked. Yep. Damn straight. I’m paraphrasing. She understands the power of silence, the power of stillness in a way that so many stars pretend to these days, but really don’t. She is unafraid to pause, to stop, to resolve. Celeste knows when to use her voice, and when not to use her voice and (the underline emphasis is mine) the value of not showing off. Like Amy Winehouse before her, it feels like she is living every vowel, every drawn-out consonant. You believe in her. I want to compare her to a Voice that gets to regularly abused through comparison that I shudder to invoke it so let’s just whisper… Billie Ho…

Can you imagine if professionally constipated Capaldi had a voice as great as this?

Ugh. Ugh.

Nine thousand views for her BRIT Awards performance. 2.3 millions views and rising for Billie Eilish. Seems like she may have passed a lot of people by. Shame.

This next song is where I first encountered Celeste, and I have been meaning to write about her since. In the parlance of the young, and the freshly Lizzo-converted, and the fresh-limbed, and the late night drunk tanks, this is a total banger. Reminds me of Beth Ditto, clear – but only reminds me, right? (And as an old school Gossip fan, this is meant with total respect.) Again, such a great sense of pace and silence and knowledge of when to let go and when to stop.

Oh bugger. She’s only gone and collaborated with Paul Weller. Well, of course she has. Whatever his faults, Weller always did have an ear for female vocalists.

How NOT to write about music – 152. the BRIT Awards 2020

BRIT Awards 2020

Observations from last night at the O2 Arena

DAVE
Yeah, let’s start with Dave. Dude comes out, plays his chilling diatribe ‘Black’ – made even more beautiful through judicious use of tumbling piano arpeggios – and throws in an extra verse at the end, free-form, standing up to give an unambiguous throwdown to our racist Prime Minister and his racist advisers. Inspirational, brilliant. Fuck your Ricky Gervais and his amoral breed who believe that entertainers shouldn’t speak out. This was about seizing the moment. Pure emotion, pure truth.

“It is racist whether or not it feels racist. The truth is our prime minister is a real racist. They say, you should be grateful we’re the least racist. I say, the least racist is still racist.”

BILLIE EILISH
Yeah, let’s continue with Billie Eilish. I left soon as she finished, not believing that the night could transcend her, stupidly forgetting about Stormzy and Celeste – damn I’m an idiot for missing Stormzy – but in actuality found myself a little underwhelmed by Our One True Star in 2020. Too much going  on – Johnny Marr on zingy guitar, a full live orchestra, that bloke who soundtracks all those films, a suitably explosive set – and all this detracted, distracted. I expected too much from one song, frankly. Sounds way better on YouTube.

Also, she wasn’t Dave.

MABEL
Her wonderful opening performance gave me an unrealistic expectation of what was to follow. What actually happened was a spot from Harry Styles that threatened to break into a song but never did, some lachrymose constipated whining from within a Curtain of Light from the New Prince of the New Boring Lewis Capaldi, and a brief onstage appearance from my old drinking buddy Courtney Love that a Facebook friend summarised thus: “She’s definitely mellowed but unfortunately not in an interesting way. More cheap standard Portuguese rose than fine wine.”

Still, say what you like about Courtney, but I bet you she didn’t get on her bicycle later and cycle home in freezing cold rain from Haywards Heath station.

LIZZO
Fuck yeah! I got to see Lizzo, a real live Lizzo on a real live stage! Now, that HAS to make you feel good.

Mostly, the whole affair reminded me of why I have never been to whole affair like this before. I have no idea who won what, and could care even less. The bit I liked most was Dave, and meeting a BIMM lecturer who’s into Joseph Spence, Daniel Johnston and Serge Gainsbourg.

ADDENDA

CELESTE
I missed Celeste. Shame.

How NOT to write about music – 151. U.S. Girls

U.S. Girls - Overtime

ADDENDA 02/03/20
This is the song I should have linked to. Tip of the ET fedora to Stephen Sweet.

Every time a friends alert me to the fact there is a new U.S. Girls track, I put a placeholder on my blog – a must write about the new U.S. Girls track reminder.

For example:

Acid-tinged 60s Motown female empowerment bedroom isolation

The Guardian has compared her to “classic 60s girl group and disco-era Blondie” but that is so simultaneously true and not-true it makes my head spin.

what she said ; 20 songs to deny Donald Trump (and Bob Dylan)

And so forth.

I do not know why I do this.

Increasingly, it occurs to me that I have nothing to add to the dialogue around Meg Remy except adoration… that is too strong a word… approval. Intoxication. Fascination. A desire not to move too close lest I dispel the magic. Every time I encounter a new song from the self-propelled U.S. Girls it occurs that where once I may have helped lead now I merely follow, repeat sentiments and moods that others have already, often more commandingly, expressed before me. I am no longer (rarely) a producer, but a produser. Maybe this is not a reflection on me so much as a reflection on the state of flux facing people using the channels and mediums around me. I can comment on the sound –  there is a sense of urgency, isolation, regret, no release, a late Seventies shuffle, honey-sweet vocals all the more disturbing for their honey-sweetness, a sax solo at the close – but where does that take me (and you)?

Nowhere.

As The Guardian puts it:

To listeners outside the Toronto indie underground, Meg Remy’s brilliant 2018 album, In a Poem Unlimited, came as a revelation. To be fair, its pointed glam strut, an upgrade of her DIY aesthetic, was probably a surprise to her OG fans too. She pulls a similar trick with the first single from her forthcoming record, this time literally reinventing a 2013 US Girls track – giving what was queasy and chaotic a vamping, hall-of-mirrors makeover fit for Jenny Lewis (with a bracing solo from E Street Band saxophonist Jake Clemons). Similar subject matter to Lewis’s 2019 album, too, as Remy discovers that a former partner was drinking themselves to death on the sly.

This tells you more, using less words. (The Pitchfork review tells you less, using more words.)

We all have our crosses.

Every time I see your grave
I can’t help but think
How I didn’t know
That you only drank
The overtime