I’m a sucker for stuff like this. My order is about to go in to Resident Music in Brighton.
This is part of a wider project, Spanish Model, wherein Elvis Costello and collaborators have reimagined This Year’s Model in Spanish – all-new vocal performances set to the original Attractions’ recordings and instrumentation.
First, we’re going to start with a Joni Mitchell song that – unexpectedly (see posts passim) – I like.
I think it’s the tonality of the background noise, and the way those drums remind me of ‘Flowers of Romance’ (PiL). Anyway, bear with me. Please. Clearly, I am not what I used to be. Right now, I want to listen to the whole damn song and this is impeding my business of getting on with writing about the name on the card in front of me. Damn it. So fine. This song would have merited a Plan B Magazine cover in and of itself. Yep.
OK. It’s stopped now. Next, we’re going to give ourselves (who am I kidding? There is only one of me here in my world)… myself a pat on the back. We… sorry, I played Wet Leg to Isaac last night and he agreed he was falling for its laconic charm. Mind you, he might have been humouring his ancient dad, or just impressed that I was referencing something post-1982.
OK. Calm down. I’m not used to this writing business. Can you tell? I am ridding myself of the flotsam and detritus before I get onto the name on the card and… if you aspiring young music critics want a single piece of advice here (who am I kidding? There is no one reading this blog entry except for the band themselves and me, for the fifth time) THEN IT IS THIS. Do not include the background context at the start of your review/article/blog entry/ reheated Microwave dinner. It detracts, slows everything down, makes the remainder a slug.
I mean, slog.
I mean, shrug.
Here is what a member of the Nature Centre wrote to me the other day: I agree wholeheartedly with your assessment of the Sarah Brand song. Hate to generalise, but I would bet a lung that many of those who are angry that she sounds ‘bad’ and doesn’t fit neat genre boundaries are the same people who proudly proclaim their love of ‘proper’ and ‘authentic’ music. I think she has an incredible voice, like a young Kate Bush turning cartwheels or, yeah, Joni on The Jungle Line.
You see now? How it all links?
Yeah, me neither.
I am a supporter of “unusual and non-alpha-male music” apparently, which to The Nature Centre is a juicy T-bone. The sun is now shining on my computer screen at that particular angle which means I cannot see past the numerous particles of dust residing on my screen and certainly cannot see a single wotrkgfng thatsw tfjt/
They’ve sent me an EPK, but frankly I have had it up to here with acronyms. Please don’t sack me from my day job.
My good pal and mentor Crayola Lectern says this: “The Nature Centre are the latest wonders to back up my theory of there being something special in the water over there in Birmingham, from whose taps the likes of E.L.O., Black Sabbath, Broadcast and Pram also drank.” He mentions Pram, which means I must mention Neil Kulkarni in turn. Damn sun, can;’t sewefsdfsaffdgbfgbd
Chris, for Gosh’s sake can we not mention fellow Brummies the psychedelic eight-piece splendour of Misty’s Big Adventure here?
More from the dust particles: “I would jump out of planes for you,” sings Hopkins, as her character stares wistfully at incoming airport traffic. Then, as chimes and clarinet signal the song’s second act, we witness the magical outcome of her obsession – Betty herself has transformed into a plane.”
Did any of that make sense? I still have no way of knowing.
This song ‘Parachute’ (oh, I am so glad the one solitary band-member and Chris have had the patience to stick with me thus far and thus encounter the denouement) (do I mean denouement?) (I really am not what I once wasfdgsfsadfasas))… seems to have turned into The Rolling Stones. Oops. Wait. Sorry.
This song ‘Parachute’ is better than three of your myriad ninja turtles boiled together in a soup tureen of purple psychedelic gloop and a fuck of a lot catchier too. No, wait. Surely I can do better than that? WHERE IS THE QUOTE FOR THE BATTLEMENTS? i CANNOT COMMENT on the video because I cannot see the fucking video so let’s just leave the video out for it but right now The Native Centre mix elements of Jane And Barton, one of those weird female English pastoral groups Mike Alway loved to indulge, Miranda Sex Garden, a pinch of something oblique and unsettling (The Red Army Choir singing ‘Sex Bomb’) and whole oodles of strangeness, otherness, togetherness, mischief, fun, moments in sound, oscillating otters, feral ferrets and likewise, bit of the under-garments from Vivan Stanshall and…
Yeah, pre-1982 only. Correct, Isaac.
CAN SOMEONE EDIT THIS? PLEASE? I like this a whole load more than I like the smug expression on your fucking face, that’s for sure. Some of us are still trying.
I have been trying so hard NOT to write about this. Doja Cat – Kiss Me More (Official Video) ft. SZA I am not sure why. This seems a natural for me to rhapsodise over and yet I have been shying away from engagement. Is it my age? Do I feel somewhat embarrassed that I should still myself falling for such obvious sleights of hand, chord sequences, ways of singing, after all these years? Every time it comes on the radio, EVERY TIME, I ask my kids, WHO IS THIS? and every time they respond DOJA CAT. Dad we told you this loads of times now. Every time. I am not sure what connotations I derive from this. I can see from the video that there is some degree of sexuality, of sensuousness involved. Pussy is mentioned several times. I enjoy songs with a mention of pussy: I indicated as such one time to Iggy Azalea via Twitter and she responded by following me. Do I like this song because it’s a momentary diversion away from the grey early morning reality of post-pandemic school runs, eyes barely open? This music soothes me, relaxes me. Makes me happy, makes me think that maybe I have some link – however tenuous – to the TikTok generation, to my past, to the TikTok generation. Doubtless I like it because it keeps reminding me of other stuff and its drowsy torpor means that I don’t give a crap about finding out what. I believe I’d have liked this in 2016, 2011, 2006, 2001… is this good or bad, that my taste seems so consistent? And it remains inch-perfect, stiletto-perfect pop music for 2021, not that I am qualified to comment on that.
This is quite the most brilliant thing I have heard in a real long time.
Many years back, during the 1990s. the term ‘Outsider Music’ came into popular usage. I first encountered it via those great series of books Re/Search released but others may have stumbled across it differently. For some, it became synonymous with mental illness or out-of-tunefulness (certainly the folk writing its Wikipedia page view it that way) but I never heard it like that. For me, it was more about a certain near childlike quality, the ability to follow your own path, create your own music, heedless or unable to take notice of what others think. Indeed, I find myself in violent objection to the claim mental illness should be associated with the term; that is both patronising and WRONG.
So Moondogg, Jandek, Jad Fair. The Langley Schools Music Project. Perhaps Daniel Johnston, but Daniel’s music follows very conventional structures and patterns if you bother listening to it. This Wiki description is a little more on the money.
The term “outsider music” is traced to the definitions of “outsider art” and “naïve art“. “Outsider art” is rooted in the 1920s French concept of “L’Art Brut” (“raw art”). In 1972, academic Roger Cardinal introduced “outsider art” as the American counterpart of “L’Art Brut”, which originally referred to work created exclusively by children or the mentally ill. The word “outsider” began to be applied to music cultures as early as 1959, with respect to jazz, and to rock as early as 1979. In the 1970s, “outsider music” was also a “favorite epithet” in music criticism in Europe. By the 1980s and 1990s, “outsider” was common in the cultural lexicon and was synonymous with “self-taught”, “untrained”, and “primitive”.
It is in the nature of Outsider Music that it attracts a great deal of derision and scorn from those who’d much rather their dull grey conventional rock to be dull and grey and conventional, and their boring dullard formula pop to be boring and dullard and formulaic with their reinforcement of the heteronormative hegemony and so forth. Fuck, did my colleagues at Melody Maker make fun of Daniel Johnston in the early 1990s… didn’t everyone, until I passed that T-shirt along to a more famous friend and then all of sudden everyone understood him.
Listen. I chanced across this, just prior to going to bed, via a random link from a random person on Facebook and… man. This is great. Seriously great. Captures pathos and heartbreak, rebellion and desire, outsider status and lust better than 30,000 conventional ‘tuneful’ singers could ever dream of doing. Neat video too. Think of it as “jazz”, as Joni Mitchell or Annette Peacock or someone if it helps you understand a little better. But seriously great. Throws the listener off-balance, disorientates them, forces them to listen closer. As John Peel once put it, “There is no such thing as good or bad music, just good and bad listeners”. You would not believe the amount of scorn and derision this simple charming song has attracted on YouTube though… or perhaps you would.
Sigh. Every single one of them missing the point.
Has anyone told you that you might be tone deaf? You should stick to directing. That was good. Is anybody gonna tell her she can’t sing This is what happens when daddy has a fuck ton of money and his baby girl “can be what ever she wanted to be”. All the while ignoring that fact that his baby girl lacks… talent. I can’t tell if she wants to be singer or a stripper?
And so forth.
Ignore them, Sarah. This is brilliant.
RESPONSE FROM ARTIST
Thank you so much! I really appreciate your take on it, very interesting. Insider-outsider paradigms within a religious context prompted “Red Dress.” My inspiration stems from witnessing church organisations preaching inclusivity while practicing exclusivity. “Red Dress” chronicles this story, but also envisions a future where everyone drops their prejudices and comes together. I am passionate about this message of inclusivity and prompting reflection.
The more refined among you may remember I started this series back in April, with the very noble intention of creating a birthday present for myself – 60 musical recommendations from online friends to mark the fact I had just turned 60 years of age. It come as no surprise to me that I find myself unable to stick to the brief – me, who used to turn around four album reviews in an hour for Melody Maker, and who once ran a series called “the one-minute review” on my Brisbane-based website Collapse Board, asking “Why spend longer writing than someone will spend reading your words?” Why indeed? (That series lost me at least one good friend. She objected to my dismissive language.)
So now we are several months on and not even halfway through. My 16-year-old son Isaac has a pro Spotify subscription; through it, he listens to the music of his choice (strange dark East European gothwave that to folk my age sounds uncannily like suburban UK music from the early 80s, and a smattering of Riot Grrrl) and music that is recommended to him by the algorithms. This is not weird to him; indeed, it is part of what he pays (or rather, I pay) his subscription for – recommendations. This was a function previously filled by music critics, of course – but when the gates are automated, there is no need for gatekeepers. When I was younger, a sure fire way to make me dislike a song was to recommend it with the following words, “I think you’ll really like this…” so heaven forbid I should go with those fucking algorithms but the past is a foreign country (as LP Hartley once wrote), they do things differently there.
So this morning, trying to force myself to engage with the outside world and not just listen to a solid day of me singing at the piano (which is my standard musical fare), I finally succumbed. Every time I switch to YouTube to research another potential cover version or discover what Neil Kulkarni has been listening to, the video for Wet Leg’s ‘Chaise Lounge’ shows up at the top of my feed. I know nothing, NOTHING about Wet Leg except that the same fucking video keeps showing up in my repetitive Facebook feed… you know the one, the one where, no matter how many times you refresh the screen, the same impassioned diatribe from David Stubbs about some right-wing journalist you’ve never heard of shows up at the top of your feed. Yep, ‘Chaise Lounge’.
Not interested. Fuck off, corporate slave-bots.
But I succumbed. I thought I’d give it a 10-second listen. Bugger it. Fuck it all to hell. I’ve played it three times already before breakfast, and want to discover more. No (he says, wrestling fiercely with his own sense of self-worth) I DO NOT WANT TO HEAR MORE. Bugger it all to hell. This is great. Deadpan and repetitive and obscure and smart and ticks all the boxes I love to have ticked in music: it builds and fades, it makes a big deal out of insignificant details, it reminds me of late 70s Ze Records, it has poise and fuck-you grace… goddamn it all.
Heaven forbid I should fall for this.
*Oh wait. I just did some 10-second research and have discovered that far from being some corporate-funded suck-ass rick kid duo from the Midwest of America, Wet Leg are from the Isle of Wight and are signed to Domino and this is their first and only video so far. Ah…. well, fucking cool! Great. I love the Isle of Wight – want to go there this summer with my kids again, see our great friend Bianca Kiddo Wheeler; and I have a real soft spot for Domino Recordings because of past shared history. They, the good guys.
I knew I wouldn’t continue with this series. Enough nominations, enough great music – but time moves on, and the motivation I once drew upon writing about music has been dispersed into singing about music. I am not able however to resist the lure and pull and sheer joy of hearing the new summer-worshipping single from Lorde “I want to be Leonard Cohen. I want to be Joni. Fucking. Mitchell.”
With Solar Power, Lorde both welcomes you into her world and revels in that distance. Produced – as was 2017’s Melodrama – by Jack Antonoff, it might be her most universal song, hippy in sound and spirit, and a world away from its nocturnal predecessors. Its loose percussive gait and acoustic simplicity evoke George Michael (both Faith and Freedom 90), Screamadelica-era Primal Scream and the Stones (Sympathy for the Devil), stirring a summer-of-love mood replete with appropriately cultish intimations (“I’m kind of like a prettier Jesus,” she sings, with knowing silliness).
The point that Laura Snapes makes in her Guardian article today is well-founded but overlooks one fundamental truth. Yeah sure, the comparisons are well-made; and yeah, those moments do evoke summer-of-love moods, almost despite the associations – but ‘Solar Power’ easily transcends all three moments listed above – and for why? Because this is 2021, and this is the summer of 2021.
And for millions upon millions this is the morning of their lives.
So good, it sounds timeless and unique already.
I hate the winter Can’t stand the cold I tend to cancel all the plans
To celebrate my 60th birthday, I asked my social media friends to nominate a favourite song from 2021 – 60 to commemorate the fact I am 60.
Absolute fair play to my old friend and “band” mate Sandra Durell. (Check out her former band Twelve Cubic Feet – totally wonderful.) She recommended me Måneskin – I Wanna Be Your Slave a month ago, long before their Eurovision-destroying performance with ‘Zitti E Buoni’ (Shut Up And Behave) last night. And what a glorious evening that was! The best evening’s entertainment I have had since lockdown began, serious. I mean, of course it would have been glorious if the witchy power of the Ukrainian entry had won it or the cute Gokry’s Zygotic Mynci-channelling (with a dash of Pharrell Williams) Icelandic entry but frankly, my Top 3 ran like this and FUCK YEAH! I am STOKED that the Placebo-meets-Suzi Quatro-meets-The Darkness coke-sniffing sleaze ball antics of Italy’s Måneskin crushed the popular vote and shat all over chanson and cute boy pop/shoulder pad convention, favoured by the juries.
Right Said Lithuania would have been fine too, and I’m changing my mind about Germany as I type. What not submit a ukulele-toting spuriously stupid entry that sticks a literal two fingers up to the rest of Europe if you know you’re going to get next to no votes anyway? I wish the U.K. would take note.
Loved the Azerbaijan singer reimagining Ariana Grande, and a shout out to Cyprus (Lady Gaga) and Finland of course (although way too close to Linkin Park or Disturbed for my taste).
My voting list looked like this:
1. Ukraine!!! 2. Iceland!! 3. Anything but fucking Sweden
1. Ukraine!!! 2. Iceland!! 3. Italy
And of course I laughed my ass off at the U.K getting the famous “nul point” once again.
To celebrate my 60th birthday, I asked my social media friends to nominate a favourite song from 2021 – 60 to commemorate the fact I am 60. This isn’t one of them, though. This is some downbeat, beautifully introspective bedroom electronica – think Pet Shop Boys, think oh I don’t know Sarah Blasko or the great La Roux with some early 1980s Atari computer noises and recalcitrant drum machines thrown in – a kickback against this impersonalised Zoom World we now find ourselves in, with no seeming way out.
Recommended to me by Dan Thompson on Facebook, who writes “This might appeal. The new album by Penfriend is about 500 sales away from the Top 40. Do it for DIY culture. Please RT too!”
DIY culture. Yeah, I mean I’m into that and everything, and anti-the corporatisation of everything, most especially dance crazes (like dance isn’t the most vital, important, individual human activity ever), but does it have a good title? Yeah, it has a great title. ‘Exotic Monsters’. Love the title. Makes me want to listen to David Bowie or something. Makes me want to dance to the beats of Laura Kidd. Slowly.
As the artist puts it:
Sparked by a throwaway phrase from Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale”, “Exotic Monsters” is a laundry list of asynchronous human needs and desires; a reflection of our increasingly confused, disconnected and polarised lives. A timely reminder of the practice of cultivating gratitude through meditation, the song is an attempt to examine our internalised inconsistencies; the “facts” we pile up on our own backs throughout lives bombarded by airbrushed images and ads for the unattainable baubles we’re informed are essential for true happiness.
Yep. All of that. Synth wave. Go on. Treat yourself. Buy a copy of Laura’s album. God knows you deserve it. It comes on green vinyl with a small yellow vinyl supplement and some ace drawings.
Fun fact: “Exotic Monsters” features several Creative Commons drum samples created by the European Space Agency, recorded at their European Space Research and Technology Centre in the Netherlands. Using sounds from space on a song about feeling disconnected from life on earth just felt wildly appropriate.
To celebrate my 60th birthday, I asked my social media friends to nominate a favourite song from 2021 – 60 to commemorate the fact I am 60. This isn’t one of them, though – this is way more important and vital than that. God, it makes me so happy to witness this. So proud, so passionate, so strong. So beautiful. The sound of myriad voices coming together to protest something that should never have needed protesting in the first place. If ever anyone says to you they don’t understand the need for – and the power of – feminism… play them this. I have no idea why this isn’t already front page news across all the varying cultural media outlets right now. A sweet fuck-you to anyone who doesn’t understand the need for urgent change RIGHT NOW.
It’s not easy as it looks, writing a protest song. I know. I’ve tried – once (reasonably) successfully, once not so successfully. This song is just incredible. An anthem for the non-binary and new feminist generation, put together by London collective Loud Women, ‘Reclaim These Streets’. Feminist Aid.
From the age of 13 I’ve known the fear of dark streets I’ve known my body’s danger Can he hear my heart beat? Every woman’s got a story Breaks silence with a whisper Daring to tell her truth Calling to her sisters
Text me you when get home Keys between your fingers Staying close to streetlights Fear of shadows lingers
Till every woman’s safe from harm in her own home Till every woman’s safe to live her truth Till every woman’s safe to walk on every street Ooo-aah Reclaim these streets! (Reclaim these streets) Reclaim these streets! (Reclaim these streets) Reclaim these streets! (Reclaim these streets) Ooo-aah
BrixSmith: You know, I’d been told that Reclaim These Streets was in some ways a bit similar to Band Aid’s ‘Do You Know It’s Christmas’? When I heard that, I thought, let me call my friend Siobhan [Fahey] from Bananarama and Shakespears Sister. Back in the day, she was one of only four women on that Band Aid single out of everybody in the 1980s. They had only four women. Three of them were Bananas and one was Jody Watley. And I said, wouldn’t it be a wonderful circle to have Siobhan sing on this as well? Siobhan said, absolutely I’ll do it! So we went to her house and recorded there. She’s the last vocal with the last words “texts me when you get home”—the most haunting, throaty, emotional vocal. (Louder Than War)
To celebrate my 60th birthday, I asked my social media friends to nominate a favourite song from 2021 – 60 to…
No FUCK THAT. My blog, my rules. I have no fucking words right now. I have just rediscovered French singer Camille‘s 2008 album Money Hole and… fuck me. This song is like Robin Thicke meets Whitney Houston meets the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band… and. Fuck me. It’s really fucking irritating on a third listen. The album is so.,. Fuck it. Just for once, I am going to leave it to one of the professionals (the people paid to write about this shit) to try and put across the sense of disorientation Camille causes on her third album. Take it Alexis:
It’s not often that one record can claim to have laid waste to an entire musical genre, but then, it’s not often that anyone releases a record as unmitigatedly wretched as Bobby McFerrin’s novelty hit Don’t Worry, Be Happy. It wiped the collective memory of the glorious musical heights that can be scaled with the human voice alone – the gorgeous old doo-wop singles, the chilling, blood-spattered folk ballads, the Beach Boys’ ethereal Our Prayer – in three minutes of revolting bumper-sticker sentiment and flatly dreadful advice: in the event that your landlord say your rent is late and he may have to litigate, there are several options open, but the one thing you definitely shouldn’t do is follow McFerrin’s suggestion, which seems to involve chuckling at him and saying, “Look at me, I’m ‘appy.” Ever since, acapella pop has been a cordoned-off area. Like one of those game Ukrainan businessmen who organises tourist trips around Chernobyl, Björk had a go with her 2004 album Medúlla, but the public remained deeply wary.
So you have to admire the guts of Camille Dalmais. The 30-year-old Parisian vocalist has set up shop right in the middle of the musical Zone of Alienation that is a cappella pop, apparently without a thought for her own safety. While others still quail at the very memory, she is prepared to confront the genre’s darkest hour head-on: she has not only adapted McFerrin’s infamous body-slapping percussion style, but also covered Don’t Worry Be Happy live. Perhaps her fearlessness has been boosted by her surprising success in her homeland. Every track on 2005’s Le Fil was based around the same single droning note, an avant-garde conceit that didn’t prevent it going gold and winning the French equivalents of both the Mercury prize and a Brit award.
Music Hole dispenses with the drone and offers lyrics in English, but otherwise sticks with its predecessor’s approach. There are odd shadings of piano and electronics and a handful of sound effects – Money Note, a witty satire of the vocal histrionics employed by Mariah Carey, features a rhythm of clattering coins. Otherwise, virtually every sound you hear is made by Dalmais herself.
Well yeah. I’m loathe to share a single song because NONE of them are representative. She sounds like she’s having so much fun, it’s near unbearable. Love the fact she’s got a song called ‘Winter Child’ followed by a song called ‘Winter’s Child’ on her album, and for all I know they’re the same song.