How NOT to write about music – 81. Sir Babygirl

sir_babygirl_12

OK. Three reasons why you should never reduce music criticism to simple box ticking, process and naming delineation. The closer something seems to get to you, the more it will squirm away. Do not be reductionist or give in to the temptation to place everything into neatly labelled boxes: embrace the confusion, embrace the distraction. If something can be that easily categorised in the first place, that says more about you as the listener, as the consumer, then it will ever do about the artist. The title of this music blog is How NOT to write about music, remember?

Herein follows the first lesson.

This is what the music/muse of Sir Babygirl sounds and looks like:

  1. Like a cross between the musical box scene in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Chicago, The Powerpuff Girls and The Craft.
  2. Like a cross between Kate Nash, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, Grimes, Billie Eilish, Fall Out Boy and Hannah Diamond.
  3. Just a great pop song from a non-binary drag character (her words, not mine).

Do you understand what I am saying here? Never give in to the temptation to simplify. Never allow yourself to be seduced by the idea you know more than the next person. You almost certainly don’t and even if you do, their turn of phrase is probably more eloquent and appealing than yours. You CANNOT get a sense of Sir Babygirl’s beautiful, buoyant, challenging pop music from the above points. And you couldn’t, even if they were relevant.

All I am doing here is pointing out the process. Most music journalism hides the process (a little) better than this. Whatever. Have yourself a listen anyway. Don’t be distracted.

This next one is kinda way better cos it’s way more irritating (NOT an insult).

Someone on YouTube described it as “like the Bisexual acid trip version of ‘Summer Nights’ from Grease which is probably even more asinine and incomplete a description then even those crap one-liners above, but it”s funnier and anyway, what you gonna do? In a world where Boris Johnson is accepted for his perceived “charm” over any more obvious abilities you gotta run against the crowd.

10 Least Read Entries on How NOT To Write About Music

Robyn

1. How NOT to write about music – 2. Mango
By any interpretation you choose to take, Mango rock. It ain’t the kind of rock I sometimes throw your way, no denying – no heavy kick-ass metallic chundering guitars or chundering kick-ass heavy drums or that shit: but the words are enunciated and stretched out at volume with a velocity and fierceness that offsets the jazz-tinged funk with a pleasing counter. (See the way there I smartly separated the two genres?) I don’t really understand the quiet bits but I never really understand the quiet bits, although I do like the way they sound tentative, nervous, concerned they may be out of order.

2. How NOT to write about music – 22. (reprinted from 2015)
I wanted to give something back. So I started writing about music, trying to convert everyone to my cause. Even early on – especially early on – I knew that was a futile quest, but that made it all the more fun. If I didn’t think I could change the world through my writing I wouldn’t be doing it, even now. Especially now. I want to communicate the emotion, the rampant emotions that lead me to dance. I want to make everyone else dance. I barely go out to concerts these days – perhaps one every couple of months – but that’s still the case. I still want to make everyone dance. I still want to change the world. These years, I’m whistling in a wind tunnel, pissing in the billowing ocean.

3. How NOT to write about music – 21: Robyn
Robyn, Robyn, Robyn! Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn! Robyn, Robyn. Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn. Robyn, Robyn, Robyn! Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn! Robyn, Robyn. Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn. Robyn, Robyn, Robyn! Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn! Robyn, Robyn. Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn. Robyn, Robyn, Robyn! Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn! Robyn, Robyn. Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn. Robyn, Robyn, Robyn! Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn! Robyn, Robyn. Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn. Robyn, Robyn, Robyn! Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn! Robyn, Robyn. Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn. Robyn, Robyn, Robyn! Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn! Robyn, Robyn. Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn. Robyn, Robyn, Robyn! Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn! Robyn, Robyn. Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn.

4. How NOT to write about music – 20. Snail Mail
I got banned from the Crocodile Cafe in Seattle after a Hatfield gig. A few years earlier, I engaged in a Manhattan street spat with Matador Records founder Gerard Cosloy (who know who was chasing who?). Handbags at dawn. Matador, being the home of Snail Mail. Bittersweet with the emphasis on… nah. Let’s not go down that path. Everything is perfect in our imperfect world. Heaven, heaven is a place where nothing ever happens. Something to do with a distrust of the outside world. This music resonates the way this music has always resonated in my world. Makes me think of late night/early morning Sydney taverns.

5. How NOT to write about music – 5. Eminem
Shortly as I was coming up the final approach to Haywards Heath, a new track started up. Didn’t pay too much attention, then I started getting into the nasty-ass lyrics and obstructionist worldview, the steady flow of invective, the aggressive double-speed rap and… damn, I was just loving the flow. I sat there in the car outside my house, engine running, lights on, neighbours beginning to peer out their windows, while the track built inexorably to its cussed climax. I wanted to know who it was (although it was clearly Eminem). I wanted to know what it was. The volume kept building. The invective kept flowing. Damn, it shook my late Thursday evening up.

6. How NOT to write about music – 13. Kate Nash (part two)
If  I was to write a review of the 2018 Kate Nash album Yesterday Was Forever – and it seems unlikely at this stage, I mean why would I? – this is what I would do. Brainstorm, take notes. Collect my scattered impressions of the music and its surrounding context into some form of list which I would then check off as I start to write the piece. Usually I do not even do this as the list forms and takes shape as I am writing… but I am trying to document the process here.

7. How NOT to write about music – 23: Johnny Cash
This Johnny Cash song… oh fuck. This Johnny Cash song I heard a few nights back when I was watching the tail-end of an OK if somewhat overdone (in terms of violence and its own self-importance) movie about a tired mutant nearing the end of his life. I do not know which inspired genius decided to place it right there, at the film’s end: it did not complement the film content – instead it threw the entire movie into stark relief, showed it up for what it was, storytelling that resonates for only as long as the flickering images are there in front of your eyes (like life itself, I guess). You think generations of male filmmakers and storytellers, from Tarantino and Eastwood onward, through Peaky Blinders and the rest of the Game Of Thrones shebang, have not been trying (and failing) to duplicate what Johnny Cash does with such ease here, over the course of a few sparse lines and inflections…

8. How NOT to write about music – 16: Porridge Radio
Three exhibits today. Three examples of an old man railing at clouds. Three shows of weakness, of the reason why music criticism can be such a futile occupation sometimes. (Are Porridge Radio Adele? Are Porridge Radio Sam Smith? Are Porridge Radio Jess Glynne? Am I Piers Morgan?) This is self-evident, except the final exhibit got repeated at several different points in time (named “the greatest band in the world” by Everett True on the strength of half a song) in Brighton and London and Amsterdam to help keep a few bedraggled punters away doubtless.

9. How NOT to write about music – 15: Ed Sheeran
It isn’t so much that Ed Sheeran is shit, when it comes down to it – but the culture that enables him, and through constant use of repetition and reinforcement encourages the general population to believe that his music has some worth or value… You can still buy the book if you want. I have plenty of copies left. Paypal £13 (UK)/£16 (EU)/£20 (rotw) to ramonesfan79@yahoo.co.uk

10. How NOT to write about music – 3. Marianne Faithfull
OK. Here’s a fast pop quiz for anyone interested. Keep a track of the news stories and first reviews running around ‘The Gypsy Faerie Queen’ and Negative Capability – see how many quote word-for-word from the press release in the paragraph above. That is not music criticism or evaluation. That is simple laziness, plagiarism. Yet this is what gets called music criticism the world over.

How NOT to write about music – 13. Kate Nash (part two)

Yesterday Was Forever

The process. This is what we are here to talk about today. The process.

If  I was to write a review of the 2018 Kate Nash album Yesterday Was Forever – and it seems unlikely at this stage, I mean why would I? – this is what I would do. Brainstorm, take notes. Collect my scattered impressions of the music and its surrounding context into some form of list which I would then check off as I start to write the piece. Usually I do not even do this as the list forms and takes shape as I am writing… but I am trying to document the process here.

(Remember the first rule of writing? If you don’t feel like writing, write anyway.)

  • Personal. I like it. A lot. It’s chipper, it’s buoyant, it is shot through with a pleasing streak of self-loathing, She (knowingly?) references Jonathan Richman (on ‘My Little Alien’), and Orange Juice and Courtney Love (on ‘Life In Pink’), the song during which her voice has been sped up a bpm or 10, having the unnerving effect of making her sound a little Chipmunk-esque. Like all the best singers, now I think about it.
  • Observation, detail. It’s her fourth. It feels like she (quite deliberately?) is turning her back on her Award-winning, pop chart storming, past and is returning back to the fanzine cut-and-paste feel-the-joins culture that has inspired her. She is the fanzine pop queen. Kickstarter-funded (for real).
  • Note to self: find out other facts and details to help score my authority from press release/Guardian review and so forth.
  • Theme.  Erratic, but delightfully so. Veers between many different palettes, pop and otherwise, although right now the inclusion of ‘My Little Alien’ justifies everything. Lightweight, but not as an insult. She is herself, like Drew Barrymore (to quote a Bis lyric). She instinctively understands her audience because she is her own audience (list examples from ‘Today’ and perhaps one other song).
  • Special mention, to the self-descriptive panic attack outing on ‘Musical Theatre’. Her voice plaintive, calling. Challenging. Demonstrative. Fearful. These are my own observations but I just checked on Wikipedia (the first refuge of the scoundrel) and it states, “Nash openly confirmed that she has obsessive compulsive disorder and anxiety and is an advocate for raising awareness for the importance of mental health. ‘Musical Theatre’ is Nash’s personal interpretation of struggling with mental health”. Good to have verification. (Sample lyric: “I can’t remember ‘A-B-C’ correctly.”)
  • Note to self. Find a source that is not Wikipedia to back up this focal point.
  • She is herself. I know I have used this line before, but this is one of the many reasons I like Kate Nash so much. She is not afraid to take chances and fall flat on her face, if need be.
  • Reception. The Guardian (see above) calls her pop music “slightly stale” but perhaps I enjoy slightly stale. Jesus. We can’t all be Father John Misty. As Drowned In Sound puts it (I will rephrase this), “whimsical, playful, experimental and wildly fun”. I would shy away from calling this honest or authentic, because I am not a great believer of either within performance, but…

And then I would grab a couple of mugs of coffee and write the review.

But, like I said earlier, who the fuck is going to be interested?

How NOT to write about music – 12. Kate Nash (part one)

Kate Nash Thin Kids

When I was living in Brisbane, I formed a band with Ed G, Triple J DJ Maggie Collins and Scotty Regan called The Thin Kids. We were amazing. We had two types of songs – don’t hate us because we’re thin, and don’t hate us because we’re from Queensland. We gave interviews that were works of art.

For example. 

Within a couple of months of forming, we had supported Kate Nash on a national tour of Australia, released a four-track CD which sold out of its 2,000 pressing within days*, became the sweethearts of bouncers the city over with our punk rant ‘You’re Not On The Guest List (You’re Not Coming In)’ and deserved to be on the cover of every music publication in Australia… because (yes) we were better than you. Our opening show was supporting The Cribs at the Brisbane Zoo.

The following clip is from Sydney, where I promised to perform a song that Isaac (then aged around 6) had written entitled ‘Poppycock Is Rubbish’.

I am still waiting for a savvy label to contact us, and release our debut album under the aegis of “the great lost pop band of Brisbane”.

This is the song you can lead with.

We were dynamite. Seriously.

In Sydney, faced with a crowd of 1,500 plus baying Kate Nash fans and a drummer who refused to play on the rather tenuous grounds that he hated Sydney, I asked Kate if she would play on stage with us. She was hungover but game. “OK, just one song,” she replied.

I made sure the song lasted for 10 minutes.

From The AU Review:

It was a laughable, uncoordinated mess – and that’s exactly what True wants from it. “Don’t hate us ‘cause we’re thin!” he shouted at a mostly bemused audience that didn’t seem to be in on the joke, before inviting up the lady we all came to see to play a bit of piano. It must have been her touch that did it, but suddenly everyone was interested and even cheering. Atop a simple chord progression, True read out a slew of beat poetry, dedicating each line to a different past self – from his seventeen year old self right up to now. And how was that time spent? “FUCKED UP ON ALCOHOL!” Right on, said we. Watch your sincere form of flattery there, though, Everett – if you record that track you just might end up in the Hottest 100.

Kate returned to the UK or LA , and we went on to record two split seven-inch singles with her. In a fit of postmodernist pique, we wrote a new song entitled, ‘She Never Wrote Back’ that opened with the lines “We sent Kate Nash an email/SHE NEVER WROTE BACK”, a wry commentary on the fickle and fleeting nature of record industry friendships or so we thought, only slightly undermined by the fact Kate invited us to play with her again in Brisbane the following year.

I live in Britain now. Kate hasn’t responded to my emails for years.

(to be continued)

Note to aspiring blog writers: for fuck’s sake. Do not EVER write about music this way. Note the fact I have not even once attempted to address the reason for this blog entry, Kate Nash’s music (and by implication her last album, 2018’s Yesterday Was Forever). I am so concerned with telling my own story I completely omit to tell hers. Do not EVER do this. No one gives a fuck.

*Slight typo here.