Let's Get Out
Oh gee, I just took a look at the very excellent Freaky Trigger ezine (it's the only one I look at these days - aside from the fact that I simply don't have the time and, er, well that's about the only reason I don't look at any others. Oh, and because in the past any others I've browsed just bore me...) and I wonder why is it that Tom Ewing is so much wittier, so much more aware of current occurrences is the world of Popular Culture than I am? Maybe it's because he doesn't live in the god forsaken lost world of the South West of England. Maybe it's because he's much smarter than me.
Whichever is the answer, it was interesting to read his comments on Limp Bizkit, the resurgence of Rock as an enema to our new Youth, and the fact that the 'scenesters' (is this all of us, Tom?!) don't like it because, well, it's not what we would have chosen the new revolution of revolting sounds that regenerate 'the kids' interest in their rock'n'roll heritage to be. Me, I think it's great. And I think it's great because I hate it and I really couldn't care less. And obviously because I don't think it's great at all. Do I sound like that Spooks record now? Which stance is it going to be? I'm really only hoping Tom will call me a dozy bint...
I'll tell you what's really depressing though: it's not the fact that Limp Bizkit or Amen or Slipknot or Korn or whoever are making records that are complete shit, it's the fact that in point of fact The Kids KNOW it's crap... and the fact that they don't care. The Kids understand that there is no shock value left in Rock anymore, as they know that there is almost no shock value left in ANYthing. Most of their parents couldn't care less... most of their parents grew up with the Sex Pistols for Christs' sake. Nothing is new... and if you can't upset your parents, well... what's the point? And it's this half-assedness of it all that is so depressing. Of course all Rock rebellion has had its element of theatre, but it seems that spectacle is all there is left. There is no edge of genuine strangeness, just one massive half hearted yelp followed by the yawn of boredom.
Me, I blame the teachers.
As everyone who ever went to school knows, all teachers are locked away in a cupboard overnight to re-emerge the next day, bright and breezy... or something. Sometimes it feels like that actually, and if it weren't for the fact that I have MTV, Play and The Box on my telly, and that I occasionally catch these channels between bouts of heroic tapping on these here keys, I would have even less concept of what Ewing is wittering about when he talks about All Saints, Spooks, Pink and the like. Sometimes I get to wondering what these people do all day...not All Saints and their ilk, obviously, but rather those people who know what Spooks records sound like AND who manage to get along to watch Magnetic Fields shows AND even get out to pubs and drink beer and stuff. It's beyond me.
I spend all my spare time up in my attic reading books about Andy Warhol, the history of American Comic books, Edie Sedgewick, Lester Bangs, looking at paintings (in books...) by Peter Lanyon, Sigmar Polke and David Salle, listening unendingly to CDs by people who will never even have a sniff at MTV and... oh hang on. It's all beginning to make sense.
All of that has been a prelude to my telling you what I have been listening to recently. I often think it's unfair to the bands and record labels that by the time I get around to actually saying something about their product, I have bored everyone witless so that they've all buggered off to Freaky Trigger or somewhere else where writers don't meander so... but yeah. Meandering is all a part of life, is all a part of the Pop Appreciation Process. PAP. Ha ha ha. My Year 10 students groan when I say things like that... feel free to join in.
It's unfair to have words about the very wonderful Life Without Buildings buried so deep in this article, but that's life. It sucks. You sometimes have to dig deep to find the jewels, so you know, my whole writing style is an allegory. Deal with that, why don't you? Actually I was thinking the same about Richard Meltzer whilst trawling through his Aesthetics of Rock. Rob Lo reckons his other writings are better, and Meltzer does too, which I hope is true because I found The Aesthetics of Rock to be a trifle dull, even to a lover of trifle. But Life Without Buildings... yes. Yes. And thrice YES.
Of course I'd never heard of the buggers (because I never listen to the radio or read music papers) when my mate Jon dropped the name over our yearly lunch meet-up but I filed the name away in my brain, and was therefore primed for action when a press release for the blighters' debut LP Any Other City dropped into my mail-box not two days later. It made mention of, amongst others, PIL, Television and ESG and although I've grown cautious when dealing with 'references' listed in press releases (not to mention journalists' reviews - hey! Don't believe a word I say!) I still can't resist that kind of a list. So I blagged a review copy.
I'm glad I did, and would encourage you to part with your hard earned cash for a copy because Any Other City is without a doubt the record for the opening of my 2001. The first record to make me pause, stop, circle myself around and... LEAP. I'd hope you'd agree, and to be honest I don't see why you wouldn't. Unless the sounds of rusting silver barbs that make your heart shimmmmmy with abandon up your spine and down through your feet onto the boards from whence they take flight and head arcing into the heavens make you tired. And if they do it's too bad.
Any Other City is a record I've been waiting to come into my life for the longest time; a point at which so many special personal moments come home to roost, giving birth to birds of paradise that rise phoenix like out of the ashes of Rock. I'm thinking Slits smooching with Tortoise; I'm thinking Patti Smith accompanied by The Sea and Cake; Huggy Bear backed by Blue Aeroplanes at their Bop Art best; The Velvet Underground of '66 if Nico was the Clare Grogan of 'Dead Pop Stars' and 'Insects'. A record full of fine moments, where the very finest would be the aforementioned fractious Boptastic Blue Aeroplane dart and lope of 'PS Exclusive', the Sea and Cake lilt with Patti Smith poetic stop startness of 'The Leanover' and the epic 'Sorrow' which is pure 'Sweet Jane' Velvets with a syncopated freeform vocal right out of The History of Bop, and which is simply the heart-rending sonic treasure against which all else will be measured in the year ahead. It even has the sense to namedrop 'In A Silent Way' and if it's simply personal that its abstract mentions of '83 just cut to the core, then so be it. Masterful.
Low's 'Laser Beam' from their new album Things We Lost In The Fire goes some way to approaching the magnificent oscillating ache of 'Sorrow' and is my second most loved song of the year so far for sitting with in dark night reverie. Mimi Parker sounds chilled and chilling, the perfect accompaniment to January with the mists bleeding up the valley. The whole album is a great January record in fact, being deliciously slowed down, dark and delicately iced; perhaps even more perfectly a February and March record, since songs like 'Embrace' and 'Like A Forest' sound like slowly thawing days with drums the sound of dripping icicles; melodies the sun shining lemony weak through the branches. Gazing at a face that'll never remember you in a week, that you'll never forget in a lifetime, and in that respect it's like Yo La Tengo's 2000 masterpiece And Then The World Turned Itself Inside Out, only just without the poise, the wit and the range of emotion. Nevertheless, an album to cherish on coach journeys across countries and back.
So, two records to light up the sky at the start of another year, two records that fifteen year old boys will hate. What more do you need?
Things We Lost In The Fire is released on February 12th
Any Other City is released on February 26th.
Both on Tugboat records.
© Alistair Fitchett 2001