The Only Possible Revolution
part one

It is easy to be purely occupied by the salvage projects. There is so much to be tempted by. The lure of the Strut compilation Edits by Mr K at 3 in Fopp against a gamble on a full price debut CD by someone who has got a good review somewhere and may have put together a few decent if derivative tracks. Well, it is hard to resist. And yet, thank god, there is always that nagging sense of missing out on a new twist.

I remember once Vic Godard being so dismissive of anything new. I still blame Vic for so much. He was the first one to realise after the noise and uproar of punk that the only possible revolution was to strike a defiant pose in the middle of the road.

He sold us a vision of an inventive form of MOR music, subversively swathed in gorgeous melodic fineries, easy on the ear but with food for thought. The aspiration was to get the new songs played on Radio Two, and be the housewives' choice and the shopfloors' favourites. No more rock'n'roll for us.

The idea caught on. Vic dressed up in his tuxedo and crooned at Club Left. The second generation of Postcard groups followed on from Orange Juice's sly subversion and suggested Nancy Sinatra singing 'Sunday Morning' with the Velvets at a cocktail lounge. Weekend evolved from the Young Marble Giants and hinted at Juliette Greco and Miles Davis in Paris in the late 50s. The Pale Fountains looked excrutiatingly cool and considered the overlap between Love and Burt Bacharach on behalf of a generation that first heard 'Alone Again Or' early one morning on the Ray Moore show. And then Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt fell in love, went to study in Hull, or vice versa, and evoked the spirit of Carole King and collaborators, and all that implies, but forgot to include Vic's 'Make Me Sad' on their covers set.

And ever since the best pop has sounded as though it belongs along side Glen Campbell singing 'Galveston' and the Fifth Dimension performing 'Stoned Soul Picnic'. Occasionally there really are songs like Saint Etienne's 'Avenue' or an r'n'b slice of subversion or Broadcast's 'Come On Let's Go' which are as lovely as anything written by Jim Webb or Laura Nyro, and you know Vic was right.

Right now Broadcast's HaHa Sound hits the nail right on the head. If I remember rightly a haha is some kind of fence used as defence battlements. There is a road near here, nearer the armoury at Woolwich, which is called Haha Road. On one memorable occasion someone was stabbed after being asked the name of the road. It's that kind of area. The HaHa Sound sounds light years away. It sounds light years ahead. It could belong to any year. You can hear what you want in it. The United States of America, Silver Apples, or whatever. But it sounds like Broadcast, and they have created their own sound. They have the last laugh.

I love the fact they are still on Warp Records, and strangely the record has reignited my love for that label's trademark electronica explorations. And after a week immersed in the waves of familiarly strange sound they continue to produce, I feel able to argue this could be one of Warp's vintage years if we want it to be. Mira Calix's Skimskitta is a spiritual dubscape of the HaHa Sound, and curiously reinvigorating. Prefuse 73's One Word Extinguisher again suggests a wayward genius who should be usurping the Neptunes and Timbalands, but will probably tinker and tamper with hip hop and electronica like Vic Godard dabbling with pop and never realising what could possibly be realised.

And I find myself eager to hear the new Req set and the Chris Clark collection, and wondering about the Ammoncontact 12' Soul Jazz has put out with its connections to Prefuse 73's own Eastern Development label. And wanting to tell the world about the reissued/remastered Bola Soup classic on Skam which leaves the related Autechre and Boards of Canada works way behind.

Goodness knows how many years on now the Warp sound genuinely is strangely familiar, and that is no bad thing. It is hard to imagine a Warp record now making someone scared or really uncomfortable, but its releases keep enough edginess about them to avoid slipping into chill out mode. Great! I can live with Autechre as easy listening, and Squarepusher as active background music. And I want to hear Broadcast and their 'Black Umbrellas' on the Jeremy Vine show next to the Smiths' 'As'k and Alistair Darling explaining away the issues of the day.

And maybe the Swingle Singers will be scatting over the top of a Prefuse 73 track ...

© 2003John Carney