Never Disappointing
Shop Around 21
I love surprises. I love Faith Evansí 'Again'. That was a lovely surprise. An even lovelier surprise was finding an uncorrected proof of Jonathan Lethemís The Disappointment Artist in a local charity shop. Itís not out here until July, and it says it should not be quoted from. Anyway, itís all about Lethemís obsessions, enthusiasms, influences - the things that have shaped his life and writings. If youíve enjoyed Motherless Brooklyn and The Fortress of Solitude, youíll love the background provided here.

Lethemís obsessions certainly arenít all the same as mine, despite the similarities in our ages. For example, he saw Star Wars 21 times in 1977. I perversely pride myself on never having seen it. Iíve never read a Philip K Dick book, but thereís plenty of common ground if we get stuck in a lift one of these days. I like what he says about his writing: ďMy prose is a magpieís, even when not larded with cultural namedropping. Perhaps anyoneís writing is ultimately bricolage, a welter of borrowings. But of the writers I know, Iíve been the most eager to point out my influences, to spoil the illusion of originality by elucidating my fictionís resemblance to my book collection.Ē If we were stuck in that lift I think we might find ourselves violently agreeing about that one.

Elsewhere Lethem explores the idea that by being so obsessed with a specific aspect of popular culture you are ultimately setting yourself up for a fall. I canít quote his words of course but he says something like: ďMy declaring a writer or musician my favourite, it seemed, contained a suicide pact for my enthusiasm. The disappointment artist was me.Ē

With that on my mind, I have to confess I was slightly more wary than I would have expected at finding Josef K were featured on an LTM DVD compilation culled from the archives of Crepuscule/Factory Benelux. Josef K were my big obsession, and they have performed in my mindís eye for 25 years. But I need not have worried. One glimpse of Malcolm Ross flailing away at his huge semi-acoustic, and you know allís well.

Some time ago we made a few stabs at documenting the only possible revolution. That is what happened beyond punk, the revolt against a new rock orthodoxy. We wondered aloud whether that revolution could ever be televised. Now I find myself increasingly being able to savour sights from that only possible revolution in my own living room. And this LTM DVD Umbrellas In The Sun is a great source for this.

There are some incredibly important moments captured here. Some are live performances, and some are early fumbling video shorts. Best of all is the film of A Certain Ratioís 'Back To The Start' from1981. Itís an incredible piece of footage, and could yet make Simon Topping a huge star. You get acr dancing in the woods, kids dancing around, Topping smouldering. And what I recommend with this DVD is watching for a while with the sound turned down to enable you to focus on some of the performances and - most importantly - some of the haircuts.
My own personal favourite is Stockholm Monstersí performance of their 'Partyline' classic. Singer and absolute legend Tony France suddenly starts flailing away at his guitar right at the end of the song in the most threatening way. Itís a wonderful moment. Elsewhere Factory comrades Kalimaís 'The Shining Hour' is an absolute joyful gem, with a lovely story line in the video short. Marineís 'A Proposito Dei Napoli' mines a similar jazzy pop noir vein.

Mention of Belgiumís finest participants in the only possible revolution gives me an opportunity to acknowledge some of the other great performances here originating from the European mainland. Antenaís 'Boy From Ipanema' is gloriously sexy, as is Malaria!ís 'White Sky, White Sea' in a very different way. The show is stolen, however, by Drita Kotajiís performance of Berntholerís lovely electro-torch song 'My Suitor'. Itís a song almost as lovely as Lifeís 'Tell Me'.

Elsewhere the magic of New Order, Cabaret Voltaire and the Swamp Children is cancelled out by Factory no-hopers like Crispy Ambulance, The Names, Durutti Column, Quando Quango, and Minny Pops, but the inclusion of the Marine home movie at the end wins out. Sarahís performance of 'Life In Reverse' is an exquisite document of the ambition of the times.

For connoisseurs of what happened beyond punk, as part of the only possible revolution, it is perhaps surprising the DVD does not include any work by The Wake, pivotal figures of the excellent salvage work LTM has been doing in the area. Elsewhere, however, LTM has collected video evidence of The Wake live at The Hacienda in July 1983 and January 1984 on an essential DVD. The first of the live performances I think I would use as evidence of what I might have been doing during the wars beyond punk. Again if you watch with the sound turned down, and study the haircuts and clothes you will have an important document of the times. The sweat may be pouring off you but youíre too cool to take off your suede jacket or undo the top button of your Fred Perry top. Please take the time and trouble to study those haircuts!

One of those haircuts belonged to a teenage Bobby Gillespie, playing the bass suitably nonchalantly. It may come as something of a shock to anyone who knows the Bobby Gillespie that duets with Kate Moss, but lifeís strange. And I assume Bobby looked so distracted because he was busy plotting the path he and his soulmate Jim Beattie would soon take as Primal Scream in the very near future.

BUT THAT IS A STORY FOR ANOTHER DAY. Today Iím off to watch Josef K again and revel in the fact these artists do not disappoint!

© 2005 John Carney

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