Drove the middle toe on my right foot into a base leg of the desk chair last night - I want your sympathy, but don't suppose I'll get it - now it's an ugly purple swollen thing, but Franck Ribéry's got a B-movie horror scar from far worse car crash injury, so you have to count your blessings, eh? Then again, he's a world-class player with all the rewards that brings, and I'm a nobody. I watched him applying his brute strength and skill against the Spanish at football, to no avail.
I love to see the TV screen filled with green, and small shapes moving to and fro on the quest to put that little round white thing where it belongs. A football pitch, specifically Chelsea's pitch circa 1972, remains a magical vision to me since I can still recall the moment I walked up the steps from the bowels of Stamford Bridge to a world of light and brilliant blazing green, the like of which I had never seen before. The early-70s were golden years for the club, back when Charlie Cooke was the only foreign player we knew of, being Scottish. Years when hooligan style on the terraces was rife...The Shed, skin'eads and all that.
Yet into my ordinary council house world at that time came the Ziggy Stardust album, as mysterious and magical to me as the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Bowie's mismatched eye-colouring always appeared to me (and many others, I'm sure) as evidence of his other-worldliness (or cosmetic enhancement, being a crazy Rock star). The truth is more prosaic, as you probably know. Watching former Spiders talk on BBC4's documentary the other night, I'm surprised they didn't give him another eye colour, namely black. His treatment of them seems less than generous, to say the least.
That album's a defining one for my generation - what it defines I've no idea. I learnt every word of the lyrics, took it to the youth club, and became fixated by fantastical phrases penned by the Thin White Duke. More so because I was writing sci-fi stories at the time - a match made on Mars: space-age Rock glamour and futuristic poetry.
Whilst the documentary was good, the following clips show served to remind us that he has not maintained a perfect career trajectory (who does?). His re-emergence with a band playing the hits did nothing to excite, and for me, neither did many of the albums that followed the golden age. My fan friend swears later works are worthwhile, but I'm devoted solely to the 70s material. The Man Who Sold The World remains, in my view, a neglected masterpiece and the true roots of his space-age era.
If terrace bootboys and Glam Rock seem worlds apart retrospectively, you probably had to be there. Something in the air caused a strange fusion of men in make-up and their music with tribal loyalty, aggro and street style. No surprise, then, that Bowie took band members to see A Clockwork Orange, the ultimate cinematic example of horrorshow violence, futurist vision and style. Braces, bowlers, boots and Bowie...us boys were swinging in a most bizarre fashion.
It was all ch-ch-changes, of course, as is the way of fashion. Bowie changed, having recovered, eventually, from alter-ego psychosis. I've changed of course, although every time I play Ziggy it's as if the youthful me re-emerges, such is the way of important records in our past. It's fitting, I suppose, that one who took me into the future when I was a teenager can also provide a time travel experience today.
Finders Keepers, Pre-Cert Home Entertainment, Dead-Cert...certainly an elite hipster enclave, although they'd hate to be called hipsters, just as I did - a pretentious one at that - comment osent-ils?!
Well here are 700 vinyl copies if you're so inclined to part with nearly £20 - and why not? Andy, Sean & Miles may well need your money, despite Demdike Stare being the world's numero uno industrial-Giallo(s)core duo.
In 1983 the duo of Spoerri & Sarasin created a musical equation (note the catchy title, the meaning of which I've spent nearly five seconds trying to work out) resulting in musical magnificence, I must say - part ECM = unsquared sound + electronic sonata by way of George Russell in the form of conjoined electrickery with saxophonics. Spoerri has a history as a Jazz saxophonist, but don't hold that against him; his playing here is every bit as good as Garbarek's on Russell's ground-breaking album.
The good news is that despite involving aspects of brave new age fusion it sounds nothing like the kind of thing they would play in a Glastonbury shop selling crystals, which is more than can be said for many ECM albums. The electronics on the A-Side are sometimes edgy enough to disturb the karma of would-be meditative types, I'm pleased to say, by which I mean the tonal/textural approach veers towards sonic disturbance rather than soothing sounds for baby hippies - yes! - Bruno cranks up the moody mechanics in fine style, without going over the top, and always changing to create a continuing evolution of ideas.
I confess to not knowing exactly what Sarasin's contribution is, but Boomkat describe her as a 'theoretical material mechanic' (!) - so was it all her idea? Concept? In theory, perhaps. In fact, it doesn't matter. If you hanker after some Jazz-tinged electro-acoustic fusion (sorry, that's an off-putting description), this is a winner.
Having a dissenting opinion on movies, music, or clothes, or owning clever or obscure possessions, is the way middle-class people fight one another for status...Hipsters, then, are the direct result of this cycle of indie, authentic, obscure, ironic, clever consummerism...It is ironic in the sense the very act of trying to run counter to the culture is what creates the next wave of culture people will in turn attempt to counter.”
― David McRaney
Foreword to Bibliodyssey
To whom it may concern,
The Marriage of Reason and Squalor... again.
Whilst thanking you for inviting me to
contribute a foreword for your book, clearly a
splendid effort, I feel compelled to voice a
forewarning regarding the internet, which is at
least partly its subject. It is a treacherous minefield
to be trodden with trepidation if it is to be used for
anything other than a prurient delve into the
seamier side of human frailty. And whilst I am
unsure as to whether it is as yet of sufficient age to
contain any really dusty corners, it certainly does
have innumerable Iess than spotless ones.
At present widely (though I fear
misguidedly) perceived as the fountain of all
knowledge, a veritable Library of Alexandria, the
internet would be better compared to the Tower of
Babel, in its confusions, inaccuracies misdirections
and meanderings, a largely abused resource, as
with many other contemporary technological
innovations, infected with the malaise of over familiarity
fused with idiocy.
Visions of a techno-nirvana, glimpsed at the
conception of the information age by goggle-eyed
prematurely balding, pale-skinned computer
technologists schooled in unattainable utopian
idealism, that promised a Brave New World, an
informational arcadia, vibrant with abundant, free
flowing knowledge, liberated from location and
ownership, an all-encompassing forum for all
wisdom, of course rapidly degenerated to a
grotesque charade. Its birth fumbled, the baby
dropped on its head, a drooling rheumy-eyed
imbecile, blinking in the harsh Californian sunlight,
all expectations dashed, potential squandered.
The dream evaporated, the promised land a mirage,
receding rapidly over the shimmering horizon.
Information was not going to free the world
any time soon, but neither was it going to propel it
into a Matrixesque dystopia, the threat that personal
computers allied to a global network once presented
to the governments of the Free World, (apparent
missile-launching capabilities, dissemination of
radical politics, sensitive information hacking, the
rise of the robots...) appears to have been
overstated, a damp squib, the stuff of paranoid
science fiction. The emergent usage of this futuristic
technology is altogether more prosaic, in time
honoured tradition, it has been dragged down to its
lowest common denominator, a labour-saving device
of the most crass order: a less than useless tool for
ordering cold inedible pizza from around the corner,
a plain cover wrapper for pornography, the discrete
purchase of Viagra, the sending of virtual birthday
cards... As the spectre of power in the hands of the
masses dwindled, the sighs of relief were all too
Adept at crashing around on the World Wide
Web with all the finesse of a class of demented
five-year-olds at milk break, simultaneously unable
and unwilling to concentrate on anything for longer
than it takes to click on the 'next image' button, we
are mesmerised by the box that the internet was
delivered in, happy to squat in it and pretend.
We would be just as content with a Fisher-Price
designed internet with nice rounded corners and
just one big red button, labelled 'entertain me'.
Even its terminology is infantile: cookies, Google,
wizards, blogs, lull us into a false sense of security,
this is a friendly place, nothing bad here.
Yet this global village, an insignificant and
squalid burg, has us hypnotised with the cheap
flickering lights, slick graphics and gaudy colours of
Its sleazy infotainment grotto, global village idiots,
blinkered and dribbling, we gleefully hobble on
atrophied legs (in lieu of a healthy walk to the local
library, and in an effort to minimize our carbon
footprint, how about computers powered by
treadmill...) along the well trod malodorous mire
spattered single track information superhighway,
that terminates at Google, that vast gaping midden
of febrile enterprise and misguided attention, the
final triumph of squalor over reason. An End of Days
super jumble sale of interminable collections of
feeblemindedness: strangers' holiday snaps, their
comical dogs/cats/goldfish, collections of amusing
rnisshapen vegetables that resemble penises,
misshapen penises that look like vegetables, garden
furniture mishaps, cute babies, ugly babies, an
exhaustive study of every gurn ever performed by a
baby, babies with too many/not enough heads...,
milfs, camel-toes, spring-breaks, nipple-slips, happy-slaps, train wrecks, pissed mates,
ex-girlfriends, dog fights, cat fights, freaks, faeces,
faces of death, beheadings, on and on ad nauseam.
There, nightly to immerse ourselves up to our
armpits (over our heads) in filth and detritus, to
savour nuggets of inanity, (the television cannot
compete anymore, has had its day, given up the
ghost). And so to bed, to emerge blinking, Morlock-like,
maggot pale, slick with sweat, debilitated by
fever dreams colonised by digital succubi, into a
grey, dull and dreary hollow reality.
A globe spanning monument to the pratfall,
the elevation of 'You've Been Framed' to an
international interdenominational hyper-church,
that holds us in its thrall, endlessly confirming
our mawkish addiction to bargain basement
entertainment, proof that we are indeed God's little
joke, cavorting in ever decreasing spastic circles,
until we collapse in floods of tears like overwrought
toddlers playing musical chairs, not understanding
We trade our real existence for an
impoverished virtual version, a second life, having
failed miserably in our first one, now offered a
second chance... Only to repeat all the mistakes, to
reinforce all of the stupid preconceptions that got us
into this predicament in the first place. Given the
opportunity to throw out all the rules and start again
(after all it is only make-believe), we build an
almost perfect analogue, doomed to play out the
same dismal roles under different titles. The virtual
communities we build mirror almost exactly the
ones we are so desperately trying to evade. We
fantasize an escape while entrenching ourselves
deeper and deeper.
Trawling the net endlessly, seeking out
confirmation of our existence, finding surely
irrefutable proof on our websites, MySpaces.
YouTubes. Counting our friends (most we will never
actually meet) by numbers of hits received on them.
Whilst the technology of the global village enables
us access to a vast audience, we have nothing to
say, nothing to show, so we resort to what we can
all do with a certain amount of expertise - to make
inbeciles of ourselves. The bigger the fool, the
greater the audience. We have submitted so entirely
to the cult of celebrity, that we convince ourselves
that merely to appear on a remote screen is enough,
regardless of whether we are being applauded or
mocked. We have forced the technology that
promised to make us free, to chain us like a
neglected hound to the back of a truck, obliged to
run wherever it goes.
The point of no return, of surrender to
futility is surely wayposted by the emergence of
Wikipedia, a 'democratic' encyclopedia, that allows,
or rather encourages, adjustments and amendments
to its entries, as it advertises on its web page:
'the free encyclopaedia that anyone can edit.'
That anyone, regardless of their competence can
post their modifications, is surely the very reason
why nothing on this site should be trusted, which
totally negates its purpose, yet it remains a credible
source of information, even though it resembles
nothing more than a game of Chinese whispers.
The camera pulls out to reveal heaps of
reeking debris, stretching from horizon to horizon
We are adrift in an infinite lost property department.
We have seen everything, yet we still crave the
obscure. Horrors once hidden are now routine.
We scrabble even more frantically, searching further
afield, addicted to the freak show. Inured to the
most extreme images, we plough through them
relentlessly, daring ourselves onwards. No longer do
we have to press our faces against the newsagents
window to sneak a glimpse at the top shelf. Images
too raw and brutal for the newspapers are paraded
for our amusement, dangled temptingly in front of
us, it is all that we can do to avoid them, it is hardly
surprising that we happen upon them, with
frightening regularity, no matter how sophisticated
the safeguards appear, or how hard we try to
convince ourselves that we are not curious... And of
course, in the words of Marilyn Manson: 'When I
said we you know I meant me...'
So when I have finished squeezing words
out of this stubborn machine, even though it is late,
and I am exhausted, I shall don my reeking
sackcloth and shuffle as usual, down that fetid
gaping maw that leads to rotten.com, and join the
nightly refrain . . .
'l cant look, I must look'. Is that...
Jake & Dinos Chapman website
Cristian Vogel's latest, you should put any such ideas aside. Even though he's regarded as something of an experimentalist in Techno, this work might surprise a few casual listeners.
Vogel's high end production values are reminiscent of those employed by Monolake, and like Robert Henke, his fine-tuning doesn't detract from rhythmic prowess or low-end theoretical weight, of which there's plenty on The Inertials.
Thankfully, there's more than modern motoring mechanics at work, although those are good enough to warrant a listen, cruising the perimeters of post-dubstep tech-deconstruction as they do. The first three tracks stand out in this respect, paced at mid-tempo, but with great use of depth and space.
'Today's Standard Form' may not give Michael Nyman much to worry about in the modern composition stakes, but at least it's simple melodic piano progression proves that Vogel's not afraid to step outside the mechanised mainframe. 'Spectral Transgression' also offers a contrast to the precision-tooled bassics by way of taking a Steve Reich-inspired route into reductionist techno territory.
This is a clean, crisp, at times powerful piece of work, with plenty of well-placed components to keep keen listeners interested.
The Inertials - Cristian Vogel (Remix)
'Spectral Transgression' nods to Steve Reich, the way a few techno producers have done down the years, and why not? Reich had the rhythmic repetition thing in hand when they weren’t even twinkles in their Daddy’s eyes. And it’s not a bad effort either, although it does evolve into reductionist techno territory, and I’d rather it didn’t. I could be wrong, but I suspect Vogel doesn’t care what I think of it...
A complete change of mood comes from 'Today's Standard Form', a simple melodic progression on piano, which might make him a crazy experimentalist in the Techno area, or simply someone who likes to try something a little different. It’s no big deal as a piece of music, but does provide a pleasant detour...
I haven’t listened through ‘phones yet because I’ve put the Wharfdales to work, but I’m guessing it’ll offer plenty of wholesome whizzy components when played straight into the ol’ canals....
The Death Of The Author - I am diminishing like a
figurine at the far end of my own small literary stage,
to paraphrase Barthes...
to quote Cage:
I guess I just don't know And I guess
I just don't know +++++
You arrived here from forever, you
will leave for everywhere (Rimbaud)
My will is not my own, my words
not worth the air that carries them (Disch)
There is no recipe
for arriving at a successful collage; try to achieve
a balance between chance effects
Keep a clean nose
Watch the plain clothes
It don't take a weather man to tell
Which way the wind blows.
And all over the land, instead of trees, Clean poles
and wire will whisper in the breeze (Betjeman)
Mr Foster Hip-Skip What They Do
Once the Author is removed, the
claim to decipher a text becomes quite futile
From an amazing Bruno Nicolai LP, Tutti I Colori Del Buio (1972)
Staying with mediums, one of my favourite John Barry Soundtracks.
LJ half-heartedly suggests that with all this Punk nostalgia going on there may well be a revival - forgetting that in Camden we've had booze-addled, mohican-haired retrobates staggering around with 'Exploited' sprayed on their leather jackets for decades. That's not revivalism, of course, but the maintenance of someone's idea of what Punk was/is, and opinions will always differ on that, from art school idealists to glue-sniffers.
On BBC2's The Review Show the other night they wondered why it isn't happening now, and Paul Morley came up with the standard response about appropriation, which I've can't argue with. We've known for a long time that all youth cults are quickly assimilated, packaged and presented as marketing ideas for gullible consumers. In time the product becomes a nostalgic product for original participants, many of whom will have long since sold artefacts they once treasured and want them again on a compilation.
The irony, of course, is that Punk professed to blow everything away in a bout of noisy nihilism - the political and musical establishment, as well as cosy nostalgia - destroy the past, never trust a hippy and to hell with tomorrow. All youth movements depend on the belief in a new world, even, as with Punk, one consisting of nothing but ruins. Teds tried to build one based on menace and musical outrage, much like Punk, and those switch blade peacocks soon passed into the history book of Youth Culture. When McLaren emerged as a Teddy Boy in the 70s, he could not have imagined that a few years later the tribe he courted would set about hunting his Punk children up and down the King's Road.
Aside from the obvious point that Punk now would simply be a tame revival, it seems we no longer live in a time when any kind of revolution is possible, be it from unions or young folk. Youthful rebellion is an old idea. And besides, what can't the youth of today have, culturally-speaking? File-sharing means music is free, and all things past can be found on YouTube. Perhaps that facility negates the importance of Now as something to be shaped and radically changed because we're all too busy enjoying The Past.
Everything today is one click away, whereas in '77 so much seemed to be beyond reach, and the effort required to go get your dream, rather than proving too much, spurred some to go out and try. OK, that dream may well have amounted to no more (or less) than making a fanzine, or one 45, but the effort required to do so bore a direct relation to the sense of satisfaction felt in doing so. Recent riots proved that some youths were motivated to grab new trainers and TVs, of course, but that's another matter. The deep discontentment of looters involves complex moral, psychological and cultural issues which have not resulted in a best-selling single airing those concerns whilst being shunted aside by the chart-rigging Pop establishment. We live in a different world, where no 45 can ever symbolise, with such power, feelings of anger and resentment as the Sex Pistol's 'God Save The Queen' did. But let's be thankful for small mercies; at least Chumbawamba didn't try this time.
Optimistically one might say that the death of youth tribes with the power to shock and inspire signals the birth of individualism on a massive scale, yet current popular music does not seem to support that idea. Privatised dreams negate the very notion of a band (ie a gang), in a world where music can be made so easily at home, and the old industry has been shattered into millions of files. The old music biz enemy was a corporate castle that needed storming, resulting in either utilising it's power, or building your own small stronghold from which to fire salvoes in a world where the common (battle) ground was just that. There is common ground today, but it looks very different, and easily caters for anyone's creative efforts. In this respect, the battle may have been won, by dint of technological progress rather than the concerted effort of foot soldiers fighting the good fight.
In this world of celebrity worship on a massive scale and public school Tory rule, of government cuts and financial insecurity, there should be a youthful uprising in the form of cultural shock tactics dressed in outrageous style, accompanied by a radical noise. Unfortunately, the Occupy movement, as John Lydon recently put it in an interview, 'always ends up with some hippy playing a flute.' The Establishment in all forms appears to be on a winning streak that's set to last forever and The Youth, whilst not being content, are content to allow it to continue as long as they can be pacified by easy access entertainment of their choosing. There are many old rebellions such as Punk to enjoy, after all.
But no-one could hear me scream above the on-screen din. If this is what all cinema-goers regularly subject themselves to it's no wonder these films still get made and watched. The poor sods who pay have long since had their senses dulled and their brains turned to mush.
Like all fans of Alien and Aliens I wanted Prometheus to be good, to be better than critics had suggested. People have a thing about critics, and it's obvious why, but from what I've read most seem to be right in this case. The return of Ridley Scott was supposed to promise quality, so we all hoped - alas, that's not the case. Oh, it has plenty of whiz-bang effects (and some suckers will pay extra to see them in 3-D - well, you know the saying about polishing a turd), but since when has that been enough to make a film great? This whole film felt like an effect, or an attempted effect, as it tried to please brain-dead thrill-seekers and the 'thinking' sci-fi fan.
It's a spaceship wreck - two hours of mangled script and twisted direction resulting, I imagine, from the conflict between franchise obligation and weak-willed desire to inject some philosophical gravitas. Woman in peril being subjected to body horror, suspicious android, frantic race back to the ship - old ideas from previous films are revisited as pale imitations. Even the aliens offer a confused picture in both form and origin, unless it was all too complex for me to understand.
If in doubt, have a slithering creature invade someone's body - this may be fine for porn films, but here it suggested a lack of original ideas. Yes, we expect something along those lines, but it really felt like tokenism rather than true horror in service of the plot. As for the script, you could find better in a 50s B-Movie. Perhaps in 50 years time this will be hailed as a B-Movie classic, although men in dodgy monster costumes are far more entertaining. It proves that you can throw as much money as you like at a film, but it's wasted without a solid foundation in script, story or direction.
*Spoiler* > one alien life-form turns out to be a vicious GM version of Squiddly Diddly.