Friday, October 08, 2010

Been a long time.....

Returned to the blog today to find it encrusted with dust and cobwebs. Somewhere along the line I lost the impetus to write, started thinking that I had nothing to say, sank into a grey depression, not really a depression more a long wet afternoon of the soul (Alfred Prufrock springs to mind) and finally I span off the road. Then came Cameron and Clegg and gradually my anger rose until, finally, I would appear to have rediscovered my mojo.

Musically things are looking back to move forward. It was my birthday recently and my son and my partner both gave me albums that have long been out of my collection. What is it about rediscovering music that lights you up again? The saddest thing about it though was that both albums still tower over much of the contemporary musical landscape, and I don't say this as a "in my day we made proper music" sense but more out of sadness. There is a freedom and experimentation in these records that seems to be absent today. Considering that they were both released through major labels it is scary to think that they would probably stand no chance in today's world of focus groups and decision by committee. Record labels should look to those reasons, rather than blaming kids downloading music, for their sales decline. Anyway.....

The first album was The Man Machine by Kraftwerk. First released in 1978 this work of electronic genius has yet to be surpassed. Featuring tracks like The Robots, The Man Machine and Metropolis it posits a vision of the future that is here. Its cold electronically generated sounds have an unbearably beautiful quality to them. Maybe because they were originally recorded onto analogue tape prior to digitisation but the depth of the sound, its richness of timbre if you will, is absent in so much electronic music of today. The album also contains The Model; if ever a song has been written that sonically represents the cold and soulless world of the catwalk this is it.

The second gift was Television's Marquee Moon. Released in 1977 it represents perfectly the intelligence and imagination at work in the New York punk scene, though quite how they ended up being lumped into punk still amazes me. That said, at the time we needed a short-hand to describe groups that had broken away from the confines of rock as it was, and now how it has become. These days punk seems to mean anything that sounds shouty and a bit angry, but not really that angry. Compare today's take on punk with what was available then: Talking Heads, Television, Richard Hell, Blondie and over here The Clash playing with imagery, The Buzzcocks, The Pop Group, Magazine, Siouxsie. These weren't bands who saw salvation in traditional song structure. For me Marquee Moon represents one of the greatest guitar albums ever made. The songs, with the strangled yelps of Tom Verlaine, were different beasts from what we were safe with. They offered a vision of the future, as much as Kraftwerk did with their Teutonic ice sculptures, and a different path, away from the classis 12 bar verse chorus verse chorus that modern music still clings to. I can't really begin to describe the exhilaration that I still feel as the opening notes to the title song kick in.

However I am still listening to new stuff. The Ninja Tune XX two disc compilation is a great snapshot of cutting edge urban music from one of Britain's most delicious labels. All sorts of good things are available on this huge spread. From The Bug to Roots Manuva and Toddla T to Eskmo. The label's founders Coldcut even turn up. Coldcut were responsible for one of rap's greatest moments, the remix of Eric B & Rakim's Paid In Full that introduced Ofrah Haza to a thirsty public.

This compilation is the final word in where it's at right now.

I also got sent the new Keziah Jones track, Lagos vs London, remixed by the estimable Gilles Peterson. I'm not usually much of a fan of KJ as I have found his music falls between stools but this track, and in particular the remix, shows a way forward for Jones that offers him a chance to break out of the confines of his former approach. More of this please sir.

Anyway, back to where I started. The Coalition is upon us populated by people who think £50k a year is an average salary and that the employment wastelands, where the only work on offer is call centres or lap dancing clubs, will somehow burst into bloom and flourish as they force poor people into desperation. The difference between this lot and Thatcher was that Thatcher made sure the Police got paid so when it came to breaking strikers heads they did so with enthusiasm; the C&C Shit Factory are cutting police numbers and pay, making them pay for their training and generally fucking everybody around. So when the angry poor come crashing down Whitehall who they gonna call? Murdoch?

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