Adventures of a University Finalist

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Oh! Philly Cheddah Is Rich

Philly Cheese Steak

Hall & Oates - Alone Too Long
Hall & Oates - Had I Known You Better Then
Hall & Oates - Johnny Gore and the C Eaters

The Todd Rundgren Competition is now closed with two clear winners who are Maxwell Murdoc with his answer of Todd Rundgren -> Prana (collaborated together) -> Philip Glass (Prana opened for Glass recently) & Kevin Holm Hudson who said TR -> David Bowie (TR produced Shawn Cassidy's cover of 'Rebel Rebel') -> Philip Glass (made two symphonies based on Bowie's Berlin period; 'Heroes' and 'Low'). Two holes in one! Lots of you went for the Bowie connection but didn't manage quite as succinctly. Guys if you could just send me your addresses to the same e-mail address as before stating which of the two prizes on offer you'd prefer and I'll see about getting them sent out to you.
Personally, thought Philip Glass was too leftfield for this to be an easy task but was proved really rather wrong. It just goes to show how easy it is to link Todd is music’s answer to Kevin Bacon. Yet another string to the bow of the Zen Archer.
For what’s it’s worth, my personal attempt was Todd Rundgren -> Joe Jackson (co-headlined on a recent UK tour) -> Suzanne Vega (collaborated on Jackson’s ‘Heaven & Hell’) -> Philip Glass (Glass arranged the strings on Vega's '50/50 Chance').
Recently, Adventures… has been filled with moratoriums for various sacred cows: the mix tape theorist, the list maker, and the independent musician. Today, I will be continuing this little series by examining a classic case of public favoritism for certain musicians over others: 70s legends Hall & Oates. The question to be asked is why Daryl Hall was seen as the driving force behind the band whilst John Oates existed merely as an embarrassment.
This was recently dealt with Jefito in his definitive study of the duo’s work in his regular Idiot’s Guide series when he admitted to harbouring the above prejudice until ‘Marigold Sky’, their 199… album proved to be a bit of a stinker without him. That’s not to say that Oates hadn’t been creatively marginalised before that point. As early as 1973s ‘Abandoned Luncheonette’, Hall was performing solo piano ballads in ‘Laughing Boy’ and Oates did none of the lead guitar work on the album preferring to leave it to producer Chris Bond. ‘War Babies’ is so dominated by the guitar work of Todd Rundgren (if you hear the solos then it’s unmistakably the producer’s work – compare it Something/Anything’s ‘Black Maria’) that you have to wonder what Oates actually did on the album other than sing the bland opener.
Yet, Oates wrote some fantastic songs during their early pre-Voices period. ‘Camellia’ and ‘Alone Too Long’ are definite highlights on the Silver Album with the former a firm contender for my personal favourite by them. ‘If I Had Known You Better Then’ also holds its own on the incredibly strong first side of ‘Abandoned Luncheonette’ alongside the classics ‘When the Morning Comes’ and ‘She’s Gone’. Also, having seen their live concert for the Old Grey Whistle Test I can safely say that he was a consummate live performer acting with his blue collar energy working as the perfect foil to Hall’s effete Pan.
So why the hatred? Firstly, there is the omnipresent handlebar moustache which makes him look like your stereotypical 70s porn star accompanied by his studied ability to (a) not wear a shirt at all (b) wear a shirt that wasn’t patently ludicrous and showing his rogue animal chest hair or (c) match electric pink in most of his colour schemes. There’s also the basic assumption that Hall was the main creative force in the group who wrote the songs whilst Oates made saucy movies with drugged out groupies and injected cocaine into his nethers. Now, I have no idea whether either were drug users but the rock n’ roll culture of the Seventies, their acquaintance with known addicts such as Eddie Kendrick and David Ruffin, and some of their output (the psychedelic rock of ‘Johnny Gore & the C Eaters’ to the bloated excesses of their late 80s records) points toward some form of abuse. Nevertheless, that speculation deserves neither to be taken as evidence of John Oates being some form of talentless deviant compared to Hall’s Aryan Soft Rock Messiah.
There is no doubt that Hall has one of the best white voices in pop. Anyone, who has sessioned for Smokey Robinson and the Miracles deserves some credit. It’s well known that he was a classically trained musician too and there’s no real doubt in my mind that he had a far greater individual talent than Oates. What my objection to is that this gap is often over exaggerated in order to attack them both individually and as a group. This had led to slow erosion of their status in the music world where trend setters have now become guilty pleasures. As a result, loving the music of Hall & Oates has become a phyrric victory with the love of the music being overpowered by this newly cultivated stigma against "soft rock". They have become synonymous with mainstream pop confections completely lacking in guile or ingenuity. Maybe it’s a tag that they deserve post ‘Big Bam Boom’ but one can’t help feeling that it’s more due to the critical of them as possessing such a one sided dynamic that they don’t deserve the acclaim.
Bands all have a tendency to suffer from this phenomenon in one way or the other. The most famous example is a certain Richard Starkey better known as Ringo Starr who is often better known for his simplistic technique and penchant for the comic rather than his solid early solo career and that apocalyptic break on ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’. Lennon’s solo career was largely risible but that doesn’t stop saccharine atrocities such as ‘Imagine’ and half baked albums such as ‘Somewhere in New York City’ flourishing in the public psyche. When Brian Eno, the oddball, cross dresser went off to perform his art pop riot, the critics followed with some staying behind to bang on Roxy Music's door and call Brian Ferry silly names such as Brain Fart (although from what I hear the miner’s son rather deserved it). T-Rex was seen as just a vehicle for Marc Bolan’s space imp boogie until it reached the stage where it became a self-fulfilling parody in which Steve Took could no longer play Bottom. Little Feat – everyone remembers Lowell George but what about Bill Payne, Paul Barrette and the walkin’ talkin’ impregnatin' metronome that was Richie Hayward. George has become a martyr for artistic integrity whilst the others are now perceived as journeymen; shadows without his presence. Personal prejudices beget by popular misconceptions.
By the way, Adventures… celebrated its status as a music blog on March 7. Thanks to everyone who’s visited for all your support especially DVD, Jefito, SVC, Jack, Hype, FastHosts, Caz, Sully, and all my Latin American compadres.

Buy - Hall & Oates - Hall & Oates
Buy - Hall & Oates - Abandoned Luncheonette
Buy - Hall & Oates - War Babies

Friday, March 17, 2006



The Yearning - Afterthought EP (Download, 2006)

The Yearning - Afterthought
The Yearning - The Fall

Old school review today. A small disclaimer first: this band features two of my best friends at University. They are not signed nor is the production as polished as you would expect from one that was. Nor is the music what you would necessarily expect to find here however that's not to say that I don't enjoy it.
The name is pretty horrible, I know. They rejected my brilliant suggestion of 'Bandcastle', a pun that slides over the tongue like a loose mint imperial, in favour of something that is a little too angsty and adolescent. More carving your favourite band's name in your arm with a compass than anything else. Of course, the band's name has nothing to do with the quality of their music but I just thought that particular personal grievance should be aired in case it poisoned the rest of this review.
If one were asked to attempt to pigeonhole the band's sound in general terms then mainstream indie rock would have to be the buzz word of that particularly boring conversation. The Afterthought EP veers between rather frantic anthemic rock ('Afterthought') through to inoffensive uptempo quanitly jingoistic pop ('The Fall') and ending up at Christian Rock ('Invisible Solace'). Yes, you read that last particular genre categorization correctly. So I feel that particular nugger may be the best place to start.
'Invisible Solace' is the last track on the six track strong EP. Sadly, it is also a sad victim of what I term the 'Some Girls Are Bigger than Others' syndrome. This particular syndrome involves a rather gorgeous, pastoral musical arrangement being disrupted by the lyrical constructs placed its surface. Now, this is not due to a reactionary anti-religious sentiment. I have always seen myself as a person who is pro-faith unless it reached a point where it impinges on basic moral rights and personal values. I find the conservative religious right in the US so repugnant due to its corruption of what is essentially a humanistic and altruistic doctrine into a self serving monolith bordering on fundamentalist dogma. People who can retain their strong beliefs in a benevolent higher being despite their doubts, a sentiment recently voiced by the hirsute Archbishop of Canterbury, is something to be highly praised. That is unless they're a sacred underpants wearing, wife swapping Mormon, of course. I am not Richard Dawkins; evolution, to me, is not the final answer. It is pointless to create an aggressive false dichotomy between "intelligent evolutionists" and "ignorant creationists". The lyrics are simply too downright basic and pious. The allusion to the soldier giving the old push of the spear into Jesus's side whilst he was on the Calvary cross appears to be a crude signpost that exists only to slap the listener rudely across the face as to its subject matter. It's slightly unfair to single the track out but I feel that having heard some of his solo material that he can write material so strong that it borders on the life affirming.
'The Fall', on the other hand, is probably the strongest of the six constituting of a chunky slice of a blues riff (think Freddie King with mono) collapsed in with a mix that allows the rhythm section to take a decent breath much needed after the opener, 'Afterthought', which is bogged down by trying to be a little too clever with its changes in tempo. The lyric is breezy detailing the realization that a relationship isn't working with someone whilst having the time of your life with them. It's an arch contradiction in terms which plays well with the buoyant vibe given off by the music. The song doesn't have any rough edges except when the singer attempts to go down the register during one of the pre choruses masquerading as a bridge. It shows maturity through its slickness at the same time as a youthful naivete and joie de vivre. There's also the fact that its as infectious as syphilis causing strange looks whilst you air guitar down a busy high street.
I'd put this down to the fact that the band actually seem relaxed for the only time on the record. 'Afterthought' is marred by the fact that the drums are static. There is no propulsive back beat to drive the song to the heights that it could so easily achieve. This is down either to the fact that there is no communication or basic kinship shown by the rhythm section and that the song is a little too daring, a little too early. Anthemic rock feeds on arrogance. The basic components of the song carry this off but not the performance. It's just such a shame as Ed, the male vocalist, ex-friend (or at least I think he is now since I likened what is obviously a highly personal song to sixth form poetry) and overall fantastic chap, has a great rock voice. This leads to invariable chemistry in the harmonies which are further boosted by the fact that they have such a sympathetic guitarist who is also not afraid to be an auteur. Power chords lead into Spanish flourishes that remind one of the versatility of a Beck, a Page or a Cooder. The fingerpicking on 'Invite Me Again' is just so exhilarating that it takes the song to a completely new level; a trait that I always felt applied to the Sundays. Without Gavurin's mastery of the jangle pop zeitgeist, Wheeler's pop confections would never have had the tangy bite that endeared them to so many of the floppy fringe and soft heart. Dan Hoyes, that guitarist, is the band's ace in the pack. This not due to any self-indulgent ambition but rather a sharp musical intellect married to such a self-effacing nature that he is not only able to embrace the band's basic musical ideas but to push them so far that they are completely transformed. One can imagine that not a question is asked of what he must do other than how to improve upon it. He is a perfectionist of Spector/Rundgren proportions and has the ability to see such a position through with ease. That is something really rather powerful.
This is an imperfect first release with some very welcome omens buried in the chicken bones. There is a clear sense that they know a melody when they hear one and that they are willing to push personal boundaries. However, I don't think that they push them anywhere near far enough. The constant thought that ran through my head whilst listening to the record was that this was an musical oligarchy disguised as a democracy. The bassist is clearly not valued enough either as a contributor or as a good enough musician than to be handed bum assignments. His patterns are far too basic when the guitars are allowed the wind together into textures that are fascinatingly rich in their density. Despite this, it still sounds too constrained. You expect a rasping guitar solo and then it's suddenly pulled back so that we can have an extended coda which merely constitutes of the chorus being repeated again. Maybe this is just because I've been listening to 'War Babies' by Hall & Oates which throws in so many wonderfully incongruous elements at will that it almost becomes a collage approaching the avant garde and self-destructive. Too much favour is given to the vocalists and their words when their lyrical style is still in a relatively minor stage of "I woke up this morning...." There has to some form of ambiguity; a sacrifice to archetypal symbols. If something stands in your way, you can't simply accept it. You have to change it; gouge its eyes out with your pen. 'Suzanne', 'If Ships Could Sail', 'Tangled Up in Blue': all behemoths, all aggressive and obtuse.
Of course this is a case of my forcing what are essentially highly personal values upon these poor people who just want to make their own music. I'm a hypocrite, a heathen and a liar. I think the band's songs need to be more daring and complex but also feel that they should strive toward cutting away the chaff to create tightly packed three minute pop songs. I revel in the blissful naivete whilst yearning for some narrative grit. I show admiration for their incorporation of faith values into their music but also feel that the religious aspect needs to be pegged back. I think that The Yearning are a good band that could be so much greater. It's up to them.

Post-script: It has been pointed out to me that the strong point about worship songs is often their simplicity. This is based on the logic that a worship songs entire purpose rests upon its message being communicated to the audience. This is fully understandable.

Visit - The Yearning (and download the whole EP when you join the mailing list)

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Todd Is God


XTC – The Meeting Place
Richard Hell - Time
Nazz – Open My Eyes
Little Willie John - Need Your Love So Bad

Yes, it’s competition time once again. This time we’re going to play a game that I like to call Degrees of Todd Rundgren… which is basically The Kevin Bacon Game but with Todd instead of the Velvet Oink.
For those who have been living in the gaseous swamps of Venus for the past few years testing the latest range of Curtis Armstrong ear protectors, here’s the rules. You must link the pop genius who gives the game its name to another artist of my choosing through such instances as production, live appearances, cover songs, fights and good hard shags.
For example, if I were to say Bill Withers, then you could reply Todd Rundgren -> Isley Brothers (the brothers Isley covered his torch song ‘Hello It’s Me’) -> Bill Withers (Bill appeared on their album ‘Givin’ It Back’). It’s simple when you know how.
The prize for this particular competition will be a copy of Dead! The Grim Reaper's Greatest Hits from those wonderful people at Ace Records and I also have a copy of Frank Miller’s That Yellow Bastard if anyone would prefer that instead. Pretty ace, no? The winner is the person who links Todd to the minimalist composer Phillip Glass in the least number of steps. If there’s a tie then I may just have to think of someone else to act as a tiebreaker.
It should be noted that attempts with links that I deem too tenuous (e.g. same genre, both like a frothy latte, have strange googly eyes) will be disqualified. Leave your attempts on the comments page or send them to me at if you want to keep them secret.

Visit - Todd Rundgren
Buy - Richard Hell - Time
Buy - The Nazz - Open Our Eyes
Buy - XTC - Skylarking
Buy - Wonder Boys OST

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Anatomy of a Mix Pt. 2


The Byrds - Dolphin's Smile
Belle & Sebastien - Sukie in the Graveyard
Ron Sexsmith - Tell Me Again
Daniel Wylie - Snow Pony

Tomorrow, next Thursday… there’s not that much difference between the two is there really?
This particular post is going to be another attempt to if not kill a sacred cow then to give it a least a little bruising or maybe even a poorly hoof. This is where the fabled art of the mix tape is to be ripped out of its renaissance and forced screaming into a stuckist nightmare. Well, perhaps it doesn’t quite embrace the naivety of stuckism but rather revels in an optimistic form of nihilism (if such a construct can exist).
For a mix tape to truly succeed it must pay heed to two central principles: 1) each song must appear only on a scale of personal merit, and 2) the ideas of flow, pace, and stylistic rigour must be abandoned in favour of a chaotic model. This is a highly unpopular concept in the post-Hornby generation where the onus is largely placed on controlled dynamics, deliberate pacing, and the ultimate goal to encompass moods, themes or circumstance i.e. "Songs for a Wet Saturday Afternoon in June driving counter clockwise around the M25". Not only is it unpopular but it is also surprisingly difficult to adhere to as last week’s attempt by myself shows.
‘Sexual Funk’ was included merely due to its title adding an aesthetic danger not normally attributed to the Black Country. ‘The Wizard and the Lizard’ is not my favourite title by Gorky’s – however, it is fey and hallucinogenic in approach. There was a tendency on my part to separate genres and both the opening and closing tracks were chosen in the name of dynamics. One and a half minutes of feedback would be an incredibly brave move if placed at track 4 or 15 but not as the first track. Songs were removed, or simply forgotten, (apologies to Notorious Byrd Brothers who would have liked a bit of ‘Dolphin’s Smile’ – I’ve uploaded it in penance) due to the fatal flaw of mix makers, attempting to fit the mix to the recipient’s established tastes. So pretty much every trap that I knew about, I fell in to regardless. The mix was random only in a suitably contrived fashion.
The paragon of a mix tape based on this model would be your twenty favourite songs in the world being placed in a random generator. This leaves the burning question: where’s the romance in such a cold clinical process? Such a paragon would undesirable in the long term but if one establishes a more progressive outlook then it is clearly the most effective. Why? Preferences fluctuate. Loves are lost in order for others to take their place as circumstances change. The tape that you made two months ago has become irrelevant as ‘Sukie in the Graveyard’s Nintendo organ riff loses its lustre and Tom Waits is suddenly too "cabaret night-club" for your tastes. So you sit down and make another. Some songs will stay and others will discarded. Which sounds better: a tape that encapsulates your current state perfectly or a variety of detritus that set to looks to extensive pluralism – a tape for every conceivable eventuality.
The mistake that most people make is that when they are facing a break-up, for example, they undergo a forced and rather clunky paradigm shift whereby everything must be focused on the central event. Every song that they listen to must become about broken bodies and empty bottles. There is no desire to retain any form of optimism as songs that still hold true and dear are replaced by inferior efforts that are shaped to fit a rigid template. Rational values are diminished as emotive reaction takes hold. This is not contradictory to the tenet that preferences fluctuate. This is a case of a single event enforcing radical change rather than a steady flux. An objective approach should be pursued instead of an unfulfilling form of reactionary negativism.
To move away from atavism toward style, I’ll be brief. Just because an external set of factors has occurred, e.g. going on holiday, does not mean that every song on a mix should have the word "sun", "holiday" or "conga" in it. It’s just silly.
An interesting side note to the randomly generated mix, or at least the forms that it has taken whilst I’ve made them, is that a form that is essentially chaotic will invariably establish an ordered dynamic. Songs that on paper seems distinct will blend against expectations as they share the same key, instrumentation or style. The splash of organ found throughout one song may continue in another as a more rhythmic pulse. Arpeggios and glissandos will ebb and fade. The feather-light brushwork of an artisan builds toward a labourer’s pounding. To find order in chaos when the music you are confronted with refuses to conform or to be pinned down is one of its greatest joys. Unpredictable and aggressive shifts in approach are a supremely important commodity in an assault upon the senses and surely that’s what is the achievable goal of a mix; to affect others and to inform.
Long live the iPod shuffle you may be thinking. It is the best vessel for a random generation of songs that you enjoy. However, to come to that conclusion is to denounce form. I hate mix CDs although I must now rely upon them for comfort as I have no reliable tape decks since the arrival of my vinyl player. A mix tape is a constant sign of thoughtfulness and hard work. To make a CD one has to merely set it up for ten minutes and then go have your tea. To make a mix tape, you must sit in a highly uncomfortable position waiting for the point for an hour and half waiting for each song to reach its inevitable conclusion with fingers constantly raised like the Sword of Damacles over the pause button’s nub of a head. It is time consuming and satisfying for both parties when all is said and done.
There’s also the fact that the bugger you give it to will have to listen to the whole thing enabling the holistic vision that you have created to grab hold rather than reaching for his remote if a certain song doesn’t immediately snag their heartstrings. A mix tape is pure atavism in its desire for the complete picture whereas a mix CD is just a glorified sampler that disregards the entire basis behind the form.

Buy - Belle & Sebastien - The Life Pursuit
Buy - Ron Sexsmith - Blue Boy
Buy - The Byrds - The Notorious Byrd Brothers
Buy - Daniel Wylie - Ramshackle Beauty

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Anatomy of a Mix Pt 1


1. Gang of Four - Anthrax
2. The Durutti Column - An Act Committed
3. Gorky's Zygotic Mynci - The Wizard and The Lizard
4. The Count Five - Psychotic Reaction
5. Eric Matthews - Faith in Clay
6. Elvis Costello - From A Whisper To A Scream
7. Bobby 'Blue' Bland - Ain't Nothing You Can Do
8. Prince - She Always In My Hair
9. Little Feat - Oh Atlanta
10. The Rolling Stones - Stupid Girl
11. Scritti Politti - Lover to Fall
12. Family - My Friend The Sun
13. Stereolab - Captain Easychord
14. Electric Soft Parade - Bruxellisation
15. Common - Faithful
16. Bobby Womack - So Many Sides to You
17. Tindersticks - Sexual Funk
18. The Lucksmiths - Fiction

It all begins with a full minute of screeching feedback before the 'Making Plans for Nigel' drumbeat and elastic bass. Two voices speak in alternating metres. One inhabits a nihilistic fantasy; the other the mundane. It ends with a bluegrass tinted banjo, a boy who is even more coloured by fate, and a beer left on a kitchen counter. What goes on in between these two contrasting points is a matter for discussion that will be explored further tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Pyrrhic Victory of Listendom


Clem Snide - African Friend
Elvis Costello - Episode of Blonde
Roots Manuva - Sinny Sin Sins

It appears that this impromptu pseudo intellectual revolution of this PBB (petit bourgeois blog) continues. Today, it is the turn of that most evil form of music snobbery to do battle with my poison keyboard: the list.
Now "most evil form" may seem a rather strong term for a pastime that I myself have practiced in the past; see the aborted Top 10 Songs in Heaven (a poorly veiled excuse to place Tom Wait's as the piano player in Heaven's dive) and my praise for John Allison's Top 50 singles list. I believe that the most pertinent analogy to the music list is a loaded weapon; it is capable of both good and evil ends through the same simplistic means. Too much power has been placed in a general instrument of preference masquerading as an elite in an individualist's paradise. Music has long been a form in anti-conformity since Elvis wiggled his pelvis at the wrong group of Methodists.
Lists are a constant perpetuator of the media's cruellest myths. The same names are constantly recycled reflecting old prejudices and embedding new favourites. Not a month has gone past the Arctic Monkey's releasing their debut album and they are already featuring in "definitive" compendiums. The opinion of the majority is forced upon the rest of us so that it soon becomes easier to accept than innovate. This counters any argument that such exercises are productive due to their acting as a platform for discussion and debate as they can't be said to go beyond the infantile and trivial. Take for example the Guardian's current poll for their Film & Music supplement on Friday: The Top 10 Advice Songs". What in the name of Richard Gere is an "advice song"? Aren't all songs some form of advice: moral tales establishing personal values; constructive fables; protest songs that advice us against centralised forms of authority; and ultimately love songs. the ultimate purveyors of symptoms and consequences. As the area that these lists pertain to cover slowly increase from 10 to 50 to 100 and finally to 1001 they creep even further toward insignificance as scope slowly replaces expertise and logical expression.
The medium could be deemed worthwhile as a catalyst of curiosity but only when used sparingly and intelligently; something that is simply not possible within the consumerist realm that they have come to inhabit. They have even become represented in a purely market driven form (rather than critical) by the slew of sub standard compilations based around a loose theme flooding the music shops.
In regard to magazine polls, what is preferable? 25 pages of musicians embracing their childhood fantasies that they had long regressed in the form of the 100 Greatest Bruce Springsteen songs (surely a subject that needs any outright instruction) or nothing at all. Of course, we'd all have preferred something slightly more oblique and altogether more challenging: a treatise upon the correlation between the comparative rises of West Coast psychedelica and dub reggae called "Lee Perry's Strawberry Alarm Clock" but that's never going to happen when one considers the budget and time restrictions within which such publications must operate. Such page filling exercises can be tolerated but as the readers of Mojo have discovered there is a saturation point where it seems that the respective editors are operating on cruise control at the readership's expense. Surely in such cases a more personalised imprint such as that espoused by Word's "Word of Mouth" would be more appropriate as they encompass a far more varied and expressive set of tastes.
I'm certain that most would advocate 10 pages of solid journalism over an overstretched puff piece double the length. Perhaps this recent fascination with the linear design attempting to represent a glorious definity will fade to black. Hopefully, it won't come to complete negation and will instead opt for a technicolour transformation toward a multifaceted instrument that is legitimately pluralistic rather than the tyrannical rule of a self-appointed elite.
I reiterate that I myself have been prone to lapses in my stance with my mental creation of Top 5s and personal favourites but one must recognise the distinct dividing line between lists that wish to carry the tag of representative of the views of a wider demographic (where the world is black and white) and those that are just personal opinion.
In regard to the omnipresent annual music polls, as I've stated before, the criteria are just far too strict. More often than not, choices are decided by external pressures: Q must always represent the populist rock mainstream whereas Pitchfork cannot find the will to appreciate such acts veering toward the snobbish pretence of lo-fi/industrial chic. Such polls are merely mirrors of easily identifiable trends constantly signposted by all forms of the media juggernaut so why the need to wrap it all up in a pretty liitle box other than to satisfy the music buyer's customary character flaw: oneupmanship. Long was the time in my house when a cry would erupt proclaiming "I have 34 albums in the Mojo Top 100 Greatest Stratocaster albums. How many do you have?". This is a sport that has not cruel and unusual punishment upon me for some time but it still exists as your basic gauge to a person's musical cool index.
Then again all of this hyperbole may just be because I'm crap at writing the bastard things. Opinions changes. New music is created every minute. Why chain yourself to the ghosts of passion?

Buy - Clem Snide - Your Favourite Music
Buy - Elvis Costello - When I Was Cruel
Buy - Roots Manuva - Run Come Save Me

Monday, February 20, 2006

Crisis Talks in the Middle Classes


A Girl Called Eddy - Girls Can Really Tear You Up Inside

Change of tack again. I'm now looking to move away from a platform that focuses on individual songs toward more general theses. I have found myself recently missing the opportunity to speak at length on music as a social phenomena and I think that this can be seen by my rather lacklustre prose over the last month since my return. So to begin this new revival in the fortune of Adventures... I thought I'd begin with my thoughts on what I like to term aural medicine; those songs that one reaches out for in times of hurt and crisis. This is mainly due to such a crisis moment striking me only yesterday after a particularly harsh reminder of this life's bitter truths. So there I was - a sullen silhouette stretched across the minimalist background framed by my bed sheets crying out to oligarchs, spectres and tyrants to save me from such pain and then it happened. Initially, there was a insubstantial thrum that one could have possibly mistaken for an inefficent radiator. This was soon replaced by a piano simplistically sketching an equivalent to rain drawing an elliptical pattern on the canvas of a bedroom window. Then came the recognition and words upon my lips. 'Heartache' by A Girl Called Eddy, the beautific Richard Hawley produced miserabilist. Why this particular song would appear I have no particualr idea. Maybe it was the ghost of Freud whispering in my ear. Perhaps it was a particular need for self-immolation especially when one considers that listening to her admittedly fine album leads to unwarranted stigmata travelling up your forearm. It really is the boy meets girl dynamic taken to the zero end of the Love Is.. continuum.
This of course led to dust being blown off a long neglected digipak and revelatory repetition of the opening track, 'Tears All Over Town' before a wet shave and a quick effort at progressing further through the new Ian McEwan paperback. There was also the advantage of feeling a lot less drained at the end of the exercise than I had been at the start. Now could such a rapidfire recovery have been achieved by some comfort television ('Angel' preferably pre-Fred), a good book (some Loeb/Sale Batman collaboration or some of Busiek's Astro City), or even a different song? It's an interesting question. Why did those fraternal twins representing that most flawed of democracies, the brain, decide upon a song from an album that had to be switched off whilst driving through the Peak District as it brought about images of tyres colliding with low stone walls? Why not that eternal pick-me-up of solid Kraftwerk funk, 'Love Machine'? Why not Todd Rundgren's whimsical 'Marlene'? Why not the frankly idiotic 'Smackwater Jack' by evergreen popstress Carole King? Does such an unconscious derive from personal circumstances, the form in which the crisis unfolds, or perhaps even a completely random generation. Could an extra degree of personal grief have resulted in Neko Case's 'Guided By Wire' tickling the speakers' output? I think that's what makes this particular brand of remedies: the inevitable moment of shock and awe.
Then again, I may not be the best case for this kind of activity. Songs do not stick to me like pollen as they do to other members of this species that has a penchant for savouring the hermetically sealed moment. Probably one of the most significant factors in a person's listening pleasure is past experience. For instance, the Pearl and Dean theme tune just sends synapses a poppin' for me without any movie connotations required whereas for others it no doubt brings about memories of back seat fumbles, the smell of stale popcorn and battles for arm rests. As a result, I'm sure that other people have had experiences so powerful that the external stimuli surrounding the event has sent them into never ending listening feedback loops of the same three songs playing on the jukebox in the dive where their first love broke their heart. Frankly, my rampant and unabated mission for eclecticism naturally prohibits me from becoming too attached to one single three minute assemblage of chromatic structures and chords.
So, I guess that means that I've now become a little interested in what my readership makes of the subject. Do you have a single song for rejuvenation (and if so did it come from a less than expected source)? Or is it a more haphazard process? Could it even be deemed by as precise a term as "process" at all? Emotions have long defied easy categorisation otherwise literature as an effective medium would long ago have ceased and we would have a world without such pretencious art voyeurism as 'Me and Everyone Else I Know'. Can music ultimately harness them? After last night, I'm not so sure.

Buy - A Girl Called Eddy