Adventures of a University Finalist

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

Friday, February 10, 2006

A Panegyric to Soothe A Troubled Soul


Richard Thompson - Sibella
The Dons - Only Guy
The Acorn - Sent (Awake the Kraken)
Ken Stringfellow - Any Love (Cassandra et Lune)
Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan - Honey Child What Can I Do?

Cor blimey. Another three week hiatus. Bugger. Never mind - it was all in the cause of those two central pillars of this primitive society - love and idleness. Speaking of idleness (and its lesser cousin tiredness) I'm going to keep this unfortunately brief. So I have set myself the challenge of trying to describe these wonderful songs that have deeply affected my life over the last few weeks in a dozen words or less each. Here goes:

Sibella - My throat is raw from hollering this raucous pop to my mirror.
Only Guy - Fantastic straightlaced that power pops my Candy-O cherry
Sent (Awake the Kraken) - Kelp's finest playing children's rhymes backwards listening for Satan's hidden melancholic message
Any Love (Catherine et Lune) - Already in my Top Five all time favourites and climbing
Honey Child What Can I Do? - Fuck Sinatra & Hazlewood; listen to this sugary Irish coffee instead

Well that didn't go too terribly. I raise my glass to you all and drink to the proclivities of my University days returning bringing my long forgotten muse with them. To cheap bitter and broken hearts. May the Buddah and his great prophet, Richard Gere, bless you all.

Buy - Ken Stringfellow - Soft Commands
Buy - Richard Thompson - Mock Tudor
Buy - The Acorn - Blankets EP
Buy - Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan - Ballad of the Broken Seas
Buy - The Dons - Dawn of the Dons