As per, I finally got round to reading this Stuart Jeffries interview with cultural critic Jonathan Meades from May regarding the release of his ‘anti-misery memoir’ An Encyclopedia of Me
A fascinating critic and full of barbed digs, a few choice lines stand out namely:
Pertinently referring to Tony and Cherie Blair as ‘The Ceausescus of Connaught Square’ and Tone as ‘God’s own bomber’he highlights the odious nature of our legacy obssessed, ‘War is Peace’ espousing deposed despot and his coterie of ‘brown-nosed cretins’. Democracy for ya.
For an overview of the 20 year reich of ‘New’ Labour there’s this:
There’s also an interesting part in Meades’ interview/book about military experiments in the 50s and unresolved deaths and cover-ups. The thick plottens …
This sold out gig would appear to be the antithesis of everything this duo stand for. Hipsters with sleeve tattoos, wispy beards destined to be on the cutting room floor by Christmas, imbibers of nothing but craft ale.
However, the spirit of Sleaford Mods highlights the insidious nature of ‘class’ distinctions and lazy stereotypes, quite simply there are those that have and there are more that don’t; social strata are aspirational prisons.
This is the sound of dreams crushed dating back to 1979 and the evaporation of any dreams of progress since. Unless you adhere to the individualistic, moneyed edict of the nightmarish American Dream, the ‘fuck all others’ mentality, then this is your call to arms.
Profane yet urbane orator Jason Williamson just has to get these exasperated expletives out or he will explode. Dissatisfaction with the electoral shitstem, a state of address spat out at breakneck ferocity. Addressing themes such as a necessary societal conscious awakening, crap food, jumped up middle managers, ineffective line managers, the ubiquity of joblessness, the banality of office work (‘… workstations, forced to engage in flirtatious conversation’ in ‘Fizzy’), acts that attempt to position themselves in the established lineage by adopting certain clothes, hair dos, referencing and name dropping those from the instantaneous ADHD cultural splat; cool today gone tomorrow.
The Dimmer Twins meet longtime fans Abbott and Costello
Williamson’s scabrous, controlled rage is littered with the blowing of raspberries at the state of things, he has vocalised the disenfranchised, pointing out false idols and how their days of plenty are numbered. The veil has slipped, social media has shown the Emperors and Empresses to be naked and always have been, they wear the attire of the elite, the arist-rock-racy in their gilded palaces hanging out with Grimmy and his Chiltern Firehouse posse trading in obsequious back-slapping and ‘top bantz’.
Grimmy and acolyte keep it real
This is music with context and content, articulating and rhapsodising NOW. This is not music by rote or committee. This is Spartan anti-rock mythology music that couldn’t be less enthralled by the past as evinced by ‘Pubic Hair Limited’. Built around the obligatory doom-laden deep bass line it decries the perpetual residue of the past, trading on memories (theirs and ours) in an oath of fealty:
Who gives a fuck about yesterday’s heroes
Who seem to think they’re still today’s heroes
It’s not a pyramid you’re not a fucking Pharaoh
I’m sick of all these pissy sellouts
That everything that made them great
Lost its validity
This is a performance sans performance, devoid of the tropes of showmanship, stripped of artifice, the ever laconic Andrew Fearn rocks gently from side to side at the controls of his history box, pint in hand. All music history appears to be contained in there, every bass line, every riff, a guitar lick here and a synth stab there (‘Tiswas’ with its Kraftwerkian flourish in particular).
These pair have been round the block and are the antidote to the mantra that music’s for the young or the very old, the PR driven colonisation of new consumers or consumers of a ‘new’ where everything is ‘great’ or ‘seminal’. Two 40+ males articulating universal themes of suffrage and dissatisfaction and collective memories of Doug McClure films, Spit the Dog and Kevin Bacon’s footwork (‘Tied up in Nottz’).
With a huge following in post-industrial parts of Europe, the feelings of disillusionment resonate. We all receive the same message: be aware and combat all attempts at divide and rule; social cohesion and unity is the solution as far-fetched and unobtainable as it appears.
Bar a solitary ‘thanks’ there is no interaction between act and audience; this is ego-free, encore-free and above all exhilarating. Talk of the town and raging against the machine, these current press darlings are too long in the tooth and savvy to fall victim to the charmless seduction of the trend chasers, the fad men, the Iphonies.
With talk of them going ‘full-time’ it will be interesting to see if the anger dissipates and the targets alter. There’s more chance those in the firing line will increase.
Art-prankster, tech-provocateur and mainstay of Swiss electro-pioneers Yello, Boris Blank, talks to Gigslutz ahead of the release of his three-hour opus Electrified in September. Boris candidly reveals his past and present influences, opens up about his work with The Associates’ Billy McKenzie and Shirley Bassey and (surprisingly) his fears surrounding the pervasive effects of technology.
As the man himself might utter ‘Oh Yeah’.
KQ: Your work has always appeared infused with surrealist tendencies. From the Avant Garde world, who have been your main inspiration(s)?
BB: In different ways : Pierre Boulez, György Ligeti , the collagists from Dadaism and Peter Scherer.
KQ: Who, if any, would you categorise as your present day progeny and inheritors of your anarchic, play-derived spirit? If pushed (like now) how would you describe yourself in 3 words?
BB: Ellen Alien, Hakan Libdo, M.I.A., Royksopp.
Haha! Maybe humorous, ironic, childlike.
KQ: What films, past and present have and continue to inspire your creative process?
BB: There are so many. I love for example Films from Luis Bunuel “Belle de Jour”, Pier Paolo Pasolini`s “Das 1. Evangelium Matthäus” I`m a big fan of “Despicable Me”. Also, I like old low-budget sci-fi like ‘Plan 9 from Outer Space’ and the original b/w ‘Outer Limits’ series.
KQ: The film soundtracks that comprise Electrified; are they for the films inside your imagination or do they accompany completed films?
BB: There are always visuals going on in my head. For instance ‘Big City Grill’ was an experimental film that Dieter made in 1974 with 81,000 edits all made inside the camera. The Electrified animation I made along with Kevin Blanc this year. I’m making a few myself with Final Cut Pro.
KQ: What was it like working with Billy MacKenzie and Shirley Bassey?
BB: The collaboration with Billy remains for me my whole life in my heart. He was a professional singer/songwriter, very unusual in his way. The working process was always very emotionally deep. The collaboration with Shirley Bassey was too short to tell big story’s about it. We recorded her singing the lyrics and melodies of Billy’s guide vocals in the Yello studio in only one hour. She needs only two takes and that’s it. I remember the situation.
Billy started to sing a Billie Holiday song spontaneously in the elegant hotel lobby where Shirley was staying. Shirley responded by singing the whole of ‘Something’ by George Harrison. She really belted it out too. You could hear a pin drop and there wasn’t a dry eye in the room.
KQ: Although it is much easier to disassemble, reassemble, copy and paste recorded sound with the aid of technology; do you think it has detracted from the essence of bricolage?
BB: I never saw myself as a live musician rather as a sound painter. This has made the last 35 years a lot of fun for me. I’ve never been afraid of modern technology. Like when Bob Dylan first used an electric guitar. it’s a tool for a purpose.
KQ: Your style appears to be one where nothing is fixed or static, a song is more than a foundation and more like a building block. Would you agree with this statement?
BB: Thanks for the compliment, nothing should be fixed or static. Each song is a blank canvas without the frame.
KQ: The philosophy behind your Yellofier app “Anything becomes music “sounds perfect for a school curriculum and ideal for people of any age to become creative. How successful has it been?
BB: Yes, over 150,000 downloads (mostly free) which isn’t bad. The feedback is much more important though. For example, a kindergarten in California use it to help children make music with everyday noises. Sounds for me, are more essential to learn music than using a conventional instrument. It’s all in the word ‘playing’.
KQ: The line “Mobilize, globalize, hypnotize, homogenize, Shut your eyes don’t criticize” from The The’s ‘Global Eyes’ (remixed by you) seems apt for our tech-obsessed, screen-addicted sedate society. Discuss.
BB: There are many great aspects to this word combination. Technology is our Achilles Heel, the grand elixir that is now in complete control. It’s scary that people are losing their authenticity and their individuality.
KQ: What’s next for you?
BB: The new Yello Album. Preparations are well advanced!
Enigmatic purveyor of the songs that saved your life, avowed celibate humasexual and esteemed Penguin author, put your hands together for Steven Patrick Morrissey. In anticipation of the release of his forthcoming LP, World peace is none of your business here’s ten from his arsenal (ahem), a Donald Rumsfeldian mix of some known unknowns and the unknown knowns.
Morrissey delivers an amusing and concise observation about parochialism, insularism and limiting nature of towns and the peculiar creatures that inhabit them. Every town has one, the Man about town, Jack the Lad, lothario, local bad boy and heartbreaker.
Dave struggles to keep the commotion in his loins under control, his gaze permanently fixed on the bosom of any maiden who crosses his path.
Flashy Dave drives a Ford Mondeo with interchangeable female names across the windscreen. All the girls adore him, some of the lads admire him, but, you know it’s a sham. There’ a fine line between flirty and being a pest. Dave crosses that line every waking moment.
John Berger’s seminal tome Ways of Seeing (1972) posited the notion of the (male) ‘spectator-owner … men act and women appear’. Dave’s Desert Island Disc book that.
The cover had ‘cheeky chappie’, Essex wide boy and in no way shady wheeler dealer Terry ‘El Tel’ Venables.
Everyday is like Sunday
His second release and also featured on his debut LP, 1988’s Viva Hate. Inspired by John Betjeman’s poem ‘Slough’ and Nevil Shute’s novel ‘On the Beach’ the song is a lament to faded seaside towns, bereft of colour and life and ‘silent and grey. The dropping of a nuclear bomb could only improve matters.
It was also a time when Sundays were considered drab, no dragging of families to B&Q then but 1988 also saw a change in the Licensing Laws wherein pubs could open from 11am to 11pm. This is a great example of Morrissey finding a diamond in the coal, his lyrics celebrating the humdrum once more.
The symphonic swooping strings of Stephen Street enhance the feeling of melancholia.
It has been covered by The Pretenders, 10,000 Maniacs and The Decemberists’ Colin Meloy.
Released as a stand-alone single in August 1994 following the release of Vauxhall and I this cover of a 1968 Timi Yuro song saw Morrissey duet with Siouxsie Sioux; one of his long time women of wonder (c.f. Sandie Shaw, Nancy Sinatra, Edith Sitwell etc)
The pair fell out (rumours persist that they never actually shared the same singing space to a disagreement over the choice of cover) with Morrissey typically and cryptically proffering “On the doorstep (Siouxsie) asks me whether right or left would be the best direction to find a taxi, and although her best bet would be left, I suggest she turns right. It is churlish of me, but it is she who has set the pace.” That clears that one up then.
This lovely, yearning and mourning number about being in the throes of love, the clashing feelings of excitement and terror of if it will last, the if nots and why nots, not reached number 25 in the UK, a travesty I’m sure you’ll agree.
Irish Blood English Heart
Morrissey has long been fascinated by notions of identity, especially his own previously tackling the subject through songs like Bengali in Platforms, National Front Disco and Asian Rut resulting in misguided accusations of racism. This continued at Finsbury Park in 1992 when, supporting Madness, he arrived on stage draped in a Union flag; clearly conclusive evidence that he was indeed a racist.
He dreams of a time when he (and others) can stand by the
flag, not feeling shameful
Racist or partial
(The flag would undergo its own rehabilitation a few years later when it was used to promote New Labour’s bringing people together tosh with ‘Cool Britannia’)
This song from 2004’s You are the Quarry (after a gap of seven years) sees him stating how he views himself, born to Irish immigrants yet resoundingly English too; a stranger in his own interior. He takes aim at his perennial targets the monarchy, the two-party electoral process that deigns to call itself democracy and the NME who since 1992 had led a witch hunt. Reparations would be made between the two only for the music paper to again accuse of him of racism for comments he made. Morrissey successfully sued the paper.
On the streets I ran
An autobiographical number from the annals of Morrissey’s backstory as he retraces his upbringing and charts his path from the ‘slums’ of Manchester (for further evidence see his autobiography where the industrial city of the North West of England is depicted as a shanty town, ever the dramatist),the highs and lows of The Smiths:
Turning sickness into (un)popular song
to his settling in Los Angeles. His new homeland is a place where
Everybody’s friendly but nobody’s friends
The finale sees him pleading to be spared (from whom we do not know), in his idiosyncratic fashion he offers up in his place the ill, the newly born and the inhabitants of Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania.
A great recurring riff dominates this example of Morrissey in fine fettle from 2006’s Ringleader of the Tormenters.
Closing Vauxhall and I Morrissey plays cat and mouse with his detractors. Perennially keeping people guessing he intones:
All of the rumours keeping me grounded
I never said they were completely unfounded
Which rumours is he referring to?
He closes by singling out one individual who he feels needs telling that his loyalty never wavered:
Could have mentioned your name
I could have dragged you in
Guilt by implication
I’ve always been true to you
As always he hints and teases and steadfastly refuses to admit to his own transgressions or name the guilty. Cloak and dagger to the last.
‘Suedehead’ was The Pope of Mope’s first solo release less than six months following The Smiths’ split in September 1987. A gloriously bequiffed Morrissey undertakes a pilgrimage to James Dean’s grave. Dean also graced the cover of ‘Bigmouth Strikes Again’. The video is very un-Morrisseylike, with him playing bongos and driving a tractor.
The lyrics are a sardonic riposte to a former lover who just won’t let it go. After one transgression too many such as peeking into Moz’s diary, tut tut, it’s time to move on. And just who is the “good lay”?
The piano-led music is a fine accompaniment for Morrissey’s wailing moan.
The last of the Famous International Playboys
Even though the song mentions Ronnie and Reggie Kray Morrissey did harbour a fascination for Charlie Richardson, infamous South London ganglord (he appeared on the inner sleeve for Your Arsenal) and dabbled in gangland imagery and mythology in later years.
In our lifetime those who kill
the news world hands them stardom
are more an attack on a salacious media and their elevation and enshrinement of miscreants, deviants and malcontents e.g perennial folk devils Brady and Hindley although he categorically does not endorse slaying, throat-slitting or concrete booting. Well, maybe for a former drummer of his.
The band comprised of Andy Rourke, fifth-Smith Craig Gannon and soon to be Morrissey’s bête noire, Mike Joyce.
The more you ignore me the closer I get
The first single released from arguably Morrissey’s last great and complete album, Vauxhall and I in 1994. By spurning my advances you only end up increasing my desire to be near to you. It’s counterproductive. I will get you in the end, you will relent, submit and acquiesce. I will haunt you in your slumber, I am part of your being now, there’s no going back. Stalkerish and creepy yet also tender.
The song also foresaw Morrissey’s later dealings in the High Court in 1996 when he was described as ‘truculent, devious and unreliable’ by the judge. As if.
We hate it when our friends become successful
Morrissey takes a swipe at the bitterness, envy and resentment engendered by the success of another (especially if they’re Northern) and the feeling that “It should have been me”. Long rumoured to be about James’ Tim Booth who the previous year had struck gold with ‘Sit Down’.
The song would appear on 1992’s Your Arsenal produced by ex-Spider from Mars and glam doyen, Mick Ronson. The deliciously caustic lyrics take aim at the protagonist’s clothes, his aged appearance and a desire to destroy them. Morrissey’s ‘”it’s really laughable, hahahahaha” mocks the petty minded and jealous.
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The blog of Robin Carmody. Liberal humanist, reformed ex-Stalinist and former anti-anti-anti-Semite, melancholy Europhile and romantic-ruralist socialist. Londoner by birth, Kentish Man by upbringing, Portlander by adoption. "More like Roy Harper than Fairport Convention" - Simon Reynolds, 2003. May be the horsiest Leftie in the Anglosphere, but there are many horsier ones beyond.
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