Saturday, December 19, 2009

Ah well that backfired, didn't it, my attempt to be subtle. Now everyone seems to think I'm championing M.I.A.! (Amazing how many people just read the headline, and maybe the bit of a text at the top written by the editor…). Nothing could be further from, actually. Still find her music largely irritating, the lyrics generally garbled and resolutely non-resonant. As for what she says in interviews....

Still I did think it should be acknowledged that she made the decade more interesting, by giving us all something to talk about. There really have been only a few other figures who got such ferocious arguments going, arguments in which something actually seemed to be at stake. So for that alone, I doff my woolly winter hat. Also, she had a bash at bringing something Other-ly /"london in the 2000s" into the American mainstream and--fair play--pulled it off, which is more than Dizzee or Lady Sov managed.

As a rebel-rocker in the Hilburnian mode, she was a bit half-assed,a bit ersatz, but then that's been the decade, hasn't it? But mainly the way music culture works now means that it's hard do anything really subversive within it.

From my p.o.v. the critical/bloggy support for M.I.A. was like an alliance between ye olde rockisme (looking for redeeming social value, populist hero etc) and the most anti-earnest, pro-frivolousness people around(whose angle on MIA was "pure pop pleasure", "jump-rope rhymes" etc). An alliance that made no sense: they couldn't both be right!

My sense about the rebel-rockist half of her constituency is that it's the same kind of people (in some, older cases, the exact same people) that thought London Calling was the Best Album of the Eighties (which is what Rolling Stone actually decreed it to be). A very American view: I can't imagine anyone in the U.K. sharing it, for starters the album came out in 1979 in Britain (okay, it was December 1979, but still, London Calling feels like a very Seventies record… punk reaching back to pre-punk, to rock's American roots… ).

The Clash/ M.I.A. parallel stands up well in lots of ways if only because the Clash were rather a lot of the time a rather silly band. Lyrics more often than not garbled, blustery, histrionic (what is "London Calling" the single about exactly?). They were always a band I liked certain songs by but could never buy into as a whole, as a cause/belief-system.

Which reminds me, the "sample-stain" concept originally came up because of this incident about a year ago with one of those certain songs. I'm going into a local café and pass through the door right just at that moment--the "Straight To Hell" sample. And kinda clench internally in the expectation of "Paper Planes". But, knock me down with a feather, it just carries on as "Straight To Hell". A wave of relief goes through my body. Wasn't a sample at all. But it was a
sample-stain--that little patch of sound forever and always linked to "Paper Planes". That's the downside of living in a sampladelic, intertextual pop world.