Friday, May 29, 2009

here's a piece I wrote for Slate "In Praise of In-Between Periods in Pop History", for a context that has since crumbled away. my title suggestion was something like "First Past the 'Post-'" but i guess i can see why they'd go for something else

Thursday, May 28, 2009

"i hate ___", update

you'll probably have seen Impostume's Carl expanding on his Burial hate (and then going off on one... or two... or three...)

and caught Zone Styx's Flying Incognito giving Uncle Brian some kicks

and perhaps And You May Find Yourself's Seb laying into Animal Collective (again!)

and also Attic Plan's Jon not-elaborating (yet) on his Lynch-loathing

in the mailbag, Rowan Wilson wonders if Burial really fit the Floydian hole of band whose "omnipresence has led to a sense of getting ‘stuck’... In fact, I don’t think there is a singular figure that exemplifies a certain cul de sac. If one wanted to be merely provocative then ‘I hate Throbbing Gristle’ would be fun – maybe similar to Pink Floyd in that an avant garde transgressive (ok, that’s overdoing it for PF) band now seen as curated classic. And for anyone who had never heard of the band the statement would look great! But, like you say, kind of flounders on the fact that I don’t hate them.

"Maybe ‘I still hate Pink Floyd’ captures the hauntological moment…

"However, with visual art I thought ‘I hate Rothko’ would be perfect. Expressionist existentialist stuff consumed as almost decorative. Horribly self-indulgent and one of the key moments in the nihilistically pseudo-uncanny (that is, tritely weird) dominating contemporary art. I wanted to describe him as the Jim Morrison of 20th century painting, but that doesn’t capture it."

and JD Geddes proposes as perfect band to fill the ___ -- Radiohead.

Hmm, in some ways that fits too perfectly into the slot left by Pink Floyd (who the 'Head always got compared to).

I Hate Pete Doherty or I Hate Jack White might be more Noughties-Geisty.

Taking the place of Floyd in I Hate ___ requires a special combination--mass cultural dominance/ubiquity, middlebrow soft optionism but also a sense of once-underground/crossed-over big time and having-once-been-great/innovative.

Hard to think of something that would fit the bill... I Hate Jay-Z?

This kind of drawing a line in the sand, "which side are you on" polarisation and animosity seems beyond our present capacity

perhaps the Manics ruined it with "we hate Slowdive more than Hitler"... the point at which anger-is-an-energy became an absurdity

okay, upping the ante:

anyone fancy a crack at updating the famous T-Shirt, You're Gonna Wake Up One Morning and KNOW What Side of the Bed You've Been Lying On? You know, the one McLaren, Westwood and Bernie Rhodes came up with shortly before punk, which divided pop (and beyond) culture into "Hates" and "Loves" (with Bryan Ferry shunted into the establishment/enemy camp despite the fact they'd all loved Roxy originally).

Monday, May 25, 2009

RIP Christopher Gray
my latest Guardian blog: on Dizzee Rascal at #1 again, with "Bonkers," and the long strange winding and faltering seven-year journey of grime from the underground to the heart of UK pop's (withered) mainstream.

Friday, May 22, 2009

caution: you are now entering a theory zone

or you will be if you click on this link to the fourth (and penultimate) in a series of reflections inspired by the recent hardcore continuum conference, this one titled "party, political / partly political"
and in the "I Hate ____ " Update T-shirt competition:

first prize goes to The Impostume

(unless anyone else thinks they can wrest the crown from him?)

(i'd been toying with proposing--"I Hate the Hardcore Continuum"--but that founders on the fact that I obviously don't. still if someone else had come up with that and actually meant it, I'd have had to doff my cap to it as an unassailable gesture)

(more "I Hate ___" suggestions from the parishioners in a bit)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

two responses to the "I Hate ___ " 2009 Remix challenge:

Zone Styx Travelcard

and The Nevermind Aesthetic (scroll down to the end of the post)
(who actually designs the T-shirt, virtually, but still!)

Still ruminating on what I would put in the ___

(Perhaps like Johnny Lydon I've reached that age where one's inner resources of nihilation and intolerance have dried up... reading K-Punk, whose supplies are still bountiful, always makes me feel horribly reasonable and balanced and see-the-other-side-y)

(tangentially this reminded me of something I stumbled on the other week, one of those meta-blogs/aggregation machines that scarf up text for purposes unknown... a press release for this art event I participated in Dallas a few years ago had seemingly got translated into a foreign language and then back into English [the internet is a strange, strange place innit?].... the result came out like this:

"Simon Reynolds is a music attacker and novelist."

Ha! Then again, that could be a job description of the rock critic, at least in the grand old days -- as false-idol smasher / myth-ifying weaver of fictions.

Also liked this bit on the other critic involved in the event:

"Bruce Hainley is barb to superintendent of graduate study in dislike and argument at the Art Center College of Design")

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

who'd've thought that Sonic Youth, of all people, could -- in the year 2009! -- kindle such a ferocious and borderline acrimonious debate!!!!

but hark ye, what's this then -- flippin eck, it's only a former mainstay of this parish, lately turned recording artiste, chipping in with some sane late commentary!

they try to retire, they do, but something, something, always pulls them back in...

welcome back mat(e)!

back to SY, on the pro side we had hot new blog Zone Styx Travelcard and also Sonic Youth portal-ee Jon Dale and And You May Find Yourself...

joining K-punk in rampaging nihilation overdrive is Airport Through the Trees's Aaron who amusingly says that "Sonic Youth is the band I came up with recently as the one whose shirts deserve the "I Hate" scrawled upon them". (He's been writing up a storm recently, Aaron).

That made me wonder what the parishioners would come up with if encouraged to update the Johnny Rotten and his Pink Floyd T-Shirt scenario to the present day?

For added piquancy we could have the optional extra of it having to be a band (or genre or whatever) that you once thought the world of, since I'd always kind of suspected that if Johnny Rotten owned a Pink Floyd T-shirt it might be because at one stage he was really into them.

Adding weight to that theory, in some magazine or other quite recently I did read the older, mellower, depleted-of-all-will-to-nihilate John Lydon admitting that he liked "some of the Floyd stuff," and also remarking that David Gilmour was "a really good bloke" (or words to that effect)...

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Friday, May 15, 2009

caution: you are now entering a theory zone

or you will be if you click on this link to the third of a series of reflections inspired by the recent hardcore continuum conference, this one addressing "wot u call it" versus "this is wot we call it"

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

caution: you are now entering a theory zone

or you will be if you click on this link to the second of my reflections inspired by the recent hardcore continuum conference, here looking at "genre versus scene" and "Australia"

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

my latest Guardian blog -- on Vampire Weekend, Tom Petty, lit-rock and the definition of "good lyrics".

Monday, May 11, 2009


first in a very irregular series occasioned by the most likely rather small number of friends with albums out this year

I've already given this fellow a lengthy write-up; I'll keep it short this time, for now anyway. Woebot's made an album. It's very good, flexing further the strengths exhibited on the second of his debut brace of EPs. Found and spoken-word voices, elegaic classical samples, electro-acoustic shivers, and this time slightly more rave energy than before (the astral ardkore riff from DJ Trace's "Lost Entity" here, a gabba kickdrum pulse and "Dominator" smear there). Second track had me flashing on Blectum from Blechdom and then I check the title and it's called "Blech"! And when I heard the sonorously intoned phonetic poetry of "Diudatae" I thought "Is that Stanley Unwin?" and then decided nah, too thespy. But Unwin only goes and pops up on the very next track, blethering about "the o-rhythmic contrarpole". Matt's way with samples reminds me sometimes of animations based around cut-out figures from magazines and picture books. Sometimes this creates uncanny depth effects, as on "Diudatae", where a mournfully ecstatic diva suddenly steps into the foreground of the sound: it's like watching a video installation and suddenly a woman stands up in front of the screen, but it's part of the total artwork, you realise. Other highpoints: the dankly twinkling "Horse"; the blissed guitar meander "Daisy Chain," like Manuel Gottsching, very stoned, trying to thread a needle.

Woebot's completely refurbished his website since you last looked.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

caution: you are now entering a theory zone

or you will be if you click on this link to the first in a series of reflections on the hardcore continuum inspired by the recent conference in London

Tuesday, May 05, 2009


Through a field operative, audio of the seminar last week has come into my possession (unfortunately missing all of K-punk and the first half of K&K). I must say overall I was impressed by the high level of discourse from panelists and from questioners in the audience alike. The ratio of abuse to substantive critique was better than I'd thought; a large number of provocative lines of enquiry were broached. In many ways this is the kind of engagement a writer hopes for. So big up to organizers Jeremy Gilbert and Steve Goodman, to the participants, and to everybody who attended.

Of course there was plenty to disagree with. Surprisingly, rather than feeling exhausted with the debate, or feeling that it's been exhausted as a topic, I'm feeling energized. Listening to the talks and the questions and back-and-forth in between them, a lot of thoughts were stirred up at this end, some of them on the level of "are you nuts, man?!" or "that's JUST WRONG", but others more valuable because tending towards the levels of general contour and deep structure, and the central issue of what could be at stake in the existence (or non-existence) of a continuum and the project of trying to understand it.

Whatever the state of its vital signs at present (and I'm much more persuadable to the "it's dead, we're in a whole new era" argument than some imagine), the Nuum--as a lived historical reality and as a site of theorization--looks set to continue being an object of intensive study and passionate debate. It's an era that meant a lot to quite a lot of people; some of us are still sorting through those feelings and coming to new conclusions. So long as that doesn't detract from being alert to the possibilities of the present I don't see any harm in that and indeed see much to be gained.

In terms of the thoughts provoked by the seminar, some of these I hope to shape into open-ended meditations to be dropped at the other place, which I'll link to from here in due course. There's a temptation, naturally, to get stuck right into the business of poking holes in other people's poking of holes, but that will just result in a useless doily of intertext, won't it? There's also no point in doing that kind of thing in the absence of audio online or all the texts going up on people's blogs (so far there's just a couple) as it's only polite to link to things you're going to selectively quote from and wilfully misread, eh ;)

But mainly I just can't see the point of getting lost ever deeper in trees-not-wood. I'm also not much interested in "what's in, what's out" disputes. That was never what it was about. Honest! It's not a club, so no would-be members need feel denied admittance (to the point of wanting to bulldoze the building).
I liked the term Lisa Blanning brought up: "pattern recognition". That's primarily what nuum-ology is about. (Of course you can have pattern mis-recognition, and seeing patterns that aren't there at all).

To play a little on the word "recognition", that's a word that can refer to recognizing a claim, to notions of legitimacy or validation. But nuumology is not about recognizing heirs or safeguarding inheritances; it is much more like the way you can look at a child and recognize features from the parent. And that kind of feature-recognition gets fainter with the next generation, except that sometimes by genetic quirk the grandchild looks more like the grandparent than its mum or dad.
From a personal point of view, the emphasis I would put on it is much more to do with fondness than with legitimacy. Bassline made me smile, in part, because I could see the family resemblance. But each child is a creature in its own right, captivating and unique, with a personality all its own, mannerisms and gestures that seem to come out of nowhere.

So it's about recognizing patterns, and then perhaps finding a larger pattern in the patterns, and so on… Building ever upwards. In future I intend to direct my energy in that direction, because it's literally constructive.

To make a further painful pun, nuum-ology is also about "patent recognition". It's about trying to work out what emerging elements are really inventive and what are artful reworkings of earlier ideas. It's tracking the play of the emergent and the residual. See, the thing about the nuum is that it is neither a vanguard nor a tradition; it's both, simultaneously.
K-punk diatribe against Sonic Youth as retro-necro godfathers. He mentions their Karen Carpenter fetish as in "Tunic (Song For Karen)", which I'm kicking myself for not bringing up in my own SY-as-curators thing. Reading Mark's piece it also struck me that the title of Bad Moon Rising is itself a rock scholarly citation: Creedence Clearwater Revival, one of THE American bands of 1969, the year they were obsessed with at that point.

"Tunic (Song for Karen)" came a few years after the hoo-ha about Todd Haynes's Superstar, his animation movie about Karen C, which was forced-from-circulation but which you can watch here. Although that's indie film rather than downtown art, again it indicates how Sonic Youth were plugged into sensibilities and practices outside rock.

SY seem initially to make a good pairing with J & MC--a cloak of kill-your-idols noise covering worship-your-idols traditionalism (with the riots being meta-riots, enactments of a desire to have a reason to riot.) On reflection that's a little unfair to SY, their noise being more structural and deep-technique oriented than the patina of feedback J&MC slathered over their melodies. I don't think it can be denied that for all the citational flourishes (which aren't really that encumbering or obstrusive in the late Eighties work) there is a three album run back there-- EVOL/Sister/Daydream Nation--that doesn't actually sound much like anything that came before: a gorgeous noise where No Wave's stringent modernism merges with numinous psychedelia (a new psychedelia, one that barely references anything in the vocabulary of Sixties rock). As irritating as they can be that shouldn't be taken away from them. One might even feel an empathetic twinge for the vanguardist hoisted by their own reinvention-of-the-guitar petard and faced with the problem of reinventing themselves. Why shouldn't they be like Neil Young, an alt-institution, criss-crossing back and forth within the range of sound they've established? That doesn't mean anyone should necessarily feel obliged to bother with their albums after a certain cut-off point.

Re: Portrait of the Artist As A Consumer I forgot the most glaring and earliest example: the cover of Sgt Pepper's. However this was coded (you had to know or work out who the people were) and it did extend beyond music (Did it have any musicians in the pantheon? Stockhausen, yeah, but rock'n'roll musicians?).

Some of Mark's polemic chimes with the laments of Aaron over here.

Some days I'm totally of this mind, feeling that the most pointless thing in the world is to make more good music. (Our house is packed with the stuff, my computer is crammed to bursting with the stuff… years and years worth…. if Music was just about "good music" I could spend the rest of my life listening to what I've already got and what's already been made that I've not got around to hearing… what Music in the capital M sense needs to do is give us new concepts, new sensations, to create both new disagreements and new convergences/communalities…)

On other days, swept up in the majesty of music that could be from this year or twelve or twenty two years ago, such concerns seems silly, "why not just enjoy it".

I think the first response is the better one, the more productive one in a sense: keeping keen the blade of one's dissatisfaction, one's impatience … It's just a harder place to live, it's easier to relax into the enjoy-it-all mode.

This relates to Sonic Youth in that the subtext with a lot of discussion of the new album is: what's the point of there being ANOTHER Sonic Youth album in the world, in my life… precisely because they've mattered, done so much, in the past… why listen to the new one when you could listen to Daydream Nation for the 63rd time? Indeed the longer they go on, by this logic, the more they erode their peaks--an analogy that could be extrapolated in reference to rock as a whole, couldn't it?)

Perhaps there are two kinds of responses here that are rather revealing in a glass half-full, glass half-empty kind of way -- "Sonic Youth? A new album? Oh goody" versus "Sonic Youth? A new album? Oh no..." Perhaps you have to be a certain kind of person to actually feel that "Oh no" in this and many other situations... a dismay/distress that can be there as an undernote even when it's things you actually love and on some level are eager to hear

right at the almost very start of writing, fanzine days, (and the only interview Monitor ever ran, funnily enough, was with Sonic Youth circa Bad Moon Rising, done by Gina Rumsey and featuring virtually no quotes), I came up with this phrase that I've recycled at regular intervals ever since, "pernicious adequacy"... its sister term would be something like "pernicious carrying-on" or "pernicious not-dying"

this is why I understand only too well the calls for the death of the hardcore continuum, or announcements of its demise... the impatience to close one chapter and open a new one... believe it or not I actually feel it myself... i suppose what I believe is that these chapters open and close by themselves and there's little we (those of us who aren't DJs and producers, and even there I think there is limited individual agency in terms of steering the direction of a music culture)can do to hasten the demise...

in a real sense we are readers.... waiting perhaps like Dickens audience (Little Dorrit has been on TV here) for the next instalment of a serialised novel, not knowing how many chapters are left or whether the next one is the last instalment...*

that doesn't mean the book or oeuvre (and the nuum is a body of scenius-work of a Dickensian scope and prodigality, whose main subject is London) isn't capable of being read and reread for some time to come... studied and interpreted but also gloried in...

and here's where I'd link to DJ Luck feat. Shy Cookie, Spee & Sweetie Irie's "Millenium Twist" if it was on YouTube...

* of course with music culture it's slightly different in so far as what seems like the penultimate chapters of one book turn out, in hindsight, to have been the start of another book altogether.... and that's almost impossible to determine until you're a good way into the new book

Friday, May 01, 2009

Wobble yobs versus history boys: my latest Guardian blogpost looks at how Caspa has polarized the dubstep scene