Sunday, June 01, 2014


Bumper crop of books out now or due imminently from mates -- old and new, some IRL and others more like neighbours in this here blog-parish.  Mates? Perhaps comrades is a better word.

First up, Agata Pyzik and Poor But Sexy: Culture Clashes in Europe East and West  -   a fascinating and provocative study of Eastern Europe (including her native Poland) in the quarter-century since the Soviet Bloc began to disintegrate, looking at both the realities of post-communist life (transition trauma, precarity, emigration for work, etc) and at the fantasies and misunderstandings that East and West entertain about each other, as figured through pop, fashion, film, and art.  Of particular interest to the music-minded: the chapter "Ashes And Brocade: Berlinism, Bowie, Postpunk, New Romantics and Pop-Culture in the Second Cold War". Here's an extract from Poor But Sexy that appeared in The Quietus not so long ago.


Vaguely related to Poor But Sexy: Mitja Velikonja's Rock'N'Retro: New Yugoslavism in Contemporary Popular Music in Slovenia. A very interesting treatise about Ostalgie in one of the republics of the former Yugoslavia, as manifested in the "Titostalgia" of groups such as Magnifico.

 Alex Niven's 33⅓ monograph Definitely Maybe  - a most ingenious rereading of the debut Oasis album,  defending it from the charges of derivative nostalgia, retro-reactionary lairinesss, etc etc (i.e. the standard viewpoint in this parish).  Can't say I'm totally convinced by the parallel Alex makes between Noel Gallagher's plagiarisms and Public Enemy's sampling. Also did wonder what makes Oasis's gonna-make-it-out-of-here working class self-belief  different from the magical voluntarism of Bon Jovi/"Living On A Prayer"and Journey/"Don't Stop Believin'"....   Pointing to a greater affinity with shoegaze than is commonly perceived, Alex argues that there's under-acknowledged sonic invention at work in the early Oasis sound, an oceanic effect that creates an oceanic affect. Then again, don't you get that to some degree with any form of hugely amplified music projected at a mass of people?  Besides, in the first half of the Nineties, if you were craving sensations of proto-political solidarity and vague hopeful collectivity from music, wouldn't the obvious place to look for, and find, those things be rave culture? Actually, an argument I recall being made at the time was precisely that the whole Oasis phenomenon (and related smaller phenomena like The Verve) represented a sort of ersatz rave experience for those laggards who still preferred guitars and songs.... Still, Alex has made me want to listen to the album again, which is quite an achievement.  (I also had a dream the other night in which I was the manager of Oasis, and it wasn't even a nightmare, so he's penetrated my unconscious too).  Interview with Alex here and extract from the book here.

I'm sure you're all aware that Mark Fisher  has a new book out. Here's my blurb for it:

Ghosts of My Life confirms that Mark Fisher is our most penetrating explorer of the connections between pop culture, politics, and personal life under the affective regime of digital capitalism.  The most admirable qualities of Fisher’s work are its lucidity, reflecting the urgency of his commitment to communicating ideas;  his high expectations of popular art’s power to challenge, enlighten, and heal;  and his adamant refusal to settle for less

Finally, one of my oldest mates.... and comrades. Veteran of many joint campaigns. David Stubbs. Taping his copies of Future Days, Soon Over Babaluma, and the four Faust LPs -  back when we were students - is where it all started for me in terms of a life-long infatuation with Krautrock. Here's my blurb for his book on the subject, due in August:

Future Days does not capture Krautrock so much as unleash it.  David Stubbs deftly situates legends like Can, Faust, Neu!, and Kraftwerk in their historical context – the politics and culture of post-WW2 Germany. But more crucially, the rollicking energy of his prose and reeling majesty of his imagery convey everything about this music that transcends time and place.  Generation after generation of fans discover in Krautrock a peerless hallucinatory pageant for the mind’s eye, a sound in which absolute freedom and absolute discipline coexist, a rejoicing cosmic “yes” delivered with the roaring attack of punk.  At long last, the definitive book on the ultimate music.