Tuesday, April 27, 2004

the love affair between bloggs and grime

"Socially, structurally, politically": that?s how Woebot defined a secret proximity between bloggaz and grimesters. The first and third words there I wasn?t totally sure of, but the word "structurally" kept on niggling in my mind. "Structurally" seemed to hit some kind of nail on the head. Yeah, yeah, at the level of deep structure, a blogger and a grime MC basically are--if not the same, then doing the same thing.

Lemme lay down the contours of this deep structural affinity as starkly as possibly first, then elaborate later.

1/ post-media operators/narrowcast transmissions/niche audiences
2/ discourse = 50 percent "things on my mind" + 50 percent pure verbal exhibitionism
3/ ego-driven
4/ collectivity/cameraderie/cliquishness/incestuousness versus feuds/spats/battles/takedowns
5/ scenius/peer pressure dynamics
6/ code/crypticism/slanguage/ideolect
7/ cultural practice that spins around locality/globality tensions
8/ amateurism versus professionalism

1/ post-media operators/Narrowcast transmission
Well I'll bet some of the smaller pirate shows have listener figures roughly the same per show as the total weekly hits for some of the bigger bloggers. Of course they don't actually know how many people they're reaching (whereas bloggaz do) so without that reality check they can get all swollen up on the grandiosity of imagining they're broadcasting to the whole of London and surrounding counties. But I bet you for a lot of the shows "just 4 U london" boils down to a few thousand people. (When you look at the incredibly poor record sales for this music it's easy to imagine grime becoming more and more like improv and other kinds of free music--where most of the audience consists of fellow performers). But even with the reality check of the weekly sitemaster report, there is a latent grandiosity to blogging because there isn't actually any physical limit to how many people could tune in. (And of course some bloggs are radio stations of a sort--Wadio Woebot. Bet this becomes more and more common).

2/ "things on my mind"/verbal exhibitionism
Some bloggers, like some MCs--you think "God, if they didn't have this outlet, they'd explode!". As for "verbal exhibitionism"--eas it Luka who had a riff about blogging being a performance, the cultivation of a persona? The self amped up. self-revelation as theatre.

If you belong to an oral culture, a post-literate literati, then having your own pirate show basically is like having a blogg. It's your outlet, your valve for venting.

3/ "ego driven"
....and (sad but true, I'm not happy about it by any means) testosterone-driven also

4/ collectivity versus feuds
both related to testosterone of course: brothers in arms versus brothers at each others throats. (The highly active comments box as a cipher perhaps).

5/ scenius/peer pressure
That's what it all works on, MCs, bloggers--competitivity-- in the best, healthiest, most creative sense. When it's on, everyone raises their game. And there's cycles, times when it goes a bit slack, and then suddenly it's on again, and you can tell people are sparking off other people.

6/ code/crypticism
People complain: it's so incestuous, I don't know what they're on about half the time? It's all about cracking a code innit. (Reading the inkie music press when it was good used to be like that, stumbling through a foreign land, until you learned the discursive landmarks, the running jokes etc. And that's what bloggs are like, that aspect of the old music press isolated from the other more workaday (news, gig pages, interviews) aspects and amplified several times, appealing to the same minority audience (probably around 8 percent I reckon) who bought the music press for those proto-blogg reasons rather than the workaday news/reviews aspect).

7/ locality/globality
Apparently there's some new groovily ghastly cultural studies term that covers these ambiguities-- brace yourselves people!--"glocal". Yuk!!! 'S true though. Grime is yet another pirate continuum music that's tuned into vibrations from all over the Black Atlantic but the end result is totally attuned to the very specific audio-erogenous zones of da London massive and therefore not very exportable. In pirate stations case, it's literally local-- the broadcast range is limited and the territorialism has shrivelled down from London as a whole to specific postal districts in the East, or in the case of Phuture Grime plasticman-style that patch of godforsaken terrain between Croydon and West Norwood (where I once lived for a year so I know whereof I speak).

In the case of bloggs, of course, it's kind of the opposite: something that is geographically distributed but that achieves coherence through certain shared obsessions.... a set of obsessions and a range of ways of approaching and talking about them that creates a fuzzy overlap gray zone where we "meet". (I'm talking about this particularly 'hood of the 'sphere obviously). Certain basins of attraction that have caused a disparate (but not that disparate) array of discursive agents to gather in "one spot". That really is "glocal" because what it is, it's a kind of post-geographical localism: a parochialism of sensibility. So for instance Jon Dale and Tim Finney are at the fucking opposite end of the planet to me but there's a real sense in which we are "neighbours". (So that banging sound on the ceiling, Jon, is me complaining about the free folk, "give it rest mate, eh?!").

8/ amateurism versus professionalism
DJs and MCs actually pay to play on the pirates. It's potlatch culture, giving it away. Free entertainment. Same with bloggs. K-Punk, just to pick one example, is basically running a one-man micro-magazine that's better than most anything you'd likely pay money for in papers or magazines.

I bet professional radio DJs, producers etc have the exact same half-threatened/half-condescending attitude towards the pirates that professional (nonblogging) journos have towards bloggers.

And far from bloggdiscourse being all highfalutin' and spiritually bow-tied, it is of course a good deal of the time a kind of theatricalized vernacular a la Grime.


So. There is this mirror image, reflected narcissism thing that must surely have something to do with the love affair between bloggs and grime.

Now did I just write "between"?

Of course the glaring thing is the utterly one-way, non-mutual nature of this "affinity". I mean, to say, if in some deep structural sense there's this reversibility--they're bloggers and we're MCs--then some sort of reciprocity ought to be in order, don't you think? Mean to say, I must have written many thousands of words on Dizzee by this point, you'd think he might at least devote 16 bars to the subject of me! Luka, there should be a fucking MICRO-GENRE of grime lyrics about him. After having that lovely appreciation penned on him Sticky should name a new riddim Silverdollar. Or better still get Simon Sez to do a new song called "Simon Sez" about what the other Simon actually says.

The more I thought about this disparity, the more it began to rankle. Eventually, I rung around and managed to dredge up numbers for most of the top boys. Fucking impossible trying to get hold of Wiley, his mobile's ringing off the hook. Same with most of the big guys. The ones I did get hold of were either, "blogg?! What's that then?" or I got the brush-off, none too politely I might add. Finally I got hold of DT-Eye from K2 Family, who've been keeping a bit of a low profile since the 2002 success of
"Bouncing Flow" and "Danger". I explained to him what a blogg was, how they'd been showing nuff love to Grime all this time, and he was like, "fair play, see your point". Eventually, after a bit of cajoling, he said he'd give it a go, cos it was a quiet weekend. I said just use my links bar, skip around a bit, check out the scene, whatever you can come up with, it would be much appreciated. Good for morale and all that.

When I called DT-Eye up this morning, he'd come up with some verses, and said they'd work best on Wiley's new Torvill & Dean riddim, or at a push, with some finessing, on the dubstrumental of "Danger". Here's the thing though--and I was a bit put out cos he doesn't even like Grime that much-- they're about Marcello!!! Apparently CoM and TNM, that's what really caught DT-Eye's imagination, the human element. Plus he said, that Gail, she sounds fit. So here they are anyway--he rapped them down the phone, you have to imagine them in a kinda choppy, staccato sing-song flow. And leave off the "t"s at the end of words.

MC flex best
On shorter texts
Closely inspects
David Essex
Views on Roy Wood perplex
Works for NHS
Hails from Inverness *
Longer texts can vex
Focuses on auteur
More than he oughta
Myths he'll debunk dem
Precisely pinpoints punctum
Barthes crossed with Gambaccini
His mama cook great linguini
Knowledge encyclopaedic
Style belle-lettristic
And memoiristic
(Thinks Petridis a right prick)
Tight with his links
Junior Boys stinks
Improv a lot
Again with Woebot
Dates a gyal called Gail
Receives bare email
From Man Like John Cale
Loves Robert Wyatt

So look--it's not great, but it's a start, right?


* not actually true. I don't know where he came up with this one. Poetic license?

Sunday, April 25, 2004

DizZE Miss Lizzy

Like a lot of Penmaniacs I totally bought the whole ZE thing at the time, and in a literal sense bought a fair amount of their stuff. And promptly sold it eighteen months later--well I kept Mutant Disco, for “Me No Pop I”, “Bustin Out” and “ Wheel Me Out” plus the I.Penman sleevenotes natch (shamefully not included on the recent reissue, although Kevin Pearce does a neat job)-- but I shed those first two Kid Creole albums and have never once regretted it, except in the last year, for research reasons more than aural pleasure. Even had a Cristina single or two. But for some reason I never checked out Lizzy Mercier Descloux at the time. And then about a month ago her Mambo Nassau turned up in the mail courtesy of Forced Exposure along with a bunch of ZE comps and Was (Not Was)’s debut album and a W(NW)remixes thing (now their stuff’s a mixed bag to put it mildly, “Wheel me Out” and the more aberrant-jazzed stuff like “Oh, Mr Friction” and “It’s An Attack” still sound quite cool but the rest of it…. well let’s say “Walk That Dinosaur” casts this huge reverse shadow over it, a pleasure-shrivelling pall), but anyway back to Ms. Descloux--I’ve been meaning to write about Mambo here for weeks. Cos it’s a revelation. Sensational stuff. Something like a New Pop version of 4th World: Claire Grogan meets Jon Hassell. Sonixly/ridmaticly, the melange is Dubfunk + AfroPop + French-artpop. A pentangle of territory whose five sides are Tom Tom Club, My Life In The Bush of Ghosts, Nightclubbing, Your Cassette Pet, and Les Ritas Mistoukos. (I swear the first three came to mind before I looked at the press release and saw it was recorded in Nassau at Compass Point under the good graces of Chris Blackwell and that her band included Wally Badarou [a Woebot fave lost 80s auteur, session keyboard guy at Compass] and also even a studio engineer called Steve Slanley who’d worked with Grace Jones and would go on to work with Tom Tom Club). Killer tracks for me are “Sports Spootnicks” (“Contort Yourself” meets “Hello Hello Daddy I’ll Sacrifice You”*) and “Payola” (Material if they somehow were The Go Gos). Inventive but joyous. Wonderfully frisky, flirty, feisty, fizzy with life.

And then I hear she’s dead. Just died in fact. Been struggling with cancer for a while. How sad. And how weird to have music you’ve just fallen in love with suddenly ghosted like that.


* okay that one’s a bit gratutiously arcane: last track on Bow Wow Wow’s See Jungle lp, a sort of Jungian bossa-nova

Friday, April 23, 2004

I hold in my hand a copy of Seks Isyanlari. I was a bit flip in tone in my first post about this--mainly cos I was a bit bemused and stunned by the whole thing--but actually having a solid book brings home that it's actually quite heavy. Somebody took the trouble to slog through Joy's and my tome and translate it into Turkish. The publishers, Ayrinti, stand to lose a fair bit of money. Below is some information on books being banned in Turkey--a surprisingly common practice, and not just for "obscenity" or insulting the Turkish people (really not on our agenda back in 93 when we wrote the thing), but for political reasons too. Ayrinti seem to have a lot of run-ins, they do a fair bit of edgy material--last year they got done for translating a work by de Sade (who we reference in the chapter that also has Peter 'Childrape and Nazi Genocide's Cool' Sotos of Whitehouse infamy in it, I wonder if that set off the morality squad's alarm bells?). Joy found the following on some website, I think the writers' rights organisation PEN. Apologies
for heisting it wholesale.

"Charges of 'insulting the morals of the people'

Sex is another issue that has increasingly given rise to lawsuits. On March
19, 2003, a trial opened at the Istanbul Penal Court of First Instance
against Omer Faruk, the owner of the Ayrinti Publishing House, and Kerim
Sadi, a translator, for publishing and translating respectively a Turkish
edition of the Marquis de Sade's Philosophy in the Bedroom (Yatak Odasinda
Felsefe). The two are accused under Article 426 of the Turkish Penal Code of
'insulting the morals of the people'. In 2002, similar charges were pressed
against Nermin Acar for her translation of La Terreur dans la Boudoir, a
French novel by Serge Bramly that is based on the work of Marquis de Sade.
Acar has also faced charges for her translation from French of Alina Reyes'
erotic novel, Lilith. The legislation prohibits all work with frank sexual
content and takes no account of whether the writing has literary merit. "

Book bannings in Turkey

"At present, PEN has on its records over 60 writers, publishers and
journalists who are on trial in Turkey solely for the publication of their
writings and who face heavy penalties if convicted. In 2002 alone, 77 books
were reported to have been banned... There are likely to be many more cases
than PEN has been able to record. The confiscation and banning of a piece of
writing is a major obstacle to the practice of free expression and is
censorship in its most direct form. International PEN has called on the
Turkish authorities to review once again all legislation that allows for the
penalization of those who write on or publish issues that are not in accord
with the views of those in authority, and to remove from Turkish law all
remaining impediments to the practice of the right to freedom of
- International PEN's Oral Submission to the United Nations Commission on
Human Rights, meeting in Geneva at its 59th session, March 17 to April 25,

At any one time, PEN is aware of several cases of authors and their books
falling foul of Turkey's broad battery of legislation inhibiting free
expression. A recent example was the works of author Mehmet Bayrak, whose
three-volume book Kurdish Music, Dances and Songs published in September
2002 by Özgür Gelecek ('The Free Future') publishing house - was reportedly
confiscated on the orders of the Ankara State Security Court. The order
claimed that the volumes had infringed Article 312.2 of the Turkish Penal
Code because they 'in their current form oppose the unity of nation and
state. Furthermore, their content partitions the population into different
races thereby inciting hate and hostility.' Another book by Bayrak, Kurdish
Women - From the Past to the Present, was similarly confiscated. In its
February 17, 2003 letter to Turkey's Minister of Justice, PEN stated its
belief 'that the banning of these books is aimed at suppressing views on
Kurdish issues that do not comply with those held by the government.'

Other recently banned books and journals have included:

a report from the Center for Asia Minor Research in Greece entitled
Migration, Forced Departure of Anatolian Greeks from Anatolia (accused of
being an 'insult to Ataturk');

Anatolia: from Multiculturalism to Uniculturalism by Aytekin Yilmaz, which
has been accused of 'insulting the nation' by infringing Article 159 of the
Turkish Penal Code;

several journals of the Communist Party for being 'propaganda for an illegal

These and other examples demonstrate that the book bannings and trials
against authors are usually initiated either when Turkey's multi-ethnic
community is explored, especially if the government's policies regarding the
many ethnicities living within its borders are criticized, or when the
authors espouse left-wing political ideology, such as views which are deemed
'Communist'. In both cases, PEN believes that the government has nothing to
gain from such bannings, and that allowing a variety of different opinions
to circulate freely will not undermine Turkey's security. On the contrary,
only by allowing free expression on such matters can the many historic
tensions within the country be eased.

Ragip Zarakolu: in the forefront of the campaign against bannings

Ragip Zarakolu, a publisher at Belge Publishing House (which among other
titles, has published Ömer Asan's book, The Culture of the Pontus ) is one
of the main campaigners against these book-bannings. Zarakolu has himself
faced charges - in fact he is seldom off the WiPC's case list. For instance,
on July 15, 2002, he was brought to trial under Article 312 of the Penal
Code for an article entitled 'The New Racist Attacks in Turkey', in which he
delivered a critique of ultra- nationalism. The trial continues. Meanwhile,
Zarakolu continues to protest against book-bannings, and publishes many
titles knowing that they may well fall foul of the law.

In a statement that he made on behalf of the Publishers Union of Turkey at
the 2002 Frankfurt Book Fair, Zarakolu acknowledged the support of the
international community. He painted a picture of a steady increase in the
number of bannings and legal cases. According to him, in 2000, 20 books from
14 publishing houses were banned or indicted; in 2001, 42 books from 23
publishing houses were banned or indicted. He later reported that by the end
of 2002, the annual figure had risen to 77 books, with 38 publishers and 57
writers finding themselves in the dock. The cases sometimes dragged on for
more than a year, so that the number of books subject to legal proceedings
at any one time could number over a hundred.

Zarakolu noted that how the books fared in the courts was 'dependent on the
personal tendencies of the jurists'. Some gave 'more tolerant or more
intolerant judgments'. Conservative tendencies in the system had given rise
to more cases against writing on sexual issues. However, discussion of
minorities still led the field in provoking lawsuits. He cited interviews
with guerrilla leaders, histories of left-wing parties, discussions of human
rights abuses and police accountability as being topics that writers
broached at their peril.

He urged the international community to campaign against these assaults on
freedom of expression. 'The support of the world's community of publishers
has given us courage and endurance,' he said. While legal preparations for
entry into the European Union are afoot, he suggested, the time to press
forward with the campaign is ripe.

This here didn't peeve me quite as much it did Matt Woebot or The Stelfox--if only cos it's such a daft caricature of blogdiscourse (most of which is pretty colloquial INNIT). The thing that IS offensive is the condescension to the hardcore Grime fans. They might mangle the Queen's grammar and use patois and sling slang and misspell words (deliberately, though, often), but surely it's OBVIOUS that the level of literacy in the better grime (or hip hop, or dancehall) lyrics is staggering? And therefore by implication and by definition the fans have extreme verbal skills. They're probably not bookworms (although that's just an assumption--for all I know D Double E's got library cards and overdue books all across East London) but they don't need to be--this is a post-literate literati, a voracious oral culture sucking in and chewing up stuff from across the mediascape. With a lot of these lyrics, the sheer comprehension skills needed to follow the twists, spot the allusions, and unravel the compressions, is staggering. You need skill to actually even ENJOY this stuff, the sheer linguistic sport of it. And that suggests to me that the people who are into it, the kids for whom it's their life, must be really sophisticated. When you read interviews with Dizzee and Wiley, they come across as very perceptive and insightful. What the Americans call EQ or emotional IQ, these guys score pretty high. I'd also venture that without having to read the Guardian or New Statesman or political blogs, the grime kids are probably pretty sussed in their grasp on what's fucked about the world. In that sense "street knowledge" is as good (or better) an education as reading Fredric Jameson or some Routledge primer on late capitalism, postcolonialism etc etc. So yeah, as Matt concludes, tweak some of the words, translate a bit between jargons and idiolects, and you'll find that the bloggaz and the grimesters are speaking the same language. Gutterlectuals unite, down with middlebrow!

Thursday, April 15, 2004


Picking a winner was very hard (traditional thing to say but true nonetheless), there were such a lot of good ideas--many MANY thanks to everybody who participated in the contest.

Titling a book is tricky, the decision's far weightier than headlining an article because books stick around so much longer than a mag. As decisions go the title is probably as crucial what a magazine decides to put on its cover any given month--it has what the biz people call "point of sale" impact. The title is your advertising slogan really. The only one of my titles I've really loved unreservedly was Blissed Out, which Joy came up with… The Sex Revolts --or Seks Isyanlari as they say it in Turkey (more on that in days to come)--is some phantasm from the recesses of Joy's subconscious (she thought she read it in a poem), Generation Ecstasy 's corny as fuck (it was only the working title but the marketing people refused to relinquish it) and Energy Flash, while having the reflected-glory factor from the Greatest Rave Anthem of All Time and containing a sort of buried drug allusion, is possibly a little too abstract if you’re not an E-nitiate.

Anyway, with the current tome, the ideal would be: find something that both connotes to the p-punk afficianodos while being literal enough to be understood by yer floating punters. The winner and runners up all have this combination to varying degrees. But before we reach the final Countdown, here’s some other notable categories, plus Honorary Mentions.


1/ Damaged Goods
By an absolute mile. Obviously it has high recognition with the postpunk converts but I honestly believe it would confuse everybody else.

2/ Prole Art Threat
I do like this but the whiff of unreconstructed Marxism… well let’s just say I’d like to trick people into buying the thing before plunging them into that head first! Plus, if you think about it, 75 % of postpunkers weren’t your classic industrial proletariat, they were bourgie-boho art school. Even The Fall weren’t proper proles--Mark E. Smith had a white collar job.

3/ Death Disco
Again, high recognition among Those Who Know, but not so sure about everybody else. Same applies to--

4/ Poptones

5/ The Medium Was Tedium
This garnered an amazing three votes! Now this title would just be a gift to negative reviewers wouldn't it!


1/ The Pop Group
2/ Gang of Four
3/ Desperate Bicycles (!) (not just The Medium Is Tedium, either)
4/ PiL
5/ Buzzcocks
6/ Pere Ubu
7/ Magazine
8/ Mark Perry/Alternative TV


Lions after Slumber: from Nuissance to Jouissance in the Post-Punk Diaspora (Stephen Trousse a/k/a Jerry the Nipper)

Beyond Good and Eno (Mark Sinker)

Nerdy Rash of Funk (Steve Archer)

Blissed In (Joris @ Kindamuzik)

Bootsy Spoke to Eno (Richard Jordan)

Without a Discernable Destination (Scott McKeating)

Too Many Creeps (And I Had To Interview 120 of Them) (Geeta Dayal--now, now, G, almost all of them were very nice, actually… especially the Scottish and Sheffield ones)

Collapsing New People (Bas Van Hoof)

Drastic Measures, Drastic Movement (Bas Van Hoof waving the Dutch flag--it’s the title of the first Minny Pops LP)

Talk About Hubris, Man (Benn Barr, quoting Vivien Goldman on Keith Levene and PiL)

The Crowd in Portsmouth Wanted to Kill Us (Benn Barr, quoting Mark P on the ill-fated Pop Group/Alternative TV tour of 1979)

Misery & Splendor (David Howie--look, this ain’t no Trollope novel!)

Noises in a Swound (Stanley Whyte, from Coleridge’s "Rime of the Ancient Mariner")

Manicured Noises (Paul Kennedy)

Bad Babies (Matthew Maragno)

DOOM, said the Bass (James Parker--look, this ain't no Harlan Ellison short story!)

Pretending To See The Future (Andrew O’Donnell)


Okay, onwards to the results:


"From Safety to Where?", "Where to Now?" (both Dan Selzer); “It’s About Now” (Stanley Whyte); “Let’s Submerge!”, “Street Waves,” “Subterranean Moderns”, (all Paul Kennedy); “Colossal Youth” (Beppe Recchia); “After Year Zero: The History of Post-Punk” (Joe Gross); “Difficult Fun: Post-punk 1978-84” (Ged Babey); “New Dawn Fades” (Krakabash); “Harmony In A Different Kitchen” (Jonathan Dale); “Extended Play” (Stan Emmerson); “Action Time Vision” (Rebecca Rosengard)

And Now…..

[drum roll]


10/ It's The New Thing (Sebastien Morlighem)

9/ Doubt Beat (Dan Selzer)

8/ The Outside of Everything (Gard Paulsen)

7/ Like Punk Happened! Post Punk & New Wave 1978-1984 (Paul Kennedy)

6/ The Modern Dance (Nathalie Watkins)

5/ Sense of Purpose (Gard Paulsen)

4/ We Oppose All Rock & Roll (Jess Harvell)

3/ A Different Kind of Tension (Tim Finney)

2/ Don't Sell Your Dreams (Jessica Knapp)

[just teasing ya!]

[okay i'll quit arsing around now]



This was actually very close between #2 and #1--as I said, had to consult with the publisher for a tie-break as specified in the rules. Don't Sell Your Dreams really captures the era's idealism and lays it on the table in an upfront, in-your-face, and really rather ballsy way. The afficionados naturally twig the fact that it's a Pop Group song, but to non-postpunk types it communicates a timeless and universal sentiment really forcefully--plus there's a little bit of that Naomi Klein cross-synergy. However it's tone is slightly anguished and precarious, as if selling those dreams and buckling down is almost inevitable. From the Orange Juice song, Rip It Up And Start Again nicely blends the destructive/reactive and positive/renewing attitude of postpunk and New Pop, with
a sort of forward-looking, "tomorrow is the first day of the rest of your life" feel that gives it the edge over Don't Sell Your Dreams. Tiny bit long maybe, but it just nails it, I feel. So hats off to Jonathan!!

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Woebot parries the (very mild and very veiled) ribbing re Kanye West and his samples. Actually it's just something I've noticed that people do, including me obviously, rave about the stuff KW samples--like I'm not sure how I'd quantify and breakdown the pleasure-sources in "Through The Wire" (the lyric for instance is one of the very few in the entire history of rap that I almost know by heart, and the beat is wonderfully sloppy-yet-tight) but I'd have to give at least 60 percent to Chakha, if not more. And point taken about Acen and "Trip II To The Moon" but there's at least four or five different elements in that tune and I really can't think of hardly any hardcore songs that are as utterly dependent on a single sample source the way "Through The Wire" is. An atrocious track on Boogie Beat that is basically "Careless Whispers" with a bad fastbreak under it springs to mind, and the tune based on Tasmin Archer's "Sleeping Satellite" is quite indebted I suppose. But generally hardcore is a lot more
re-creative than "through the wire" or "takeover"

With Kanye, I just think it's intriguing how he's praised for doing something that Puff Daddy was reviled for.

In fact, given KW's recent declaration that Ma$e is his favorite rapper EVER (a swerve from canonical taste worthy of Chuck ‘I like Poison, me’ Eddy), it seems that Bad Boy circa 1997 really IS the biggest influence and precursor to what Kanye W does. Which to my mind is much cooler than him going on about Ghostface Killah or Tribe Called Quest yawn yawn yawn.... actually that's another good example cos 85 percent of what's good about "bonita applebum" IS "Daylight" by Roy Ayers Music Project aka RAMP, whereas in Roni Size 'daylight' i'd say it was more like 50/50)

"Through The Wire" and "Takeover" almost approach the mash-up sensibility where there's this pride is seeing how little new material you can add to the source elements.

In "Through The Wire" the creative act of musicianship (ignoring the lyrics for now) is loving the Chakha Khan song, making the through the fire/through the wire pun, speeding up the vocal and selecting the bits you want to loop. And that's IT--apart from the drums--that's the entire musical content of the track

With the comparision to Puff and Bad Boy, I'm not implying KW doesn't deserve his praise... it just interesting the way it verges on that kind of conceptual art practise where the citation is the act of authorship, the extreme being that "painter" (help me out here somebody) who just appends his signature to reproductions of famous artworks.

It also relates to that curious syndrome familar to anyone who's ever deejayed, or in a slightly paler form, ever made a mixtape, whereby just the selection of a track somehow accrues a tiny portion of the credit properly due solely to the person or persons who made the track. I say "tiny" but the whole cult of DJ in housetechnoclub etc is based around the near-wholesale migration of applause and worship from those who made the tracks to those who re-present the tracks...

And, closer to home, criticism of course has something of that aspect... "reflected glory" isn't quite the right way of describing it because it's more intrinsic somehow, more of a deeper connection... the psychology of it entails somehow feeling like your appreciation of something is so deep and intense and righteous you almost might have been in on the making of the object of admiration yourself. A delusion of course!

(i'm sure this is the psychological process behind plagiarism (of the unwitting sort, obviously, as opposed to lazy-sod hope-no-one'll-notice sort), you become so attached to someone else's phrase, it inhabits you so intimately, that you become convinced you thought of it yourself. The guy in Chocolate Watchband thought Mick Jagger was ripping off him)
Da Missus on "Info-hunk" Gideon Yago

(someone I knew a bit at Oxford is now an "info-hunk" apparently--Peter Bergen, he's wheeled onto CNN and such like as an expert on terrorism I think it is. People ooh and aah over his hair!)
competition update

okay, apologies for the delay, we do have a result--there was a tie in fact, and in those circumstances the publisher gets to be tie-breaker, which they did do, but I'm just waiting for a clarification from them before posting the final results complete with countdown, honorary mentions, special 'lovely but loony' category, etc. Hopefully tomorrow.


now in book-related news, an extraordinary development:

from Turkey, I learn that Joy and I are being prosecuted by the Turkish government.
Well, slight exaggeration but The Sex Revolts--which was supposed to be coming out in translation there years ago, got held up because of a national paper shortage (honest!) causing no books to be published for a couple of years--was just about to finally hit Turkish bookstore shelves this spring when on the very eve of publication, officials arrived at the publishers and seized all copies of it, along with all copies of three other titles considered offensive. They are currently being held until the end of the legal process and will actually--I shit you not--be destroyed if the trial goes against the publisher. The grounds? "It insulted the moral feelings of the Turkish people, that it was generally against the moral standarts of the Turkish people, therefore it violated the Turkish Penal Code and it was obscene".

I was flummoxed for a while after reading this--did they take exception to our snitty appraisal of the oeuvre of Annie Lennox? Disagree with the feminist critique of Brian Eno's solo albums? Upon further reflection it did occur that some of the content could perhaps be construed a little outre--mostly stuff by other people we quote (like phallomaniac Nick Tosches on The Doors'--them again!--"Hello I Love You" as a "cold hard blue-veined cock up the tie-dyed skirt of benighted sensitivity") or the stuff on Peter 'Whitehouse' Sotos and his childmurder fanzine Pure, or the whole chapter on McLaren and The Stranglers--them again!--or even the anecdote about one of L7 pulling a bloody tampon out of her body and throwing it into the Reading Festival crowd. But, but, it's an academic book. S'got footnotes! It's had course adoptions! Students are forced to read it across America! It must be wholesome and edifying and non-salacious then, surely.

Apparently this kind of confiscate-the-books-and-burn-them thing is totally common in Turkey, despite the fact they're just about to apply again for EU membership. Still and all I must admit to getting a wee frisson out of joining the ranks of D.H. Lawrence, Salman Rushdie, et al.

Donations to the Reynolds/Press Defence Fund can be sent... [fill in the rest of the gag yourselves...]

Course it's no laughing matter for the publishers...

Friday, April 09, 2004

I had the weirdest experience the other day--for about 35 minutes I turned into Tom Ewing.

See, most days I start like this: drink a gallon of tea chased down with strong coffee until sufficiently caffeinated to hurl myself like an attack dog on the first draft and tear great chunks of word-flab out of it… And while doing this I flick through the channels, back and forth across BET, MTV2, MTV, VH1, VH1 Classic, and usually it’s quite hard to find anything buzzworthy. The other day, though, I just hit a perfect sequence: Usher (blinding start), J-Kwon "Tipsy", "Slow Jamz", then a slight diversion to the past w/ Led Zep, a live ‘'What Is and What Should Never Be' --BUT that is probably my fave Zepsong and y'all pop-ists don’t believe in linear pop time, right?---then back to the present... Beenie Man "Dude", Yeah Yeah Yeahs "Maps" (love it, do you think those are real tears in the vid?), Switchfoot "Made to Live" (I do find that song touching for its "I Don’t Live Today"/"How Soon Is Now" sentiment especially the lyric "we want more than this world has to offer/we want more than the wars of our fathers"---although as Joy trenchantly pointed out, "Simon, you’re old enough to be that singer's father")... somewhere in all this was Jet and the D12/Eminem tune (he's like the Madness of America, what with the comedy videos and the jaunty-and-indelible sing-song melodies).... and if duty hadn’t called and I’d stuck around I’d probably have heard Britney and "This Love" by Maroon 5 and a few other current goodies... Yes, by the end of it all I was quite dizzeeeee with euphoria almost to the point of lo!-tis-verily-a-golden-age-for-popular-music... indeed I felt so not-my-normal-self that I thought of something i'd read somewhere about how inexplicable euphoria is often just the mania preceding a mental breakdown! Hopefully it's just because spring's here and the sap’s rising.

Mind you subsequent attempts to repeat this 9 to 9-30 pop epiphany have all foundered, it was back to the usual one killertune for every four blahs. Maybe it was just a fluke. I expect I'll be back to my usual curmudgeon self next week. Normal service will resume ASAP etc etc...
Being a bit slow on the uptake, just realised that it's Kanye who "did the music" for 'Takeover', my absolute favorite track on The Blueprint -- (well "all I need" and "song cry" come damn close) but--and this is why i put the scare quotes around 'did the music' -- that track is another 'thru the wire' in so far as it pushes sampling to the edge of noncreativity/plain theft. Cos "Takeover" basically IS "Five to One" by the Doors. Slightly rearranged, but musically there's almost nothing else to the track--apart from a BDP soundbite and an interpolation from ANOTHER classic rock song, "Fame" by David Bowie.

Now "Takeover" is an amazing feat of pop intertextuality but what I've always wondered is whether the games it plays with rock history and the Sixties are in fact completely inadvertant and unintended. See, the original song is about collective emancipation: Jim Morrison's hoarsely hollered "gonna win, yeah/we takin' over", that's youth/the counterculture versus the gerontocracy/Amerikkka. But in Jay-Z's hands this undergoes a brutal privatisation: the Sixites "we" shrivels to the "wego"-mania of thug rap; a Sixties anthem of unity and hope becomes a Noughties battle-cry of disunity and cynicism: all against all, dogg pack eats dogg pack. It's even more of contrast cos "Takeover" is such an incredibly (brilliantly!) spiteful song, just an incomparably vicious takedown of two rival rappers--Nas and the little feller from Mobb Deep--pure lyrical OVERKILL, stomping on their symbolically dismembered credibility. Now you could map alla that across onto the parallel deterioration of the black Sixties--the civil rights movement's and its collective thrust for full citizenhood and racial sovereignty, shrinking down to the gangsta rap era's individualized putsch for prestige. Or at best the drastically contracted collectivity of your clan/crew/dynasty/quasi-mafia ....linguistically paralleled by reduction in hope-scope from 'brother' to 'nigga'....

I'm reasonably confident though none of this was on Jay-Z's mind when he wrote the lyrics. Mind you there's that weird echo of Morrisson's "they got the guns, but we got the numbers" in J's "you need more people"--addressed to the Mobb Deep crew being foolish enough to spar with the mighty Roc-A-Fella. Well it's almost pointed. Jim Morrison's "five to one" and "no one here gets out alive" take on a totally different meaning in the new context! Sort of ROC got the guns AND the numbers. As for Kanye, smart guy and "soulful dude" that he is, he could hardly have been aware of all these resonances because when he made the beat he can't have known what J was going to rap over it.

I wonder if Kanye's "Takeover/Five to One" transposition is what actually inspired the Danger Mouse record? Must admit I had virtually no interest in The Grey Album at first, being as The White Album is my least favorite Beatles record and I'd lost all interest in Jay-Z after The Blueprint (I asked Joe Gross if Blueprint 2 was worth getting and he said "you don't need to give this guy any more of your money" and that remark kind of lived with me!)... also Plunderphonics being 15 years old at this point and me being a mash-up un-fan. Still Marcello's piece on Grey a while back intrigued me enough to blag one off Mr Scollard (cheers Henry, the grime's in the mail-- honest!). And it's good, very clever, and Jay-Z can still wring some good lines out of his One Topic, his regal self-- "I'm a hustler homey, you a customer crony", I like that one. But again--not to get all Ian MacDonald (may he rest in peace) on yo ass-- but just the contrast between The Beatles's lyrical/spiritual scope and Jay-Z's pinched vision.... well, it a bit sad (perhaps that's what Danger Mouse intended...?). All that "wealth" but what an impoverished worldview; all that brilliance, applied to such a shabby, shallow solipsism. For some reason, the voice of Ari Up warbles through the canyons of my mind: "he who seeks only vanity with no thought of humanity shall fade away, fade away". I haven't heard The Black Album but Jay-Z sounds tired of his self--all that "why do I bother, I'm underappreciated, you'll miss me when I retire" bollocks as per "I'm supposed to be number one on everybody list/We'll see what happens when I no longer exist/Fuck this!". At times Danger Mouse's re-presentation of the lyrics seems to deliberately dramatise that, hint at the loneliness of the rap demigod surrounded by yesmen and gold-diggers.

(An aside--has anyone else noticed that weird dismissive gesture some rappers been using in videos, sort of brushing lint off their lapels -- kinda, 'away witchoo, small fry, haters, measly specks in the corner of my vision'. Now, did J start that with "Dirt off Your Shoulder" or was he just tapping into something?)

Yeah but back to Kanye and pushing sampling to limits ... it's noticeable how when people get to raving about his tracks, how it often turns into a list of the things he sampled ? "i love that Luther bit, it's so gorgeous"... it just makes me wonder, yunno?

AH but here's the final twist, despite being a massive, unrepentant, nay defiant, Doors lover, "Five to One" always used to be one of my least favorite Doors songs (after "You Want Meat, Don't Look No Further" the one and only true dud inexplicably included on Weird Scenes Inside the Goldmine), and I prefer "Takeover" about 20 times over. EXCEPT that in fact "Takeover" has actually made me love the original and think it quite an amazing (and of course in retro-spect, poignant) song. So there you go: the weird creativity and inside-out alchemical logic of sampling culture strikes again!!!

Finally, and talking of twist(a)s, I've realised I don't really like Twista--"Slow Jamz" to me flat-lines rather after his entrance... I wish Kanye had kept the whole tune for himself and that singer feller. So you can rhyme very fast indeed? Big deal, ya pudge-face short-arse! And that new Twista single, "Overnight Celebrity" or summat like that, that must be a Kanye production, right? The vocal science bits are reliably good (the black Todd Edwards, in't he, KW?) but the rest, gah -- what tired old sentiments! The video with the chick squirming with almost audible wetness as he buys her money-no-object goody after goody. This "money-as-aphrodisiac" nonsense--retrograde biznis, seen? The other day this clearly quite smart kid emailed to say "don't hate on the strip clubs, Si, it's money + lust, two of the most powerful forces on the planet"--nah, nah, money and lust don't go in the same sentence. And of course these big pimpin rappers are the ones who constantly complain about ho's and gold diggers! Like "she only loved me for my money, boohoohoo"....
Yet she exudes carnality, a desire to please and be pleased radiating from and to the mucous membranes, and the nipples too. And thus she moves blood to the groin, where it awaits deployment in socially useful endeavors—in my case, marital relations.” Dean Christgau joins the slowjamz debate (sorta, kinda, not really) with this, ah, warm appreciation of Janet Jackson as audio-porn nonpareil.
Crunk pensees from promising new blogg Straight Outta Clapton by the mysterious ea$t$ide boy

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Dif Juz hot topic across the blogosphere shockah! Hate to shatter the mystique but one of Dif Juz once mooned Joy at another 4AD group's show. Sighed lovely Deborah the 4AD publicist, "he's always doing that when he gets drunk".

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

NASA REWIND fuller report

before we even got anywhere near the dancefloor it was just like a real ye olde rave--the attention to period detail was unstintingly accurate---they had the
horrible long queue to get in (and we came early, it was twice as bad later so I'm told, huge number turned away), fuck-ups on the door with badly managed will-call system (meaning that one of our party almost didn't get in, but luckily summoned up sufficient will-to-blag to bulldoze through), wallet-gouging coat check prices. overpriced water. Yes yes y'all--that original 92 fleece dem puntas spirit alive 'n' kicking!

But the music? well, the music was fabulous. Mostly. Here's the winners and the sinners from the main room (the second room had some good stuff going on but the sound system was pisspoor)

yes the little feller was one of the special guests as mentioned on the flyer, and he was great: tons of piano-vampy italo-style mershcore, including his own 'feel so real' and bizarre inc 'playing with knives' . 'Go' dunnarf sounds slow nowadays though. he also dropped 'Thousand' the one that goes from 0 bpm to 1000 bpm and down again and then back up again, and seem like it might actually have been lethal back in the day as the beatspasm impacts on all those overdriven metabolisms.

co-founder w/ Scotto of the origina NASA manhattan's first proper rave club and stronghold of breakbeat hardcore; co-organiser of the reunion rave also with Scotto, therefore DB was de facto the sonic host as it were (scotto being the lighting jock, very nice job too) and he did not fail in his role, no sir. I don't think I've ever seen DB play a set that wasn't good--jungle, 2step , you name it--but at old skool he excels, I honestly doubt there's a better old skool deejay out there to be honest. tonight was blinding--mostly classic 91/92 breakbeat w/ a bit of fellow-traveller top tunage like ?'plastic dreams' and 'energy flash' (about as "subtle" as a lighting bolt Matos!), and through a massive sound system, w/ lots of dry ice, unbeatable. The bass'n'breaks on "don't go" by awesome 3!!!! He also dropped "higher state of consciousness" by josh wink, outside the epoch strictly speaking but accurate cos basically in 95 or whenever it came out its breaks'n'acidriff was mos defntly a throwback to early hardcore or even breakbeat house.

Jason Jinx
not even sure if I've heard him before, but very very good indeed tonight--only a slight notch below DB. Pure old skool tilted slightly more to the jungalistic
than DB. I'd actually have liked it if the night had gone a bit further into the darkzone end '92/early '93 but I guess that would have been contra the spirit...

Talking of being contra the spirit.

Frankie Bones
in between DB and Jinx, and he just totally dampened the vibe. You are one sucky dj, if you can't read a crowd Mr Bones. Instead of playing the music he would have surely played at StormRave backinthaday--mad-fer-it stampeding Belgian and German hardcore, things like Ravesignal (cj bolland) 'horsepower' and frank de wulf and mentasmic shit, Bones--as far as I could tell--was selecting out the most tracky anonymous non-anthemic kind of dj tools stuff he could find from that era in order to be able to build a set in the way he would nowadays, the way he has in fact done the last 10 years (since he gave up the drugs basically) i.e. all that horrible hard as nails acid-y type lifeless characterless worst-kind-of-techno-makes-me-ashamed-to-even-be-associated-with-dance-music type stuff they sell down at his store Sonic Groove (now moved to my neighbourhood, 6 years too late and they don't even stock gabba anymore). It was like he was going back to 91 and playing B-sides (and not the frank dewulf kind) and C-sides. So basically Bones at NASA was tracky tedious, vibe-slaying bizness and verily the crowd left the room in droves.

Soul Slinger
Why the fuck did he even bother to turn up, he should have just stayed in Arizona. I shit you not, some bloke comes up to me as soon as Soul Slinger takes the decks and starts rabbiting on in this wry, seen-it-all-before-way, saying "Soul Slinger, he always does this, chills out the vibe, does all this weird stuff" and I'm like nodding politely, like who is this guy but he turns out to be dead right--Soul Slinger just totally flat-lines the vibe, it went from Jason Jinx doing stuff on a level with the most intense passages of History of Our World Part One to, i dunno, mixmaster morris in the chill out room at some festival in Estonia in 97. I was amazed how goodnatured the crowd were about it to be honest. a few of the tracks were kinda interesting, there was one that sounded like strange shearing metal machine music stereopanning noises over a midtempo beat, but this is THE MAIN ROOM THE CROWD ARE UP FOR IT and Soul Slinger just pissed in their collective face with the worst kind of I-am-the-dj-I-am-impose-my-vision arrogance. Totally all over the place tempo wise and not even particularly well mixed. SS's
piece de resistance was a track that starts with this grunkling stylus reaches-end-of-dirt-encrusted-groove bass that went on, beat-less, for about 4 minutes and then this loping dub-tekno beat sets off, then it stops, then restarts -- it dawns on me about 12 minutes in it's like some Chain Reaction type track most probably, circa 1997 or thereabouts, or Pole maybe, anyway WAY outside the 90-93 remit as advertised on the flyer and WHAT WE PAID 25 BUCKS + AUTHENTIC-PERIOD-TOUCH-3-DOLLARS-EXTRA-"BOOKING FEE"- FOR. About 18 minutes in Scotto has to pull out the lazer to keep people interested, firing it at the glitterballs to send off light-rays, very pretty -- BUT HOW ABOUT SOME FOOKIN STOMPIN TUNES MAN??!?!.

That was the final straw and we headed to get our coats. Well we had to go anyway to relieve the babysitter (yes da missus was out on the town) but would rather have left on a high, not disgruntled.


The vibe was great--actually much better than the original NASAs I witnessed
(although they might have been after the club's peak which apparently was quite early in its life). 6 Hubert St--soon to close--was just ram-jammed. and according to DB, roughly 75 percent people who weren't there at the original NASA, they were just young 'uns craving someplace fi rave), did see some real veterans-gone-to-flab though! Oldies and youngies alike were totally fervent, screaming, hands in the air. Interestingly the vibe didn't seem especially drugged to me (in fact hardly anyone even flouted the smoking laws, more's the pity). They were just mad for the music. In fact, to be honest I can hardly think of an actual golden era rave in the UK that had more atmosphere -- a couple maybe, odd little word of mouth parties, more house than hardcore funnily enough-- perhaps cos the ones I frequented were already getting a little bit dark and drug-wrecked--but also I think this is a side effect of a salutary illusion created by old skoolizm--which makes the music seem even better than it was. see back in the day the deejays generally used to devote perhaps 80 percent of their set to tracks that came out that week or at least that month, so inevitably the ratio of filler to killer was quite high. Old skool, of course, weeds out all the run-of-the-mix stuff--that week's white labels in the store--and by playing the absolute creme of an entire epoch just makes it wall-to-wall exhilaration. The lack of longeurs makes it quite unfaithful--not like being back in the day at all.
Da missus on "boyology" and feral children. Be interesting to cross reference the Kidd book with Jon Savage's forthcoming mega-tome on the Prehistory of the Teenager. Peter the Wild Boy, incidentally, is buried in my hometown Berkhamsted--same place the original 'wild boys' who inspired J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan grew up.

Oh and I forgot her other recent piece--on TV organise-your-life-space programmes. "Housekeeping is one of the most tedious occupations known to humankind". Like she'd know?!?!

Sunday, April 04, 2004

NASA REWIND preliminary report

When it was good, it was unbelievably good
When it was bad, it was wretched

(proper report to follow, sooner rather than later)
some unattractive-sounding but apparently genuine dance subgenres i've heard of recently:

Bouncy Scouse House

Clownstep *

* supposedly rather fun, albeit in the ‘drum’n’bass gets good again, honest, part 131’ dept
^^^competition update^^^
overwhelmed, in both senses, by all the title suggestions, thanks to all, some really good ones, and others that are really amusing if totally impractical. results announced, later this week, hopefully