Monday, December 29, 2008

2008, BY GENRE

A couple of years ago Anthony Easton embarked on this project--all trace of which seems to have disappeared from the web--where he asked people to tabulate what they'd listened to most frequently that year (as opposed to their official critic-minded round-up of what they believed were the Best Records) and therefore including not just stuff recorded in 2006 and things reissued that year, but also all the music from the past you either discovered or rediscovered, dug out and played to death. Naturally the Top 10 I came up with (the Doors featured rather prominently I recall) involved a fair amount of guesstimation and groping about in the dim attic of recent memory. Anthony was asking for specific records and songs, which I doubt I'd be able to manage for this year, so much of which is blotted out by the election. But I do have a pretty decent idea of how it would break down by genre (although some of these "genres" turn out to be disguised specifics, since they are actually genres-of-one). So:

Top 10 Most Listened Genres

1. Electronic / musique concrete composition(circa 1950 to circa 1980) *

2/ "African-American" **

3/ Donk ***

4/ Children's TV ****

5/ South London gangsta *****

6/ Ardkore *******

7/ Funky *******

8/ Pubfunky ********

9/ Pubadelic *********

10/ "Ecstatic Experimental" **********

This genre would win handsomely even if it left out the subgenre "Radiophonia"; including the latter makes for a landslide. Adding "text-sound", which includes a bunch of things, but mostly = Lily Greenham's Lingual Music, makes for an

Vampire Weekend innit.

A genre of one, except not a single artist so much as a single single. i.e. "Put A Donk On It" the video phenomenon. Everything else in the genre, and in the Blackout boys's output, seems pretty pitiful, with the possible exception of "Ravers Binge". (What I really want to know though is: what's that gorgeous fromage-trance playing at the start of the "Put A Donk" video, before the song starts, when the tattooed lad opens the front door in his shorts and signs for a delivery (presumably his brand-spanking-new Donk Generator)?

The three Backyardigans CD: rarely by choice, but always with immense pleasure.

Giggs innit.

Blame it all on the old skool blogs, although I've downloaded approximately 30 times more than I've had time to unzip.

Only to work out what people see in it. Not with a great deal of success, I must admit.

"Pubfunk" = not really an accurate or fair term for this genre-of-one: Ian Dury & the Blockheads. Mostly to Juke Box Dury the A-sides/B-sides compilation, getting stuck first on ace B's like "Razzle in My Pocket" and "There Ain't Half Been Some Clever Bastards", then fixated totally on "Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick" and "Reasons to Be Cheerful (Part 3)". The Blockheads must surely have been the most accomplished group of musicians playing in the U.K. during the late Seventies--so tight, so bright, discofunking on a par with Earth Wind & Fire or the Off The Wall squad. Everybody knows the superlativeness of "Rhythm" (Norman Watt-Roy's bassline! Davy Payne's Kirk-esque twin sax solo!)but "Reasons" is undervalued: indeed at the time I didn't care for it much, I went along with the "lazy list song" verdict. Now though… well, it's a really good list, was probably harder to write than it looked; Dury's delivery is amazing, it really does have a proto-rap quality, not just pipping to the post but beating at their own game the Sugarhill Gang... and ooh the groove, the playing (dazzle, in the pocket). Strange to listen with "grown up" ears--things I'd not have noticed, had any feeling for, or most likely have found an excrescence, an affront to postpunk ears, are now deliriously enjoyable: John Turnbull's guitar solo!

"Pubadelia"--not quite the right term here, either, but a stab in the right direction for the sound Elvis Costello and the Attractions developed over their three best albums (with Get Happy! a backwards step in between), namely Armed Forces, Trust, and the most -edelic deserving of the three, Imperial Bedroom; which trio of masterworks I revisisted--after years and years of non-interest--along with everything else by him I've still got, in an odd little jag of compulsive listening a few months ago. The -edelic refers not to trippiness but to a steadily mounting delirium of over-arrangement culminating in Imperial Bedroom (produced of course by Beatles engineer Geoff Emerick). I was trying to work out what was the appeal of this over-worked sound and its correlate, Costello's signature lyric-style of tripwire tropes, burnished puns, elaborately wrought ironies. There's a curious effect, I think, of passing right through Barthes's plaisir (although Roland's near-synonym "studium" is actually more evocative here, conveying Costello's studiousness, his learned immersion in rock'n'pop history, all that diligent toil in the word-smithy)... through plaisir and into jouissance. The labored word-play and labyrinthine intertextual allusions, which are mirrored throughout by Steve Nieve's meretriciously tricked-out keyboards, transcend themselves through excess, achieving a sterile splendour. If Imperial is the peak of this upward spiral of onanistic oramentalism, "Beyond Belief" is the zenith's zenith, where the aspiration to some kind of ultimate songwriterly profundity/subtlety, the quest to bring into pop some ultimate un-pop reality, voids itself out in the sheer sport and frolic of language. Costello's voice and melody chime and ripple as he finally becomes purely musical, another instrument. I've no real idea what the song is about; never have, never will, don't care.

Gang Gang Dance and High Places.