Thursday, November 26, 2020
Sunday, November 22, 2020
When Mates Make Books Xmas stocking-filler round-up: 1984 x 2; transnational club culture; hauntology; postcapitalist desire; Hawkwind and the Underground.
The only proper (living - there's one RIP) mate in this round-up - the rest are more like internet acquaintances - Michaelangelo Matos has a new book: a long-fermented and richly researched appreciation of the year 1984. Like similar year-focused tomes by other, older writers (Jon Savage's 1966, David Hepworth's 1971), pop's annus mirabilis just so happens to coincide with the author's youthful peak point in terms of excitement-capacity and impressionability / ability to be impressed. (So if I was to do one, the title would be 1979, or 1981 - when I was sixteen and eighteen respectively... but then again I was also blessed improbably with a second adolescence at the cusp of late twenties into early thirties, a proper one in which I actually went out and had wild fun rather than stayed in reading - so 1992, or 1993, or 1994, would also be strong contenders). But back to Matos's wonder year.. well of course, from the Brit perspective, '84 was the year the bloom went right off New Pop, although we did have the whole Frankie commotion... but it was definitely slipping into the Bad Music Era... but from a young American's perspective it must have indeed been a supremely exciting year, especially on the MTV and mainstream radio front, with the Brit invaders still coming through but starting to get out-done by Americans who'd cottoned on to the power of video (Prince, ZZ Top, Springsteen, Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, M. Jackson et al). But as Matos amply demonstrates, there was a whole lot more going on. Can't Slow Down: How 1984 Became Pop's Blockbuster Year is out in a couple of weeks.
Everybody knows the hits of 1984 - pop music's greatest year. From "Thriller" to "Purple Rain," "Hello" to "Against All Odds," "What's Love Got to Do with It" to "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go," these iconic songs continue to dominate advertising, karaoke nights, and the soundtracks for film classics (Boogie Nights) and TV hits (Stranger Things). But the story of that thrilling, turbulent time, an era when Top 40 radio was both the leading edge of popular culture and a moral battleground, has never been told with the full detail it deserves - until now. Can't Slow Down is the definitive portrait of the exploding world of mid-eighties pop and the time it defined, from Cold War anxiety to the home-computer revolution. Big acts like Michael Jackson (Thriller), Prince (Purple Rain), Madonna (Like a Virgin), Bruce Springsteen (Born in the U.S.A.), and George Michael (Wham!'s Make It Big) rubbed shoulders with the stars of the fermenting scenes of hip-hop, indie rock, and club music. Rigorously researched, mapping the entire terrain of American pop, with crucial side trips to the UK and Jamaica, from the biz to the stars to the upstarts and beyond, Can't Slow Down is a vivid journey to the very moment when pop was remaking itself, and the culture at large - one hit at a time.
update 11/24/2020 - I forgot, there's another book about 1984 as pop wonderyear coming out, at almost the same time bizarrely - but this one is from the UK perspective: David Elliott's 1984: British Pop's Dividing Year. Read Elliott's piece on it at The Quietus. Information about the book and its scope here.
Ten Cities tells a transnational tale of club culture across six decades, 1960-2020, focusing on five European and five African cities: Lagos, Luanda, Berlin, Bristol, Johannesburg, Kiyv, Nairobi, Lisbon, Naples, and Cairo. Edited by Johannes Hossfeld, Joyce Nyairo and Florian Sievers and published by the art book imprint Spector Books, it weaves together contributions from 20 writers and 19 photographers from those ten cities.
In Africa as well as in Europe, club cultures create free spaces that can function as nocturnal laboratories for societies. Nightclubs are hubs in a complex global network – and at the same time they are manifestations of very local and specific practices. This book tells the story of club music and club cultures from 1960 to the present in ten cities in Africa and Europe: Nairobi, Cairo, Kyiv, Johannesburg, Berlin,Naples, Luanda, Lagos, Bristol, Lisbon. It expands the focus beyond the usual North Atlantic narrative of centres and periphery and instead aims at a coeval narrative. In 21 essays, playlists and photo sequences the book draws intimate portraits of these cities’ subcultures, their transnational flows, as well as the societies from which they evolve and which they, in turn, influence. An urban and political rhythm-analysis from the viewpoint of sound and night.
More information about Ten Cities here at the Spector Books website.
An earlier blogpost of mine about Ten Cities and "xenotronica".
Thursday, November 12, 2020
Excited to announce the publication of two books in translation!
On November 16th, Audimat publish Le choc du glam, the French version of Shock and Awe: Glam Rock and Its Legacy, translated by Hervé Loncan. More information here.
On November 19th, Minimum Fax publish Futuromania, a collection of my writing about electronic music (dance + non-dance), translated into Italian by Michele Piumini. More information here.
Tuesday, November 10, 2020
Election Eve anxiety was momentarily alleviated last Monday when I got to moderate a really fun discussion about rave culture's visual aesthetics and its ongoing legacy in graphics, fashion, music and pop culture. Involving Jeremy Deller, Martine Rose, and Trevor Jackson, the conversation - convened by The Design Museum as part of its current exhibition Electronic: From Kraftwerk to the Chemical Brothers - goes out live on Thursday, November 12th, at 7pm UK time. Information about tickets can be found here.
from The Design Museum's announcement for The Spirit of Rave:
Rave was a defining counterculture movement in Britain. Responding to the social, political and economic conditions of the 1980s and 90s, it joyfully disregarded design convention from cut-n-paste techniques to neon colours and brash imagery.
Please note that this event includes strong language and references to drug culture.
Sunday, November 08, 2020
Tried to put down some thoughts on the events of the past week, but I don't really have thoughts, just feelings. Relief, joy, hope, elevation... a sensation of lightness, the lifting off and away of an immense heavy shadow. All the things everyone else is feeling. Well, except for the people who are feeling the opposite - and who are still with us, still alarmingly numerous, still implacably lost. But let's not dwell on that right now... let's stay in the glow as long as we can.
What songs are large enough for this moment? This is no time for subtle or emotionally complex or artfully ambivalent; only simple, direct, uplifting will do.