Sunday, September 25, 2022


A couple of goodies here: a very old and very good mate with a new collection of his own writing, a more recent and very good mate with a collection he's conceived and corralled of other's writing. 


Matthew Ingram has a new book out soon that pulls together his recent spate of extended essays exploring the connections between music, spirituality, health and the counterculture, and adds some all-new long pieces on New Age and Prince, plus a profile of Roedelius. Keep your third eye trained on the Woebot blog for news of  The "S" Word's materialisation on this plane. 

Asif Siddiqi has written a bunch of tomes on the space race and matters cosmonautical, but out in just a few days is his first foray into music books: One-Track Mind: Capitalism, Technology, and the Art of the Pop Song. Edited by Asif and published by Routledge it's a collection of 16 essays corralled around a focus on a single song, track, piece, or unit of recorded sound. Artists include Le Grand Kallé and African Jazz, Moby Grape, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, X-Ray Spex, Prince, Neil Young, The Replacements, NWA, Salt-N-Pepa, Hanson, LCD Soundsystem and MIA; contributors include Oliver Wang, Esther Liberman Cuenca, Helen Reddington, Scott Poulson-Bryant, Gina Arnold, Amy Coddington, Susan Schmidt Horning, George Plasketes, Gabrielle Cornish and Asif himself. And I'm in there with a piece on Donna Summer's "I Feel Love". 

Release rationale: 

The song remains the most basic unit of modern pop music. Shaped into being by historical forces—cultural, aesthetic, and technical—the song provides both performer and audience with a world marked off by a short, discrete, and temporally demarcated experience....  Arranged chronologically in order of release of the tracks, and spanning nearly five decades, these essays zigzag across the cultural landscape to present one possible history of pop music. There are detours through psychedelic rock, Afro-pop, Latin pop, glam rock, heavy metal, punk, postpunk, adult contemporary rock, techno, hip-hop, and electro-pop here. More than just deep histories of individual songs, these essays all expand far beyond the track itself to offer exciting and often counterintuitive histories of transformative moments in popular culture. Collectively, they show the undiminished power of the individual pop song, both as distillations of important flashpoints and, in their afterlives, as ghostly echoes that persist undiminished but transform for succeeding generations.... 

Monday, September 19, 2022

The Man with the Child in his Eyes


One of the things I most enjoyed writing this year was an essay on Yoshitomo Nara and his work's relationship to music. It's for the Pace Gallery publication Piancoteca, which is out now

Release rationale: 

With extensive photography and special foldouts, this book recreates the experience of Yoshitomo Nara’s Pinacoteca 2021, a multi-room installation exhibited at Pace in London.

Set among Nara’s recent sculpture and paintings, his small house-like structure, reworked from an earlier project titled London Mayfair House, evokes curiosity and contemplation. The artist’s signature wide-eyed figures adorn Pinacoteca 2021 both inside and out, painted directly on the structure and on wood and canvas hung by Nara himself, as well as drawn on paper, used envelopes, and cardboard boxes.

An essay by music writer Simon Reynolds explores the relationship of music to Nara’s artistic production, and an essay by curator Stephanie Rosenthal discusses the role of built environments in the artist’s oeuvre. Also presented is an illustrated checklist of the artist’s rooms and house projects made between 2004 and 2021.

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Rock and the Royals

I had fun writing this Pitchfork piece about Rock and the Royals - it's a kind of shadow history of "postcolonial melancholia" and entropy in the U.K., looking at the way British pop represented a new kind of national identity and pushed that image internationally almost in rivalry with the Queen and her clan. The Blitz Generation, Thatcher, Blair, and Brexit appear as well as the obvious (and less obvious) references - whimsical, surreal, iconoclastic - to Elizabeth and the Royal Fam that pop up in song across six decades of U.K. history. 

In the piece, I allude to the notion of the Sixties youthquake - an eruption of newness and nowness sweeping the old order away. How irrelevant the Royals were to all that irreverence.  But then I remembered a funny thing. One of the main places that you could read about all the fab trends  - Mary Quant, Carnaby Street, the mods - was a magazine called Queen. They published the clued-up commentary of the very young Nik Cohn - he did a column called "Pop Scene".  

The publication had started way back in 1861 as the society magazine The Queen.  Under new ownership from 1957, the definite article was dropped and Queen started focusing on the younger set. 


What really surprised me was that Queen publisher Jocelyn Stevens was one of the investors who financed the pirate radio station Radio Caroline.  Indeed initially, the station operated out of the Queen office (although the actual broadcast signal issued from a ship named Caroline outside of British territorial waters). Stevens agitated against the idea, promoted by an official report, that there was no demand in the U.K. for commercial radio and was keen to prove the government wrong. 

Towards the end of the 1960s, Queen was sold to Harper's Bizarre and merged as Harper's & Queen.  Stevens carried on being involved in the newspaper business and eventually was given a knighthood by the actual Queen in 1996. 

Monday, September 05, 2022

A Different Kind of Tension: The Sound and the Look of New Wave

Torn Apart is an excellent exhibition of punk / New Wave / post-punk graphics - record covers, flyers, posters, advertisement, badges, zines, T-shirt, photographs - drawn from the collection of Andrew Krivine and curated by Michael Worthington. Torn Apart is now in its final days at the Pacific Design Center Gallery in Los Angeles and on the last night, Thursday this week, I'm giving a talk entitled A Different Kind of Tension: The Sound and the Look of New Wave.  It's followed by a closing reception.

Date: Thursday 8th September

Time: 6pm

Admission: free

Address: PDC Design Gallery, 8687 Melrose Ave, West Hollywood, CA 90069

Directions and parking

An audio appetizer - a New Wave playlist 

(In the absence of an AV projector, I was forced to perform the above album cover). 

If you can't make the talk, then do pop by earlier in the week to look at the artwork - so many things I'd never seen before - and pick up the nifty free zine (see image at top of this blogpost) on offer in the foyer.. 

A tiny taste of what you missed...