The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'pop'
After a year of bands with animal names and hipsters with rustic-looking beards, the pastoral/folk thing is well and truly mainstream, now that Goldfrapp's next album, The Seventh Tree, is going in a pastoral direction. That's right, the EMI-signed chanteuse who is known for moving with the winds of change, first having abandoned the post-Morricone dinner-party trip-hop of Felt Mountain for the then fashionable electroclash and glam revivalism, seems to have jumped on the neo-folk bandwagon, albeit with a touch of 1970s Britishness:
Nevertheless, The Seventh Tree is not from an entirely different planet to Supernature. It's also inspired by music from the 1970s, but the softer end of psychedelic pop rather than glam-rock. The band craved a sound that was woozy and hypnotic, and after the album title came to Goldfrapp in a dream, everything else followed suit.
But, despite the American references, the record still sounds indelibly English. Gregory puts it down to their music not having its roots in blues, but I fancy it's more than that. It's the deadpan-meets-Carry On humour that crackles through the album. It's the way in which Edward Lear's nonsense poetry finds a new home in the song Little Bird, which features a crow with mouths for eyes. It's in the Moogs, Mellotrons and Optigans that bring to mind the terribly English electronica of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, and when Syd Barrett haunts the album's more psychedelic corners.
There's also a sense of cracked innocence threading itself through these sounds. In the process of songwriting, Gregory and Goldfrapp remembered music from their childhoods - spooky soundtracks to children's programmes, strange sci-fi shows and public information clips. "It was that era that everyone thought the world was going to blow up," Goldfrapp says. "Either the bomb would get you or the rabies."Which sounds like it could potentially be interesting. Or it could be a mainstreamed take on the kind of retro folk weirdness that independent artists have been exploring over the past few years. Though, to be fair, Goldfrapp's niche is not to explore the fringes, but to aggregate what's on them for a more mass-market audience. Of course, as it's a mass-market product on a major label, there is every chance that all that lovely gentle psychedelic-folk subtlety mentioned in the article will be crushed out of the finished product by the standard commercially-mandated brutal overcompression.
(I wonder whether The Seventh Tree is a take-off of the name of freak-folk outfit Voice Of The Seven Woods, a favourite of weird-music curator Andy Votel.)
BBC Radio 4 has a three-part programme titled The Art of Pop, about the influence of the British art school tradition on pop music, and presented by famous St. Martin's graduate Jarvis Cocker. The first part (from Tuesday) may be listened to here.
After 28 years, seminal British chart-pop magazine Smash Hits is closing down, its circulation (and, indeed, relevance) being hit hard by the fact that today's tweens have MySpace and mobile phones and such.
BBC News 24 had an interview with Andy McCluskey of OMD, whom they brought in to their Liverpool studio to ask him about his thoughts on the passing of the magazine which covered his band. He made some interesting points: commenting about the fact that the shiny pop bands of his day differed from today's manufactured pop in that the former wrote their own songs (and the fact that he had manufactured the pop group Atomic Kitten wasn't lost on the presenters), and commenting that, in terms of cultural phenomena, NME now is equivalent to Smash Hits in the 1980s. (I'm not sure about that; I suspect that Smash Hits may have had better writing and been less whorishly boosterist.)
While the Smash Hits magazine closes, XRRF points out that the Smash Hits brand will live on, as owners EMAP do their duties to the shareholders and milk it for all it's worth. We can probably expect a Smash Hits ringtone download service or something.
(Your Humble Narrator vaguely remembers reading a similar-sounding Smash Hits magazine in Australia as a tyke; I don't know whether this was the British publication imported, an Australian franchise produced under license, or a slightly localised edition of the original, with all the British acts that never made it down replaced with Icehouses and Australian Crawls. I think it was one of the two latter ones; I seem to recall there having been a robust debate in the Black Type column about Icehouse frontman Iva Davies' choice of underwear or something similar.)
Freaky Trigger has one of the best music-book concepts I've seen:
The book was being edited by SR and was called Biology, named after the famous Old Skool Rave party organisation. It was a series of essays exploring the interface between biology and music taste - race, gender, endo/ectomorphs and dancing, the extent to which attractiveness defines taste (music scenes and the idea of "beautiful people"), notions of blindness in blues and rock, plus more general explorations of the theories of evolutionary biology as they might apply to pop! WOW, I thought, this sounds like it's going to be a great read! I was about to click and read more but then I woke up.Unfortunately, it only exists in a dream.
Some guy named Sean O'Hagan (I wonder if he's the Sean O'Hagan from the High Llamas, or a different one) has written a timeline of pop music since the birth of rock'n'roll, or, at least, the rise of Elvis Presley. The timeline includes key points such as Phil Spector's Wall of Sound, Beatlemania, Altamont, punk, MTV, Live Aid, Madchester, the Britpop wars and Napster, key releases by artists such as The Stooges, David Bowie, Kraftwerk, The Smiths, New Order, NWA, Nirvana and the Spice Girls, and the geneses of entire genres such as heavy metal, soul, dub and hip-hop. It ends in October of 2003, with the triumph of rap and booty music.
Via Graham, an interesting recent interview with Tim and Lætitia of Stereolab:
Unsurprisingly, Sadier has found lyrical inspiration in the Iraq war. I tell her that Jacques Chirac is seen as some kind of peacenik in the UK and she is horrified. "Bulls**t, he's not a pacifist. It's good to be non-aligned with the US, and Europe is a great project, but the guy makes weapons! He's ready for war. Now hes saying lets put UN control in Iraq and share the cake. I dont think he cares for the Iraqis."
He looks genuinely scared by the phenomenal power of pop music. "There is an evil twin version of any song you write. You must remember that youre only a step away from being Bonnie Tyler at any moment."
New Spectator Sport, a rant from Warren Ellis about the decline of the music industry:
TV shows specifically designed to manufacture the absolute least offensive pop product through game-show structure and the application of telephone democracy. If you're dumb enough to be able to sit through those shows without the front of your head filling with tumours, you get to vote for the performer who is retarded enough to be a comfort to you. Loathesome as they were, even the Spice Girls delivered with some character. I remember novelist and critic Nik Cohn saying he never would have been so hard on Bob Dylan if he'd known Bruce Springsteen was around the corner. People railed about the Spice Girls being a manufactured band, but who knew there was a TV-powered pod-person hothouse around the corner?
The American music industry, from my perception here in Britain, seems to have sunk into a bizarre obsession with paedophilia. Britney Spears has gone from schoolgirl gear to a deeply strange hentai look, little-girl head stuck above great shiny plastic boobs, singing in a Minnie Mouse voice. No wonder she was being stalked by a shifty-looking middle-aged Japanese bloke. He probably had a suitcase full of tentacles to use on her.
Mainstream pop music is almost always bad., it's a given. But, God, can you remember a time when the most popular acts were this empty? It's like that awful vacuum before punk, when people were buying Dean Friedman records just to have something to buy, and poster companies were printing off six-foot long images of Nana Mouskouri and Demis Roussos just to have something to sell.
The latest aspiring pop starlet in London is Osama bin Laden's niece. Waffa bin Laden, 26, has been described as a "Natalie Imbruglia lookalike" and has been working with producer Nellee Hooper. She is a US lawyer by training. (via Rocknerd)
Simon Cowell, the Pop Idol judged renowned for his put-downs said: 'There's only one worse surname you could have to launch a pop career - and that's Hitler.'
Actually, didn't one of Mussolini's granddaughters have some sort of celebrity career a while ago?
For the love of Ghod, no: Russian Mafia-manufactured pedo-porn-pop duo Tatu cover The Smiths' How Soon is Now (aka "the song with the same guitar line as Soho's Hippychick"). And all signs are that it can't possibly be anything other than utter pants.
Tatu's Julia Volkova told NME that she had never heard of The Smiths before being given the song to sing: "[The producers] just put it on for us and we decided it was worth a try. Frankly speaking, we hadn't known this group."
So we know it's going to be dire; the question is: will it be dire enough to appreciate in an ironic sense (like Pee Wee Ferris' commercial-dance version of Blue Monday), or will it just be shite?
A piece from the Grauniad kvetching about the state of pop music in 2002, for the most part dismal:
While R&B forged ahead, dance music appeared to turn up its toes. No wonder: the dreary trance singles that struggled to make the top 30 were indistinguishable from those that topped the charts five years ago. There are people who dress up in doublet and hose and play the lute who have a more progressive musical attitude than your average superstar DJ, who these days looks less like a vibrant youth culture figurehead than a Soviet propagandist's notion of a capitalist oppressor: fat, moneyed - the only thing missing is the top hat and monocle.
Also via Metafilter, a list of the Top 40 conservative pop songs, arguing that rock'n'roll isn't entirely a Communist plot to corrupt our youth. The list includes the obvious sorts of songs with religious, patriotic and "pro-life" themes, as well as songs scorning leftists, feminists, pacifists, activists and other troublemakers and reestablishing the Natural Order Of How Things Should Be, Goddamnit (James Brown's "It's a Man's Man's Man's World" has pride of place at number 4), as well as songs about the evils of taxation.
A big list of fallen popstars of the 1980s, from Steve Strange and the recently institutionalised Adam Ant to the likes of Rick Astley and Jason Donovan, along with whatever happened to them. (Thankfully, 80s pop stars don't seem to share the 1970s-glam-rocker tendency to molest children.)
Knowing which side your bread is buttered on: Ever wonder who's behind the tidal wave of disposable boy/girl band pop? former pop artists, such as OMD's Andy McCluskey (once signed to Factory and singing about nuclear war, now writing for bubblegum trio Atomic Kitten), as well as retired pop starlets such as Cathy Dennis and Alison "Betty Boo" Clarkson, both now accomplished commercial songwriters.
OMD may have begun their career on the achingly credible Factory label - home to gloomy bastions of high seriousness Joy Division - but they quickly learnt lessons about music- industry survival that ultimately led McCluskey to form Atomic Kitten: "After our 1983 album Dazzleships failed commercially, it dawned on us that we'd spent five years experimenting and selling records. All of a sudden, we realised that we'd better make sure we do something that actually sells records. That started informing our decision-making.
"Yeah, but I'd do it differently. I'd have a boyband. It's a piece of piss, a boyband. Girls have to survive on instinct, wit, talent and quality of song... You can write the most contrived drivel for a boyband and sell millions because teenage girls are in love with the members. They say love is blind," [McCluskey] chuckles. "Well, I'll tell you something, it's also deaf."
And don't forget Max Martin, who may sound like he would be a New York R&B producer, but is actually a former Swedish heavy-metal guitarist.
I suppose that's what happens when you lose your youthful passion for making a statement, and the zeitgeist passes you by. You either (a) play 15-year-old songs in small revival shows to please an ever-shrinking base of aging fans, (b) take Prozac and write bland, clichéd lyrics for your own band (like certain AOL Time Warner franchises we could name), or (c) cross over to the dark side, write bland, clichéd lyrics for pretty boys/girls to dance and lip-synch to and watch the cash come flooding in.