The Null Device
James Packer, heir to one half of the Australian media oligopoly, is reportedly in with the Church of Scientology; apparently, his close friend Tom Cruise suggested that perhaps ridding himself of the ghosts of dead aliens may help with his business and marital woes or something, and he took the advice and jetted off to the Church's Celebrity Center. (And before you criticise the Scienos, ask yourself: can your religion claim to have a Celebrity Center? Didn't think so.)
(So the Murdochs are in bed with the Chinese government (and indeed any other authoritarian force they can establish a relationship of mutual respect with), and the other side are going to bed with the Clams. And that is the state of play for the vast majority of the Australian media today.)
It's heartening to know that Diana is no longer at #1 at the BBC's Great Britons poll. At the same time, it is somewhat dispiriting that the former clotheshorse and magazine-cover celebrity is ahead of the likes of Darwin, Shakespeare and Newton. There's still time to vote, though; well, a few hours perhaps.
A brief review of a few of the CDs I picked up in the UK (well, the ones I've had a chance to at least partially digest), in alphabetical order by artist:
- Ballboy, Club Anthems 2001: File alongside The Smiths and Belle & Sebastian. The spoken-word track about space travel isn't bad, and Sex Is Boring, which bags house music and club culture, also has its charms.
- Below The Sea, the loss of our winter: Credible guitar-driven post-rock instrumentals from France. tropic of cancer is probably my favourite track so far. Unfortunately, my copy seems to have a defect which results in a fluttering noise when played; though one could argue that it's not as noticeable as it would be in other musical genres.
- Bis, The End Starts Today: some remixes from their most recent album, along with their speech synth-driven cover of Love Will Tear Us Apart, which is probably the highlight.
- Clan of Xymox, Medusa: A combination of reverb-heavy 80s studio rock, minor-key synthpop and goth-club floor-filler material, with the distinct touch of 4AD about it; a sort of Frankie Goes Eurogoth. Check out the heavily-processed guitars, rapid-fire drum machine patterns and po-faced Brendan Perry-meets-Andrew Eldritch vocals, as imitated by every other dodgy Cleopatra band from the US Midwest since, though this is a notch above all that.
- Colourbox, Colourbox: Another 80s 4AD outfit, this time doing electronic dub instrumentals. They went on to form M/A/R/R/S, you know.
- Cure, The, Collectors Curiosities Vol. 2: With Carnage Visors and numerous B-sides and no reference to the band on the disc itself (presumably to evade copyright audits at the pressing plant), this is another one of those London market specials. The "bonus tracks performed live in a recording studio 1984" certainly adds to the air of suspiciousness of the entire package.
- Curve, Come Clean: Curve-by-numbers; crunchy overcompressed beats and overdriven guitar whines and Toni's distorted vocals and textures of analogue synth warbles and bleeps. I suppose that's the nice thing about Curve records; you know what to expect, and you're not disappointed. All much of a muchness, though Beyond Reach is nice.
- High Llamas, Buzzle Bee and Snowbug; somewhat twee, post-Beach Boys/Bacharach melodies. Sort of like Stereolab without the difficult bits. (Indeed, Tim and Lætitia appear on the latter disc, as does producer John McEntire.) Good background music, though not the most compelling records ever made.
- James, Laid: I picked this up for the title track, and because it was cheap. For some reason, they sound more Australian than British to me; not sure why. Perhaps they sound a bit like the Go-Betweens or the Triffids or someone, or otherwise give a sense of wide spaces and harsh sunlight in their music?
- Miss Kittin & The Hacker, The First Album: minor-key neo-80s synthpop with disjointed, emotionless Euro-accented vocals, and KOMPRESSOR-style songwriting.
- Primal Scream, Autobahn 66 promotional single: just the 3-minute version of the track. Blah.
- Spearmint, Songs for the Colour Yellow: their early works, with 1960s power-pop touches; not as baggy as A Week Away or as bowlie as A Different Lifetime. Interesting to hear that they recycled the melody of the title track for one of their subsequent songs.
- Trembling Blue Stars, She Just Couldn't Stay CD single: No, he's still not over her. Though isn't that the whole point of Trembling Blue Stars? Compelling, but in the way car accidents are.
- Will To Power, Journey Home: early-90s LA studio outfit, best known for their cover of 10CC's I'm Not In Love; I remembered them for Koyaanisqatsi, their spoken-word rant over a slickly-produced electronic background, going on about corporate domination, animal research and damage to the environment from a gun-toting anarchist perspective (think early Moby meets an arts-degreed Eric S. Raymond). That and the Nietzchean sleeve notes add a touch of eccentricity to the rather overproduced, vaguely Madonna/Lewis Martinee-esque bulk of this CD. I wonder what Bob Rosenberg ended up doing after this; producing commercial dance music, or retreating to a cabin in Montana? Either sounds equally likely.
Anyway, I picked this up for something like 50p at the cheapo branch of Music & Video Exchange, and am quite pleased with that. If I end up doing DJ sets, you can probably expect Koyaanisqatsi to end up in them, next to other curiosities.