Tuesday, 3 June 2014

"He believes in a beauty": music and life, mid-2014

'From the Tyne to where to the Thames does flow
My English brothers and sisters know
It's not a case of where you go
It's race and creed and colour.
From the police cell to the deep dark grave
On the underground's just a stop away
Don't be too black, don't be too gay
Just get a little duller.'
1: AZTEC CAMERA - 'Good Morning Britain' (1990)

'Birds' is serene, celestially jaded 1993. It can't get more of the minute in post-2014 European Election Britain than 'Good Morning Britain'.

In other ways, 1990 seems utterly unreachable: 'World in Motion'. 'Killer'. Sentiments: 
'A uniform's a traitor 
Love's international'
2014: pointing fingers to exercise influential power.

2: Lord KITCHENER - 'London is the Place for Me' (1950)

The UK media peddled many facile myths about the 2014 local and European Elections; one was that London voted drastically differently to the rest of the country: London as open, multicultural, defiantly anti-UKIP. Yet they did better in outer London suburbs than in the northern cities. No council seats in Manchester, Sunderland, Durham, York, Newcastle, Liverpool. Take that, 'earthquake' inciters! But, Sheffield: be ashamed o' yessels!

Lord Kitchener isn't in the business of smugness or self-congratulation. This is music here that evokes all the best in humanity, not portentous predictions involving foam.

3: Damon ALBARN - 'Lonely Press Play' (2014)

You get the sense that Albarn would not be oblivious to the sentiment in 'London is the Place for Me'. Is there anyone else in blighty who writes better melancholy slow ones?

4: Karen GWYER - 'Lay Claim to My Grub' (2014)

This music envelops, branches out. It advances on the Wolfgang Voigt model. Not all music has to have these lexemes... 

'I close my eyes and dream about changing'
5: Sally SELTMANN - 'Dream about Changing' (2010)

Can we craft a world in which this is the popular music? Avalanches meet Feist, in several senses.

6: COMMON - 'Nag Champa (Afrodisiac for the World)' (2000)

More 2014 music of the ilk of Nas. OutKast. Common. Please!

'My verse depth, is that of a baby's first step 
Or the old lady who died and the nurse wept'
7: LEGENDARY PINK DOTS - 'Pendulum' (2013)
'Your honesty is a saber tongued assassin in a loud checkered suit. 
A tap dancing killer on a grave, ranting about truth. Although, the funeral party left long ago. There is no place for small (mouses?) in your sterilized universe. 
It's black, white, and very red, where the blood of liars runs in roman ditches. Lined up, hands tied, no bullet is wasted when it comes to the truth. 
It's close range. A 1000 millimenter stare to the hole in your skull. No blindfold.

No u-turns. Truth runs in straight lines. There is no view from the window. 
But it's your truth… it's drawn with a stick in the sand, as the desert wind rages, and covers your hands. Blameless once more, in the end, just a man... Just a man like me.'
This formed the opening to one of the most imposing, beguiling live performances I've ever seen, 2014 or any year. Star and Shadow Cinema (where else?), Friday 11th April 2014. There's a recording of a gig with basically the same set here

8: HALF MAN HALF BISCUIT - 'Even Men With Steel Hearts' (1995)

Our witty, humane music of the 1990s, that doesn't elicit broadsheet panegyrics and seasons on BBC 6 Music. Nigel Blackwell uses words like 'augurs' and his language has a range of communication that is peerless.
'Even men with steel hearts love to see a dog on the pitch 
Even men with steel hearts love to see a dog on the pitch 
It generates a warmth around the ground that augurs well for mankind 
And that’s what life’s about'

'As the replay comes on, the commentator draws our attention to a retriever standing inside the goal, next to the post. Fortunately for the referee, it was human, rather than animal, intervention which prevented the goal. Something interesting then happens as the commentator asks ‘Do you like me sometimes wonder why on earth people sometimes bring a fine-looking dog like that to a ground like this?’ and claims that ‘the fans just want him away’. The fans, actually, are palpably overjoyed about the dog, despite the fact that the home team have just been denied a goal. HMHB were absolutely right: if there is one way of finally settling the epistemological dispute about who are ‘real’ football fans and who are not, just put a dog on the pitch.' (Joe Kennedy, Straight off the Beach, 19/05/2014)
9: Bj√∂rk - 'Venus to a Boy' (1993)

To pub quizzes at the Carriage by Jesmond metro station.

To songs, heard by chance, that won't let go.

To opening lines that aren't typical opening lines, that don't apologize for being opening lines:
'his wicked sense of humour 
suggests exciting sex'
10: DISCLOSURE (ft. Eliza DOOLITTLE) - 'You and Me (Flume Remix)' (2013)
'So please don’t let go, cause you know exactly what we found 
So please don’t let go my darling 
You keep me locked up underground 
It’s gonna be you and me 
It’s gonna be everything you’ve ever dreamed 
It’s gonna be who and me 
It’s gonna be everything and everything, we’re meant to be'

Rites of spring. Rites of passage. 1906. 2014.

I wasn't alone in finding Northern Stage's version of Wedekind's controversial old German play a gripping experience. Impossibly affecting usage of this remix within its story...

Don't those lyrics almost evoke Al Bowlly? Thoughts of Pennies from Heaven following the sad passing of Bob Hoskins. The unobtainable dreams that popular song, banal-sublime, can give wing to. Like moonlight on a highway, this remix transforms 'You and Me' into something that transports. Most purposeful 'strings' on a pop song since 'ill Manors'.

There's an opening narration to the play - from unseen speaker over the PA - which evokes the mottled art gallery preciousness we all know so well. Vecchio's Venus is described amid a distancing aestheticism. Then, the curtain rises to reveal a man, sat at a seat and he is doing what we think he is doing... that wouldn't be seen in a heritage production where what stays behind the proscenium arch is always going to stay behind there and not engage on a visceral  or intellectual level. 

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