So lately I haven’t really been keeping my finger on the pulse of what the ‘yoof’ be listening to. I have been too busy watching football, getting fat and working for the man. I’m not proud of it but fuck, I’m 27 years old and haven’t really done much with my life so I suppose now is the time. Anyway, tonight I have been trawling the Internet watching music videos and all that. These are some of the things I like at the moment.
Charli XCX – Nuclear Seasons
I know this came out a little while ago but its been stuck in my head for ages and I really like the video. Her voice is really infectious and reminds me of my old comrade Aleesha Dibbs. The production is immaculate and I like how the vocal turns into synth and the synth turns into vocal. Cool trick that. I follow this girl on twitter and she seems pretty down to earth. I heard she is currently supporting Coldplay in America…you should still listen to her song though.
Grimes – Genesis
This shit just came out a few hours ago. Suck on that.
Hopsin – Ill Mind Of Hopsin IV
My boy Marc ‘Long John’ Silvers showed me this video a few weeks ago. It blew my fucking mind. I’m told this guy has been in his parents basement for like fifteen years perfecting his craft and he dropped this last year. Pretty solid statement. Dude is like Busta, Minaj, Tyler (sorry Hopsin) and Missy but he is some acne scarred 28 year old in drag. Sick cunt. He has principles, is fucked up and he’s perhaps one of the most skilled rappers in the game. Sweet clip too.
Freddie Gibbs/Madlib – Shame
Anything Madlib touches seems to be perfect and this is no exception. This video is the sequel to the ‘Thuggin’ single which was the first Freddie Gibbs thing I had ever heard. Gibbs is like an indie 2pac living in a time where MTV isn’t a necessity. Shame flows in and out of old soul samples like Madlib is flipping through radio stations. He eventually finds the one he is looking for and BOOM! Most glorious hook I have heard in ages.
Quakers – Fitta Happier
Geoff Barrow and Katalyst produced this so of course it’s going to be amazing. They took the bass line from Radiohead’s ‘National Anthem’ and brassed the shit out of it. I’m a little pissed off I didn’t think of that to be honest. Fuck those guys. Seriously everything Geoff Barrow does is incredible. I’m not going to call him a genius because that word is thrown around way too much about musicians BUT he is extremely talented, has a great ear and seems to be an absolute badass. This track also features Guilty Simpson and MED which is a good thing.
So there you have it. My first new music blog. I have become one of the many sad pieces of shit with nothing better to write about than the pop music I am currently listening to. Come back next week when I will post photos of every meal I have eaten for the last week. Until then..
So I was looking through my list of things I really can’t quite understand this morning. This list does not physically exist it just lives inside my brain and is constantly edited. Some things only appear on this list for a few minutes, others a few months, others are completely forgotten about so they are deleted and others have been there for years. I decided to flick to that page to see if I could cross anything off. Yep, I kind of understand genocide as means to maintain power. Genocide is off then. The Pope excusing child molesters? Yeah, well, it’s a P.R thing and they are a massive business so although its wrong I still get why. Kim Kardashian? Well she’s rich and American so she has the right to be famous apparently. Her time in the spotlight will run out and it is going to be ugly but yes, I understand why she is there now kinda…Anyway..
I kept scrolling down and I found an entry on this list of things I cannot explain. It’s been there since I was a kid and no matter how much I have thought about it I could never understand why these things exist.
I think the first rap skit I remember hearing was the one before G’s and Hustlas by Snoop Dogg (or as he was known then, Snoop Diggety Doggedy Douglas). As far as skits go its pretty funny. It you don’t know it then you didn’t grow up in the early 90s. The skit involves a teacher asking his pupils what they want to be when they grow up. One says he wants to be a police officer, the other says fireman. He finally asks a young Snoop (who apparently has always rocked chucks and braids, even as a nipper) what he wants to be. Lil Snoop tells this teacher he wants to be a ‘motherfucking hustler’. The song that follows is brilliant and the skit is an acceptable intro to it but that was my first brush with the skits on rap records. Its been a frustrating, embarrassing and very rarely fruitful relationship ever since.
For those who aren’t really au fait with the skit on a rap record I will explain. Unlike artists of other genres hip hop artists are prone to making albums which stretch for the entire duration of a cd. Of course being rappers they have an inflated sense of self worth and find it hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. Some artists believe it’s a good idea to express their comedic side in the form of a vocal skit, similar to something one would hear on the wireless in 1935 just with more profanity. As far as I know the skit has gone out of fashion a bit but there are many albums I still listen to which are unfortunately home to some of the more piss poor attempts at humour ever created.
I just want to also make it clear that I adore hip hop and that even if some of the artists I mention here are rubbish comedians they have bought me many hours of listening pleasure and I completely respect what they do when they aren’t trying to be Eddie Murphy.
SLUM VILLAGE – ONCE UPON A TIME
If there was ever example of a phenomenal track being pissed on by the skit that comes directly after it, it has to be Once Upon A Time by Slum Village. The song itself is incredible. The immaculate production by J Dilla (or Jazzy Dizzy Detreezy as he was known then) features one of the smoothest bass lines one is likely to ever hear over a bed of weird gamelan xylophone. The problem comes after the song when the skit begins. The concept behind the skit is they are doing an infomercial about a cd where Louis Armstrong sings a whole bunch of classic songs. It consists of someone doing a really bad Louis Armstrong impersonation, some karaoke backing tracks and a really fucking weak concept. It really, really stinks. It’s not funny and it makes you embarrassed for them because they thought it was a good idea. The worst thing about it is the quality of the music on the album Fantastic Vol 2 is enormous. The production is so tight and the vocals, although a little stupid at times, are delivered with confidence and supreme flow. Why Slum Village thought putting this unfunny, retarded, piece of hip hip vaudeville on the record is beyond me. Maybe I’m the idiot?
BUSTA RHYMES – SO HARDCORE
Every rapper big rapper in the 1990s until about 2005 seemed to have skits on their record. The skit was embraced by the East Coast and West Coast alike. For all their beef, one thing Puff and Suge could agree on was the importance of a good skit. Everyone had them in one form or another. Dre, Snoop, 2pac, Biggie, Eminem and Busta Rhymes. Busta loved a good skit. The one at the end of So Hardcore is a personal favourite. Unlike Once Upon A Time the skit seems to lead into another song hence providing the album with a plot, albeit a stupid one. It has someone impersonating an Indian fellow driving a taxi in it. Now I know this sounds racist but it’s OK because it’s Black people impersonating Indians that as a white man I have no right to comment on. “Well what about Mahatma Cote?” I hear you cry. ‘Not cool’ says I. Mahatma Cote was a white man pretending to be Indian in a really kind of racist, blackface, channel 9 sort of way. Only Indians and Busta Rhymes are allowed to find him funny. Just so you know..
I do believe, if done well, skits can be extremely funny. I think Kool Keith is a master of the skit. Doom does a nice job too. He doesn’t show off too much but still realized an intermission can be an essential thing. Some skits can even be quite clever, but that doesn’t happen much. Some albums, Guilty Simpson’s Madlib collab O.J Simpson for instance, although a great album it has too many skits. Even if the skits are intelligent and high quality. Even if the skit involved Bill Hicks and Richard Pryor discussing the best way to ingest cocaine while at a circus owned and operated by Karl Stefanovic. Even if the skit (probably on a late Mike Skinner record) contains the ten steps on peace and love on earth. If there are more than two skits on an album then you need to start culling. I’m talking to you Eminem! You still ain’t wrote me back btw, what’s up with that?
Anyway I guess my two cents on skits is they can be funny and worth listening to occasionally but rappers should start having some class and trying to trim the fat off their albums. Skits can only damage your reputation. If your music is good then you do what you do well, if the skits are good too it doesn’t really matter as much because nobody is listening to your album for the skits anyway and if your skits are lame and not funny you’re entire artistic output becomes suspect because there is documented evidence that you are actually retarded and everything you have done is a fluke. Still mad love to Busta and Dilla tho..
There is a song which gets stuck in my head at least once a month. It happens even if I haven’t heard the song in ages. The song is Shania Twain’s ‘classic’ That Don’t Impress Me Much. I’m even getting lines like ‘So you’re Brad Pitt’ and ‘Uh Uh U-Uuuh’ stabbing me in the head just writing about it. It’s not the only song which does this to me but it the main one. It’s been happening ever since it came out. Sometimes I wake up in the morning and the first thing which enters into my head is ‘Okay, so you’re a rocket scientist’. I can’t explain it. I have never really made a point of listening to it. I don’t really rate any of Shania Twain’s back catalogue. The song is just disgusting catchy to me. Like Pneumonia to a frail old man in a dirty Siberian hospital as soon as it comes into contact with my brain I can’t shake it for ages and ages. It doesn’t end up killing me but it does drive me insane. Perhaps it’s more like Syphilis.
That Don’t Impress Me Much popped in for one of its regular visits today when I was waiting for a bus. God knows why. It initially made me think about what Shania Twain is up to these days. Last I heard she caught her husband (clearly not Brad Pitt, a car owner or a rocket scientist) shagging the maid. She then went and married the maid’s husband and now she is happy as a pig in shit again. Go Girl!
After thinking about the CRAZY white trash exploits of Ms. Twain I started thinking about why my brain allows for this one song to pop into my consciousness every few weeks for absolutely no reason. What is it about this one particular song? I know other people have songs which unexpectedly rock up drunk at 3am to crash inside your head for a few days but why? That Don’t Impress Me Much has absolutely no meaning for me. It’s a song about a girl who doesn’t look for materialism in men (hence the maids husband) and just looks for ‘the touch’. I don’t possess a car, Brad Pitt’s looks or a job with NASA so all I have to go on is ‘the touch’ right? It couldn’t possibly be a reminder to get a university degree or buy a flashy car because that isn’t what the song is about. Shania is telling me the complete opposite.
So if it isn’t about the lyrics it has to be about the music right? The song is catchy but I have heard catchier. I find commercial country music to be pretty average generally and as far as I know this is the only song of its type to break into my psyche once, let alone on a regular basis. I remember Achy Breaky Heart but it has never intruded on my train of thought.
My point is that I JUST DON’T GET IT.
I sometimes feel I suffer from very mild obsessive-compulsive disorder. I generally like things done a particular way (Can’t abide a tea bag going in after the water, often straightening cutlery at the dinner table). Maybe my mind is just playing some kind of OCD-esque prank on me. That has to be it right? But why? Why this shitty fucking song written by this stupid hillbilly over a decade ago? Why me?
Anyway I have a signed poster of Anthony Mundine as a 10 year old (signed by me not ‘The Man’) to give away to the person with the best story about shitty things your mind does to you. Post them on my Facebook page or as comments on the site. Good luck!
The other day I made a wager with Daniel Corboy, lead singer of Reckless Vagina, that their new video Never Ever would get 100,000 views on YouTube in a week. I bet $100. Last time I checked it had been up about a day and a half and had about 350 views. I tried reddit but for some reason I can’t post anything on there (either the nerds don’t like me or I broke some stupid spamming rules). I could pay for YouTube to publicize the video but I will probably end up losing money even if I win the bet. I figure I will use the power of my blog to get people to watch it and pass it on to their friends. I am aware that my blog isn’t that powerful at all but I am working with nothing and I could use the money. Oh and I guess they could use the plug so…yeah..read on.
Never Ever is a cover of the popular All Saint’s track from all those years ago. Reckless Vagina have done a touching version of it with vocals from Corboy and RV’s Jack-Of-All-Trades The Pinch. The video was shot in Kernel where Captain Cook landed back in 1988. There are some fantastic shots of lead guitarist Oscar (who also happens to be my brother) walking up to the edge of a cliff to bust a solo. Its like the darkness but they are slightly less serious. Or more serious. I don’t know. Daniel keeps talking about how he wants people to get the joke but honestly they have done a very tongue in cheek yet tasteful cover of a song which lives in the hearts of many a former suburban teenage girl in the English speaking world.
I used to manage Reckless Vagina. I was shit at it but I really believed that they could be an important band. Every member of this band believes in good songwriting, interesting concepts and perhaps more important than anything having a sense of humour. Their live show has loads of energy and many people who see them once come back to their gigs over and over again. I got the same feeling from Reckless as I did when I first heard The Smiths. They could be one of those bands heaps of people really give a fuck about.
Anyway I think that this video could be the one that breaks them through. It’s a cover but done in a completely different way to the original. This version has a shitload more soul too. The video is a laugh yet is beautifully shot. It has ‘Viral YouTube Video’ written all over it.
If you don’t believe me see it for yourself. Pass it on. Make Reckless Vagina go viral. Make me $100!
It’s 7.26am. I worked, went to my parents, ate Mexican food. It took about twenty minutes to get a cab on Old Canterbury rd. Absolute bullshit. One cabbie snubbed us. I was wearing a fucking suit and he snubbed us.
Eventually we got a cab. Oskie and I went back to mine. Hung out with Gino for a while. Went to the bottle shop. Then a party in a hostel (happy birthday Sinead!) We talked about Ronaldo and Messi. Real Madrid and Barcelona. Germany and Spain and Portugal and Italy and England. Joachim Low and Vicente Del Bosque. Wenger and Ferguson. KLF and Reckless Vagina. Demus and B. Deep. We talked and we drank and we moved around. We talked more. It got deeper as we got drunker. It got deeper as it got later. Things started to make sense.
It’s 7.33am. I am now in a continuation of a very, very long night. I just finished listening to James Brown’s ‘It’s A Man’s World’. I listened to the live in 1981 version first. It was alright. The best thing about the original 1964 version is how fast it is. James Brown is one of my favourite singers of all time. I always thought Sly Stone was like James Brown if James Brown was on different gear. They both do those random noises when they sing. ‘Urghh’. ‘AYYY!’ Shit like that.
It’s 7.40am. I have nothing else to say. Just feel these songs and thank me later.
James Brown – It’s A Man’s World
Sly and the Family Stone – Frisky
One thing about Sly and the Family Stone I like is how fucked up it all got. By Fresh which I think was their fourth or fifth album Sly was a fucking trainwreck but he still managed to go into the studio and make a masterpiece. You hear the way he is singing on this track and you just know he wasn’t sane. Sly was past the point of no return but still knew how to make people want to dance, fuck and give him their money. Sick cunt.
I know its been a while but here I have made a new podcast. Just a few tracks. Hope you can relate.
Bruce Haack – Requiem
Isley Brothers – Sensuality
Electric Wire Hustle – Perception
Action Bronson – Cocoa Butter
Kool Keith – Regular Girl
Cee Lo – Evening News
Anita Baker – Been So Long
Jaylib – Starz
Mr. Muthafuckin eXquire – Huzzah!
The Weekend – Life Of The Party
Delroy Wilson – Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever
Broadcast – Winter Now
Beck – Nobody’s Fault But My Own
This is the first instalment of a new column I’m doing on jaspercliffordsmith.com called ‘The finer things in life’. Every week I will interview someone I know and talk about the things which they derive pleasure from. This week I’m talking to Liam Brammall. Liam Brammall is a nomad and folk singer originally from Sydney but now living in New York. Liam and I go back quite a few years now and I have always liked the fact he does what he wants as well as his taste in everything from food to women to music.
I caught up with him on Facebook chat this afternoon to pick his brain about the finer things in life. This is how it went down..
Jasper: Okay so Liam, you have just moved to America. Are there any delicacies you have gotten a taste for since your arrival?
Liam: Well, lemme see..The intricacies of pizza by the slice, New York style. It’s a whole new game.
J: How so
L: I had never really respected the margherita before; kind of saw her as a plain and cheap Mexican whore. But then I realised the magic of a good one. And the fact yr supposed to put chilli, and garlic and oregano and all sorts of weird American things that come in shaker containers on her. You can really judge a pizza place by its slice of plain. And if you can get for a buck or a buck fifty and it’s good, well that’s the money shot right there. But I mean I had all sorts of pizza in New York. Upper west side pizza, not as great as the price dictated.
So like New York slice on Oxford Street but cheaper, more authentic and much better?
Oh god no, I hate N.Y slice on principal. So much better, and really quite different. All they got right there was the shape of the slices. And I was always too in love with the old lady with a lisp across the road in the wog shop that sold $3.5 slices to go to N.Y slice and it’s $6 cardboard fiestas
Oh the Olympic pizza shop?
Olympic yeeros! Bang
They are fantastic. Anyway. New York..
So yeah, I mean the best consistent slice o pizza was from a place right on Bedford Avenue in the middle of Williamsburg. Right next to the L train stop. Hipster illuminati ‘hood. Just big ol’ fresh slices of pizza the size of Queensland full of fresh ingredients, they had a huge variety but the ones I got were mozzarella/basil/fresh tomato/garlic clove types. They had a few variations on that kinda thing.They were AAAAMAZING. And like $3 or so. And I’m talking the white Italian mozzarella, not the weird grated shit you get at Coles.
That kind of reminds me of the shop in do the right thing
Never saw it.
It’s pretty good.
So yeah, that was the Brooklyn spectrum. Kind of had the more old fashioned, homely pizza vibes. Manhattan is a whole different beast. Oh and might I just add, soda is so cheap over here, it’s like a buck for glass bottle fancy Mexican sodas and grape sodas and such. My Manhattan experience was many decent to goodish cheap slices of plain pizza, some more greasy than others, but there’s so many places ya hardly remember them, like girls on a contiki cruise, or so I’d imagine. But….The real winner for me was a place called ‘artichoke’ who, who’d of thunk it, had a fucking amazing artichoke pizza. But lets talk about girls for a minute. In the long and short of it, yes. (I think I can’t name names of go into details. off record, off record)
No no don’t name names. Privacy and all that..
To put it simply, New York is simply full of babes. Not plain Jane Sydney uni daddies a lawyer eastern suburbs dime a dozens but sophisticated, well-dressed and sassy subway creatures. It’s the land of 10 million babes. They’re everywhere. Falling out of subways, strolling through central park, packed like little hot sardines into bars. Oh, the variety! If I’d been taking notes, I would have ran New York dry of notebooks. There’s kind of too many of them, in an eerie way. A little twilight zoney. And by Australian standards, you can bat about 3 standard deviations out of your league.
Do you think girls who were the hottest in the their cities where they came from have moved to new york and found that they aren’t that special?
Yes! Nail. Hit. Head.
I think women outnumber men by a few precent in New York for some strange reason. My general impression of the women is that they’re up for conversation. They are more empowered, less crazy than girls back home. It’s a crazy city where everyone dates everyone and asking someone out for a drink isn’t a home and away melodrama. Hmm, maybe I’m being harsh on my homeland; maybe I just had a bad run. Or maybe it was my travellers swag, exotic accent and crocodile dundee-esque leather jacket.
I think being foreign does help quite a lot
Especially when you tell them one of your best friends dad’s directed young Einstein! Woo! That gets em happy chappy. Pulling yr leg there a little.
I can regale you with my attempted subway seductions.
This story will probs be in my biography as ‘third times a charm’. The first occasion, I change lines and get to go on a subway. It doesn’t move. A few minutes go by. I notice a smoking eastern European creature. Svelte, thin, pretty as hell and icy yet inviting dark eyes. And as I said earlier, you really can bat well out of your league in New York. The train doesn’t move for like 10 minutes. The occasional glance at this girl helps the time goes by. She gets off the train eventually. I wait another 5 minutes or so. It wasn’t even in my mind to talk to her, I was still fresh and town and not yet used to the fact that you could look at a girl, smile, etc. and not get instantly judged as a havas esque purve. So eventually I leave to find a cab. I’m going somewhere around Chelsea, actually to meet marc silver’s bird. Nice lass. So I’m trying to get a cab, it’s night, it’s Manhattan and busy, and lo and behold, train babe appears out of nowhere and she approaches me. Turns out we’re going the same direction. She doesn’t know how to get there, I offer to pay for a cab, bam, it’s on.
Sounds like something from a Woody Allen film..
We’re in the taxi, I’m smiling inwardly, turns out she’s Brooklyn raised, Russian born. And artist. Both her parents are doctors and she’s made somewhat of an art career out of medical themed art.
This is sounding more and more Woody Allen-y..
It was. She was very classy, smart, well spoken. Kinda had the ‘Ivanna Humpalot’ from Austin powers accent going on. We talk art, New York music scene blah blah. She’s pretty jaded with what’s going on in New York musically, which as time went on came to be a running theme of my conversations with the natives. Feeling lucky, I ask for her number, she obliges as we get out of the cab and bam. Done deal.
Sounds like you are living in a completely different world..
Well to cut the long story short, just to finish.I was new in town. Rookie error’d it with the txt I sent. Nothing happened. Similar situation a few days later, broken down subway, talk to pretty girl, get chatting, get number.. Bit of txt but nothing happens. So it was then I got to 3rd time lucky. I was going to meet this girl in Williamsburg who was a friend of Brid’s. She’d asked if she could bring along her attractive friend who was feeling sad and I said…sure! It’s late at night. Bout 1130 or so. Once again. Subway troubles. I’m living on the grand stop on the L and I had to get to a g train. At the place I was to get to the g train turns out trains are all being out of whack etc. not running on time, and only running on one line which means extra delays etc. And so I’m looking at the subway map, of where I’m supposed to go, it’s only 2 stops, I ask some questions to some fellow wall map lookers. And kind of do the same thing as the last 2 situations. Find pretty girl, talk to her. (Its ingrained habit I think)Turns out she’s heading the way I am also, so I offer to share a cab. She obliges. She’s real real pretty, kind of girl every guy I know has had a crush on at some point. So we get talking in the cab, she’s just moved here from san fran, I ask what for, she says music. Ha! I ask what sort and she says, ‘oh, sad girl folk, you know’. Jackpot! I realise at this point my previous two subway meetings were like Jedi training sessions for this moment. I ask her if she liked Townes Van Zandt (id been listening to him a lot) and she said yeah and went to tell this story about her recently playing a show somewhere in the south where he used to play a lot. and she played a Townes song and apparently a bunch of old guys came up to her and were like ‘Townes woulda loved that, he used to play here all the time, we knew him etc.
Coming from a Sydney point of view picking up girls on public transport seems creepy and weird but in New York its romantic and normal..
So yeah. Music. What’s going on over there? Are you satisfied?
Well, it segues nicely with this story. I get her number, we talk music etc. listen to her stuff, and it’s pretty damn good. Talk about playing shows etc. kind of thing I need to get me motivated to do my thing. I kind of get lazy and diffident about music and shit like this spurs me on to heights of mild self-admiration and confidence to do my shit. Later on that night, I meet the girl I’m currently with, instant chemistry, whirlwind romance etc. etc. so it’s all like some kinda grand cosmic plan to get me to stay in new york. As far as what’s going on…There’s just so much stuff happening, I think even New Yorkers are confused. Lotta good shit, but nothing great. No big movement. Not living on it’s laurels as much as its kind of like the calm before the storm, ‘what’s gonna be the next big thing to come out of this city’ kinda thing. And I mean I experienced quite the variety of the music scene. From hip loft open mic nights of high calibre to crazy parties with rappers dressed as pharaohs, to punk and blues gigs at Mexican bars in the projects.To going to a night that Kid Congo put’s on, meeting him, and seeing probs one of the best bands I seen in a while, K Holes. Kinda like as if Australia’s very own laughing clowns got mixed up with the cramps.
Yeah right. Interesting..Is there much of a scene for your kind of music?
So there’s a lot going on. I saw K Holes 2 nights in a row, the 2nd night being a benefit for this celebrity sorta dj (the good kind, soul, funk, garage. a good guy) who almost died when a cab drove straight through his hotel room. The benefit was at this giant surreal bowling alley, buncha cool bands, kid Congo got up with k holes and played ‘sex beat’ and ‘I’m cramped’ it was pretty pretty good.
I mean my kinda music? Maybe. I’ve just been strumming away on my own for the last few years cos I wanted to get good at song writing and lack the organizational skills to put a band together. I’m looking to put together a band in NYC when I get back. A guitarist who was invited to play with Cass Macomb’s and said no really wants to play with me. He’s a fucking great player. A mutual admiration for Robbie Robertson’s of the bands blues sorta shredding. And I met a drummer the one night I allowed myself go a bit crazy on the blow.
The stuff Max (Skilbeck-Porter, Sydney songwriter performing under the Vatican Girls moniker) is doing is good. He did it all alone on logic but it doesn’t sound computer-y at all.
Its true. Max is a genuinely great fucking songwriter. So yeah, I mean I hope there’s room for what I’m doing in NYC. I just wanna take my old timey songs and flesh them out band style. My favourite bands are still television, the stones, Mary chains etc. etc. so I’m fucking aching to make loud music again.
Well it sounds like there are more than enough musicians over there. Hot ones too..
And as I said, a lot of good stuff happening in new york, I kind of met the right people and sussed out the Brooklyn and lower east side scenes out fairly quickly. It just seems like the perfect time for some great bands to pop up. Indeed. You meet a lotta people who can make a living by playing guitar in a bunch of different bands who tour and make records. Mikey Watkins band, mutant genes are fucking sick. Real punk rocky Motorhead meets black flag vibes. Ironically playing a lot with some Australians I met through Zayd (Thring, Pets With Pets frontman) when he was in town.
What do you miss about Sydney?
Jesus, nothing that listening to (Ben)Tarwin and (Nick)Hollins show can’t provide. A bunch of really great but sadly small time bands. But I was so jaded with the city and the scene that I could barely appreciate it anyhow.The beaches. I miss them. It’s almost disorienting to not be able to get to a beach in 15 minutes in a car. Kinda makes me panic a little.
Maybe it’s just me but it really doesn’t seem like much is happening here at the moment.
So many people have said the same thing to me about Sydney since 2004 ‘Oh its about to happen…its all bubbling up, its gonna spill over’ It never did. It stayed legit and small time. Which is good but frankly it aint for me. The city, that is.
Local music movements died with MySpace/Soundcloud
Ha-ha. I agree.
But if I could tie it back to that slice of pizza. Artichoke. Great place for a slice. It’s like $4.50 for a slice the size of Texas and that’s considered ‘gourmet’ prices.Their speciality is this amazing artichoke pizza; it has kind of an Alfredo sauce, the most perfect base and obviously, artichoke. Bits of hearts. Art. I choke hearts.
Its half time in the Euro 2012 clash between England and Ukraine. I woke up late so I only caught the last five minutes of the first half. From what I gather I haven’t missed much. Rooney has been rusty. Milner has been rubbish. Ukraine are certainly not weak.
I make the effort to watch England play. I mean they hardly play the most attractive football, but fuck, I’m a fan.
My relationship with England starts with my Dads side of the family. Dad is an Essex boy born and raised. We used to go over there as a kid. Back then I used to think it was a very pretty country (we always went over in summer). I thought their junk food was awesome (Sugar Puffs, Prawn Cocktail Walkers). It was a different world yet it somehow just felt normal. Like home.
In the 90s I thought their kids TV was a bit more intelligent than what we had over here. They had the MC Hammer cartoon and they had the Big Breakfast. We had Agro’s Cartoon Connection which seemed way too white bred for my cosmopolitan eight year old tastes.
As I got older I learned to love the fact that music actually means something to the English national psyche. While Australians backpack through the world arrogantly talking about our superior skills in Rugby and Cricket (two games people really don’t give a fuck in most parts of the world) the English modestly just know that The Beatles. The Stones, Led Zeppelin, Massive Attack…actually pop music in general was created there as we know it. They had Shakespeare. James Bond. Hitchcock. The lot.
The English, for the most part, value the arts. At least more than we do. As an Australian adolescent I really respected this about my English brethren. We played sport, they play guitar..That’s just the way it is.
One thing I found to be equally unpleasant and charming about the English is their class system. The English have Chav Supermarkets (Iceland) and Posh Supermarkets (Waitrose). Footballers the lower classes respect and admire (Wayne Rooney) where as those slightly more well to do think he is just a thug. They have Chav TV networks and newspapers (The Sun, Daily Sport, ITV) and the same products tailor made for the opposite end of the spectrum (The Guardian, Independent, Channel 4). Coming from Australia, the fact that this class divide exists is initially rather confronting but when you think about it the thing seems to work and nobody really complains about it.
People also cue up in England a lot. They really love it. They have these weird little Soviet department stores called Argos which are like K Mart except that instead of walking into a big shop with a trolley and picking up what you need you have to walk into this room and look for what you need in a catalogue, write down the product code then go to a cashier and pay for the items. You then have to wait until what you have asked for is collected from the storeroom out back. Your number will come up and then you can take your eight AA batteries and spatula home. It reminds me of some kind of post war rationing inspired spin on capitalism. Argos also made me think that for better or for worse Australia was more like America than we would care to admit.
I love English people too. I generally find them to have a great sense of humor and a passion for the finer things in life.
The English love a drink. In England you can buy booze from the supermarket for not very much money at all. In London especially I found everyone to be pissed come seven o’clock at night. Alcoholism is a real issue in the UK but instead of treating the population like a bunch of four year olds (like in Australia) the powers that be feel education and taxation is the way to combat the problem. I put this down to the history of the place. The English have been through a shitload more than we have as a country and one thing they seem to do is give the citizens a bit more respect. Riots and race related conflicts aside (these things happen in most big cities at some stage and are unfortunate symptoms of high density living in areas where some people don’t have the advantages others have) the English seem to learn from their mistakes pretty well. They give a shit about the society they live in. Sometimes they don’t like it but they move forward, try to make things better and if that fails they will start all over again.
ENGLAND 1 – UKRAINE 0 (England to face Italy in the quarter finals)
The last time I was in the UK was seven years ago and to be honest I miss it. London is the only other city on earth where as soon as I arrive I know exactly where I’m going. I have family in the UK, friends in the UK and I know that if I went back I would instantly feel at home again. Australia is great for many reasons but in my opinion we lack an attitude here which the English possess. They are hungrier than us. They sing more. They want it. We just think we already have it.
I’m glad England are through to the next stage of the Euros and I hope they win the fucking thing. I just want them to be happy again.
I often find myself ranting about stuff. Ranting to friends or strangers about anything that happens to pop into my mind at the right time. Politics, music, religion, football…anything.
I find that one thing that hasn’t changed in roughly a decade is my tendency to ‘convert’ people into being fans of my favorite band – Scritti Politti. It works sometimes. Mostly people just hate them.
There was this time, I cant really recall where I was, that I played a few songs from Scritti Politti’s 2006 masterpiece White Bread/Black Beer and my brothers girlfriend described the music as ‘awkward’. I understand why people don’t like them, I’m used to it now, but I wouldn’t have used the word ‘awkward’ to describe them. Saccharine? Yes. Creepy? Occasionally. Evil? Always.
I guess I’ll start with the story. Scritti Politti was started in Leeds in 1977 by singer Green Gartside and Tom Morley. They quit art school and moved to London. In London they squatted, Green got involved with the Young Communists and they eventually put out some singles in 1978 on Rough Trade. The punks at the time hated them so much that Green would often receive these early Scritti Politti singles in the mail smashed up with cruel messages attached.
This is the one of the early Scritti Politti singles called Skank Bloc Bologna..
The dubby bass and spastic rhythm of it made it punker than anything at the time. Punks are almost always conformist fuckheads. Scritti Politti was about something else.
So what happens next is Scritti Politti are on tour with Joy Division and Gang Of Four and Green has a panic attack and can’t play anymore. He goes back to Wales and starts writing new material. It was around this time that he was gaining an interest in black music from New York. He recorded The Sweetest Girl and then followed it up with the debut album Songs To Remember.
Songs To Remember was the first Scritti Politti album I had ever heard. I had never experienced a sound like theirs before. Tracks like A Slow Soul were slick, smooth and sexy without being sleazy. Jacques Derrida sounded like if Donovan and George Clinton decided to get together and be punks for a day on the set of Sesame Street. I knew instantly that this band were important.
Songs To Remember did pretty well and the majors came knocking. The rest of the band left and Green signed with Virgin and moved to New York.
While in New York Green was becoming obsessed with black music, in particular Hip Hop. He would buy everything that came out. He would see it live. This 29 year old Welsh ex Punk/Communist was now a bona fide part of the scene. This was all happening while he was in the studio working on the freakishly infectious Cupid And Psyche 85.
The thing about Cupid And Psyche is this was the first time Green had to make a proper pop record. He was working with Arif Mardin, the Timbaland of his time, and they had money to spend on this thing. The songwriting, track in-track out, is flawless. The drum machine patterns do things that you don’t notice until the hundredth listen. The lyrics are intelligent and meaningful but could grab even the most dim pop music listener simply because of how fucking catchy everything is. This album is perfection. It is also a hell of a long way from London punk music.
Cupid And Psyche was a hit worldwide. Green never toured it, apparently he didn’t have the chops to perform it live. He set out on a rigorous publicity campaign that was fuelled by people kissing his arse and allegedly a pretty solid cocaine habit. Though the album was hugely influential on artists such as Michael Jackson, Prince and Chaka Khan the burnout was inevitable. By 1987 they were back in the studio, this time without Mardin. It was now they recorded the non-event that was Provision.
Provision had some passable eighties pop moments on it. The single Boom! There She Was is ok for a single of that era. The problem was everything on this album lacked what Scritti Politti are about; intelligence, shifting genres and getting inside peoples heads. It was just an ill-advised cocaine record. The odd one out in the excellent catalogue.
After the disaster which was Provision Green cut all ties with music. He destroyed all professional relationships he once had and moved back to Wales where he spent weeks inside the house leaving only for groceries and Hip Hop records. One would assume that was it. And with the exception of one off Shabba Ranks collab She’s A Woman in 1991 it was game over. However in 1999, eleven years after Provision Scritti Politti put out another record.
Anomie & Bonhomie could have been some crappy comeback record by some washed up eighties pop star. However it sounds fresh and energetic. A top shelf RnB album with guest appearances by Mos Def and Lee Majors. It was certainly a surprise return to what was great about this project in the first place. The production was smooth and lush. Green’s cooing vocals seem to fill the room up with eerie warmth. A&B never really hit the commercial peaks Cupid & Psyche did but it didn’t matter. Green Gartside was still capable of putting out beautiful, intelligent pop music.
Another break followed and seven years later in 2006 Scritti Politti dropped White Bread/Black Beer. Recorded entirely by Green at home, WB/BB is perhaps the most sophisticated Scritti Politti album to date. It starts with Green’s ode to Hip Hop The Boom Boom Bap. A gorgeous love song written about rap that happens to sound nothing like any Hip Hop I have ever heard before. Lines like ‘If hooks could kill, singin dolla dolla bill, on the street of my heart’ have the ability to melt the heart of any music fan. The final verse is Green softly singing the track list of the first RUN-DMC record followed by ‘I love you still, I always will’. Beautiful.
There’s a track about a Welsh GP with a drug habit, another about cooking. The second last track Mrs. Hughes is a song of many different parts, chopped up and thrown together ala Happiness Is A Warm Gun. It starts with Green doing his one man choir thing, then a simple plucked guitar, then a huge chorus which reminds me of Spiritualized or something off Abbey Road then repeat. Oh yeah and at the end it gets all funky while Green sings ‘I’ve been a bad, bad man. Done some very wicked things. Oh baby. Been a bad, bad man.’
That line says it all really.
The music of Scritti Politti on the surface sounds too sweet to have any balls, too quiet to be mean, too smooth to be punk but when you really listen it is some of the bravest pop music ever created.
With the exception of Provision every LP Green Gartside has released has been completely different to the last. Every song has an incredible amount of soul and melody to it. If you are going to listen to these albums I doubt you will find much filler. It’s important music made for whoever wants to hear it.
Did I mention it was also punk as fuck?