Sunday, July 23, 2006

Currently reading :Yellow Dog by Martin Amis.


Well, it was a mere two quid from one of Greenwich’s many remaindered bookshops. My choice of everything “Kultural” these days seems to depend on whether it breaks the all-important two-quid threshold. In fact I seem to have developed something of a reputation for, errr.. let’s say thriftiness.. around the Barrios second- hand and discount shops.

Recently, for example, the terrible moment arrived (I have highly developed gag-reflex when it comes to swallowing my pride) in which I had to ask what the track they were playing in my local Music and Video Exchange was. Had to! Generally this is something I desperately try to avoid doing, usually attempting to figure out who the artist is through a process of deduction/elimination as I flick through some section or other, ears on the alert for tell-tale, ego-salvaging clues, a chorus, a reference, a self-reference if it’s hip hop or dancehall. ("T.O.K an BEENIE MON, GIVIN YA SUMTIN SPECIAL!! TOK and Beenie Man, then is it? Thank you very much lads!)

The fact is that I’ve still never really recovered from the trauma of asking the gorgeous, dredlocked princess behind the counter of Jumbo records in Leeds, circa 1990, what this absolutely amazing, totally essential bit of Vinyl was, only to be told, “ERRRR, it’s Slint!?” with an air of amused and weary condescension.

This time they informed me that it was a Phil Spectre production (“ I knew that, you pathetic fools! THAT'S WHY I’M ASKIN!!!!” I gloated inwardly, nodding sagely, with an indulgent smile on my face) of some otherwise-cheesy Sixties pipe-and-rocking-chair crooner, some species of Williams or Doonican. Naturally being more mature and self-possessed than in my callow youth, and with the consolation that, well, really I was asking on my sister’s behalf as she is a big fan of all things Wall-of-Sound-y I felt I handled this potentially difficult admission of NOT KNOWING SOMETHING especially NOT KNOWING SOMETHING ABOUT MUSIC with the easy humility that befits my advancing years. Everything would have been fine were it not for the, to my mind gratuitous follow up comment as I perused the CD case that, “ it costs more than a quid though, mate.”

Oh, Record Shoppe what a Crucible thou art!

Currently listening to: New York Downtown Sounds: an Organic Mix of music from the Knitting Factory.

Yep, it cost me a quid!

It’s actually a bit of an oil-and-water mix of Illbient (currently known as Dubstep) Improv and Postrock, that’s about as “Organic” as a packet of Skittles washed down with Sunny Delight. Not to say that there isn’t some tremendous stuff on there, of course. The problem I have with this, the problem that I have with everything, is that of course I immediately imagine how much better it would be if it were different in some way. In other words everything I listen too, watch or read immediately feels like the lost possibility of something more interesting that it might have been but which now only exists in my head. So all the time I’m listening to something super-eclectic I tend to think, “ oh, this needs to be more consistent” or “ oh no, it should go in a different direction, now” whereas anything relentlessly mono-themed i.e. Cell Recordings Volume One mixed by Temper D (quid!) immediately has me thinking, “ right, so is it just going to do this for a AN HOUR, is it?” This means that I do of course get maximum value for my quid as any given mix is always surrounded by several phantom mixes that whirl about and around the actual mix, spawning multiple mini-mixes and ramifying endlessly as they go along.

Doesn’t this happen to everyone? Whenever I see any post-rock gigs I spend my entire time writing lyrics in my head and singing along to the various portentous noodles and thrums, thinking how much they’d be improved by a vocalist and a bit of poetry, a human touch, GET A SINGER! Whereas when I see three-minute Indy bands (rare for me these days, I have to admit) I immediately curse their lack of ambition and want them to stretch out and break the template and stop being so personality driven. DUMP THE SINGER!

Is Yellow Dog any good? It’s…well let’s just say its pretty UNEVEN and coming straight into it after reading Andrew Miller’s brilliantly honed, elegant and elegaic Oxygen (yes ALRIGHT it cost TWO QUID too!) Yellow Dog can’t help but feel a bit fatuous and a bit try-hard in the Hip stakes, a bit forced in its attempts at pungent satire, a bit schoolboy-ish, really. It’s hard to know whether there will ever be a Mature Amis, or whether effectively he’ll always be the slightly noisome undergraduate of the Rachael Papers. Of course its very readable, partly because parts of it are so monstrously misjudged, and probably not deserving of the all-out odium it attracted but already I sense it may not be a finisher. Especially when both The Book of Disquiet and the Sea are still sitting and waiting on the mantelpiece.

looking forward to: Volver.
Junior Boys.

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