Wednesday, September 27, 2006


A comment below suggests that my statistics re: suicide rates in the Lapsed writer rant are wrong, which according to the cited sources they are. Interesting. Bear in mind that I wrote this Spring 2003 and that the statistics I was using at the time suggested what appears in the excerpt, ie: that there was a significant split in Europe in terms of suicide rates (certainly for women, I recall) presumably these statistics were compiled from data reffering to several years prior to two thousand and three (end of the century, early Noughties), begging the question as to whether getting your suicide rates in line with the Common Europen Suicide Policy is a requirement of EU membership, or simply a consequence of it.
So, I'll be interested to check out whether there has been a big increase in those countries or if I simply imagined it all...
Zeit-geist fiction, eh...? Ahh, well geist unt zeit wait for no man...of course if I was, like, a proper writer I'd have some minion to check stuff for me, but under the circumstances, thanks Anonymous!
Ok I’ve been fighting it, asking myself why, why, Carl, WHY????? Trying to deny and repress it, turning it over and over in my head at night, falling silent at the dinner table with a furrowed brow, suddenly bursting out in pained sobs and gnashing my teeth, but for all my valiant battling, it seems that, and let me be the first to break ranks here and hold up my hand to say…..

….I like, “Rudebox.”

Quite a lot. As it happens.

Now, naturally, of course, I don’t want to like it. How awful, to find yourself liking a Robbie William's song, ( “Blighter must have caught me off guard, Sah!" "But surely your ideological and aesthetic defences were on Def Con four at the merest whiff of a William’s tune heading our way, Impostume”. "Sah, Yes Sah! Frightfully embarrassed, Sah!")

I’m certainly not going to get into some specious “If this was by Beck/Basement Jaxx/ HoxtonKunt* everybody would be saying…” stuff (errr.. actually probably no-one is saying that, really) as what’s appealing about it is precisely how Robbie Williams it is. If Robbie’s stuff has always been split between Brit Pop authenticity and earnest confessionalism (“Angels”, “Strong” etc..) versus high-gloss kitsch (“Let Me Entertain You”, “Millenium”) “Rudebox” is a definite playing to all his strengths, the most formidable being his ability to make you like him despite yourself (or indeed, himself). "Rudebox" probably represents some kind of Po-Mo apotheosis, composed almost entirely of direct bites (Sly and Robbie, the Beasties, Cypress Hill, Public Enemy etc) deliberately strained Jafaican phrasing mixed with pointed regionalisms (“You don’t sweat much for a fat lass") cut-up Pop culture non-sequiters (“T.K Maxx costs less/Jackson looks a mess”) and whole host of throwaway samples and Old-Skool production ticks.

This isn’t to say it isn’t irritating of course, but along with much of the great “product” in popular culture it manages to be both irritating and enjoyable/effective/affective at the same time. The only way I could really describe its effect on me is to say it tickles me, being tickled of course is both irritating, hysteria inducing, invasive and somehow deeply pleasurable at the same time, (lots of novelty records and Christmas/Holiday Hits have this effect, right? It's the basic pleasure in kitsch, “ oh my god, that’s awful,” you say, hand to mouth, laughing and staring enraptured. Kitsch is a deliberate, benignly proffered aesthetic insult.)

So of course on one level it's just Robbie being a twat again, but being a twat is, of course, largely great fun,(even if it shouldn’t be and, hence, it’s potency.) Winding your mate up, putting on stupid voices, copying speech patterns, mixing registers, being wilfully contrarian, inventing stupid, clever-clever puns and dancing like a spazz are all deeply pleasurable pastimes and there’s just something so gleefully Ludic, disreputable and disrespectful about “Rudebox” in its deployment of pastiche, piss-take and deliberate irritation that I find it beguiling, perhaps it's simply that the almost superhuman levels of twattishness on display, not to mention that killer Sly and Robbie hook, lift it into a different league, offer it the possibility of transcendence.

I have to say, and I never thought I’d say this in my life, but I’m quite eager to hear the album**. Looks like it’s going to be commercial suicide for Robbie*** (though he does have that one formidable strength, remember) judging by the responses so far. Hey, it’s going to be Robbie’s “ Kid A”.


Absolutely no critical theory or Kulcha-related posts over at Family Hobgoblin, just a couple of beautiful, heartbreaking posts on the trite, furious old business of living and dying. Do yourself a favour and get over there!

*HoxtonKunt don’t actually exist so there’s no need to Google them in a lather worrying that I know something you don’t.

** Naturally if anyone from the record company would like to send me a copy, or arrange for interviews etc, I’m happy to oblige.
*** errr...would it redeem me in anybody's eyes if I said I also really liked the Mike Osborne Trio, for example..errr...

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