Saturday, May 01, 2010

A quick aside:

I tend not to think of Ron Johnson as being part of the “Shambling” bands category, for no better reason perhaps than that I liked them and I really didn’t like, say, the Pastels or Primal Scream, or Talulah Gosh. Actually I don’t really understand if the term applies to everything on C86, which I think is a fairly diverse record.
Let’s bear in mind I was sixteen when C86 came out and into Punk, Goth, Psychobilly, and American hardcore and Ron Jonson stuff seemed to fit into this broad set of interests i.e. it had the virtue of having an off-kilter aggression and kind of flailing, acerbic grooviness that seemed to connect it, backwards in time to stuff like the Birthday Party and the Pop Group , Pere Ubu, Devo to Beefheart and Zappa to contemporary not-quite-yet-noise acts in the U.S. like Breaking Circus, Rifle Sport, early Live Skull, Scratch Acid and then on to that genre that went by the unfortunate term “pigfuck” Pussy Galore, early White Zombie, the Jesus Lizard, Drunktank, Mule (plus several other examples I could probably dredge up from my already overloaded memory if I had a go). So I don’t really understand why on one level they’re not an extension of post punk and quite opposed to Indy’s return to the Sixties. Simon probably deals with this in Rip It UP, but I unfortunately don’t have a copy to hand, having selflessly left my copy in the Moravian hinterland with Bonsai Silverback

I guess RNJNSN is an extension of what at some point in the blogworld was being referred to as “Jerky”, of which The Knack’s “My Sharona” (about which more later) seems to be the great Pop example. I honestly thought of them as being an attempt at dance –music, for those who can’t dance. I suppose what underlines the Ron Johnson bands in some ways is embarrassment: the body is uncontrollable, can’t get into the groove, it swivels, pivots and flaps in an ill-disciplined, sexless whiteboy way, the music tries to gather up and convert this nervous energy into a form that turns that inability (or the suspicions of /desire to correct all the smoothly pistoning phallocentricism of funk and rock) into a polymorphous, poly-arhythmic dispersal of the energy away to the elbows, the knees, the shoulders, the feet, harvesting the awkwardness (awkwardness is an energy!) and reinvesting it in the skittery, the lunging, the spastic, the disoriented/ing. Dislocation dance/contort yourself. Kev Hopper’s bass is always twanging and ballooning around the mid-range, kind of elastically ungroovy and floating as though he’s trying to fight it down into its proper place ( I really like “Quirk Out”. “A Fierce Pancake” less so) Their bodies, the instruments, their words betray them. In the wackiness and the rather elliptical/nonsensical lyrics another kind of embarrassment is manifest: fear of direct emotional expression, fear of sincerity, neither the happy banality of the love song nor the commitment of poetry/politics are available ( The Redskins). I suppose in this sense they overlap with the other shamblers in that there’s a certain avoidance going on, a certain shame, a being positioned outside the “normal” pleasures but this agitated inbetween-ness has a kind of fumbling, striving quality I like, an unlocalizable kinetic force, a decentered drive. The RNJNSN bands seem to exist as series of frantic tangents on and hectic circumventings of the impossible pleasures of unselfconsciousness, which I think is as good a musical description of the British character as you could get.

So I understand why in one sense the appellation “shambling”, there’s an element of abjection in the Ron Johnson stuff, as well as a skewed triumphalism (completely absent from the Creationy-side of C86, which is kind of aggressively, self-assertingly twee, and therefore undercuts the sympathy one might feel toward it) my deep discomfort with my unruly, angular body needs a music to match it. Hence my slightly incredulity-inducing reference to Wonky: it's all clubfeet, off the beat, hey there’s no wrong way to dance to this, what a relief! If you check out the McKenzies there’s a definite white soul-boy thing going on, (Dexy’s without Kevin Rowland's pathologically projected passion), bIG FLAME have a kind of James White style bequiffed psychobilly vibe.

Additional point: I can’t believe he’s gone and blogged Spirit of Radio, which is actually one of my Broinlaw’s favourite tunes and which I was going to dedicate to him. I mean attack ME, by all means, but now you’re starting to drag my FAMILY into this.

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