Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Repping the channels

"It’s not clear how popular grime is (especially with the danceable garage genres claiming a lot of the space), but it’s clear that the music’s current realist mode isn’t helping... doubtless there are still real quantas of innovation, but generally the soundtrack is bleak, the rhythms monotonous (often devoid of funk at all), the outlook non-escapist and the overall quality lacking (not helped by the ‘numm seeming to stall)."

In the absence of much useful comment on the young knives, Cull wakes up to report on the subject.

And over at Jeremy McKlagstick, our Right Path Party president has taken to building up his TV profile with guest appearances on programmes about cooking, unofficially the 15th new rock and roll if Ramsay, the barely Scottish and but extremely energised man with the crayon lines in his chin, and his accepted outbursts of swearing and boorish rock backdrop are anything to go by. Jeremy's chef Perry Peters was altogether more in tune with his turquiose vibrations, as you'll see from the main clip and outtake.

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Five and still alive

Like many others this blog has its five-year anniversary in 2008. Five years and crinklechrist knows how many posts. In that time blogs have become my main go-to inspiration, my main education even, as one click leads to another and you build up through truly interactive push learning. My workday routine – start surfing prior to lunch, pick out articles to read and print one on recycled paper for the out-of-office sandwich companion.

When WhoreCull’s protagonists realised in 2002/03 that we had to go online (distributing60-80 or copies of the zine was doing a disservice to articles that would go on to get thousands of hits), we decided to do three blogs. Sonic Truth was the obvious offshoot for the back page of music, Political Peccadillo would allow us to react quicker than the webzine to its main driver material, Meeja Hoors took a similar role. Real identities were deemed irrelevant as they had always been in the ‘zine. By the time we launched it as a proper blog we already had several reviews to paste in, as a scroll down would show you, then over time the authorial voice (mine) grew more singular and it got a bit of a rebrand.

Since then Cull moved onto an open source platform (props to Czukay, and Burton’s Gavin the Vacuous Ninnie for the original Dreamweaving and old McClintock director Craig for the new), the two others blogs foundered and the old zine’s stuff on Cinestatic is hard to access due to a server problem I still haven’t checked with Mike about; Main Cull too is also in abeyance as McClintock has taken over.

In that time, the social networking and syndication revolutions have kicked it but it’s remarkable how many of the successful blogs stick to the basic of text and links inc sidebars – eschewing Share This! syndication, other community enjoinments, meme clouds, What Music I am Playing Now and Are you Flossing? questionnaires - although Flickr it seems has synched in best with many’s ideals. And we’re all partial to a YouTube embed; who would have thought we’d understand html coding a few years ago?

Musically the period has witnessed the usual fluctuation; we are post-rave; although its manifold shapes – garage, hardcore, jungle, techno, house – are still a vital route in and out for ‘the kids’. The whiteboy skinny jean variant that kind of started with electroclash and has taken in indie and electro has lasted in various forms for most of the decade; indie rock has disappeared up its own corporate arsehole, shitting out only occasional quality like, arguably (and that’s what blogs do best as long as the comments box doesn’t get catty), the Arctic Monkeys. Hip-hop was correctly pronounced dead by Nas in 2004 and regional blends have not saved it critically. Grime had already peaked by the time I spake webly, but dubstep was just getting going and proved fecund and brooding for a good few years until, if we read the experts rightly, it has flipped the script and gone aqueous and wonky. Right now the smart minds look at a global blend of party-flavoured Latin, Caribbean, African (sub-Saharan and Maghrebi), European and US. I use the blogs as a source of knowledge and files while when I get old-school CDs I’m a typical modern consumer in that I load up the best two or three tracks of the album and leave the rest on the shelf, for occasional return.

Now Truth has grown older it has settled down to its original focus on music but with diary-style posts, while occasionally bigging up the slow-growing side project (the mp3s on the sidebar, however, really are an indulgence). Different author pieces are rare and interaction with the ‘sphere is not as much as it could be. The comments box doesn't even work so maybe i should move over to a plain old Blogspot address. But it carries on in hope that Blogger has kept its final salary pension scheme.

Infinite touches on many of the issues to do with the culture of the blog, in her Illich Deschooling post. Do we court more mainstream fame or notoriety? Well in some cases yes – Guido Fawkes and others show how it can be merely the apprenticeship. Like all the other social-cultural revolutions, from a revisionist perspective this could be seen as an emergent group coming through who will ultimately be subsumed into mainstream discourse. Others like Simon were working topdown in that he was already a successful journalist, but his propagation of the form was vital. Others of course stay staunchly alternative, still seeing the medium of distribution as revolutionary despite the appropriation and consolidation.

And she’s right. Of course the people who do you meet through the ‘sphere turn out to be sound – the shared space promotes ideas generation like no other and it gives you many things to connect on.

What has been so rewarding to see is this exact progression – Owen is an in-demand authority on architecture; Mark now writes for The Wire and a host of other publications; politicos publish provocative and vital books and the sonic bloggaz write their own magazines, start their own labels and release quality music. Then there's the Kino clubs, photo-essays, alternative local histories. But all have their original portal which – crucially - often hosts their most interesting and diverse material. Others stick to their gunz, hit big with one angle then go away, lie low then reinvent themselves for the next connection. A year or two ago this particular blogscene seemed weeks away from the Sunday supplement/lifestyle treatment – mainstream writers (all of whom of course now have their colums turned into ‘blogs’) trying to get a handle on it and almost certainly getting it wrong. We/they seemed to have bypassed that possibility, and we carry on as the fertile and furtive alternative.

In this context – make no mistake, blogging is as valid as forum as the mainstream organs; literally the only difference is that there is no editor/big other second-eyeing your copy so for the less meticulous there will be one or two typos (in my case inevitable as I do real-world editing 9 hours a day for my job). But I think we can live with that because of the great generation of ideas. Believe me, I have seen the copy of so-called real writers and it’s well shabby.

That last bit I have alluded to several times in Truth. Because of the content, I never have been able to equalise my real and virtual worlds, but that remains the target - to get to a situation where the side projects take over and I don’t have to hide behind Truth (even though for a simple and lazy pun I love the name) or facile narcotic metaphor. or I could just make this less autobiographical and stick to the sonics/pop culture, or more autobiographical – turn it into a whimsical biography of a past-it office boy.

The last bit remains unlikely. Relative anonymity is hardly a price to pay at all for having this medium of expression, which can be a bit like a diary. There are certain things that can be said and certain things that can’t but it still offers a viable space; the notion of ‘Truth’ is questioned in the standfirst below the logo anyhow. My circle may continue to decrease but I’ll still keep this going.
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Sunday, July 06, 2008

“Punk’s Not Dead”

Punk is many things to many people, the end of something, the start of something or merely the next stage. Here’s some of the many theories up for a debunking:

The end of the second world war – as argued by Phil Oakey in the Made in Sheffield doc. This is the long view, suggesting that the UK socially and culturally was so grey, so controlled, so straightjacketed in the post-war era that it took us 30+ years to shake the nanny state off.

Tear it up – shorter in outlook but no less sociologically driven. Late 70s punk as a rational reaction to three-day-a-week broke but nuclear-armed Britain heading for Tory-led atomisation. The feeling of powerlessness was tangible, and punk was the era’s howl of impotence, no-one knowing how to deal with the onset of market Stalinism.

No Future. For many punk was nihilism unbound and to try and attach wider meaning to anything outside of this pretty vacant statement of no intent would be deeply misplaced.

For others though, it was Out with the Old and in with the New. Musically, culturally and socially, this was an essential holocaust designed to raze trends and styles before it, so the UK could finally be Modern beyond rarefied circles. The few years of white rioting cleared the way for a general disenfranchisement from politics but also a true multicultural era, with a lot of shopping and fucking, necking and dropping, slapping and stabbing.

Musically too, punk is only valid for the post-punk that followed. Here, punk is a constant renovative credo, the rulebook always being ripped up. It is year zero every time a band gets together. The idea is not to make punk music like you think punk music should be, that way leads to ever decreasing circles and Richard Briers with a safety pin through his neck. The idea is to make music without reference. Post-punk officially began (we now know) when 40 people went to see the Pistols in Manchester in 1976.

Oh come on. Punk? It was a niche scene with no substance or longevity. A few kids from the ghetto, a few situationists, a few fashionistas, a few from Bromley and a few Mancs – you call that a movement? Not even the Clash or the Pistols deserve to be in ‘the canon’, etc.

Bowie, Reed, Roxy. Punk was merely a locus for all the seminal 70s artists to be heard and appreciated and for their fans to be accused of transgressive sexuality but not to have to have defend yourself.

The immediation of another strata – this time it was the suburban and urban youth of a late-70s UK, teased by T-Rex and the Sweet but wanting to get off on a bit more, that were ushered into the middle class mediascape; an inevitable process whenever a scene becomes so big that it’s tabloid and mainstream fodder. After the first shock and awe and a bit of time to weigh up the next move, like the hippies and the ravers either side of them, the punks were happy to become part of the cultural consensus, punk as just one route. Restoration always follows revolution.

Revolt into Style is taken literally, the rebel rock and rollers soon becoming part of the establishment scene, the snarl the only token of past battles won and lost (I mean it was only music wasn’t it?). Punk as mere look and pop art statement, but also as Billy Idol, Richard Jobson presenting magazines, Simenon going off painting like a nonce. Fucking sell-outs!

Neurotic punk. The Buzzcocks chapter. Quintessentially English tales done with quintessential abashedness, reserve, awkwardness, none of the prostrations of prog and other rocks before it. "Why am I in a band?" "I don’t know - why do I have to answer such a banal question". It’s the tag the ICA is safetypinning on its current punkish season. See also indie punk, and therefore punk as DIY. Such as the inventive all-female -and democratic - group Gertrude, who do shouty and noisy but also dubby, atmospheric phases, their interchanging musicality always giving them room to take it up a notch or down one as required.

Absolute punk – aka Punk’s Not Dead. Where the grimaces of the band, the three chords and the neutered anti-socialism is everything. This was exactly where the Fumadores and Neurotic & the PVCs – the other two bands on at the ICA, one finishing with a Stooges cover that sounded like the Pistols and the other a Pistols cover that sounded like the Stooges. What’s slavishly known in other genres as keeping it real. Neurotic singer Fiddian Warman is so punk he’s built robots to do the pogoing in lieu of a decent-sized audience. That’s right, they were intensely irritating.

Punk is just another rock. A stylistic iteration. It has no historical resonance outside of music. After pub-rock and forward to post-rock and back and through again with pop divergence always close by. That’s why MOJO can do regular CDs in and around bands of that era.

It was all a big fuckin laugh. Sadly one of the most popular of all revisionist theories today. The sort of view of the punk all-dayers, the old boys going and the type of self-reassurance Steve Jones and co tell themselves. People who’d like to have been involved in a revolution called it a revolution, but it’s all just funnies, mere semen in Matlock’s roll.
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