Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Final notes on the decade in music

[Top 10 here, Foreword and Further Reading here, the also-rockers here]

The indulgent Noughties, that much maligned tournant du siècle decade where technological advance seemed only to bring socio-cultural regression, started late and ended early, after the Towers (and the new iPod) and before the credit crunch. With mere days to go before corporatised, time-precious fuckers can start running round saying ‘twenty ten’, the shitty smears of homogenised Cowellpop would suggest the decade creatively came to a spectacularised nought. But with wide-angle lens on I find it hard to agree and would rather back the usual platitudinous ‘there’s good and bad in every decade’, like a neutered panellist on one of Maconie’s trials of pop, as well as agree with Reynolds that there’s far more music of a certain quality to listen to. Not necessarily more bands/acts than ever before (although post-Strokes we went through a stage where it was ‘cool’ to be in a band again), but with digital production technology and online distribution dovetailing with the slow death of the music business more bands were able and willing to build a community of listeners.

In the UK, whether celebrity or someone merely with 47 friends on Facebrick, it has been impossible to ignore the tentacles of Hoxton culture. For all its downside, going out east of Old Street stills guarantee a better, more evolved time than you get in Soho or Notting Hill. But harsh digitised sounds are ubiquitous and arguably a mockery of the time that they could carry real weight in a track. The period that started personally with a late 20s ongoing commitment to the hedonic experience, mainly around a house scene beginning to look as much to Europe’s clicks and cuts as Chicago bang (it was called ‘deep house’ as an in-joke) and taking in all surrounding post-rave genres for impetus, ended very much in necessary consolidation driven by the demands of children, the best insights of previous years usually intact but the habits of previous years and the longing to refeel those scenes sometimes hard to shake off.

Luckily it was no longer just about dancing to loud music in a shared experience. Now I just come home, whack Synth Brittania or the Krautrock doc on and rush off that, or print out and marvel at Rouge’s work on Burial. As the blogosphere blossomed new routes to infotainment became available that junked mainstream soundbite culture, as well as provide rave veterans with a means to bypass the comedown. The futureshock was virtual, here proper writers would fill out the world of scenes past such as post-punk and hardcore (such evocations in part inspiring hauntological musicking) and present such as grime (MP3s supplied). Even better, just a few clicks away was theory applied to that music and much more besides (the terror on war, modernist architecture, capitalist realism). It’s no exaggeration to say that, after the learning void of the university experience and beyond, this was my most productive decade in taking on ideas and my most intense in terms of musical development and appreciation. At its best this environment was a revolutionary usurpation of the tired old NME/MTV mainstream, a viable alternative where you can get all you need. Ignore the banality elsewhere. In fact our corner of the web has come so far that some old-style resentment of the established players has creeped in. Have the top boys and girls ruled the roost for too long? Possibly, but when there is no let-up of the flow, exchange and dissemination of intelligent commentary and cultural artefacts I see no need for a changing of the vanguard (just at a time when Paul Morley made a plea for the elite nature of the cultural commentator in the last Newsnight Review). More likely the commentariat will just go on deepening/diversifying, and these days we play a much bigger part in whom we choose to check as well as ignore.

Thus listening habits have changed, domestically and collectively, much more than any music scene they support. Out and about, the rave as revolutionary site, driver of the altered state, no longer seems valid. In the 90s, people genuinely believed in going further via the dancefloor experience, now there’s a lot more cocaethylene swirling around bodies and a lot more Barleyesque blah blah blah. The dominant scenes all allow a certain alcoholic socialism, the consolidation not just musical. So new zones may be needed now for communal enhancement. Maybe Mark’s onto something with his new collective listening call. The growth of iTunes/iPod culture, though infuriating in public as people blithely descend into MeSpace, can only be a good thing in general musical terms, giving people better access to their music, more ways of experiencing it and the ability to delve deeper much easier. Ditto being able to have a library of tunes on your phone, and Bluetooth for moving them around between your own gadgets or those of your friend’s. Considerable white heat between that and ‘home taping is killing music’.

Having spent a small fortune on 12s over the years, I certainly don’t feel bad about growing my collection from any of the free or cheaper routes available to us now. People say ‘it’s not physical’, ‘you can’t feel a virtual collection’, but I do. I make sure I get all the artwork downloaded, even from mixes, have everything in my preferred order, turn on the various iTunes views and browse my collection (often playing 30-second blasts of each). Get fetishised. And if the guilt pangs grow, Spotify, with its canny iTune esque format, is a good ‘try before you buy’ (but mostly just try) alternative. After all that I have no need of the illegal streams, the Limewires et al. And I still buy vinyl, it’s just like everyone else I can’t be arsed with the specialist shop and order that online too. Been into ‘indie superstore’ Rough Trade East once seen it has opened, when previously I would have been in the Covent Garden branch every week; changing patterns, changing times.

Whatever the mode, whatever the format, my modus operandi of surface skimming – pick off (what I believe to be) the cream in any scene, don’t drown in the dreck, then get out into a different pool and find what’s good there – has increased in this diversified environment. Yet for all that it’s still dance music – London/British, European, American – that turns me on the most. I have doggedly not let the bug go yet, nor do I intend or necessarily see the need to because of the way the blog space accommodates the elders-as-curators. That’s what still gets me – checking the latest beats and sounds, finding out what I like about them and working out what I can do with them in my own micro-entertainment space - that’s the buzz. I know of and actually like a lot of guitar music but most of it just leaves me cold, even the serious stuff with lyrics you’re supposed to be like. I don’t know whether it’s the parasitical need to see what’s hot in all the scenes or some deeper psychological driver of taste, but I still never go too far: I am the centre-left of music’s spectrum, happy to mock my lad-rock friends but honest enough to admit I like a Kasabian or two. The noisiest I go is no big drone, the most street often checked by a sense of inappropriateness for doing so. Find me in a side-street just off the high street – it’s a legal space that takes its inspiration wherever I can find it.

The expanded virtual space is not without issues: too much space is privileged to UK street styles as if it was the true and only revolutionary condition, the only [dance] music that matters. Here, the hardcore continuum debate took on its own life way beyond its original intention. This ignores the fact that nearly everything seems to come back to house (I like the way in his noughties house and techno review Kiran Sande talks of a ‘neat and trippy global pop for the iBook/latte generation’ - here no-one denies they operate in a bourgeois space in stark contrast to the authentic prole vibes of grime and funky). You also feel that music is being made very much informed by the blogs and forums and with them in mind, and that there is too much music-as-music debate, the socio-cultural element taken for granted and arguably even reaffirming the stereotypes.

So I think I would take the 90s, where new sonic shock seemed to come round more often, despite its manifold faults and early co-option into the mainstream (in fact I tend to read the rave boom as just the way of getting the last elements of society – ie, the working class – into alternative consumer options but there was never much chance of it staying revolutionary either culturally or sonically). There was more ability for genuinely unsettling material to get wider acceptance. In the noughties, grime did the most in terms of novelty, but couldn’t finish the job due to the insistence on reality, while electroclash, electrohouse, dubstep and funky house (notably these are mostly compound terms; funky insists on decoupling the house to hide the reality that it really is just another house) can only be viewed in iterative terms. Give us the ostensibly new.

At the level of subculture there has been another development that has had insufficient coverage – the rise of ‘burlesque’ nights where a much more varied roster of acts (comedy, drama troupes, etc), a bit of sexed-up titillation and a lack of musical puritanism feed a decadent, carefree spirit that dance music nights now struggle to match. The fad for fancy dress/dressing up (which rave had initially razed) is having a resurgence. All the socio-musical iterations driven by fashionable or knowingly unfashionable youth (that now pass me by) in one sense don’t really matter as this continuous change is what drives popular music, but the burlesque scene operates as a difference from that and is arguably helping to feed a new spirit (electro-swing anyone?). Pity then that I haven’t been to any of these dos then, nearest I got is cabaret type charity fund raisers.

I started this decade utterly indifferent to the rise of Reality pop but by the end, reduced to the realisation that staying in and switching on often comprised my Saturday night, was guiltily checking out the acts and marvelling at the production excesses (all that intermittent noise and flashing on stage) on X-Factor; if only to be au courant for the following week because that’s all most seem to talk about. Whether X-Factor has really had that much of a deteriorative effect on pop music is questionable; the charts are regularly ruled by a small cabal of svengalis who end up producing a very narrow-minded strain of pop. Just before them we moaned about Spiceworld, Take Shat, East 17 and Blue-style manufactured boy bands and in groups like S-Club 7 the sneaky rebirth of slickly choreographed, smileface, goodtime pop, the precursor to all this. And it’s fair to say that in such blandout masquerading as melodrama Cowell and co have already sown the seeds of their own downfall and, as we have seen with the Rage against McElderry campaign, people are hankering after a bit of difference after a decade of it. So it’s the wider culture rather than pop itself that has felt the pain of this poverty of aspiration; increasing numbers thinking this the only route to market/stardom/out of the mundane, etc, when there are always better options elsewhere.
<%=MakeComment("580268843876520468","Sonic Truth:Final notes on the decade in music","")%>

Top 10 of the 2000s: Foreword and further reading

Further reading:
* Ghostly International’s non-Ghostly 110 of the 2000s
* Fact Magazine's Top 100 albums
* Pitchfork's Top 20
* Guardian Top 10
* Stylus Decade (coming soon)
* Noughties notes on musical fragmentation
* Fact's 10 house producers of the decade
* Blissblog's 9 09s
* Guide's People Who Ruined the Decade
* Why Kek-W has no favourite album of the decade
* Howay Howey! Salaam Ali! Allez Le Sulk – City team of the decade

A dizaine of tracks from the decade was something I was already thinking of doing by late 08, ignoring the pertinent other asking why would some unvalidated, isolate no-mark want to stroke off his top 10 as if it mattered to anyone other than himself. A top 10 of albums was never on the cards due to my oh-so time-poor modus operandi for most long-players these days generally being have a quick skirt through, find the 3 or 4 (but often just 1) tracks I like and rip to the e-library.

Yet while always recognising the exercise’s whiff of futility I still wanted to quantify the one-off moments of intensity, ad hoc communal moments versus private reverie, the trade-off between that moment and how long you go on genuinely feeling it, even remembering it maybe even acknowledging how much it was liked because the virtual milieu within my online bookmarks told me to; liking just one thing from a band (Kings of Leon’s deliciously feral Red Morning Light at our wedding did not enamour me to their work, for example, and in any case the middle managers wanted in). Again, iTunes-style listening comes into play, 30-second blasts of the best bits favour impact songs rather than slow-burners (notably the longer house tunes in the 10 are vinyl treasures).

I get the ‘moments’ where I can now, plugged into the matrix, train and bus rides with the phones on, in the car. The blog and my interest in music are maintained from an amateur/everyman perspective, doing it on the side (after late night shifts and childcare), keeping track when I can. Anyhow I built it up over the course of 2009 and hopefully it offers decent personalised histories of each tune.

With thanks to Marc, Corky and Fish for their contributions.

[Top 10 here, the also-rockers here]
<%=MakeComment("5421168419860810239","Sonic Truth:Top 10 of the 2000s: Foreword and further reading","")%>

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Top 10 of the decade - tenth entry

Missy ‘Misdemeanour' Elliot – Get Ur Freak On (2001)
(series now complete here, with further reading here and final notes here)

I’d always intended at least one selection to be from hip-hop or r&b, to give some reflection to those genres’ absolute dominance of popular music at the turn of the decade and years after. At my socially conservative centre you wouldn’t go out looking for an r&b night as their ubiquity ensured you didn’t need to - crappy bars, pubs and clubs everywhere had the sound and it could unite boys and girls, drinkers and sharkers, in a spectacular pre-Carnage abandon. This was populist and modern sexed up party music broken free from social niche or generic restriction. Classics came round with startling frequency, Destiny’s Child one week, Kelis the next, even upstarts like Amerie could be ensured a big moment if they secured the services of the producer du jour. On the clubbing fringes too house DJ friends would marvel at the production on Dre’s 2001 and all the press wowed over Timbaland’s productions. They had won the battle and now it was all about how long the spectacle could be maintained.

I’d had a soft spot for 90s r&b as an emergent pop sound that was not some kind of po-mo, Britpop option; tunes like SWV’s I’m So Into You was a biggie in our Leeds student houses, TLC’s Waterfall then later gear such as Blackstreet’s No Diggity. All of these sat well with the occasional purchases of ‘real’, manlier hip-hop. Later I again had my partner to thank for bringing me closer to an array of Elliot and Timbaland productions from the previous decade when Warners/WEA were getting behind r&b, including her own She’s A Bitch, the Rain, tunes for Nicole and others and those Aaliyah classics. Then Get Ur Freak On emerged from Missy Elliot’s third album and was her biggest UK single, both in sales and impact.

Getting a big r&b smash by the early noughties was all about global reach and an exchange of musical motifs. This was a time of Punjabi MC’s Mundian To Bach Ke’s reaching out to the US with the Nightrider riff to embolden the bhangra sound. Missy and Timbaland as producers wanted a sound that would go beyond just the UK or American ‘urban’ crowds. Mumbai would be getting down, Tokyo and other Asia-Pacific hubs too. Missy was aware of this global reach and Get Ur Freak On explicitly recognised the allure of the last American pop phenomenon, with a simplistic but very effective Punjabi melody (played on the ektara) and snatched lyrics in Hindi and Japanese.

Of course artists had seen and would go on to see the orientalist/exotic bandwagon waving at them to jump on, the likes of Truth Hurts and Nore’s Nothing ripping Middle East and Indian elements but wrapping them firmly back in the low-end bump and grind of standard r&b or hip-hop. But crucially, Miss E and Timbaland went one further by making the ektara riff stand way out in the mix, getting into your head with its bell-like clarity. The rhythm is double-layered, the r&b thumps away as expected in the foreground (quite hard by Timbaland standards) but Indian percussion skirts around underneath to add a different funk, allowing you to express yourself more than if there was just the conventional jerk and judder to the main beat. At its heart is a manic urgency to convey the lyrics and incidental content, not consistent in approach with r&b crazysexycool but effective on those terms in result.

R&B eventually did get far too samey and too reliant on hot chicks with butts to sell music, something Missy Elliot was always adept at subverting in her peak, unfortunately leaving its main progeny to be parasite humpers like the Black-Eyed Peas. Gangsta rap too became stupid parody with Fifty Cent and Jay-Z and below then Ja Rule and DMX battling for realness as album sales finally turned down. The best stuff for the last few years such as Rihanna and Kanye has been more than a little influenced by digitised dance music, while the poppiest gear is not really r&b at all but slick disco in the mould of Estelle’s American Boy or Shakira’s latest. But Get Ur Freak On achieved the dual status of being one of the standout r&b tunes of the time while standing apart from the genre.
<%=MakeComment("1818433393891730037","Sonic Truth:Top 10 of the decade - tenth entry","")%>

Live review: Public Image Limited

Filled with more filthy lucre from advertising butter, John Lydon has joined the growing bands of revivalists doing a potted Best Of on the live circuit, with a late 80s incarnation of Public Image Limited that includes ex-Damned Mekon guitarist Lu Edmonds, drummer Bruce Smith from the Pop Group and Scott Firth on bass. This was the first of two nights at Camden’s Electric Ballroom, after dates in Brixton, Birmingham and elsewhere, and as Lydon strolls on last in oversized check-shirt and trousers he tells us he’s ‘the local boy made good’. Just a 253 up to his old manor.

Hardly the ‘humiliating reconciliation’ with English culture, with Lydon installed as the ‘official court jester, the vaudeville act touring the revival circuit’ as David Keenan put in his Wire review of their reissues, nor the grim spectacle of the Pistols comeback gigs in outdoor arenas, rather Lydon seemed determined to prove the worth of their back catalogue and the relevance now, not just musically but also lyrically as Britain stays mired in recession, seemingly unwilling to find the means to lift itself out of its malaise. After opening with Public Image itself, the next five or six songs contained many of the biggies - Careering, Poptones, This Is Not a Love Song - all of whose renditions delighted the crowd. Driven by crunchy dark synths, there is another tune slightly later on (I’m only familiar with bits of Metal Box and the bigger mid-80s hits) that absolute nails the punk-funk thing and makes you understand why this kind of dark dub disco can carry real weight. Lydon pounces around the stage grimacing and jerking, feeling the music and its intent but never losing himself. You can be locked into in the music but that doesn’t mean you’re some loved up ravegimp vacuous of thought. Death Disco repeats the trick a bit later on. Slower and even moodier tracks such as Albatross, Religion and the exotic Flowers of Romance all work well, while Lydon is also at pains to convey the full intent of Warrior, the perpetual and dangerous undermining of England’s multicultural reality. Politicians also come in for regular abuse. Over to Dan for more:

"Firth’s basslines were irresistible and even Lu Edmonds’ occasional excesses on his set of axes failed to reduce or narrow the intense grooves ploughed by these postulate, essential punks. Lydon was in his element, proto-preaching and coruscating banality and compliance - anarchy can be easy (it is, after all, extremely reactionary) but it is a much healthier attitude in an artist/musician than, say, liberal democratic values worn on bespoke tailored sleeves. After opening with a somewhat perfunctory performance of the eponymous debut single, a dip into the viral waters of Careering signalled that we were in for some of the good old early stuff. Lydon's pained apoplexy, spat out through the characteristically maniacal visage, was a vital antidote to the butter commercials and he even afforded himself a laugh at a pat of said product that an audience member had thoughtfully provided [something along the lines of ‘you’re among friends here, so don’t take the piss you fat cunt’]."

Lydon left the stage with the assertion that we should ‘accept no imitators just the best’, but in truth the focus could not be kept up for the entire set of near two hours including encores. Edmonds’ 80s guitar hero took those scratchy 80s licks nearer to the Edge and sometimes Lydon’s banter with the front degenerated (when we weren’t folky enough for one encore) and the crowd itself lost some concentration. Perhaps making this more a bit more of an event with the DJs on for longer and maybe a youthful support band that shared some of their outlook but updated the look might have justified the £40+ ticket. But generally this was a really tight and inspired set by the PiL whose line-up, emboldened only by occasional drum tracks and some electronic instrumentation, really did justice to both the early and more well known later periods of Lydon’s far less rotten adventure.
<%=MakeComment("3680768727460500863","Sonic Truth:Live review: Public Image Limited","")%>

Friday, December 18, 2009

Killing in the Name of ... Processed Pop

+++++++Update, Rage's Killing did make it to the christ-mas number one, seeing off Cowell's 'sterile pop monopoly' as De La Rocha put it, and carl's justification for the campaign was far better than most others' glib defences.+++++

Deep misgivings about the Facebank campaign to usurp the Cowellshit with Rage Against the Machine's Killing in the Name as Chrimbo Number One. Certainly, the decade's xfactorisation of pop, the return of the primetime talent show where you come out either winner, loser or psycho SuBo, has led to one of pop's periodically bland phases (occasional good voices at the service of shite reheated content), but gimmick tactics aren't going to make any long-term difference even if it does herald a victory for the 'democratised' nature of modern pop buying (something Cowell's progs rely on too). Of course, the Daily Mail took delight in blaming it on a BBC anti-ITV conspiracy. And sorry Guardian, I'm not having your plea to take it less seriously.

Great thought process by the instigator this must have been (was he or she really a RATM fan? are those getting behind it RATM fans?); 'like, what a bummer it will be if Joe McElderry gets to number one for chrimbie, why don't we try to get a real rebel song to beat it to number one. That'll show 'em. You know what, let's get a SHOUTY one with SWEAR WORDS." Yeah truth up, the Man will be truly socked. Particularly like the use of a tune that completely ignores the real politicised lyrical content of this early 90s rock-rap classic (possibly the only rock-rap classic, whose crowning glory for me was guitarist Tom Morello's solo mimicking the howl of turntable scratching; superb). Then there's the even deeper irony that this song is against coercion, and now it's in a campaign to persuade you to do something impossibly banal. Then of course the song title makes for some uncomfortable association - Killing in the Name of... bland pop covers? It's shite yes, but find some positive energy from the infinite entertainment sphere.

Morello came out in favour of this little British diversion (not clear what singer Zack De la Rocha thinks about it yet), but what kind of achievement is it to get a belated number one in the UK via a kind of populist payola, a twisted engineering that has very little to do with Killing itself? Now i sound like i'm bothered about the pop scene. Rage Against the Machine's Killing in the Name is a great song, sonically primetime nihilist fodder in my more youthful and destructive moments, but generally very inspiring, so my message to the faecebook group really is 'fuck you, I won't do what you tell me'. Enjoy and be moved by the song for what it is, not what it now sadly is being asked to represent:

<%=MakeComment("458363501312594993","Sonic Truth:Killing in the Name of ... Processed Pop","")%>

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

The cost of seeing

The glasses finally broke. I say finally because Alain Affelou in France had welded on the cheapest pair possible after the frame snapped earlier this year sur les vacances. This time both arms broke clean away, so I needed a new frame or, preferable cheapest option, a repair job.

I moved my optician, the chain which I stick to loyally because my sister works for them on the south coast (Southampton or Christchurch, depending), to the City, where they promise a more hands-off approach because their clients’ time is money plus a few points and they need some flexibility if you don’t mind the markets are burning etc. Plenty of Klein specs in ready for bonus season.

They definitely can’t do repairs, the dispensing optician equivalent to my sister insists. Oh and because a new frame couldn’t possibly be made to fit so my old lenses match the centre of my vision, or something, I’ll need new lenses too. It’s at this point that I point out through muffled comments that I do not work in the Square Vile, inviting her to look me up and down for sartorial confirmation. Ignoring that she points me to a range of frames and outlines my expensive options, throwing in the inevitable get-two-pairs deal if you pay a bit more. And because my prescription is off-the-scale myopic, the mark-up will increase because thinner lenses cost more. Soon we’re looking at £300, even after I somewhat desperately mention the family discount, so I leave and say I’ll stew over the options.

Minutes later I am in Rough Trade where I get the call from the ocular head honcho. All smooth presentation and clipped phrases, he essentially breaks down what I already know, but does so with a salesman’s insistence that is hard to ignore and indeed inclines me to take the easy way out just to put the phone down.

So I put the phone down, having virtually agreed to take the most expensive option. Some £300 or so worth of new ophthalmic kit. What a weakling I think, but I eventually stiffen my resolve and head back to the local opticians in SE4. Here, the assistant says she’ll at least see if they can get repaired. Two days later they come back repaired and it costs just £20. Wasn’t that hard now was it?
<%=MakeComment("1978912614106190313","Sonic Truth:The cost of seeing","")%>

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Liddle Briton

Shocked by the canal death plot, Rod Liddle has blogged to say ‘the overwhelming majority of street crime, knife crime, gun crime, robbery and crimes of sexual violence in London is carried out by young men from the African-Caribbean community’, before ignoring in his verbal stunt any analysis of class and economics (or indeed statistical analysis) to defend his rant on the grounds of multicultural difference.

'Of course, in return, we have rap music, goat curry and a far more vibrant and diverse understanding of cultures which were once alien to us. For which, many thanks … The issue here is not racism, it is one of multiculturalism.'

We should be aware of the terms in which he is trying to have the debate, positing himself as the ‘we’ of the host, the givers of opportunities in keeping with how the tory readership still thinks, with the African-Caribbean community very much as a second class outside ‘you’.

Bonnie Greer is fantastic in pandering to Liddle’s offensive terms of cultural exchange: 'The overwhelming majority of paedophiles, murderers, war-mongers and football hooligans are white males and all we got in return was beans on toast and Top Gear.'

As usual, anyone this close to inciting racial hatred lives far from where poisonous comments such as these might be read and he should not be taken seriously, but this is nevertheless a vile piece of posturing that clouds the wider point of the egregious elements of liberal multiculturalism Liddle wants to make.
<%=MakeComment("3435531076683290283","Sonic Truth:Liddle Briton","")%>

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Top 10 of the decade - ninth entry

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - Upon This Tidal Wave of Young Blood (Wichita 2006)

(series growing here)

As end-of-decade listomania increases - look at this horrible Xfm rundown – the subjects gain a veneer of published approval through mainstream re-presentation. Yet I question She’s Hearing Voices’ inclusion as my eighth tune of the decade – there were a lot of contenders in the new wave indie category (as you will see there were in every other when notes on the 10 go live). And certainly enough to warrant the ‘genre’ taking another place. Priding myself on always looking to the dance vanguard for innovation and excitement, every now and ressentiment piques that modernist urge as the schmindie impasse rears its retro head.

But ‘indie’ was now a devalued term and the whites-with-guitars marketplace was thankfully a much more diversified sector than it was in the 90s. The ninth place goes to Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s Upon This Tidal Wave of Young Blood. Based in New York, they seemed to emerge in the wake of Arcade Fire and a few other Canadian collectives like Broken Social Scene who played with a folky passion but laced it with a knowing humour (one song is called ‘The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth’), as slightly fraggly, free-spirited trend-duckers (don’t they all?). They had already been favourably reviewed in the US blogosphere and Pitchfork in 2004/2005. In typical style I sat on the self-titled (and originally self-released) debut album for ages. It was another of those my then music industry employed partner had brought home assuring it was regarded as the next big thing (it had been picked up by that avowed arbiter of taste Wichita), to which the usual response is a huge yawn. So I think it was discovered during one of Tommy and I’s derangathons back at his Chelsea flat (never his flat), probably in 2006. In further typical style, the album’s ok but I only really feel this one.

This type of music takes me into a late 80s/early 90s electronics-free earthy indie netherworld (long band name and song title only emphasising that): tight but fast drumming on loose snares and toms, acoustic guitars there to add to rhythmic impetus. But crucially it’s all topped up by much slower and ’scapey electric guitars over the top, thus the verses achieve what many others try but fail by uniting two emotive planes – danceable euphoria and guitar-led blissout. Honestly, it does for me. Flick through the embed here to see what you think (it's the last tune on the album).

Lyrically the song seems to be ambivalent about the youth’s inevitable, libertarian lunge into hedonism but whatever didactic lessons are intended for our ‘child stars’ are probably undermined when set in the frame of such an exciting song that makes you want to cut loose. So while the sentiment may not necessarily suggest it, the whole product cannot help but engender joy in the listener as it builds to an impassioned finale around the four minute-mark.

Probably my most traditional selection and, in the context of being wowed by it just at the time the responsibility of parenthood kicked in, certainly the one most evocative of a youthful freedom. It was no longer valid to place so much weight on the latest wave of beats as clubs were out and anything that could thrill in my domestic confines was in. But I hope it enjoyed heavy and much loved rotation in the nation’s indie discos.

<%=MakeComment("8692785786186767197","Sonic Truth:Top 10 of the decade - ninth entry","")%>
Clicky Web Analytics