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Fri, 29 Feb 2008

NYC Rock

I came across NYC Rock by Mike Evans just recently even though it's been in print since 2003. It covers NYC music from the 1900's on and aside from anything else gives some kind of style-guide to the changing times with the emphasis, unsurprisingly, being on rock and variants.

Aside from his assertion that NYC is the world's melting pot which is probably a hundred years out of date, there is a lot of interesting stuff here - the whole punk/new wave/no wave thing, the uncomfortable relationship between business and art (as it always was and will be), and the nexus between a lively experimental scene and the availability of suitably out-there clubs to show them off and introduce them - for which read "cheap rents" as being a major factor. What of Bloomberg/Guilianni's sanitised no-smoking NYC of today? Life is still there, it just moved outwards much as it has in London..

Evans also has words to say about the idea that the UK was the home of Punk. But actually, the UK was the home: NYC was the birthplace but band after band found they couldn't sell any records in the USA or even find places to play beyond the limited boundaries of a few clubs at home. The UK at the time provided them with both as well as critical appreciation.

The story gets a far as The Strokes, who never excited me as much as most everyone else, but still they did actually make a lot of people very excited. Today or a few days ago, from all accounts (I don't know, I haven't been there for years) Hip-hop fusion from the Bronx, with people like CocoRosie, is having a moment in the sun... but they don't get a mention. There are a whole lot of people that do, however, and the final bit is almost a trainspotter's guide to bands that were big in the 'urbs ... it's a little apt to make your eyes glaze over, but you could find someone special that's right in your line as well.

Speaking of New York, I was sent a single the other day called New York from a band called Cheap Hotel. I'm not sure that they are from NY but they well could be. They were billed as Punk which seems to be now talk for anyone with a little indy energy. Punk, for me, means chaotic energy, not necessarily Black Flag but certainly elements of that, a certain raggedness. Cheap Hotel aren't that at all, not on this single anyway. That doesn't make them bad either - they have a nice riff going and they do have energy but Punk they are not.

Lastly, if you're into indy electronica, and if you're going to be near Berlin, Germany over March 28, 29, 30 you should check out Bleepfest Berlin 08 as there will be talent there from all over. (thunderfinger)

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Tue, 05 Feb 2008

Commercial Women

Not so long ago Britney Spears had a new album out and there were quite a few nice words written by critics in the everyday media - angst of artist leads to best effort in years - that sort of thing. And then there were people who wrote something like - Jeez, gimmie a break, the Spear had as much to do with the creative content of the recording as she did with the weather in Moscow.

Well, I can't say I've ever taken her seriously but she did deliver a part of the performance and this puts me in mind of Marianne Faithful and Broken English. That was a wonderful raw and ragged thing that was written up as an MF effort. It wasn't. MF remains good at the same things as Paris, Britney etc, yawn, etc - that is to say, self-publicity and kiss-and-tell and that sort of thing. In fact Britney's latest is straight out of the MF playbook. Who was it behind Broken English? Barry Reynolds.

And then there's Kylie, who apparently had a fair bit to do with her own effort and received little credit for it except for being on the UK's Honours List - which might have been for being a Gay icon but I think it was for being entertaining. Yes, well, why not? I remember a few years ago being totally amazed at the amount of hatred and invective that was being heaped on her by her fellow Aussies (who make a fine sport of mean-spirited envy). That's like hating a daisy - not the most interesting flower perhaps, but one with a little charm and one that wouldn't rouse too much passion with normal people... either for or against. In a way, she's an update of Olivia Newton whatsit, who a Rolling Stone reviewer once described as "the sound of white bread singing". chortle.

Are these two the mainstream? Are we there yet? I don't know really but they are certainly more mainstream than most anything else I've talked about lately. They certainly are commercial.

And then there's Amy Winehouse. She's newer than the other two but is travelling a very old road just the same. She's allowed of course even if that road seems headed for the Devil's Crossroads ... or is it away, after? Lots of people are liking her atmosphere anyway, and the tabloids are happy to have someone else to write about. There is something there too. When she was first around there were mentions of Janis Joplin and I wrote a few scathing words at the time as her voice isn't in the same league as Big Brother era Janis. But that comparison was odious anyway, and a red herring. 2008 could be interesting as Mark Ronson has talked about "wall of sound". Updated Phil Spector, with some roughness and soul could be interesting. (thunderfinger)

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