And Now A First

I can still remember the first time I heard Le Tigre’s Hot Topic. Lauren Laverne was filling in on the Evening Session, and playing live tracks from Hole’s glorious 1999 Glastonbury set; I was working on something, perhaps trying to rewrite a grammar so it could be parsed by a LALR(1) parser (it’s best not to care, really), when it started playing. I stopped, enthralled by a song listing feministic icons to a bubblegum beat. As I heard the first words “Hot Topic is the way that we rhyme”, I knew that I had to add it to my collection. A quick trip to Piccadilly Records later, and I was listening to their eponymous first album. It was everything you could have hoped for; arch-political garage pop that lurched from assaulting Rudy Giuliani’s career (My My Metrocard) to the joys of being in a band (Let’s Run). Fabulous.

The second album, Feminist Sweepstakes wasn't as good as the first, but still had rather enjoyable songs, in particular LT Tour Theme and Fake French. Three years later, they have signed to Universal Records and are about to release a new album, This Island. This is the new single:

Le TigreNew Kicks

If you put your ears to the speakers and listen closely, you can hear my heart breaking in the first thirty seconds. It's a protest record. About the Iraq war. Well, for a start, it's about two years late to catch that bandwagon. But I can forgive that, truly I can. What I can't forgive is three minutes and thirty seconds of unimaginative sloganeering, a backing track that appears to have died thirty years ago, being played through the use of zombie magic, and the complete lack of, well, any semblance of a song.

"This is what Democracy sounds like!"

That's Le Tigre, making a constitutional monarchy sound more attractive with every passing second…

(to be completely fair, I am hearing that some of the new songs they've been playing live are fantastic. Which makes bobbins like this all the more puzzling.)

currently playing: Le Tigre — Hot Topic

Laugh or Cry? Part II

The Senate Judiciary Committee heard this morning from one of its own about some of the problems with airline “no fly” watch lists. Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., says he had a close encounter with the lists when trying to take the U.S. Airways shuttle out of Washington to Boston. The ticket agent wouldn’t let him on the plane. His name was on the list in error.

currently playing: Bis — Detour

Mosh Pits For Justice!

You know, when you get to make a press statement like this:

"I certainly trust the people of Illinois to choose who they want to represent them in the U.S. Senate," he said. "That is the very basis of our democracy."

(in response to this bit of inspired lunacy)

It's probably time to consider taking a holiday for a few months. At the rate Alan Keyes is going, Barack Obama could sit in a basement for two months picking lint out of his belly button, and he'd still beat him by thirty points on November 2nd…

currently playing: The Concretes — Say Something New

Edible Links!

The world’s largest hamburger! (warning: contains two whole tomatoes and what looks like a cup of mayonnaise)

Pizza the New York way (hmm, foood)

HARIBO Musuem!

How to make Gummy Bears.

The home of Tic-Tac fans!

Skittles chewing gum. They taste odd. They're like Skittles, only not.

Be a peaceful protester and save!

currently playing: Björk — Oceania

Feeding The Commons

I know I’ve talked about it before, but they brought it up again, so some more thoughts, this time concerning the BPI’s latest press release.

Firstly, this is curious:

The British record industry – which invests more in new British musical talent than any other

Now I suppose what they mean here is that they invest in music talent more than another country's industry does in their talent. At least, that's what I hope they mean, because otherwise you do have to wonder about what they're going on about (damn those French labels for not investing in Glaswegian bands!).

I've already mentioned about how the BPI has woken up to this fact rather late (they didn't care when Jimmy Young's songs went public domain, did they?), but the important point, one that is obvious but that I 've never really thought about before, is this: on January 1st 2005, all BMG copies of Elvis Presley's That's All Right will not spontaneously combust. BMG can sell the song for the rest of time, and all others recorded before 31st December 1954. The only thing that will change is that now other people will also be able to sell copies of the same songs. Some will be the usual large labels, but new, smaller labels might spring up, using this cheap product to build up capital so they can invest money back into the industry, helping to reinvigorate today's rather bleak independent label situation. There will be competition. But hey, isn't that what capitalism is all about? There's so many ways to add value to a public domain product, as shown by the continued strong sales for books like Pride & Prejudice and Jane Eyre, despite the fact that anybody can download them for free. This can be done in many ways, from the simple idea of reducing the price, to including special features with the public domain release (liner notes, extra tracks, videos, etc) thus making the item more attractive, even if it does have a higher price.

Raising the spectre of The Beatles's work going into the public domain is a cheap shot, but — well, all I can say is that I can't wait. The Beatles's back catalogue is a reflection of all that's wrong with the British music industry at the moment; high-priced, awfully-packaged, and woefully produced. Take Abbey Road — the last record made by the band! So much that could be said! And what do you get? A flimsy piece of paper with the titles and copyright information on it. Tremendous. Apart from Let It Bleed…Naked and the Yellow Submarine soundtrack, all of the original albums haven't changed since their original 1987 pressing, a pressing well-known to be inferior to the vinyl recordings. So, I can't wait for a Beatles fan to make his or her own version of Please Please Me, creating a superior pressing and writing obsessive liner notes that are infused with a blinding love of I Saw Her Standing There and Love Me Do.

I'm looking forward to posting That's All Right here on January 1st 2005. An important piece of music history will be released freely into our culture, and hopefully more will follow as the years go by.

currently playing: Saturday Looks Good To Me — When You Got To New York

The Truth At Last!

(apologies for the bad voice-acting)

currently playing: ESG — You’re No Good

A Love Hangover

Independent Love Song single coverIndependent Love Song Scarlet WEA Released: January 1995 Highest UK Chart Position: 12 Available on: Naked

"Hi, Kevin."

"Hullo Bill."

"What are you doing?"

"Not much. Just sitting around, listening to this record."

"Oh. Sounds Good. What's it about?"

"It's one of those power ballads —"

"What, like Meatloaf?"

"Yeah, except, y'know, good. Soaring female vocals, big pianos and the like."

"Hmm. A little too earnest for me. What is she singing about?"

"It's an independent love song."

"What the hell does that mean? Independent from what exactly?"

"Well, if you listen, Bill, you might understand. It's one of the early signs of the ladette in British culture, this is. Now it's fine that many men will look my way / And I'll let them take me home and let them show me the way / And sure I'll like a few but I'll leave the rest to play. See?"

"I see. And the chorus I'm gonna show you how to take me / Go down go down / And I'll show you how to turn me / Right on right on is her directing her lover in a not-very-veiled fashion."

"Right! You see, it's the woman telling the man that she's in charge of the relationship, that she might play around, but she'll always come back to him."

"Hmm."

"Hmm?"

"Y'know, Kevin, why does it have to be a man? Perhaps it's really a song about bisexuality. She's currently in a relationship with a woman. Perhaps it's her partner's first relationship, hence the guidance, and the warning that men will still be interested in the singer. And her in them. But for now, all she wants is her."

"Huh."

"You don't agree?"

"Just hadn't thought about it like that before."

"Well, it's just what I took from it. Anyway, Mike's waiting for us down the pub. We should get moving."

“Yeah.”

Laugh or Cry? LAUGH OR CRY?

Help! Mom! There Are Liberals Under My Bed! A Small Lesson in Conservatism is a wonderful way to teach young children the valuable lessons of conservatism. In simple text, parents and children follow Tommy and Lou on their quest to earn money for a swing set their parents cannot afford. As their dream gets stuck in Liberaland, Tommy and Lou’s lemonade stand is hit with many obstacles.

Liberals keep appearing from behind their lemon tree, taking half of their money in taxes, forbidding them to hang a picture of Jesus atop their stand, and making them give broccoli with each glass sold.

Law after law instituted by the press-hungry liberals finally results in the liberals taking over Tommy and Lou’s stand and offering sour lemonade at astronomical prices to the customers.

currently playing: The Postal Service — Clark Gable

More Depressing Things

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration published a regulation that would forbid the public release of some data relating to unsafe motor vehicles, saying that publicizing the information would cause “substantial competitive harm” to manufacturers.

Scott McClellan, the chief White House spokesman, said of the changes, "The president's common-sense policies reflect the values of America, whether it is cracking down on corporate wrongdoing or eliminating burdensome regulations to create jobs."

Well, I'm convinced? Are you? Government lawyers have not wavered in their argument: Once the FDA approves the product, they say, allowing injured consumers to sue manufacturers would sabotage the agency's authority.

Because the FDA can never be wrong. Ever. Trust The Administration. Have A Happy Day.

Oh, and we still suck too.

currently playing: The Go! Team — Bottle Rocket

Thanks To Brem X Jones

The greatest lyric in the history of Pop is "Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah." All of Pop can be condensed into that one word, whether it's a transcendent cry of joy, or the downtrodden, sighing whisper of 'yeah.' It is Pop in diamond form. Johnny Boy understand this and take full advantage of it, leading to a magic point two minutes into You Are The Generation That Bought More Shoes And You Get What You Deserve where the song lingers on "Yeah! Yeah!" just long enough for you to swoon.

It's the way the title makes the entire career of the Manic Street Preachers seem irrelevant; a gloriously pretentious slogan that eclipses anything that Nicky Wire could imagine (and James Dean Bradfield knows this, as he co-produces this single). It's the way that the song has a perfect structure: opening with the Be My Baby drum beat, a beat so Pop that it shimmers with the gleam of stolen jewels, so pure, so right. Then glockenspiels, a firework across the speaker channels, before Lolly sings the first verse and chorus in the sprit of a 1950s singer, gently introducing us to the Wall of Sound, and then singing the whole first verse again with the backing of the Wall. It's the way that the Wall is dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st Century, given an injection of THX to create something more than just a Wall; this is a Tunnel. And yes, it's that point two minutes into the song where it decides it's through playing games and throws you at the walls of the Tunnel, into Sound Itself. It's reflecting back at you, refracting all around you, changing with each listen as "Yeah! Yeah!" and "oo baby" echo in your soul. This is Pop. This is Magic. Then, just as soon as you decide you want to stay there forever, the song pulls you back out, back onto the rails for the abrupt finale, leaving you thirsty for more. And then you play it again. And again.

Lyrics? Partly lost in the production, becoming signs on the Tunnel that you glimpse as you rush past, but when you catch one ("this frequency's my universe", or "sleek mystique reversed"), it is celestial ; a call to arms, against consumerism, to watch meteors streak across the night sky, for the end of the night, when even though the world is shot, you just can't help agreeing with the opening lyrics of "And I just can't help believing / though believing sees me cursed". And the choir of church bells, chimes, and the synth from Soft Cell's Tainted Love makes it shine even brighter. Indiepop for the masses; a mad mix of ideas, trampled jam tarts, razor-sharp nail polish and cherry lipstick, throwing the zombie corpse of Paul Weller into a Car Wash.

You need this record in your life. But I can't give it to you here. And there's only 3000 copies of the single. Email me.

currently playing: Johhny Boy — Crews Against Consumismo (Extended Mix)