All entries for September 2005

September 30, 2005

Indie wet dreams, number 4: Bob Pollard (Guided By Voices)

The man had the quality control of a dog pissing on a car tyre. He was an ex-teacher, famously a drunk, and sacked god knows how many band members. He was quite clearly a genius when it came to songwriting, even if at least 1/3 of his songs were scratchy demos that he stuck on albums regardless. Utterly brilliant, listen to The Best of Jill Hives and say that he didn’t have a beautiful singing voice. And he drunkenly high-kicked higher and better than anyone will ever do.

Sometimes the titles come first; sometimes I write poetry and I’ll write songs to the poetry, so the lyrics comes first; and then other times I’ll be sitting around playing guitar and brainstorming chord progressions on my tape recorder. I don’t really have many guidelines or formulas. I just let whatever comes natural. I know some people worry about writer’s block, but I’ll have to knock on wood—I don’t have wood, I have glass here—I have not experienced writer’s block. So I don’t worry about it. If I get to the point where I don’t feel very creative, I use that as a time to relax and just wait till it happens—and it does. You never know what’s going to trigger that spurt of creativity. It could be movies, it could be albums or it could be hanging out with people that are saying interesting things.

In Bob we trust – goddamn right

Four Pairs of Socs

This term, in a bid to avoid the rather disasterous disasters that were my first two years at Warwick, I will attempt to a) sign myself up to some societies and b) actually turn up occasionally. Anyhow, the prospective barrels of fun are:

The fun ones:
Offbeat (because music is wot is good like)
bright side – Chance of mutual Steve Albini, John Darnielle or Kathleen Hanna appreciation
down side – They appear to like Crash. I don't like Crash. If anyone mentions Oasis I will send them through the nearest plate glass window. I don't like Oasis either.

Poker (because I'm easily influenced by channel 4)
bright side – I like Poker
down side – I'm rubbish at Poker

The Warwick ones:
History (in the words of the Au Pairs, "it's obvious")
bright side – Amazingly enough I actually like the course I'm doing
down side – Pub crawls and clubs really aren't my thing – I prefer to do my drinking in places where a toilet bowl is an easy 5 staggering steps away

Warwick Boar (because I'm a disgusting media whore to-be, possibly)
bright side – I need something to put on my cv other than "kitchen rep and lazy exam invigilator"
down side – I think student newspapers are rubbish

The political ones:
Amnesty (most people don't like electrodes on their testicles)
bright side – Because somewhere in my head are morals and ethics trying to get out
down side – Po-faced activist types make me want to smoke crack

Socialism (all power to the soviets and all that)
bright side – Every time I call myself a liberal I feel slightly dirty
down side – There are (at least) two socialist societies. Peoples' Front of Judea, etc)

T'other ones:
International Current Affairs (sounds f u n to me)
bright side – Will prompt me to buy newspapers occasionally
down side – Not really an eyecatcher, just padding the space for the next society…

Warwick anti-sexism (feh-muh-nist)
bright side – I genuinely care about it, without worrying (as with amnesty et al) that it's just guilt talking
down side – they really should have the balls to call it the feminist society. Yes it might reduce it's membership, but anyone put off by the term isn't really the ideal kind of member anyway.

Onwards Tuesday (or whenever the hell it is).

September 27, 2005

Slight Musings on Top B and Warwick music, etc

Look, I should first clarify that my "blog" used to be titled "death to top banana". This is not my thing. My heroes are Steve Albini, Ian McKaye, Kathleen Hanna and Bob Pollard, for various reasons. I am curently listening to The Oranges Band, signed to Lookout Records (not that indieish an indie really). Top Banana is not aimed at me.

Yes, it has certainly improved, to the extent where it is no longer Delilah played weekly for the purpose of a drunken singalong. But I still feel rather, well, shit being there. I hate the people, for a start. Don't really like any of the music. As I say, not my thing.

Look, I am not asking for much here. All I want is a place where I can wear shitty charity shop shirt type things and smash heads with similarly minded people whilst Shellac is played loudly overhead.

Often (well, infrequently actually) I am asked words to the effect of "why don't you dance Joe? Why don't you dance? Well, largely because you don't put anything on that I want to dance to. If you put some Pussy Galore on I would probably be drinking and dancing like a bastard. Seriously, I would tear up everything that needed tearing up, paper, phone books, etc. Pussy Galore rocked the fuck out, it's a shame they deteriorated into inferior bands (Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and Royal Trux, although to be fair both were initially far better than what they later became – Julie Cafritz, as a member of Free Kitten, emerges with the most respect intact, and was hella cool to boot).

Extending the Pussy Galore conversation further, their cover of The Rolling Stones "Exile on Main Street" ranks as one of the most awesome examples of brilliance I have ever heard. It rules, right from its "I hate your fucking guts" opening to it's wonderful, messy conclusion. Also, I will now devote the next paragraph to an important point:

The Rolling Stones fucking suck. They never meant shit. Give up on them.

Anyway, back to the subject of dancing. I went to Crash once. It was shit. Anywhere that plays Reef deserves a nuclear strike, "omg it's the retro sound of 1996, the songs we listened to when we young and stupid, lets dance". Please. No more.

One day I will hear a Guided By Voices song played either in public or over the radio, and hopefully it will not be Hold on Hope or Everywhere with Helicopter, and it will be awesome. If I am lucky it will Redmen and their Wives, or Paper Girl, or Don't Stop Now, or Jane of the Waking Universe, or Do the Earth, or best of all, Perfect this Time, but I know this won't happen, because the world isn't suited with me in mind, goddammit.

September 22, 2005

Steve Albini quotes

"We have never done anything to pander to anybody's expectations, whether it be somebody in a record company or someone in a peer group or someone who could be classed as a fan. We do things based on what we intuitively know to be the right thing to do. It is a lot easier to do that than to do what people expect of us."

“Hey, breaking up is an idea that has occurred to far too few groups. Sometimes to the wrong ones.” (from the sleeve notes of Songs about Fucking, Big Black's final album)

"Whenever I talk to a band who are about to sign with a major label, I always end up thinking of them in a particular context. I imagine a trench, about four feet wide and five feet deep, maybe sixty yards long, filled with runny, decaying shit. I imagine these people, some of them good friends, some of them barely acquaintances, at one end of this trench. I also imagine a faceless industry lackey at the other end holding a fountain pen and a contract waiting to be signed. Nobody can see what's printed on the contract. It's too far away, and besides, the shit stench is making everybody's eyes water. The lackey shouts to everybody that the first one to swim the trench gets to sign the contract. Everybody dives in the trench and they struggle furiously to get to the other end. Two people arrive simultaneously and begin wrestling furiously, clawing each other and dunking each other under the shit. Eventually, one of them capitulates, and there's only one contestant left. He reaches for the pen, but the Lackey says "Actually, I think you need a little more development. Swim again, please. Backstroke". And he does of course." (from "the problem with music", aka "some of your friends are probably already this fucked")

"The male-female relationship, as a subject for song, is thoroughly bankrupt"

"yeah, people are fucking idiots"

"Jazz serves a cultural function in the music scene. It is a signifier for musical "adulthood." To embrace jazz is to don a kind of graduation cap, signifying a broadening of tastes outside "mere" rock music. This ostentatious display of "sophistication" is an insult, and I find the graduation cappers transparent and tedious. Certainly there must be interesting music one could call "jazz." There must be. I've never heard it, but I grant that it is out there somewhere.

Jazz has a non-musical parallel: Christiania, the "free" zone in Copenhagen. In Christiania, like in jazz, there is no law. People are left to their own inventions to create and act as they see fit. In Jazz, the musicians are allowed to improvise over and beside structural elements that may themselves be extemporaneous. Sounds good, doesn't it? Freedom — sounds good.

The reality is much bleaker. Christiania is a squalid, trashy string of alleys with rag-and-bone men selling drugs, tie-dye and wretched food. Granted Total Freedom, and this is what they've chosen to do with it, sell hash and lentil soup? Jazz is similar. The results are so far beneath the conception that there is no English word for the disappointment one feels when forced to confront it. Granted Total Freedom, you've chosen to play II V I and blow a goddamn trill on the saxophone? Only by willfully ignoring its failings can one pretend to appreciate it as an idiom and don the cap". (his views on Jazz)

"Punk rock, which used to involve taking shit and physical confrontations for granted like one takes for granted a favorite pair of Pro Keds, has come to mean fitting in, not rocking the boat, paying lip service to pop cultural icons and ideas and, above all, maintaining an affected disinterest in the society which props it up from behind."

"It seems preposterous now, but at the time, people seemed overly concerned about the literal meaning of our lyrics. I know we never discussed it among ourselves. Lyrics seemed a neccessity, so we had them, but the subject matter was an extension of our interests—not part of a political or aesthetic battle plan. They lyrics were subject to change at whim once the subject had been decided on anyway. Anybody who thinks we oeverstepped the playground perimeter of lyrical decency (or that the public has any right to demand "social responsibility" from a goddamn punk rock band) is a pure natural dolt, and should step forward and put his tongue up my ass. What we sing about is none of your business anyway" (from the Pig Pile liner notes)

(and finally, also from the Pig Pile liner notes)
"Organizationally we were commited to a few basic principles: Treat everyone with as much respect as he deserves (and no more), Avoid people who appeal to our vanity (they always have an angle), Operate as much as possible apart from the "music scene" (which was never our stomping ground), and take no shit from anyone in the process.

It meant nothing to us if we were popular or not, or if we sold a million or no records, so we were invulnerable to ploys by music scene weasels to get us to make mistakes in the name of success. To us, every moment we remained unfettered and in control was a success. We never had a manager. We never had a booking agent. We never had a lawyer. We never took an advance from a record company. We booked our own tours, paid our own bills, made our own mistakes and never had anybody shield us from either the truth or the consequences.

The results of that methodology speak for themselves: Nobody ever told us what to do and nobody took any of our money

September 2005

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