If this blog has one true aim, then it’s to introduce and promote new…
Well… no, actually, if this blog has one true aim then it’s to extensively psychoanalyse myself and admit my private shame into what I believe to be essentially ‘The Void’, all under the laughable pretense of ‘reviewing music’. Ha! I haven’t done any ‘music reviews’ since I was highly scathing as a twelve/six year old of the 1996 Dodgy album ‘Free Peace Sweet‘. Three piece suite! Now I get it! Sorry, Dodgy, that review was unnecessarily harsh. Reappraisal: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
OK, but if this blog had a secondary aim, then it’s to introduce and promote new artists to…
No, the secondary aim is just an excuse to talk about Manic Street Preachers as much as possible, isn’t it? With ‘Official Prince Chat’ sprinkled on the side as garnish. I might just rename the blog to ‘Artists I Liked When I Was a Kid, At Length (While I Wait for the Next Hotelier Album)’. Dot WordPress dot com.
“If it had a third purpose it’d be […] no actually it’d be [BANTER]. In that case the fourth purpose would be […] actually, it’d probably be [STONE COLD MEGALOLZ]. But the fifth purpose would definitely be… (repeat)”
If this were a single entry, that’s the form that it’d take. It’d be fucking amazing, and you, my friend, would be in stitches. Unfortunately, time and space dictates that I must move on with a degree of urgency, so I won’t be able to treat you with my whimsical humour. Just imagine the funniest things that might have been mentioned. Yeah, I would have been funnier than that.
Anyway, it would have ended with: If this stupid blog that nobody reads had a twenty seventh purpose, it would be to excitedly and passionately introduce you, dear reader, to amazing new music that you might not have heard before and might not have previously considered basing your life around, but perhaps now will. I mean, sure, you want to hear me wax lyrical on the new nonsense from Ariana Grande or Slipknot, because my writing is- in the words of Julia Kristeva– “Straight fire truth balling”. But what I really want to do is shine light on the uncelebrated, rather than just argue that critically acclaimed albums aren’t quite as good as everyone says (which is, if we’re being honest, about 80% of this blog). One day, I’ll be the first person to introduce you to your favourite band. Honestly, nothing would make me happier.
Maybe Candy Says are that band. They’re hardly complete unknowns (I would kill my own mother and desecrate her corpse for 2’635 Twitter followers) but they’re no way near as big as they should be. Also, they’re British. I don’t want to come over all Brexity, but only 15.85% of 2018’s albums of the year were from Britain, compared to 64.63% from the USA. I just didn’t want the 2019 list to turn into another ‘corn dog party’, y’know?.
One of the gimmicks I had in mind for this year’s list was to paint pictures while listening to some of the albums to kind of get a psychological glimpse into how they made me feel. Unfortunately, I got a bit distracted by, like, work and stuff, before coming back to a load of paintings I’d done but can’t remember what music they’re connected to. I remember this one though, which I did while listening to Gravity. Sigh, you had some real talent there kid…
That video for Gravity, absolutely one of 2019’s best songs, only has four and a half thousand views! That’s scandalous, I think my cover of Tierra Whack has more views…
OK, serious question, has Amanda Palmer always been this good? I haven’t really dedicated much time to her in the past, I’ve never listened to the Dresden Dolls, perhaps because their name makes them sound like perhaps the lamest band in the world, and have only really experienced her as a solo artist as a largely disinterested onlooker, mostly through occasional articles in The Guardian. OK, I thought, so she’s some arty, left-leaning singer who frequently likes to get her baps out (see above). I honestly spent far more time thinking about how common a surname ‘Palmer’ is and whether me, Amanda and Robert are actually related and if we all went to a dinner party who would be the most charming (me) who would tell the funniest jokes (also me) who would have sex first (me & whomever) and who was just going to have to face it they’re addicted to love (me. Robert Palmer’s been dead since 2003, remember, he’s unlikely to contribute anything to the discussion). I bought her 2017 album with Edward Ka-Spel which was, yeah, a bit arty and (apart from the bowel shatteringly good opening track) a bit tits.
Then I heard ‘There Will Be No Intermission’ and- in the words of Robert Christgau– ‘holy cocking shit balls’. The songs are killer, the lyrics are in places both hilarious and devastating (the pause in A Mother’s Confession after the line and ‘She said she had a daughter who was grown/And then she paused/And said she also had a son’ fucking kills me) and even if all this wasn’t true I’d still love this album because I’m an absolute sucker for artists who manage to write ten minute songs’ worth of lyrics. Next album, Amanda, you’re aiming for that extra five minutes to take you to Babe I’m On Fire levels.
Maybe you’re in the place that I was in not long ago. Maybe you already kinda love Amanda Palmer for her political persuasions and/or nice boobs. This album’s pay what you want on her BandCamp page, there really is no excuse not to.
You’re probably not old enough to remember Odd Future. I am old enough to remember them, but not really sober enough during their heyday of 2008-2012 to give a proper account…
No, sorry, I wrote all that before, didn’t I? I knew I shouldn’t have made that list! I really struggle for stuff to say at the best of times, and when you consider how quick time goes when you’re my age (I’m going to be dead so soon, and I’m pretty stoked about that) then last June was pretty much five minutes ago and as a result obviously nothing has happened since then. On the bright side though, the next five years of Tory majority should go really quickly for me, or even better there’s the imminent death that I mentioned. I mean… I could talk about the fascinating post-Odd Future careers of all the group’s members but, I dunno, there might be another record coming up on the list that provides a far better chance to do that.
‘Burd’ is brilliant. An interesting and unique take on a hip-hop record that I’m really surprised hasn’t garnered far more effusive praise. It’s way better than ‘Channel Orange‘ because, euch, that album sucks. That’s is my new narrative, by the way. T-shirts will be available soon.
Sigh… I’m really sorry, Ariana, I know you’re the first and only officially recognised citizen of the city I base my life around, but Necessary Evil has never really given you the fair shake of the stick, has it? The ‘review’ of your (perhaps inferior, but I haven’t made my official decision yet) 2018 album was just used as my annual excuse to talk about Hejjy* and now, despite ‘thank u, next’ being by far and away your critical peak, I’m just going to use this opportunity to talk about cultural appropriation. I’m sorry, but you’ve actually brought this upon yourself. I’m confident that you’ll forgive me though, because I know you’re good at turning the other cheek!!
You know… because of the only being filmed from one side thing…?
Fuck you, I’m fucking hilarious.
(*which album will it be this year?? Bookies are taking bets and, if she’s being completely honest, Solange Knowles is starting to look a little nervous. It might not even happen this year, the new style of occasional multiple entries means that I don’t mind just writing 10 words on albums that I can’t think of anything to say about. Also, maybe nothing happened with Hejjy in 2019…)
Ariana Grande is white. And not just white like me, not even just Charli XCX white. She’s super-dooper, hideously rich parents, slagging off poor people, childhood star on Broadway, Disney Channel white. If you’re black, Ariana Grande is the kind of white person your mother used to warn you about, and with good measure. It had already long been accepted that Ariana Grande utilised a lot of tropes of black American culture into both her image and her music. People were generally pretty cool with that, because if you take great offence at white musicians ripping off black ones then you’ll soon find that you really don’t have time for anything else. However, her video for 7 Rings in January finally caused people to officially Lose Their Fucking Shit. The video and song betray an absolutely jaw-dropping lack of self-awareness. Arianna- because she’s seen black artists do it and she thinks it’s really cool- brags about her money, her furnishings and her high cost paraphanalia. This is at worst irritating and at best inspiring when black artists do it, when Ariana Grande does it, it’s fucking nauseating. You don’t know why, Ariana? Sorry, that question mark is clearly superfluous, there’s more than enough evidence that it’s not a question. You don’t know why, Ariana.
Yeah, I’m going to argue that ‘things are different when you’re black’. I’m probably the best person to talk about this, because even though I’m technically white I, like, listen to loads of hip-hop and my favourite TV Show is The Wire, so I, like, understand both sides, yeah? When a black singer like Rihanna or Cardi B boast about how many FIFA 20 player packs they buy or how they often top up their smart meters with £50 of gas all at once, it comes from a completely different place, what Doreen St.Felix called the ‘prosperity gospel. “Sprawled amongst her earnings, the moneyed black girl is an enlarged version of herself necessarily taking up the space of her debtors, she’s an image of material liberation. There are sell-outs and there are those who turn material wealth into artistic and human power.” Ariana is neither of those. She never had to ‘sell out’ because she was already rich beyond (statistically) literally anyone’s wildest dreams. Her parents could have paid for the 7 Rings video as an thirteenth birthday present for Ariana, and she would have stormed off the set in tears when she saw that she would be filmed lying on a Bugatti EB 218, rather than the Veyron EB 16.4 that she’d asked for. Were 7 Rings performed by a black person, it would mean ‘Look at what I’ve achieved despite institutionalised racism within the ruling structure, there are still people who would hate for a black person to be this rich, so I’m going to rub it in their dumb faces!!’. When Ariana performs it, it means ‘Look at how little tax my Daddy managed to pay’. People who were still yet to be appalled by the song/video’s insensitivity, were pushed over the edge by the line ‘You like my hair/Gee thanks, just bought it’. There’s apparently* a stereotype that black women’s hair is always fake, a giant falsity of weaves and extensions that’s so dumb, yeah?? Aren’t black women fucking ridiculous?! Ariana Grande chooses to own this stereotype by having no shame in flaunting her fake hair, showing the haters that black women shouldn’t be made to feel ashamed for how they look and that black women should feel proud to have ownership of their own black look. Do I need to point out the plot hole here?
(*I honestly didn’t know about the stereotype until I heard and saw the reaction to this video. That’s how fricking woke I am, I don’t even know about these offensive assumptions! #PrideInIgnorance #YeahIDoActuallyLikeYourHairWhyDoYouAsk? #Paypig)
I can’t remember if I mentioned it, but Ariana is white. Her boasting about being unconcerned with racist stereotypes about black women is like me claiming this blog is an impassioned riposte to people who claim that sub-Saharan civil servants can’t use qwerty keyboards.
So people got mad because it’s cultural appropriation? No. People got mad because it’s shockingly insensitive, pig ignorant and arguably racist. Cultural appropriation doesn’t really exist.
When we talk of ‘cultural appropriation’ we sometimes just mean ‘people doing shit that I consider them the wrong colour to do’. We seem to have decided that people should always stick in their lane, ethnicity wise. White people should always just dress like white people- Hawaiian shirt, jorts, Croc boots- black people should dress like black people- backwards baseball cap, clock around the neck, those glasses with lines that Kanye used to wear- and Asian people should dress like Asians- sumo wrestling nappy, topknot. When you’re born, you already know exactly what culture you’ll be legally allowed to consume, which for me unfortunately meant no jazz, blues, rock, hip-hop, fun, dancing or decent food. We need to ensure cultural authenticity! We must keep these races apart to uphold their beauty! Each race is always rendered poorer by its encounter with another race! We need to strive for racial purity…!!!
Eek. Yeah, this has historically been a rather ‘fascisty’ belief. The fact is that what we term ‘cultural appropriation’ (that the Nazis were so concerned about it lead to them killing six million ‘Ariana Grandes’) is an essential part of cultural evolution. Especially as a (ahem) ‘music writer’ I can appreciate how both cultural appropriation and response to it can help create important advances throughout the 20th century. The theorist Andrew Ross named many instances of important interpretations of ‘black’ and ‘white’ musical styles. Ragtime music was a ‘clean’ black response to white artists imitating the more ‘dirty’ black versions of boogie-woogie piano blues. Dizzy Gillespie mockingly copied the white players who were copying his imitation of white hipsters (who were probably imitating Dizzy’s previous version of their previous imitation of… It goes on for a while. Howlin’ Wolf got his name by mimicking Jimmie Rodgers, whose yodeling was heavily influenced by African-American blues. The most famous ‘cultural appropriator’ of all time, Elvis Presley, even greased his hair back into a quiff in an attempt to emulate black artists, who often straightened and curled their hair in an attempt to look ‘white’. If you’re against cultural appropriation, then you’re against- without exaggeration- absolutely fucking everything. You twat.
When kids wear Native American headdress and tribal face paint to a festival it’s because they associate these cultures with savagery and uncivilised hedonism. This is offensive because it’s racist, not because they’re using a style that ‘doesn’t belong to them’. A lot of the things we call ‘cultural appropriation’ are still legitimately offensive, but for actual reasons, like Ariana’s cloth eared minstrel show of 7 Rings. We need to express the real problems behind these things, otherwise we’re validating a rather outmoded form of racial consciousness.
Sigh, or I dunno, read my Zeal & Ardor piece from last year, covered pretty much the same ground…
Man, I’ve really been sleeping on Slipknot. I went to college in the early 21st century, when there was a lot of absolutely terrible music being released under the nu-metal and/or pop punk banner. Me and my equally as well educated friends- who had always been into proper metal music- made a conscious decision to hate all of this utter shite with all of our being and to mock and hate all the stupid fans who actually liked that nonsense. But then all these people would just start nu-metal bands and sing awful songs about being bullied! It’s a vicious circle!
Slipknot rose to prominence during this time, but my friends and I casually just threw them on the same pile of burning feces as Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park and Bowling for Soup, failing to recognise that they were a legitimate metal band. And they wore awesome masks! How did I miss out on this!
Anyway, I may be a very late convert, but ‘We Are Not Your Kind’ is an amazingly accomplished ‘late career’ masterpiece. Next time a weird band comes about wearing silly masks and claiming People=Shit I’ll be sure to get on at the ground floor.
Ooooooooooh! I was sure this would be the first album to break to big ‘nine zero’ barrier.
Any idea what album that could be? Let me know.