Morrissey and Milkshakes: Some Say (I Got Devil)

As I noted in my last post, I can’t ignore Morrissey’s recent displays of support of the relatively new political party For Britain. What follows is my personal approach to the ongoing controversy—mainly looking for clues in Morrissey’s own words via his 2013 memoir, Autobiography (London: Penguin Classics). But I begin by listening to his new album. Continue reading “Morrissey and Milkshakes: Some Say (I Got Devil)”

Morrissey Morass

Given my commentary regarding Morrissey in my posts here I can’t ignore his support for what’s described as the “far-right political party” For Britain. I haven’t delved into this but am reminded of how filmmaker Derek Jarman, with whom Morrissey collaborated, sounded the alarum of Britain’s demise. And there’s other stuff. Again, I won’t ignore this.

Make mine a La Croix

Scott Stapleton

Listening to songs by The Royal Family and the Poor while writing my last post, I found myself comparing them with those of Scott Stapleton, who has created and contributed to music in various guises: solo, Virgin Forest, Phosphorescent, New Duo.

Phosphorescent Forest

I first became enamored of Stapleton when viewing the chipped silver laquer of his nails as he played pedal steel on Phosphorescent’s “Song for Zula” at Glastonbury in 2014. It’s just about all we see of him apart from a denim shirt. His picking is tasteful and ensemble (yes that’s an adjective) and contrasts somewhat with his keyboard work the year before on Phosphorescent’s “The Quotidian Beasts” at the SXSW music festival. There, he is flamboyant in a red T on the keys, practically conjuring the song’s lyrics as they are sung by Matthew Houck (aka Phosphorescent), with flourishes from his hands and arms.

Continue reading “Make mine a La Croix”

Vaneigem and Bubblegum

Zulu Compilation Gatefold image

Last week, when I was uninspired whilst reviewing my running list of blog topics, YouTube operated as a sort of Oblique Strategies, the deck of cards initially developed by musician Brian Eno and artist Peter Schmidt independently in the late 1960s and early ’70s. (Eno included four of Schmidt’s prints in his 1977 album Before and After Science.) The cards’ suggestions and comments can act as disinterested—oblique—prods for artists when they encounter roadblocks during the creative process. And so YouTube essentially did the same for me, but not obliquely—rather, evidently, based on my past searches and pointing-and-clicking. “Recommended for you” last week was an obscure track from The Zulu Compilation (1984), an album I happen to have in my collection. Zulu Records was formed by Jayne Casey and Ambrose Reynolds (both of whom also worked in the band Pink Industry, which issued lovely minimalist and melancholic music in the ’80s). The compilation is perhaps most collectible for its inclusion of a pre-Trevor Horn version of “Love Has Got a Gun” by Frankie Goes to Hollywood.

I hadn’t listened to that compilation LP in years and had completely forgotten the track YouTube selected for me: “The Kremlin in Flame [sic]” by S.T.F.O.T.P.A. It sounds like something from the 1976 Art & Language-Red Crayola collaboration, Corrected Slogans (discussed in my post I Found That Essence Rare). After some searching I found the identity of the track’s creators in a 2010 interview by Arthur McDonald of The Royal Family and the Poor fame. Except that I’d never heard of the band. Or, rather, when coming across their LPs, two of which were issued by Factory Records, I’d passed them by. Continue reading “Vaneigem and Bubblegum”

Took Me to Church

The Prodigal Son

Seeing the nave and altar of Notre-Dame de Paris after its recent fire, and thinking of it open to the elements, I had an eery sense of, well, déjà vu. I had been there, literally, with my family on a 2002 trip to France in celebration of my parents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary. But I had been in that ruin, virtually and earlier, twice more. Continue reading “Took Me to Church”

Careless Whisper: Pansy Patois

Men photo image

In December while trying to verify the colloquialism in The Smiths’ song title “Reel Around the Fountain”1 I noticed that the band’s singer Morrissey had employed a now-abandoned slang in his solo single “Piccadilly Palare,” sung in the character of a former street hustler. It was the lead track on his album Bona Drag, but I hadn’t really collected Morrissey records and skipped that one because it was a compendium of singles. I had, however, collected much Smiths, but I was confused by the band’s many, many compilations and 12-inch vinyl product. In fact “Paint a Vulgar Picture,” from the final album, can be seen as a commentary on this excess, as it laments a pop star’s exploitation in death but also questions the star’s complicity in life.

Satiate the need
slip them into different sleeves!
Buy both, and be deceived

Continue reading “Careless Whisper: Pansy Patois”

Everybody Dance Now 2: Adansual

Kazuo Ohno and Yoshito Ohno photo image

Read Part 1.

First, a couple of cartoons…

This second installment of movement musings begins (or rather ends…) below with a variation of a video sampling technique that I covered in “Knee, Sugar” of the last section of Everybody Dance Now 1 (Knee, Sugar, Hammer, Shame). I also look at what was suggested by “Shame”: what might be seen as anti-dance, or what I call adansual.

I first became acquainted with the Australian band Bumblebeez 81 via their suggestive “Pony Ride” from 2002. Five years later they released “Dr. Love,” the promo for which involves a parody of a dance music video that could have been shot on a smoggy day along the Los Angeles River. All the performers sport Sharpie-ed chest adornments: pushbuttons and keyboards, chains, phones and headphones, a bandolier, a mink stole, an LP, even sham shoes. Rapper Christopher Colonna is bedecked in markered bling, and his sister Queen ViLa, dons an eyepatch through which she easily sees. The promo’s coda reprises the song’s sonics with pushbuttons pushed and keyboards keyed, essentially A/V sampling.

Continue reading “Everybody Dance Now 2: Adansual”

Marx and Eno

Marx and Eno collage

An instance of years-ago seeming yester-day. My recently departed comrade, Lowell May, in a fortunate instance of synchronicity, on September 12, 2011 forwarded a snippet of Karl Marx just two months after musician Brian Eno had issued his collaboration with poet Rick Holland, Drums Between the Bells (and six days before Occupy Wall Street). What Lowell sent was a blog post of the same date by one N Pepperell, lecturer at an unnamed university in Melbourne, who felt the quotation from Marx “is on point for the sorts of reading strategies I apply to his style in Capital.” The language of this relatively obscure open letter, published twenty-four years before Capital, when Marx was 23, abstractly mirrors that of Holland’s words atop Eno’s soundtrack. Continue reading “Marx and Eno”

Gang of Four Part 2: I Found That Essence Rare

Mekons Quality Of Mercy

We’ve all got opinions
Where do they come from?

— “Why Theory?”

Reading Jim Dooley’s invaluable Red Set: A History of Gang of Four1 last year I was fascinated with how some of the philosophical underpinnings of the band’s songs mirrored what I’ve been dealing with in writing materials with comrades in a labor group. What follows is not a review of Dooley’s book, but rather a commentary on the mirrored passages and also, to a much lesser degree, remarks on my exposure to theoretical thought through pop music (of all things). This post is based on the notes I took at my first (and only) full reading, and is not a comprehensive look at Gang of Four reasoning. Continue reading “Gang of Four Part 2: I Found That Essence Rare”

Gang of Four Part 1: Natural’s Not In It

Gang Of Four photo image

Last month I saw Gang of Four for the third time.

1980

The first was at a small club, probably their show at the Starwood in West Hollywood, capacity 400–800, May of 1980. Earlier that same year, the band had opened for the Buzzcocks and later, Iggy Pop, both at the much larger Santa Monica Civic. But those garnered lousy reviews by the Los Angeles Times, the first due to bad sound, the second to fatigue. The Civic could put a lot of distance between the stage and the floor. And it ostensibly seated 3,000, but when I saw the Clash there, the seats were replaced by metal plates; when we bounced, so did they—and there were a lot more than 3,000 bouncing.

Obviously that Starwood show in 1980 featured the band’s original lineup: Hugo Burnham on drums, Dave Allen bass, Andy Gill guitar, and Jon King vocals. It was riveting. The stage was small enough to bridge the Civic’s divide, but broad enough to allow Jon King his signature sprints between microphones. If King was a gazelle, Gill was a beast of prey, exactly as described by poet Ted Hughes in his “Second Glance at Jaguar”: “He coils, he flourishes/ The blackjack tail as if looking for a target.”

Continue reading “Gang of Four Part 1: Natural’s Not In It”