Posts Tagged ‘Music’

 

…whoever you are

I wasn’t feeling too well when I dragged myself out last night to Kings Place London to see The Emily Portman Trio. But that’s just one brilliant thing about music and the people who make it – if we are not up to creating and performing, to living at full blast, they always will be. My spirits were lifted and I forgot any physical or emotional ailments for a few hours.

Folk music often draws on mythology, fables and fairy tales. Emily Portman puts a modern twist on stories and songs she has read, heard or simply invented. One of her numbers ‘The Hinge of The Year’ is based on Angela Carter’s Nights At The Circus, Another is about a curious, magical character Portman conjured up whilst walking home at night as a young woman in a Newcastle suburb. And much of her work takes fairy tales and myths – such as Cinderella, and Leda and the Swan – then turns them into something all her own.

Leda

I highly recommend the Emily Portman Trio – for banishing bugs and bad vibes, and for reminding us why folk music is very much still with us, and as beguiling as ever.

You may remember the Kinsey Sicks from my recent enthusing over their unique brand of ‘dragapella’ extravaganza. Now this irreverent barbershop (nail salon?) quartet are celebrating their 20th birthday with a rather brilliant song and video.

Why The Fuck Aren’t We Famous? is not only a very good question considering the talent, wit and style of the Kinsey Sicks, it is also a timely comment on contemporary celebrity pop culture. Aping  A and R men and Pop Idol judges, the Sicks list reasons why they’re not Top of the Pops along with the Biebers and Gagas of the world.

‘if you wanna be commercial minimise the controversial, people want their chicks with sticks to cut off the politics’.

I think there’s a very serious point here, in amongst the make up, stilettos and oh so lovely harmonies. In a world where popular culture has pretty well entirely  gone gay – see Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, Eurotrash, Jersey Shore, Big Brother, The Golden Girls, etc etc – actual gay men writing and singing candidly about their sexuality, politics, and gender, still come across as a bit too much for the mainstream. In other words, Kinsey Sicks, darlings:

‘why can’t you all be like Ru Paul?’

I particularly love the therapy sessions in the vid, with the Kinseys taking it turns to sit on the couch of ‘Dr Fraud’ and tell him their woes. I have a sneaking suspicion that the original, unacceptably intellectual and open-minded Dr Sex would be a fan of the Kinsey Sicks, should he be alive today.

Famous or not, I am glad these talented performers are still here…er…sticking it to polite yet often hypocritical, celebrity-obsessed, trash TV society, and proving that good old-fashioned Camp is alive and well, and as brash yet subtle as ever.

The+Libertines+lib
Remember the Libertines and that explosive, intense, doomed love affair between Doherty and Barat? This photo of them, topless, sweaty, lips touching over the mic (dick?) sums their homo love up beautifully. I don’t care if they fucked or not, the sexual tension that powered their music was enough for me.
I’m mentioning this because according to tumblr, One Direction that squeaky clean British boy band, have also done some mic -licking recently. You can see the animated gif here.
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According to ‘gay academic’ Mark Mccormack One Direction are an embodiment of a new, ‘inclusive’, ‘softening masculinity’ that allows for ‘playing with sexuality’ even if they’re straight.  Softness v Hardness aside, I and @lindygeek reminded Dr Mccormack on twitter, that this kind of homosocial flirtatious bonding between men in pop is nothing new. See Bowie, Prince, Little Richard etc:
mcm
And, who is it who is headlining Glastonbury this year? Yes, some kings and queens of ‘omnisexual’ rock and roll: The Rolling Stones.  I rest my case.
rs


This rendition of Dylan’s I Shall Be Released by Mama Cass, Joni Mitchell and Mary Travers is really quite something. Look at those outfits!

I don’t have much else to say, except it’s a song that has huge resonance for me. Maybe I will tell you why one of these days. Any day now, any day now…

 

‘I got my cock in my pocket
And I’m reelin
Down the old highway
I got my cock in my pocket
And I’m reelin
Down the old highway
I’m gonna whip it on you honey
Taste your blood today
I got my cock in my pocket
And I’m shovin it
Through your pants
I got my cock in my pocket
And I’m shovin it
Through your pants
I just wanna fuck
This aint no romance
I got my cock in my pocket’

This Iggy and the Stooges track is new to me. What I like about it is how it reminds us of the potential for the ‘masculine’ ‘active’ expression of sexuality to be available to anyone. Detaching the ‘cock’ from the body and putting it in one’s ‘pocket’ is what many pop stars, men and women, do when they perform. For the phallus, as Iggy, a doyenne of ‘feminine’ ‘passive’ display knows so well, is far bigger, harder, and more powerful than that pink delicate fleshy member most men carry round in their trousers. I got my cock in my pocket, and I’m reelin’ down the old highway.

Happy New Year #QRGMassive !!

A fresh new voice in the jazz world, Zara McFarlane has been nominated for a MOBO award for Best Jazz Act.

You can vote here:

http://www.mobo.com/voting

You can see her latest video here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xBXbrOOo2nM

And also buy tickets for her London gig in October here:

http://www.wegottickets.com/event/181262

‘Police and Thieves’ is a great song! Zara’s voice and vibe remind me a bit of Jill Scott but it’s sometimes unfair to make comparisons. She’s a unique talent. Good luck Zara!

I went to see Patti Smith live in concert, at the Troxy in East London this week. I am still buzzing from the experience. She was BRILLIANT!

There are a few bands and artists where I remember exactly when I got to know their music, when I got hooked. Patti Smith is one of them. In the early nineteen nineties, I had dropped out of university and was a bit lost in life. I lived with my Dad and stepmum. My stepsister would come home from her uni for the summers, and we’d sit in her attic bedroom drinking and listening to music.

I had always been, and still am I suppose, quite a ‘pop’ girl. I didn’t know much about rock and roll in its more dirty, dark, gritty form. So I would sit wide eyed and open mouthed as my quite grungey stepsister introduced me to record after record (and it was vinyl) of wondrous music. Marc  Bolan and T Rex, Led Zeppelin, Neil Young, PJ Harvey, Bongwater, Nirvana, Mudhoney and Patti Smith.

Patti Smith and PJ Harvey were revelations to me. Those of you who know me as bolshy, mouthy, rude QRG may be surprised to hear that as a young woman I used to be very shy and repressed. In some ways I still am, I suppose. So these two screaming dervishes, who could also play guitar and write beautiful love songs as well as rousing anthems had me mesmerised. They are part of the fanfuckingtastic tradition of hard, kick ass Punk Women from Debbie Harry to Toyah to Siouxsie Sioux to Poly Styrene.  Patti is also a good example of the Woman Artist As Witch, with her long, scraggy dark hair, her irreverent approach to God and her witch-like refusal to conform to anyone’s idea of what a woman should look like, do or say.

Has Patti maintained her joie de vivre? Her husky but tuneful voice? Her no nonsense approach to performance? You bet she has. The 66 year old artist is as full of energy and panache as ever. And, as I proceed with alarming pace through my fifth decade, I think she is as good a role model to have as any.

The most inspiring thing about her show and her for me, currently, is how she WONT GIVE UP. The tracks she played from her current album sounded as complex and memorable as her earlier, infamous work. This Is The Girl, for example, that she dedicated to the late great Amy Winehouse sounds to me like an instant classic:

It is tempting to dismiss ageing popstars as past their peak, and just playing for the money, or because they need attention. In some cases that is probably a fair assessment. But seeing Patti Smith jumping and waving (and at one point barking like a dog) on stage, I was struck by her energy, drive, talent and POWER. Why take up knitting and re-releasing box sets (I’m looking at you Morrissey and Marr) when you could be doing what you do best, and loving every minute of it? And as if to underline my point, Patti played her old Horses track ‘Redondo Beach’ for Moz himself. ‘I went looking for you, are you gone, gone?’

But of course the climax of the gig was GLORIA and a theatre full of fans singing along: ‘G – L – O -R -I -A’! The line ‘Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine’ is one of Patti Smith’s most famous utterances. As a very non-militant atheist I don’t tend to like songs dissing religion. But there is something reassuring about Patti’s Heresy. Partly maybe because she comes from a religious background, and though is critical of the church and its institutional status, she maintains a very spiritual ethos and passion. During the gig she spoke in support of Pussy Riot, and their blasphemous acts in Russian churches. But when at the end she told us we should ‘pray any way you fucking want to’ the whole audience seemed ready to get down on their knees.

‘Make an example of me, hold me up to the light
If I don’t seem that strong, maybe there’s a strength implied.
Then take a medicine ball, throw it with all of your might,
Maybe it will put some wind back into these lungs of mine…

When I’m blind in pride and I won’t be bent
Though it seems unkind, I’m better for the punch of a friend.
When there’s no recourse, but the most direct
Though it seems unkind, I’m better for the punch of a friend’

- Punch Of A Friend, Duke Special

It is a very specific, exquisitely tortured kind of pain we feel when someone who we care for attempts to hurt us, and succeeds.

That medicine ball is a perfect image as I lie winded, and wounded on the floor.

Oh I will get up. I always do. But I can’t help but masochistically  give my ‘friend’ the sadistic satisfaction of knowing they achieved what they set out to do.

I’m better for the punch of a friend.

I was delighted to be asked to contribute to the Words On Music blog, part of a project to investigate the state of rock journalism, which is currently  ‘missing, presumed dead’. Words on Music is the brainchild of Simon Spence, whose new biography of The Stone Roses, The Stone Roses – War And Peace looks well worth a read. My piece argues that ‘pop music journalism’ has been engulfed by the digital world, and that this is no bad thing.

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I am a writer. Sometimes I write about music. At one point in history, I was even some kind of ‘music journalist’; I used to write for The North’s independent muso rag Sandman Magazine.

So why am I here to defend a remark I made recently on twitter that was pretty damning about music journalism? During the Words On Music live discussion event I tweeted:

#wordsonmusic it is time for music journalists to STFU and to let the music, and the technology, and the young people speak for themselves

Apparently my comment was picked up and retweeted by quite a few people, maybe in agreement, maybe in disgust. But it certainly, excuse my metaphor, struck a chord.

I stand by the sentiments expressed in my tweet because I think music journalism is spectacularly slow to cotton onto the social media revolution that is happening around it. And that has been happening for quite a long time! Whilst musicians and fans have been eagerly taking up the opportunities for sharing, promoting, discussing and making music provided by platforms such as Myspace, spotify, garageband, youtube, and bandcamp, writers have seemed to resist change. Maybe they resent the ‘democratisation’ that comes with new media, because anyone can be heard writing and talking about pop music now. This reduces the status of journalist ‘experts’ and completely removes their role as ‘opinion leaders’.

The last time I remember buying an album due to a review in a newspaper was when I read about The Decline of British Sea Power in The Guardian in 2003. Nine years on, I rely solely on word of mouth recommendations, online chats with twitter muso pals, random youtube discoveries, friends’ spotify playlists and, viral music videos to switch me on to new bands and artists.

For me, any arguments about loss in ‘quality’ or ‘depth of knowledge’ of trained, experienced pop journalists are overshadowed by the sheer breadth and variety of voices, styles and perspectives that come with twenty first century music discourse. In a piece in which admittedly I did protest too much about my annoyance with Manchester’s Master of Miserablism, I wrote: ‘I hate Morrissey because listening to middle class white men analysing pop music was already boring enough’.

For example the list of people involved in the Words On Music live stream discussion event this year seems to include about twenty men, two women, most (or all?) of whom are white.

But, having spent some years completing a Phd on gender inequality in the creative sector, and then running a social enterprise training women in the music industry, and having grown weary of feminist rhetoric, I am not going to sit around asking where are the women? Or where are the ethnic minorities? Or indeed where are the young people? In pop music and journalism.

Because I know where they are. They are online, in their studios, at gigs, on Logic and Ableton, on the ball, on form, in tune, on time, in synch, out there, at work, outperforming the old guard.

The future is already here, and we may as well join wise cats like Tom RobinsonCornershopand – yes – Lady Gaga, and get with the programme. There is still a place for words on music, but those words have to take into account the changing culture, technology and times we make music in. This is no country for out of touch hacks.