It’s notable how the crudeness (both sweary and sexually suggestive) of language in our pop music has evolved – if evolved be the correct term – over the decades. First the coyness of the fifties and even the sixties (bar the odd “one eyed cat” style innuendo) became a grunting – but still a tad vague plea to “get it on”. Then, in the eighties Olivia Newton John wanted to “get physical” (*wink*) and a “rock” was still out of the question. Fast forward to the 21st Century and we’ve had two F**k Yous and a F**k You Right Back at number one and, in the same exalted chart position, been invited to suck on Isaac Hayes’ chocolate salty balls. The runaway favourite for album of the year is called Norman F**king Rockwell and one of its catchier numbers is called F**k it, I Love You. Not coincidentally, NFR is the work of a female artist. An unexpected consequence of my journey over recent years from mostly listening to sweaty, lairy geezers to predominantly grooving to sweet, fragrant ladies has been the massive increase in filth coming in my ears. Blokes like to sing about shagging but les femmes seem » Continue Reading.
I’m sure many on here follow the wee live sessions from KEXP radio on YouTube. This latest, featuring Durand Jones and The Indications playing songs from one of this year’s better albums, is a particular treat. For those not familiar with the format, this differs from the likes of Tiny Desk in that there is an extended interview with Mr Grey Ponytail in the middle, but, tbf, he seems pleasant and not a whole lot different to yer average Afterworder and it’s worth persisting for the beautiful music..
…and I’ve heard eleven! I even liked most of those! ‘Course, we could just play the “Nevereardofit!” game or – as we did a few years back – we could essay a journey into the unknown and pick a random album to listen to and report back to The Massive. Even a single withering line would be enlightening. Are any of you up for it?
Length of Read:Medium
Might appeal to people who enjoyed…
other books about music history and other books which offer enlightening detail for the curious without being overly technical. There is a bar chart and some pictures of sine waves, mind.
One thing you’ve learned
There’s a bomb-proof bunker in which is held the Scientologists’ special record collection and turntable, so that, after the holocaust, the great movement can rise Phoenix-like to its rightful position of dominance.
What does it sound like?:
Melissa Jefferson is a bona fide star. A star of the sort that doesn’t need our affirmation, she’s already knows she’s special without our approval. You can imagine, as some shabby karaoke night in Bath or Barry or Ballyfermot is reaching its desultory conclusion, a young lady steps up to the microphone and is just electrifying, commanding the stage with the same ferocity as if it were the biggest in the world. “Hmmm”, she thinks, “Why not the world?” Lizzo has been occupying our peripheral attention over the last couple of years with some killer r n b /disco/nu soul/pop singles, but with this album she has placed herself front and centre and has made herself impossible to ignore. And she’s doing it on her terms. Lizzo is what we nowadays call oversized. So here she is naked and proud on the album cover, and within the grooves preaching body positivity and self confidence. Stars, we know, love themselves. Lizzo admits as much in the future classic Soulmate (chorus: “I’m my own soulmate/ I know how to love me”), but Lizzo’s message is inclusive – she wants us to unlock our potential by loving ourselves » Continue Reading.
Not the most AW friendly lineup perhaps (although I’m watching Kacey Musgraves at the moment), but the stream is excellent in both sound and picture, you get all three stages to choose from and if you don’t want to stay up all night (it finishes about 9am U.K. time) they replay it all the next day. It’s all free on YouTube and it will be on again next weekend.
The Specials are back and, to these ears, their new album is pretty decent and was worth returning to the studio for. Thing is, back in the day, I always liked the tidiness of their discography: three albums, all great and each one very different from the others. The first is full of sweaty energy, the second was startling when it came out, with its almost muzaky jazzy detours, the third is obviously Jerry’s record and, I think, you can hear its long gestation in the grooves (It’s not called “In The Studio” for nowt). Also from around that time, the first three releases by Dexys Midnight Runners followed a similar trajectory. Searching For The Young Soul Rebels is brassy and snotty and, as with the Specials, brought a devoted fan base who were similarly confounded by the raggle taggle gypsy sound of its successor Too Rye Ay. Still, the deal remained cracking four minute pop songs as Mr Rowland’s troupe continued to trouble the top 20. But, for the third offering under the DNR name, there was a similar protracted pregnancy before the band whose previous two albums had yielded number one records came up with an album without » Continue Reading.
Up there on that stage is not a place for wallflowers. Our pop heroes didn’t get where they are today without an overflowing sense of self-importance. James Brown may have been the only one to actually say it, but pretty much all of them would like to jump back and kiss themselves. And, more than this, they see it as vital that we know how fantastic they are. So, every once in a while*, they make some extraordinary claim about their magnificence and pan-galactic importance. As a for instance, backwards D Adam records in the sacred scripture Ant Rap that the simple decision to replace Ant Kevin Mooney on the frickin’ bass guitar with Gary Tibbs got the green light when he “summoned the Gods and they all approved”. Wilson Picket might not mean to brag or mean to boast, but on his record A Man And A Half, he observes that “When I walk the birds and bees stop loving to look at me” implying the 634-5789 hitmaker possesses an appeal more powerful than lust itself (alternative reading: WP is proposing a human/bee interspecies romantic entanglement which predates the plot of Bee Movie by decades). Later in the song » Continue Reading.
News drops today that big-in-the-noughties rockers The Killers will be headlining on one of the nights at this year’s Glastonbury. “Well, thank f*ck it’s not Kasabian again or one of the Gallagher brothers”, I hear you say. Or maybe “Couldn’t give a toss – I’ve been to Glasto a dozen times and have never seen an act on the pyramid stage”. Okay. Fair enough. But isn’t it weird that there was such a hullabaloo about Beyoncé and Kanye when they were the number one act in the world in their respective fields at the time and even somewhat past it Metallica were probably still the biggest name in their genre? I mean, if it was 2005 or even 2007 I’d say stick ol’ Brandon on the big stage after everyone else, but in 2019? I realise, as a grumpy old git, I’ve lost perspective on who is genuinely big with Ver Kids and the civilllian day trippers, but I would have thought Janelle, Miley and Christine all had more contemporary radio profile and each, in their own way, could be trusted to put on a proper show..? Should I just fuggedaboutit and go back to alphabeticising my Cds (“Whaaat! I » Continue Reading.
Interesting to hear Edwyn Collins, in this month’s Uncut, say he he didn’t think that much of his biggest hit A Girl Like You before it became a phenomenon. I remember at the time – as a veteran Edwyn watcher who had evangelized for years about the most thrillingly romantic debut album ever (“Will you tape x for me?” “Sure. And I’m putting You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever on the other side – no argument”.), about how, during the darkest depths of Winter, the sax break on I Can’t Help Myself was just the ticket to combat Seasonal Affective Disorder, the alternative universe masterpiece that is the emphatically-titled The Orange Juice, the missed-by-everyone classic that is Hellbent On Compromise and the startling fact that obscure non-hit My Beloved Girl was right in there mixing it with Aretha and Ronnie Spector on the shortlist for the song to salute my exit from planet Earth – being somewhat perplexed that this was the tune to capture everyone’s imagination. Back when parent album Gorgeous George was new, us Edwyn watchers saw it as a tidy collection of songs elevated by that trademark EC oddness. Its talking points were who was Gorgeous George » Continue Reading.
Over there on BBC 4 they’re starting something called “Friday Night Jukebox Live!” where, it seems, the standard BBC 4 Friday night audience (which we know is mostly composed of aging hep cats) gets to pick tunes to kick off the weekend while getting sozzled on the couch. Pardon me, but isn’t this The Aspidistra and Hatstand, just without the clumsy lounge staff and empty condom machine? I’ve only one thing to say to that: Bring it on! (Keep the Medicinal vodka and orange juice coming, barkeep!)
The Pharcyde’s brilliant Ya Mama has, for some twenty five years now, received regular spins down here in the sewers, being one of the great call-and-response holler along songs (if not the most politically correct – HOW FAT IS SHE?!!!!). But – and let me reiterate 25 YEARS LATER – it’s taken this skillfully animated Iron Mike Eagle video for me to understand one of the lines properly. It’s true one of the joys of early hip hop records was trying to figure out what they were talking about (how quaint now to recall that when we received a pre-release copy of Public Enemy’s 911Is A Joke we had no idea what “dialing 911” referred to. “Hey, it’s Flav”, we decided, “why would it mean anything?”) but the Pharcyde’s takedown of Ya Mama with its list of her assorted quirks: “(she’s) got a glass eye with a fish in it”, “she’s as old as dirt”, “..got a peg leg with a kickstand” (handsomely illustrated with a grotesque cartoon cover) included what, to me, was the straightforward line “Ya Mama’s got an Afro with a chin strap” which I confidently concluded was an implication that she was bald and bewigged (the » Continue Reading.
What does it sound like?:
I’be always felt blessed: blessed to discover pop music in the heyday of Top Of The Pops; blessed to only hear the punkquake through the grapevine but land up in the record shops with enough wedge for a weekly 7 inch just when the post-punk tsunami of fantastic singles was crashing down; blessed to have The Smiths around for that awkward transition from late adolescence to young adulthood; blessed to be able to witness a whole new musical genre I love grow up before my eyes.. That particular accident of when I was born and how I came to music has always informed my taste. Childhood TOTP made me a respecter of all and worshipper of none (I’ve never been a fan or a completist: I adore Bowie – first pop love – but €11 for everything he recorded between 83 and 88? Pass!) and instilled in me a neverlost love of the perfect uncomplicated beauty of the genuine-tilt-at-a-hit.
But those post-punk records seemed to have another agenda: we will be strange, they said, whether through our cut-and-paste Marxism, weird new zynderzyzur bleeps and bloops, or refusal to polish our sound with chart-conquering sheen, » Continue Reading.
Kasami Washington may not have received the memo (what with his Amazing Reproducing CDs – leave his two discs together overnight, come down in the morning and – hey! – there’s a whole new CD), but from the start of this year I noticed a trend for shorter, snappier albums, from the extremely sensible 38-40 minutes (U.S. Girls, Darlingside) to pithy (although perhaps less value-for-money) 30ish minutes (SiR, Tove Styrke, John Prine) After years of wading through pointless filler I was digging this, but then sub 23 minutes albums started dropping (Kids See Ghosts, Pusha T, Teyana Taylor), which meant I had to re-evaluate Diplo’s California and Sudan Archives’ Sink, which I had classified as E.P.s, being 20 and 19 minutes respectively. When the Tierra Whack album (15 one minute tracks at full album price) came in shorter than Malfunction, the ace opening track on the Cavern Of Anti-matter album, I felt the wheels were coming off. But now mates are trying to persuade me to get Tony Molina’s Kill The Lights (10 tracks, 14 and one half minutes FULL ALBUM PRICE) and I am asking the question where will this madness end? (And – sidebar – how do you » Continue Reading.
What is the greatest dichotomy in popular music? Some might suggest it’s more cowbell or less cowbell, or should I stay or should I go, or selling out or selling nowt. But I put it to you that the single question that cleaves le pop is, when confronted with an irresistible dancey groove, whether to “get up” or “get down”. In this video for the sublime new single by Swedish beatbots Galantis, we observe a quintessential example of the “get up” reaction (although I suspect any TOTP screening of same would necessitate a sober health and safety warning advising not to imitate the behaviour on view). Where do you stand on the get up/get down dilemma (and do you, in fact, just stand). And what are pop’s other great dichotomies?
It might be the ace Chart Music podcast, it might be the relentless sunshine, it might the fact that I’m full of virile, youthful joy (No. It’s definitely not that.), but I’ve been immersing myself this last while in Proper Pop That Goes !Pop! As we know, this is usually music made by ladies of the female variety. This means parking one’s prejudice against 1. songs which are mostly about sexy bits and boys and fluffy-headed female stuff instead of the power of rawk or the Dukla Prague Away Kit 2. music which evokes a feeling of happiness and makes you want to move ya body instead of making you feel all clever and cool just for being the only kid on your street for having heard it apart from when your parents are away and you turn up the stereo and open all the windows 3. artistes who work with other writers and may have arrived via tv talent shows or some form of sinister behind-the-scenes grooming by The Man rather than slogging their way around Britain’s foulest venues in a germ-infested van writing new songs by failing to correctly nick the good bits from the records they admire » Continue Reading.
A warm welcome, as is right, for the return of Chak-Chak-Chak-Chaka Khan, but no noise on The AW about a new Suede song dropping. Listening, one might understand why – those who have never cared for boneyarse Bertie won’t find anything new to like here. Bert’s man, Sir David of funny eyes was renowned for his “how you like me now?” ch-ch-ch-changes of style from record to record and back in the days when bands could only hope to have five album careers it was de rigeur to pop down the barbers/ buy the latest kit/ clamber aboard the bandwagon with this year’s reg to artificially delay your inevitable slide into that part of the record shop marked “yesturday’s men” (the geezers writing the cards in record shops could never spell). So naturally, now that bands refuse to go away – like that athlete’s foot from that one time in the public swimming pool so long ago that you had a body you weren’t ashamed to exhibit it in public – they don’t feel any pressure to sound different at all. This new song doesn’t just sound like Suede – it sounds like a newly-discovered song from 1992. I approve. » Continue Reading.
Handy tip from The A.V. Club that you can stream sets from Barcelona’s Primavera Sound Festival one day behind (link below) If my U.S./Euro timeshift calculations are correct Sparks are on in about 10 minutes. Not too excited about the rest of tonight, but some good acts over the next couple of days, so depends who they choose to stream… (Handy since Twitch.tv have suspended their live classic Doctor Who stream until Monday)
When Guru took the opportunity on the Mo’ Better Blues soundtrack to declare that “The 90s will be the decade of a jazz thing”, it seemed less like a prophecy than an inevitability. The thing called rap had caught our attention riding disco grooves such as Chic’s Good Times and the Incredible Bongo Band’s take on Apache, before moving on, via Afrika Bambaataa, to become “electro”, plunder the rock riffs of Rick Rubin’s record collection, then find its most obvious fit in the funky grooves of James Brown and his imitators. And so to jazz.. Thing was, jazz was already prominent among the many fathers of rap. Jazz dude Gil Scott-Heron’s The Revolution Will Not Be Televised is regarded as a foundation stone. You’d already had the radical rhymes of The Watts Prophets and The Last Poets. These fellows were playing! The LPs (as no-one calls them) even coined the term “jazzoetry” to describe what they were at. And the Last Poets are one of the main reasons I’m a tap tappin’ right now, as they’ve recently released the first album for a couple of decades with the help of master reggae producer Prince Fatty and it’s mighty fine. But » Continue Reading.
Here on The Afterword we have a lot of time on our hands. We’ve had threads about albums with great opening salvos, albums where one side always gets played at the expense of the other and albums that finish with a bang. But, after living with the new Janelle Monae album for a week, I’m coming to the conclusion that it falls into the category we might call a “Jaffa Cake” album – that is to say I’m seriously underwhelmed by the first four tracks and the last four tracks but it does have “a smashing bit in the middle”. Now, this is a curious thing as, when albums are front loaded with bangers this is usually quite deliberate (it seemed to reach epidemic status in the early days of cds when there was no imperative to distribute the gold democratically between two complementary sides) and choosing to finish your opus on a high is clearly an attempt to emulate the dynamic of the live concert performance. But pop music’s been around a while now and, offhand, I can’t think of too many albums with this pattern, which suggests it’s not something an artist might do deliberately (and, to be » Continue Reading.
Sewer Robot on Comedy Horror
Comedy Horror, eh? It’s bleedin’ everywhere nowadays. In movies, in those comics your kids buy, even on proper, non-satellite, tv channels. But has its ubiquity blinded us to fact that this marriage of genres is an ill bred abomination? I mean, I like sitting at home at my “table” and I also enjoy a vigorous game of “tennis”, but that doesn’t mean I can just bolt these two words together to produce a game involving tennis-style skills that can be played indoors on a waist-high wooden surface.
The poet Patrick Kavanagh has a line about the newness that was in every stale thing when we looked at it as children. True dat – but it’s also true that there were loads of things we encountered as kids which, though of fairly recent vintage, we, in our stupid innocence, assumed had been around forever.
Chuckle worthy beasties were ubiquitous in the culture when we were kids. “Over He-e-e-r-e” were Scooby and Shaggy hiding from ghosts in the pantry, over there was Creature Teacher and the other assorted ghouls of Monster Fun comic. We bought gum containing cards where the black and white monsters from old RKO » Continue Reading.
The song that kicks off the new Okkervil River album connects the singer’s own surgical experience to that of assorted well-known figures, chugs along in a most pleasing manner and, for the AW week that’s in it, has an attention-grabbing opening lyric (even if this is a far cry from this group’s first rodeo). But it’s principal value, to me, is that it has drawn my attention to the correct spelling of the word “tracheotomy” (Dunno, but assuming it has a Latin derivation, I imagined there’d be another “a” in there, or some other surprise). Has the release of a song ever enlightened you wrt to the actual spelling of a word?
What does it sound like?:
Well, first off, for those of you for whom Lauryn Hill’s totally Afterword-friendly album is a step too far, I would hazard that there’s nothing for you here.
I’m going to start by making a wildly simplistic generalization, which is that contemporary hip hop is pretty much divided between the (mostly samey) unit shifters, a (frequently backward-looking) underground and a menagerie of far out explorers whose work, while frequently admirable, can also be frustratingly hit-and-miss. What’s more, nearly twenty five years after Chuck declaimed that he “never did represent doing dumb sh*t”, the prevalence of said “dumb sh*t” in this genre has meant that those with something to say who do so directly tend not to feed at the top table.
Jean Grace and Quelle Chris are partners in real life. In musical terms I would say Jean is sharp and clear old skool-style underground, while Chris can be a bit trippy Hippy dippy and their respective flows mirror this. So – as much as we all enjoy the idea of working with The Missus – bumping and grinding their quite different styles together might have produced quite the ugly offspring. Instead, the inevitable » Continue Reading.
On those occasions when I deign to view a picture at my local theatre, I always insist on the full 3D Vibroshock™ Smell-O-Vision™ experience*. My television is a 200 inch Ultra HD 8k hooked up to 25 perfectly placed surround sound speakers with a Sub-subwoofer. I even bring my pastels along so I may, through the medium of illustrative fresco, “flesh out” (as it were) my favourite glory hole. So, how disappointing is it that, during my hours aboard the assorted joyrides and amusements of The Afterword, what I know (and the podcasts barely hint at) must surely be a “Quality Street”-style assortment of nasal poshos, high pitched gigglers and geezers with that movie-trailer-guy gravel in their vocal chords, I have to hear every insane utterance in my own voice? (Granted, most of the insane stuff is, in fact, in my own voice). I thought it might be an idea to address this limitation by posting an “off the peg” clip from a famous person whose voice you think resembles your own. Naturally, you can just be a git and employ a decoy comedy avatar, but I’m gonna hold you to one Pasquale maximum. My own clip features a song » Continue Reading.