Wednesday, April 22, 2015
It was such a ceremonious encounter that I've never managed to forget it. It lacked context and even conversation, yet it formally introduced me to a scene filled with consequence. Song recommendations don't tend to be so ceremonious now, there's the occasional email attachment or a YouTube link with that requisite exclamation: "This is so so you." Friends have developed the ability to predict my taste with an eerie degree of accuracy and I marvel at their attentiveness (and my predictability). The act of recommending a song can be a bit hilarious too, I chortle upon recalling my old managing director calling me into his office to play me a Russian rockabilly cover of Kraftwerk: "I listened to it and I thought, I know who would like this!" It's a such a fond act of cultural assessment and it so frequently occurs without conscious forethought. With friendship comes that willingness to situate and anticipate a person's musical taste.
My romantic vision of the song recommendation took a bashing upon reading the introduction of Tristan Murail's essay, After-thoughts (2000): "Asking people to listen to a piece of music takes some of their time, some of their life: the composer is stealing a little bit of life from each listener." It had never occurred to me that a composer's creative intent could carry such a malevolent component. The suggestion made me consider whether it even had very much to do with time. I particularly refer to all those uninvestigated recommendations: band names scrawled on a scraps of paper, lost in drawers; unplayed yet carefully curated mixtapes, lost in cars. Each song choice carried that hope that you would look into it, but for whatever reason you didn't.
There are other kinds of recommendations that are unaffected by time, they're associated with that desire to share songs with those you can no longer talk to. It appears that there is a vault of lost recommendations: songs you should have paid attention to, songs you should have told them about.
There's another thing, too, you may never get the opportunity to convey the significance of a recommendation. Some time ago, I received an email from a listener who wrote to tell me that he and his girlfriend have bonded over one particular Yé Yé podcast. I felt such happiness and gratitude as I read about how frequently they listen to the mix, dote over the songs and affectionately imitate my back-announcing as some kind of private in-joke. Now they are getting married, they wanted the songs from the podcast to be featured at the ceremony. The correspondence made me think of the nature of online recommendations and how thrilled I was to learn of that story, particularly since it's so unusual to get that kind of insight.
It made me want to go back and thank those people who were generous enough to share their music, knowledge and insight with me, whether it be at loud parties, on blogs or on email. I know it's hardly practicable or realistic, but it would be sweet thing to say "Thank you for telling me about that song, it really meant a lot to me..."
Cassettes & Chocolate Milk: Electro Podcast #63
Perfume - Handy Man
AlunaGeorge - Best Be Believing
Years & Years - Desire
Flight Facilities - Stand Still
Marcella - Cave and Text
Ace of Base - Pole Position
Nottee - Don't Waste Your Light On Me
Marina and the Diamonds - Can't Pin Me Down
Thursday, February 05, 2015
I'm no stranger to the idea of establishing creative parameters. Paul Weller discussed it himself during his episode of The Mastertapes, locking himself up in an office, attempting to churn out tracks for the 1982 Jam album, The Gift. Perhaps the idea of working to a deadline diminishes from the romance of the creative process, but it's intriguing how quickly the mind can generate ideas with such firmly set limitations. It needn't be time restrictions either, you might only need a single word that resonates with you and if you allow yourself to take a few moments to explore the concept, something will invariably emerge. Using the methodology of Julia Cameron and Natalie Goldberg, it's necessary to write fast, write without thinking and block out the voice that says you cannot do this.
Both these challenges draw upon this compounded appeal of not only being creative, but also being prolific. It carries this implicit hope that you've managed to sort out your doubts, motivations and work in an almost mechanised fashion. It's entirely possible, you need only to listen to the impressive claim of Severo Lombardoni, the producer of the iconic Italo Disco label, Discomagic: "My setup allowed me to produce 50-60 albums a month. I even did 5-6 albums a day!" We're talking about pop music that was manufactured on the largest scale imaginable, but the sheer breadth of its catalogue does little to detract from its creative merit. It's much like an archaeological dig, where people are still searching and uncovering this music, they're making mixes and dance tracks. Their love of it is ultimately inspiring a new musical culture.
I'm drawn to analysing the nature of creativity, but I know for some that understanding creativity spoils the magic somehow. I'm often reminded of Joe Strummer's remark to Melody Maker's Caroline Coon: "If I told you how I write, when I next do it, my words will haunt me and destroy me completely..." There was a process, there must have been, yet the artist's reluctance to discuss it makes the music-making process even more mystical than it probably should be. I'm also wary of the fact that a lengthy dissection of the music-making process can be an act of procrastination. After all, it is much easier to get fired up by a TED Talk than to go through the grief of picking up a guitar and actually working out a new song.
If anyone else were to ask me whether they should take part in the RPM Challenge, I would say "Do it, create, because it's the most important thing." I'd be sure to add the words of a fellow singer who recently said to me, "Your work only exists because of you." I'm yet to fully appreciate why those words reassured me as they did, but it somehow goes to the heart of what it means to honour your ideas and will them to existence. Sure, there may be some vain component in the whole creative process, there may exist some hope that someone else will connect with your work, free of obligation or personal association. Yet, I maintain that it's the most important thing because you can never truly appreciate the breadth of your influence. Create, because you will ultimately inspire others to create.
Cassettes & Chocolate Milk: Mod Podcast #62
Au Pairs - You
Screaming Tribesmen - Ice
Ratcat - Skin
Spivs - Boys of Desillusion
Rotjoch - Too Many Weirdos
Ricky and the Teendreams - Alison, Please
Mood Six - Memories
Uncanny X-Men - I Wanna Be Your Baby
Gyllene Tider - Tuff Tuff Tuff (Som Ett Lokomotiv)
Various Artists - She's a Machine
Download (51.6 MB)
Wednesday, December 24, 2014
The "We Are the Champions VIP Experience" was priced at AUD$600 while the "I Want It All VIP Experience" cost AUD$750. The most expensive package, the AUD$1,300 "Ultimate On Stage Experience" would get you within tripping distance of Brian May, yet there was no prospect of any meeting, no chance of any awkward banter or hysterics. The whole set-up made standing a metre away from Avril Lavigne for USD$400 seem like a real bargain. So, without the promise of any encounter, I reserved plebby pre-sale Fan Club seats for my best friend and myself, a considerable distance away from the stage.
It was difficult to justify the expense, after all that I had seen Brian and Roger ham it up with that other potato in Hyde Park for a mere GBP£30 in 2005. Had I existed in 1976, I could have seen Queen (with Freddie) in the same place for nothing. However, this whole experience of "having to choose an experience" forced me to consider the phenomenon of the VIP experience and how it is now possible to grade your level of fanaticism in such precise increments. There is the conscious consideration: "Is this really worth it? Do I like them that much to fork out this money for a single night?" You're left to think about value of a moment that will ultimately slip through your fingers.
I strongly believe that the VIP experience manages to thrive due to the way that we document our lives online. I think it got to a point where that ridiculously distorted audio and familiar low-res blur shot from an iPhone at the back of a venue became totally ubiquitous and stupid. It makes sense that this scheme developed where you could distinguish yourself from the ordinary punter in such a way that you could document everything with such enviable clarity. Where I'm coming from, it's easy to survey the once-in-a-lifetime antics of those who are arguably more faithful and less stingy than I.
The morning after Queen, everyone asked what it was like. I was stunned, overwhelmed and genuinely quite incapable of describing what had just happened. I kept on repeating, "I should have just given them all my money, I should have been closer, I should have been on the stage..." Saying that, I'm still suspicious of my ability to appreciate a moment as it's happening. I need to think about it, I need to sit down with a notebook, I need to listen to a bootleg or in the case of last Friday afternoon, I need to wade through cardboard boxes full of 2014 Queen tour memorabilia. My kind, new resourceful friend in the merch division of my company examined the description on the boxes:
"Do you want a t-shirt? A tour program? A stubby holder? It's all going to be destroyed anyway..."
"Yeah, yes please. I want it all."
Cassettes & Chocolate Milk: Italo Disco Podcast #61
Borneo - Let's All Dance
RAF - Self Control
Hubert Kah - The Picture
Telex News - Forever
Lame - You've Got The Night
Julie - Tora Tora Tora
Riccardo Maggese – Boschima
Fockewulf 190 – Gitano
Download (58.6 MB)
Monday, September 08, 2014
Originally broadcast in April 1985 on the South East London pirate radio station, Skyline Radio, host Nick Miller talks to Colin Swan, Geno Buckmaster and Brian Grover about fostering talent on their imprint Direct Records, the mood of London audiences and the interest surrounding their forthcoming tour of Germany and Italy.
The second interview dates from July 1985 and features both Colin and Geno discussing exploits from their most recent tour ("I lost a shoe in Hamburg"), humorous reflections on Live Aid not to mention their thoughts of some new record releases. Both clips are fascinating portrait of the band both before and after their career-defining tour of the continent.
The Direct Hits - The Skyline Radio Interviews (1985)
The Direct Hits - Radio Press (1985)
The discovery of these interviews comes with The Direct Hits unearthing artefacts including previously unseen photographs, gig posters, tickets for the Christmas release of a new book called "My Back Pages". You can keep up to date with this and other upcoming developments on both the band's official page and their Facebook page.
As an added incentive, check out these nifty badges dating from 1987 which recently featured! I want each and every last one of them.
And just in case you missed it the first time round, this is the C&CM Conversation with Colin Swan.
Thursday, August 14, 2014
The photograph was the most sublime combination of style and inconvenience I had ever seen. Without hesitation I made it my Facebook profile picture, never stopping to consider whether anybody would appreciate what was so cool about it. Much of my fascination had to do with the fact that I've maintained a fringe for the best part of eight years and for me, fringe trims have always been an ordeal. Every six weeks, my obscured eyesight would remind me of my ongoing obligation and they were almost always poorly executed endeavours. Sure, it's a minor operation, cutting ten centimetres of hair across my face in a straight line but it usually results with stray strands and a mystifying jump in length over my left eyebrow. A slapdash hairdresser would brush me off, both physically and literally: "It's just your hair!" and I would have to stop myself from saying: "It's just one third of my freaking face!"
Aside from fringe trims, the photograph seems to fascinate me on an entirely different level. Sure, seeing, breathing and eating would be quite difficult with such a trendy aesthetic, but I love the idea of losing yourself, ultimately sacrificing your face to style. I love the idea that a person can choose anonymity, particularly in the face of cultural recognition. Identification, attribution and celebration appears to be such an integral part of the art-making process that choosing to be anonymous seems to be such a bizarre notion. Perhaps it is funny, in that case, what with such little information left about The Wylde Things that this photograph should remain. Then again, it's kind of sweet to think that all you really need to know about them is contained here. You can't see their faces, sure, but you can see it in how he tilts his head, how the other holds his cigarette, how they all stand together as they do. They're the ones with attitude, with swagger. They're the ones who understood the thrill and the value of '60s garage.
I want to be in their gang.
Cassettes & Chocolate Milk: Jangle Pop Podcast #60
The Fire Engines - Big Gold Dream
Orange Juice - Falling and Laughing
The Servants - Aim in Life
The Direct Hits - Captivating Eyes
Primal Scream - May the Sun Shine Bright for You
Marine Girls - A Place in the Sun
Strawberry Switchblade - Go Away
June Brides - Heard You Whisper
Phil Wilson - 10 Miles
Talulah Gosh - Talulah Gosh
Download (48.5 MB)
Friday, June 20, 2014
Wednesday, May 21, 2014
It was something that Stephen Fry said in a half-hour heart-warming ramble, that a generation has grown up with the internet. He went on to talk about the implications it had on the ease of gathering knowledge, but for me, it was a simple fact that led me to think about the young and musically isolated. Is it still possible to feel culturally disconnected, when it's so easy to find those who share your passion online?
I often find myself disenchanted at the thought that it is no longer rare to find a musical connection. Where at 15, I would have done anything to indulge in a lengthy discussion about Black Celebration, I now have ongoing access to those who "get it": passionate friends from Melbourne (and others far beyond) who reach out to gush and discuss the minutiae of musical culture. It's a shared obsession that is never dismissed with such negative terms as "geekery". It's just life as we live it.
My Tumblr, Avowals and Denials has given me this odd insight into what it could have been like, had I been born a little later. It is gratifying to see the same type of insatiable interest live on, presumably due to the education and influence of parents who loved classic rock in their youth. There is that familiar lament: If only I had lived then! Le sigh! Where others at school don't understand, there is a never ending feed of reblogged images and animated gifs which denote a reinforced sense of commonality.
Perhaps online fandom has really changed nothing. Perhaps the contrast of alienation against the phantom prospect of a connection is central to the idea of being an adolescent. I want to make a return to a place where a musical discussion still thrills and warms my heart, but perhaps that is all over for now. It might just be that connection is the norm. It comforts me to know this is the time I had always wished for and I am now among those I had always wanted.
The Great Scots - Don't Want Your Love
The Starfires - There's Still Time
The Seeds - Pushin' Too Hard
Max Frost & The Troopers - Shape of Things to Come
The Booze - California Blonde
Real List - Pick Up The Marbles
Strawberry Alarm Clock - Incense and Peppermints
Allah-Las - Tell Me (What's On Your Mind)
Death by Unga Bunga - I Wanna Go Wild
The Bermudas - Chu Sen Ling
Bobby Darin - Dream Lover
The Bards - The Owl and the Pussycat
Monday, February 24, 2014
It's an alluring idea, to think that a place can be charged with significance and you might be able to sense that. I'll always recall the story I heard on a radio documentary about John Lennon's childhood home, Mendips. Now a museum, the caretaker described one particular young Japanese tourist who visited. Initially quiet, calm and polite, upon entering John's bedroom, she threw herself onto his bed and started wailing uncontrollably. Other visitors described how moved they were to be there, they described this feeling that took over them once they entered the house. In that way, the musical pilgrimage manages to align itself with the spiritual quality of a pilgrimage in the religious sense. Perhaps if I were more intuitive or had a greater sense of imagination, I could sense an importance, as opposed to simply being informed of one.
I love to consult the pilgrimages of Pete Frame's Rockin Around Britain, simply because the extreme level of research renders the spirituality of the musical pilgrimage void. I mean, I can't anticipate that anyone would venture out to the Permawrap cling film factory in High Wycombe simply because Howard Jones once worked in the stock control department. If anything, the fact that Frame has compiled such an enormously comprehensive resource indicates that culture is being created everywhere, in cities and villages, in halls and studios, even in squares and tube stations. It's a fact, but we're not always so inclined to react to any given locality in such a drastically emotional way.
Saying that, I'll rarely miss the opportunity to embark on one of these musical adventures. Not so long ago, I was sitting in a hotel room in Milan when my brother suddenly said to me: "Wait a second. Aren't the Paninaro kids from Milan?" I rushed to the baby laptop and replayed the promotional clip of the Pet Shop Boys' Paninaro - it became apparent that we had accidentally stumbled upon a place filled with musical consequence. I read out slabs of text, describing the 1980s youth culture. They seemed so glamourous, what with their insatiable appetite for American culture, designer denim and sandwiches. "They congregated around the sandwich bars at Piazza San Babila..." It seemed clear there was no turning back now: we were on a mission to find us some Paninaro kids.
The first thing we did the next day was venture out to Piazza San Babila. There was no abundance of sandwich, indeed there was nothing to indicate that anything had ever happened there. We walked over to the subway, recognising its inclusion in the Pet Shop Boys' video. Rafts of bored business men and tourists congregated together tightly, forming a queue by the gates and spilling out into the square. As we settled down to a bottle of milk at a nearby supermarket café, I thought about the Paninaro kids, who they were and what they might have become. One of them might have been in that crowd waiting for the subway to open, but we never would have known it. Perhaps if there were a plaque or something, a token boy in appropriate vintage attire, we might have felt differently about our failed excursion.
I've found, with my recent love of Kino and Viktor Tsoi that I've developed this desire to venture off to Russia and test this whole theory about musical pilgrimages. I'd love to go to Arbat Street in Moscow and be confronted with that heavily graffitied wall in Tsoi's honour. I'd love to deal with that struggle again, that difficulty in trying to honour the beauty and the relevance of their music. I'd love to go to Club Kamchatka, the Kino museum café bar in St Petersburg that was once the boiler room of the apartment block where Tsoi worked and lived. I might not ever develop a real appreciation of what it was actually like to be in the depths of the Russian underground rock scene, what it might have been like to see a gig or source a bootleg cassette, but I appreciate that are people who attempt to create such opportunities to remember those moments we unfortunately missed the first time round.
Cassettes & Chocolate Milk: Soviet Pop Podcast #58
Yury Mukhin - Humouresque
Display - Foreign Lady
Electroclub feat. Victor Saltykov - You Marry Him, Do Not Go
Kino - Your Number
Aquarium - Rock n Roll's Dead
Rodionov - Electronic Jockey (Horse Racing)
Rodionov - Baroque (Fencing)
Forum - On the Next Street
Arsenal - Festival
Aavikko - Machu Picchu
Friday, February 14, 2014
To be honest with you, I have a real fascination with those musicians who were never promoted here. I am in love with those songs that I was never meant to hear. My friend Dimitri offers me this insight into what it was like to be a French child of the 1980s. He shares rare music videos, songs that many French people cannot even recall. He accompanies each song with this extraordinary understanding of its social context and critical reception. At the same time, he manages to describe the personal legacy of these songs: every song has an association.
In exchange, I offer up my Australian childhood songs, awkwardly conscious of the fact that my exposure to local musical culture peaked when I was a child. I developed a liking for Ratcat, The Screaming Jets, Southern Sons and Diesel from watching Video Smash Hits. However, my exposure to local music ultimately ended when I quickly fell in love with English pop music. Throughout my twenties, there has been enormous pressure to support local music and as the pressure has intensified, my curiosity has dwindled and died out. I now live with this thought that I have purposefully ignored so much of what has been happening around me, just to indulge in this dream of living in another place, in another time.
I recall one of our last conversations, it was a cold night on Lygon Street and we were sipping these extravagant iced mochas. You were telling me of the intimate going's-on of Melbourne's 2002 Garage Rock movement. It was akin to my appreciation of London in 1977, Bristol in 1981, Milan in 1983 or Leningrad in 1984. There's this core group of tirelessly cool musicians who manage to create a community, unified by this distinctive sound and attitude. With the right sources, you can daydream about what it must have been like to be in that club, what it meant to be among the few people who understood the significance of actually being present.
"That's a good quality to have." I said, in between sips. "To be able to deconstruct an emerging scene, to recognise and define the consequence of the present. I think that's pretty special..."
Perhaps, it's not about the breadth of the acclaim, it's not about whether you're huge in Melbourne, Milan or even Mexico. When it comes to the recognition component of that artistic fulfilment recipe, I think it's about creating some kind of legacy. Whether that's in the form of a personal or cultural legacy, I think every artist has that desire to have their work placed within some sort of a context. Maybe it's up to us to create those histories, not only for our own understanding of how it all went down, but for the artist, too. We should let them know that we care, we should let them know that we've committed them to memory...
Cassettes & Chocolate Milk: French Pop Podcast #57
April March - Brainwash Part II
BB Brunes - Houna
Mai Lan - Schumacher
Exsonvaldes - L'aérotrain
Aline - Elle m'oubliera
Les Calamités - Vélomoteur
Yelle - A Cause Des Garçons
Corynne Charby - Boule de Flipper
Images - Love Emotion
Soko - I'll Kill Her
Download (56.5 MB)
Monday, October 07, 2013
Before we go all crazy though, I present the final episode which is entirely made up of submissions from some very eloquent lovers of music.
I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to the great many contributors who took the time to record something for Consequential Lyrics. In random order, these people include:
And of course, a big thank you goes to the artist who did a superb rending of the Consequential Lyric logo, White Tiger Grafiks! I'll do something special for you all one of these days, I owe you bigtime.
Of course, thank you for reading, listening and engaging with Consequential Lyrics. It's been an especially rewarding project, combining all my favourite things: lyricism, sentimentality, meaning, gushiness. It's been fantastic.
What's been your favourite episode? And if you're yet to declare one, what's your consequential lyric and why? And how would you fancy a Series 2??
Consequential Lyrics #8: The Fan Episode
Pagan Wanderer Lu - 2.0///The Bridge of Sighs
Sonic Youth - Kool Thing
The Sugarcubes - Birthday
Smashing Pumpkins - Cherub Rock
Leonard Cohen - Anthem
The Replacements - Bastards of Young
EMF - Unbelievable
David Bowie - All the Madmen
The Smiths - London
Moloko - Sing It Back
Jamie Lidell - Game of Fools
Mariah Carey - Anytime You Need a Friend
Download (105 MB)
Post Script: If you're at all wondering about the mysterious location of Consequential Lyrics #7, it's a bonus episode about Roxette and you'll find it here!
Monday, September 30, 2013
I always knew that Erasure would carry this great importance to me, after all I had spent most of my life listening to their 1988 album, The Innocents in an attempt to recall blissful childhood memories of the English village where I lived for a short time. The memories would crystallise as I would announce to everyone, "Hallowed Ground is the village green! Ship of Fools is my school!" When I finally returned as a twenty year old, I walked around its vaguely familiar streets and purposefully listened to The Innocents, meditating upon its unique connection to this precious era. Again, I felt stunted by the consequence of this music and I knew, however I framed it, I could never honour it adequately enough.
The entire Consequential Lyrics project has been about acknowledging and articulating the personal meaning of lyrics. It's so strange with Erasure, because their consequence seems to exist in this largely unexplored state. Yet we're still so keen to stress the importance of these songs, we grab each others arms' and shriek whenever a song like Drama! or Imagination comes on: "I can't believe I actually forgot how perfect these songs are..." Such a response like this would transcend timezones and there'd be a buzz of text message saying exactly the same thing. We could never do anything but agree, acknowledging that familiar jab of endorphins that is reliably released during the first few seconds of Always or In My Arms.
I'm sure if we were pressed to do so, we could all sit down and analyse what makes music (or indeed, lyrics) consequential. We could tear apart the poetic devices in those lyrical fragments, the scenic allusions created by Vince's synthesizers, the feelings induced by tried-and-tested key signatures and chord progressions. We could even go so far as to elaborate upon those independently created personal meanings, those stories that seem to have absolutely nothing to do with the music itself. But then it all makes me wonder that if it were so easy to explain musical meaning, it probably wouldn't mean so much. That and there's a kind of relief that comes with just feeling... and knowing that others feel it too.