Motherbanger: the music of Chris Morris


 
I think we can all agree that Chris Morris is a comedic genius, right?

His work, from BBC Radio’s On The Hour and The Chris Morris Music Show in the early 90s, through The Day Today, Brass Eye and Nathan Barley on TV, and all the way up to his most recent work, Four Lions, is both howlingly funny and the pinnacle of biting satire.

One of the reasons his work is so powerful is the attention to detail, from the small linguistic tics to the perfectly-framed, over-the-top computer graphics. But in particular, for me, it’s his use music that is most impressive. Morris can simultaneously rip the piss out of a tune or a band while lodging a brand new melody in the style of that act permanently into your brain. That’s no mean feat.

While Chris Morris’ musical works are never really foregrounded in his films and shows, they are definitely worthy of attention in their own right. (Heads up WARP - why not put out a compilation of Morris’ musical satires?) So, after a discussion with a friend that was sparked by the discovery of an American band non-ironically named “Blouse”, I decided to compile the best of Morris’ musical parodies for DM.

A major tip of the hat is due to the YouTube uploader FourJamLions, who has uploaded quite a bit of Morris’ music, though some of it is not embeddable on other sites. Here is FourJamLions’ compiled clip of the best musical moments from the classic series Brass Eye. This clip includes the priceless Pulp parody “Blouse” (with Morris playing the lead singer “Purves”) singing an ode to serial child killer Myra Hindley. After the jump there’s more of Morris’ musical monstrosities, but if you need some bizarre-but-familiar aural refreshment this Friday, here’s a great introduction:

BRASS EYE Music (inc Pulp parody BLOUSE “Me Oh Myra”)
 

 
After the jump, music from The Day Today, Brass Eye, Nathan Barley, and The Chris Morris Music Show…
 

Written by Niall O'Conghaile | Discussion
Your romantic notion doesn’t pay my rent: David Lowery, Emily White and the future of music


‘Starving Artist’ by Ebony Lace.
 
A short while ago, Emily White, who is an intern at NPR, made a blog post in which she admitted that, despite having 11,000 songs on her iTunes, she had paid for a grand total of 15 CDs in her 21 years of existence. Is that statistic shocking? It certainly was to David Lowery, singer with Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker, who on Monday wrote a detailed, open-letter-style response to White.

This open-letter has been blowing up on social networks and music sites over the last few days, and I wanted to share it here as it’s pertinent to my own situation and I’m keen to see what other DM readers think. In the essay, Lowery asks White to think about how her actions and attitude has effected the music industry as a whole. He uses facts and figures to back up his assertions, and while not everyone is going to agree with what he writes, it’s an excellent essay that is well worth reading:

I must disagree with the underlying premise of what you have written. Fairly compensating musicians is not a problem that is up to governments and large corporations to solve. It is not up to them to make it “convenient” so you don’t behave unethically. (Besides–is it really that inconvenient to download a song from iTunes into your iPhone? Is it that hard to type in your password? I think millions would disagree.)

Rather, fairness for musicians is a problem that requires each of us to individually look at our own actions, values and choices and try to anticipate the consequences of our choices. I would suggest to you that, like so many other policies in our society, it is up to us individually to put pressure on our governments and private corporations to act ethically and fairly when it comes to artists rights. Not the other way around. We cannot wait for these entities to act in the myriad little transactions that make up an ethical life. I’d suggest to you that, as a 21-year old adult who wants to work in the music business, it is especially important for you to come to grips with these very personal ethical issues.

...

What the corporate backed Free Culture movement is asking us to do is analogous to changing our morality and principles to allow the equivalent of looting. Say there is a neighborhood in your local big city. Let’s call it The ‘Net. In this neighborhood there are record stores. Because of some antiquated laws, The ‘Net was never assigned a police force. So in this neighborhood people simply loot all the products from the shelves of the record store. People know it’s wrong, but they do it because they know they will rarely be punished for doing so. What the commercial Free Culture movement (see the “hybrid economy”) is saying is that instead of putting a police force in this neighborhood we should simply change our values and morality to accept this behavior. We should change our morality and ethics to accept looting because it is simply possible to get away with it.  And nothing says freedom like getting away with it, right?

This article presents (in a roundabout way) two things I have been brewing over for a long time, in regards to file sharing.

The first one is this: why does the onus always seem to be on the creator of art to accept that their product should be free, rather than on the consumer to analyze the impact of their actions on the quality of art?

It has happened here on DM in the past, especially in heated comments threads under posts about Pirate Bay, where the question that tended to get asked the most was “why should an artist expect to get paid money for what they do?”  (Unfortunately, since we switched over to the Disqus comment system last month, all our old comment threads have been wiped, but readers are more than welcome to keep the discourse going right here.)

Well, as an artist, the most immediate way to refute that question would be to ask “why should you expect to receive art for free?” But to take it further, here is another question that is never, ever asked, and to me taps into the root of the whole problem: “if you are not willing to pay for music, then why exactly do you collect music?”

Seriously, though. Why? Yes, music is lovely (I should know as I have dedicated my life to making, playing and writing about it) but then so is beer, and if I expected to get drunk every day without paying any money for the privilege, I would quickly get the reputation of being an unpopular scrounger. It’s basic economics, but it’s still a concept many fail to grasp, or would rather substitute with the victim-blaming that it’s the artist’s fault for expecting to get paid.

So, to put it more Marxist-friendly terms: “why does a person consume a form of art?”

I should make this clear at this point, I have been a very heavy collector and consumer of music myself in the past, my forte being rare disco and obscure deep house. So I get it! I get the buzz of obtaining new music (not to mention that, being a DJ, I need to have access to new music). But there came a point when I realized that NO, I couldn’t own every single disco record ever made—thank you, Daniel Wang—but also, why in the hell would I want to?!

As a musician I have found that I learn more about music by concentrating on a smaller group of records/artists and listening to them more intently than I do from consuming vast swathes of music and not really getting around to listening to much of it. While a lot of this has to do with my own route from consumer to creator, the thought still niggles at the back of my head: have music consumers been driven into such a blind state of consumption that they simply MUST have everything, regardless of the cost to the medium itself?

And I ask this because sometimes it feels like the artists, the people who make our society more tolerable, more beautiful and even more inspirational, have been thrown to the wolves. One of the most common “validations” for the file sharing of music among consumers and listeners is that the labels have been exploiting us for years, so fuck ‘em. While this may be true, it’s very short-sighted and supremely selfish, as it (deliberately?) disregards the damage caused to the artists and, in turn, the musical landscape by the devaluation of the actual product. And while their work has been deemed financially worthless by the people who consume it (people who, presumably, want to hear/read/see/feel more of what the artist has to offer), what opinion do artists most often hear coming from the public in relation to art? That the quality is getting worse and worse. Well, I’m afraid these two things are not unconnected.

And here’s the second point that really irks me.

First and foremost, beyond being a writer and a blogger, I consider myself a musician. I create music regularly, I work hard at it, and I try and funnel all my non-music-creating activities back into helping me make more music. One day I would dearly love to be able to live off the money generated by my music. So, am I somehow wrong (or perhaps even evil) because I want this?

Some would say that I am, that somehow I am not a “true” artist because I have brought money into the equation and have aspirations to become “professional.” (How exactly does being considered a professional in your field invalidate what you do?!) To these folks I must stay clean and unsullied by money at all times, lest I become some kind of artistic “whore.” (And I LOVE getting called a “whore,” especially by people who can’t stop themselves downloading music like a junkie can’t say no to a fix.)

Well, newsflash: your romantic notion doesn’t pay my rent.

I need money to go on creating my art. I need money to live, and to peruse that at which I am good at. I need money to invest in the equipment I need to make music. I need money so I can spend time learning how to use that equipment properly, not to mention spending time on that actual art of music itself i.e. writing and arranging melodies, rhythms and lyrics. I need money to finance distribution in all its forms and the production of physical media. If I am to progress and be the best artist I can possibly be, I need the time and money afforded by being a professional in my field. I could make some bucks out of t-shirts sales, I am told, but I am not in this to be a t-shirt designer. I am in this to be a musician.

And another point that I should clarify: I have been heavily involved in “free culture.” From 2007 till this year I ran a label that dealt primarily with free downloads. I have released music through other labels that work on a similar basis.  Simply put, I love giving people some of my music for free. But not all of it. If I have a potential Number One song in my brain, something I feel could give me an ongoing, long-term income, and thus the freedom to peruse my art to a higher level, why would should I give that away for free?

I will always go on making music, of course. I don’t think I will ever stop playing with my Ableton and my Akai controller (until something better comes along) and I know now that, even if I wanted to, I couldn’t stop my brain writing strange little melodies all on its own. But while I will go on making music, I will also keep feeling the frustration of not being able to reach my full potential, of not progressing and of missing opportunities of creating bigger, wilder, greater art. Of using 40-piece choirs and 24 track analog desks, of playing around with original Moogs and top of the range compressors. And where exactly would the incentive for me to share my music with the world be, if the world isn’t willing to share something in return?

As uncommercial or abrasive as my music sometimes is, I consider it to be worthy of as big a fucking audience as possible. I don’t want it to stay in a niche, preaching to the already converted, I want it to travel and affect as many people as it can. And that’s another thing that costs money. Simply “putting it out there” is NOT enough, artists are still reliant on proven methods of PR and old/new media communications to make people aware of their work.

Here’s a case in point. Last year I made an album, and after punting it around to various labels who turned it down, I decided just to put it out there for free. It’s called “AKA” and there are a lot of guests featured, many of them MCs and vocalists from underground gay and drag scenes, but they all have something unique, refreshing and different to say. I want to give them the biggest platform I possibly can to get their messages across. So go at it, get the album, (directly here, or listen first here) it won’t cost you a thing, and if you don’t like it, you can have your money back. But I will still have to invest money in this project to see that it goes beyond small niche markets and has a chance of being picked up in the mainstream. Because I believe it deserves to be in the mainstream.

“AKA” is my fourth free download album release, and I hope it is my last. Not because I dislike giving away my music for free, or because I want to start sucking corporate cock. But because free culture is not sustainable, not for me anyway. Or for artists who want to progress beyond the bedroom and take their work out to a mass audience. An audience that is constantly telling us it WANTS and NEEDS new and exciting music, maybe the very kind of music we are creating. For artists who want to kick it up a level and become *gasp* professional musicians. Not t-shirt designers, not concert promoters, not writers-who-make-music-on-the-side, but PROFESSIONAL MUSICIANS.

Asking for money for your output is NOT a crime. No-one is expecting to get rich off music, just to be paid our dues.

I may be wrong, but I believe that we’ll never see another David Bowie or another Prince or another Beatles again. Not because talents such as there’s aren’t out there, but because the financial system that allowed those talents to flourish, and that in turn made the consumers used to obtaining a high level of art on a regular basis, are gone. That is in no way an excuse for the almost-criminal activities of major labels, and smaller labels for that matter, rather it’s just a statement of fact. Without access to the high calibre musicians/producers/engineers/designers/promoters/managers/etc that was afforded these artists through the label network, none of them would have been able to create their most seminal works of art, works that defined eras, inspired movements, elevated art forms. And, lest we not forget, raised the expectations of listeners to such a level that all else pales.

The public WANTS another Beatles/Bowie/Prince, an iconic, genuinely brilliant artist or band, for and of our age, yet to me the public doesn’t seem willing to pay for that.

So where do we go from here?

 

Written by Niall O'Conghaile | Discussion
‘Boots Sex Dread’: hardcore gay reggae from 1980 (NSFW)


Image by Finsta

This has to be heard to be believed.

Boots Sex Dread is the name of an anonymous reggae act (is it a band or just and MC? or two MCs?) who brought out a one-off single in 1980 that became instantly notorious. Both sides of the release feature heavy dub riddims coupled with explicitly gay toasting. Like, REALLY explicit.

One side is titled “Rinka” and features an MC coming out: “Mi black and mi proud and mi a Rastafari/And mi a ‘omo-sek-shual”. There then follows an hilarious list of anal sex euphemisms. The flip is titled “Prenton Pressure” and features a different, coarse voiced MC regaling us with the story of how he met his Asian boyfriend, and how their sexual relations in a cornership store room (involving lots of bizarre condiments - Brillo Pads?!) were interrupted by the boyfriend’s mother.

Information on this record is scarce, but rumors about who the authors/vocalists may be have been rife since it was first written about in the NME on its 1980 release. The theory that has gained most credibility is that Boots Sex Dread is the work of the British comedian and actor Keith (father of Lily) Allen. An anonymous source close to Dangerous Minds can semi-confirm this:

It was rumored to be Keith Allen. And Rinka was supposed to be named after Norman Scott’s dog who was shot by the hit man hired by Jeremy Thorpe. [Background: Jeremy Thorpe was the leader of the British Liberal party from ‘67-‘76. Norman Scott claimed to be his gay lover, and Thorpe was aquitted on charges of conspiring to murder Scott in 1979.]

But this was the story running the rounds when Julie Burchill banged on about it as being gay Reggae. Not convinced, but it sounds like it could be him. He is an accomplished pianist, as I found out when I spent 3 nights on the batter with him, whilst he was filming Shallow Grave.

Keith had a character he played on Channel 4 late night back in the early 80s, where he played a gay miner, who’s dad was gay and his father before him, etc. Led to religious people saying he shouldn’t be allowed on TV etc, as they thought Keith was genuinely gay.

There a bit more info on this story over at the Uncarved blog. Here are sides A and B of Boots Sex Dread (even the names have been confused over time):

Boots Sex Dread “Rinka” NSFW
 

 
Boots Sex Dread “Penton Pressure” NSFW
 

 
Boots Sex Dread is rare as hens’ teeth, but it was re-issued not too long ago, so keep an eye out and you might find it.
 

Written by Niall O'Conghaile | Discussion
Joyce D’Vision ‘She’s Lost Control’ - what would Ian Curtis think?


 
You may remember a few months ago I posted about Joyce D’Vision, the world’s first drag queen tribute band to Joy Division (of which I am a member) and our adventures on UK primetime TV with the comedian Harry Hill.

Well, we have finally managed to wrangle Joyce herself into the studio to record some vocals, and the first fruits of this labor are cover versions of “She’s Lost Control” and “Isolation.” Both are iconic, classic tracks, that have been covered before (by Siobhán Fahey, Grace Jones and Wino & Conny Ochs, as featured in yesterday’s Roadburn post) but I like to think we have put our own unique spin on them.

While some people find the idea of Joyce D’Vision highly offensive, to me it’s as Northern English as Eccles cakes and Boddington’s bitter. People in Manchester have a sly, sometimes wicked sense of humor, and they are not above taking the complete mickey out of themselves and the stultifying, retro-based “Madchester” culture industry that seems to have a stranglehold on this town (check the blog Fuc251 for proof.) Unfortunately Joy Division are very much a part of this frozen-in-amber, Manchester music-heritage industry, which goes against the iconoclasm inherent in the band, and is ironic as they were sorely under-appreciated in this town when they did exist. 

And that’s where we come in. It’s all in the best possible taste, darling, with hints of Vic & Bob, The League of Gentlemen, Kenny Everett and Frank Sidebottom (a legendary Manc comic who famously covered “Love Will Tear Us Apart” on a Casio). We’re not doing this because we hate Joy Division, in fact it’s quite the opposite. Joy Division have helped us get through as much teen angst as the next wrist cutter, but the band’s hallowed status doesn’t mean they are above a bit of fun poking. Every religion needs its satirists. Because let’s face it, if what we’re doing is somehow ruining your teen dreams or memories of a JD goth paradise, then those dreams and memories were not very solid in the first place.

I am well aware of Ian Curtis’ mental health problems (duh!) and I’m 100% convinced he had that same sly, piss-taking, Manc sense of humor as everyone else who grew up within the city’s grey-and-redbrick confines. I think he would have had a giggle or two at a bearded drag queen singing his songs.
 

Joyce D’Vision with Harry Hill on the set of TV Burp
 
But more to the actual point, I wonder what Peter Hook thinks?

If you’re not aware, original JD/New Order bassist Hook has formed a new band with jobbing Manchester musicians called The Light, whose purpose is to cover the work of Joy Division. He’s the only original member, and now the band are embarking on a tour playing “Unknown Pleasures” in full.

Originally Hooky himself was on vocal duties, but after he shamefully forgot the words at an infamous Manchester show a couple of years ago, he has brought in Rowetta (ex-Happy Mondays and Britain’s Got Talent) to sing instead. Not to mention some of his celebrity-fan pals when they have the chance - The Light have performed JD tracks with Billy Corgan, Moby and Perry Farrell on vocals, among others. They sing from a lyrics book open at the front of the stage.

So is what we are doing with Joyce D’Vision really any worse than what Peter Hook is doing with The Light? In a sense, both are karaoke, but only one has an actual on-stage lyrics sheet. And it’s not the band with the drag queens. Which of the two acts, Joyce D’Vision or The Light, are going to do more to shatter your teen-goth memories of Joy Division?

I don’t doubt that The Light has got something to do with New Order reforming recently without Hook and his iconic bass sound, a massive “fuck you” statement in his general direction. A lot of people in Manchester are happy they did this, but there’s also many people wondering if New Order can properly function without Hook on bass. I’m not sure, but either way, I do wonder now what Barney and Steve (original JD members, remember) and Gillian (a HUGE drag inspiration for our band) make of Joyce D’Vision?

Time will tell. For now, here are our first two tracks:
 
Joyce D’Vision “She’s Lost Control”

 

Joyce D’Vision “Isolation”

   

You can make friends with Joyce D’Vision on Facebook.

 

Written by Niall O'Conghaile | Discussion
Three times a Lady: three versions of Ivor Cutler’s ‘Women Of The World’


 
Today being International Women’s Day, here are three very different versions of the song “Women Of The World.”

A moving paen to female empowerment, “Women Of The World” was originally written and recorded by the legendary Scots poet, singer and raconteur Ivor Cutler with Linda Hirst in 1983. However “Women Of The World” is most closely associated with alt-rock scion Jim O’Rourke, who extended Cutler’s rousing folk ditty into a 9-minute epic of shimmering beauty for 1999 album Eureka. By stark contrast, the DFA-signed future-punks Yacht turned in a noisy, electronic thrash-out for their 2007 long player I Believe In You, Your Magic Is Real.

In any of these forms, the power of the song and its sentiment still shines through.

Here’s Ivor Culter and Linda Hirst’s original, and after the jump you will find the Jim O’Rourke and Yacht versions.
 
Ivor Cutler & Linda Hirst “Women Of The World” (1983)
 

 
Happy Women’s Day! 
 
After the jump, versions by Yacht and Jim O’Rourke…
 

Written by Niall O'Conghaile | Discussion
Getting ‘Bent’ with SSION: an interview with Cody Critcheloe


 
Last Friday I posted the new video from the band SSION called “My Love Grows in The Dark.” If you haven’t watched it yet, then go and do so right now. It’s a little bizarre and rather brilliant. The album that song is taken from, Bent, was available as a free download release for one month only last year, and it was one of my favorites. This year too in fact, as it is being given a physical re-release soon by the Dovecote label.

SSION, which has existed in various forms over the years, is essentially the brainchild of Cody Critcheloe. Cody is a visual artist and video director by day (he has directed clips for Peaches and Santigold) but by night he transforms into a gender-and-preconception bending performer whose live shows have been picking up a lot of acclaim. I spoke to Cody a short while back about SSION, and his decision to release such an excellent album for free. Here’s a little taster:

Bent is a great pop album. In fact, I’d say it is surprisingly great for a free download release. How did the idea to release it for free first come about?

I have always worked outside of labels, and the way it goes I’ll put out a record every four years. I’ll take a while to develop it and work out what I wanna do with it. At the time there’s wasn’t anyone anxious to put it out, so it seemed like the right thing to do. I thought if a label really wants to be a part of this they’ll figure out a way to go about this, because SSION is such a different kind of project. It seemed like a big FU to put it out and let people get it and listen to it, and I like the idea of people being able to get it, so people who aren’t even your fans can still get into it.

What has your fans’ reaction been to the download release?

It’s crazy ‘cos I think in the long term it’s gonna pay off. The shows we’ve played in New York have all been really amazing, and everyone knows the words to the songs already. It’s been instant, like this has already had an effect, an effect outside of any label being behind it to pump it up or publicize it. Everything that has happened to SSION is because of people who are genuinely interested and really into the music. I love the fact that there’s gonna be a physical release ‘cos I put a lot of work into the art work, but I could also take it or leave it. If it doesn’t work out I can still have a life. I still somehow survive off doing these things and other projects. I’m just into it as a very punk way of going about things.

But what about an effect on sales?

The thing about it is, the last record we had you can find it online for free, so why not make it available for everyone? And it’s crazy too because our other records are on iTunes and we still make money of them every month, even though people could easily get them for free.


You can read the full interview after the jump, and here’s one of my favorite SSION videos to keep you going, in which Cody gives his “mother” a particularly icky makeover:
 
SSION “Ah Ma”
 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
‘My Love Grows In The Dark’: SSION’s springtime pop perfection
Get SSION’s new album ‘Bent’ free for a month

 
After the jump, that whole interview in full.

Written by Niall O'Conghaile | Discussion
Andrew WK on the power of dreams


 
From a recent interview entitled ‘Sex Advice from Andrew WK’ published by Nerve Magazine:

I’m dating a guy who refuses to give up on his dreams of rock stardom. While it’s admirable in a way, I need a little bit more stability if we’re going to make this work. How can I gently break this to him?

Don’t you dare say anything to him about giving up his dream. You’re not the right person for him. Never ask someone to give up on their dream just so you can feel more stable. It’s his choice and his choice alone, no matter how ridiculous his dream may seem to you, or to society, or even to himself. Dreams make humans into self-realized individuals. Your only responsibility is to love everything about him, including his dreams. The idea of “making this work” sounds more like a way to make his life more boring and predictable. At worst, it’s a genuine sadistic desire to control someone else because your own life feels out of control — or a cruel need to dominate and break someone’s spirit for the sake of your own peace of mind. Look for stability and peace of mind inside yourself, and not in your relationships or the dreams of others.

I’ll leave it at that (with thanks to Nickie McGowan.)

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
The wit and wisdom of Andrew WK

Written by Niall O'Conghaile | Discussion
Excellent documentary on the life of Sylvester


 
If there’s any one artist who represents everything that was revolutionary about disco music, it was Sylvester. It doesn’t matter how many Bee Gees, Ethel Mermans, Rod Stewarts, Boney Ms et al you can throw at the genre as a reason to hate it, the fact is that if it wasn’t for disco there is no way that a linebacker-sized, black, openly gay, outrageous, gender-bending performer like him could have reached the top of the world’s charts.

Sylvester broke every taboo going. In fact he didn’t just break them: he tore them up, threw them on the floor and stamped on them with uproarious glee, all while dragging you out to dance with his irresistable energy. He didn’t have to shout about any of his social or political inclinations because he was already living them, out in the open, for everyone to see.

Sylvester didn’t make “political music” because he didn’t have to: Sylvester’s very existence was inherently political.

That to me is the rub when it comes down to “disco” versus “punk”, and all that bullshit snobbery and scorn rock fans heaped on disco. Contrast Sylvester with any one of the gangs of middle class, straight, angry-at-whatever white boys that were supposedly turning the world upside down in the name of “punk” and it becomes clear who was really pushing social boundaries.

The fact that the music was instantaneous and accessible only deepens the subversive effect. It’s unfortunate that “disco” has become an easy way to dismiss that which genuinely does not fit the rock cannon’s hardened mould, be it for reasons of race, gender or sexuality, but the music itself never died away. It reverberates still with an incredible, universal power. Sylvester was a supremely talented vocalist and performer, and I just couldn’t take seriously any music aficionado who claimed not to be moved by “(You Make Me Feel) Mighty Real” (not to mention “I Who Have Nothing,” “I Need You,” “Do You Wanna Funk,” “I Need Somebody To Love Tonight,” etc, etc.)

And besides, if I had a choice between a bunch of white punk boys or black drag queens, I know who I’d rather party with.

Unsung is a series produced by TV One profiling some of the more over-looked, yet supremely talented, names in black music from the 70s and 80s. There’s much to enjoy here if soul, funk and R&B are your thing. Other artists covered include Teddy Pendergrass, Zapp, Rose Royce, the Spinners and many more.

But for now let’s just enjoy the uplifting, touching and ultimately tragic story of the real queen of disco music:
 

 
Thanks to Paul Gallagher!

Written by Niall O'Conghaile | Discussion
‘The Joy Of Disco’: the music that changed the world


 
... as in The Joy Of Sex.

A special treat this Sunday for all our disco-fan readers outside the UK, The Joy Of Disco is a BBC documentary about that much derided music genre that seemed to come out of nowhere to change the world in the late 70s.

I’ve seen a lot of documentaries about disco, and this is undoubtedly one of the best. Featuring new interviews with many of the key players (Giorgio Moroder, Nile Rodgers, Nona Hendryx, David Mancuso, Tom Moulton, Kathy Sledge, Nicky Siano and lots more) and some great, rare footage of top nitespots like The Gallery and Studio 54, this is a real treat for the disco fanatic.

But what really makes The Joy Of Disco so good (and well worth a watch, even if you are not a disco fan) is the placing of the music in its proper historical and social context. Disco was black, urban music that became the soundtrack to the gay liberation movement and, according to the program makers:

foregrounded female desire in the age of feminism and led to the birth of modern club culture as we know it today, before taking the world by storm.

All up to the (seemingly inevitable) racist and homophobic “Disco Sucks” backlash. That put paid to the faddishness of the genre, but ultimately, by driving it back underground to the gay and black clubs that spawned it, helped make it stronger than ever and actually did very little to kill the sheer joy of the music itself.

The Joy Of Disco explores these issues in the kind of detail they deserve. It aired on BBC4 on Friday night, and some industrious soul has already put it up on YouTube to share the love (yes, it’s another case of get it before it’s gone). This is highly recommended viewing - you won’t see anything this interesting, exciting or fabulously funky on your screens this evening:
 
The Joy of Disco, part one:
 

 
The Joy Of Disco parts 2 to 4 after the jump…

Written by Niall O'Conghaile | Discussion
Julian Cope’s ‘Krautrocksampler’ in PDF form


 
You have to love someone who scans every single page of their favourite book just so they can spread the wordy magic with their friends on the internet. So, big thanks then to Evan Levine at the Swan Fungus blog for doing just that with the rare-as-hens-teeth Krautrocksampler by Julian Cope. A history and compendium of German rock from the 60s and 70s, Levine says of the book:

Back in the great, distant era of erm…the mid-’90s, there was a chap by the name of Julian Cope (ex-Teardrop Explodes/music-writer geek), who decided he wanted to chronicle the history of the Krautorck genre. So, he wrote an excellent book, called Krautrocksampler, in which he not only tells readers exactly when and wear he bought all these much-sought-after-now-sadly out-of-print LPs, but paints a great picture of West Germany in the ’60s and ’70s. When he’s not waxing (his bikini) poetic, he recounts crazy stories, and draws very cool connections between projects and personalities. Cope even proclaims that Klaus Dinger “directly influenced David Bowie to take his Low direction” and “had a direct effect on the Sex Pistols, via Johnny Rotten”. Thassalotta influence!

Having wanted this for a while, now I can read it while I try to track down a copy. In case of imminent yankage I recommend anyone else who wants it gets it now too.

Thanks to Pee Six.

Written by Niall O'Conghaile | Discussion
Silverclub: the sound of Manchester 2012


 
Manchester is a city with an incredible musical history, but a somewhat divided and schizophrenic musical present. On the one hand there’s the let’s-have-it late 80s/early 90s “Madchester” party gang (think The Stone Roses/Happy Mondays/Inspiral Carpets/etc) and on the other the “more-serious-than-thou” school of late 70s/early 80s Factory records (Joy Division/New Order/A Certain Ratio/etc). Bestriding both these worlds like a colossus of crap are, of course, Oasis, the band who made partying and getting off-yer-face seem like the most boring activity on earth.

Entire blogs have been set up to both eulogise and criticize Manchester’s musical history and it’s current legacy. So, while it was great to see Richard posting about the Mondays here the other day (and to read the reactions from their US fan base) I can’t help but feel mixed emotions. For as much as I love that band (I vividly remember the first time I heard “Step On”, on my school bus at the age of ten) they are also signifiers of what is wrong with the current Manchester music scene. In a nutshell: a relentless clinging on to the past.

I guess it’s the double-edged sword of having a once world-beating music scene right on your doorstep, but certain elements within the Manchester “culture industry” are all too willing to just lean on that reputation (sensing that it’s a quick way to make an easy buck) without putting effort into discovering new talent. Talent like Silverclub. 

Led by frontman Duncan Jones (who formerly made techno and electro as DNCN on the Human Shield label), Silverclub combine all the best bits of pop, rock, dance and electronica, drag it down the local disco and tie it up with a shiny, techno bow tie. They are influenced by the past yet remain firmly focussed on the present, while retaining a very English vibe with the kind of spiky, edgy songs that betray a childhood spent listening to Elvis Costello and the Attractions. 

To me, this band represent all that is good about music from the North of England, and Manchester in particular. People here have a dizzying array of tastes, have an appreciation for pretty much every single genre available, and yet somehow manage to meld these disparate influences into something that is their own with a distinct, regional voice and outlook. Silverclub fuse a knowledge of dancefloor dynamics and sharp hook-writing skills, and maintain a singular identity thanks to Jones’ Northern drawl and sweet harmonies from synth-player Henrietta Smith. Hmm, I wonder if there’s room in the band for a dancing maracas player? I want that job!

At the very start of this year I featured the Silverclub b-side “The Goldener Reiter” on my Best of 2011 Mixtape, which you can still download, here. The single it’s taken from, “No Application”, is available as a free download (below) while Silverclub’s self-titled debut album will be coming this May on the Canadian label Hidden Pony. There’s more info on the band’s website, and in the meantime, here’s the “No Application” video:
 

 
Written by Niall O'Conghaile | Discussion
My awesome ‘Best Of 2011’ mixtape by The Niallist


Image from the English riots, the defining moment of 2011 for me

So here it is, what I just know you’ve all been waiting for - a round up of 20 of my favourite tracks from the past 12 months. It’s just over 60 minutes, meaning that some of the tracks have been edited to fit, and it’s in 192kbps resolution to make the file size manageable for download. 

This mix is pretty eclectic and features a ton of acts I have covered over the last year on Dangerous Minds. I’m sure there’s tracks on this mixtape that the other DM writers will hate, but that’s part of the fun. One of the points of Dangerous Minds is that we have not set out to push some unified, all-encompassing, easily-packaged view of the world. We’re all different, and at the end of the day debating stuff is healthy. 

As for the music itself, well I’m with Andrew Dubber on this - the past 12 months have seen some fantastic music, and some very interesting trends in both the artform and music consumption. I mean that stands to reason right? As the amount of music that becomes available increases, the amount of good music increases. It might not come to us through the traditional channels, but it is out there. So here’s twenty of mine (and before you say it, yeah, some of these tunes came out in previous years, but those tracks are also featured on albums released this year):
 

Best of 2011 mixtape for Dangerous Minds by Theniallist on Mixcloud

 
Fucked Up - The Other Shoe
SIlverclub - The Goldener Reiter
Atari Teenage Riot - Black Flags
SSION - Feel Good (4 Ever)
Den Haan - Metamorphosis
Black Devil Disco Club ft Farris Rotter - Distrust
Ali Renault - Dignitas Machine
John Maus - Keep Pushing On
Neon indian - Halogen (I Could Be A Shadow)
MEN - Who Am I To Feel So Free?
Azari & III - Into The Night
Midnight Magic - Beam Me Up
Dam Funk - Forever
Destroyer - Chinatown
Grace Jones - Devil Dub
Mungo’s Hi Fi - Super Sharp Roller
Beyonce - Who Runs The World (intro version edit)
Ben Butler & Mousepad ft The Niallist - Infinite Capacity
Arthur’s Landing - Bobby
Andrew WK - Vagabond

You can download my Best of 2011 mixtape here.

BONUS!

If I had to pick just one record from the past 12 months, it would have to be We Must Become The Pitiless Censors Of Ourselves by John Maus. It’s glorious, genuine outsider music that’s also genuinely brilliant. If you dig Ariel Pink, don’t mind a bit of lo-fi hiss and have a soft spot for early OMD, then I can’t recommend it enough. Here’s a fan vid for the album’s opening track featuring a scene from Abel Ferrera’s Ms. 45:

John Maus “Streetlight”
 

 
EXTRA BONUS!

I originally uploaded my Best of 2011 mixtape to Soundcloud as it’s my music sharing site of choice, but oddly it was blocked because of the inclusion of Fucked Up’s track “The Other Shoe”. That’s not very punk rock, now is it? But hey, I don’t blame the band, rather their label Matador. What’s even funnier is “The Other Shoe” is widely available freely, and legitimately, from the label itself. I considered taking it off the mix, but as it’s my single of the year I decided to upload the whole thing to Mixcloud, intact, with a separate download option . 

So just for you dear readers, here’s a link to the free download of my single of the year:

Fucked Up “The Other Shoe”

And here is the mixtape minus Fucked Up.

And here’s to an exciting and eventful 2012!

Written by Niall O'Conghaile | Discussion
Andrew Dubber’s ‘Music Journalism Is The New Boring’


 
If you’re not familiar with the work of the British music writer and academic Andrew Dubber, then this is a perfect place to start. He’s a man of many talents, with a very future-positive outlook to make all the current music industry doom-sayers blush. Rather than me boring you trying to sum up all he does, here’s his bio as appears on his website andrewdubber.com:

Andrew Dubber is an academic, author, public speaker, blogger, music reviewer, radio and music industry consultant, whisky writer, podcaster, record collector, DJ, broadcaster and record producer. He is Reader in Music Industries Innovation at Birmingham City University, an advisor to Bandcamp and Planzai, manages half a dozen blogs, and is the founder of New Music Strategies – a pan-European music think tank and strategy group. In his spare time, he coaches productivity and time management.

Mr Dubber has just published a new article on his blog called “Music Journalism Is The New Boring” where he takes to task the notion that nothing interesting has happened in music in the past 12 months, a stance currently being pushed by some of the world’s major publications such as the New York Times and the Guardian. Dubber positis that the problem lays not with music culture or musicians themselves, but rather with the old stream media and its failure to adapt to these exciting new internet times:

[...] while “beige against the machine” is a cute and retweetable one-liner, it’s nothing more than a cheap shot based on a faulty premise: that something went wrong with music in 2011. That musicians gave up en-masse and just made safe, ineffectual and dull music.

There are quite a few problems with that idea. I’m just going to mention just three here, but you’ll no doubt think of your own too.

1) You can’t complain about a dull year in music if all you do is report on the pile of CDs that ended up on your desk as a result of public relations and major label marketing. If you were looking for urgency, relevance and innovation in that lot, you’ve misunderstood the process. No matter how much you shout “Challenge me!” at your stereo, it’s not going to oblige if you keep putting Coldplay CDs in it.

2) Even if you are looking outside the pile, chances are you’re still looking in the wrong places. Things that sound like (or aspire to sound like) the music that did make it to the minor landfill of compact discs cluttering your desk are not likely to be any better. After all, it’s no longer the job of rock music to be urgent or important. And it’s certainly not the job of mainstream rock music. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but guitar, bass, drums and vocals is no longer by default a counter-cultural lineup. The same can be said for R&B and mainstream hip hop. It’s possible to do radical stuff in those musical domains, but it’s certainly not the norm.

3) IF IT’S BORING, DO NOT WRITE ABOUT IT. In fact, write that on a post-it note and stick it to your laptop screen. Writing about boring is contributing to the boring.


The guiding question for interesting music journalism needs to be “Yes, but what else is out there?”. More than ever before there is the opportunity (even the need) for major publications to employ investigative music journalists and people with genuine curiosity. We all know what can happen when people with these kinds of qualities are given a decent platform.

John Peel-ism should be the norm by now.

You can read the rest of the article here - it’s worth it. It’s also worth checking out the comments section, where some of the journalists being criticised in the article get to have their say. Andrew Dubber has some very enlightening things to say about the music industry and new technology, and he says them very well. If you have any interest in these areas (and music culture in general) or even if you’re late to the online party and just want to find out what the hell is going on, then be sure to check his website for regular updates.

Thanks to Joe Muggs.

Written by Niall O'Conghaile | Discussion
Tim Minchin’s ‘Woody Allen Jesus’ - the song banned by British TV


Tim Minchin portrait by gtgauvin

Australian comedian, piano whizz and enthusiastic exponent of guyliner Tim Minchin has had a satirical song of his called “Woody Allen Jesus” cut from the broadcast of one of the UK biggest chat shows, The Jonathan Ross Show. Minchin had been asked specifically by Ross and his producers to write and perform a Christmas ditty for the show, but when an advanced tape was passed to the station’s director of television, Peter Fincham, it was decided that the song needed to be dropped.

Minchin is miffed, and rightly so. Are well living in the 21st century or not? Does freedom of speech and thought (and music) exist in this country or is the Christian religion in such a dire state that it needs to ban anything that questions its relevance? Actually, that might be the case. Despite David Cameron’s particularly idiotic and toadying claims that the UK is a “Christian country”, the figures simply do not back this up, as this report in the ultra-conservative Daily Mail shows: “Number of Christians is down 10% in just five years.”

Minchin writes on his blog:

Being Christmas, I thought it would be fun to do a song about Jesus, but being TV, I knew it would have to be gentle. The idea was to compare him to Woody Allen (short, Jewish, philosophical, a bit hesitant), and expand into redefining his other alleged attributes using modern, popular-culture terminology.

It’s not a particularly original idea, I admit, but it’s quite cute. It’s certainly not very contentious, but even so, compliance people and producers and lawyers all checked my lyrics long before the cameras rolled. As always with these bespoke writing jobs, I was really stressed for about 3 days, and almost chucked it in the bin 5 times, and freaked out that it wasn’t funny and all that boring shit that people like me go through when we’re lucky enough to have with a big audience with high expectations. And if I’m honest, it ain’t a world-changing bit of comedy. Regardless…

And then someone got nervous and sent the tape to ITV’s director of television, Peter Fincham.

And Peter Fincham demanded that I be cut from the show.

He did this because he’s scared of the ranty, shit-stirring, right-wing press, and of the small minority of Brits who believe they have a right to go through life protected from anything that challenges them in any way.

Yesterday I wrote a big rant about comedy and risk and conservatism; about the fact that my joke has no victim; about sacredness (oh God, not again!) and about the importance of laughing at dumb but pervasive ideas. But I trashed it because it’s boring and takes it all too seriously. It’s hardly the end of the world.

But I have to admit I’m really fucking disappointed.

It’s 2011. The appropriate reaction to people who think Jesus is a supernatural being is mild embarrassment, sighing tolerance and patient education.

And anger when they’re being bigots.

Oh, and satire. There’s always satire.

Jonathan Ross is no stranger to controversy within the British media - in 2008 he and Russell Brand found themselves in deep shit after a phone call to Andrew Sachs was deemed to have gone “too far” by the tabloid press. Those ever-original and forward thinking people at the tabloids christened the incident “Sachsgate” and the outrage that was drummed up was enough to have both comedians ousted by their employer at the time, the BBC (one was suspended and the other quit.) This background hum of potential “outrage” may have been enough for Fincham to pull Minchin’s segment on the Ross show, but now it looks like a whole new controversy based on freedom of speech and expression is blowing up in ITV’s face. Oh dear.

Here is Tim Minchin performing “Woody Allen Jesus” on The Jonathan Ross Show:
 

 

Written by Niall O'Conghaile | Discussion
‘The Artist Formerly Known As Captain Beefheart’ - the complete documentary


Captain Beefheart t-shirt by Black And White T-shirts

This excellent documentary from 1997, narrated by John Peel and shown as part of a commemorative BBC Peel Night, has been online for a while but finally arrives in one 50 minute long piece thanks to uploader abrahamisagreatman. You may have seen this before, but it’s definitely worth another watch:

Written by Niall O'Conghaile | Discussion
Page 1 of 4  1 2 3 >  Last ›