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diskant rewind: Honey Is Funny #1

Posted: July 18th, 2008, by Chris S

(Originally posted February 2002)

Honey Is Funny by Chris Summerlin

– Insignificance by Jim O’Rourke.
– Smog playing live in Leicester.
– Whatever, Mortal by Papa M and going all the way to Scotland to watch him play.
– Melt Banana.
– Screaming, “I’M A ROMAAAAAAAANNNNNNN” to The Lapse’s In Truth Loved LP.
– The Art Of Self Defense by High On Fire.
– The British rock 3 piece Gorilla playing live in Nottingham.

These are a few of my favourite things, or at least what’s bowled me over of late. Take a look.

Smell the connection.

O’Rourke’s hardly a new cat on the block and the album is defiantly retro (although hilariously fresh at the same time), same can be said for Bill Callahan and Smog. And Papa M. Melt Banana push their own sound on and on from an already space age starting point of inception but are as ingrained in the fabric of modern left- of-mainstream rock music as to almost be taken for granted.

Chris Leo has been making fine fine music for the better part of nearly 10 years now.

Finally High On Fire’s album that I love so much was released 2 years ago now and Gorilla, while amazing, are total retro 70s rock filling a void created by Sabbath and AC/DCs constant refusal to play UK pub venues. Bastards.

All this worries me. There are two explanations for it. First is that at the old age of 24 now (though I am and always will be younger than Tim Wheeler which is something that gets me out of bed in the morning – that and incontinence) maybe my current tastes mark the beginning of a decline in my interest in new music that will eventually end in me owning a £10,000 stereo and just one album to play on it.

It will be Brothers In Arms by Dire Straits. On all formats.

Maybe in 15 years I will be buried deep within the demographic that the big labels love so much: people (let’s be honest – men) who are too scared of looking “unhip” to seek out new music and with their thirst to consume still unquenched, they simply repurchase all their old albums on new and improved formats. Sure, I may be cynical about this now but when I’m 35…

Like I said – worrying.

But not as worrying as the possibility that there is no genuinely good music being created by new bands. Perhaps music has stood still?

This struck me hard when I had a look at the 34 new bands tipped for greatness in 2002 by NME. I hate people who have obscure bullshit white boy tastes (i.e. me) and then moan that the NME doesn’t feature the bands they love. A bit like punching Bruce Springsteen out for not sounding more like BoltThrower. It’s not his job. Or some indie rock star moaning about how much he or she hates Steps and pop bands: if they sounded more like fucking Radiohead they wouldn’t be a pop band anymore.
But still, you hope that the selection is going to be at least interesting, not hugely shocking or groundbreaking but maybe just ten per cent risky you know?

Is it fuck.

In fact it’s the same 34 bands every year. Sure, the names are different but strip each band down to its bare components and then see how much changes. You get 5 indie rock bands. 3 hip hop acts. A rock band. Etc. It goes into even more specific detail if you look.

The Lapse don’t even have a record deal now, partly their own fault and partly because of lack of interest but yet they still play big shows over here and make amazing records. Their latest is their finest. In fact, it could be the best indie rock album ever made and indie rock meant in the best possible way – independently made and independently minded rock music. The NME didn’t even review them when they were over to play but yet Jet Plane Landing make the 34 bands to watch next year.

What gives?

JPL are a pretty good band, this isn’t a criticism of them at all, but where The Lapse would have been in the 34 bands to watch 2000, JPL take their place this year as that kind of band. Whereas Mogwai were the band to watch in 1998 this year it’s Rock Of Travolta or whoever. Arab Strap in 1998? Meanwhile Back in Communist Russia 2002.

“The music industry is obsessed with the next big thing” spoke the former manager of Motley Crue and KISS. Any man responsible for getting Nikki Sixx out of bed in the morning is a man whose word should be treated as though Jesus Christ himself spoke it.

He’s right. Rather than admit that music, or at least the breadth of music they cover, is in a state of constant self-referencing and is slowly grinding to a halt in terms of individuality, they ignore what has influenced the current crop of bands they cover (or in some cases what those bands have blatantly stolen from) and proclaim them as genius – the “next big thing”. The NME needs new bands, not to sell issues so much as to give themselves a shining great big gold fucking badge that says they have their finger on the pulse and they can spot the cream.

We should respect these people; fuck it we should be in awe of this kind of talent spotting ability.

Never mind the fact you need a press agent to even get in the NME but that’s a separate column in itself. Maybe next time.

Which is why when The Lapse are playing the journos are on the other side of town watching The Cooper Temple Clause or Sona Fariq or some other bunch of old men with new haircuts playing the same old arse.

To quote my friend Ian: “FUCK THAT WEAK SHIT”.

It means people who want their music to be either ground breaking, fresh, fun, natural or plain baffling have to search outside the realms of the music press to discover things they’ll like.

Journalism seems to be totally about context too. I was using WH Smith like a public library today and reading through the magazine MOJO. There was a Papa M article and also a review of the recent record. Both wasted around 40% of the allocated space detailing the context Papa M should be viewed in – “ex Slint, Tortoise, Royal Trux, Palace”. Journalists seem to have given up on describing the sounds they soak up in any other language than that of the comparison or the “ex members of” thing. Check out Fracture and the way band names are in capitals in the reviews to aid the scan reader’s search for things they relate to.

Chris Leo – “What does Emo stand for? Ex Members Of”. Had to get that in – thank you Steve Warwick.

What the world needs is a new Lester Bangs. Or just the old one cranked back to life, or maybe just his brain encased in a bell jar spewing out streams of righteous opinion to anyone interested. Like a punk rock version of Grandstand’s video printer. My fantastic mum bought me the Lester anthology Psychotic Reactions & Carburettor Dung for Xmas and it struck me when reading it that Lester was the last rock writer (and maybe the only rock writer) to concern himself with translating sound into words. He rarely writes about the band in any kind of context, he just gets a hard on over the sounds they make. In fact, he often went out of his way to remove the band from the expected context that other rock writers had placed them in and re assess the way they should be heard in an attempt to get the reader to hear the band like he did. Like when he placed The Troggs in the context of The Stooges in his article James Taylor Marked For Death.

I was hoping new magazine Careless Talk Costs Lives would set things back on track somehow. Everett True is probably the closest a rock writer has come to Lester post-Lester with the exception of someone like Nick Kent. Not because of a similarity of writing style or subject matter but just because his writing is always entertaining. I remember being so fired up that he had dissed Pearl Jam in a live review back in about 1993 but I read it now and it’s hysterical and more to the point he was right! The Mogwai piece in the first issue was what I was hoping the whole thing would be like. It’s a proper article that doesn’t read like a fucking press release ego massaging for the artist involved.
However the rest of the magazine reads in the way fanzines (particularly London based fanzines) used to read around the time that the whole fanzine culture went tits up in the dirt (i.e. about 1999). Offish, smug, knowing and condescending to the reader. It smacks of that kind of ugly superiority that people who like obscure music leak out of themselves like a bad smell.

A friend of mine was recently trying to get hold of a few rare records via the wonder of the internet and found people who owned them who had them listed as part of their “trade list”. He found the people unwilling to copy the records for him unless he could offer them something they wanted in return. He was offering to pay the costs etc but the people were of the opinion that he had to have something equally rare to offer them to be “worthy” of hearing the things they owned. I don’t know if I’m alone in thinking this but surely if you pick up the single copy left of the worlds most obscure record or you find a white label of Kurt Cobain singing Abba songs in the fucking bath then you want to share what you found. Without this kind of attitude my friend Nick would never have given me Nevermind by Nirvana because he loved it and thought I would too.

I remember when it was all fields round here. (Thank you Mark)

The attitude I got from some of Careless Talk was that same kind of anal record collector crap that leads people to want to know everything about an artist except for what they sound like or what drives sweaty palmed men to pay £100 for some crap emo 7″ that no one liked at the time anyway.

Context. Specifics. Details.

I was actually going to write this entire column on how totally bollocks I think Acid Mothers Temple are but thought better of it. I figure I can condense it into a paragraph or two and it’s not totally unrelated so here goes.

I’ve seen them twice. The first time ended with me and Julian Cope no less swinging my housemate round by his arms. Safe to say I remember they were loud and not much else. So I went again and stayed sober. I figure people like AMT for the same reason Banzai is so popular in this country. There is a tendency even within normal, politically correct, “modern thinking” people to view anyone from the East as a cartoon character. Maybe it’s because we’re brought up on Jackie Chan, Manga and the total craziness of the Japanese take on our own Western Culture.

Whatever, things seem to be funnier when done by a Japanese person almost like they’re not real. This has its advantages. I think it’s why Melt Banana do really well (aside from being the greatest rock band in the world). If they were from any other continent the press would fixate on the 50% female make up of the band. But yet they never do and MB never get mentioned in any articles about females in rock. I think this is because westerners see all Japanese people as the same in a way, almost removing their gender and replacing it with this blob of being Japanese. Although this is undoubtedly based in racism or at the very least a lack of understanding of the culture (more of which later) it actually works out positive for the way MB are heard and enjoyed because people don’t hang tags on them for anything apart from their music.

But it’s this view of the Japanese based in the lack of cultural understanding we have that’s pretty much responsible for AMTs success I think. It seems to me they themselves are aware of it too. The heavy use of mysticism and of spirituality is given a whole new dimension by them being Japanese – a race of people us Westerners find baffling and a “bit weird” anyway. People believe it. Also the only music that seems to find its way out of Japan in any great number is totally extreme. Melt Banana, Merzbow, Ruins etc. So we automatically throw this sense of extremity and far-out-ness on anything from Japan. We look for it and when it’s not there we create it.

What I am saying is that the rush for details – this is a mystical band, they are from Japan, Julian Cope likes them and he is a self proclaimed Krautrock expert, they do weird stuff and say weird things – we overlook what they are playing. What are they playing? They’re playing GONG. Fucking GONG. Mixed with a type of totally Western psychedelic rock music derived from Blue Cheer and Black Sabbath except not as good. The chin stroking Wire readers would not be caught dead at a “proper” hard rock show but here they are in droves scratching their chins and mentioning Stockhausen in relation to this band.

John Cage and Stockhausen. Fear these fuckers’ names. Don’t fear their music of course but if you see a band name-check either of these or you see a press release for a band make a comparison then pack up and run to the hills because the band in question will be, without exception, bollocks.

So to get back to the matter in hand, they’re crap because they bring out this shitty, racist mentality in us as Westerners to treat an entire race of people as being devoid of individual personality. Them coming over and to my mind using their nationality and all our preconceptions to their advantage is no different to the Fun Lovin Criminals saying they’re gangsters when they blatantly come from Hounslow.

Details. Specifics. Facts. Comparisons.

If AMT were English they’d be slated.

So, in summary, everything’s bad – even the stuff I like is bad because it’s old.

I remember years ago Select used to have a compilation tape track listing each issue so I’m stealing that idea. Here’s my column 1 compilation tape.

Godspeed You Black Emperor! – the first 6 mins or so from CD1 of “Lift. Yr fists…”
Le Tigre – Dyke March 2001
Jim O Rourke – All Downhill From Here
The Lapse – The Difference Between This, That And The Other Thing
Papa M – Krusty
Staccato Reads – Dissention In The Ranks
Rujan – Tereza Se Nije Dala
Hoover – Pretender
Melt Banana – Free The Bee
Boards Of Canada – Amo Bishop Raden
Nation Of Ulysses – Outline For Hangout

High On Fire – 10,000 Years
Mudhoney – Into Yr Schtick
Billy Mahonie – Fishing With A Man For A Shark (3.30 onwards)
Jim O Rourke Vs Tortoise – Galapagos (last 3 minutes)
Golden – (no track name but’s it’s from new LP “Apollo Stars”)
Kyuss – Fatso Forgotso Phase II
The VSS – I Cut My teeth
Clikatat Ikatowi – Transmission
Aphex Twin – Xtal
Les Savy Fav – Reprobate’s Resume
Circus Lupus – I Always Thought You Were An Asshole
Daniel Johnston – Favourite Darling Girl

Chris S

Chris lives for the rock and can often be seen stumbling drunkenly on (and off) stages far and wide. Other hobbies include wearing jumpers, arsing about with Photoshop and trying to beat the world record for the number of offensive comments made in any 24 hour period. He has been married twice but his heart really belongs to his guitars. All 436 of them.


1 Response to diskant rewind: Honey Is Funny #1

  1. Ross

    The sad thing is I now own Brothers in Arms. Shit.