Present The Dirtchamber Sessions Volume One
[I]”You took too many pills again today/I really do not have that much to say/You’re tragic, yes I know/You think it’s part of the job, though/We both know you’re not insane/So don’t jump in front of my train”[/I].
As opening gambits go, it beats, ‘Cheer up, it might never happen.’
[I]”Every time I wound your pride/Are you going to fake a suicide?”[/I] asks a winsomely innocent-sounding voice of her professionally depressive subject. The music may initially lull you into thinking that this is a mournful sunset lover’s reverie, all hazy harmonica and pastoral acoustic pleasantry. But beneath that tranquil surface lies a quiet fury, an anti-suicide note to a drama-queen friend, quite possibly a famous musician, who insists on inflicting their problems on their friends.
As such, it’s the kind of song whose caustic sentiment ties your gut in a knot, while the liltingly beautiful tune says, ‘I’m only being cruel to be kind’ as much as the lyrics do. In less delicate hands, this song could have been a snarly, sneery piss-take or an obvious swipe at the cult of the fuck-up. Instead it sounds almost… caring. [I]”I know it’s hard but that’s not the only card that you can play/Don’t give it all away”[/I]. Sensitive bedsit balladry, then. Not just there for the nasty things in life…
Born To Be Wild
In a week severely bereft of anything that properly, how you say, ‘rocks’, it is sorely tempting to make this Single Of The Week. Except somehow it would feel like snogging Rupert Murdoch, considering it has the words ‘THE SONG FROM THE FORD COUGAR COMMERCIAL’ plastered across the sleeve, along with a truly grotesque silver tosser-magnet of a car dominating the view.
Still, a riff that sounds as rock’n’roll as Chopper bikes did when you were seven, and a man singing about [I]”heavy metal thunder”[/I] like he has patches on his jacket that his mum didn’t mind sewing on, are among the greatest pleasures to be found in all the world of music.
I’d like it to be known that this Singles page is nothing to do with other Singles pages that have appeared in this paper in the past. OK, so it reviews singles, written in a generic, slightly facetious, sarky, sneery post-graduate style, according to a formula currently in fashion, but to suggest that it’s deliberately written to a tried and tested commercial formula is an insult to my art and probably sexist and racist. I just write what I like, and if anyone hates it, that’s a bonus.
Likewise, Kleshay are at pains to differentiate themselves from the tidal wave of girl groups currently being signed to major labels in the wake of the world domination of the Spice/Saint axis. But why bother, eh? It’s bread’n’butter, soully, funky, sassy, R&B-y, poppy pop music any way you spin it, and really alright as such. Stick it in the toaster and spread peanut butter all over it and it tastes quite nice. And while you’re eating it, you might well hear this on the radio in the background, and ignore it completely.
LOOP DA LOOP
It would be comforting to report that big beat had done the decent thing and tied a breezeblock beat to its designer trainers and thrown itself into the quiet provincial canal of history. I mean, it was fun while it lasted, and saved the world from the dull disease of intelligent techno but if I h-h-hear another fuc-fuc-fuc-fuc-frrrrrrrrrrrr-ucking formulaic ‘dancefloor smash’ like ‘The Rockafeller Skank’ I may start beating the DJ largely about the head. And yet I can’t help but like this inexcusably stupid record. [I]”This story’s funny/I met this girl and she had money”[/I], is the sole pearl of wisdom imparted by a speeded-up Stetsasonic sample and a beat you just might have heard 7,000 times before.
Wacky, zany, happy and clappy – if Timmy Mallett were around today he would be making music like this. You know it’s wrong, and yet, like seeing a small child fall off a shelf and crack its head open on You’ve Been Framed, it never fails to make you smile.
We meet Mr Lab walking down the middle of a tunnel at night in a white suit, black shirt and purple tie. This makes men of taste like him already, despite the fact that his glasses and the awful post-cock name smacks of recording roadworks and Moog oscillator muzak, and he’s from Sheffield.
But the urgent beats and darkly dramatic synth backdrop paint a far more emotional picture, accompanied by melancholy echoes of chiming U2ish guitar, nailed to your consciousness by what sounds like Busta Rhymes abusing his accountant over the telephone. [I]”Deep down inside I’m a burning disaster”[/I], he growls, suggesting a series of grisly murders are about to ensue in the South Yorkshire area. And that, children, is what good dance music should sound like.
A croaky, smoky temptress’ soul voice slinks from the speakers, promising an alluring tale of forbidden passions, dark desires and, erm, I don’t know, something that sounds a bit like sex. Yes, for 30 seconds, ‘Crazy’ is a smouldering creamy smooch pop beauty. But then, like your little brother walking in on you in the throes of passion in front of the living room fire, the beat comes in piped direct from a barn in Essex complete with go-faster stripes, souped-up exhaust and 1990 ‘Can You Feeel Iiiiit?’ synth rave riff, and spoils everything. They couldn’t have done a better job of ruining a good tune if they’d got the Aphex Twin to remix it.
William Hill had stopped taking bets on this single suffering a critical bashing from your merciless hack shortly before he wrote this. Cake, after all, are an over-educated band of Americans who like to think they slyly subvert clichis of alternative rock, which makes you think They Might Be Wankers and shiver slightly.
But this can only be described as ‘funky’, an unheard-of adjective for their determinedly white oeuvre. A staccato groove gets hooks in your head, then an elegant trumpet over the top makes this almost a thing of beauty. More shockingly, there appears to be some kind of sincere emotional subtext to the lyrics beyond any surface cleverness, all lost love and unrequited phone calls. The seedy underbelly of geek rock, anyone?
This mob are the toast of the awful-beard-wearing classes across the Atlantic, which immediately fills one with an apocalyptic sense of dread. But relax! They’ve got a sense of humour! However, to find it you’ll have to plough through an excruciating brand of wordy sub-Randy Newman self-analysing stude-pop, only this time with awful, awful rapping and lyrical witticisms such as, [I]”I wear my mind on my sleeve”[/I]; [I]”Watching X Files with no lights on”[/I] and [I]”like Sting, I’m Tantric”[/I]. Imagine the Beasties if they’d never liked rap music.
Or imagine Ben Folds His Penis In Half Out Of Sheer Fucking Boredom And Irritation. OK, so it may partly be an ‘irawnic’ piss-take of the genre, but this is like taking the piss out of mass murder by killing loads of people. Not nice.
Hello, Ego Express. Nice to make your acquaintance. Now, forgive me for being so presumptuous, but my back’s fucking killing me and I haven’t got time for small talk. Just tell me, what is the point of your existence? OK, so this is a fairly inoffensive few minutes of techno funk, that’s fashionably redolent of that French stuff that’s fashionably redolent of disco. But please, what is this thing you are calling ‘Ego’? What is this thing you are calling ‘Express’? Why should I not go and blow up a tube station right now rather than listen to your achingly vacuous musical wallpaper?
You had three-and-a-half minutes to say everything you want to the world. And you say, ‘Here is some music. It’s quite nice.’ Thanks, we’ll be in touch. NEXT!
Oh, do stop it. Although, as has been noted, the annoyance quotient of big beat rockets further into the red by the hour, the European Parliament has yet to decree it a criminal offence. Kitsch, on the other hand, is a dangerous and pernicious force which has to be physically restrained wheresoever it is found. So doing a big beat version of ‘The Swingin’ Cymbal’, Fluff Freeman‘s signature tune, is virtually tantamount to treason. Worse still, it’s unnecessary, since there are two quite fine collaborations with the Jungle Brothers and De La Soul elsewhere on this CD, which Propellerheads chose not to use as the lead track. Off with their heads. And their Propellers, for that matter.
The exact position of Ian Brown‘s head has been a subject of great debate in cafi society for some months now. Several times you thought he was losing it, in public and onstage. But for all the monkey noises, paranoid interviews and air rage, he’s always managed to make decent records. And his contribution to this track from the raggedly inspired UNKLE album succeeds in transforming still life into a surrealist portrait.
Truth be told his gentle pipes are well suited to this kind of slightly mystic-sounding, ghostly love song, it should be the soundtrack to some eerie underwater dream sequence in the Head-style film of his life story. Desolately beautiful, but hardly pop music, this is the kind of rich and strange musical landscape his eccentric majesty could be perfect for.
You have to be suspicious of a band who sing, [I]”Give me action and drama… give me ’80s Madonna… give me ‘Club Tropicana’“[/I], when you know they spend more time listening to Arab Strap than Abba. But unlike most indie pop-flirtists who make pop for people who don’t like pop music, Bis can write a tune, and have the natural unself-conscious energy to play pop without irony or restraint. And you have to admire a band who have reacted to criticism not by going all, ‘We are for real, no really, we’re dead hard, punch me there, it doesn’t even hurt!’ but just doing what they did before, only more full-on, until you surrender.
On further inspection this turns out to be an attack on the cult of the DJ and anti-personality pop, which is excellent behaviour whatever genre you put it in. But “give me Bananarama“? You don’t have to try that hard…
Imagine your correspondent’s surprise when he saw the sleeve of this single included two passages from a slightly unfavourable review in this paper not three months ago by your correspondent. ‘Cos Metallica just don’t care what we think, right?
Well in that case they won’t mind that same hack saying ‘Whiskey In The Jar’ sounds like a Thin Lizzy song played, you know, heavier, like Thin Lizzy played by Metallica. And therefore almost completely pointless, if not entirely unenjoyable. Now that’s what I call criticism!