What a pain in the arse it must be to be a ‘respected artist’. It’s like people calling bands ‘Really good at what they do’, when what they really want to do is rip people’s hearts out and suck them dry, then shag them sideways in every orifice. Mick Head, formerly of Shack lack-of-fame, has been ‘respected’ for many years, especially in his native Liverpool, but he and the [I]zeitgeist[/I] always appear to have walked on different sides of the street. This may not change that, but it will surely pluck the strings of even the most cynical souls.
‘Somethin’ Like You’ (a stripped-down version of the beauty that appears on ‘The Magical World Of The Strands’ album) floats through your head with the blissful feeling of sensitive crimes in a rowing boat with that person you’ve been dying to ask out for ages. Which might well be what this song is about. It stumbles in on the middle of a line, making the uncomplicated observation that, “…all the world is full of lovely, happy, smilin’ faces, somethin’ like you, yeah”. Awww. He goes on to ask his subject to join him on an unspecified sentimental journey into the sunset, and it still sounds irresistibly romantic. Almost as good is B-side ‘Queen Matilda’, like pure Nick Drake strumming along with The Stone Roses of ‘Elizabeth My Dear’. All of which sounds much less like respect, and very much like hazy, lazy lurve.
“… No apologies, no regrets, no shame. Fuck that for a lark – this is how to answer all charges. It starts with police radio and sirens and news reports on the infamous incident. Then ‘enter’ George, if you please… [I]”I think I’m done with the sofa, I think I’m done with the hall”[/I], he growls like the chef off South Park, [I]”I’m done with the kitchen table, baby”[/I]. Woah! Fighting talk! And there’s more: [I]”Yes I’ve been bad… you see I think about it all the time, 24 seven”[/I].
[I]”You want it, I got it, I never really said it… getting back to nature… just human nature”[/I]. What can it all mean? Either way, ‘Outside’ is an unashamed (gay?) disco tune, complete with sequenced strings, electro-toms and wing-collared funk guitar. If it’s not quite a tune of the calibre of, say, ‘Fastlove’, it’s nevertheless an old-school dancefloor booty-shaker of the highest order, and the only way to answer your critics.”
“… I often find myself wondering what it would be like to actually have sex with Marc Almond. An anti-climax, no doubt, especially compared to a record like this. [I]”Blood on your lips, passionate kiss… beautiful leader (or is that ‘leather’?), why do you hurt me? Why do I let you?”[/I]. Now, now, Marc, there’s people who pay good money for that sort of thing!
[I]”Soft mouth, hard love”[/I], he purrs – you just can’t beat a bit of good old-fashioned single entendre. The same goes for the swampy synth rhumba and the startlingly daft voodoo monster bloke roaring the word ‘Bombagira’. ‘Bombagira’, I’m told, is allegedly the Brazilian queen of the prostitutes.”
It is virtually impossible these days to make genuinely scary music without sounding like the janitor dressed in a white sheet on Scooby Doo. Marilyn Manson sounds less like the living dead than an incontinent old transvestite drunk, and Cradle Of Filth just sound like one does over the toilet bowl at 3am. But Massive Attack manage it, by closing all the windows and curtains, turning up that brooding, malevolent bass and whispering every paranoid thought to themselves from a panic-attacked, intoxicated brain that’s got the fear like never before. The Manics remix on the B-side, meanwhile, adds guitars and sounds like the neighbours are drumming on the walls, floor and ceiling trying to get in and the voices in your head are a choir of schizophrenic angels. That’s the last time I share a spliff with Tricky.
QUEEN/WYCLEF JEAN FEATURING PRAS & FREE
Another One Bites The Dust
Oh… I… this… what… it… you… you… you… C–S! You disgusting, despicable, depraved, inhuman fucking C–S! I am speechless, no, in fact writingless at these shameless painted harlots and their Faustian pact to infect our charts with their foul spewings. These men would surely drink Satan’s spunk through a straw in exchange for a Top Five transatlantic hit. And this is their worst cover version atrocity yet. They couldn’t be in more fitting company, mind, considering Queen are prepared to practically exhume corpses to keep the money spinning. Well, I guess only God can judge them. And I heard he thinks it’s ‘quite funky if you like that sort of thing’.
Alanis, how much can we hate thee? Let us count the ways: That endlessly infuriating Dolores yodelly flick in the voice at the end-hic! of-hic! every-hic! line-hic!; the therapy culture in song, all ‘Remembering your divinity’, ‘antibiotics’ and ‘thankyou nothingness’; the way you spelt ‘Thank You’ with a ‘U’ like a fifth former who spells Vicky as ‘Vikki’, with circled dots on the ‘i’s; the way it’s spelt in Urdu or something on the sleeve like she’s ’embraced Eastern philosophy’; just because the forthcoming album is called ‘Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie’. Nggggggg! And yet for all this, I can’t get this song out of my stupid, sick and wrong head. That’s the kind of terrifying satanic genius at work here. And the more I listen to it, the more I’m touched by all that stuff I’m supposed to sneer at – the overcooked emotional honesty, the too-much information, the hippy bullshit, that blackboard-scraping voice. I even start thinking she’s got a nice smile on the sleeve. Christ, I need a drink.
FUZZ TOWNSHEND FEAT MICHAEL VALETINE WEST
“… Is there an EC rhythm section mountain somewhere off the M6 which is being recycled into top-grade dance music talent? First, the bass player from The Housemartins invents big beat, then Richard Poppie turns up in Bentley Rhythm Ace and Cass Senseless in Delakota, and now the erstwhile drummer out of PWEI comes up with this… this, monstrosity! ‘Get Yerself’ sounds like a teenage Marc Bolan imitator singing over someone else’s record in their bedroom while playing a crackly Woolworths transistor guitar while their little brother plays along on a Stylophone. In 1982. Now if that isn’t style, I’ll throw my extensive collection of dead men’s shirts into the canal.”
CHA CHA COHEN
No, not a dance version of Laughing Len, but a perfectly Noo Yawk cool guitar groove, featuring what sounds like the Debbie Harry Blues Explosion. A growling, dirty riff revs up behind a sultry spiel about [I]”dead presidents”[/I] and [I]”shooting up neon”[/I]. I’ll buy that for a dollar. But then the other two tracks are squelchy techno funk which sound like a different band. New technology baffles pissed old hack again, then.
Star Fruits Surf Rider
This is the kind of steaming cack on a ciabatta that gets played at juice bars and organic booze Internet cafis which nobody really likes but everyone wants to have around them like some mysterious elixir gas of fashion cred. A voice like cold, thin custard being poured on your head dribbles over a cock-awful ‘drum’ and ‘bass’ breakbeat, and it’s about as charming as a Japanese theme restaurant called ‘I Can’t Berieve It’s Not Sushi!’. Screeeeeeeeeeech! NO! Stop that! I’m wholly and grossly WRONG. Well, actually I’m right, but Cornelius is forgiven because on the second track he samples Brian Glover playing the PE teacher in Kes, and it has a scratchy nasty riff and insane 200rpm breakbeat. Magnificent. And so, as surely as night follows day and Yin follows Yang, I have to say I’m sorry.
I’ll Show You Mine
Coming sealed in a black leather pouch, like there’s going to be some unspecified bestiality going on inside, this Ultrasound single could never quite live up to such controversial expectations. ‘I’ll Show You Mine’ will do instead, though, a swollen, anthemic love song yearning for the kind of kinship ‘Stay Young’ hinted at. Is this the new voice of the disenfranchised youth of Britain? Well, it sounds intermittently like a whining teenager who’s just had his glasses stamped on, but in a way that’s really quite affecting. He’s unlikely ever to get anyone to strip naked with this, but it deserves at least a quick sympathy snog.
Talkin’ All That Jazz
You know when your Mum tidies your room and moves all the stuff you’d left out for a reason to a place you can’t find it, or else throws it away? Well, remixers are surely the interfering mothers of the dance music scene. If it ain’t broke, they’ll pissing well fix it anyway, because they know best, and they just couldn’t bear to leave it alone. Enter Dimitri From Paris chez Stetsasonic, seeing their hip-hop classic ‘Talkin’ All That Jazz’, and thinking, [I]’Zut alors[/I]! Zis could really do wiz a lumpen dance beat and crap Latino percussion!’, discarding the supremely loose-limbed, funky breakbeat of the original, and speeding it up so it sounds like ‘Stars On 45’. Twat. Admittedly, he was asked to remix it, and at least the original is still here as the second track, but so what? That’s beside the point, as my mother used to say, meaninglessly, about everything in order to win the argument.
“… People often stop me in the street, punch me repeatedly about the head and ask me why music journalists have to be so unpleasant about music which doesn’t appeal to their oh-so-fickle personal taste. And the reason is that we have a noble and shining vision of how music could be if only these musicians would do as they’re flipping well told by us. If we had their talent and ability, we’d do it properly. And so our hearts hop a little as we come across a band called Junk, all teenagers, promising speeding punk-pop thrills called great things like ‘Disco Queen’ and ‘Pop Star’. But just like so many of their spiritual ancestors, Junk are massively, seethingly, thrillingly alright. We’ll persuade ourselves these are great pop songs for up to a fortnight, but then finally have to admit that they’re just alright.”
ROCKET FROM THE CRYPT
Break It Up
And yet hope springs eternal, as Rocket From The Crypt turn out to be sometimes up to 95 per cent as good as they look, sound from their name and claim to be. This lurches back and forth like a bum-shunting fight between elephants on speed, if such a scene could ever be replicated in the form of rock. Yes! The darkness has lifted. It’s alright. It’s really alright. Wamalamalamalama rock’n’roll is king once more, and everything is ALRIGHT.