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danielgiraffe
If you're from Slovenia, you're Slovene for life and you will never have difficulty voting in an election.

If you're from the UK, after 12 years' living outside the country you become 'disenfranchised'. I'm not too sure of the full implications of this process - you never relinquish your passport, for example - but one thing I know is that you no longer have a vote.

To be honest with you, much as I'm proud of (the things I love about) my country, support a British football team and watch British news, I'm starting to realise why they do this disenfranchisement. I have a permanent job in Luxembourg and I've started a family here; in short I'm putting down roots here. It is definitely coming to the stage where, whilst I have opinions on the current government in the UK, I no longer feel entitled to have a say in what happens there.

Most of my friends on facebook are left-leaning so my 'newsfeed' contains a fairly regular digest of what is wrong with the Cameron government and the press that supports it. The UK is my country, it's where I was born and raised, where I went to school, where I learned to love music, where I acquired my attitude, where I gained a feel for politics, and so on, but who the hell am I to sit here and cast my vote and have my say on who runs the place?

I asked Mateja about her relationship with her native Slovenia, a country that is currently going through a fair amount of upheaval, with the recent removal of a deluded prime minister still living in the past, still thinking that pinning the blame for all his wrong-doing on the Communists will play well abroad. He sounds like a nasty piece of work and we're praying that his replacement will steady the ship and somehow cope with all the crap she's been left to deal with.

Note '...we're praying...'. Mateja is Slovene, our little one is half-Slovene and, especially in times of trouble, it's only natural to care about what goes on back home. Her family and friends are all there, of course. Which goes for me and the UK, too, but whereas a lot of Slovenes we know say 'I'm going home' to mean they're going to spend some time back in Slovenia, I don't think of the UK as home any more. I find it interesting that my passport does not ask me to list a UK address as my permanent residence whereas even our son, who was born in Luxembourg and has spent precisely ten days of his life in Slovenia, has a permanent Slovenia address in his passport and id card.

And... halfway through writing this, Margaret Thatcher has died... there's no doubting that a chapter has ended with Margaret Thatcher's death. I never liked the woman, her politics or her legacy but I'm not rejoicing right now. As much as she defines the era in which I became aware of politics and in which I aligned myself broadly with the left, she was an old lady who had a stroke and the line is now drawn under her controversial, divisive life.

I mention my left-of-centre sympathies. I couldn't vote conservative even if I had a vote. That whole ideology of market forces (ahead of people) leaves me cold. However, there are some things that wind me up about the left and one is the notion that if you're not with us you're against us. I hate that. Those who said to me, back when I knew some fiercely left-wing people, that I should raise my head above the parapet because by keeping a low profile I'm handing victory to the oppressors can get lost. Certainly now, living abroad, I have less and less reason to get agitated about politics and raise my head above the parapet, whatever that actually means... putting the world to rights over the dinner table? screaming about the government on social media sites?

That's not to say I don't think about politics. It was Enoch Powell, of all people, gawd help us, who said [I'm paraphrasing] 'a mouth not speaking is not necessarily indicative of a mind not working'. The point being that, whilst I have opinions on general ideology - despite the above reservations about the left, I am clearly left of centre and that isn't about to change - and, occasionally, more specific political matters, and whilst the current UK government is capable of appalling me (witness that recent crass attempt to eke political capital out of the Derby fire), the difficulty these days is that I don't quite know who my politicians are, i.e. which ones represent me, these days.

I take a passing interest in Luxembourg politics. Take the smoking debate, for example. But it's dear old England, where I grew up and where I get most of my media from, that is the focus of my political attention, such as it is.
 
 
danielgiraffe
06 April 2013 @ 10:11 am
What would be your reaction if someone bought you an atlas for your birthday? (I mean a proper huge glossy one). I was fairly ecstatic. People have been giving each other atlases as birthday presents for a very long time indeed. [I won't concern myself with the history of atlases here - wikipedia gives an overview if you'd like to have a look.] And it has to be a present: let's be honest, you don't go to a bookshop and buy yourself an atlas. It's like a boxset or a gold disc by your favourite band. Good friends will club together and buy it for you.

What I'm interested in is why I was so thrilled with the new book. Well, firstly, it's almost disrespectful to call it a mere book - it's a giant artefact that you have to place on a table in order to read, and that table has to be clean and dry. Its considerable weight (along with its other impressive dimensions) gives it gravitas. This one even came with a thick cardboard sleeve to protect it but it almost goes without saying that you treat it properly, with the respect, no, the reverence it deserves. What other single item do you own that is so big and heavy apart from the shelves and cupboards in which you keep your possessions? In this era of google maps on your smartphone, the portability of kindle and so on it's good to know - without being old-fashioned or denying technology's place - that one can come home and luxuriate in a work as large and special as this.

The second thing is the sheer joy of geography. There's a nerd element here: who hasn't trawled through an atlas as a kid memorising the names of capital cities, currencies and flags? Maybe it's a boy thing, I don't know, but I know I spent hours poring over my first one. Ah yes, this new atlas is my first since my barmitzvah in 1980. The reason my fiancee chose to get it for me was that she was slightly fed up with seeing that old thing, with its out-of-date information (her country, Slovenia, was still part of Yugoslavia in the old atlas so there were personal reasons, especially as we have a young family and she'll want to teach the kids) and pen-markings by my parents to show us where they were going - or where they'd been - on a cruise. Unruly parents' biro aside, I'd kept it well but frankly it was fairly old-fashioned-looking back in 1980, with its old typefaces and pale colours.

The real joy of geography is not the population statistics of one country or the number of square metres covered by another. It's the images, stories and fantasies it conjures up. This is great when you're on your own but really comes to life when there are other people around. Which brings me to my next point...

It's a great conversation starter. We had friends round the other day and once the kids were in bed and dinner was finished we literally sat around the atlas talking about places we'd been to and others we'd love to go to one day. With each slow, careful turn of each enormous, shiny but sharp-edged page we effortlessly found something to talk about: anecdotes about lost luggage, a joyous drink by the beach, an officious train inspector, a road-trip that in hindsight looked risky. Now that I'm older, better-travelled and have simply met more people than the 13 year-old with his first atlas in 1980, I have more to say about more places, even if it is just to say 'my friend's been there and he thought it was lovely'.

Geopolitics inevitably comes up (in ways it probably didn't when I was a kid). The heavy, straight lines dividing up Africa - ignoring peoples, geographical landmarks and traditions - leading to conversations about colonialism. The curious geography of the Middle East, leading to conversations about Israel and all the rest of it. Closer to home, the movable borders in Europe, leading to conversations about Saarland as an independent country even competing against Germany at football. And so on.

The other thing I love about the atlas is the amount of work that's gone into it. The index alone, which takes up getting-on-for half the book, is a really quite amazing achievement.

When you're working your way up and down the index, another joyful thing is marvelling at the weird and sometimes funny place names. It might be childish of me but I still crease up laughing at place names that sound funny: Silly (Belgium), Pistov (Czech Republic), Twatt (Scotland) etc. And idly looking through the maps, you alight on all sorts of wonderful names that may evoke memories, may seem totally out of context or may perfectly conjure the image you have of the country whose borders, wiggly river lines and bumpy countours you're glancing through.

The shapes of countries, land masses or peninsulas are often great, too. My half-Slovene child (and his future siblings) will discover one day that their mum's country is shaped roughly like a mother hen. Chile seems so narrow you could barely fit a football pitch in it. India just looks majestic on a map, with its splendid tapered south.

That's a long-winded way of saying thanks for the birthday present, love.
 
 
danielgiraffe
16 November 2012 @ 08:41 am
DSC06237
Floor of the Plaza Major, Palma


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Bullfight poster



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Duck in Mondrago national park



 
 
danielgiraffe
15 November 2012 @ 12:52 am

What do you think this is?

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Palma cathedral


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Arta from the ramparts

 
 
danielgiraffe
15 November 2012 @ 12:44 am
I have just about been able to put that night out of my head, some three weeks on. Simon Reynolds came to Luxembourg last month to talk about his fascinating book Retromania. I was so annoyed with myself for asking a question that was met with some disdain that I spent much of the next few nights when I should've been asleep thinking about how I could've phrased the question better and how I ought to have come back and said no that's not quite what I meant [to be fair I wasn't in much of a position to come back: the bloke who bagged the first question, before I managed to wrest the mic, was so in love with the sound of his own voice and wibbled on so much that I felt compelled to be brief if only to show some humility]. You get one chance.

---

Retromania is about pop music's addiction to its past, how we're so obsessed with mining the past and how, as with natural resources, we're one day going to run out of past to mine. I share a lot of the book's concerns: nostalgia and hall-of-fame culture is ugly and depressingly conservative; pop music ransacks the past mostly in a banal and unthinking way and is having increasing difficulty coming up with anything new.

As I've mentioned before in these pages, I'm a record collector [as Reynolds admits himself in his book and the section on the nature of collection is really stimulating: I loved the quote, for example, (to the effect) that the most important piece in any collection is the missing one]. A very fine line has to be walked between, on the one hand, the sweet joy of picking up something special that you weren't even looking for in a record shop and, on the other, flogging the dead horse of old music, by sticking to what you know and bolstering your collection with more of the same whilst never venturing into the present, let alone into the kind of future presented by the most exciting contemporary music.

Reissue, repackage, repackage

I was flabbergasted today to see that Miles Davis' Columbia Records output - 43 CDs' worth - was now available as a mega box-set sleekly put together in a replica of Miles' trumpet case. It's lusciously done but it's a preposterous item. You wonder what the actual point of it is and who might be tempted by it. Maybe I'm the target audience. I love Miles' music and I'm entering middle age with a decent salary. Yet we're in the realms of hundreds of euros and that is a fortune for music that in some cases I already have. Even if money were absolutely no object, I still don't think I'd buy it purely because repackage culture of this nature simply isn't something I want to buy into. So if anyone's reading who may have been wondering what to get me for Chanukah or my birthday, thanks but there's really no need for this box-set!

I'm as susceptible to nostalgia as anyone. I still love some of the songs I loved when I was a teenager... and even music that was made before I was born that gives a feeling that someone else's nostalgia is actually my own: who couldn't love a pop record as wistfully tender as Waterloo Sunset, for example? Reynolds went into much detail about how he loved rave culture first time around, when it felt like the future. Now some people, he said, were trying to recreate that period by replicating everything, including the relatively primitive technology available then, which seems to defeat the object.

Where I do succumb to repackage culture is Studio One reissues, purchases that I feel are amply justified by the fact that the songs are in many cases new to me and that, if I did have them, the chances are they would've been on a scratchy record or tape. The records are also lovingly put together by people who know their stuff.

The controversial part of the talk, picked up on by several audience members, was the idea that nothing actually new or nothing sounding like anything that had gone before had been released since the days of rave. So to my fateful question. I wanted to know if there was any merit in music that trawled the past with impeccable taste, introducing its audience, curator-style, to what they might not have known. I wondered why some forms of music from the past sounded so fresh and glorious whereas others sounded so unlistenably stale. I argued that there was a magic, an alchemy about the way in which Stereolab, for example, put old musics together to make something new. Reynolds said he was troubled by such 'curator' bands and that, in a nutshell, we should really be listening to the 'originals', i.e. Neu, French film soundtracks, bossa nova etc.

What I would like to have said in the forum in reply was that in general I shared much of Reynolds' disquiet about pop music's addiction to the past, that my music taste was not fossilised in Stereolab's heyday, that each year I bought shedloads of contemporary music (now more than ever), that I too was tickled by the way in which dub had been bent out of shape by dubstep and grime but that I just happened to love certain bands whose influences and reference points were used creatively to make something, yes, new; reference points that are removed from us in space (e.g. the trend in the 2000s for using African rhythms in pop music or the beautifully downbeat use of West Indian steel drums in at least two albums this year) or time, i.e. much of what Reynolds disapproves of.

An indie-loving friend of mine was upset by the seminar. She's hugely curious about current music and denounced the gathering as being for old men. She had a point, especially when one suggested that nothing truly new had been released since 1972! Reynolds might argue that current music borrows from the past but my friend said it wasn't her past, so what was his problem? A lot of current indie music does remind me of things that have gone before - and sometimes it's done with panache and taste whereas in other cases it can sound humdrum and derivative - but my friend's quarrel reminds me of how I felt when I was growing up and people would look down at my era and bang on about how great the 60s were. This was clearly a foolish, conservative, antediluvian point of view. If you can't find any contemporary music you like that's your problem, not mine. Personally I like finding out about music of the past through my favourite bands of the present. So long as older people don't go around telling off younger people for being younger I don't see a problem.

I broached the subject of the 'shock of the new' with a friend of mine who's a jazz fan and musician. His reply was very pointed: in order to make something new you have to know what has gone before. I wonder how this plays out in new releases in the jazz world. I wonder, too, what fans of classical music, arguably the purest form of music, would make of this debate. For them, one assumes, the key to originality is less sonic than musical, new combinations of notes and phrases or fresh interpretations of music composed a long time ago. Whilst I don't want pop musicians to strain every sinew 'in search of the lost chord', I know that one of the things that really turns me off about bad new music is the hackneyed chord patterns and naggingly familiar tunes that are trotted out. 

---

I know it's wrong to dwell on the past, but I feel I missed my chance to express myself as I would've liked to Simon Reynolds, whose brilliantly thought-provoking stuff I've been reading since the 1980s. This is precisely the kind of thing I have a blog for. I feel better now.
 
 
 
danielgiraffe
12 August 2012 @ 01:59 pm
"The more important something is, the less you should splash it all over facebook" - my mate Tim, yesterday.

---

Friends have expressed surprise that I haven't shared much on facebook about my new baby son (born 6 weeks ago). I'm quite a regular facebook user but although my baby boy is wonderful and takes up a lot of my thoughts I have shared no photos and have hardly posted anything about him.

This got me thinking about the nature of sharing things and where social media, including this blog, fit into this.

I think it's fair to say that I'm the kind of person who likes sharing things. Throughout my life, whenever I've come across something I've liked I've always felt the need to tell people about it. Maybe that's because I've moved around so much in my life. Maybe it's just my character. In any case, facebook was, in a sense, made for me. I love knowing what friends (and acquaintances) are doing, watching, listening to, visiting, thinking about and talking about, especially now that I live abroad. And in return I'm more than happy to contribute; or to put it another way, it's great that facebook has given me a forum for my sharing instinct.

This is all well and good but there are downsides. The first problem is just how much of our lives are played out on facebook. For example, when relationships begin and end, you're invited to publish that 'news' (as if it's anyone else's business). On the one hand, the fact that people know about, say, a break-up is a good thing, but, on the other, it is dreadful how the facebook world sometimes seems more real than reality. A friend once asked me: 'Are you two back together? I didn't see anything about this on facebook?' He might've been joking but it highlights a problem, one that lies at the root of why my partner and I are hesitant to get too personal on facebook.

Like this blog, I don't use facebook for talking about personal stuff: I do that with people close to me anyway, either face-to-face or via email or telephone. The problem with discussing more intimate things on the internet is that it's not just your close family and friends who see it, it's often those in the outer concentric circles of your life. Some people seem to make a hobby out of pressing the 'photos' button on facebook. We would prefer to discourage such casual onlooking. What we've done with the birth is say: "if you want to see our photos, please message me and I'll send you the link". That way we ensure that only those who actually want to see the photos will do so. They're happy, we're happy and people who haven't asked to see the photos carry on oblivious so you might say they're happy too.

Another point about facebook and parenthood is the show-off element you sometimes come across. In a recent phone conversation on this subject, a friend referred to 'Crouch End dads', by which he meant the kind of older fathers who seem to parade their children and talk loudly to them and about them in public places, people who seem to be saying 'hey look at me, look at what I've produced, aren't I so great?' And facebook is a perfect platform for such show-offs. Of course, people show off about all sorts of things on facebook: another friend of mine despises gardening show-offs, for example, people who love to show off how great their lives are because they can get close to nature! Feel that soil! This is another trap I'm keen to avoid falling into, especially when it comes to something as emotive as children.

In short, I don't want to be one of those dads who make people think 'oh there he goes again, wittering on about his kid', like bores who insist on showing their two-hour wedding video every time someone comes round. Or people who speak without charm or restraint about any subject, for that matter. Though there is something particularly dispiriting about a parent who can't hold back. So at coffee break at work, for example, I make a point of showing that I'm capable of talking about things other than my kid, that I'm aware there is world out there and that my life isn't any more important than anyone else's.

One facebook mum I'm aware of (but not friends with) posts nothing about her own life, what she's done, what she's seen, where she's been...; she posts only 'news' of her kids' achievements, the funny things they say and so on. It seems - if her facebook persona is anything to go by - as though her life is defined by her kids. Not good.

That said, a balance has to be struck and it would be unnatural to avoid completely a subject as important, exciting and beautiful as one's children, and somehow pretend it wasn't happening. Some friends post really nice, tasteful stuff about their offspring on facebook, and are able to talk in general about them happily, naturally and without imposing the topic or falling into any of the traps mentioned above. 

___

As this piece has demonstrated, the nature of these dilemmas are nothing new [cf the wedding video] but what has changed is the idea that what we do is news and we have any number of 'news channels' on which to broadcast ourselves.  
 
 
danielgiraffe
14 July 2012 @ 12:00 am
In Brazil, whenever I mentioned I liked reggae, the response I would inevitably get was "Bobby Marley" enunciated languidly and with a warm grin that welcomed me as a kindred spirit in the cause of black liberation or, more usually, smoking tons of weed. I hadn't really listened to Marley's music for years and the conversation rarely went very far.

---

Having seen the recent biopic simply entitled Marley I don't deny Bob Marley his place in the roster of massively important figures in late-20th century music but I have one problem with him: I don't think I like his music any more. So where do we stand?

We asked two leading scholars to put the case for and against.

First danielgiraffe explains what made Marley great and then danielgiraffe will argue that Bob had his day and that was that.

- Perhaps the best tribute that can be paid to Bob Marley is that, as the first superstar of reggae he blazed a trail... 

[interrupting]
- oh come on, we've heard all that stuff before. He was marketed by Island Records as a rock star from Jamaica with this rebel stance.  He looked great and his band were tight but what about the songs? To modern ears the music sounds so leaden. Maybe I've just heard these songs too many times but listening to them (for the first time in ages) on the Marley film they sounded like relics from the past, preserved in aspic.

- You can't deny that back in the 70s it was new, exciting and dangerous.

[at this point, rather than have our two scholars present their arguments in full, in turn, we just left them to argue]

- Maybe but even in the world of roots reggae there were plenty of other musicians, none with Marley's charisma of course but

- Oh and that is precisely where I have to stop you. You can't just take the word 'charisma' and shove it back in the sentence like it was of secondary importance. Can you imagine what it must've been like to grow up in the 70s and have this dashing firebrand with a wild singing voice make powerful statements through the medium of music...

- Yes, yes, but what good is making statements if the music doesn't stand up? If music were all about the sentiment, then even something like Another Day In Paradise by Phil Collins would be hailed as a great song. It wasn't. It just said that homelessness was a bad thing. Marley just said that racism (and colonial oppression) was a bad thing. Tell us something we don't know.

- First of all, who said it doesn't stand up? Talking of "stand up", what about Get Up Stand Up? How about that for a call to arms?

- It's a good protest song and it must've sounded fairly powerful at the time

- "fairly powerful" he says. It must've been incendiary.

- Fine but if I want to listen to the news I'll switch the TV on. What interests me for the purposes of this discussion is how the music sounds in this day and age.

- That might have something to do with 70s roots reggae, some of which can sound quite plodding. I challenge you, though, to listen to a majestic song like Natural Mystic and not be moved:



- Very good, but the problem with your argument is that there were many fine examples of roots reggae, the vast majority of which were not by Bob Marley and the Wailers. Burning Spear, Ijahman Levi, the Mighty Diamonds, Johnny Osbourne and others were making stunningly stirring roots with warm harmonies and thunderous rhythms while Marley was churning out a lot of records of variable quality. For every Concrete Jungle there was gunk like Roots, Rock, Reggae or Is This Love.

- What's wrong with Is This Love? Yes, it may sound a bit dated...

- Just a bit

- Let me finish. It may sound a bit dated but it's essentially a sweet pop record and that, my friend, is what they did: they made pop records with a lean and bouncy reggae beat (the Barrett bothers were a hell of a rhythm section, let's not forget); or fiery, 'conscious' reggae records with major pop sensibility. Yes, Marley had a nifty ability with a catchy tune and as much as anything that was what set him apart from his peers. Three Little Birds may not please the dub purists but rocking my new-born Alex to sleep singing "Don't worry about a thing..." is beautiful - it's simply a lovely, happy, infectiously catchy tune.

- I grant you the gift of catchiness but I maintain that his music has limited appeal to a contemporary audience, at least one with an interest in the innovative side of reggae. The problem with Bob Marley - and his various Wailers (what would have become of them had Bunny and Peter stuck around?) - is that, while he was chugging away with ho-hum stuff like Jammin and sweet talking with syrupy ballads, people like Prince Far-I were coming up with madness like this:



...which sounds like nothing on earth and still starts fires in uncharted corners of my brain to this day.

- Hardly comparable. Marley was a superstar with enormous power over people. And what's so evil about a love song? When Marvin Gaye does it we call it sweet soul but when a reggae star does it it's dismissed as syrupy. Prince Far-I may have been cutting up tape to make strange noises but did he bring together on stage two politicians whose devotees were literally at war with each other? Did he write a Redemption Song?

- Redemption Song is an ugly dirge.

- You may not like it* but it touched an awful lot of people, not least because it wasn't a reggae song at all but rather a pared-down, painful lament that begged you to cock an ear and pay attention. It worked and you know it.

- Well argued but you'd hardly choose to bung it on your stereo would you? And we know that his balladry can hardly be compared to Marvin Gaye's soul. One other thing we haven't touched on is how overrated he was as a lyricist. One love, one heart, let's get together and feel all right. I mean do me a favour. And a lot of his so-called political statements were just about how Jah was good, Babylon was bad, everything laced with simplistic religious-hippy goo about loving oneself, not judging others, blah blah, etc etc

- Gosh, someone's in a bit of a mood. Listen you can't discuss Marley and roots reggae without mentioning rastafarianism and in a context like Jamaica in the 70s, those positive messages must've been quite inspiring. Did I say context? Context, context, context. At the risk of repeating myself...

___

And that was more or less that. The scholars left on reasonable terms, both entrenched in their views but both having had their eyes opened and made concessions. 

*Footnote: Just re-reading this post, I found you could read this sentence in one of two ways. The original intention, I think was a withering put-down: "YOU may not like it...". Perhaps a more interesting reading - in the context of the discussion about whether one needs to actually enjoy a protest song in order to appreciate it - is "You may not LIKE it...".
 
 
danielgiraffe
24 June 2012 @ 06:37 pm
Am I getting old and intolerant or can one reasonably make a case for saying that taste is more than just a matter of taste?

Sometimes people say something is a matter of taste as though this were some sort of clinching argument. Quite the opposite, it's often a cop-out: people use this expression when they don't have anything further to say. Which doesn't make them right.

There are times, of course, when something actually is just a a matter of taste: for example, if people want to subject themselves to the horror of eating goat's cheese that really is up to them, the mad bastards. 

Seriously, though...

When I was in Italy not long ago, I had the most amazing ice-cream from a gelateria called Grom. What they serve at that place is simply on another level. If anyone ever tries to argue that they prefer any other ice-cream it means they haven't actually tasted what I had that day. The ice-cream from the best place in Luxembourg is now at my base level of acceptability. My friend Paul, who took me to Grom that day, told me that when he is asked out for ice-cream he prefers to say no rather than accept substandard product. 

Each to their own? No, sometimes you just know you're right. If this sounds unspeakably smug then I apologise. I know it isn't socially acceptable to go around telling people you're simply right and they're wrong. But, for example, when people say they don't like reggae, I wonder if they just haven't heard some of the things I've heard, the Grom ice-cream of the reggae world. "What do you mean by good reggae, ha ha ha?" sneered one friend as I tried to impress upon him that there was a big old world of Jamaican music out there, beyond Bob Marley and UB40. 

What I mean is, if you can back up your 'taste' with sound arguments and pertinent examples then the phrase 'a matter of taste' loses meaning. Look at this example in which the boot is on the other foot: I used to go to see films with a friend in London, who was much better at analysing films than I was. We would come out of the cinema and he'd ask me what I thought of the film. I would say how I felt, knowing that a barrage of beautifully argued, accurately aimed points would be awaiting me. After a while I got into the habit of hedging my bets, offering tentative half-opinions like "I liked some of the film". He made me feel a bit useless - and you could debate the qualities of the man's social skills - but I think the conclusion was drawn that he had better taste in films than me. By 'better' I mean more carefully thought-out, better researched, backed by broader and deeper knowledge.

When you say that someone has great taste in music, what does that mean? I know some people whose taste is better than mine. That said, I feel I've had a decent musical education: knowing that, say, Hey Boy Hey Girl by The Chemical Brothers is a superior track to something like Stairway To Heaven is a hugely important life lesson. Those who "like" the latter track better are wrong - implying that it isn't just a matter of taste - because generally they a) are living in the past, b) are fixated on outdated ideas of what makes a good musician, i.e. that guitarists need to look deep and pull that 'constipation' face to be any good and c) fail to see that what counts is the effect on the listener rather than how it makes the musicians feel.

Some people have good taste in bad taste. When dqliq holds its bad taste parties, those who attend do so safe in the knowledge that everyone else there is a kindred spirit whose taste is worthy of admiration. Such people are often heard proudly to declare that their music taste is crap. Guilty Pleasures in London has made a huge virtue of digging out forgotten 'gems' that people didn't want to be seen to like. The point about Guilty Pleasures was that it was not merely a headlong plunge into banality, the songs were a bit cheesy but seemed to be hand-picked to make you go 'ahh this one!'

I digress.

Back to the "matter of taste" argument, dismissing it out of hand and charging in with all the reasons that you're right can make you look like a conversational boor. I try to be considerate, and smart rather than smart-arsed, but there are times when it is hard to hold back.

Coming back to my original question, am I just getting cranky in my old age or am I actually onto something?

Whatever, I (tastefully) leave the last word to The Cramps:
 
 
danielgiraffe
24 June 2012 @ 05:23 pm
I like the way the new post-it notes are sticky at alternating ends:

postit 1
postit 4
postit 5
postit 6
 
 
danielgiraffe
03 June 2012 @ 10:02 pm
Last night I went to Exit07, Luxembourg's finest music venue, to see a chap called Gonjasufi. I hadn't heard of him before but I tend to trust Exit07 when it comes to gigs, so I checked out some of the links. He seemed like a cool old fellow with the cracked voice of an old blues singer. His voice sounded rather gentle, almost feminine but in any event, he most certainly sounded like he had lived a bit. Check out this 



- part Beth Gibbons, part Billie Holliday, part Antony, part Robert Johnson - for a flavour of what i'm on about.

The chap could hardly be accused of writing songs. What you get are fragments of tunes, a cubism of beat and melody. There's an element of Ariel Pink about his hall-of-mirrors-and-memories music.

So much for the recordings. The youtube clips don't really prepare you for the assault of crunching beats and wild-eyed attitude. Only a short fellow (no taller than me!) he prowled the stage menacingly. At one stage - the only bit of the gig I didn't appreciate - he asked if we knew the song from its opening. Some said yes, to which he replied something along the lines of well, you'd better fucking sing along to it then. All right, all right, I thought.

Still, one unarguable point was that the recorded material had, on stage, turned into something altogether different. A snarling beast, yes, but at least it wasn't a slavish reproduction of the originals and reason enough in itself to get off your arse and go to the gig.

The music was being brought to life, not just with attitude but with what was actually happening on stage. The musicians were a couple of hipster-techie youths - one hiding behind long hair and a hat, the other with clever glasses and a painfully smart shirt buttoned up to the top - twiddling knobs and pressing buttons meaningfully. They bobbed their heads furiously throughout to the extent that if you squinted it could've been a pair of orthodox Jews at prayer. Credit them for it was they who were responsible for those huge rhythms. The warm-up DJ turned out to be Gonjasufi's own sidekick. More on him later. It was Gonjasufi himself whose mesmerising presence made the show. He was all over the stage, his dreadlocks flying (there's something about flying locks) while he scowled and strutted.

gonjasufi

It was such an odd mix of aching crooning and I-mean-it rapping, which possibly reflects Gonjasufi's colourful background: a former tramp of Mexican/Ethiopian descent, he now makes his living - apart from music - as a yoga teacher.

The backing tracks crashed down from the speakers, through the floor and back up through the body. It was quite harsh at times but I do love slow beats, reminiscent as they are of dub, with its thudding bass and crunching snare. At this point, it's worth mentioning maracatu, the afro-Brazilian rhythm I used to play in London: the band would get fast sometimes because it was fun and got reaction from the audience, but it was when the rhythm was slowed down (whilst keeping the swing) that it hit my sweet spot.

That DJ. Before the show I was sitting outside having a quiet beer when I heard the magnificent African Head Charge, so I came inside to find out more. The DJ, on stage in full glare rather than keeping a low profile, was playing a set of dub! I-Roy, U-Roy, Wayne Smith, I was in my element. The set moved out of dub and into soul, African and jazz. Normally I hate DJs who dance and lark around but this guy, when he got going, was irrepressible and extraordinary to watch, feeling every note and hi-hat. As Gonjasufi's partner on stage once the gig proper had started, he spent much of the time in a supporting role, picking up the vocal slack and often cupping and contemplating the microphone like it was a sacred item in church.

The other break from the norm for me was that I bought myself a t-shirt. Now I've long since stopped buying band t-shirts but:

gonja-tshirt

Several good reason not to stay in last night.