One of my very favorite things is songs about antiquated modes of communication. I love to be reminded of times when people used to sit around waiting for the postman to arrive. You could realistically spend weeks to months in anticipation before you finally realize that your crush is just not that into you. If nothing else it makes me intensely grateful to be living in an age where you can enjoy the instant gratification of having the person you like ignore you in real time. The more things change though, the more they stay the same. Being ignored by your crush is something you and your grandmother can bond over, because I guarantee you she still remembers that time Josef from the next town over stopped answering her letters. Maybe he died in the war, maybe he’s just not that into you.
Do you want to watch an ambitious satire of the way we live now, circa 1973? Well, don’t watch O Lucky Man! It’s a terrible movie. But it does have an outstanding soundtrack by Alan Price, and I’d say that the songs pretty much make all of the points the movie wanted to make, but it doesn’t take three hours to make them. Capitalist society is a target, because or course it is. The funny thing being that in hindsight capitalism was just getting warmed up and looking back at a satirized 1973 it just looks as quaint as all get-out. But yeah, modern life is dehumanizing and every human emotion can be monetized and the military is evil and big corporations want to turn you into a human guinea pig – literally!
The baby Bowie of the sixties was dorky, earnest and notably uncool – exactly the opposite of everything we’ve come to associate David Bowie with. It was adorable. It was also odd that out of all the exciting things going on in music at the time, Bowie was writing twee little narrative songs in music hall style, probably the least hip possible direction to go in. It does show that he was already an iconoclast with a nose for the unexpected. He just hadn’t figured out how to channel that in a way that people actually liked. Of course it also means that, in his absolute failure to get attention, he really dodged a bullet. Imagine an alternate universe in which something like this (or worse, The Laughing Gnome) became the novelty hit of the summer. It would have been an absolute career dead end, not a reputation one could easily shake or move on from. We would then have enjoyed decades of David Bowie, composer of cute novelty songs and writer of middling West End musicals, perhaps with a lucrative sideline banging out power ballads for vocal divas. That’s not a world I’d much like to live in.
“One day we change from children into people, one day we change”
Grains of wisdom from Marc Bolan. Amid the songs about wizards and magic and Rarn, Bolan had some real good life advice. Ride a white swan, for example, baby, can’t go wrong. Bolan’s vision was unique, even in a time when loopy mysticism was on-trend. Nobody else on the scene tried so lovingly to marry rock music with folklore. In the end, that marriage failed, partly because the wide-eyed wonder of the 60’s became the cocaine-eyed dystopia of the 70’s, partly because Bolan himself grew out of his interest in pastoralia. But it was a thoroughly charming, and thoroughly more innocent, moment in pop culture.
I rarely look at other people’s blogs. I had to confess that but I think that most people don’t look anybody’s blog except their own. Anyway, I rarely read others’ blogs and I rarely take others’ recommendations. But sometimes I do and I discover weird and awesome things. Such as this. I discovered Kirin J Callinan browsing a music blog out of Australia, which is very worth looking at because a lot of Australian artists never make the leap over to this side of the equator. Callinan has been famous/notorious ( he’s famous enough to have his own meme, and is frequently photographed in his underwear) in his homeland since 2005 or so, with not so much a squeak in American markets. His style is vaguely reminiscent of Nick Cave; moody, dark and theatrical, because apparently there’s something about all that sun-parched outback that turns people morbid. This song isn’t overly dramatic, but it’s deeply atmospheric and sounds like a cut from a very gloomy and depressing Off-Broadway musical. Imagine the hero contemplating some wicked crime to salve his broken heart. That kind of a mood, which I find compelling. Enough to make me want to go check out the scene in New South Wales.
The world needs more Cibo Matto, but Cibo Matto have given sparingly to the world. They might just be the weirdest and coolest thing to happen in 1999. And 1996 and 2014, which covers each of their three albums. There may not be a huge market for a Japanese girl rapping about Star Wars and food, but it’s a thirsty one. This is exactly the kind of gleeful cross-cultural experimentation that keeps the music world fresh and alive. It may not have been mainstream in its time, but it’s the kind of thing that trickles up from the cool kids to the masses. Today we’ve come to expect everything from all over the world to come together in a celebration of pop culture references; it’s the transcontinental underground aesthetic. There shouldn’t be any lines between J-pop and hip-hop, or anything else. Also, those plastic hair clip thingies need to come back in style.
I need to become fluent in German so I can understand Nina Hagen songs. Though I suspect that native speakers would tell me “Nah, don’t bother”. Based on her English-language lyrics, it would probably just make me cringe. I love Hagen for her vocals and aesthetic. Her opinions and beliefs are best pushed aside as ‘problematic’. Which is easier to do when the lyrics are in German, I’ll give her that. It’s a little hard to respect someone who believes that UFOs are real and AIDS isn’t. Respect the music, though. Respect this woman’s sheer capacity for weirdness and self-expression. The fact that she’s 63 and still dresses like a gutterpunk ballerina. She’s out there still making a career out of it too. So props to that. But maybe just try to sing about love? Oh, wait, she married a 17 year old when she was like 40, so…