Sunday, November 21, 2004

The cool factor, the hip factor, it’s a phenomena created by the UK music press (especially the late lamented NME…yes I know it still prints but it effectively hasn’t said anything of worth since 1988, the last two great British rock movements, the Manc-slash-indie thing and Oasis / Blur / Pulp / Radiohead, owe nothing to the NME and nothing out of the UK, guitar-wise has really mattered globally since then). It may be Britain’s biggest contribution to popular music (Simon Fuller aside but that’s just global music hall- music is just a marketing tool) since The Beatles.

I’m not talking about mainstream crossover pop, but the more underground groundswells, where the interesting stuff usually sits.

The grab it, hype it, overkill it, dismiss it, forget it phenomena, especially with independent (these days read: electronic or beat based…I mean I love a loud guitar noise as much as the next punk raised white boy, but the last time rock music, in its traditional form did anything truly innovative was probably around 81 with the Gang of 4 / PIL / NY No Wave stuff, and since then it’s been a recycling process, often very pleasantly) music is a part of the musical cycle and gathering pace with internet exposure usurping magazine, television and record company driven hype. The pc / mac (I don’t care which flavour, they’re both commercially intertwined anyway) and the radio, the funny old radio after 100 odd years, rule.

How on earth else did funny little record labels like Output, Def Jux, Environ, Kitsune, Kompact, Crème & DFA become so cool. Has anyone at Rip It Up or Universal ever heard of any of these? Is it unfair to suggest there are less than five people working for record companies in NZ who look beyond the music plonked on their desk.... Actually domestic media are starting to mumble DFA about now, but that’s because they’ve done an EMI deal.

So to DFA…..since the DFA label was so overwhelmingly hip over the last 24 months, it’s reasonable to expect the backlash to start about now, as it did for Environ (although to be fair, it became more of a an unjustified yawn from the overcool), but the backlash is completely confounded by the second DFA compilation, called, inventively enough, DFA Compilation #2.

Under 1977 NME Burchill & Parsons (what a prize twat he is) rules, this label, compilation, and everyone involved has reached the harsh dismissal part of the cycle. I mean, an EMI deal (good on them, as the record companies move closer to irrelevance, at least one has some A&R instincts…although EMI interest will, predictably, be short lived) should, in all reason, be enough to condemn them, regardless of anything else. Shouldn't it......

But, fuck it all, the cycle is, as I said confounded. Firstly by DFA making their original critical splash with the anthemic “Losing My Edge”, a wry parody of the aforesaid cycle; and secondly, by making a seriously good record that happily gives the cutting edge a hard kick forward. Essentially comp #2 is a collection of recent DFA singles & bits, and a mix CD for yer Saturday night, of those records. But the two CD collections of 12” vinyl, or unreleased mixes, are, at times astounding (Delia Gonzalez & Gavin Russom’s “Rise”, an electronic beast that sounds like the break from The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled” stretched out for 8 minutes by Giorgio Moroder, or Black Leotard Front’s “Casual Friday” a 15 minute intrepid journey on and off the floor) or at others, just amazing (25 year punk-funk veterans Liquid Liquid with the percussive swirl of “Bellhead”).

This is the new front in popular music, or at least one of them, taking New York City back to its rightful place in pole position, the legacy of the block parties in the 70s, of Max’s Kansas City, CBGBs, The Roxy, Paradise Garage, Velvets, Arthur Baker, The Funhouse, The Brill Building, Sugarhill, Flash, Sleeping Bag & Tito Puente is safe.

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