Saturday, February 11, 2006

In my condition / I surely must be wishin’ / to be Free

So here I am swaying around the garden to Marvin’s finest moment, the bittersweet genius of Here, My Dear. The sun has finally been out for some days now and I’m hoping the rainy season has finally been put to rest. My first rainy season, Musim Hujan, here in the tropics has been an eye opener. Torrential downpours are a feature of life in Auckland, and indeed at least once a winter we were forced to call the fire brigade down to Cause Celebre when we owned it, to vacuum out a few inches of water because the landlord (NZ Guardian Trust in case anyone needed to know, not so much bad landlords just hopelessly incompetent) were too cheap to fix the drainage in the least it cleaned the carpet of sorts but it was not a pretty sight. But they are random and rare unlike the tropical deluges that bless this island for days, months at a time. They come from nowhere and, as anyone who’s lived through an equatorial rainy season will attest, the sky changes from the blue to a dark humourless grey and it simply opens up before disappearing just as fast again.

Here, My Dear seems to be the perfect soundtrack to the arrival of sunnier days. It’s a record that needs sunshine as it’s a sad record, his divorce settlement album, the judge giving all income from it to his estranged wife, Anna. Marvin essentially said “fuck you” and recorded these four sides in response. I don’t know if there is any record of Anna’s response to it, probably not, but odds on, this is not what she expected. Lets Get It On it is definitely not, but the naked intensity of the emotion inherent in it coupled with the subtly of the, for want of a better phrase, cosmic funk, to me, makes its Marvin’s supreme longplayer…and his most underrated. Lets Get It On and What’s Going On are far easier records and far that reason and for what they both stood for the in the scheme of black expression, are often more acclaimed. But the sadness and fragility of Here seems to me to come closer to the tragic figure pictured on the cover of a 1984 Time Out, the week of his death, saying “Shoot Me Daddy” to his father dressed as French maid. So sad.

But, anyway, songs…I have a few, to paraphrase, and my favourite record right now is easily Chelonis R Jones’ wonderful techy but densely soulful Deer In The Headlights on Get Physical. Very Chicago circa 1988 but very Germanic 2006 too. I like the DJ Hell (whoops…he’s just Hell these days…Papa, please meet my new boyfriend..Hell) mix a lot but proably right now I prefer the RadioSlave side, which is noisier and more messed up, but it’s a close thing. Such a great record and off its time.

Maybe its time for me to wean myself off the classic twelves for a while although the nostalgia fest and immersing myself in all those records was fun, but, to me contemporary music is as exciting and radical in early 2006 as its ever been. I’m a sucker for Taboo from Finland’s Bangkok Impact, especially the b side which is a darker beast than the A side. Then there’s Pharrell’s Angel which I’m besotted with. The production of course is absolutely beyond criticism but the true essence of his work is the wonderful, and conscious, lineage you can hear from Smokey and Curtis, and before that, the indescribably great Sam Cooke and all that lies in between. It’s so pure.

I’ve just discovered Nick Chacona’s Band Practice on Statra from few years aback and it’s such a cool cool record. That lovely nagging guitar line, almost Latin but not quite, over a post ska skip. I don’t know how you define a record like this. Pop music, and that’s all these things are lets face it, always needs to sub-generise…why bother…..

Morgan Geist’s mix of Tiga’s Good as Gold is such a great modern pop record, very euro pop, with a tinge of something almost Akron 78 about it. Or Numan-ish. And it feels more than a little like the natural sequel to Morgan’s now classic Jersey Devil Social Club EP

Kenny Dope’s remix of the two or three year old Front 2 Back by Playgroup with KC Flight (whoah damn, there’s another I left off the 12” list…Planet E) essentially turns it into a remake of Todd Terry’s Back to the Beat from 1988, but that in itself gives me some warm shivers so that’s fine. I like it lots but I was always going to….

And the remix of some obscure old Italian disco thing, Answering Service’s Mr Telephone Man, by Lindstrom and Prins Thomas is neat. I like records that slowly slide towards a peak and this one lets the bass and organ slowly drag it up to the slightly uncomfortable vocal. It’s a close-your-eyes-and-go-with-it record, if you get my gist..

I got sent a new single by, of all people, Arthur Baker, with Tim Wheeler, on I think, Darren Emerson’s Underwater label and its strangely mesmerising with a baseline not a million miles away from a Joy Division song I can’t place. Something tells me I shouldn’t like Glow, it’s a bit too raise your hand U2-ish, but I do.

The again, yesterday I did a Sandy Shaw thing and played over and over both Girl Don’t Come (you have to ask, did she know what she was singing, and the obvious answer is, of course she did), which is such a sensual two and half minutes of supreme girl power, such a voice too, and the record where she did it again two decades later, I Don’t Need You Anymore. When I first bought this Morrissey produced single on release, I played it endlessly for weeks. The A side, Hand In Glove was ok (there is a better live version of this with The Smiths floating around) but it was the flip that nailed it.

I love the rare moment when two versions of the same song follow each other on the iPod. It happened today, just now actually. The Isley Brothers’ (how in gods name can the US IRS throw an Isley in jail, he was instrumental in giving modern America its soul, its muse…Cheney’s the VP and Ronald goes to jail…what the fuck is wrong with that country) take of Todd Rungdren’s plaintiff Hello Its Me was followed by the original…and it’s the second time its happened. Spooky.

Talking of U2….The Grammies, oh dear, oh dear. Is it any wonder the music industry is in trouble.