March 24, 2004
But as if to knock me down reality came around
Gratifying flurry of activity over at Carlin Towers. I especially like Marcello's disinterring and dusting-off of Gilbert O'Sullivan(the invocation of yet another ghost from my Radio 2-listening childhood); this kind of transvaluation of discarded, disregarded and forgotten MOR is probably what I most treasure about Marcello's writing. And his psychodramatic journey through the new Streets' LP is almost enough to interest me in it.
Mike Skinner. Now there's a man in need of a reaping. The Elvis Costello of 'garage' anyone?
Posted by mark at March 24, 2004 05:20 PM
i don't get it, what's supposed to be wrong with The Streets?...The first album was a masterpiece of flaws, the second sounds even better from Marcello's description. In a blog where vulnerability is stoically valued against the massed ranks of hard-as-nails poseurs, and specificity and locality are defended against bland homogenised pap, I'd expect Skinner's unique sound to go down well.
Hmmmm, well I know I'm in the minority as usual. (Luke and I are the only people I'm aware of that dissent from Streets-love).
It's the same problem that I have with all pop celebrated for lyrics: excess of text and poverty of texture. I ind the demo-thin John Shuttleworth-like Casio plod of the sound well-nigh unlistenable, the 'dance' equivalent of pub rock.
Also, there's something ever-so slightly pleased with itself and smugly preachy about Skinner that I find off-putting.
But, like Joan Armatrading, I'm open to persuasion....
Actually Mike Skinner is the David Essex of garage, which apparent ludicrosity I shall prove in my epic David Essex piece, sometime next week...
No point in arguing or persuasion, all I can say is listen again, but I find the samples in the first album spot-on; well-chosen, looped to perfect imperfection, and totally integrated with lyrix: Weak Become Heroes' plaintive echo of the past (a most poignant evocation of the post-rave-culture aporia), likewise Stay Positive, the opening track with its epic strings, and surely Don't Mug Yourself couldn't be more perfect, Casio or no (incidentally isn't Dizzee equally if not more culpable on this count? In fact there's a sonic case for calling DMY 'gleeful grime' - glime? gleam? ) In fact, the old-stylee imperfect scansion and hand-triggered feel of the samples is my main reason for liking the album (the lyrics have their moments, but they aren't all that, if there was just a beat behind em it wouldn't merit a listen). What's most important though (it'd take me a while to articulate this properly but here goes) is his refusal to gloss over and integrate everything into a statement 'sound' - he doesn't pretend to exist in a perfectly consistent world, and lets all the rough edges and uncertainties show. There's a rare and moving courage in the record that comes from refusing coolness like this (to the point where he actually has something to say - does that make him preachy?), especially within this genre (not that he's accepted within any genre, for these very reasons). I'm not sure if this _does_ make him Elvis Costello or not, since I've never knowingly listened to EC. Also what makes it interesting is it's one of very few 'dance' records explicitly made for 'domestic' listening _as_ an album (and succeeds as such unlike most artists who are successful in the club/track scene and then make crap albums). Since that's the setting in which I listen to music, and I'm not gonna pretend otherwise, for me this is a good thing. I think the loathing that comes of his image as a 'wise' 'mature' 'poet' etc. is more to do with the PR bandwagon than the music itself.
OK, you've made a great case for it, Robin... makes me want to hear the album again again.... And Marcello's piece was so brilliant, it does fascinate me about the new 'un.... (However, I've heard the single, and well, I think it's a bit naff tbh)
But on the Dizzee comparison - I think the difference, at least so far as I am concerned, is that Dizzee's sounds are so casioid that they've given up simulating actual music altogether, they've become purely synthetic; Skinner's have still got that cheap corporate vid quality about em coz they're still trying to be music....
Also Dizzee has a kind of 'good' funklessness - a coldly inhuman mechanoia -but Streets just sound as if they're lacking in funk ....
Take the point about hype/ bandwagon, but still think there's something in the grain of Skinner's voice that is a bit preachy/ smug.
I can meet you in the middle with some of those points (god that sounds horribly democratic ) but I think you have to give it a few listens to 'get it'. I agree the sonic intent is different with the samples and the DR resemblance is probably merely external. Fair enough, skinner is more retro (on the 1st album anyway), in that his approach is more early-rave-style, barrel-organ stuff than any innovative use of sampling. But then the 'literary' context he puts it in changes the way it functions...Anyhow the sonics fall so evidently short of any pretension to high-fidelity orchestral simulation that one can't seriously think this is the intention! No-one could argue that it wasn't all 'naff', short of redefining the word, but in another way, that's the point, the desperate alchemy of making greatness from naffness.