The Patch

March 23, 2009

I Don’t Like Mondays: Lou Reed, Metal Machine Music

Filed under: I Don't Like Mondays,Music & Film — freshlysqueezedcynic @ 11:31 pm

Some people should really know better. Others do know better and do the exact opposite, and we love them for it regardless. Those others include one Lewis Allan Reed, who is perhaps justifiably considered one of the elder statesmen of rock music, and a contrarian bastard, especially when someone’s trying to put the guy on a pedestal. Nothing suggests this more than Metal Machine Music, an hour of feedback drone in which anything approaching tonality is, frankly, nonexistent.

I knew as soon as I started this project that I was going to have to listen to Metal Machine Music. How could I not? It’s infamous, considered by many to be the worst album of all time. A piece worse than anything Yes could produce. Worse than a Razorlight album, as utterly baffling as that is. It’s considered so bad that it’s widely considered to be a joke, a fulfillment of a contractural obligation, or a “fuck you” to the people who adulated his sublime glam-rock extravaganza Transformer, then abandoned his more challenging, downright depressing Berlin, a rock opera about two junkies whose love affair is ultimately doomed. As myth, I think I like the latter; it encourages you to imagine Lou Reed, so pissed off at people who were expecting another Transformer, alienated by the darker subject matter and downbeat tempo of Berlin, rejecting it like a cast-off jizz tissue, that he spends months of painstaking studio work and where he sets up the guitars to basically play themselves to come up with an album so offensive to the ears that thousands of people return the album after buying it. A middle finger cast in noise.

I like that Lou Reed. But the rational part of me suggests that Lou Reed is not that bitter and twisted, more’s the pity, and Metal Machine Music is at least semi-serious, even if, to paraphrase the great man himself, he was pretty much stoned the whole time. The “Metal Machine Music is Lou’s revenge for the poor treatment of Berlin” theory kind of goes out the window when you remember that there’s an album between Berlin and Metal Machine Music, one which was actually the highest charting album Lou Reed has made. People always forget Sally Can’t Dance; then again, it is instantly forgettable. At least Metal Machine Music will be permanently seared into my brain, a hot branding iron of pure twisted musical hell into my noiseholes.

Again, I was prepared to be charitable; some people have found something to love in it. Certainly Lou Reed has, who claims rather grandiously from time to time that he invented the entire genre of heavy metal with this album. (One doesn’t have the heart to tell him Black Sabbath existed at least 7 years before Metal Machine Music was a whine in a guitar’s amp.) Others have made similar, though less utterly laughable, claims; from punk to electronica, to industrial and yes, heavy metal, anything vaguely discordant have been suggested as genres inspired by Metal Machine Music. So I went into this with my prejudices ready to be disabused, if not discarded.

It’s an hour of feedback.

Let me say that again. It’s an hour of feedback.

For those hard of reading, once more. It’s an hour of feedback that I had to listen to.

That’s really all I need to say on the matter; it’s all you really can say on that matter. There’s no real breaks, no real pauses, it just drifts on and on, a screeching squall of useless noise. But that would be kind of a cop-out, so let’s explore this a little bit further. What are the effects of listening to a full hour of feedback on the human body?

One starts almost bemused. “Surely it’s not as bad as people have been suggesting?” And you begin to listen, and you hear feedback. You’ve heard it before. It’s been used to great effect; most successfully, in my opinion, in Gang of Four’s song Anthrax. So you begin to think “hey, this can’t be that bad. I quite like feedback. Then it begins to get hypnotic. The repeated, discordant sounds fill your brain and you can begin to think about nothing else. Here’s a short, sharp squawk which sounds like a hawk swooping down on an unsuspecting prey, followed by what sounds disconcertingly like the scream of something frightened and dying. Over here, the repeated vibrato that reminds you of echoes in a dark, dank cave. If I close my eyes, it’s probably as close to an experience in a sensory deprivation tank as you can get for free, you mooching bastards, without being caught doing naughty things for Allah in some desert hellhole and being sent to Guantanamo, and even that’s nearing the end of the line (cheers, Big Barry Obama).

The smartest of you will realise I have just compared Metal Machine Music to torture. That’s because it is, after a while. The noises, after worming their way into your brain, begin to take on a more concrete form in your brain. It begins to throbb. This is what a migraine sounds like, and after Part II you will begin to wish you hadn’t been born. The initial Metal Machine Music had a cunning little groove which meant that the last 3 seconds or so looped on infinitely if the record wasn’t stopped, making the album technically infinite. I think that was removed because of the Geneva Conventions. Honestly, more than an hour of this and I think you would begin to go slightly loopy, especially if you were doing the whole sensory deprivation experiment on the cheap.

Then very loopy. To go into a slight tangent here, the experiments into sensory deprivation (which were secretly funded by the CIA in order to find out ways to prevent Soviet brainwashing and possibly carry out some of their own, along with good ol’ fashioned torture; I know I sound like a ranting hippy here but this shit really is true) noted that one became, initially, first hallucinating, then very suggestable when faced with total sensory deprivation, (that is, placed in a darkened capsule, floating so you can’t really touch anything, and with white noise not unlike Metal Machine Music‘s distorted feedback pumped in so you are unable to think) to the point where one would abandon one’s sincerely held beliefs quite readily. The experiment was cut short after it was found people really found it utterly unbearable, and the experimenters noted that it would be quite a lapse in ethics to take the experiment further, since it seemed to actually be a form of torture, as severely mind-shattering and awful as any form of physical abuse. Remember that the next time some spineless, lisping jackbooted twat from the Daily Mail scoffs that these unruly Dusky Hordes just can’t handle a bit of white noise, scoff scoff scoff we’re not electrocuting anyone’s genitals so it’s not torture (well, we’re not, we just employ those that do).

So, yes. Metal Machine Music is pretty much migrane-inducing at the micro level, and very probably torture at the macro. But I can’t, wholeheartedly suggest that it’s the worst album ever. I’m not really sure that it even counts as an album, in any kind of way that we’d normally think about it. It’s just there, seeping into your very pores until you can’t stand it. It loops before those last two seconds, by the way, a dull, throaty roar that makes your ears itch and your fingers begin to tremble. And then it stops, and you breathe a sigh of relief. Metal Machine Music is not really an album in the normal sense. It’s an experience. Now I know that sounds unbearably wanky and stupid, but I mean it in a very physical sense, not in the way most music journos use it, when they want to claim that yer latest three-chord-wonder is some kind of superlative visionary and “experience” is the only word they’ve got to express that in the Big Book of Music Journo Cliché, visionaries only in the sense that Zack Snyder is “visionary” (“What?!?” I spluttered as I saw the trailer for Watchmen. “I guess in the sense that he is able to see.”) It’s an experience in the same way BASE jumping for non-mentals, or running with the bulls in Pamplona, or cycling the Tour De France as a rank, wheezing amateur is an experience. Something it’s interesting to do once, to test your tolerances, and as a point which commands instant bragging rights, but something you’d be insane to want to do again. That’s as close as I can explain the appeal of Metal Machine Music, although obviously getting a bit headachey is a very poor comparison to things that involve genuine mental and physical strength. But I’m a wimp, so it’s the closest I’m getting.

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March 17, 2009

I Don’t Like Mondays: Yes, Tales From Topographic Oceans

Filed under: and begin to slit throats.,I Don't Like Mondays,Music & Film — freshlysqueezedcynic @ 11:38 pm

Dear sweet Jesus.

I was prepared to defend prog rock, you know. Well, not exactly defend, but explain that it wasn’t as bad as it was made out to be. One of the big founding myths of punk was the early-70s-as-cultural-wasteland. Pop music, in the guise of “prog rock” had become flabby, flaccid, stale, too disgustingly arty and impure, filled with pretention and masturbatory attempts at marrying jazz style improvisation with classical pomp, detached from a world which seemed to be in decline, more interested in dragons, feudal Merrie England and Tolkienesque pastiches than the social situation in 1977. Something had to be done to destroy this, just tear it down, go back to basics with just three chords and a lot of rage and anger and bring the whole edifice of rock crumbling down. A new rock revolution.

This is, to say the least, an overstatement. The early-70’s-as-cultural-wasteland theory only holds up if you ignore the collection of personalities and bands that existed, fairly successfully, in an off-kilter sort of way; Lou Reed, David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Roxy Music, all trying to do something interesting with music in a way that the more bloated prog rockers weren’t. And more than a few punks had early 70’s influences, especially the more experimental end; when Johnny Rotten stopped being a cartoon and became John Lydon again (helped by a legal injunction by Malcolm McLaren who insisted that he owned the name and the rights to use of the name) he waxed lyrical about his love of bands like Captain Beefheart, Can, King Crimson, and Van der Graaf Generator, many of which had a decidedly proggy lilt to them, not to mention Lou Reed and David Bowie come across as the original art-rockers. When the time came, once punk had stopped its’ useful function in tearing down and became a parody of itself, once bands had to make a self-conscious decision about building a new music and punk fragmented into new genres and new possibilities, there were certainly lots of bands that decided to make music just as self-aware and self-consciously art-rock as the prog rockers that were supposedly the enemy. Except this time you could usually dance to it.

Of course, just because it’s a myth doesn’t mean it’s not also true, in a way, and oh god, does Tales From Topographic Oceans make you realise how utterly awful prog rock could be at its most corpulent. This is an awful, awful album, utterly sure of its own artistic merit, which is non-existent. There are only 4 songs in what was a double album, each song taking up a whole side of vinyl. The songs (which are meant to be based upon Shastric scriptures; yeah, that’s obvious, isn’t it) continually change tack, moving on to different arrangements in what is obviously meant to be an attempt to do classical music for the late 20th century, all sparkling arpeggios and emotional heft. But since none of these fuckers are Mozart, it’s just pish. The arpeggios just become noodly, organ-grinding melanges, doing a lot and saying little, glorified church organ pieces. There is no emotional heft, especially when anything remotely interesting gets sidetracked by another twat trying to show off his virtuoso improvisation skills. They’re not Miles Davis either, so again, it’s pish. I can’t believe someone could try this hard to be self-consciously arty and come up with something that, at heart, says nothing. It screams “trying too hard”. It just goes on and on and on, saying bugger all about anything until the rocks have been worn away by the oceans and the universe has contracted into nothingness. It’s just boring. And really, that’s a cardinal sin.

I mean, for fuck’s sake, if Rick Fucking Wakeman thinks it’s a bit excessive, then you’ve got a fucking problem.

(more…)

March 9, 2009

I Don’t Like Mondays: A Socratic Dialogue With Preston

Filed under: I Don't Like Mondays,Music & Film — freshlysqueezedcynic @ 11:35 pm

Taking a walk in Kelvingrove Park is occassionally a hazardous endeavour. For instance, one time I met Preston, the singer from The Ordinary Boys. He was weeping, shuffling his feet, still wearing that silver jacket he wore on his appearance on Never Mind The Buzzcocks, which made him look like a gay, anorexic Bill Haley. There were no comets for him, i thought.

“It wasn’t my fault I married a daft bird, you know.”

I hadn’t said anything, hoping he had ignored me. I sat down and looked at him with humanist concern.

“You know she got a boob job?” he wailed.

“…I did not.” I said, truthfully.

“The only point of marrying a daft bird and I missed the boat.”

“I think that’s a trifle harsh. I mean, what attracted you to her in the first place? A subliminal, dark, psychosexual attraction to Paris Hilton?”

“Fuck off.”

“Well, really. If you assume that Paris Hilton is the Platonic ideal to which you strive, to which you can never hope to achieve in reality, the next best thing would be someone who, prior to their own brush with fame, also strived towards the same ideal; although I guess with the new tits that ideal has become somewhat skewed.”

“To say the least.”

“Could it not be some form of karmic retribution, though?”

“For what?”

“Well, I want to be polite here; for being you.”

“And you said I was harsh.”

“Well, Chantelle, for all her faults, isn’t actively harmful. She’s just, to use a phrase, “living the dream”.”

“Very nice. I see what you did there.”

“Thank you. But you could be said to be a negative influence on society.”

“How so?”

“Well, let us take, as an example, your first album, Over The Counter Culture.”

“Why that one?”

“Well for one thing, it ties in with an interesting theory that Thomas Frank has.”

“The editor of The Baffler?”

“Yes, him. How do you know him?”

“Well, this whole conversation is a figment of your imagination, I pretty much know everything you know.”

“True, but irrelevant. I’d know you wouldn’t know about him.”

“Yeah, says you.”

“Ok, ok. I’m being a little unfair.”

“But yes, what about Thomas Frank, to get back on to something people will actually find readable?”

“Well, he’s sceptical about the idea of the counter-culture in and of itself. Both the opponents and the supporters of counter-culture, especially as it manifested itself in the sixties, was seen as fundamentally a threat to the established order; by which it would be a threat to capitalism as well. The original counter-culture was born of idealism, revolution, transgressivism, always everywhere May ’68; attempts to ape it in the new millenium come across as sad, corporatist, soulless and just not cool.”

“That makes sense.”

“Frank disagrees.”

“What?”

“Or at least, he thinks it messier than both opponents and supporters give credit for, especially as regards business and the counter-culture.”

“You do realise I was just making a bit of a smug joke, don’t you? I don’t need this lecture.”

“I do, but you’re a twat, so shut up and listen. Frank argues that the counter-culture was not as alien to the business world as has been suggested; the idea of a grey, monolithic “The Man” at the head of a corporation, worried by the hippies formenting revolution was always nonsense. There were elements of that, but also business could see the opportunity of the flowering of a counter-culture, new forms of art, new music, all of which in a capitalist system needs money to be produced.”

“You mean they saw them as new consumers rather than an antagonistic force.”

“Exactly!”

“Ready to be co-opted, to sell out!”

“No! See, this whole idea of selling out has always been one of the big myths of popular music. Unless you decide to live in a cave, everyone is a sellout. We all take part in the system that produces the fakes, the phonies, the frauds, the kinds of people we view as hacks. To take part in that system itself, to “sell out” is not the key thing that makes bad art bad. It’s probably a major force, but it does not by itself produce bad art. All artists shill for coins, and some produce greatness through it. What I meant, and what Frank is arguing, was simply that society in the mid-twentieth century was on the cusp of a massive change in all forms of society, whether it was counter-cultural or not. The hippies weren’t the catalyst of modern society, they were the product of forces – economic, social, political, and cultural – that had existed beforehand. The business of business might still have been business…”

“You pretentious tit.”

“Certainly. But it was doing it in different ways from then on, some of which did involve aping counter-cultural trends, and “selling out”, but on a spectrum of co-option rather than a dividing line; “from MC5 to the Monkees”, to paraphrase Frank himself.”

“So what does any of this have to do with me? And would anyone still be reading by this point?”

“Well, it attacks a major thread of your album.”

“Which you apparently hate.”

“Quite a lot, or I wouldn’t write this conversation up on a blog.”

“But are incensed about enough to go on a long tangential summarising of an obscure American cultural critic no-one who is likely to read this dialogue will ever have heard of.”

“Yes…”

“I think you protest too much. You own it, don’t you?”

“That’s perceptive of you.”

“I bet you quite enjoyed it at one point. I bet it’s just coloured by the whole Celebrity Big Brother thing, and you’re doing a retroactive hipster defense to throw it down the memory hole.”

“In part, but I didn’t really care that much about Celebrity Big Brother. I do actually rather hate it now; I certainly haven’t listened to it for a while. Not since I was in my mid teens.”

“Right.”

“But here’s the thing; in my mid-teens I was a cock, as is every teenaged male, especially when it comes to music. Pretentious jumped up little cocks with a sneering attitude towards almost everything around; smug twats far too sure of their own opinions. Nobody understands! It’s all fucked up! They’re all awful! Sell outs! God, if I met myself from back then I’d punch myself square in the balls.”

“But you still think like that. You’re writing a blog about terrible albums.”

“Almost, but not quite; I still think things are bad, and some can even be said to be so in an objective way, but I’m definitely not sure of my own opinions any more. I’m mostly doing this because I think other people will find it entertaining, and because I hardly ever finish anything. But I’m nowhere near that assumption of superiority any more, because we are all sellouts. We’re all working within that system and we’re all muddling along as best we can. There’s something all too human about it. And it’s a sure sign of massive twattery to portray yourself as above the fray, sneering and masturbating at your high position above all the talentless proles, especially when you’re doing the most shameful reference-humping known to man.”

“This is where I come in, isn’t it?”

“Too fucking right it is. Over The Counter Culture, from the very start, whines and moans about new fads and disposable celebrity culture. This is why everyone fucking hates you, Preston, because you won’t admit you’re wrestling in the mud with the rest of us. You have the bare-faced chutzpah to go on Celebrity Big Brother, and claim that you’re not part of all the collective shit we all put together and claim is our culture. It’s why people hate hipsters and hipsterism in general; you’re just as disposable, just as much a part of the society we’re in, not above it. Admit it, and we’ll hate you less.”

“Well.”

“Not to mention Week In, Week Out is another example of that fucking middle-class ennui again. I told you fuckers I’d had it up to here with The Rakes, why should I have to deal with you, too?”

“Hey, come on…”

“And if you ever do another Specials cover, I will cut you. I swear to God, I will come round your house and I will kill you right in the face.”

“Aw, well…”

“How can you sit there and claim to be above it all when you’re pulling the exact same shit all these other fucking bands pull? Even worse than them, really. You manage to find the ennui in a trip to the seaside. Fuck off! There’s ice-cream and donkeys and shit, the beach is awesome and you know it. It’s lovely to be bored with everything, really it is, but I got over that shit when I was sixteen and realised that life is really a bit shit when you treat it as one long boredom filled yawnfest to the grave. Live a little, you fucking cunts.”

By this point he was despondent, having been convinced, by superior logic, of his own redundancy. I did the only decent thing, and shot him. The sudden crack of a bullet burying into his skull rang out with more authenticity than anything that had previously entered Preston’s brain. I smiled as I knew I had done the world a great service.

March 3, 2009

I Don’t Like Mondays: The Rakes, Capture/Release

Filed under: hoist the black flag,I Don't Like Mondays,Music & Film — freshlysqueezedcynic @ 10:25 am

So, yeah. I f*cked up.

A mitigation; I’m seeing a counsellor, on account of the whole “being a mental” thing. This Monday focused heavily on a lot of stuff that I don’t talk to anyone about and was incredibly painful to talk about. It left me feeling drained, conflicted, incredibly upset, and really not in any kind of state to do very much at all. I’ll still do the forfeit if people want, since it’s only fair, but I think a day late to start with is a small price to pay on the road to comparative mental health.

If I do it again you totally get to burn my sh*t up. Or whatever.

So yeah, the post will be up today, Tuesday, in a wee bit, rather than Monday. It’s ironic, in that Alanis Morissette not-very-ironic kind of way.

That said, on with the show. Various albums were suggested by my good friends at the Vegetable Revolution, but I ignored them for now, at least. The first album is one I already have, Capture/Release by The Rakes.

The Rakes are one of those post-punk revival bands that popped up in the wake of bands like The Strokes and Franz Ferdinand. Whilst the latter two were fun enough, at least initially, in providing a little danceable nostalgia to the early 2000’s, they unleashed far too many bands that are of no consequence whatsoever; they make no statement that isn’t clunkingly obvious and cliché, no sound that doesn’t ape a thousand better bands. All of the style exists, but it’s like copies made with a photocopier that’s run out of toner; faded, dull, drained.

The Rakes are particularly egregious in this respect. With a lot of the post-punk revival clones, you at least get some semblance of individuality, working within a very limited milieu. They might be hacks, but you can tell there are at least people in there, perhaps not the most creatively gifted, but a group of people trying to make music with the references they have; Kaiser Chiefs’ “Northern cheeky chappy” approach, Bloc Party’s straining, yearning vocals, almost emo at times, Hard-Fi’s po-faced workerist cant. Some bands like to choose to ape a single band in particular, viz. The Enemy’s shameless ripping off of The Jam.

I’m normally not this kind to any of these bands, but that is because the Rakes have made me appreciate the touches of individuality these bands maintain, however slight. This is because The Rakes have no individuality whatsoever. None. It’s undetectable. If there was a musical Voight-Kampff test, The Rakes would have failed it. I suppose in some ways they’re the perfect band in an era where music has become increasingly commodified; The Rakes produce utterly disposable, throwaway music. Comparing mass-produced products to fast food is a hoary old metaphor that’s probably due for retirement, but it still fits. Have you ever properly tasted a Quarter Pounder (Or, indeed, a Royale with cheese)? I mean properly, not just tasting the sauces, pickles, and assorted condiments, but the actual burger itself? You can’t, really, you taste grease, fat, and salt, not actual meat. You’re left satiated for a second, because, hey, fat is superficially tasty and it fills you up briefly. But then you think to yourself for a second and suddenly you realise; “hey, why didn’t I taste any beef? I just ate a fucking burger! Where’s my fucking beef?

That’s how I felt listening to this album. Where’s my fucking beef?

God. One album in, and I’m already doubting whether I’ll get through this. And my sanity. Below the fold, my thoughts on each track, in a quasi-stream-of-consciousness kind of way.

(more…)

August 28, 2007

Things that make me laugh…

Filed under: Celebrity/TV,International News,Miscellany,Music & Film — denesha @ 2:49 pm

Natalie Imbruglia at the Secret Policeman’s Ball.

Stick with it. It is mildly amusing.

His Girl Friday

If your area is anything like mine, your local Blockbusters is now a cheap mall called ‘Kwality Goods.’ Presumably, they don’t sell a spell checker in the mall. As a result, I have to find movies that I want to watch online. I figured that if they are not pirated new movies, I’m in the clear. Also, Cary Grant is lovely and everyone should have access to him, regardless of what their Blockbusters was replaced with.  

Alberto Gonzales resigns and hopefully recalls this memory on Monday morning.

Yay.

August 13, 2007

Monday 13th August

Filed under: Music & Film — Free Edinburgh Podcast @ 3:18 am

Apologies for my abscene from these pages of late. I’m afraid I have been busy. Fretting mainly, but busy nonetheless. And lacking in ideas. Lots of ideas. I divulge however (actually, I don’t – those apologies and explanations were necessary to make you, the loyal reader, feel like I care about your life and how my writings affect it. Or is that ‘effect’? I’ve always had trouble with that one. Like with Fleetwood Mac and The Carpenters. I always get those two mixed up. Anyway, this is definitely divulging now, so back on with the show). MORE!!!! (more…)

August 12, 2007

Sunday 12th August 2007.

Filed under: Celebrity/TV,Music & Film — Claire @ 6:25 pm

It’s been a while. But absence makes the heart grow fonder, doesn’t it? And a change is as good as the rest, so they say, which is why, dear Patchers, the wind of change is about to caress The Patch. Cliches aside, we have decided to try a different approach in our reporting in the hope that we will return to our former 7-days-a-week-baby glory, filling your lives in ways only we can.

In laymans terms, there will be no ‘days’ for particular subjects anymore, nor will us Patchists be confined to reporting one subject. And we’ll see how that works.

Me, I fancy revisiting my old haunt, Celebrity, today, because Amy Winehouse is troubling me.

(more…)

July 27, 2007

Friday 27th – Summer Song Salvation

Filed under: Music & Film — Free Edinburgh Podcast @ 4:17 am

It may have rained today. A lot. A hella lot. But this week finally saw some sun in this wrecthed summer, and thus I was inspired. Inspired to compile this free 30 song compilation of summer sounds. Yes, just click on the link and follow whatever instructions Send Space give, then upload all those fantastic songs onto your MP3 thingamajig and go for a walk, or climb or a hill, or ride your bike or just lay back and relax with some Malibu and pineapple (a wonderful drink). Here follows a tracklisting and some ponderings. (more…)

July 19, 2007

Friday 20th July – Indian Summer/Mercury Music Prize

Filed under: Music & Film — Free Edinburgh Podcast @ 10:04 pm

Indian Summer

With T in the Park now suffering the way of its big brother, Glastonbury, with ticket prices like gold dust in terms of price and scarcity, and a line-up that reeked just that bit too much of NME five minute wonders, this promising young festival appealed enough to me to make it my musical extravaganza of the summer. But was it worth it? Well, read on if you want to find out. This is a review you know. (more…)

July 6, 2007

Friday 6th July – Smashing Pumpkins’ Zeitgeist

Filed under: Music & Film — Free Edinburgh Podcast @ 10:41 pm

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