Writing by Neil Kulkarni

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

HIP HOP COLUMN DJ MAGAZINE LATE SEPTEMBER 2008


Baby J
Lies
Abstract Urban
***
Ace and what's ace here is the shamelessness – the way 'Lies' has no compunction in swinging in with it's heavily-harmonized chorus, latching itself to your brainstem like some kind of synapse-leeching candiru, and then hanging around all day whilst you hum it in shops, in the street, in your head, in your heart. As such can't call the thumptious undertow retro but the way this gets under your skin permanent-like is definitely from a different age. Bravo.


 Dap-C & Dirty Sweet
Music Game
NGU
***
Well it depends what you want your hip-hop to do. If you want it to stay indoors, soundtrack your inner chaos, push your mind into strange new places then move along, nothing to see here. If you want hip-hop to come out of your car in big phat bass-waves, saunter your chassis round your 'hood, attract favourable looks from the local scrunchie-wearing trakkied-up hoi-poloi then this is just about perfect. Not a criticism. Enjoy it.




 JMC Ft. Cassidy
They MC
myspace.com/JMCVault
***
I'm actually digging the way this sounds like it might've been cooked up in a spare epiphany-laden afternoon: just a beat, 3 loops (some gorgeous Satie-esque piano, a piercing sped-up vocal shard, some ultra-echoed b-vox) & JMC swapping rhymes with Cassidy in the spaces inbetween. Intriguing throughout, the b-side 'Silver Shark' mixes the rugged and raw with the lush-and-spacey to great effect. Keep an eye on these guys.





Dead Residents
Scum Bongo
Dial Up
****
A couple of previews from the soon-come 'Triple Crown' LP and the DR boys are on typically twisted form: 'Scum Bongo' is the kind of seething squelchy electro-groove the likes of Hot Chip would kill to call their own, riven with voices nigh-on submerged in the murkage: on the flip 'Number Wang' takes that ol' Sesame Street 12-count groove and slathers it with mentalist verbiage of the highest order. Recommended.





Skreintax
Breath
Dented
****
'Breath' itself feels like an album-track – Graziella's meandering soul-vocal would ordinarily piss me off but it's put amidst such a sweltering, simmering quiet-storm backdrop it works, this is a track which takes it's title seriously, suffuses the space around your speakers with exhalation and suggestion. 'Reach' on the flip is even better, sounding like Mogwai rerubbed by Timbaland, guitars shorn of the usual hip-hop politeness and distorting-up nicely. Seek out.



 MONEY SHOT
Danny Spice
Down & Out
Cog Records
****
Great stuff from Mr. Spice, thanks in no small part to production from that Lewis Parker loon: 'Down And Out' hinges on a beautifully measured slab of heavy-assed jazzbo funk, sparse in detail and pulling back to bass'n'drums at all the right moments, percussion adding extra frictive detail you can run your tongue around deliciously. On the flip '' is even freakier, even more cartoonish, frantic with xylophone, scratches and a chorus that drops on your head like boulders. Enormously enjoyable.




 Illa J
We Here
Delicious Vinyl

***
Jay Dee's kid bro John Vancey drops this 12” produced by his late sibling – nothing here disinclines me from the suspicion that the veneration for anything Dilla ever touched is kinda misplaced (the a-side barely makes an impact) but mygod, Guilty Simpson is in heaven on the flip 'R U Listening?', a brilliantly lo-end-slung dubbed-out crawl you don't wanna surface from. Submission, one more time, seems like a reasonable option.




 Supastar Quamillah
California Dreaming
Cotter Records
****
Nice Quannum-style jazzed-out psych-hop from SQ – on the title track he layers up the textures into a peach-perfect hit of pure sunshine and sea-breeze, on 'Love Has Madeus' he loses his bearings in a vortex of 70s-soul lushness and on closer 'Son Of A Jazz Legend' he pays homage to his heritage (he's son of Blue Note's John Patton) over snappy, Pharcyde-style jazz-hop. Sweet.





Murs
Can It Be (Half A Million Dollars . . .)
Warners
****
2 shots from the new album and the sheer sample-quality steals these into your heart with irresistible force: on 'Can It Be'  it's the Jacksons 'I Want To Be Where You Are', on 'Me & This Jawn' it's the Isley Bros. 'For The Love Of You', in both cases Murs isn't just content to ride the loops and wait for the chorus and if ONLY other mainstream US rap could try this hard. Excellent.

[IN BRIEF]
Craze 24
You Don't Have To Be American
myspace.com/craze24
**
True 'nuff, you don't have to be an American to be a new rap star. You do have to be a mediocre MC, backed with unfocussed music of little impact – something that Craze effectively showcases on the title-track here. Kudos.



Crooked 1
Swagger Like Crook
Dynasty
****
Woaah – am I tripping or are the 80s references in hip-hop actually getting cool again? This blends classic MOR guitar-textures with a bumptious groove and some natty verbollocks from Crooked I (Harry Allen references! Fuck yeah!). Cool.

Busta Rhymes ft. Ron Brown
Arab Money
Flipmode
**
At last – someone using that goddamn auto-tune effect with the irreverence and clumsiness it's crying out for! Down with finesse in the use of current recording technology! Here's to the cak-handed!

Devin Tha Dude
Yo Mind
Razor & Tie
****
Still a funny fucker, still dressing his madness down in threadbare arrangements, still sounding uncannily like an off-cut from Ice-T's 'Power'! Diggit.


B.O.B
I'll Be In The Sky
Grand Hustle
***
Very very Outkast but crucially lacking the kind of melodic wierdness that makes Kast's hits so unforgettable. In a month's time this will slip out of your consciousness completely but for now it's in like Flynn. Don't fight it, feel it.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

SINGLES REVIEWS PAGE, DECEMBER 2nd 1995, MELODY MAKER


SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1.
MORCHEEBA
TRIGGER HIPPIE (China)
I KNOW nothing about Morcheeba. If it was still summer, you’d hear this as a smooth, slightly stoned shuffle across the road to the park, a record to suck the heat out of the room. Right now, with the nights drawing in and your breath circling in morning spirals up the misty window, it fits like a lungful of tears. This is heavy-lidded, liquid-heady soul; a song that starts as loud as it’s gonna get (not very) and then seems anxious to force in spaces, black holes, like the last seconds of Eric B & Rakim’s “Follow The Leader” with just a bit of bottleneck and the intonation “Pull the trigger/I’m a hippy” creeping out through the sleepy beats, the sitar drones, the hanging shadows.
    Think Dubstar’s “Stars”, St.Etienne’s “Calico”, Redman’s “Green Island”, Gil Evans, Nina Simone’s “My Man’s Gone Now”, Joyce Sims “Come Into My Life”, Baileys and the sweet taste of hatred, the horror of strangers, mayday mayday, suggestion/association overload.
    A visitation. Bleak as marriage. As it should be

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2
NINE
WUTCHA WANT (Profile)
Starts off really worryingly with that bassline from “Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay” but redeems itself with a gorgeous symphonic string caress and a genius Hanna-Barbera flute-jitter that keeps popping up when you most want it to. Best of all, Nine’s wickedly gruff delivery is served by a Brothahood remix (which is just a shade of the truly staggering LP they’re gonna drop in January) and a Portishead remix which suggests Geoff Barrow’s been listening to an awful lot of Genius, Raekwon and Show & AG, and is consequently more fun than a fizzing feeling between your legs.
   Actually, the Portishead mix might even fill the gap until the next transmission from the Wu-Tang chambers spews forth. Mic to mouth resuscitation, rhythm and radiation.

What else is there?
(See SOTW 3)

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 3
CHAVEZ
PENTAGRAM RING (Matador)
Well, there’s this , for starters.
This has a riff so hugely bitably beautiful it’s like being showered with hot mercury while the first seven seconds of “20th Century Boy” jumps out of the speakers. “Pentagram Ring” is wonderfully hurried. It shudders to think and will never stone roses. It bursts out of sealed tomb, blinking. Listener’s choice on Dream Radio. It, uhhh, rocks, y’dig? And the voice is cool. Go get it, kids.





JAMES BONG
MR KISS KISS BONG BONG (2 Kool)
ASSUMING that time isn’t linear but circular, then that sea-spray drum sound that everyone credits to the Small Faces on “Itchycoo Park” was in fact pioneered by The Beastie Boys on “Lookin Down The Barrel Of A Gun”. BECAUSE IT’S A BETTER RECORD. And it’s all over this 12-inch in phat, thudding streams, together with haunting movie strings, dubbed-up synths and a bass as insistently mindblowing as that historic Richie Hawtin remix of La Funk Mob. Even better, the funk flows in and out of The one via neat scratching and cross-faded jiggery-pokery. More delights from the uniformly excellent 2 Kool label – check out the “Experience In Kool” comp, and Mr Electric Triangle’s forthcoming “Kosmosis Of The Heart” LP.

HOODLUM PRIEST
NAKED TIME/NO FEAR (Stylus 22)
I USED to listen to Hoodlum Priest’s peerless “Hearts Of Darkness” LP so much that now, whenever I watch “Robocop”, “Bladerunner” or” Hellraise”r, I keep veering into a cappella versions of the songs on it when the samples on the LP crop up onscreen. “Come quietly or there will be . . . trouble”, “Aah, F*** YOU , MAN!”, and so on. HP were always a birrova teenage thrill and after “Capital Of Pain”, a lot lost interest but this, especially “No Fear” and the 10-minute “Naked Time (Uberchill-Technietzche Mix)”, is a return to form.

PFM
ONE AND ONLY (LGR)
THE breakbeat: dense but defined, forceful yet just a flicker. The bass: two notes. The backdrop: repetitive chords and the echoey clatter of a train. The effect: just close the windows, pull into the fast lane of the ringroad at midnight, drive until this track finishes, see if there aren’t any tears in your eyes. This ain’t jungle. This is a city at your fingertips.
Of course it’s better than the real thing.





MIDNIGHT FUNK ASSOCIATION
FIRESCRATCH (Excursions)
DJ SOLO + DJ AURA
TAKE HEED (Excursions)
MO’WAX offshoot label “Excursions” go further afield with these two records, the first towards techno, the second towards jungle. Midnight Funk Association use the same kin dof bass-heavy rugged funk as RPM’s “Food Of My De-Rhythm” while Solo and Aura take the jungle route (so strong you ‘ave to geddit from a pharmaceeest) and pump it fulla bedlam, all hyped beats and upwinding swirls of jazz. Both are corking, the former more so.

JURYMAN
TWO (All That’s Left)
FOUR hunks of f***ed-up beats. “Elephant Cemetery” has a buzzing, electric noise that skitters around your head over taut elastic funk, “The Law Suits” is horrorcore without vocals and “Storm” is an arrhythmic mess that makes the heart stutter. Diseased, brilliant.

RED
BEAST OF ENGLAND (Cup Of Tea)
SOUNDS like they should be an anarcho-punk band but, thankfully, this is expansive, expressive instrumental hip-hop that combines Durutti Column-like guitar, Talk Talk strings and Wu-Tang echo-chamber drones in this fantastic cinematic journey into sound. Cup Of Tea get more essential with every release. Considerably better than dead.

STRANGE BREW
CHILDREN OF THE RAIN (Rob’s Records)
TWO new tracks from Manchester’s finest (Northern Who?) “Children” is a kinetic return to the hip-hop that is SB’s roots. Featuring rappers Ash Trai and Zed 9 this is a slamming take on the Gang Starr/Souls Of Mischief skool of phatness.
   B-side “On The Edge” gets even more spaced-out with splashing aqua-beats and a thread of John Barry spy-guitar that dims the lights every time it appears.

SUGA BULLIT
SUGA SHACK/MOVE (Parkway)
THE ETHICS
LA LUNA (VC)
WHAT makes this pair brilliant is just how BLANK yet EXPLOSIVE they are. Think Crystal Waters’ “Gypsy Woman” or Livin’ Joy’s matchless “Dreamer” (Single Of The Year, nay probs). Suga Bullit are part of the same excellent Edinburgh soul-scene that gives us Coco And The Bean and Blackanized and “Suga Shack” hinges on a brilliant organ-line so discordant its effect winds up being percussive rather than melodic. Luscious. “La Luna” (or “To The Beat Of The Drum” as you’ll know and soon love it) is driven, dazzling disco. Addictive.


CHROME CRANKS
LOST TIME BLUES (Matador)
IF you thought The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion were out on their own, you were wrong – there’s a WHOLE MESS O’THIS STUFF OUT THERE. It’s just that what’s most interesting about John Spencer (the hip-hop phatness, the studio panache, the bizarre Lee Hooker rhythms, the fact he’s the only US rocker to really flirt with remixology) is precisely the stuff that most of his peers (Jack O Fire, Monomen, Doo Rag) ignore. Chrome Cranks are as downer-funky as they get. “Lost Time Blues” is detuned to hell while last track “Heaven (Take Me Now)” drops like hope in the rain for a full eight minutes.

SLACK DOG
SLACK DOG EP (LO)
EC8OR
THINK ABOUT RAVING HYPOSPADIE (DHR)
YEAAHH, mann! Rushin me tits off inna de area!!! Big up shout outs to Dazz Gazza Bazza Andre Malraux and all da whistle posse from Plumstead awww yeahhh . . . People who do drugs are also those people you don’t see for years cos they’re crapping in a bucket in a caravan in a Multiplex carpark and who suddenly turn up and make you falsely grin at their exploits even though you wish they’d go away extremely quickly. This is the kind of drivel they listen to. Nosebleed dance bollocks of the worse kind.


ROLF HARRIS
EGO SUM PAUPER (Rolf Harris Records)
ROLF Harris isn’t a name to pass around the smoking table, he aint someone to laugh at, or an idea to laugh at, or a person to name your bar after or a person where you should feel you have to say “No, honey, I love him”. Rolf is a big, beardy, friendly man. Rolf cares for animals. Rolf is the big foot into the camera at the end of those Learn To Swim . . . It Could Save Your Life adverts (“fell into a pool . . . scared my parents half to death”). So I ain’t gonna make any jokes about this six-minute track (in Latin) with a trip-hop backing. Cos Rolf’s too good for that.


THE CORONATION STREET CAST FEATURING BILL WADDINGTON (PERCY SUGDEN)
ALWAYS LOOK ON THE BRIGHT SIDE OF LIFE (EMI)
HAVING just seen the video in which Rita Fairclough (a Tory, incidentally) can be seen for a horrific HALF A MINUTE blubbering from foot to foot, swatting her head from side to side rather like a demented elephant-seal cow bellowing for her lost young, I’m presently looking on the side of life that has you half-expecting Franz Kafka to pop up and say “Eeeh come on grumpy guts, stop tha moaning!”. Virtually Satanic.

THE SMOKIN’ MOJO FILTERS
COME TOGETHER (War Child)
What the hell is a Mojo anyway? It’s not in the dictionary. In the dictionary you get “Moither n.see moider” (which is presumably defined as “n. the state of affairs ensuing when Mr & Mrs Hart met”) and “Moke n. (sl) meaning donkey or very poor horse.” You’d at least think it’d have “Mojo n. shite retro music journal for the slavish arse-tongue interface-exploration of various clapped-out old has-beens no one gives  a tinkers cuss about any more”, but no, nothing. This record features Noel Gallagher, Paul Weller, Paul Mc**tney and the bassist from Ocean Colour Scene and it should be ignored like the rash of hell it is. Go into Oxfam and stick three-quid in the tin.

JOYRIDER
FABULAE (Paradox)
I SAW Joyrider once. The bassist was wearing fingerless black studded leather gloves. A far more serious crime than joyriding, I think you’ll agree. I suggest that instead of playing this woeful grungeful dirge they call themselves “Revolting Handwe@r” and go nick some cars instead. Maybe even get caught. Believe me lads, having to nightly trade your pretty-boy looks with a big guy named Bubba just for a pack of cigarettes will seem like a picnic compared to the grim future that awaits you on the permanent sidelines of indie-rock. Get out while you can.
SEAL
DON’T CRY (ZTT)
THERE is horror. There is pain. There are nights of soul-destroying agony. And there is this. For once, though, we find pleasure in pain by uniting in our misery. Because WE ALL HATE SEAL AND WE WANT HIM TO TAKE HIS “KISS FROM A ROSE” AND STUFF ITS INCOHERENT F***ING GITTISHNESS UP HIS AWARD-WINNING, SHITE MOVIE-HAWKING, CONRAN-CARPETED ARSE.
Oh, and Enya can bugger off and f***ing die as well, while we’re on about joining forces against the enemy. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls . . . goodnight. 

"I agree with everything you say, but the way you say it stinks" - CREDIT TO THE NATION, live review, Melody Maker 1994


[note: For the first month I was a critic I still hadn’t really discovered what it was I wanted to say. I wasn’t given anything I could get my teeth into. Then went to see Credit To The Nation in Sheffield and this came streaming out afterwards.Now, on one level, it's a terrible piece of writing. I was 21, angry, and without a doubt back then you sometimes get the feeling that I reckon what I wanted to say was more important than what the reader might want to read. In no way is this review fair/objective. I repeatedly use the word I, and for much of the review I talk about everything EXCEPT what's meant to be under consideration (the gig). Crucially though, for me, this was a watershed moment as a writer, it was the moment when a lightbulb went off that simultaneously suggested (a) THIS is what I have to say and talk about & (b) wow, people will actually let me get away with this]


CREDIT TO THE NATION
LEADMILL, SHEFFIELD
Racial prejudice and discrimination he recognises, are not a matter of individual attitudes, but the sickness of a whole society carried in its culture” – A Sivanandan, “The Liberation Of The Black Intellectual”.

Why can’t more black people be that nice?” – overheard punter.

Okay, an atypical comment, but, hell. I balled my fists and tried to laugh. If the dominant culture seeks reassurance from the minorities it oppresses, then Credit to The Nation are a big fat Valium to anxious white heads. This wholly indie crowd wants racial confusion diffused in a wave of superficial analysis. They want their apathy affirmed, their existence validated: above all they want to be told that their life can stay the same. And Credit offer this in spades, ignoring the general political nature of all our lives in favour of giving us a checklist of borrowed correctness through which the audience can achieve individual security. Just tick the bleeding obvious sentiments you agree with and you’ve passed. You can now live life to the full, free of liberal guilt.
   For a band that claims Public Enemy & Paris as influences, Credit generate surprisingly few ideas, merely creating an atmosphere of politicisation, an ambience of vague refusal and communal righteousness that is comforting in its concensualism and lethal in its passivity. Things will get sorted, and the endemic racism of British society has no place within these four walls. SO WE ACCEPT YOU AND FORGIVE.
   Now that he can afford to, Matty is belatedly concerned that no black people are listening up. You know British rappers don’t make it, Matty, you’d seen how Gunshot had consistently released some of the most stunning British records of the Nineties and were still in no man’s land. You wanted to buy in, so you sold out, you peddled your hooked-on-indie novelty hit in a calculated grab at the indie cherry. The suckers bought it. Now you’re sanctioned to sell to them for ever.
   And, when you had the ear of a white liberal audience, what did you say? You dissed Cube, T and Onyx. Well, thanks Bro. Excuses are too late, you legitimised white fears, you perpetuated the image of homophobia and sexism that too many enemies of rap ascribe to hip-hop and blacks, and you distanced yourself from black culture like an embarassed distant relative. Sure, prejudice is there, but the unevenness of hand and the way you’ve enabled so many white listeners to cover up the inveterate racism of their musical taste displays a cack-handed insensitivity that’s at best na├»ve, at worse utterly offensive. Especially when confronted by the comparative lameness of your music, its tepid beats, your monotonous and static rhyming.
   Tonight you sound like hip-hop made by people who don’t like hip-hop for people who don’t like hip-hop. Which is, I guess, exactly what you are. And I don’t like it.
   Of course, the egg’s on my face, 400 people had a great time tonight and I didn’t. Ol’ Paki four-eyes here gets wound up but The Kids understand. Matty Hanson would probably respond to any Uncle Tom accusations with a shrug of the shoulders and a curt “Fuck off”, and probably get a round of applause in the process. But you can’t go back, Matty. Those clapping hands will always be melanin-free zones because you’ve m ade your choice. You’re paid in full and everyone had fun. But any fun that encourages political apathy and conscience-salving worries me, and any band that kills thought – which is exactly what Credit do – loses my vote. Gimme Brothers Like Outlaws, with their honest confusion or Gunshot’s dark pessimism over a million of Credit’s little bleats about a “unity” that can never be.
    With this country about to turn fascist all over this summer does Matty really want to send whitey home feeling cosier than ever? Look, Credit angered me so much I’ve even started using hideous words like “whitey” again. They are dangerous in the worst possible way. I agree with everything you say, but the way you say it stinks, Matty.
   Someone tell me to lighten up, please.
NEIL KULKARNI 

Neil Kulkarni interviewed by Kristian Sanders 2009


 
   As part of a unit called 'Working Freelance In The Media' one of my Radio Production students decided to drag a real-life freelancer to the radio-studios at college and interview them about freelancing. Unluckily for him, and you, the freelancer he chose was me . . . .
 

Monday, 15 October 2012

PULP and GRACE JONES in HYDE PARK, Directionless Cut


(note - Luke Turner @The Quietus did an amazing job editing this overlong mulch down to what mattered. But this is what I had to say in full - overstressing the corporatisation of festivals without a doubt. Thank god for good editors)

HOW MUCH?FIVE QUID FOR A FUCKING HOTDOG?FOUR POUND A PINT?

Good bloody job I bought this bag full of sarnies & watermelon & Tunnocks teacakes. I'M NOT LINING THEIR POCKETS. Of course,  I'd like to enjoy pop in the modern age but unfortunately pop did a credit-check on me and it turns out my application has been refused. So let's sit out here and smoke this joint and sup these cans first cos the fuckers in the neon-green waistcoats and pink lanyards are only gonna take it away from us once we get to the gate just before they get their grope on. Lets drink now so we don't have to pay their prices and remember why were here. I believe that somewhere in that mess of advertising, somewhere past the noodles and the cameras and the credit-card billboards and the sponsored-VIP-stands, the truth may be told, and our past can be found again. Let's pretend that money is no object. Because money has fuck all to do with today. Because we CAN'T afford this but more importantly, we couldn't afford to miss it for a moment. Some things are bigger than you and me and the future. Sometimes you need to be a fan again.

Not a fan like THEY think of the word, an atomised unit, a customer. ALWAYS be suspish when you're called a 'fan', be wary of the scaffolded-bullshit that'll be erected in your honour. Following football's realisation that as soon as you call someone a fan you can perform the neat trick of pretending you 'understand' them whilst tricking them out on a daily basis, the music industry has been 'all about the fans' for 2 decades now, about our 'passion', our 'love' and our 'obsession' for music, our fanatical damn-near ZANY shorts-and-wellies devotion to pop. Festivals are the fulcrum where that gleeful submission on our part to the whims of 'organisers' (corporations) and their patrician-benevolent 'understanding' of our wants and needs can beam itself back to itself, a great time had by all, penetrative territories opened and splayed. The big screens in Hyde Park try hard to tell us we're all one, we're all sharing the same feeling whilst only really proving that there's no real crowd-identity any more, beyond a hacked and chiselled hoard seemingly hungry for all that high-impact product placement and the joy that can only come when a multi-platform brand identity has fucked your face for 3 days at your expense.



 I've avoided festivals for nearly 15 years now, avoided the live-music explosion that now so proudly is the real money-maker for the music-biz, avoided all the reunions & repackaging & remastering of my youth, resisted the irresistible lure of my favourite bands playing the same old shit they played when I first saw them. Nowt to do with principles, would've loved to have seen Pixies & Pavement for example-  I stayed out of it mainly because I've been too poor a punter to see any of it, priced out seemingly overnight by some decision made somewhere that every gig should leave at least a £100 quid-sized hole in your wallet. Can't bat my eyelashes and get freebies any more, can't write about anything for money and thus pay my way any more, another fan again, and I'm a fan that this future-of-endless-past is frankly kind of embarrassed about. I can't afford to bring kids, get a room or a train, tote a baby in a poncho with builders-headphones on, I'm economically USELESS to the music-industry at the moment, have plenty of free unbarcoded shit to be getting into and am more than happy to leave pop musiccc to the Fearne Cotton-style cheerleaders and NME-style fanboy frownyfucks forever. Their credit-checks went fine. Barclaycard Wireless Festival will sms you their thoughts on a minute-by-minute basis to your mobile or other hand-held device if you text your plastic numbers to 0800-AbandonHope now. Barclaycard Wireless Festival know that as a fan, all you care about is the music. Barclaycard Wireless Festival are fans too y'see. Fans of scraping you out like a barrel. Fans of your plastic numbers and your 3-digit security code. The evil multinational loan-sharks love pop music too, y'see because they love how it brings people together. Maximised spreads, subliminal association that's cost-effective for targeted markets and income-groups nicely demarcated thru careful pricing. The cattle thru the gates. The branding begins. Barclaycard Wireless Festival bring you this stun-gun to the temple, this Nintendo cocktail bar, this Live-nation VIP grandstand, this Jagermeister shot-bar, this gnawing sense that you're in an out-of-town leisure-plaza. Be grateful and be happy cos that's an order right from Huey Fun Loving Criminal on the big screen. He's got a Barclaycard too.




So far so harumph BUT I'm here squinting at the sun just off Marble Arch cos even my grouchiness can get broken. Even I can live in hope again. In 2 hours Pulp are going to be on stage and I can't think about anything else. Some bands get back together and you're happy for them ,wish them luck on their bank-raid, wave the fizz-swilling party out to the waves forlornly from the shore of your skintness, rattling your bottles in Rollocks Yard all the way home to watch it on youtube instead. Pulp I wasn't gonna miss. Pulp I had to see. Couldn't live through a year knowing they'd played and I hadn't been there. The kids can starve this summer and my arse is taking Barclaycard's short'n'scalys up to the hilt. Because if any band can rise above, just like they always did, then it's Pulp, if any band can remind you that music transcends commercial taint and transports you into another way of life, another model of living, then it's Pulp.  Yes I'm here chasing memories. But I'm also hoping for a reminder of hope. The whole day my skin is tingling, my heart is pounding, time lagging and then catching up with itself in crazy moments of blurred acceleration, every side-street a memory and every snicket a regret. Weird old journey down from Cov, driving down Holloway Road through Archway, remembering parties, times where you could hitch to the smoke with nowt but yr pretty face and still survive, still end up on a friendly floor or pitch up arse-about-tit on the pavement. Them London balconies, those mattresses and those regrettable fumblings, those pills and powders, those long nights of longing and laceration, happiest days of my life when I didn't have to worry about getting up in the morning, could start every day not knowing where the hell I was. 15 years on park my car at Euston, stroll past benches once kipped on waiting for the 5.30 am train back up to   Cov, take a long leisurely stroll down Tottenham Ct Road, the shock of the missing Astoria, the angry rush of Oxford St, a smoke and a wettened whistle on Soho square and then onward to the park. London's a city that immediately brings Pulp & the 90s vividly back to me, the still-resonant conviction that in an era draped in the flag, at a time where independence was being turned into a orthodoxy, Pulp uniquely were OUR band, for OUR people. In a pop world where other bands were trying so hard to be your heroes or your hearthrobs Pulp were like your mates, and knew that your mates and you were all the stars you needed. Like your mates, an odd bunch, ageless, sharp, like your mates shot through with a thread of genius that stood out in the crowd and drew the eye. OUR band, that repayed belief longer than the Manics or Suede ever did,  alongside Pram as true poets of that age, but writing pop-songs and blessed with a front man too good not to occasionally take over the mainstream they provided such withering counterpoint to. In an age wherein the dumb and clever-clever were being propounded as our only alternatives Pulp were about real street-level intelligence and guile and survival and they gave us songs that spoke like we did about the messes we got ourselves in without any jazz-hands smarm or monkey-walk lairyness. They delineated our first loves, our lingering decay, our furies and our freakouts and our dance-steps, the cuts of our jib and our clothes, helped us to know we weren't alone standing off to one side, scowling on the stairs, waiting moodily for their songs at the edge of Britpop's dancefloor, conquering it everytime 'Lipgloss' hit, their songs so much better than anything else, so naturally & effortlessly & breathtakingly superior in sound & word and stance. The last time I saw them was also in a park in London, Finsbury in 97, and it was perhaps the only time (this side of PE or the Muses) in my gig-going life where I'd felt proud to be part of the mass, proud to call myself one of the many, because it felt like a glorious calling-together of the Pulp nation, the Pulp tribe, it felt like going to see Pulp was a political act, an act of bravery and courage in a sea of rock'n'roll gestures and retrograde rearranging. Stella supped, roach ground out, wobbliness definitely setting in, let's see if we can belong to something bigger than ourselves again, lets go rejoin the Pulp collective and see how gracefully we've all grown up. I bet the bastards look better than I do.


GRACE myword. A true star. I'm not a critic any moree but holy moly I'm noting that the bass on 'Nightclubbing' is like a molten ball of god, I'm noticing that she looks bigger as a stick-figure in the distance than she does on the big screens because her body is something magical and her mouth is something magical and hilarious and her moves are something else – her form, even at ourway-backk remove, radiates pure star-quality, pure massive magnetism. I'm also noticing her band are incredible and that 'Bumper', 'Love Is The Drug', 'La Vie En Rose' & 'Jamaican Guy' are mere stunning prequels to the head wreckingg genius of 'Slave To The Rhythm', gliding out in sublime waves as shehula hoopsps, hollers like a bashment girl, reminds us that whilst some voices can take on a life and a presence like they're standing in front of you, Grace Jones' voice stomps into your city and flattens skyscrapers, her sheer force of personality and the tremendous hats she tops her dome with mopping up what's left of any resistance you might foolishly think about throwing up and down. For a moment you forget where you are because the vortex that is Grace has sucked you in, willing spiralling victim prone at her feet. Then she has to go, and the credit-card-company gets it's cock out and smears it in your face again on the big-screens and we sit down and allow ourselves a moment of reverie. In-between bands at festivals I used to go to, I'd go backstage to use the slightly-less-used toilets and hoover up more-connected people's detritus, my status as pophack entitling me to feel lonely and isolated in a less-populated environment, staring around for a friendly face, realising the rest of the music industry all seemed to know each other, realising that the paying punters everyone backstage so cynically took the piss out of were actually funnier and faster and smarter than most of the fucknuts who spent the whole weekend 'networking' and jabbing each other in the ribs just cos fkn Rick Witter had walked past. Today's crowd out front is not really a crowd. It is a group of people united only by a shared purchase, split into a few thousand groups of people each united by a shared ride home and a shared box of chips huddled around on the dusty ground (£5 quid). And, have to say, they don't LOOK like Pulp fans. Where's the nancy-boys, the anti-girls, the tall drinks-of-water and the little geeks? They're all wearing shorts and sandals and can afford the god-damnn food and are gonna sing along with Common People then go home and hate chavs and I'm feeling a trifle disconnected, a feeling I fear won't dissipate all night. For how can I feel connected with these people anymore? They're not my friends. They have their own friends. Pulp is all we now have in common and I don't think they need them as much as I did and do. I look around and I see all the things that have become associated with festivals, all the things I find impossible to know are real or not. Cowboy hats, dancing like a hippy, aviators, denim shorts, beach balls, whoops, phones aloft – are these things to do or things we do at the rock show now, expected behaviour waiting for ITS emblematic moment on the big screen from the swooping crane? So often seeing gigs recently I can't help thinking that in these Guitar Hero, TopShop Ramones-tshirt years all we've been doing is playing at stuff, bands PLAYING AT being in bands, audiences PLAYING AT what it means to see a band, behaving in a way as predictable and unspontaneous as the ghastly phrase 'party like a rock star' demands. Pulp themselves of course had presentiments of this:  'This Is Hardcore' is a whole album about how pleasure can play itself out, how those zones and centres of joy can become dry and arid through saturation, just how middling the highs and lows can become. So I find myself, holding my breath, wondering whether this show is for me and mine or everyone here, realising that no one here is lost, no one here is tripping the fuck out, most of us have work in the morning, everyone here is hoping that their entertainment dollar has been well spent as the clouds gather, the sun hides, and a message travels across the black sheet that obscures the stage. 'Do you remember the first time?”. We've changed so much since then, we've grown. Apart from each other. 





But. Hold the phone. There he is. There they are. Here is 'First Time'. All is whole. Pulp are still a deeply political act of listening and love. First thing that needs noting, my god how fucking brilliant do they sound? A band that's played together long enough to click in each others pockets & on the one straight off, never making a show of that rock solid togetherness, able to be 6 individuals yet part of something bigger than any single personality. Senior's violin has taken on a beautifully Cale-esque drone-ish pall, slightly off-tune, Candida marshals the full palette and pushes it to all the right peripheries, keyboards and string swelling with a symphonic strength bigger and louder than I've ever heard them before. And my god Banks, Webber & Mackay are still such a fucking amazing thump of electric wow, coiling round The Voice, attendant to every syllable, enacting high-wire drama and low-life luridness with a pan-optic blast that seems to fill the sky fresh every second. And of course, thank god, Jarvis is still perhaps thee greatest British lead-singer we've had in the past 20 years, sharp, bearded but beautiful, chatty, funny, serious, utterly believably still bound up in these songs and the memories and moments they evoke, not just for us, but for him and his band.



So it doesn't matter that the set mainly focuses on Different Class – these songs were universal and timeless to begin with, hearing them now, in the new contexts of both our age and his, they actually sound more lethal than ever, cast an even harsher light on the piddling pleasantry the post-Pulp age has mainly given us. 'Feeling Called Love' thunders with drama and heart, 'This Is Hardcore' blazing in red-littt Portishead-style doom and danger, 'Underwear' and 'Mile End' ushering in a beautiful sunkissed few minutes of bliss but smuggling pipebombs and prophylactics in the rear of your ear lyrically, reminding you how uncomfortably close to home, how voyeuristic Pulp always felt. OUR band. OUR problems. OUR only solution – by the time 'Mishapes' comes I'm remembering just how much that song held me together back in the day, how it still holds me together now, goggling at how Banks & Cocker have an almost Mick'n'Charlie knowledge of each others moves (loved it when Jarvis started intoning 'Ozymandias' like Jagger in 69), what a glowering still-fearsome presence Senior is in the sound. 'I Spy' and 'Bar Italia' are delightful surprises, 'Es and Whizz' still perhaps the greatest song of its era, everything played with a full-tilt perfection a million miles away from mere reanimation – these songs have grown since then, now stand mighty amidst the dwarfed mediocrity of modern indiepop, put out with a power and beauty that only seems to have increased with age, a dignity that feels immortal.  That's what's startling, how a 'reunion' show can actually reunite all those lost threads, bring something back full-force, can actually make you realise what you've been missing, how missed the majesty that is Pulp has been for so long. On a pulsating 'Disco 2000' and a riotous 'Babies' they're actually, impossibly, even BETTER than I remember them, somehow heavier yet freer, more precise yet even funkier (and they always were a bad-assed band to dance to).



Couple of really revealing moments – one when he mentions the student protests and how crucial education was in bringing Pulp together, one where he talks about the new billionaires development at the bottom of Hyde park (placing us neatly in-between the recently-closed St Martins College and Cameron's new Britain) – where the politics comes to the fore, and you're reminded, heartbreakingly, of just HOW FUCKING MUCH WE NEED A BAND LIKE PULP AGAIN in the current shitstorm, just what a big gap they left when they went, just how unprepared the modern audience has now been conditioned to be (both statements barely get a round of applause) for a band with something to fucking say. I can't see a thing but I can hear , and that's all that matters to me, that I'm here and in the same place where this righteousness and romance is erupting. And it doesn't matter that I'm disconnected from the crowd, because the best Pulp always reminds me that in family and in friends and in solidarity there's a way, a stylish rather than merely fashionable way, to stay sane, to stay good, to stay true. “Common People” is deeply telling tonight. Almost no-one here is living a life with no meaning or control, most of the crowd are singing along with 'Common People' cos it might just get them through, but some of us remember, and know in Cameron's new age how close that drift and derailment is no matter how grown up we might think we are, no matter how secure we think the emergency-credit is. Crucially it's still a song that divides, that knows, that calls you out, that's still murderously accurate, that still showcases what a truly great resistant voice Jarvis Cocker & Pulp have been in English pop. OUR band. Still like our mates, a bit grouchy with each other, but still in love with each other and what they can create together. The band least likely to do something new together, but the band I would most like to be back in the fray. My voice has gone, my body aches, I've just been jumping up and down and screaming for an hour and a half. I have a routine to get back to. But for 90 minutes in a field in central London Pulp have made me happy again, made me believe that despite pop's ongoing self-censorship and refusal of possibility, its glee in its own pimping and dumbing down,  there are still people able to take the form as far as it can go, to say things fearlessly, to try and create a heaven on earth, right wrongs, fight the good fight.  I have next to nothing to say about 2011, and very little to say about pop anymore but I do know this: it's not all about the music, it's not all about the fans, and it's not something that corporations have a fucking clue about. This much I know cos I am a fan. Despite the enforced commercialism, the Styrofoam and the big-screens and the smarming security, whilst Pulp were on tonight nothing else in the world mattered other than those 6 people under the big black sky and what happened in the space between them. Back in the game. Selling one of the kids to get tickets to Brixton cos tonight was an groundshaking reminder that where Oasis bequeathed condescencion, and Blur bequeathed caricature, Pulp, more than any other 90s band gave us compassion, something entirely different, something to live your life by, something that can sustain you. All hail.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

"fingers twitching between roach and razor" - GRAVEDIGGAZ, ICE CUBE, Live Review, 1994

(note - can't imagine another mag where dissidence to 'higher ups' would be so tolerated. whole paper going mad about g-funk at the time and like a stroppy sod I have to stick my elbows out. looking back, i was wrong, snoop n dre were awesome from the off (and realness is a helluva duff thing to be boosting) but editors trusted you back then to the point where they'd be happy with a 'you're fired' interruption and then onwards)

ICE CUBE/GRAVEDIGGAZ
BRIXTON ACADEMY
LONDON
MELODY MAKER, September 10th, 1994

TRY and tie down hip-hop with yer baggage and it always finds a way to bust loose. Never mind asking “Has Rap Gone Too Far”, you should be asking why rock ain’t going nowhere. Sorry, but Gravediggaz make the point; tonight they are stunning.
   When Snoop and Dre combine their mindless vacuity of lyrics with a kinda gloopy, Reaganite yuppiness of sound, it’s not just irresponsible, it’s a lie. It’s the ghetto as just another capitalist terrain, an apolitical place where Snoop cruises by and niggaz with the problem die in the gutter.
   Cypress, Wu-Tang, Onyx and now Gravediggaz strike me as being a hell of a lot more real. Listening ot them no one would dream of living in black America; nobody could get away with shit like “I Wish I Was Black”, no one could anaesthetise or ignore the sickening truth of the ghetto condition. These bands are the truth behind Snoop’s lies and it ain’t pretty.
   Gravediggaz sound like a hideous revelation, the vocals always coated with an echo of horror that breaks in the mouth of rapper Rakeen into gabbling hysteria, a constant agitated yelp falling over itself in its rush to say everything. Anything. The terror in his voice becomes terror of what he’s saying, becomes terror of his being becomes absolute terror. It’s the old hardcore world view that shit is all there is, but rapped out over the most addictive, ghoulishly fat funk you’ve ever heard. And Christ, the music!
   Gravediggaz may come from a good pedigree (Wu-Tang, Stet, De La, Too Poetic) but they’re doing their best work here, creating a sound to literally die for.  1994 has been a good year for people making connections, mixing it, making those dream fusions you always wished they would but never did. “Defective Trip” is where New Kingdom’s acid-fried trip hop has you sick and paranoid, brain high in hell, fingers twitching between roach and razor. “6 Ft Deep” is as slow and atonal as rap could possibly get and I keep coming back to Pram nowadays cos so much hip-hop recalls them – stumbling, brain-jangling, unearthly. Get their LP the day it crawls out the crypt. Gravediggaz are GODLIKE.
   After this, Ice Cube can’t help but come across as flat. Or can he? He stomps on with “Wicked” which tears the roof off the sucka in no uncertain terms and the crowd are lovin’ it. So, it’s down with the notebook and into the fray, and Christ he’s good. He does fake JB exits, faces up to his co-rapper, who gets the whole crowd to chant “F*** YOU, ICE CUBE” and runs through a series of skits and monologues. The command he has over the crowd is made evident when his mention of a the kid who got stabbed at his Glasgow show is accorded a genuinely touching silence. I could do without the “Lethal Injection” material (you’re fired – Ed) and the old NWA stuff but “No Vaseline”, “When Will They Shoot?”, “The Nigga Ya Love To Hate” and “It Was  A Good Day” are all classics of our time.
   If this was the first time I’d seen him I could imagine it being keck-creaming awesome; as it is, the stage flashiness (spotlights sweeping, sirens wailing, the crowd holding lighters that turn into flamethrowers) and the crews’ call/response machine-gun delivery, is enough to fill the Tube home with smiling, sweaty bliss and loads of people shouting “BIG UP” to each other.
   But, Gravediggaz, man. This week’s New Band Of The Year.
NEIL KULKARNI 


Tuesday, 9 October 2012

THE ENEMY - STREETS IN THE SKY (FULL UNEXPURGATED ORIGINAL REVIEW)

(Well, The Quietus did a diamond cutting job, I blogged the offcuts, thought what the hell, put the offcuts back in & here's the original. Down to you how YOU think it should've run [The title refers to my Erykah Badu piece also on the Quietus])


TEN THOUGHTS ABOUT HATE 
AND THE ENEMY'S "STREETS IN THE SKY"

OK, first a review for the Enemy fans. Hi guys. No, don’t come any closer, I don’t want your .  . . particles in my breathing space, no I won’t shake hands thanks I’ve just showered. OK, ready? Oh you'll fkn love it mate. It's quality. It's class. It's mint, both kinds, spear and pepper and it will provide a TOP soundtrack to a HENCH night out, a QUALITY night out that's pure CLASS and totally FOOKIN (why do you speak like that? People from Manchester don’t actually speak like that y’know?) MINT. Five stars. Enemy album of the year. See boy? See Enemy album? See  boy? Enemy album? Shiny object, see boy? FETCH.


      I blame Weller for a lot, for that fatal reformulation of 'mod' as not about sharpness but shabbiness, not being about chasing down the hottest black music but about shoring up the deadest white music, the prizing of authenticity and roots as a way of masking the pastuerisation & timid thievery going on. Fuck these tricks, I'm a real mod, a modernist, an English listener to black America, I love blatant thievery, not this due-paying bollocks. These Parka'd Man-U-Scholes-shirt-wearing cocks of the walk are just cocks who can barely walk, so broken and bowed are their gaits by a lifetime's absorption of rock'n'roll lies. OASIS GIVES YOU RICKETS.



Oh, and the next Cov band – or in the case of the Enemy, Kenilworth/Leamington/Ballsall Common band depending on who you believe - to continually cite The Specials as an influence really need to think about what they're missing, about those things that made the Specials great, about how they actually share fuck all with the Specials bar a postcode. The likes of the Enemy and the pack of equally shite-sighted Cov bands who bleat about Two-Tone as if they share its spirit need to shut the fuck up and realise exactly how visionary the Specials were and how much that unique vision eclipses and still renders-irrelevant the undanceable muso-pootling and posturing that seems to now be most Covband's birthright. The Specials, The Orchids, Delia Derbyshire – true avatars of this city of pop. In comparison, The Enemy and their ilk stink way too much of treacle town, of Bedworth like their hero Docherty, or even worse, Nuneaton.

    

Okay, now those pig-people are off snufflin’up and chowingdown on their own doings here's the review for normal people like me and you, and him and her. The new Enemy album is finally here. There it sits, being shite, in the noonday sun, attracting flies. Cross on over the road my friend, ask the Lord his strength to lend, fer chrissakes don’t disturb it, you know it’ll start smelling worse. There's too much good stuff to spend time whining about the bad stuff yeah? If you do whine, the bad stuff will still happen so why worry? Console yourself it's just the flow of cash from arsehole to arsehole and get back to what you like. Enemy fans are happy, you can hear their grunts of idiot joy from here. And you're not a nazi, you’re happy with them doing their grunting-thing, and occassionally wrestling, so long as they do it over there in those stadiums and indie-clubs and leave you the fuck alone yeah? Everyone's happy here. Everyone’s happy. 


Except I'm fucking not. Evil will prevail if good folk do nothing, and if all the good folk are otherwise engaged simply bathing in the milky plenitude of their own good taste, documents that seal the horror of the age like 'Streets In the Sky' will simply be allowed to slip out there, venture into young minds unchallenged, perform their moves of atrophy and enfeeblement and be passed like a virus of pisspoorness to more and more people convinced this is as good as rock can get, that this is actually music and not the second-guesswork committee-thinking pretend-pop that it is.

   Even I'd leave 'em to it if they weren't such hypocritical little fuckers. A few months ago Tom Clarke, the bog-ugly gobshite who fronts these clowns sneered: 'radio and music in general is fucking appalling at the moment. Why is nobody brave enough to make a great album? A record that can define a time? That can say what we're all thinking? Seriously?". Seriously. He said that. In comparison to the Enemy, Rebecca Black, Double Take, Cascada, people singing Bruno Mars songs into their webcams are living models of integrity (and are at least making music you can at eat food whilst listening to without upchucking yr innards).  Whenever I hear Clarke quacking out his nonsense my mind goes back, back . . . . a few years back when I used to DJ the side-room in the Colly. I remember when the Enemy were called 'Bridges' and played mainly a stunningly competent, utterly tedious set of Mod covers, unnecessary blooze-gippage and generally nauseating  muso-wank to easily impressed fellow-twats, (the kind of soulless appreciators-of-technique who go to gigs to see zzzz great musicianship & zzzz tightness). They seemed to play every other week, but that could just be my mind playing tricks with exactly how interminable their pap seemed to be – what was clear to anyone who had a heart was that they were amazingly accomplished for their age, dressed rather cutely like 60s mod cut-outs and were unfailingly & stupefyingly dull. One summer, they disappeared. Came back as the Enemy, cleaned up and made as sellable as possible by Warner Bros with a shitload of stupid money, a few indie-friendly haircuts, a few hundred squids worth of sports-casual wear, and given songs they never wrote (all the hits from that first album were by appalling Brummie songwriter Alex Metcalfe) that would make them stars. The Enemy, from the start have been a total confection of grittiness, of realness, of street-level nous, and they'd have safely passed under my radar if they hadn’t consistently used their Coventry ‘roots’ (although Clarke, as you can tell by his rat-boy face, is a Brummie thru and thru) as some kind of earthy basis for their half-arsed lash-together of tedious pub-rock riffola and gnarly smalltown frustration.
   Coventry City Council (or rather the private company CV1 that now run our town centre) were daft enough, once the Enemy had hit big, to plaster our ring-road (I pray the title of this new album is unconnected) with Clarke's monstrously-hootered phizog. As if us Coventrians should be proud that The Enemy have taken their lies worldwide. As if we wanted to greet each grey morn seeing this misshapen goon on our way to work, and potentially before we'd even eaten breakfast. Inevitably, it took about a day before a massive spunk-spurting cock was spray-painted onto his spotty forehead – a move seemingly un-noticed by CV1 – and that’s provided a genuinely warm-fuzzy feel of civic pride every time I’ve driven past it since. Until yesterday they were set to play Cov Cathedral's ruins in a couple of weeks (Health & Safety have kiboshed it ‘pparently and suspicions about sluggish ticket-sales are utterly unfounded honest guv), a fact that offended me on all kinds of levels, none of them religious. Cos, sheesh, if you want the true sound of Cov, drive the ring-road & tune into HillzFM, hear loony Nigerian church services, shitloads of drum'n'bass n dubstep n reggae and the odd bit of Ukrainian/Polish/Italian and Irish music, hear the WHOLE of Cov, not just the particularly rancid corners of whiteboy-schmindie that still persist. If you wanna hear bands seek the mentalist monster-rock melange of  The Resurrection Men, Tailor & The Crow's palsied medieval folk, Invitation To Love's diseased disco pop or Absent Friends' crush on Steve Shelley & Eno. They’re what this city sounds like to me, not the utterly unmiscegenated lukewarm bleached blandness and banality that 'Streets In The Sky' summates so effectively. The Enemy shouldn't be fooled that any homecoming triumphs mean the whole city's proud of em. Most of us want their shit kept up the Ricoh where it belongs with the other muppets that deserve relegation. On the Enemy’s FB-page they talk about things ‘going-off Wood End style’: for anyone who actually lives in and knows Coventry, these blatantly misinformed attempts to tie themselves in with some perception of Coventry ruffneckness are just plain embarrassing, suggest that they’ve never actually been out n about in the city. If they were, if they listened, they’d realise that most of us are ASHAMED the Enemy come from Coventry, skirt over it in polite conversation with a slight wrinkle of the nose, wonder if Clarke is living proof of the theory that your voice suits your face, suspect that this is why The Enemy are, in a very real sense, unlistenable. On behalf of Coventry’s good kindly normally abnormal people, I cast thee Enemy OUT. Excommunicated to Bubbenhall. No, that’s too cruel. Let’s make it Meriden.

They've never sounded better. Seriously. The Bronx's Joby Ford has found them a big blustery wide thump to inhabit, a state-of-the-art faux-rawness that sounds like the Foo Fighters at their most lucrative, QUOTSA at their crossover-worse, Biffy Clyro at their most insufferably Biffy Clyro. The fact The Enemy have populated this surefire money-making template with songs so laughably under-developed, half-arsed and unconvincing almost makes you pity the tow-headed little pricks – opener 'Gimme The Sign' pitches the usual utterly predictable sub-Oasis rawk-plod against lyrics so knuckle-bitingly bad (“He's walking like a penguin/All zipped up tight/ He's acting like he's Tupac/But he's never even seen a gun”) you wonder how he's gonna top it on the rest of the album (don't worry, he does, repeatedly). “Bigger Cages (Longer Chains)” is so proud of its semi-literate, half-witted lyrics you start cracking your fingers and hear just how much they've actually LOST since they were Bridges. The fills taking lumpen to some new entirely graceless new level of lumpeness, the grinding guitars beneath pitifully polite, everything with an eye on the big stage and therefore utterly uninvolving as listening experience. ‘Streets In The Sky’ straight away reveals itself as an album designed simply to 'get you ready' for the tour, the true money maker, the only chance these charmless chumps might get of securing the short-term future earnings they're in this for. It’s stadium-rock sure, but it permanently puts you in row-Z, squinting to see what the fuss is about, looking at the price on your ticket and wondering what in the name of all that is holy you were thinking of. Clap your hands. Sing along. It won’t fill the growing void ‘Streets In The Sky’ puts inside you, or allay those dyspeptic retches bringing tears to your eyes. But it might make you forget you shelled out for this shite. I envy you the disposability of your income.




The single “Saturday” follows through like a worryingly moist bottom-brap. (“Frosty milkman in the morning/Desperate breakfast in a boring town”. Desperate breakfast? What, really? Surely ‘forlorn fry-up’ or ‘Wearisome Wheetabix’ would’ve scanned better, n’est ce pas?) and you finally realise, The Enemy aren't actually making music anymore, if they ever did. They're arranging sound in ways to make money from people who have bought previous arrangements of sound they've been responsible for. The only thing going on 'creatively' behind 'Streets In The Sky' is an attempt simply to remind us that this brand The Enemy, exists, are on sale, have a new barcode ready for a new season. Of course, all bands do this, but the good ones manage to mask it - throughout ‘Streets In The Sky’ the Enemy prove themselves not canny enough lyrically, or interesting enough musically, to distract you from the mediocre marketing their music embodies. 'Saturday', with it's punchably weak chorus and strange outlandish ideas about Feeder somehow being the zenith of Britrock intensity, isn't really a song. It has no life, only craft - the linear organisation of carefully considered tweakings of The Enemy's entirely un-unique selling points. It comes across not as something you want to listen to again, merely a montage of Enemy-like moments, an advert, the chosen chunk of Enemy bizness whose video they hope will get play listed and be out there barking for the cause (good luck with that guys, last time I checked it’s not really working is it?). That’s not just my cynicism – sometimes music can be so empty of rub, bereft of substance, the nakedness of its entirely commercial ambition is all that comes across.  In their attempt to avoid artifice, be solid, a band, The Enemy actually emerge as way more two-dimensional than all that ‘rubbish chart music’ they and their fans so snottily deride. The Enemy crave depth, have none, and unfortunately don't have the looks to get away with being so superficial.
   So the love of disciples is surely all that is in the Enemy's future, ‘Streets In The Sky’ will make no new converts. Because even when they try and write a pop-song, they come out with what they always come out with - stodgy waddling rock songs of quite staggering insipidity, rock that’s been mushed up to the consistency of gruel. When they go soft on the Roxette-esque ‘Like a Dancer’ & Travis-lite ‘Two Kids’ it’s actually a blessed relief from the gurning sweatiness that surrounds it, like a squirt of Oust into a festival latrine. Overwhelmingly though, the ‘freshness’ and ‘rawness’ The Enemy have been mooting about this record (rather hilariously, they’ve been moaning that their 2nd album was ‘too political’) rapidly becomes a horrific variety of platinum-punk indecision, sound somewhere gullet-ticklingly between Stereophonics and Starsailor on the truly gross “Turn It On’ and ‘This Is Real’, lumpenly undanceable on the none-more-unfunky ‘Get Up & Dance’. Turn and tilt your head for a moment whilst the Enemy are playing and a splat of something revolting falls out of your ear, apologises, squirms away and out the door squeaking. This is what happens when you reheat vomit, when the coprophage feeds from the coprophage. Speaking of which . . . 



I blame the Gallaghers for even more. For starting that idea that facsimile of finer moments by finer bands can be enough so long as you seal it with 'attitude', with frontmen willing to spout utterly conservative viewpoints, reassuring-enough viewpoints about how shit chart-music is, how hip-hop doesn’t belong at festivals, to never alienate their audience, delivered arrogantly enough to be called 'outspoken'. Beyond Green Day's necrophilia, beyond Radiohead's spawning of a generation of corduroy choirboys, Oasis have been the most damaging band in the last two decades of British pop. Fuck 'em and their fans, and the bands those fans formed, forever.


As 'Streets In The Sky' malodourously unfolds towards its expiration you actually start feeling a little bit sorry for ‘em. A little bit. Pity the Enemy, so young, and yet so soon confronting the limits of their dunderheaded imaginations. Warner Bros have pulled out now, and this ‘comeback’ record is make or break, but from the off, bands like the Enemy made a fatal mistake, have a fundamental misunderstanding of what music is, what makes music great. (Un)Truth outs eventually and this generation of lad-rock wannabes all have fatal flaws that stem directly from the Gallaghers, the evil they’ve perpetuated, this sham masquerade at the heart of lad-rock’s motivation. Music is all muscle-memory to them – the idea that if you do this to a guitar, if you do this to a bass, if you do this to a drum kit, all these things you’ve seen others do, what will come out will be ‘great’ ‘proper’ music. What they miss, unsurprisingly since their God Noel was a roadie and unlike Lemmy shoulda fkn stayed one, is that music really isn't merely about what you play, or 'ability' or 'passion'. Arse about tit, The Enemy learned how to play ages ago, as Bridges, as pure facsimile, then were forced to think about whether they had anything to say, came up empty and have been vaguely getting away with that emptiness ever since thanks to the massive critical sleepiness of the mainstream media and the  similarly-hollow manoeuvres of their peers and heroes.  The pop industry, like the football industry, knows that if it blithely spews venal lying rot about understanding fans ‘intensity’ and ‘love of music’ they’ll be able to exploit that obsessiveness in ever-more profitable ways – similarly the Enemy have the business-plan worked out like a motherfucker but nothing else, and so it all starts getting unpicked, falling apart, exposed. That’s why ‘Streets In The Sky’, no matter what efforts have been put in, arrives so half-arsed into your day, so rushed, so incomplete and dissatisfying. Kids, especially when they hear exactly how lame and pedestrian and hidebound the likes of ‘1-2-3-4’ and ‘It’s A Race’ are, will call this shit out eventually and drop kick these fuckers off the map. Like I say, a little bit of pity, but not much. Not much at all when these mediocre fucks are taking time away from the bands who can truly save guitar pop, bands who speak to my Cov-bredren way more than these strength-in-depth use-the-width-of-the-park shitheads. (They're from Finland and called Cats On Fire btw and the fucking fightback starts here.)



So, as 'Make A Man' closes the album out in a beige blizzard of ersatz punky-spunky piffle (“Make a man/If You Can/Of This Boy/In Your Hands” – errm . . . thanks but no thanks and where’s the fkn Swarfega?) it's quotes time. Quotes for the posters?  A blazing return to form”. Yup 'Streets In The Sky' certainly slips neatly and melts beautifully into the big bowl of mouldywank the Enemy have already given us. A little spikier p’raps (there's moments here that rock as hard as Kym Wilde & Billy Idol no shit) but that’s just all the better to snag your ‘phagus on the way back up.  “The best sounding album they've ever made?” - yeah, I'd go for that, the sound of 'Streets In The Sky' is perhaps the least-objectionable thing about it, even if it's a sound attached to songs so dreary they're like the distilled essence of Adrian Child's voice made into bars and guitar-tabs, your time escaping forever down the blackhole of its tedium. Quotes for you lot? No, you don't want this  in your house, try and avoid all media that might accidentally block this sonic turd up the u-bend of your day. One last quote for the posters: “AS GOOD AS IT GETS: MAKES YOU PROUD TO BE BRITISH: QUALITY. CLASS. TOP. MINT. LEGENDS. GOOD LUCK TO ‘EM” before a quote for the Enemy themselves. Rot in bargain bins forever you twats. Although I have a horrible feeling it won’t be, I pray and fervently hope this record is your last.

You’ll find me in Coventry if you want to take this up with me. Have you ever been?