Writing by Neil Kulkarni

Monday, 22 September 2014

POP GOES THE WEASEL WORDS #2: 'Soul'

12:13 Posted by neil kulkarni , , , 5 comments



One look at this gormless cunt should tell you pretty much everything you need to know about his music, his message, his mithering mediocrity - though set up to be the opposite of pop's shallow show he's demonstrative of that fact that the way a band or artist LOOKS is massively important, massively revealing in ways the music doesn't have to be. You can hide in sound. The camera never lies and just look at the fucking state of this turnip-headed twat. A face that signifys his intrinsic dipshittitude even more than his horrific music or the lunkheaded quotes above. 

But Bugg's not really the focus here. The problem is that word 'soul'. Somewhere along the line musicians, esp. fkn white musicians, started thinking it was an acceptable word for them to steal, a word that could be applied to ALL music, no matter who the source or intent. That word needs taking back. 'Soul' is far less useful as a genre term than it is as a signifier of a very specific time and place - those early 60s years where gospel and r'n'b and new politics met up, and started talking about a world beyond the bar or the bedroom or the pulpit. 'Soul' for me is essentially political because of the times it was borne in, whether explicitly so (Marvin/Stevie/Temps/Hayes) or implicitly so for the alternative black reality it propounded, the self-sufficient strength of an alternative corporate America (Motown/Stax/Hi) it exemplified and pushed out there. For me 'soul' starts with Sam Cooke, ends roundabout the mid 70s with the Philly sound and disco refocussing things towards sensuality and joy. By the late 70s and early 80s other musics had taken that political edge away (hip-hop) and r'n'b became more useful as a term to describe most black pop as once again love and relationships became the main lyrical focus, at its best though always with soul's traces of a wider-world still threaded and glimmering through. There's very very little since 1980 that I'd describe as soul music. That's not a condemnation of that music, it's just a realisation that the historical necessity of soul's creation had passed, had played out, had come to an end, would find its expression and elaboration elsewhere. Whatever would come would need a new name. 


It's the interchangeability of 'soul' and 'soulful' in white musical consciousness that Bugg's expressing here. So a perceived lack of substance, an abundance of showiness/superficiality becomes 'soullessness', becomes things having 'no soul'. Take heed as to what the likes of Bugg mean by music being soulful. They mean it's simple. They mean it's clear. They mean it's naive - a direct communique between artist and listener, 'from the heart', 'from inside'. These people are the same fucking people who critiqued Isaac Hayes when he exploded and expanded the possibilities of pop and the pop song, derided his epic vision for lacking 'soul', insisted he should return to his more 'soulful' roots. These are the same people who wrinkle their nose with faint distaste when confronted with the post-60s reality that black pop wouldn't stay within the simplistic 'from-the-heart' confines they wanted it to, when it dared to fuck around with identity and sound beyond the supposed clarity of it's first footlings (a totally white misapprehension of the essential complexity of identity in blues and r'n'b music in the first place). They forget just how lush a dream, how ambiguous and charged by the OUTSIDE  'A Change Is Gonna Come' was, and that was the first fucking soul record. They don't realise that their notion of something being 'soulful' stems from such a withered, unthinking idea about what art is, what an artist can do - an idea that comes from their own inability to see beyond their own self-indulgence, see music as anything other than 'expression'. And they want music to fall into their own anointed sense of 'timelessness', imbued with immortal characteristics that surpass time, place, politics, erasing any potential fractiousness in the cannon. They want music to be as pathetic and tediously QUALITY as their own. 


Soul music is none of Jake Bugg's fucking business. And if his shit's 'soulful' we can all draw our own conclusions as to exactly how little that word is worth. Like 'passion' it's a word designed to limit music, erase thought about music. Next time you hear it, ask yourself what the person using it is using it to signify. More importantly ask yourself WHY they might be using it. My guess is the reasons are dumb. And weaselly. 

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

POP GOES THE WEASEL WORDS #1: 'Passion'

15:58 Posted by neil kulkarni , , , 1 comment
From Gorkana.com but really, could be from anywhere right now. 



Jesu Christu Saints Preserve Us Don't ever ever ever call me 'passionate' about music. I'm as interested in being 'passionate' about music as I am about being 'credible'. Only people who at a fundamental level don't truly need music could summate their feelings about it as 'passionate'. I'm not 'passionate' about music because music is not something I come to from a life being led without it. Music is part of my life, part of me..., part of my make up and consequently I have as complex a relationship with it as I do with my body, heart and soul. Like those three things, music's too complex, too mutable to not be rejected now and then, hated, shut out, questioned, ignored, refused, resisted. 

'Passion' is the word the music marketeers use to grease their moves of exploitation, just as they have in football. They understand the fan's 'passionate' love. Thus better placed and justified in treating those fans like cattle, like idiots. 'Passion' is the word used in job-adverts, CVs, Linkedin profiles, career-development materials, it's a management word spoken by management people, a corporate word that corporations enbalm themselves with, a word you spout in the shameful self-loathing of a job interview, it's the word cast around by the creative sector to let the dog see the rabbit, the subtextual insistence that skill, or anger, or ability, or having some discontent behind your content, some style or substance doesn't really matter so long as you're keen. Madpash. Passionate. Passionate about strategic solutions for multi-platform brand identities. Passionate about dashboard paradigms and hotspots and dwelltime. Fucking fuck anyone who uses the word passionate unless they're talking about fucking. 

Fans aren't so dumb. Quite often, quite rightly, we feel dispassionate about music. Often dispassion enables insight and 'passion' clouds it. The dispassion that comes when pop hasn't just disappointed you but has betrayed you. The dispassion that comes from being a fan.