Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The NINETIES---THE BEST AND THE WORST
by Simon Reynolds

A partial (subjective; incomplete) inventory--- mostly, but not exclusively, in
the realm of dance music....




THE PEERLESS, THE PIVOTAL

UNIQUE 3 -- "The Theme/7-AM" (Chill)

As their old skool name suggests, Unique 3 were a British B-boy crew who turned
onto acieed, and in the process invented bleep-and-bass, the North of England
style of bleak house minimalism that owed as much to electro and dub reggae as
to Chicago. Kickstarted by the hilarious Vocoder-ized declaration "we are the
original acid house creators/we hate all commercial house masturbators," and
driven by a miasmic bassline that subsumes your consciousness like malevolent
fog, "The Theme" was the anthem that inspired Warp Records to set itself up as
an independent label. But its flipside "7-AM" was the real prototype for
bleep-and-bass, paving the way for Warp's brilliant roster (Sweet Exorcist,
Forgemasters, LFO, Nightmares On Wax) and fabulous if now forgotten outfits like
Rhythmatic, Original Clique, Energise, Ital Rockers, Nexus 21, Xon, and Ability
II. Cold and cavernous, "7-AM" ---the name probably evoking the moment in the
all-night warehouse party when the six hours of drugs and hypnotic beats and
flashing strobes has got you feeling kind of eerie---has just one hook: an
ultra-minimal percussive/melodic motif which sounds like it's played on a
marimba made out of ice or a stalactite vibraphone. Beneath this shockingly
empty soundspace throbs the ribcage-crushing pressure of the seismic sub-bass.
You can still hear Unique 3's influence in the gamelan-like chiming xylo-bass
riffs in current UK underground garage.

SAINT ETIENNE--"London Belongs To Me" from Foxbase Alpha (Heavenly)

Britpop's pinnacle arrived four years before that concept was realised as the
Blur/Oasis hegemony of nostalgia and parochialism. "London Belongs To Me" offers
a vision of Englishness inclusive enough to encompass the dream-hazy dub-reverb
cascades of A.R. Kane, the poignant piano vamps of Italo-house, and the winsome
wistfulness of Sixties French girl-pop.

PUBLIC ENEMY -- Fear of A Black Planet (Def Jam)

Militant hip hop's final blast, before gangsta/playa/thug rap combined false
consciousness and ghettocentric hyper-realism to build a hugely profitable,
spiritually bankrupt--if frequently sonically startling--entertainment industry.


BELTRAM--"Energy Flash" (R&S)

Techno's equivalent to The Stooges's electrifying "Raw Power", although heavy
metal fan Joey was aiming more for Black Sabbath's "Iron Man" or Led Zeppelin's
"Whole Lotta Love". Probably the one track "we" can all still agree is an
eternal classic, the absolute bomb.


WORLD OF TWIST-- "Sons of the Stage" (Circa)

The greatest anthem of the post-Manchester indie-dance crossover era.
Analogue-synth freaks influenced by Hawkwind and Human League, Roxy Music and
Northern Soul, World of Twist were also into acid house and had a club hit with
their first single "The Storm", also terrific. The lyrics to "Sons of the Stage"
are the best evocation ever of what it feels like to be inside an
Ecstasy-ravaged crowd: "The theme is up/And the kids are high/I've seen them
move/And it blows my eyes/ The floor's an ocean and this wave is breaking/Your
head is gone and your body's shaking/There's nothing you can do/Cos there is no
solution/Gotta get down to the noise and confusion." The music's a bubblegum
apocalypse of future-shlock Moogs and acid-rock wah-wah guitar, a kitschadelic
fantasia that feels like swimming through a Sargasso Sea of man-made
fibres--tentacles of polyester, dralon, and orlon enfold your limbs. If Add (N)
to X had been ravers....


NIRVANA--"SMELLS LIKE TEEN SPIRIT" VIDEO

Rebel rock's glorious last gasp--after this, there could only be bad faith,
necrophilia, and the dogged undead persistence of a museum culture recycling its
own myths.


BELGIUM

For about 14 months in the early Nineties, this tiny Lowlands country ruled the
world of techno. Even Underground Resistance copped the Belgian style (Jeff
Mills had been a fan of EBM, Front 242, etc, anyway) and they paid tribute with
their World Power Alliance track "Belgian Resistance". So all hail Belgium's
forgotten behemoths of brutalist stadium rave: T99, 80 Aum, Cubic 22, Frank
DeWulf, Incubus, Meng Syndicate, Set Up System, Ravesignal/Ceejay, Outlander,
Techno Grooves, Human Resource...


LONDON PIRATE RADIO

From hardcore rave through jungle to speed garage and two-step, London's
constantly mutating hybrids (house X hip hop + reggae -:- R&B = ?!?!) reach
their multiracial audience via a swarm of illegal radio stations. Rallying the
"vibe tribe" with drug-damaged doggerel, neo-Dada sound-poetry, and patois-rich
chants, pirate MCs surf the DJ's turbulent flow, and together catalyse the most
exhilirating cultural phenomenon I've ever witnessed--what anarcho-mystic
philosopher Hakim Bey calls a "power surge" against consensus reality, an
insurrectionary sensation that feels like being plugged into the national
electrical grid.


SECOND PHASE "Mentasm" (R&S)
HUMAN RESOURCE "Dominator" (80 Aum/R&S)
THE PRODIGY "Charly" (XL)
NASTY HABITS "Here Comes The Drums/Dark Angel" (Reinforced)
CYPHER "Marchin' Into Madness," from the Doomed Bunkerloops EP (Cold Rush)
VARIOUS ARTISTS--Torque (No U Turn)
COMMANDER TOM--"Are Am Eye" (Noom)

These tracks are just a few of the stops on the trail taken by the "mentasm
sound," second only to the Roland 303 acid bass riff as rave culture's most
insidiously proliferating audio virus. Hatched by Second Phase (Joey Beltram &
Mundo Muzique) in 1991 and given an appropriate brain-storm/head-rush name, then
almost immediately intensified further by Human Resource into the demonic
dirge-like drone of "Dominator", the mentasm sound went on to infect the UK's
hardcore/darkcore scene, establish itself as gabba's primary building block, and
make its presence felt in the harder kinds of trance, before being dramatically
resurrected by the techstep school of drum 'n bass in 1996. Why is it so
pervasive, compelling, undeniable? Because the "mentasm" sound captures that
edge-of-darkness point at which Ecstasy's bliss becomes shadowed by foreboding,
its warm glow turns into a cold rush. Abusers of stimulants like amphetamine and
cocaine often suffer from "crank bugs", the delusion that insects are crawling
under the skin; the swarming rush of the mentasm sound feels like the bugs
breaking through your skin and gathering in a gigantic buzzing locust cloud.



CASTLEMORTON COMMON RAVE, MAY 1992

Anarchy in the UK's rural heartland, this six-day, 40-thousand-strong illegal
techno festival-- instigated by free party collectives like Spiral Tribe and
Circus Warp--actually provoked government legislation to ensure nothing like it
happened again. Beat that, punk rock!


SEEFEEL--"Time To Find Me (AFX Fast Mix/AFX Slow Mix)" (Too Pure)

Post-rock's early (1993) pinnacle, "Time To Find Me" and similar tracks from
Seefeel's first phase such as "Plainsong" are the missing link between My Bloody
Valentine circa "Soon"/"To Here Knows When" and Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient
Works 1985-92 (which is why Richard James remixed "Time to Find Me" with unusual
tact and sensitivity--he actually keeps elements of the original track, believe
it or not!). "Time To Find Me" is a billowing tapestry of heart-in-mouth
euphoria, a swoon machine that makes your brain purr and your goosepimples glow.
Seefeel stretch the moment just before orgasm into an environment, a honeycomb
space of tingles, shivers, pangs, spasms. Paved the way for the likes of To
Rococo Rot and Mouse On Mars.


DARKSIDE, a/k/a DARKCORE

My darkside-theory epiphany occurred listening to pirate tapes in early 1993
while reading Deleuze & Guattari's A Thousand Plateaux. Suddenly I realized that
this roiling bitches brew of mashed-up James Brownian motion and voodoo-bass was
basically a guttersnipe version of Can's rhizomatic funk; that darkside was the
black sheep bastard child of the avant-funk family tree that runs from Tago Mago
through Eno/Byrne's Bush Of Ghosts to Skidoo/Cabs/Ratio/et al. Being
avant-lumpen and fueled by bad drugs, darkside was simultaneously more
primitive, more advanced, and more derangedly disturbing than any of its
art-house precursors. At the extreme, darkside was just a delirium tremens of
convulsive breaks and insectile percussion, a queasy sub-bass drone-quake at the
lower threshold of audibility that wobbled your intestines, some ghostly/ghastly
sampladelic ectoplasm, plus an Nth-generation video-nasty soundbite. Tracks like
Andy C's "Something New," Flex's "Ya Buzzin'" and Hype's "The Chopper" emitted
the pulsating infernal infra-red glow of a muggy, murky, body-congested basement
as the snowball kicks in and your sense-impressions get uncomfortably vivid. It
was death-disco, for real--riddled with the su-E-cidal nihilism of a rave
culture discovering that the Ecstasy experience can be literally mindblowing (as
in a fuse burning out, rather than psychedelic transcendence) yet not being
dissuaded, not at all--rather continuing the headlong heedless mission to the
end of the night. That was the real revelation, the real reason that darkside is
the most astounding, mind-and-ear-boggling music culture I've ever witnessed
birth itself--that shift from plinky-piano-vamp-and-squeaky-diva happy-rave to
samples about death, delirium, brain damage, psychosis. The fact that the
dancefloors didn't empty, that people lapped it up, that any kind of intensity
was better than feeling nothing, feeling numb. In hindsight, you can see the
precursors in '90-91---the proto-dark vibe of Eon's "Inner Mind", "Spice",
"Basket Case (White Coats Mix)"; hardcore's playful imagery of insanity; the
edge-of-hysteria in Nightmares On Wax's "Aftermath" and Genaside II's "Narra
Mine". But at the time, nothing prepared for the shock as the shadow fell.


APHEX TWIN-Selected Ambient Works Vol. II (Warp)

Less lovely than Volume 1, but deeper--as lustrous and near-immobile as crystals
forming in solution.


OMNI TRIO--"Renegade Snares (Foul Play VIP Remix)" from Vol 1: The Deepest Cut
(Moving Shadow)

Remixing their own earlier and utterly fantastic remix of "Renegade Snares",
Foul Play somehow injected even more ballistic ferocity into Rob Haigh's
machine-gun breakbeats, squeezed even more heart-pumping euphoria into his
exquisitely sentimental arrangement of mellotronic strings, poignantly naive
one-finger piano melodics, and explosive soul-diva passions ("t-t-t-t-t-ake me
UP!!!!"). Sheer hardcore E-lation, this was Number One in the U.K. for six
weeks--in a parallel universe, dummy.


TLC---"Waterfalls" (LaFace)

If not the beat of the Nineties, then the beat that kickstarted the second half
of the decade for R&B and in its wake other forms of pop--where the drums
basically become lead voices on records, and compete with/distract from the
singer for your attention. In the case of "Waterfalls", the creativity of the
multi-tiered rhythm programming (by Organized Noize, who never did anything
quite as amazing since) completely eclipses TLC. A couple of years ahead of
Aaliyah's Timbaland-produced "One In A Million" (see later in this inventory),
this was one of the very first nu-R&B tracks where you wanted to sing or whistle
or hum the drum patterns--that schlurpppting fibrillation of clusterfunk beats
at the end of the bar--as much as the putative melody. It must have been about
15 or 20 listens before I even bothered to pay attention to the lyrics. The beat
is so invincible it even holds its own against that special FX crammed
ultra-expensive video.


TRICKY ---Maxinquaye (Island)

Although all but one of its tracks were recorded in London, Maxinquaye has
everything to do with Tricky's home town Bristol. Mark Stewart, ex-frontman of
avant-funk legends The Pop Group, traces trip hop's hybrid sound back to the
city's subcultural "interbreeding" in the early Eighties. "In Bristol, all the
different ghettos were mixing-- we'd go to reggae 'blues' parties, industrial
punk events, and hip hop jams at this club called The Dugout. Back then, Bristol
was actually more connected with New York's rap scene than even London was."

Through his friendship with The Wild Bunch (the DJ collective that evolved into
Massive Attack) Stewart became a mentor to Tricky. It was Stewart who first
pushed Tricky onstage (at a Smith & Mighty show), and who encouraged him to
start a career outside Massive Attack. "He's my chaos," says Tricky. "When
people say I'm weird, I say 'you've got to hang around Mark'. See, he's not in
society--he lives out of a suitcase which contains, like, a jar of mayonnaise,
cassettes, and articles clipped out of magazines. He lived with me for two
months and got me chucked out of my flat!" It was while they were room mates
that Stewart persuaded Tricky to scam funding off Massive Attack's management
for some solo recording. "His idea was to spend most of it on booze!" laughs
Tricky. "So we got them to send us 600 quid, drank half of it and used the rest
on studio time." The result was "Aftermath", a downtempo drift of "hip hop
blues" that eventually became Tricky's debut single. Stewart was "executive
producer, really", says Tricky. The track came together haphazardly; Stewart
remembers the session as "just me and Tricks messing about on an 8 track,"
building a groove out of looped beats and samples that Tricky pulled from "some
guy's pile of records". Outside his house, Tricky saw Martina Topley-Bird--then
a schoolgirl in uniform--waiting for a bus, and on impulse he invited her to
sing on the track. "I laid down a guide vocal for her to sing over, but we
decided to keep my voice in, 'cos it sounded haunting." This slightly
out-of-synch pairing of Martina's dulcet croon and Tricky's bleary rapping
became the model for much of Maxinquaye. There was a fourth collaborator on
"Aftermath"; Tricky believes he channelled the post-apocalyptic scenario lyrics
from his mother, who died when he was four. "I found out later that she used to
write words, poetry, but never showed them to anybody."

Tricky offered "Aftermath" to Massive, who were still pulling together their
1991 debut Blue Lines. But, chuckles Tricky, the band's 3D "told me 'it's shit,
you're never going to be a producer". "Aftermath" stayed on cassette for three
years, unreleased; Tricky also fell out of touch with Martina. After Blue Lines
came out, Tricky was in limbo, living on a retainer wage from Massive but doing
nothing. "All I did was smoke weed and drink, hang around in bars, and go to
clubs from Wednesday to Sunday." He sank into a torpid slough of despond,
aggravated by marijuana-induced paranoia; after an all-night session, he'd
sometimes see demons in his living room.

This dark period inspired Tricky'd next recording, "Ponderosa," with lyrics like
"I drown myself in sorrow" and references to "different levels of the devil's
company". "Ponderosa" was one of a number of tracks recorded in London with
engineering wizard Howie B, after Tricky had procured some demo time off Island
Records. "Tricky was living with me and my girlfriend Harriet for a while,"
remembers Howie. "Kippers for breakfast, and him kipping on a couch in the front
room." The drunkenly swaying, metallic percussion of "Ponderosa" was "inspired
from Indian music, bhangra, that sort of tabla feel," he says, while the song's
ultra-morose atmosphere, he speculates, stemmed from "Tricky being in flux with
Massive, not knowing if he was in the band any more".

Howie B. believed that he was set to be Tricky's partner in the album project,
but management conflicts led to "a legal nightmare" and resulted in almost an
album's worth of tunes being stranded in limbo. Although "Ponderosa" helped
clinch Tricky's deal with Island, Howie was left in the cold. "I got shagged, I
walked away with a sour taste in my mouth." Meanwhile, Tricky bought a home
studio and started work on the album in Harlesden in North West London, where he
and Topley-Bird were ensconced as house mates, although they barely knew each
other. "It was a spacy time," Tricky recalls. He'd moved from Bristol to a town
where he knew hardly anybody, and "I got so into making the record, I cut people
off, stopping using the phone." Aggravating his desolate Harlesden surroundings
and isolation, Tricky was listening to a glum soundtrack--Billy Holliday, The
Geto Boys and his boyhood favorites The Specials. The "concrete bleak sound" of
Specials classics such as "Ghost Town" is just one thread in Maxinquaye's
tapestry. There's the obvious rap ancestry: the cinematic hip hop noir of Erik B
& Rakim's "Follow The Leader", Public Enemy (Tricky hailed Chuck D as "my
Shakespeare" and got Martina to sing a gender-bending indie-rock makeover of
PE's "Black Steel"). But Maxinquaye is also steeped in the influence of English
art-rock and post-punk weirdos---Bowie, Gary Numan, Japan, Peter Gabriel, and
Kate Bush ("I think she's in the same league as Bob Marley and John Lennon,"
Tricky gushes). Even more unlikely, Tricky claims that the gorgeous aural
malaise of "Abbaon Fat Tracks" got its curious title because "it reminded me of
Abba-- Abba fucked up, and with phat beats."

An enigmatic tribute to his mother Maxine Quaye, the album's title was
originally intended as Tricky and Martina's collective band name until the
rapper capitulated to record company pressure and agreed to record under his nom
de microphone. Released in 1995 to massive acclaim, Maxinquaye worked
simultaneously as an autobiographical account of one man's struggle and as a
wider allegory; the record captured the era's pre-millenial tension and
sociocultural deadlock without ever making an overtly political statement, let
alone anything as crass as a protest song. Evoking the orphaned drift of the
Nineties just as Sly Stone's 1971 There's A Riot Goin' On expressed the caged
and curdled idealism of the post-counterculture moment, Maxinquaye seemed to be
about the inability of Tricky's generation to imagine utopia, let alone reach it
or build it. "We're all fucking lost!", Tricky told me at the time. "I can't see
how things are gonna get better. I think we have to de stroy everything and
start again. I can't pretend I've got the answers. Bob Marley, he could write
songs about freedom and love. I'm just telling the truth that I'm confused, I'm
paranoid, I'm scared, I'm vicious, I'm spiteful." Yet despite it's unrelentingly
gloomy vision, Maxinquaye is ultimately a redemptive experience. The best album
of the decade?



WAGON CHRIST -- Throbbing Pouch (Rising High)

Trip hop's finest hour, not counting Maxinquaye (which is really the first and
possibly only great British rap record, rather than downtempo mood-food like
most trip hop) . Over moonwalking mid-tempo breakbeats and fudge-sticky bass,
Luke Vibert wafts a humid fog of samples: keening strings, jazz-fusion
woodwinds, E-Z listening orchestration, film-noir incidental themes, etc. It's
cheesy, but eerie too--the wavering sense of pitch and fluctuating dub-wise mix
make you feel downright queasy at times, like listening to some bizarre fusion
of Schoenberg and DJ Shadow. At times, the effect is like you're drowning and
the entirety of late 20th Century music is flashing before your ears,
grotesquely mingled and mangled. "Phase Everyday" flits from jazz- funk
nonchalance to acid-house pulsescape to dubbed-up desolation within the space of
a minute, while the astral doowop vocals and maze-like intricacy of beats in
"Scrapes" makes it the most indescribably peculiar slice of trip hop to date.


GREEN VELVET--"Flash" (Relief)

Sick, fucked-up Chicago darkside that brought back the I'm-losing-my-mind vibe
of acid house but without resurrecting the specific Roland 303 sound. The Sleezy
D-style spoken-voice monologue depicts a hilarious scenario in which concerned
parents are taken on a guided tour of clubland, shown all the things their raver
kids do for fun (e.g inhaling from big balloons of nitrous oxide, "laughing
gas--but this is no laughing matter" warns the guide). The "Flash" of the chorus
is meant to be the parents' taking photographs of the "naughty little kiddies"
in the murky club ( it's designed to play on the wired paranoia of the ravers
who hear it on the dancefloor--"fuck! me dad's in the party! he's gonna see me
all fucked up!!"), but it's actually more suggestive of a drug-induced "flash,"
or whole-body rush. Especially as the command "cameras ready, prepare to flash!"
triggers a double-time battery of clangorous snares, pounding like a heart in
spasm after too big a sniff of amyl nitrite.


TODD EDWARDS remixes of ST GERMAIN's "Alabama Blues"

New Jersey garage's great renegade, Todd Edwards developed a technique of
cross-hatching extremely brief snatches of vocals (blissful hiccups, gasps,
moans, splinters of yearning and smears of melisma) along with little bursts of
guitar, horns, and other instruments, all from old soul, funk and blues records.
Using sometimes as many as 60 micro-samples (some of his early tracks were
released under the name The Sample Choir), he weaves these fragments into
melodic-percussive honeycombs that are so burstingly rapturous they're almost
painful to your ears. That bittersweet quality may also have something to do
with a curious microtonal quality to his tracks, where the dense web of samples
often seem slightly sharp in pitch or semitonally smeared. At any rate,
Edwards's compelling blend of organic and mechanistic, "songful" and "tracky",
was hugely inspirational to the burgeoning speed garage and 2-step scene in
Britain, where house music has always been more involved with sampling and
digital FX than its American deep house precursors. My pleasure in Todd's
records was only enhanced by finding out that he was deeply influenced by Enya's
use of sampling and digital technology to multitrack her own voice into densely
layered, feathery-sounding tapestries of harmony. Enya!.


AALIYAH--"One In A Million" (Elektra)

Produced by Timbaland, vocally arranged by Missy Elliott, this hypersyncopated
ballad revolutionized R&B. Call it "lover's jungle" (even though Tim'n'Missy
still steadfastly deny ever having heard a drum'n'bass record, let alone being
influenced by the genre). 'Cos like jungle, the drums on this record--and
everything that came in its wake--is the lead voice, eclipsing even the lovely
Aaliyah.


PILLDRIVER--"Apocalypse Never" (Cold Rush)

This 1998 track is arguably the career zenith of hardcore crusader and original
darkraver Marc Acardipane. A prophet without honor in his own land, whose
internal exile is consoled by the fanatical loyalty of Holland's now dwindling
gabba army, Acardipane is Germany's most forgotten boy, searching only to
destroy prissy, insipid notions of good taste and connoisseurship in music.
"Apocalypse Never" is a gabba blitzkrieg that feels like surging through a cloud
of flame, limbs slipstreamed with silvery sparks, subcutaneously incandescent.


HERBERT--Around The House (Phonographic)

Sensuously spongy audio-tactile textures and exquisitely jazzed vocals (from
Dani Siciliano) reveal the myriad shades of mood latent in the cliche "house is
a feeling." A voluptuous summation/condensation of the texturhythmic innovations
of Deep Dish, Mood II Swing, Masters At Work, Sneak, etc, but with a quirky
humor and charm that's uniquely British.




OTHER UNREPEATABLE CRACKS IN THE SPACE OF MODERN SOUND, 1990-98...

Orbital -- "Chime" and "Belfast"/CLS --"Can You Feel It (In House
Dub)"/Nightmares On Wax-- "Aftermath"/LFO - Frequencies/Photon Inc. -"Generate
Power"/Massive Attack--Blue Lines/The KLF-"What Time Is Love"/Kraftwerk-The
Mix/Primal Scream--"Higher Than The Sun"/Ragga Twins-"Mixed Truth"/Incubus--"The
Spirit"/Bizarre Inc--"Playing With Knives"/T99 -- "Anasthasia"/Ultramarine --
Every Man and Woman Is A Star/Coco Steel and Lovebomb-"Feel It"/Jam &
Spoon--"Stella"/Carl Craig --"At Les"/F.U.S.E--"F.U.2."/Aphex Twin--"Analogue
Bubblebath"/Rythim Is Rythim --"Kao-Tic Harmony"/Genaside II-"Narra Mine"/Urban
Shakedown--"Some Justice"/Shut Up and Dance-"Raving I'm Raving"/Balil--"Nort
Route"/The Future Sound of London--"Papua New Guinea"/Acen--"Close Your
Eyes"/Edge--"Cmpnded"/The House Crew--"Euphoria (Nino's Dream)"/X-102--"Sonic
Destroyer"/DJ Solo-- "Darkage"/D.H.S.--"House of God"/Jonny L--"Hurt You
So"/Blame--"Music Takes You (2 Bad Mice Remix)"/Bad Girl--"Bad Girl"/2 Bad
Mice-Bombscare" and "Waremouse (Remix)/Acen--"A Trip To The Moon Part 1 and Part
2"/Felix-"Don't You Want Me"/Mescalinum United-"We Have Arrived"/Rufige
Cru--"Darkrider" and "Menace" (Reinforced)/ Test--"Overdub"/Foul
Play--"Survival"/Hawke--"3 Nudes Having Sax On Acid"/ Metalheads--"Terminator
EP"/Underworld --"Rez"/4 Hero-"Journey From The Light" EP/Jaydee--"Plastic
Dreams"/Underground Resistance--"Death Star"/Hyper-On Experience--"Lord of the
Null Lines (Foul Play Remix)"/Ed Rush--"Bludclot Artattack"/Drexciya--"The
Bubble Metropolis"/Metalheads--"Angel"/Origin Unknown--"Valley of the
Shadows"/Underground Resistance--"Jupiter Jazz"/Omni Trio-"Mystic Stepper (Feel
Better)"/Krome & Time-"The Slammer"/LTJ Bukem --"Atlantis (I Need You)"/Foul
Play--"Open Your Mind (Foul Play Remix)"/Boogie Times Tribe--"The Dark Stranger
(Q Bass Remix)"/Subnation--"Scottie"/DMS & Boneman X--"Sweet Vibrations"/Roni
Size & DJ Die--"Music Box"/Dead Dred--"Dred Bass"/Deep Blue--"The Helicopter
Tune"/Renegade--"Terrorist"/Dillinja--"Deep Love"/Da Intalex-"What You Gonna
do"/Splash--"Babylon"/Phylyps-"Phylyps Trak"/Tricky-"Aftermath"/DJ Krust-"Set
Speed"/MA2-"Hearing Is Believing (Remix)"/Alex Reece-"Pulp Fiction"/Swift--"Just
Roll"/Remarc --"RIP (DJ Hype Remix)"/Prana--"The Dream"/Adam
F--"Circles"/Jacob's Optical Stairway--LP/Josh Wink--"Higher State of
Consciousness"/Oval-94 Diskont/Daft Punk-"Rolling and Scratching",
"Musique"/Nasty Habits--"Shadowboxing"/Trace & Nico--"Squadron"/Adam F--
"Metropolis"/Bentley Rhythm Ace--"Return of the Carbootechno Disco
Roadshow"/Fatboy Slim--"Everybody Loves A Filter"/Chemical Brothers--" It
Doesn't Matter"/De Lacy--"Hideaway (Deep Dish Remix)"/Burger-Ink--"Twelves Miles
High"/ Mouse On Mars--Iaora Tahiti/The Speedfreak--For You/Ectomorph--
"Telekinesis (live)"/Oval--94
Diskont/Maurizio-"M6"/Resilient-"1.2"/Monolake--HongKong/Porter
Ricks--Biokinetics/Roy Davis Jnr-"Gabriel"/Basement Jaxx--" Jump 'N
Shout"/Renegade Legion--"Torsion"/Missy Elliott--"Supa Dupa (The
Rain)"/KMA--"Cape Fear"/Timbaland & Magoo--"Up Jumped Da Boogie"/Gant--"Sound
Bwoy Burial (187 Lockdown Dancehall Mix)"/Smokin' Beats--"Dreams"/Sneaker
Pimps--"Spin Spin Sugar (Armand's Dark Garage Mix)"/New Horizon--"Find the
Path"/KMA--"Cape Fear", "Kaotic Madness"/Amira-"My Desire (Dreem Teem
Remix)"/Aaliyah--"Are You That Somebody?"/Arrivers--"Dark Invader"/Dem
2-"Destiny (Sleepless)"/Paul Van Dyk--"For An Angel"/Stardust-"Music Sounds
Better With You"/Boards of Canada--Music Has A Right To
Children/SuperPower--"The Future
Crusade"/Phoenicia--"Roba"/Gas--Konigsberg/Super_Collider --Head On/Binary
Finary--"1998"/The Artful Dodger--"Re-Wind (The Crowd Say Bo Selector)"....



MOST OVER-RATED OF THE NINETIES

a very incomplete list--apologies!

The Notorious B.I.G.
The odd nifty catchphrase and deft rhyme, but c'mon, this man was a
pig---Notorious P.I.G. more like; Piggy Smalls, heheheheh-and with a little help
from his buddy Sean he almost singlehandedly set rap down its current path of
spiritual bankruptcy. And he had the most unappetising vocal timbre in all of
rap- asthmatic and adenoidal and mucus-bunged-up and fat-fuck wheezy all at
once.

The video for Beastie Boys's "Sabotage"

The video for "Praise You"

The Charlatans
Extremely limited singer, mediocre songwriting, zilch "to say", band that can
neither rock nor funk.... Yet in the U.K., Madchester sentimentality and
"survivors" kudos has made this nonentity outlast the decade.

Jon Spencer Blues Explosion
The Quention Tarantino of rock.

Quentin Tarantino
The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion of film.

Autechre

The Dead C
and all who sail upon her stagnant waters

Guided By Voices
In this age of cultural overload and aesthetic surfeit, GBV is monstrously,
disgustingly prolific. The band averages about 24 songs per album;
singer/songsmith Robert Pollard has a backlog of some 2000 tunes, but is still
planning to write a 'Tommy' style rock opera. Who among us has a life empty
enough to accommodate such a glut of undistinguished creativity? GBV is
basically America's very own Oasis. Both bands are led by incorrigibly
incontinent songwriters morbidly obsessed with English rock of the mid-to-late
Sixties. If you're gonna stick with a craft as quaint as songsmithery, you
should at least make sure you have something compelling or uniquely
idiosyncratic to say. Oasis don't, but are at least shameless about it: Noel
Gallagher's lyrics are a jumble of doggerel and epic-sounding phrases that allow
fans to read whatever they like into them. But with Pollard, you can't be
absolutely sure he has nothing to say, because every expression is convoluted
and coded; he gets in the way. Titles like "The Official Ironmen Rally Song",
"Bright Paper Werewolves" and "Rhine Jive Click" are the most daftly, wilfully
oblique titles since Amon Duul II (who at least had LSD as an excuse). Another
similarity with Oasis is GBV's relentlessly upbeat mood: a neo-mod, bright-eyed
poptimism that proclaims "it's 1966, the future is wide-open!". In England, such
empty triumphalism elevated Oasis into a huge pop phenomenon, by tapping into
young kids' desire to fly in the face of grim present reality. In America, GBV's
Anglophile/necrophile quasi-anthems made the band a hit only with rockcrits and
others steeped in the canon of classic rock (and thus able to appreciate the
reverence and the references). All their songs are tuneful in that deja vu, Tom
Petty/Sebadoh way, while the riffs trigger your kneejerk-reflexes, conditioned
by years of exposure to classic rock. Can I be the only listener for whom
half-liking a GBV song is unavoidably accompanied by a queasy sensation of shame
and lameness? GBV is just one more fat fly crawling over the dungheap of rock
history, sucking it up and pooping out endless additions to their copious trail
of disgrace.


The Muzik Pantheon of Middlebrow
Slam, Carl Cox, Sabres of Paradise, Dave Clark, Speedy J, Lionrock, David
Holmes, T. Power, Laurent Garnier, Leftfield (except for "Disco 3000"), Sven
Vath, Darren Emerson, Silent Phase, Two Lone Swordsmen, Faithless, Groove
Armada, Bedrock...


OTHER MALIGNANT TUMORS OF THE NINETIES

Loaded and the resurgence of lad culture

Fever Pitch/High Fidelity versus Bridget Jones (it's okay to be a neurotic
gender-trapped fuck-up so long as you know you're one, lets you off the hook
vis-a-vis the challenge of changing)

The trenchant opinions, lyric-craft, vocal ability, and "sexual charisma" of
Louise Wener in Sleeper

Oh, and Echobelly too

Gene

superclubs

supermodels

Ibiza

"label culture"

The notion that structure-lessness = freedom

purists

eclectics who expect applause for combining this + that and getting the sum of
their parts.

Genrephobes
a/k/a music journalists who use "so-called" as a prefix, e.g
"so-called trip hop" or "so-called post-rock", or (the temerity of these guys!)
"so-called jungle", "so-called gabba" etc. These are critics who wish to discuss
the putative scene/genre in question while squeamishly distancing themselves
from the term (which is usually the pretext or buzz-hook for the piece, and the
cheque they'll be getting in the mail from it), by insinuating that it's somehow
bogus or imposed against the will of its designated objects. Of course, they
don't have the guts or the acuity to come up with a new term that's more
accurate, but they still want to trade off (literally: make money from) the
taxonomic efforts of others (journalists; the massive that constitutes the scene
itself), while striking a pseudo-ethical stance of aloofness from the discursive
fray: an (im)posture of in-credulity--i'm un-swayable by hype, i'm not so easily
fooled. These smallminded, ostrich-headed dullards stoutly insist: there's
nothing new here that warrants--god forbid--the atrocity of a new name. As if it
really offends them that the mutational on-rush of music might generate new
styles that cry out for fresh language, and thus confuse their mental maps and
made-up minds. As should be obvious, I could ruminate and rant about this topic
for pages, and will do so in a forthcoming epic, 'Genrephobia: Profiles in
Cowardice', due to be posted on this site in a few months.

Detroit-pietists
 (crypto-fascists all: an editor at a German magazine killed an
interview with me about the book 'cos he felt my opinions about Detroit techno
were insufficiently reverent!!!)

The British music press during Britpop, and since

Gilles Peterson/Straight No Chaser type acid-jazzbo downtempo West London
pseudo-kulcha bizness'n'ting--Brand New Heavies, Jamiroquai, Galliano,
Morcheeba, D-Note,

Proto-emocore: Superchunk, Buffalo Tom, etc--James Taylor with a fuzz-box,
innit?

Centrist politics

Celine Dion trying to "rock out" on stage

Product placement- they can digitally insert brand-name products into old repeat
programmes now!

People clinging to the high/low distinction in culture -- whether they do it
from outside (quality art versus mass culture: Jesus do we still have to fight
these battles?--apparently so!) or from within popular music
("intelligent"/"progressive"/"serious" pop versus commercial/lumpen/"mindless"
pap--you haven't really advanced from the old Shakespeare's better than Dylan
position by making Dylan into your own generation's Shakespeare).

People who try to simply reverse the high/low polarity and big up all pop and
diss all unpopular/marginal/hipster/highbrow/academic music simply for being
un-popular. What was it the man said about "he who fucks nuns will somebody join
the Church?". Perhaps every camp/ironic/slumming male thirtysomething frothing
about the pure pop magic of Spice Girls/Britney Spears/Backstreet Boys will
somebody end up back in the arms of Bach...

Judge Jules, Tall Paul, Seb Fontaine, Dave Seaman, Dave Ralph, John Digweed,etc


Gwen Stefani and her mutant sprog Bif Naked

The return of the disaster movie

The American rock critic herd, who, faced with the choice: Moby OR rave culture,
chose Moby. Why? Because it was more convenient.

Rap-metal and the testosterone resurgence

American stadium-rock mob psychology: Woodstock 99, obviously, but this has been
brewing for years--the Lollapalooza in I think 1996 was where I noticed it
first--just before the headliners Hole came on, the people on the ground started
throwing half-full waterbottles and shit at the people in the stands, it was
like WWW1 or something, trench warfare, looks of homicidal hatred on the mob's
faces as they rained this stuff down on us, Joy's forehead got split open by a
full water bottle, must have been spinning, the torque left the imprint of
bottle cap in her forehead, blood everywhere, we had to go to casualty under the
main stage (directly under Courtney Love's crotch, actually), there were kids
with broken arms or trembling head to toe with fear from being crushed in the
mosh-pit, it was an ugly revelation let me tell you, the mechanics of stadium
rock, the machinery in place to routinely deal with the expected casualty rate.
But Woodstock 99 was the pits --like fascism without the consolation of nice
uniforms and ideological focus, Kristellnacht with genocide replaced by
gynocide.

Puff Daddy's "I'll Be Missing You"--not only did the melody come from The
Police, the words--heartfelt paean to his dead best buddy--were ghostwritten by
another rapper (Sauce Money). Can you believe the nerve of this guy?!?
Nadir of the Nineties--Anthony Kiedis, balladeer. "Scar Tissue" was horrible,
but the wordless i'm-so-soulful vocalese bit in "Under The Bridge" gets my vote
as the most unpleasant sounds to emanate from a human throat in a decade where
the competition was hardly thin on the ground.

Evaporating word-counts

Charticles

Lists

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