Q: What’s the definition of a drummer?

A: A guy who hangs around with musicians.

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I didn’t realise my housemate was in when I got home. I managed to wake him up because I was laughing so hard, in another room. The cause of the anti-social mirth: The Guardian’s “Pickard of the Pops” where each
week Anne Pickard reviews a music video. So cruel, and yet so damn funny.

Youtube has had an amazing effect on my pop-education. I recently have become a little obsessed with music videos, and in particular with finding videos to songs I once knew and loved but never saw before. Given the number of ex-boy/girl bands from my yooff that seem to be reforming recently, its also been entertaining to compare the old with the new. The Spice Girls being a perfect example. Compare exhibit A, the 1996 hit “Wannabe” with exhibit B, the 2007 comeback pseudo-hit “Headlines”.


Exhibit A (note also that this is nearly all one shot…)


Exhibit B (yawn)

The former is cheap, ridiculous and catchy – exactly the kind of mayhem that got them famous in the first place. Its annoying for sure, but at the same time a hell of a lot of fun in the right dosage. The latter is about as humorous and enjoyable as a Victoria Secrets catalogue, which it resembles in many respects. It’s so self-consciously “sexy” and “classy” that its just a bore. In fact, the mansion they are pouting at each other in looks remarkably similar to the hotel their younger incarnations pulled apart in 1996.

Seeing the Spice Girls back together again was confusing. I couldn’t work out which blond was which – they used to be so usefully colour coded! Seeing the new Take That video, though, was confusing on a whole other level.


Exhibit C, new Take That Minus Robbie video, “Patience”.


Exhibit D, old Take That video, “Back For Good” (haha! little did they know how ironic that title would become…)

I know perfectly well that the correct response to a Take That video is a combination of “Ewh!! Make him stop gyrating!” “Ewh!! Make him put his clothes back on!” or “Ewh!! I’m not a paedophile, I just came across this video of hairless boys semi-naked in the rain by accident!” Which made my immediate reaction to the new video a little disturbing. Maybe its just that I’m older, or that they’re older, or that someone finally put them in a video where they hardly dance and don’t take their clothes off – but one or two of those Take Thaters look pretty cute… I’m resisting the urge to wash my own brain out with soapy water for thinking such thoughts, but its true. They’ve finally turned into fairly decent eye candy after all these years.

But my favourite video at the moment has to be Lily Allen’s “Littlest Things”, for its incongruities that work so well.

The very personal ordinariness of the story being told in the lyrics is brought to the fore by the contrast with the melodramatic trashy-romance genre of the video. As a love song, its hard to identify with – buying trainers and watching DVDs are hardly universally applicable indexes of romance. Which, of course, is what makes the song so great – its a love song on an album by one of the few commercial artists who sing about anything other than love songs. But its not a love song, or at least not one that can be used by anyone else. She conceads to make a song about love, but in fact makes it an anti-lovesong. The Mills and Boon video just goes so perfectly with this. It just highlights the “You want me to do something more girly and traditional? Fine. Here. The ultimate in Girly and traditional. Hah!” aspect all the more. After which she can go back to singing about getting a morgage or trying to get into a club again. I love it.

Thinking of Lily Allen, I’ve recently started trying to teach myself about Hip Hop using Pandora, and had been listening to and much enjoying Common’s Drivin’ Me Wild, without realising it was with her. Fantastic. My conversion to Hip Hop after years of hating it, embarrassingly enough, came about during a departmental seminar given by an anthropologist recently. Her talk was really inspiring – and opened my eyes (or perhaps, ears) to the fact that there’s a lot more to Hip Hop than the crap played on the Chicago radios. In particular, she talked about this video by Common, that everyone loved because its set in Chicago… (plus its a great song). Given that one of the main points of her talk was to describe the significance of the concept of place in Hip Hop, its kind of amusing how excited we all were to see ‘our’ city.

Hm, finding out about pop-culture through a seminar. How sad is that? Almost as sad as admitting that Take That look sexy… There is no hope for me.

………………………………………………………..

[Additional note: Thinking of re-evaluating old songs once you see the music video, what the fuck was that all about??]

Ian Brown Illegal Attacks Lyrics

So what the fuck is this UK
Gunnin’ with this US of A
In Iraq and Iran and in Afghanistan

Does not a day go by
Without the Israeli Air Force
Fail to drop it’s bombs from the sky?

How many mothers to cry?
How many sons have to die?
How many missions left to fly over Palestine?
‘Cause as a matter of facts
It’s a pact, it’s an act
These are illegal attacks
So bring the soldiers back
These are illegal attacks
It’s contracts for contacts
I’m singing concrete facts
So bring the soldiers back

What mean ya that you beat my people
What mean ya that you beat my people
And grind the faces of the poor

So tell me just how come were the Taliban
Sat burning incense in Texas
Roaming round in a Lexus
Sittin’ on six billion oil drums
Down with the Dow Jones, up on the Nasdaq
Pushed into the war zones

It’s a commercial crusade
‘Cause all the oil men get paid
And only so many soldiers come home
It’s a commando crusade
A military charade
And only so many soldiers come home

Soldiers, soldiers come home
Soldiers come home

Through all the blood and sweat
Nobody can forget
It ain’t the size of the dog in the fight
It’s the size of the fight in the dog on the day or the night
There’s no time to reflect
On the threat, the situation, the bark nor the bite
These are commercial crusades
‘Cos all the oil men get paid
These are commando crusades
Commando tactical rape
And from the streets of New York and Baghdad to Tehran and Tel Aviv
Bring forth the prophets of the Lord
From dirty bastards fillin’ pockets
With the profits of greed

These are commercial crusades
Commando tactical raids
Playin’ military charades to get paid

And who got the devils?
And who got the Lords?
Build yourself a mountain – Drink up in the fountain
Soldiers come home
Soldiers come home
Soldiers come home
Soldiers come home

What mean ya that you beat my people
What mean ya that you beat my people
And grind the faces of the poor

via Lenin and a few others. Can anyone tell me if this is getting much air time in the UK? I’m not holding my breath that I will ever hear it on the radio here.

I’ve been somewhat addicted recently to a song called “My Monkey” by Jonathan Coulton. Googling him up revealed another song called “Code Monkey” that I suspect a few geeks out there may appreciate….

Actually, replace “Code” for “Theory”, and this could be my life. Sigh…

(Supervisor say Theory Monkey very diligent
but her output stink
her theory not functional or elegant
what do Theory Monkey think
Theory Monkey think maybe supervisor oughta write goddamn hermeneutic relationship between material world and temporo-spatial specific knowledge mediated through inter-cultural communality herself
Theory Monkey not say it out loud
Theory Monkey not crazy just proud…)