Saturday, 28 July 2012

London Calling

I've been conscious for a while that this blog has been a bit light on the music. Even the Arse has taken a back seat to politics and economics, though that reflects the strange times we are living through. So, I had vaguely planned a rambling roundup of the stuff I've been listening to of late, when I was given an elbow-in-the-ribs by last night's telly. Not only was the Olympic opening ceremony better than the Stars on 45 / Jive Bunny melange that we feared, but BBC4 had an excellent documentary on Krautrock at the same time. Were they trying to bury it?

Coincidentally, I had been listening this week to the best of Can (Anthology 1968-93). I had arrived at this after following a musical chain reaction that started with the collected works of the Buzzcocks, progressed via Magazine, then took a back-flip via Iggy Pop (Lust for Life and The Idiot) and David Bowie (Low) before alighting on Holger Czukay (the sublime Movies and On the Way to the Peak of Normal), from which I bifurcated forward to Jah Wobble (I Could Have Been a Contender) and backward to Can, with odd excursions to Captain Beefheart, Pere Ubu and Wire along the way. As you can see, I like the weird stuff.

At t'Olympic Park, there was no doubting the power of Going Underground, Pretty Vacant, Heroes, and I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor, and even Macca wasn't too awful, though mainly because he wasn't Elton John. Danny Boyle's slightly more grownup than usual treatment of history will no doubt go down a treat, though the gaps were telling: plenty of suffragettes, not so many trades unionists; a parachuting Queen, but no mention of Cromwell (ironically, Michael Wood broached the 17th century earlier in the evening on BBC2, and made a passionate case for remembrance of the Levellers).

The focus on the NHS and music was both popular and clever, distracting attention from the diminishing role of industry (you can't dance a hedge fund) and the absence of a modern-day Brunel (Tim Berners-Lee really isn't comparable and Dizee Rascal is not a renaissance man). Ultimately, it will all be forgotten as we fixate on the german doing the Nazi salute, with Camilla and Boris pissing themselves in the background. What larks.

The Krautrock documentary took a more sober view, noting the effect that superficial denazification had on cultural life and the political development of the Red Army Faction, aka the Baader-Meinhof gang. One member of the gang, Astrid Proll, would end up hiding out in London till her arrest in 1978, at a time when The Clash were wearing RAF emblems for shock value. London Calling was a year away.

On the music front of more recent vintage I would recommend Sharon van Etten: Serpents and Give Out; Dirty Projectors: Gun Has No Trigger; Torche: Kicking; and Washed Out: Amor Fati. I do like Frank Ocean's Pyramids, but I still prefer his Songs for Women.

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