Friday, August 17, 2007


It is a warm afternoon. I am listening to On the way to the club by Blur. I have been rediscovering them recently, after realising that I have all their albums but rarely listen to them. So sometimes I burn a CD of favourites, so that I can make a tape for the car, and this is the song I chose of theirs. Do you know the song? I love singing along with it. There is something truly uplifting about it.

That's Albarn. Thinking back on the Oasis/Blur thing (about which I was completely neutral, a fan of both), it seems that the Stones/Beatles comparison was rather accurate. On the one hand, underpowered copyists; on the other, genuine talents -- the posturing of hardboy rock against the quality of adult, literate pop. The first gives you a thrill, sure, but it's the thrill of a kneetrembler, a back-alley blowjob. The second is the kiss you remember a week later, a touch from someone you had not realised wanted to touch you.

Oasis are real enough, but Blur are with-a-big-R Romantic. Real will never stir my soul the way the slightly unreal will. Well, it's to be expected: souls themselves are not real.

The tape will be a belter. I lead off with Heartbeats by the Knife. At first glance, it sounds like the bastid child of Ace of Base, but there is something slightly dark about it. It's very retro, although you couldn't have made music like this in the eighties. It's curious that a lot of backward-looking stuff just wouldn't have been possible back in the day. On that same tip, I followed Blur with Song 4 Mutya by Groove Armada, which is the greatest eighties song evah. It sounds like Belouis Some crashed into New Order and Pepsi and Shirley and instead of screeching grinding noises, a monster tune issued forth.

Next up is Do it better by the Happy Mondays. It's easy to believe, these days, that Shaun Ryder never did actually live up to the hype, and was always just a boring cunt who'd done too many drugs. But no, once upon a time he really was the answer. Of course, we were all so fucked then that we couldn't remember the question. Still, it makes me happy, if I don't listen to them too often, to listen to the Happy Mondays.

Next is Good times by the Hoodoo Gurus. Of course, you own this. You at least have a compilation of their hits, because you recognise that Dave Faulkner is one of those great indie talents whom the mainstream never quite pick up on, don't you? Don't you?

Speaking of which... well, I suppose that Jake Burns was talented in his way, but Stiff Little Fingers were better when talent was not needed (a laboured way of saying that like most punk bands, they were better before they mellowed). But what Jake did very well was describe life in a small town (even bigger towns can be small towns, IYKWIM, and his Belfast sounds a lot like my Brisbane, or my home town, but with more bombs). Gotta gettaway is the quintessential small-town anthem, and man, I'm still singing that shit!

Crystal is the obligatory New Order inclusion. Look, we're not going to debate this: New Order are the greatest pop band evah, end of fucking discussion.

One criticism of the Maps album that I've read is that every song is the same. Which is true. Luckily, it's a good song. Its incarnation as It will find you is a wonderful instance of Maps' breathy pop. This isn't quite as singalong as some of the other stuff on this tape but it will give the kids a break from my tuneless squalling.

Is it not time that Paul Weller got his big gong? Okay, his solo work has mostly been dire, and the Style Council defined meh, but the Jam are the kind of band you don't often listen to, but when you do, you are like fuck me, this is fantastic. I could have chosen any of a ton of great songs on the hits thing I have, particularly personal favourites such as Going underground or Eton rifles, but I opted for That's entertainment, because it is simply one of the greatest lyrics you're ever going to hear. If you have lived the life Weller is singing -- and I have -- you will feel it in your heart (if you have one).

Not quite such a revelatory band, Space nonetheless made some nice tunes. I stumbled across a few because I'd filled up a disc that I'd burned, of all things, Fresh fruit for rotting vegetables onto with some of their better songs. Female of the species is practically a novelty record -- by which, I mean it is self-consciously quirky, but I have to tell you, I have a soft spot for novelty records. I suppose that's for two reasons: first, that a novelty record is by definition something different, and I always craved the different; second, novelty acts rarely hit twice, and I like that notion of once tasting it but never again. It seems gloriously sad. The picture of a faded neverwas singing their one hit, to rapturous acclaim, at Butlins or some other very downmarket venue appeals to me as a lesson in hubris. Or pathos. (And if you're thinking, yeah, and bathos too, you're not far wrong.)

I end the tape with Can't be sure by the Sundays. Why? Because it sounds like hope. And it sounds like England, almost more than any other thing I've heard.

PS. On the subject of Blur, you tell me that this is not fucking wonderful! I'm including it for P, because if we ever walk a mile together, this will be the soundtrack.


At 4:43 pm, Anonymous Noss said...

I've always had a soft spot for Coffee and TV by Blur.

At the time of the Britpop boom though, my favourite band was Echobelly. What happened to them?

At 5:35 pm, Blogger Dr Zen said...

Split up after their second album, I think. I have the first, and I thank you for reminding me of them, because now I'll be playing them this weekend!

At 8:29 am, Anonymous said...

wow, Zen, that was a great compilation review essay.

as usual.

so since, as you said, this blog of yours is for public consumption, and that i can post whatever i want over into the bickerfest, would it be ok if i created a Dr Zen at email box dedicated for doing so?

i would only repost your essays as is and/or i could add any kind of disclaimer that you'd like.

i just think that stuff like this deserves a wider audience -- plus it'll help out bickerfest a lot too.

win win.

let me know if its ok to repost some of your articles like that.

once you're a paid contributer (should you want to be so in the near future) and you're posting your own commentary yourself, you can take over the mailbox, if you want.

or start fresh with your own.


anyway, thanks for all of the great music!

At 10:36 am, Blogger Dr Zen said...

As I said, you're welcome to do what you like with them. If it helps you out, great.

At 11:36 am, Anonymous said...

great. thanks.

as to whether it helps me out, that all depends on whether or not something is done about the hac/kers or not.

my guess?

there's a 50/50 chance that someone somewhere will be honorable enough to intervene on my behalf, thus since there are so many of those 50/50's out there, my chances for success are very good.

At 1:06 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

BFest, what problem is it that you are experiencing, exactly?

At 1:20 am, Anonymous said...

oh, gee, where do i begin?


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