I'm listening to nothing but singles right now. Little artbombs. Taking an
idea and executing it in three minutes or so. There was one most people
missed, just before Christmas, hidden on an album. Low, Utah postrock
slowcore minimalist types, did a CD of Xmas songs. And on there is the best
Xmas song since "Fairytale Of New York." It doesn't touch that song's
complex grandeur, but it's now the only other Xmas song I'll have in the
house. "Just Like Christmas" rides acoustic guitars and a sampled line of
sleigh bells, with a background music that sounds like it's coming out of a
tinny AM radio in the 1960s, punctuated with driving bursts of drumming that
sound like they're being committed on oil barrels in the next room. It's
the only Xmas song I've ever heard that namechecks Stockholm and Oslo, and it
is glorious. Hidden away on a CD you probably wouldn't even know about if
you didn't already know Low.
It's been a year like that, in music, from my chair. Some staggeringly
disappointing albums from artists I previously enjoyed, and brilliance from
the most unexpected places. The Flaming Lips were always hit and miss for
me, a little more prog than I like, not enough of the quirky perceptiveness
of things like "The Spiderbite Song," but the new CD, which I first heard in
a car in Berkeley in the middle of the night, has one indelible moment of
perfect pop madness in "Yoshimi Vs The Pink Robots Part 1"; that weird
signature blend of electronics and acoustic guitars under a somewhat mental
lyric about a woman fighting evil robots that want to eat the narrator...
okay, when I was first told about it, I made that face, too. But it has what
the best music this year had, which is joy. Somehow, it makes you look up
and smile. The effect doesn't work quite so well in "Do You Realize,"
probably because it's a little more direct and preachily well-meaning, but
that and "Fight Test" are still marvellous and unexpected.
Things like that kept music alive for me this year. And The Polyphonic
Spree's "Soldier Girl," which I've written about here before -- from the ashes
of Texan band Tripping Daisy. The defiant "Pretty Like Drugs" by Queen
Adreena, the shattered remains of 90s guitar hopefuls Daisy Chainsaw. There
may be a pattern here. Damon Albarn once spoke of a conversation with... oh,
one of those old experimental outfits, Can or Faust, and was told that you
spend your twenties learning, and your thirties putting it all together. On
the evidence of Blur's horrible "Don't Bomb When You're The Bomb," it hasn't
quite worked out that way for them, but maybe the theory's sound anyway.
The last minute or so of Kait0's "Go", with the guitarist's plectrum
screaming up the string like a rocket banging off from Canaveral -- that was
a moment worth taking from 2002. With Sigur Ros descending into quicksand
and Godspeed You Black Emperor spending way too much time indoors and
everyone else I was interested in either going quiet or publicly
demonstrating that they've run out of things to say, moments like that were
important. Especially with mainstream music being in the worst condition
it's had in a while. It'll be interesting to see if the better exponents of
2002's classic-style fakescene "electroclash", like Ladytron, actually get
the time to develop beyond pastiche, or whether they just get swept away with
Wit and the rest of them.
I'd like to see more graphic novels built like albums, if I'm honest.
Collections of singles; short stories.
A CONTRACT WITH GOD is often touted
as the first graphic novel, but it is in fact an original short story
collection. My girlfriend tends to buy only short story collections because
she simply doesn't have the time, most months, to sustain the reading of a
novel. She wants something she can get into and out of in a short space of
time with a complete experience. Like a single.
This is what's powering my brain today. Hello, good evening, welcome, and