Archive for the ‘noughties 100’ Category

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Yo La Tengo – Nuclear War (1)

December 31, 2009

“What ya gonna do without your arse?”

It’s a cover, and it’s my favourite track of this decade. I’ve never heard the Sun Ra original, but that’s irrelevant. The moment of a packed tune is when Ira says, “Tell ’em about it Georgia”, and Georgia monotones, “If you press, that button, your arse gotta go.” This is almost the ultimate in desensitisation.

Nuclear War dropped in 2002 on an EP with three other versions. The remix is filler, but the longer jazz version is ace. My friend’s sentimental favourite is the second track, where kids get to sing “It’s a motherfucker, don’t you know.” The most understated “shock” I’ve heard in years.

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Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros – Global A Go-Go (2)

December 31, 2009

This is the title track of the best of Joe Strummer’s albums with the Mescaleros. It was also the last album released in his lifetime. It was Christmas Eve 2002 when I heard the news, just after having agreed to take family members to kids Mass. It was an odd scene: the noise, the over-excited kids, the smallest Mary and Joseph you’ve ever seen and myself, not a churchgoer since leaving home, sitting there stunned and unfocused. I hadn’t felt that way over the death of someone I didn’t personally know since hearing Douglas Adams had died.

As for the track, it is a cracker. The mash-ups of artists and places could have been written about the reach of music via the internet, but it was really about radio. It’s a theme song for me, as I’ve discovered so much music from obscure radio programs, and later presenting the same music on my own obscure radio program. The joy in Strummer’s voice is unrestrained: the mixing of cultures via music is the heart of this album, and much of his late work which, sadly, was curtailed far too soon.

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Outkast – B.O.B. (3)

December 30, 2009

Pitchforkmedia picked this as their best song of the decade, and it is hard not to argue.

If this blog was a list of the best tracks, it would have been a contender. In fact, it would be hard not to also add Ms Jackson and Hey Ya, but this “A Noughties 100”, not a “Best…”, “Favourite…” or “Influential…”. And B.O.B. is not a pop tune but a what if, an experimental in saturation; in smashing together their music obsessions, in being in our faces.

In a decade where the lines between underground and commercialised hip hop blurred, Outkast were ahead of the pack, produced the greatest fusion hip hop of the decade, before deciding to relaxed and merely topping the charts before wandering away to do other things. After B.O.B., what else could they do?

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St Etienne – Heart Failed (In the Back of a Taxi) (4)

December 30, 2009

“Sold the club to the PLC/Moved the club out to Newbury/Sod the fans and the families/Heart failed in the back of a Taxi”.

Wimbledon FC might not have moved to Milton Keynes until 2004, but the battle to prevent it was long-lasting, after the previous chairman tried moving it to Belfast, Dublin or Cardiff, much to the chagrin of supporters

Whether the ongoing fight was in the thinking of St Etienne or not, the verse above brought me to the song. Being a good Nottingham Forest support, I was aware the struggle of the Wimbledon supporters to keep the club local was attracting sympathy and assistance from fans of other clubs. I agreed with their sympathy, and St Etienne’s ode to the Modernisation = dehumanisation = loss of local community struck a chord. In a way it is the next step after XTC’s Ball and Chain: the 80s tune being about the struggle, while St Etienne singing about powerlessness and resignation.

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Dizzee Rascal – Dance Wiv Me (5)

December 30, 2009

Nearer the start of this list, I stated I don’t know much about hip hop but I know what I like. Now the list is near complete, I realise how much I like.

I could pick so many tracks from Dizzee, but especially from his grimier early days. Like Lady Sovereign, he’s recently been toying with mainstream success, which should be been worrying, but he thankfully finds his own niche. Dizzee gets the balance right here, taming his normally rapid-fire delivery and instead focussing on keeping the track flowing. Dance Wiv Me is understated, but gets under your skin, with Calvin Harris forgoing the glitz of his own solo work to become a perfect compliment.

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XTC – Playground (6)

December 30, 2009

They made it the Noughties; just. After a seven-year self-exile, XTC parted with Virgin and released a pair of albums, “Apple Venus” and “Wasp Star”. Guitarist Dave Gregory left halfway through, so the 2000 version of XTC was the duo of Colin Moulding and Andy Partridge.

“Wasp Star” was the first album I ever reviewed, and my first real experience of XTC, Dear God notwithstanding. Playground, Partridge’s own Baggy Trousers, is a fine introduction to his wordplay, and helped lead me their wonderful back-catalogue.

There is an old maxim which states XTC doesn’t release bad albums: some are just better than others. “Wasp Star” isn’t on the same level as “English Settlement” or “Skylarking”, but is an album many other Noughties bands would wish to see in their discography.

Sadly, Colin Moulding seems no longer interested in music, while Andy Partridge has been releasing albums of his demos, plus collaborations with the likes of Peter Blegvad and former XTC keyboardist Barry Andrews. The likelihood of further XTC seems negligible.

Playground (link to Tumblr)

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Spring Heel Jack – Bane (7)

December 29, 2009

I missed seeing Spring Heel Jack live in London, partially due to a 96-year-old relative, who talked for six hours straight. She was so fascinating, we didn’t have the heart to stop her. As it was, I never knew if the gig even went ahead, as guest trombonist Paul Rutherford died unexpectedly around that time.

Spring Heel Jack was best known for their fine drum ‘n’ bass in the Nineties. Perhaps the artier purveyors of the craft, with their allusions to minimalism and orchestration, they saw the writing on the wall for the genre and instead started working with Improv artists such as Rutherford, Han Bennink, Evan Parker, and, strangely, J Spaceman of Spiritualized. The duo (of Ashley Wales and John Coxon) would create soundscapes to which the Improv artists would react. They would then decide how much of the soundscapes (if any) would make it to the final mix.

The best of these pieces from their various Improv albums are too big for Tumblr, so here is a live example to give you an idea:

But in terms of this list, I’ve decided to choose a piece from their transitional album, “Disappeared”. While the two title cuts sees reedsman John Surman plays over what would later become the Improv soundscapes, Bane is a last gasp of beatology from the duo.

Bane (link to Tumblr)