Shimura Curves

Monday, November 14, 2005


I still feel unwell, both physically and mentally, but perhaps not as much as I did last week. Finally got to sleep, despite the racking cough, and rested.

Went to see Architecture in Helsinki last night with a friend, a last minute replacement sort of thing because his date was ill. And I came to the realisation that I'm not sick of music, I'm just sick of *talking* about music. About ten minutes into the usual rant about "manufactured music" that I've heard so many times from indie boys high on No Logo (which all sounds to me like just another justification for priviledging the music made by and for white, heterosexual, middle class, college educated males over music made by or for women, especially working class women, people of other races, gay disco, etc. etc.) I just said "I'm sorry, I don't want to be having this conversation" and changed the subject.

I don't listen to marketing, I listen to tunes and arrangements and performances. I don't make assumptions about the intentions of artists and/or record companies, (especially by people who have in all likelihood never actually *been* to an actual recording session, major label or otherwise).

What difference does it make, how the music was made or marketed, if you like it? Stop making excuses or justifications for something that is just a matter of taste. (I don't really care why "Hipsters" wear "trucker hats" either, or indeed whether these mythical Hipsters even exist.)

Is bubblegum the MacDonalds of music? I don't know that that the metaphor really stands up. Corporations don't write and record songs; artists do. I think bubblegum pop is more like a Chinese takeaway. Who cares if it's authentic, or if it's What The Cantonese Eat At Home. Sometimes it's an MSG-sodden mess, sometimes it's a sublime combination of fresh vegetables. Sometimes it's junk, sometimes it's a healthy meal. It depends on the skill of the cook, and your willingness to try it without preconceptions.

And I'm going to stop the food metaphor because I'm making myself hungry.


At 10:16 AM GMT, Blogger acb said...

Corporations also don't make hamburgers. Minimum-wage employees operating machines and following detailed instructions in ring binders do that. The same with manufactured pop: the genre's so constrained by the ring binders of mass-market commercial considerations (see The KLF's "The Manual" for an example) that there is little room for expression. Beneath the production, there is very little substance to most commercial pop songs, because there is little room for it. Whereas in less commercial music, there is more scope for originality and more interesting ideas.

And the equation of disdain for commercial pop with racism and misogyny is a rather shabby straw-man. For one, there are plenty of women who write and perform material that isn't commercial pop. Secondly, it is IMHO unfair to lump disdain for commercial pop or a belief that more independent music is more interesting with the primitivist excesses of Rockism.

At 11:03 AM GMT, Blogger Masonic Boom said...

The same with manufactured pop: the genre's so constrained by the ring binders of mass-market commercial considerations that there is little room for expression. Beneath the production, there is very little substance to most commercial pop songs, because there is little room for it.

All this shows is how little pop you actually listen to. "Manufactured" pop encompasses everything from the smart, shimmery electrodisco of Sugababes to the jittering wordplay of Destiny's Child to the cartoon sugarpunk joy of Busted.

If anything, the constraints of "manufactured" pop force artists - songwriters, producers, performers - to be *more* creative. I have more respect for artists who are able to transcend strict limitations in order to make something outstanding and original.

And you know what else? Production *IS* an art. It's not a lack of substance to be well produced. It's just an artform that you (and loads of other indie kids) just seem to miss the point of.

Open your mind beyond your preconceptions. You seem to have a distain for anything "commercial" (god forbid it should go so far as being "accessible") which is so strict it seems to have blocked your ability to hear music at all.

At 11:10 AM GMT, Blogger Matt said...

I would argue that more experimental work has been done within the world of commercial pop than much of the less mainstream in recent years. Particularly if by commercial pop you include R&B. Isn't Missy Elliot pop? She predated broken-beat by about five years.

At 11:17 AM GMT, Blogger Masonic Boom said...

I read somewhere at the weekend (the Guardian?) that Girls Aloud's Biology was more "out there" and experimental than Radiohead's Paranoid Android. I concur (even though I am a Radiohead fan) and would even add that it's more experimental and challenging than 75% of most "non-commercial pop".

At 12:05 PM GMT, Blogger Andrew Farrell said...

Have you actually read The Manual, acb? It doesn't actually lay out a game plan, it's quite open about how somewhere in this mechanical process the magic will happen.

Also, if a band go on to make such enjoayable and beautiful music as the KLF (or for that matter the Timelords), who gives a fvck how manufactured it is or isn't?

At 12:16 PM GMT, Blogger Masonic Boom said...

Also, I think that this predomination of the idea of "inventiveness" is a red herring.

You sound outraged that Pop follows a recipe. So what? Lots of the indie janglepop that you love follows a recipe that is just as specific - and just as potentially constraining.

I like food that tastes good. I don't want to order beans on toast and get beans with a crushed kiwifruit flambe sauce, no matter how inventive or "interesting" that might be. Some people have a flair for beans on toast by adding chilli or substituting rye bread, and I go "wow, that's beans on toast with a twist!" That's what the magic is.

What I look for in music, is music that Sounds Good to my ears and my taste. I like pop. I like the way it sounds. I like catchy melodies and pretty harmonies and bright instruments. And pop delivers me that.

I don't really care how it got made, so long as it gives me an end result I like. I think it's really presumptuous to asign a political agenda to a process that you don't understand or even appreciate.

(And for what it's worth, I have read the Manual. I thought it was a loving homage to the art of Pop, as well as demystification of the recording process.)

At 3:18 PM GMT, Blogger Catty said...

Who the hell let Charlie Simpson in here?!?!


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