Surely one of the most blood-pumping gigs ever caught on film, the Talking Heads’ stop off in Rome on their Remain In Light tour has been grainily immortalised and mounted on YouTube for all to jiggle to. For the Bemolution’s money, the band’s later, smaller Stop Making Sense-era incarnation was sterile and artily contrived compared to this earlier, Fela Kuti-inspired nine-piece. Borne aloft by a propulsive, hypnotic Afrobeat throb, courtesy of an awesomely muscular rhythm section and the bounding enthusiasm of everyone involved, the results are mesmeric, transporting, and, above all, irresistibly funky An extra visceral punch comes from Adrian Belew, fresh from spells with Zappa, Bowie and then King Crimson-bound, whose hair-raising guitar experimentalism sounds as cutting-edge today as it presumably did thirty-four years ago.
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Spare a thought for poor, exploited, squeaky commodity-man Justin Bieber
As much as the Bemolution tries to brick itself off from the worst bits of mainstream culture, it’s not managed to escape the Biebergeddon entirely unruffled. This is largely down to a wearisome internet cliché. Watch practically any music video on YouTube, especially anything vaguely alternative, and you’ll find one if not several commenters lamenting that while nobody’s heard of their favourite chanteuse, song-smith or rocking teenage combo, Justin Bieber is fanatically adored by millions.
That’s how we came to know of Justin Bieber’s existence – watching angst-riddled web-surfers competing to see how much bile they can rain down on a probably very decent, albeit now emotionally-squashed teenage boy who makes shit modern pop records. Continue reading
Hippedy-hop has all but lost its initial burning righteousness, its Chuck D holler, and prostrated itself before the tastelessly bejewelled, puddle-shallow gods of conspicuous consumption. There are some exceptions, of course, like left-wing Pan-Africanists Dead Prez and the brutally articulate Immortal Technique. But one of the most interesting new artists to have recently appeared and bucked the materially-fixated trend is the very differently political Frank Ocean. His debut album, Channel ORANGE, is a masterpiece-creation of alternative RnB, studded with subtle, socially-conscious vignettes rather than bludgeoning calls for revolution. The stark ‘Benny And The Jets’ piano throb that pulses under ‘Super Rich Kids’ perfectly complements Ocean’s wryly bleak meditation on the sad, empty lives lived by the offspring of the mindlessly wealthy. He doesn’t condemn them, although the track is an implicit condemnation of their hollow, emotionally-mangling way of life. Instead, he pities them, which is far more original.
Glastonbury looked rubbish this year, but our favourite moment, surprisingly, came from Metallica’s headline set on the Saturday night. In an oddly peaceful reverie between tracks of bludgeoning heavy metal, goatee-bearded holler-rocker James Hetfield, the band’s hunt-loving politics-shunning lead singer, took to the mic to bathe the crowd in a nice bit of wishy-washy pseudo-philosophy.
“I’ve got three questions”, he said, before asking the crowd to put their hands up/bellow/be generally noisily enthusiastic if they wanted a) the world to be a better place, b) to live in integrity according to their morals and c) be loved as they are. And then, without the merest hint of irony, he dedicated a song to the cuddly hippy idealism of everyone present: ‘This one is for all of you… CYANIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIDE!”
Anyway, we’re not putting any out-and-out Metallica up because it’s all very silly, to quote Professor Yaffle. Instead, you can have some filtered through the brain and digits of YouTube genius Andy Rehfeldt, here remedying the principal fault of metal music, namely its abject lack of self-deprecation and humour. If it was all like this, we’d listen to nothing but.
Busting out of the corridor of convention, with a little help from Albion’s beardiest magician.
The Bemolution recently watched The Mindscape of Alan Moore, 2005’s hypnotic docu-insight into the world of England’s finest fake snake-god worshipping anarchist, comic book writer and beard-sporting dissident genius. In an 80-minute monologue, Moore charts his precipitous rise from Northamptonian squalor to international renown as the author of Watchmen, V for Vendetta and several more of the cleverest, wittiest, most philosophically profound graphic novels ever written. He also talks at length about his often mind-bending, ever-fascinating worldview, and, in a particular highlight, the need to consider the reader’s delicate brain-to-penis blood ratio when trying to write intelligent porn.
On the day he turned 40, Moore recounts, he decided to start calling himself a magician. It certainly suited the druid-dragged-through-a-hedge-backwards look he’d been working for the previous few decades. But given the kind of toothless New Age gobbledegook many of his generation had been happy to indulge in, Moore’s ‘magic’ was refreshingly pragmatic. For him, ‘magic’ is just art, broadly defined – using words, sounds and symbols to change people’s consciousness. In fact, unusually for a self-declared shaman, there’s nothing particularly supernatural about his worldview at all. You imagine he reveres Glycon, the Roman snake-god famously outed as glove puppet in the second century, largely to prove a point – ‘the one place in which gods and demons inarguably exist,’ he intones, ‘is in the human mind, where they are real in all their grandeur and monstrosity’. Continue reading
Musically, the Bemolution is grossly hypocritical. If a modern artist delivered an album of schmaltz-songs as silkily inoffensive as ‘Jazzman’, a half-live half-compilation album showcasing the late Les Paul, it would smear it and them into the creases of the world. But for some reason, saccharine lazy-Sunday aesthetic somehow becomes acceptable when it’s old, as the carefree waft of this Paul/Nat King Cole collaboration attests. Plucked from a squaddie-pleasing US Armed Forces Radio broadcast – from 1944 believe it or not – ‘Sweet Lorraine’ sees Paul’s ingenious noodling twinned with Cole’s enthralling purr, and the pair backed by a band-full of stellar players. The Bemolution’s standard intense dislike of cutesy-pie love lyrics is temporarily disabled, because it’s literally impossible not to enjoy that man’s voice on some level. Cole certainly deemed it worth maintaining, smoking three packets of Menthol cigarettes a day in the hope of keeping his unmistakable smooth baritone in top condition. Unfortunately, this practise also led to the inoperable lung cancer that killed him at 45. Oh well. Suffering for one’s art and all that.