Sunday, October 22, 2017

the Love in our eyes

Here's an essay I wrote about The Smiths and The Queen Is Dead for Pitchfork - on the occasion of the record's reissue as a deluxe expanded box set.

Given a lot of space here but feel like I could have easily gone twice as long. Despite the immensity of the writing about The Smiths already out there (including my own quite sizeable contributions) the mystery of Morrissey and the magic of  Marr (+ Rourke + Joyce) feel inexhaustible.  I could write a whole essay just on "The Boy With The Thorn In His Side."

Monday, October 16, 2017

synth gardener

Here's my profile of Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith for Village Voice.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

A Tale of Two Simons

Now here is a piece I've been wanting to write for a good while now.

I was delighted to get the opportunity to do it for RBMA.

It's the story of  the first decade of Virgin Records.

And it's a profile of Simon Draper, A&R Director and later Managing Director - the man whose vision and taste made Virgin a contender for coolest label of the Seventies.

Not that other chap, the one with the beard.

(Lol inventing here the industrial / Cosey Fanni Tutti style of trumpet-through-fog  four years ahead of schedule)

(Viv G on the vocals there)

Wednesday, October 11, 2017


An old mate I've recently reconnected with, Matthew Worley - now a Professor of Punk - has his magnum opus on 1976-and-all-that-followed out now on Cambridge University Press.

Here's my blurb for No Future: Punk, Politics and British Youth Culture, 1976-1984:

"No Future cuts through the stodgy crust of nostalgia, self-serving memoir and fan-boy facts that conceals punk and reveals the truth of youth culture in late Seventies / early Eighties Britain: the internecine battles fought over issues of sound and style were inextricably linked to the political conflicts and dilemmas of that era. Digging deep into the fanzine squabbles and music press controversies that raged across the punk community, Matthew Worley brings to keen life the urgency of a period that felt at once like a terrifying crisis-time and the dawn of a new epoch delirious with radical possibilities. Giving Anarcho and Oi! the serious attention they’ve long deserved, and analysing this tumultuous time through perspectives that range from anti-consumerist boredom and feminist personal politics to media-critique and dystopian dread, No Future is an essential read for punk scholars and punk fans alike."

Next week there is a London book launch for No Future - on Tuesday October 17th at the Brick Lane Rough Trade, starting 7 pm, with Worley in conversation with Steve Ignorant and Cathi Unsworth. 
Something that Worley has been cooking up for next September at the University of Reading - a conference on music writing in which I'll be participating.

nifty groovers

What do these songs have in common?

1/ They come from a time when the gap between rock and black music was really small, compared with the gulf that now exists

Such that you almost wonder what the point of postpunk's vaunted embrace of funk and disco etc was as a gesture -  given that the funk was already so deeply imbricated with mainstream rock music. It didn't need to be added or restored, it's there

So you can  see - if you shove to one side the rhetoric and the clothes and the theory and the adversarial positioning - a continuum of Seventies rock that runs from beginning to end of the decade and that is steeped in black music - following its changes, absorbing its innovations (like the Larry Graham-esque slap bass bit in "Slow Ride" by Foghat... essentially no different as a musical move than scores of postpunk guitarists trying to copy Nile Rodgers )

They loved their Free after all, Go4

Old Wave / New Wave - the difference collapses as more and more time goes by

2/ The other thing they have in common - well, most of that first batch up top  - is that they are used in movies. Something about this kind of groove-oriented early Seventies rock seems to move the action along. These feel-good tunes are a perfect fit for the "up" phase of a film like Boogie Nights e.g. the scene when things are going swimmingly by the swimming pool (they use the Three Dog Night and "Spill the Wine" in that sequence) or the more fraught but still thrillingly kinetic climax to Goodfellas (the soundtrack jumping from "Monkey Man" to "Jump Into the Fire" in a way that will never cease to electrify).

3/  They are all nifty groovers


liberation-through-energy artifacts

It's the mundanity of the liberation-through-energy...  its sliced-white-bread, staple background to the times quality that I find interesting.... Most of the above are second-division acts, solid radio providers,  one-or-two hit wonders .... the liberation and the nifty grooviness is a general condition of the era... Even if (as per the kids in Dazed and Confused) the inhabitants of that era feel that the Seventies has fallen from the heights of the Sixties....  They don't know how good they got it.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

some of my favorite tunes of the last few years gathered into an (unmixed) mixtape for NERO

Laurel Halo – «Like An L»
Big Sean – «Bounce Back»
D’Angelo – «Prayer»
Young Thug featuring Birdman – «Constantly Hating»
Schoolboy Q – «Collard Greens»
eMMplekz – «Gloomy Leper Techno»
Rae Smemmurd featuring Nicki Minaj and Young Thug – «Throw Sum Mo»
Future – «Fuck Up Some Commas»
Future – «I’m So Groovy»
Naomi Elizabeth – «The Topic Is Ass»
Travi$ Scott – «Goosebumps»
Travi$ Scott – «Antidote»
Migos – «Bad and Boujee»
Aphex Twin – «Original Chaos Riff»
Jeremih – «Oui»
Let’s Eat Grandma – «Eat Shiitake Mushrooms»
Hybrid Palms – «Pacific Image»
Tinashe feat Schoolboy Q – «2 On»
Assembled Minds – «Morris Horror»

Friday, October 06, 2017


Here's a piece by me for 4Columns on Franco Battiato, three of whose early albums - Fetus, Pollution and Sulle Corde di Aries - have just been reissued by the Superior Viaduct label.

Grazie molto to Valerio Mattioli - author of Superonda: Storia Segreta Della Musica Italianaa book about the experimental rock scene in which Battiato was a central figure - for filling in the background to his bizarre career. And cheers to Jon Dale for his revelatory tips on further listens  from within Battiato's close-knit community of associates and accomplices.

Attenzione Londoners! Mattioli dialogues with Rob Young about the Italian art-pop freak-out scene of the Seventies on October 22, 5 pm, at the Coronet Theatre. More details here