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Soul Tarmac

If you didn’t take a picture or make a video did you see it?  The other day I found myself walking past a house with windows open, a small choir practising inside, something vaguely modern.  My first thought was “I wish I’d brought my iPhone so I could record it and take a picture of the window through which the music came”.

I don’t imagine I had the same feelings at 16 about pop music as did someone born in 1900 and I don’t imagine young people feel the same about pop music as I did.  But.  There seems to be a movement towards admiration of craft and delivery that reflects the insistence of pop guru futurists that artists make sure they have a lot of interesting shit to show, as well as their fine faces and wonderful music.  That is, that we like the music, OK, but what sets artists apart is how and what they show about how they live and make their art.

And there are two strands appearing.  The first is the pure pop model that is as wet and spongey with its emotional and visual content as hard core porn.  Have a look at the Kate Perry Making Of… videos.  It’s not what she says or how she acts, it’s the actual tiredness in the eyes after a long shoot and the walking out of studio light into shadow.  You never used to see that.  The Monkeys did it in their incredible pop deconstruction film, Head, but who saw that?  The Beatles tried it but it always came off cute.  Both were scripted.  I don’t think Perry faked it, indeed, that would be directing and acting worthy of a Cassavetes film.  With the connivance of people like Perez Hilton the emotional pimples of superpop people are becoming as essential as the Max Factor that covers the physical ones up for the photo shoot.

The second strand puts the music even further into the background and seems intent on reassuring hipsters and youngsters everywhere that there are ‘others like us’.  Exemplified by Breton LABS from London who fit sounds into shaped holes like a Bethnal Green art student checking the mirror before leaving home.  Fringe.  Check.  Snake belt.    Check.  Plaid shirt.  Check.  But it’s the short films that are important.  One of them even shows the boys (is it the group, even?) making things on work tops.  What they’re making is irrelevant - they look like interested, diligent art students on a project (‘like us’).  Other videos, like LCD Sound System’s Drunk Girls, artfully filled with the right kind of mid 20s media-working/student looking people doing things to the singers (ccrrrrazy things, the kind of ccrrrrazy things people like us do when we get drunk - in fact, all that was missing was a traffic cone), whilst tapping into the less stolen period of Bowie (album: Lodger); Sons Of Admirals’ painful cover of Here Comes My Baby, soundtracking an apparently home made teenmobile opera of very real looking ‘(like us!’) kids snogging each other’s girlfriends (OMG) - sounding like The Bluetones harmonising over a standard Skins electro-distorto drum machine.

Get the sounds right (relatively easy).  Get them on sale (very easy).  Look like you are exemplars of a particular age or group (not so easy).

In the end I think I prefer the outright cynical pop maneuvers - somehow more honest and basic - because without a killer pop tune they don’t work.  The hours of digitized indie uniformity, though, are not for me and are, perhaps, constructed sub-consciously by the artists not to allow someone (old) like me in.  They are less to do with music and more to do with sub-cultures of different generations and show how, finally, what began with Bob Dylan will end with an HD video recorded on a mobile phone.

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