Wednesday 8 May 2013

culture sucks down words...

I've had my ups and downs with Primal Scream.  Well, more downs than ups, truth be told.  I own two of their albums - Screamadelica and xtrmntr - but they remain one of the worst bands I have ever had the misfortune to see playing live and I can't quite escape the feeling that they're blaggers who are trading on past glories.

The gig was at the Reading Festival in 1994, where I seem to remember that they were headlining the Friday night.  They were quite a big deal at the time, and were touring the follow-up album to Screamadelica, "Give Out But Don't Give Up".  One of my housemates of the time was a massive fan, but I just didn't hear it.  "Rocks" was a massive hit, but it was basically pretty unimaginative, wasn't it?  Hoovers keep a hooverin'?  My opinion of them was quickly set into stone when they proceeded to play that song twice in the same set.  It seemed that they were so pleased with it, they thought they'd play it for us again.  The only other time I have seen a band do that was when U2 opened and closed their set with Vertigo... and at least they were trying to work an operatic theme at the time.  I thought it was a sign of creative bankruptcy.  Kowalski and xtrmntr partially changed my mind, but my suspicions lingered.

I've been listening to BBC 6Music quite a lot recently, and in the main it's been a joy: I get to hear new stuff by Daft Punk and the National together with classics by Depeche Mode, the Stones, the Who and people like that.  One of the downsides is that it's inevitable that I hear a few records that I don't like.  One of these is the latest single by Primal Scream, It's Alright, It's OK.

I won't mince my words: it's shit.  The tune is not in the least bit memorable and the lyrics are just a sequence of pointless platitudes.

It's alright, it's ok
You can do
Just what you want to
Take your time
Walk away
You can come back
If you're supposed to

Seriously?  That's it? Is that the best you can do?  NOT.  GOOD.  ENOUGH.  I know that not everyone is going to write lyrics like Manic Street Preachers or David Bowie, packed full of symbolism and references.... is it wrong for me to expect my musicans to at least try a little bit?  Even if that's only to have a decent tune.....I can forgive a lot for a decent tune.

I saw Dido on Later....With Jools Holland the other day, and she was awful too.  Now, I'm not one of those people who automatically despises everything that Dido does, but her current single is shockingly lazy: clunky, obvious chords and this lyric:

No love without freedom
No love without freedom
No love without freedom
No freedom without love

What?  And presumably no cheese without crackers?

Maybe it's me.  As I was in the car this afternoon, "Hello, I Love You" by the Doors came onto the radio.  Great record.  Then I caught myself: was I operating double-standards here?  Is this not exactly the same kind of lyric that I've been criticising as being lazy?  I know Jim Morrison thought he was a poet, but this isn't exactly Tennyson, is it?

Hello, I love you
Won't you tell me your name?
Hello, I love you
Let me jump in your game
Hello, I love you
Won't you tell me your name?
Hello, I love you
Let me jump in your game

But, you know what? The lyrics are simple, but they're definitely not simplistic:

She holds her head so high
Like a statue in the sky
Her arms are wicked, and her legs are long
When she moves my brain screams out this song
[amazing key change]
Sidewalk crouches at her feet
Like a dog that begs for something sweet
Do you hope to make her see, you fool?
Do you hope to pluck this dusky jewel?

Not to mention the absolutely killer tune. Yeah, this is a wholly different class of song. They're still playing it on national radio today for a reason, you know.... If they're playing any Primal Scream songs at all in 40 years, I'm guessing it won't be their current single.

...And then the DJ played "Motorcycle Emptiness" and everything was right with the world again.

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