Tuesday, 25 October 2016

12 TRACKS OF AUTUMN 2016

SHE BETTER WIN. HER TASTE IN MUSIC IS BETTER. AND SHE IS NOT A MADMAN.
Despite its awfulness in many ways, 2016 has yielded an extraordinary release of popular musical talent, in terms of new tracks; add to this the deaths of Bowie, Prince, and the win of the Nobel by Dylan, and it is a year the music was shaken. Eyewear wishes to advance the claim that, in fact, 2016 is the greatest musical year since 1996, if not 86.

Consider the list below, and disagree with the statement IN THIS LIST YOU CAN SELECT 10 OF THE GREATEST MUSICAL ACTS SINCE 1966 FROM POP TO INDIE TO NEW WAVE TO ROCK TO R N B TO DANCE TO TOP 40. Ridiculously, each of these artists has made a fine work this year - either a song, or a collaboration or an album, or in the case of Beyoncé, a masterpiece of film and music, Lemonade.


ABC

ALICIA KEYS

BARY GIBB

BECK

BEYONCE

BOB DYLAN

BON IVER

BRITNEY SPEARS

CHEAP TRICK

DAVID BOWIE

DRAKE

FOY VANCE

FRANZ FERDINAND

GARBAGE

GWEN STEFANI

HUGH CORNWELL

IGGY POP

JEAN-MICHEL JARRE FEAT. GARY NUMAN

KINGS OF LEON

LADY GAGA

LEONARD COHEN

MADNESS

MASSIVE ATTACK FEAT. HOPE SANDOVAL

METALLICA

NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS

PAUL SIMON

PET SHOP BOYS

PIXIES

PJ HARVEY

PRIMAL SCREAM

RADIOHEAD

RED HOT CHILLI PEPPERS

RICHARD ASHCROFT

RICK ASTLEY

RIHANNA

ROLLING STONES

STING

SUEDE

TEGAN AND SARA

THE BEAT

THE CULT

THE MONKEES

THE STONE ROSES

TINDERSTICKS

TRICKY

VIOLENT FEMMES

WEEZER

WIRE

YEASAYER

YOKO ONO




 
SO, what are Eyewear's 12 newer songs post-summer that will make it onto our END OF THE YEAR top list?
1. 'Female Vampire' - Jenny Hval
A disturbing dream pop tune that is compellingly gothic and contemporary, and somehow troublingly beautiful.

2, 'Avoid The Obvious' - The Beat feat. Ranking Roger
Ska is the universal music of simple joys, complex implications, and this new track is as welcome as sun in Notting Hill on a Saturday morning. Delightful.

3. 'Do You Want To Come Over?' - Britney Spears
Sometimes mocked, she CAN BE better than Gaga, and when she does silly-sexy as in this witty, raunchy song, she knocks the ball out of the, uhm, bedroom.

4. 'I Can't Help Thinking About You' - Sting
Sounding like it was 1986, and the Police were still intact, this is a great return to form.

5. 'Oona' - Pixies
The Pixies new album, if by anyone else, would be considered great - but they labour under the same curse as Orson Welles - their first work was of genius, so the new dims unfavourably in comparison; in time this will rank as one of their best, with all the creepy rock and end of times stuff that entails.

6. 'The Spoils' - Massive Attack, Hope Sandoval
The most atmospheric, most haunting, most achingly beautiful dream pop/ chill out track of the year. Major.

7. 'You Want It Darker' - Leonard Cohen
At 82, the Master Voice has penned perhaps his wryest, Donne-darkest lyric. A great song with rich symbolic meaning.

8. 'This Pleasure Needs Pain (Unsympathy)' - Ada
No idea who these people are, but this is a hugely thrilling dance track with ominous BDSM tropes torn from the Depeche Mode playbook - fun and a bit tempting.

9. 'Be Like You Belong' - Foy Vance
A monumentally noble singer-songwriter moment, that sounds like a credo, like an ars poetica, a confession.

10. 'End Of An Era' - Public Access TV
A great garage song, sad in its way, with the line of the year - "they say the kids don't like rock and roll anymore" - get ready to hear about these kids as the "new Strokes".

11. 'Rings of Saturn' - Nick Drake & The Bad Seeds
As black, fine, and brutal as a garrotte made of a funnel web's worst wire, this is one of the best love-death songs ever written, by one of indie rock's broken kings.

12. 'Diamond Heart' - Lady Gaga
I may not be flawless but you know I got a diamond heart... pure Americana pop. Wonderful tough sexy proud stuff.



Friday, 14 October 2016

BOB DYLAN AND THE BLINDNESS OF CERTAIN AUTHORS

I AM NOT THE ONE YOU NEED
Yesterday Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize for Literature.  The award has been met with annual scorn and scepticism by many in the English press for decades, though the list of winners of the past 30 or so years includes Mahfouz, Fo, Brodsky, Lessing, Gordimer, Pamuk, Grass, Coetzee, Walcott, Heaney, Morrison, Munro, Pinter, Naipul, Modiano and Transtromer - all major figures in their genres. It is surely the case that Adonis, Roth, Murakami, Atwood, Ashbery, Muldoon, or Le Carre - to name just a few other world-famous writers now living - have an arguable case to be advanced, as well. Their time may yet come.
 
It cannot, however, be claimed that the Nobel ALWAYS misses the greats. In its odd career, it has managed to reward Yeats, T.S. Eliot, Faulkner, Hemingway, Milosz, Bellow, Neruda, Beckett, Steinbeck, Singer, Sartre, Camus, Pasternak, Gide, Hesse, Churchill, Mistral, Pirandello, Bergson, Shaw, O'Neill, Tagore, and Kipling. Any prize that, in its first century, managed to recognise the greatest Irish, and American poets of the past 100 years is not all bad; that rewarded leading existentialists, and the finest avant-garde playwrights as well. And, if you could only list four major US prose writers since 1900, Hemingway, Faulkner, Steinbeck, Bellow... not so off the mark. Yes, where is Gertrude Stein, Nabokov, Tennessee Williams, Capote, Wallace Stevens, Joyce? But they do manage to reward trends and movements more often than not.
 
The reaction to the win of Bob Dylan has been huge and divisive.  The major American Language poet, Charles Bernstein, has mockingly asked when Tom Raworth will win a Grammy; whereas Rushdie has welcomed the win. Many of my friends are livid. Other poets and writers I admire, like Tim Dooley, Sir Motion, and Christopher Ricks, are rather pleased. As is this blog.
 
A lot of the protestation is piffle, and at heart it is a partial and prejudiced prose perspective, predominantly. Novelists tend to think the Nobel is for them - but it is also for historians, speech-writers, essayists, short story writers, philosophers, playwrights, journalists, and poets... the prize is for the best WRITING of words, over a lifetime, in a humanist vein.
 
Certain genres have not heretofore been seen as Nobel worthy - including comic writing, songwriting, writing for the screen big or small, videogames, blog-posts.... this is clearly changing. By selecting, finally, a songwriter, the Nobel judges have undone a great bias against the oral/performative tradition, and raised fascinating questions about inscription/alphabetic texts versus performed or recorded texts.
 
Now, if you think song-writing is not a genre of creative writing that employs words and language, then you will of course think it cannot be given a literary prize. But if you think that, then you have not been listening to lyrics over the past century. The words of the great American musicals; the standards by Porter; and then the words of Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Jim Morrison, Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon, Tom Waits, Bruce Springsteen, Curt Cobain - have been more emblematic, effective, memorable and creative, than almost any other word-based genre. If one adds Bowie, Morrissey, and Elvis Costello, Kate Bush and Tori Amos, you have a pretty good list of lyrical wit and brilliance from top singer-songwriters.
 
There can be no morally legitimate, rationally-based, empirical argument that states that Bob Dylan is not the most-famous, most-beloved, most-respected, most-influential, SONGWRITER in the English-language of the past 50 years. That is simply a true statement, not an evaluation. From his early protest songs - now canonical - to his mid-period cowboy and Christian songs - to his amazing late flowering, exploring mortality and ageing desire - Dylan has composed at least 100 songs that will be sung, loved, studied, enjoyed and admired for as long as humans exist. He is, truly, a contemporary Homer. There is no living writer of words greater - there may be equals - but to state that someone is greater is nonsense. Prove it. It is not provable. Dylan's genius is startling, uncanny, protean, and endless - he is a Shakespeare of verbal virtuosity.
 
'Hurricane'; 'It Ain't Me Babe'; 'Shelter From The Storm'; 'Visions of Johanna'; 'Gotta Serve Somebody'; 'All Along The Watchtower'; 'Jokerman'; 'Lay, Lady, Lay'; 'Tangled Up In Blue'; 'Everything Is Broken'; 'Mississippi' - just a few instances of moods, styles, each extraordinary. And this is the surface of an oeuvre. Bob Dylan is also a rock singer, a folk singer, a composer, producer, actor, radio host, musician, tambourine man... but foremost he is a serious reader, of myth, poetry, the Bible, - and from an incredible fusion of American grassroots music, with a mind as complex and fertile and giving as Whitman's - he has given the world a WRITTEN catalogue second-to-none.
 
I can think of no one working in any creative field in the world today more worthy of recognition, and admiration. Let us not cheapen ourselves with complaining about this - let us instead be the generous spirits that tipped our hats as the master passed. And now the door is open to recognising Hip-Hop, and other new forms of writing. The future is wide open.
 

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

DANGER, MAN

TRUMP IS PART OF A HISTORY OF WHITE MALE RAGE
Like a crazed killer clown, whether we are thrilled, horrified, shocked, or angered (or all of these) by Donald Trump, we cannot claim to be rid of him just yet. He bestrides the world stage like a silverback gorilla (according to one British thug), or a bad analogy, but he is there, a figure, no longer of fun, but grave concern.

There has long been a history of misogynistic behaviour in American gangster culture - one thinks of the grapefruit in the face in The Public Enemy, or Sinatra throwing a woman out of his hotel room and later commenting he didn't realise there was a pool below to break her fall, or the polluted womb in Pacino's Scarface... and of course, some gangsta rap is also sexist.  American culture has a difficult way with handling the combined aspects of male power, and male privilege, that, especially in heteronormative capitalist enclaves, where money/pussy both become grabbable, reified objects and objectives (The Wolf of Wall Street for instance), an ugly fusion emerges - a fascistic sexually-violent rhetoric of dominance, which is also an ideology of rapine acquisition.

Trump is the zenith of this type of American male. His troublingly bottled-up pacing, and looming presence, in the recent debate against his competitor, a woman, was amplified by exceptionally punitive language - arguably the most verbally bullying ever heard in American politics - she was a devil, had hate in her heart, and should be locked up. It was a display of pure Benito/Adolf style machismo - weird but undoubtedly alpha male - a brooding sense that real bones could break at any time. For Trump, history is a fist forever hitting a woman.

But there is more.  There are ALLEGED rumours of children, hired as sex workers, being bound and raped in awful billionaire orgies. America is the king of porn, the maker of more false sexual fantasies than any other; American popular culture - which we all adore like junkies love the poppy - is also our wounding vice and enemy friend; our fatal flaw is Netflix, box sets, the TV is good now story we tell ourselves - yes, and so is the Lotos.

Trump is the apex of what is no longer charming; he is the unacceptable face of male sexual-capitalist fantasy - the creepy-Hefner playboy - the 50 Shades billionaire - who hates and dominates women, the weak, minorities, foreigners, anyone who is not, in effect, a big white male like himself.

Trump has long been accused of being a narcissist - a rather tame accusation, actually. We are all narcissists in the Selfie age. He is worse.  He is a dangerous male.  He is armed with money, a sex drive, and a will to power second to none. He advocates violence.  He thrives on chaos, then pays lip service to law and order. He is the sexual predator who is also the police chief, the commandant, the movie star, the TV actor, the singer, the congressman, the doctor, the judge, the magistrate, the priest, the fireman - he is the man at the heart of the sex hospital, locking up and then abusing the victims at will.  He makes the laws, he abuses the laws - and all who would fall foul of his desires, which are total and fierce.

THE WINNER OF THE 9TH FORTNIGHT POETRY PRIZE IS...

Kierstin Bridger! Congratulations, she wins publication of her poem on this blog, and £140 to be paid immediately via PayPal. ...