Saturday, 24 September 2011

Hey Kids, Rock and Roll

Ever heard of Banksy, the graffiti artist? Don't worry, I'm not going to blow some generic diarrhoea  over your eyelids about the morality of graffiti writers (if it's art or a crime or whatever), but I was reminded of something he said in his book 'Wall and Piece' where he talks about something known as 'Broken Window Theory'. The term was created by a couple of American social scientists. The theory blames small problems in society for the bigger ones - if say, a window was broken in a small community, people would care less and be encouraged to vandalise the area, and the result would be that people would be encouraged to commit more dastardly (isn't that a fantastic word?) crimes. In short, the theory says people would develop a "hey, this area is really shitty, so a few cases or arson or rape won't make a difference" kind of attitude. I've grown to appreciate and agree with this theory over the past few weeks, and not just because I live in a wretched hive of scum and villainy. I've finally locked myself into the habit of vacuuming every week, cleaning my room daily, washing my dishes as soon as I have eaten, and actually hanging out my washing instead throwing it in a damp pile to fester. And as a result, I'm much more productive generally, which is good timing because my course has just started. I don't really have a point to make here, I'm just a bit more optimistic for the future. 
Banksy is fine for his humour and political statements, but
if you actually fancy checking out a decent grafiti artist
look up ROA

I promised that I'd review a more contemporary album, and I was going to until about 30 seconds ago when I changed my mind. But I just remembered that R.E.M  broke up a couple of days ago. This isn't really news, but I'm still a little bit disappointed because they were still producing good music, and I really wanted to see them on tour one day. I can't really say they were my absolute favourite band, and they probably aren't even in my top 10, but they are one of the few major mainstream bands around toda- oh yeah, that's right, shit. Regardless. I like them a lot, and at first I wasn't sure what album of theirs I wanted to spunk over with kind words. Out of their 15 albums, there are many significant releases - 'Accelerate', their 2008 'return to form', their fantastic debut (and possibly my favourite album by them) 'Murmur' or 'Out of Time', when the band hit huge commercial success for the first time. I have decided, however, to ultimately go with my first proper introduction to them - Automatic for the People. Long before I had discovered the likes of Amazon or even record shops, it was the first album I really, really wanted and it took a great deal of effort to find. I paid a ridiculous amount too - £14 (It wasn't even special edition, just HMV being cunts), but it was worth it. 

Monty Clift himself. Looks a bit like the action man
I had, minus the army jacket and the pen and
crayon marks across his face
Automatic for the People is a very approachable album, and could not be considered obscure in any way due to the fact that it featured 'Everybody Hurts' (along with 4 other hit singles) and went to no.1 in the UK album chart. For such a commercially successful album, It's extremely dark, musically and lyrically. 'Everybody Hurts' is of course, about suicide. But other tracks like 'Sweetness Follows' seem to come across even stronger. It's taken from the point of view of someone burying their dead parents, struggling to find an emotion as they remember how distant and hollow the relationship was with their mother and father. The song could easily have broken free from the strumming of the acoustic guitar and the organ chords into some power ballad, but the musical arrangement clearly strays away from this - the track has no drums whatsoever and the electric guitar feedback that is occasionally heard doesn't spazz out into some solo that pisses all over the emotion of the track. 'My favourite song about the actor Montgomery Clift' may not seem like an award where a hard decision is needed, but I have to admit that The Clash's 'The Right Profile' and a track from AFTP, 'Monty Got a Raw Deal' are both fantastic songs that deal with the actor's troubled life. On R.E.M's take, the song is like many on Automatic, dark, but not dull or cheesy in its sympathy. But some rockier songs on the album buck the trend a little, especially 'The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite', an extremely, bouncy and uplifting track. Peter Buck, the band's former guitarist noted -
"Given that the record dealt with mortality, the passage of time, suicide and family, we felt a light spot was needed"

The cover photo was apparently part of a motel sign near
where the band were recording, but this is uncited information
from wikipedia, so it could be a fucking spaceship
Nightswimming, for me, is the best song on the album. As that piano line plays now, I can feel my hands sweating and the electricity running up and down my arms (and no, that isn't my laptop fucking up, I checked). A fantastic string arrangement by ex Lep Zep bassist John Paul Jones and lyrics looking back to carefree times create a wonderful track. It doesn't quite finish the album chronologically, but it's the true emotional closer, with Find the River moving the tone down a notch and meandering it down to an end.

All I can say is wow - I remembered liking the album, but giving it the first proper listen in years has made me appreciate album twice as much. Experimenting with this multiple images thing now, jazzes things up a bit eh? Well, this tea is stone cold so I better empty it out. 

What I'm currently listening to > \R.E.M. - Fables of the Reconstruction/

Thanks for reading you sly old dog


  1. "Wretched hive of scum and villainy" is by far the best line I've read in any blog this week. I'll certainly agree with you. I'm at my most productive when my desk doesn't look like it's been grenaded recently.

  2. I watched R.E.M. live last summer at Twickenham (London)....I had expected so much from them but they just flat lined…. It was like I had gone to a morgue, there would have been more life in a Elvis or Michael Jackson comeback tour – very disappointing...

  3. REM were great, but their time had passed. At least we'll always have the good ole days. By the way, I'm new here but you should know that Hesitant Calamari is the best blog name I've ever seen haha.

  4. WoW, impressive picture. I like it very much.