Thursday, March 24, 2011

Hands Up For Röyksopp

Hands in the air! But for the love of God, why?
When house music emerged and bloomed, I was living in London and in my early 20s, so I should have been something of a wild raver. But I already felt too old for such a scene, and I refused to spend the little spare money I had on the drugs that seemed necessary to make the music sound something more than a producer pissing about with a few buttons, for hours on end. But what did I know? Much of the electronic music that evolved from the early 90s was sublime, and I’m still trying to catch up 20 years later. I still don’t get the dancing, though.

It’s one thing to watch rave’s legacy - my dance-floor daughters and their mates jumping up and down on the spot, punching their arms in the air to the meta-commercial, factory-spewed , submusical studio detritus that outsells decency today. But to see men around my age dance in this manner at the 9:30 Club last night was disquieting. Even when captivated by the Norwegian band Röyksopp – who in a live setting combine the cool, electronic genius of Kraftwerk with the sprawling, untamed noise-pop of Mogwai – I can’t help but be perturbed by several new breeds of annoying concert-goer around me. And yes, I know, I should just stay-at-home, but it’s a tradition that at the start of spring Mrs. Pop lets me out of the house for a few hours.

So, here they are:
Fan Who Knows Which Song It Is Before Everyone Else. You know, the one who starts to whoop or shriek before everyone else does, just to show that they already recognise the song a mere two bars in. That would be the super-fan twat directly to my left. Of course he could be just doing it on every song, and we’d have no idea whether he really knew which song this was or not, unless the band announced at the end they’d only written it that afternoon. Which doesn’t happen often.

Friday, March 11, 2011

A Canny Punter In Punta Cana

White people burdened with turning brown
My family thinks that I’m a snob about mass tourism, but they’re wrong. It’s just one of those things  – like fat-necked bigots, hysterical touchline soccer moms, gun-waving pyschotic killers or, worst of all, fans of the Irish popular music combo known as Ucunting2 – that I’d rather avoid if at all possible. Unfortunately, it’s not always possible.

Family life is all about compromise, so after subjecting my kids to several holidays spent in the middle of fields full of mostly wet, British sheep, I consented (or should that be condescended?) to join them for a week in an “all-inclusive” beach resort in Punta Cana, a mainly foreign-owned enclave populated by tens of thousands of revolving, wealthy colonists in the south-east corner of the Dominican Republic.

First, a quick word about the meaning of all-inclusive. It’s all-inclusive in much the same way that the Democratic Republic of Korea is democratic. That is, it’s all-inclusive unless you want to drink wine that doesn’t taste like it was made from grapes fomented in vats of ferret’s piss. Or if you want a steak that it won’t take you a day to chew. Or if you want some spa treatment, or if you want to play tennis after sundown. Etcetera. That is, it’s all-inclusive, except for the bits that aren’t included. Brought to you by Holidays With An Asterisk.

Now, it was by no means a bad resort, if you can stop yourself from laughing at the overall concept – plane after plane of fat, pasty Caucasians flying in as part of a vain attempt to make themselves look more physically attractive by sitting still for hours under a cancer-causing sun, all the while being waited on by handsome, lithe young locals whose very presence taunts the visitors’ expensive but futile efforts to nudge up their Sexy Factor. But there’s always something better, if you’re willing to pay.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Barely Legal Sounds Good

Bordering on bankrupt, financially and culturally
Since writing last year about my revived vinyl fetish, I’ve undergone something of a conversion to modern mores. As with most human endeavours, my incentives were driven by raw economics. A year ago, if people were bemused that I still bought music in a shop, it had no effect on me. But someone telling me about - where any song out of the three million plus available costs nine cents - has now interminably altered the way I buy and listen to music. That is, cheaply, and without having to leave the house.

Usually I ignore tips like this on the grounds that they’re either a scam, or they make my computer crash, or you need to purchase new software, or they bring angry lawyers and musicians flocking to my front door swinging their guitars and demanding royalties. But Legal Sounds not only works, it’s very simple too, at least on an Apple laptop. The only drawback is that you have to put at least $25 on your account, but I did that weeks ago and am still in credit.

Yesterday I was passing the local branch of Borders, which is about to close down due to bankruptcy and encroaching obsolescence, so I went inside searching for some bargains. This was nothing like the basket-stuffing bonanza many of us enjoyed when Tower Records collapsed – Borders was offering a mere 25% off what was already a thin selection of CDs. I picked up three, but by the time I reached the checkout I’d put them down again. Even in a closing down sale, their total cost would have bought me around 300 songs at Legal Sounds (love the name – you just know they must be illegal or, at very best, barely legal).