MK Top 10 | Shaved Dogsby Brandon Edmonds / 28.11.2011
When the dog where I live gets shaved for summer she becomes self-conscious and you have to affirm her a lot, stroke her more, be encouraging. She looks like an extra in Ratatouille. A slim, bat-eared maus and if she catches you staring, her tail locks between her legs and she hangs her head. Your heart goes out to her. Local white (mostly unsigned) pop musiek behaves much the same way. It’s so vulnerable, so timid and quavering, so overly aware and unsure of itself, that your heart goes out.
Here’s last week’s MK Top 10.
Number 10: Die Heuwels Fantasties – “Buitenste Ruim”
You do notice the video. It has kids, rockets, cowboys and Indians. Gummo bunny ears and moments lit by Nan Goldin. The lovely redness of fireworks at night. Director Thomas Ferreira does dazed nostalgia well. “He has recently branched out into commercials” his company lets slip. He’ll be good at that. And the song? It’s competent but unremarkable. As Hunter Kennedy sings: “Ek gee my beste net party keer.” No shit.
Number 9: The Plastics – “Caroline”
The Righini brothers are pretty as sacrificial Roman boys in Pasolini’s depraved Sadean masterpiece, Salo or the 120 Days of Sodom. Looks matter. Pop, like the old Hollywood Studio system, feeds on fuckability. But even in the hands of Gordon Raphael, who produced the Strokes’ sauntering gem “Is This It?”, The Plastics make music hampered by timidity. It lacks the élan of Vampire Weekend or the carousing force of Broken Social Scene. Business class pop for new models on their way to Milan. It needs cigarettes stubbed out on it. And that LMG cover better be “ironic”.
Number 8: Wrestlerish – “Bodies of Water”
The first video that yells developing country. Creamy falsetto on a sponge cake of guitars. The dynamics are second-hand. Lead singer Werner Olckers sings: “Now that the curtains finally fall and I’m waiting for applause”. Rent a room Werner, it’s gonna be a long wait.
Number 7: Yesterday’s Pupil – “Too Tired to Disco”
Peach V Pletzen, as his endless site blurb puts it, is a “super-gifted, humble, hard-working and incredibly versatile young musician”. Well, good for him, but you’re competing in a Darwinian music era when I can download whatever I want. In minutes. Be it the skull-crumpling earth jams of the Boredoms, everything Can ever did, or the wayward genius of the Shaggs. This is just twee laptop pop with emasculated lyrics: “You know I will always hold your hand / even when I disagree.” Who are you? Boutros Boutros-Ghali! “Let’s not stop the romance…how about tonight I just love you?” How about tonight we drink until we fight, then fuck?
Number 6: Lonehill Estate – “Daans”
“Lonehill has received much criticism for their music being too eclectic in the past and the band has decided to funnel their influences into a genre that is sure to please.” Imagine the band, in hazmat suits, funneling their influences into a gloopy vat of yuck. Dance routines in a Fruit & Veg City? Really? And that is a truly egregious bassline. The band is known for “tongue-in-cheek lyrics” and it’s that knowingness that kills the pleasure here. It’s too calculated. Great pop songs operate like the Stockholm syndrome. When captives identify with their captors and you endlessly repeat the chorus in your head. Which doesn’t happen here. The production needed the supreme propulsion of LCD Soundsystem’s “All My Friends”. It barely achieves Crazy Frog.
Number 5: Die Heuwels Fantasties & Inge Beckmann – “Modus Operandi”
Inge in a headdress of horns, like the Bride of Frankenstein on stilts, adrift in a virtual terra incognita. Amazing. Then Miss B sprouts digital wings and you just think that’s Inge Beckmann sprouting digital wings. Neither the video, desperately trying to be Chris Marker’s “La Jetee” run through Tarsem Singh’s “The Cell”, nor the song, manage an ounce of metaphorical power. There’s nothing really going on. A compelling modus operandi is what’s missing. Great riff though.
Number 4: Van Coke Kartel – “Vir Almal”
Francois Van Coke looks pissed as Gimli in a leather jacket in a junkyard of cars. Everyone has leather jackets. Bellville’s Sha Na Na. Van Coke also looks a bit like Reiner Werner Fassbinder, the coke-addled genius of New German Cinema. Bloated, pale and frazzled. If only the band had as much to say about social life. About anything. This is dumb music and not in a smart way. Leftover three chord thrash without a genuine agenda. Unlike Bad Brains or Millions of Dead Cops. A dude drinks Jägermeister from the bottle and you wonder, did that just happen, or was it planned, to look hard? Did an assistant, a bipolar girl with flesh tunnels, have to drive to a liquor store to get it? Then a pseudo-virtuoso guitar solo. The very gesture punk hoped to destroy. When a cheesy blonde stripper appears we may as well be at a Blou Bulle tailgate party at Loftus.
Number 3: Dance You’re on Fire – “Michelle”
Mess with pop templates that have been in place since the fifties and sixties. Don’t swallow them whole. This is Crowded House for millennials. Soft as a fontanelle. More bland de-vitalised sexual passivity. When did indie boys get so insipid? Please listen to a lot more Revolting Cocks or the Vaselines. Early Prince. Late Cohen. Anything with a libido. “We both know I’m no closer,” Tom Manners sings. “We both knew from the start I’d never climb inside your bed.” Well why the fuck not, Tommy boy?
Number 2: City of Heroes “Fight or Flight”
Help me out here. MK doesn’t say who this is. The band has matching leather jackets (again) and Grahamstown Festival scarves. Drama student emoting and careening 80’s synth. “Gravity is the enemy,” someone sings. I thought the enemy was Aids or Somali pirates or the Taliban? Gravity, huh.
Number 1: Mr Cat & the Jackal – “Bad Man, He Comin”
Tom Waits lite. The myth-making here floats free of any social basis. Any grounding in the real. Do they mean the Tokoloshe? Rick Astley? Who is the bad man coming? Bad how? Bad why? Blues without authenticity. Great video though. Stop-motion animation. The plucked heart. Believe in your day jobs.