You Will Have Your Revenge
Interesting times to be sure, what with everyone seemingly despairing about the State of Music Today and all. Rob has given up the ghost and has ended his always excellent and entertaining Listen Hear column because, well, because there's not enough that's genuinely NEW to get excited about, and writing about reissues and old records that are new but not New is maybe something that's hard to do with conviction. I'm not sure about any of that but I respect Rob's decisions and reasons; personally I get excited reading Marino go on about Jazz records and artists I've never heard, and Kevin's articles on classics from another age almost always make me want to explore. I also think it's too easy to accept culture as a linear phenomenon which places importance on historical contextuality and that makes comments on the vitality of art as being to do with its place in that timeline: I think that's a counter productive argument and I don't care for it. The only time is Your Time, is My Time, and that's why the Jazzactuel and Ohm collections have been so vital; not because they are great time capsules of a brighter, more experimental age, but because they remind us of the possibilities that lie in the pushing of envelopes. It's in the Why and the How rather then the What and the When.
My friend Jonathan recently bemoaned the state of modern cinema, suggesting that many new movies were neither dreadful nor fantastic cinematic moments, but rather that they were just okay movies. His point being that too many film-makers are making movies that are full of too much knowledge and too much generic awareness. All the right ingredients are in place but are mixed to the consistency of, well, not gloop exactly but certainly nothing that makes you want to smack your lips. It's like Pete Williams has said about great music not being produced by 30-somethings with extensive record collections, but by teenagers with no concept of heritage; the need to make a noise and communicate urges rather than wanting to show how clever and educated you might be.
Pete Williams has also said that it's hard to write about new music with conviction because the only way to write about new music, particularly Pop music, is with hyperbole and the monumental knowledge that you are Right when you suggest that (insert name here) are the best band on the planet. And that's hard to do when you're past a certain age because, well, because somewhere inside you suspect that (insert name here) probably AREN'T the greatest band on the planet, and anyway, you suspect that (insert name here) from back in (insert year here) did it all better and maybe we should all just go and listen to those old records instead. It's a natural feeling and I'm not going to knock it. I know I feel the same sometimes.
But only sometimes, and only a little bit because I know that really the only time that matters is My Time, like I said already, and in My Time it's the moment that matters. Take Baxendale for example: last time I wrote about Baxendale I was full of antipathy towards them for being just too one dimensional and forced, but now, Today, I am full of excitement and devotion and will take as much pleasure as I can in saying I was wrong last time, although actually 'wrong' isn't the right term because I think it's much more to do with the fact that they work better on record than in performance than any glitch in my perception.
You see, You Will Have Your Revenge is truly a great Summer Pop Album, at least for today and for this week and maybe this month and next, and maybe even the whole summer for all I know (you never know what's around the corner after all). And it is this simply because I say it is, because I haven't been able to get it off my CD player and because I have been unable to stop myself singing lines to myself at all kind of strange times (like standing invigilating an English exam in front of a hall full of sixteen year olds, and I have "this time, I've blown it big time, and after this time, I'll never feel the same" going through my head accompanied by the conviction that actually this track is this years' 'Rip It Up', what with it's bouncing electronic squelches and the fact that Tim Benton sounds like an arch Edwyn Collins raised on electropop). Of course with me being the age I am and with the record collection I have, I'm tempted to make more of those connections and illustrations but I'm going to spare you the banality and irrelevance of such things because, well you just KNOW that by the end of the week this record comes out you're going to be bored of journalists listing Pet Shop Boys, Bis, Denim and Pulp and if you have any sense will instead be just rushing around with this as a soundtrack to Special Moments In Your Life. Really. Because Baxendale naturally understand the appeal of Pop as a method of cataloguing and recording the experience of life as it is lived; noting and knowing that in fact the things that matter, the things that are remembered from Now until the end of time are smells, sights, sounds and seductions, are the details of living and not some over-reaching sense of global emotion that the likes of Muse or Radiohead would attempt to capture. It's an understanding that I suspect Leo Baxendale (the creator of many fine comic characters, not least the Bash Street Kids in the Beano and to whom this album is dedicated) would applaud, and it seems to me that this is the real delineation point in the whole Pop vs Rock argument; that Pop is ineffably about detail and Rock is about the Grand Gesture; hence Daphne And Celeste singing 'You get teeth in your head like Mr Ed' being great Pop and, oh I dunno… Led Zeppelin singing that 'she's climbing a Stairway To Heaven' being irredeemably Rock and irrelevant and dull. And that's an easy target, but what the hell.
Baxendale have moments to die for. Or to kill for, whichever way you want to fall. There is something at once so upbeat and heartrendingly aching about 'Hanging Out With Her' that makes me want to scream and cry. That line about breaking into your old school, lying on the tennis courts and listening to The Boards Of Canada is just so perfect, and if you don't know why that is then I am not going to tell you. Everyone needs those moments, those memories, and whether Baxendale make you remember or soundtrack the creation of that memory is irrelevant. Like I keep saying, it's the moment that matters. I keep saying that Baxendale understand this essential quality so well, and they show it nowhere better than on the monumental 'I Love The Sound Of Dance Music', which is as explicit an explanation of the Baxednale theory of Pop as you're going to get. Nearly ten minutes of banging beats, marvellous melodies and a line that repeats 'Turn it up tonight…' like a mantra.
'The Nineteen Sixties' is almost as good at writing the Baxendale manifesto, being the kind of 'I hate the religion of reverence for the past' routine that Lawrence might have written for Denim or Go-Kart Mozart. Imagine 'I'm Against The Eighties' written by someone who doesn't remember them and who just believes in the Now and the Future. All of which makes me smart when someone suggests that they think of me when they hear this song, and which means I have to stand up now and say it clearly: I really don't think of decades. I really don't think of history. I really don't think that records were better in 'My Day', and I really don't want to go back. I just take what I like and what I want. And I want Baxendale.
I want Baxendale to be the Pop Sensation that by rights they should be.
©Alistair Fitchett 2000