7 Songs in 7 (ish) days: Bass (How low can you go)

Song 3 of 7

There were two major parts to music during university: one was dancing and the other was bands. Today, dancing. Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s going dancing was a big part of life, There were different clubs for different nights of the week. And they changed from time to time.. Those were the days when a phone call at 10ppm could get me out of bed and into town because we didn’t really start dancing til 11pm. The music ranged across the years from Salt ‘n’ Peppa amd Push It, through New Order and into house music, Here is an example of the kind of thing that would get one onto the dancefloor, even if you never knew its name.

 

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Six sentence review: Billy Bragg

With just Billy Bragg and a guitar on stage,  he probably talked more than played, but that was totally OK as he is interesting and passionate and thoughtful and still idealistic. The first half of the show he played Mermaid Avenue songs and talked about Woody Guthrie – his story about the Woody Guthrie festival he played was very entertaining (pays to know all the verses of This Land, apparently). In the second half it was standard Billy Bragg, including many favourites such as Levi Stubbs Tears and a reworked version of The Great Leap Forward. While I do perhaps suffer from cynicism about the union movement (and the actions of many unions in Australia of late have not helped this at all), There is Power in a Union is still a great song. And he kept my favourite to last, but there is no better way to finish that A New England. A funny crowd – largely over 40 and many still dressed in their public service upper middle management wear and the Canberra Theatre is not the best location – one would prefer to be standing somewhere clutching a beer – but not an event to miss.

Cultural round up: April and May

So yes, I have been quite slack. But I will try and make up for that now. And to start, some fun links. Here is the wonderful Lego on Hoth sequence, which manages to be both poignant and funny, as well as clever. Here are some random Star Wars mash-ups, just for fun. For the Quentin Tarantino lovers amongst us, some thoughts on how his worlds fit together, and what that means for the meta world of his movies. And last for this month, an entertaining look at how self-hating genre fans make things worse for themselves.

Now for the things I have been doing…

BOOKS

Lia Weston The Fortunes of Ruby White I was half way through the first chapter of this and dreading the effort it was going to take to finish it. It was all a bit too trite and straining to be funny but not quite making it. However, pleasingly, it became more engaging as it went along, and I actually finished it fairly quickly. It is an entertaining enough read, and certainly not taxing, but that being said, it was still a bit all over the shop with tone and approach and motivations. Without wanting to be too spoilery, there are things that the book didn’t seem to have quite worked out – was it all a con, or did people actually have powers; was Ruby doing something sensible and logical, or was she being manipulated? To me these things seemed quite confused and not in a mysterious and intriguing way, but rather more like the author was trying to have it both ways. I think taking a firmer decision about these kinds of things and being clear would have actually made a much stronger story. There was also a lot of coyness about some sex related issues – implications of things happening which lent rather a darker tone to the book, and perhaps because of this it was really ambiguous in an annoying sort of way. Mostly I think the book needed a really good editor who could have sorted things out and pushed the book in a clearer direction. A light-hearted comedy probably doesn’t need all these dark implications of prostitution and forced sex, but a darker book probably needs to be actually more explicit. This was a first novel for Weston, and while it would seem to indicate some potential at writing romantic comedy type chick lit, perhaps a bit of tougher editing next time might bring that out a little more.

Raymond E Feist At the Gates of Darkness Sometimes I think I should just stop reading Feist before I destroy all my affection for Magician and the memory of finding it a revelation when I first read it in my early teens. I think the persisting is that I might find some of that magic again, and it is true that a couple of books over the last few years have shown some sparks of it. But not this one. It isn’t a terrible book, it is just not that interesting. Some of the odd inconsistencies bothered me too – Pug can destroy building and build bridges between worlds, but he can’t do the magic to make himself invisible? I also think that the book spent most of its time setting the scene for future adventures (which I am not entirely committed to reading) and therefore was just a bit dull and expositionary. And while I really like the fact that much of the book focuses on Sandreena a powerful woman fighter, I’d like it a bit more if she didn’t spend so much time being moony about someone who treated her badly romantically. On the up side, this was short and easily read, so I didn’t need to spend too much time being irritated.

Alan Hollinghurst The Stranger’s Child This was a beautiful book to read – lovely writing, interesting and detailed characters, all with their own flaws, and a shifting perspective which allows one to see a rounded story. The prime story it seems to tell is the one of the history of homosexuality over the last century in the UK in a microcosm of the interactions of different gay men to a particular locus – a minor poet killed in World War I. It is also a story of privilege and money and the literary world and most importantly of memory and rembering, demonstrating the idea that we remember and reframe the past in a way which is most useful to us at the time. The sustaining stories within the novel are enough to get one past the disjointed nature of the narrative and the fact that some of the mos interesting parts of the story occur off-stage. The nature of a narrative which explores the challenges of memory and remembering and our own perspectives on the world means that at times there are unsatisfying gaps in explanations of characters and their motivations, but I think that needs to be embraced. The intense descriptions of the vignettes of story in each section of the book do however leave one feeling surprisingly close to the characters, and hide how little we actually see of their lives.

MUSIC

Groovin The Moo Canberra University The day didn’t start too cold but certainly ended up that way – the Old Person in my wondered how all the young women (and a few young men) in the minimal clothes would cope. But enough of my motherly concern about the cold.  The line up for the day was quite mixed, and we weren’t entirely sure what to expect early in the day. We started with Hermitude who were pretty awesome even for someone like me who doesn’t mind their style of electronica-come-hip hop (whatever the technical term may be) but wouldn’t call it my first choice in music. There were a few stand outs over the rest of the day. Parkway Drive confirmed for me that death metal is really not my thing, especially song after song of it. The Hillto Hoods had the audience on their side and were generally good, except that they totally over-played the sing a line and then stop approach. Once worked, twice was a bit ho-hum but when they were doing it for the fourth or fifth time it really made them seem like a one-trick pony performance wise. And then there was Andrew WK. My goodness. He was entirely freaky – and pretty much seemed to be playing the same song over and over again. We could only watch in fascination. The two stand outs for me were Public Enemy and the Kaiser Chiefs.

I have wanted to see Public Enemy for more years than I can count and they didn’t disappoint. They have ther performance and the music and still conveyed the energy and politics that has always been part of their music. They really are a posse – with the dudes on the stage who don’t seem to have a role other than some random crowd encouragement still seem to be a part of the whole. It was worth the cold to hear them, and they did play all the songs one hoped. At the end also they made a strong statement about tolerance and inclusivity.

The Kaiser Chiefs were also excellent – great stage show and again playing all the songs one wanted to hear. Lots of energy and an impressive display of barely missing a beat while spinning upside in the side show ride next to the stage. It seemed that some of the crowd had retreated to the tent for Digitalism (and warmth) but I thought that the Kaiser Chief were absolutely worth the frozen feet.

MOVIES

The Avengers Let me start by saying that, while this is a good super hero movie, it is still a super hero movie. Certainly not a genre buster or a radical interpretation of the notion of superheroes or anything like that. Fortuntely, I quite like superhero movies, and I like Joss Whedon’s writing, so over all this was a pleasant couple of hours. There are some definite highlights – Robert Downey Jr is in an acting class of his own in the film, possibly helped by the fact that he gets most of the best lines. If Iron Man was missing, this would not have been anywhere near as enjoyable. Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner also got some of the good line action, and Banner and Stark together were a great combination. I also found the self awareness of Captain America about his potential lameness quite good. In less impressive things, the story arc was just a touch too predictable, though I did wonder whether this was a deliberate Whedon ploy to make the most super hero-est of all super hero movies. I also found the destruction of New York just a tad distasteful – I know it has been ten years and all, but the relish with which is all got destroyed just made me feel a touch uneasy. Anyway, worth the time and money for those who like a super hero.

Monthly cultural round up: March

BOOKS

Siri Hustvedt The Summer Without Men This is quite a pleasant read, though in part I think that the various storylines don’t really gel, or at least do not coalesce in a way which makes thebook more than the sum of its parts. The most interesting parts of this for me was the contemplation of how close we live to our own insanity, when our expectations about the world are suddenly transformed, sometimes there is no place to go but insane. As the story of a woman finding her way back from this kind of traumatic break, it holds some interesting ideas about how one negotiates the world and the future. And then it wanders off into twee storylines about making teenagers like each other more through poetry. There are some interesting vignettes and some nice characters, but overall it doesn’ t quite hang together as well as it could and occasionally seems like a lot of fragments of Good Ideas have been smooshed together. But then again, maybe that is supposed to reflect the disorder of rethinking one’s life.

Alastair Reynolds The Prefect This starts of seeming like a much more straightforward novel than many of Reynolds, but this impression does not last. Beautifully rendered with textured characters, The Prefect is a clever mystery, but it also involves layers of complexity and concepts which make it on a par with other novels. It is fascinatingly dark and raises philosophical questions about what is right and reasonable and how one serves justice, and what justice even is. While it helps to have read other books in the same universe, it isn’t necessary. The world(s) of the Glitter Band are beatufiully thought out, and the book touches briefly on some of the concerns which Iain Banks’ Surface Detail explores in more depth – when should people be saved from themselves? Well worth a read – I am still yet to find a Reynolds’ which is disappointing.

FILMS

Hugo Another 3 D children’s movie – I nearly groaned. But I obviously hadn’t paid enough attention to the director (Martin Scorcese, so a favourite) or the plot. Actually, the publicity about the plot indicated “story of boy living in the walls of a train station in Paris” when in fact the film was really about film itself, but particulary the story of George Melies, the man who gave us the iconic early film image of a rocket smashing into the smiling face of the moon. While it started a little Disney-like with swirling snow and oafish authority figure chases rascally child through train station, it quickly became more interesting. It is clearly made by a man who loves and treasures the history of film and the scenes of Melies at work as a director are delightful. Beautifully cast and acted, it could occasionally have been a little faster paced – though it didn’t lose the attention of the small boys accompanying me.It provide nice vignettes of characters – and the slightly predictable or stereotyped nature of the charaters and their interactions seemed to be more about the exercise of film archetypes than a lack of originality. In fact, much of the film is a tribute to these tropes of film – the dream-within-a-dream, the dangling from the hands of a clock – the film is imbued throughout with clever little tributes to films. Even the use of iconic actors like Ben Kingsley and Christopher Lee seemed to be for their role as a symbol of film history rather than merely their acting skills. Enjoyable for the non-film lover, those who love this history of films will especially enjoy it.

MUSIC

Duran Duran Sydney Entertainment Centre I last saw Duran Duran 29 years ago when they first toured Australia. I thought it was completely amazing, my first experience of live music, so while I was very keen to go and see them again, there was a small touch of trepidation that all my teen memories would be crushed if they ended up being a bit lame. Interestingly, they referenced that tour 29 years ago – they had been the act to open the Sydney Entertainment Centre (I saw them in Adelaide at Memorial Drive). Anyway, there we were in a very diverse crowd, even if the majority were women about my age. They opened with a song from their current album, but it was soon into the old favourites.  They sounded tight, well rehearsed and professional and their multimedia show was enough to be interesting and entertaining without distracting from the band itself. It was definitely a music concert, rather than a visual spectacular. The pace in the first half of the show was a little slow and a bit stop-start and didn’t manage to carry the momentum it potentially could have. Everyone was up and dancign for old favourites, but with slightly too long/many pauses in between songs, the enthusiasm dropped for the newer, more unfamilar songs, and much of the audience was seated for these. This was overcome in the latter half where the songs flowed together better and kept you going through the newer ones. Practically all the old favourites were played, and I think there was a song from every album. There was a huge amount of energy in their performance, and some terrific versions – Wild Boys is one of my least favourite songs recorded, but the performance was fantastic. They closed with Girls on Film and Rio, and it seemed like they had enjoyed the show as much as we had. So I’ll definitely be back if they are. And the 30 year old crush on Simon Le Bon has been somewhat revived, made worse by the fact he is on Twitter.

Fifteen in Fifteen

So I am going to share with you the facebook  meme brought to me by Bell’s Knits.

The rules: Don’t take too long to think about it. Fifteen albums you’ve heard that will always stick with you. List the first fifteen you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes.

1. Rio – Duran Duran

2. Mercy Seat – Nick Cave

3. The White Stripes – The White Stripes

4. Eponymous – R.E.M.

5 . Epic – Faith No More

6. Nevermind – Nirvana

7. Pablo Honey – Radiohead

8. Hazards of Love – The Decemberists

9. Somery – The Descendents

10. Tommy – The Wedding Present

11. Shame About Ray – the Lemonheads

12. Slanted and Enchanted – Pavement

13. Is This It – The Strokes

14. Flood – They Might Be Giants

15. Bleach – Nirvana

Wow, doing that it shows how much I tend to think about songs individually rather than albums. The iPod age means I rarely seem to listen to entire albums at a time, just snatches here and there. Perhaps this is revealed by the fact that not that many of those albums are from the last 10 years, and fewer from the last 10. It is interesting that our conception of music has moved away from the album thing which probably reached its peak in the 1970s and 1980s, but has died away now that cd shuffle and iPods and our other technologies of music have moved beyond the mix tape – we no longer have to listen to music in the manner in which artists carefully construct it for us.Oh, how could I have forgotten Pink Floyd and Dark Side of the Moon for that list? But I think of it now because its tracks always sound oddly out of place when they randomly show up on my iPod. But then again, so do some of those by Eminem or OutKast – so maybe album construction isn’t totally dead.

All right, those of you who read this – I challenge you to construct your own and link back here – then I will return the favour by linking to you.

Cultural Round Up: February

So, that month went fast. Oh wait, that’s because it is short. Still managed to jam a few things in though and here are the highlights

Books

This month I went from the seduction of short chapters to the reality of no chapters, and found that counterproductively, both make it really hard to put a book down. Just one more short chapter section…. Or maybe it was just the compelling nature of what I was reading.

The Resurrectionist James Bradley As mentioned last month, finished it at the beginning of the month and found it engaging reading from start to finish. Absolutely worth reading if you are brave enough to explore the moral ambivalence within us all.

Wyrd Sisters Terry Pratchett Strange though it is to admit, this was my first foray into the Discworld. I wondered at first whether I might have been too old to start – some of the humour at the beginning seemed very contrived to me, like a poor mean’s Douglas Adams. But I did begin reading Douglas Adams at 13, so, as I said, perhaps it left that impression because I was a bit old. But, the book did grow on me and I quite enjoyed it in the end. I also read it in no time flat, and sandwiched between the darkness of The Resurrectionist and The Road it was a bit of disposable light relief. Nothing life changing, but not every book has to be like that.

The Road Cormac McCarthy In another first foray into an author, this book was more in the life changing category. OK, that is a bit over the top, but this was an absolutely compelling book. Compelling, haunting, emotional, I wanted to keep reading but I really feared and dreaded how it might end. The images were so real and so vividly conjured with a sparsity of language that was impressive. For a book in which so little happens, the tension never leaves one.

It did, of course, also make me think that my post apocalyptic planning should figure in more guns.

Movies

So this month I didn’t actually make it to the cinema. Blame the small children, the work and the general social busy-ness. But did manage to watch a few DVDs.

Idiocracy So the partner was lent this, and I was sceptical, but then I saw it included in one of i09 (I believe)’s reviews of best sci fi of the decade or something similar (which, unfortunately, currently eludes me) so I figured it must have something interesting. It has a clever an entertaining premise – that which was so memorably articulated in Flagpole Sitter by Harvey Danger – that only stupid people are breeding, examining the idea of what the world would become like if this was allowed to continue unchecked. It was reasonably well executed, and you have to like any film which has laugh-out-loud moment, which Idiocracy definitely has. There is this whole fabulous scene around a sports drink which has been marketed to water grass – “but it has electrolytes” “but what are they” “electrolytes are what plants need” etc which is a fabulous satire on the whole way marketing slogans are used and repeated until they become truth. For what is essentially a one-joke film, it carries it off well, but ultimately a comedy film about idiots does have its limitations.

Zombie Strippers and Dod Sno It is our want, from time to time, to engage in a bit of a zombie fest, usually in the company of friends. This month saw just one of these events. First up was Zombie Strippers featuring legendary porn star Jenna Jameson in a (sort of) cross over movie. It must be said that, at first, it could not much be discerned from a porn with respect to its fairly ordinary script and extremely wooden acting. And then we found Jenna reading Nietzsche. Which didn’t entirely manage to lift the film completely, but did add an additional oddness to the whole undertaking. We started to figure that a drop out philosophy grad student might have written the script. The philosophical concepts in it were used correctly, it was just odd. You don’t often get a army-grunt-shooting-type using the word “ontological” in any context, let alone a correct one. It still didn’t explain why the crowd found the zombie strippers quite so compelling, even when totally decayed, and one can’t get over the idea that even Robert Englund was slumming it to appear in this one, but did add to the (be)amusement factor.

We followed with the Norwegian Dod Sno (Dead Snow, in case you couldn’t guess) which had it all: chainsaws, lost treasure, spooky old guys, murdered lovers, outdoor toilets,  and NAZI ZOMBIES! Very much a traditional group-of-friends-in–the-wilderness zombie flick (and it even acknowledged this itself is a nice piece of referentialism) it didn’t really offer anything particularly new to the genre, but was a pretty entertaining and as-plausible-as-it-gets unchallenging piece of entertainment.

Television

Torchwood Children of Earth (spoiler alert – skip over it if you want to remain in the dark)

This had promise. Interesting ideas and premises which could have taken us in a number of directions. And the first couple of episodes were good – watching Jack come back to life was painfully gripping. But, but, but, it was all spoilt by two woefully appalling concluding episodes.

Could Ianto’s death be any more turgidly melodramatic? And the premise any more ridiculous? I can’t believe for a moment that Jack and Ianto would have gone to all the effort to get in there only to challenge the alien with a couple of pop guns and some defiant rhetoric. Going to shout at the 456? It just wasn’t a credible plan, and not at all a Captain Jack plan. Jack was smarter than that. There were plot holes, total credibility gaps – the PM ordering the Secretary to sacrifice his children was just laughably ludicrous, and the Secretary’s reaction to that order was equally ridiculous and illogical. And what was it striving so valiantly to critique? The morality was all messed up and unclear. In the end Jack did just what the government was going to do – sacrifice a small number in order to save a large number, though the sacrifice was sort-of his. Also, I resented the sidelining of Gwen from the denouement into some pointless baby-sitting. But I’ll stop now. Except to say, all the stuff which was interesting about the original 3 parts was completely frittered away in the final two episodes in one of the greatest sci fi disappointments I have ever encountered.

The Wire Season 2 Again, started last month, finished in February. Very very good, and with the final episode again highlighting the Sisyphean nature of the task of the police: there is no end, no defeat of the adversary in the war on drugs, there are always replacements. It does leave you wondering what does it all mean and why do they go one. What would happen if it was all left unchecked – anything worse? The first two episodes of season three also goes somewhat to these ideas, which are really very challenging in a police show, questioning as they do the entire basis of our approach to law and order in an implicit way. I can’t wait to watch every episode.

Music

The Hazards of Love The Decemberists Having seen The Decemberists at the Big Day Out we have been spending a lot of time listening to their latest album, The Hazards of Love. And when I say a lot, I do mean it. I think the very fact that it stands up to several hours on repeat and many many plays over the course of the month stands testament to its excellence. The Rake is a brilliant and haunting song, and I find myself singing “the wanting comes in waves” all the time. Highly recommended.

Dub Dub Goose Taking small boys to check out a new cafe, we heard ourselves grooving along to some very cool reggae-funk-brassy background music. My 7 year old was bold enough to ask what it was, and so we have been introduced to Dub Dub Goose who we inevitably googled on our return home. Very fun, very funky – am looking forward to hearing more of their work and hopefully catch them playing locally at some time. At least I brung up small boys to like interesting music!

January Cultural Round Up

So I have decided as an exciting new feature to give a quick overview at the end of each month of those things cultural which have taken up my attention over the last month. We thus commence with January.

Books

The Master and Margarita Mikhail Bulgakov

In a word, Russian. There is something about the first half of books that requires that the plot really doesn’t move along much – I’ll never forget the endless wanderings around the streets for the first half of Crime and Punishment. Anyhow, I did enjoy the second half and clearly it is fascinating as a product of its social time and place.

The Resurrectionist James Bradley

Have not finished yet, but it is darkly seductive, drawing one in and leaving one dreamily wanting more just like the opium Gabriel finds himself taking. And whoever thought that short chapters made a book easier to put down at night. I find myself reading well past my bedtime, figuring just one, short chapter more can’t take very long…can it?

Cinema

Avatar

Well, I have said my piece on Avatar elsewhere to some extent. Beautiful to look at but empty at its heart. And I am sorry, but a “best Film” should really be a bit more than aesthetically pleasing – I generally demand an actual script and some less by-the-numbers acting.

Sherlock Holmes

Strong auteurial influence – it had never occurred to me to think of Watson as a bit of a geezer before. However, rather an enjoyable romp, though I think it might have been better if the central characters were renamed – really, anything other than Holmes and Watson.

The Princess and the Frog

Classic Disney in the classicist sense. Old school animation, American Dream rags-to-riches storyline…Admittedly the “princess” is a poor girl with a dream (Cinderella anyone) and the Prince is a lay about – but let’s face, he is transformed by love and hard work and she is transformed by marriage, so there we go. Nonetheless, not too bad, and I will even guiltily admit I got a little tear at one point – must have been dust in my eye.

Television

The Wire  – Season 2

The charisma of Jimmy McNulty insidiously creeps under one’s guard, and suddenly one finds oneself with a full blown case of TV boyfriend! So far, season 2 is showing itself to be as intriguing as season 1, full of moral dilemmas and perspectives and a demonstration that some of our notions about crime and morality are not as black and white as they could be. Situation, opportunity and grinding poverty are all keys to the story.

Dollhouse – season 1

It occurs to me that this series was just a big chance for Joss to do what he loved to do in Buffy and Angel – make his characters be someone else. Better mid season than its shaky start, I still long for it to be a bit better. The mid season episodes are improved though by Eliza getting to play Eliza, which has always been her strongest suit.

Games

Lego Star Wars  for the Wii

It must be said that the interstitial moments of Lego Star Wars really make you want to get to the end of the level. Wait, so does the frustration of having to do the same annoying thing over a few times… Having never really played one of these types of games before I was somewhat addicted for the first half of the month – and I can see Zelda purchases in my future.

Music

This month was dominated by the Big Day Out which we journeyed all the way to Adelaide to attend. The best discoveries for the day: my mild interest in The Decemberists was heightened by seeing them perform live and Peaches, let’s just say her show is totally, rockingly, insane. For my full run down of the Big Day Out, see here.

Woodstock and the myth of the Sixties

So it is 40 years since Woodstock, which means we get people (who are cultural theory academics apparently) saying stuff like this:

To many people it kind of represents the 60s and we put that in quotation marks. All of the kind of optimism and energy of the counter-culture of the 1960s seems to have been temporarily placed at Woodstock.

It became the capital of the 60s for a brief period. And of course, I think one of the reasons Woodstock becomes so embraced, it wouldn’t be very many years before so much optimism of that period had in fact collapsed.

Basically, it is mythological bollocks.

Paul Lyons writes about how he sends his undergraduates out each year to interview people who lived during the Sixties.

He describes the reaction of students who are sent to interview baby boomers about their experiences during the decade. Inevitably these students complain that they are “not finding the right people” and that those they interviewed “weren’t really part of the Sixties.” This is because their subjects do not confirm to the tropic understanding of the Sixties held by these students: that the Sixties involved Woodstock, hippies, civil rights and the Vietnam War. For many, the sum of these tropes is the Sixties.

OK, so what is a trope? Hayden White says:

Tropic is the shadow from which all realistic discourse tries to flee. This flight, however, is futile; for tropics is the process by which all discourse constitutes the objects which it pretends only to describe realistically and to analyze objectively.

What he means is that tropes are organising concepts which in the case of history can obscure what we are actually trying to objectively consider. So, in the case of Lyons’ students, they are so fixated on the tropes of the Sixties – the sex, drugs, protest and rock and roll aspect of it – that they are unable to understand that in fact, that isn’t what constituted the experience of most people during the period. And by then denying the voice of the non-tropic recollections of history, the idea that those things constituted the decade becomes further reinforced.

You will probably find that, if you asked, most baby boomers have been to a hell of a lot less protest marches, taken less drugs, had sex with fewer people than most people 20 years younger than them. But not in all cases of course. Someone the other day was saying it would have been exciting to be young in the Sixties. Maybe – if you came from the socio-economic class where you could afford a higher education, where you might, maybe, at university have engaged with political movements. For the majority of young people growing up at the time, it was nothing like that. There is as much excitement and change and pioneering going on nowadays.

This is not to deny that there was signifiant cultural change during the Sixties and that many movements had powerful pioneers during that time to whom we should all be greatful. The women’s movement, the civil rights movements in America and the fight for Aboriginal rights in Australia, the anti-war movement were all critical and significant parts of change. However, they didn’t “happen” to everyone, and not everyone who lead those movements was young at the time.

Nonetheless, we mythologise. And Woodstock was not all peace and love anyway. There was at least one rape reported following the event in 1969 and probably a great deal more that went unreported, given the approach to dealing with rape at the time. And rape could be a very challenging area when intersected with the “free love” movement. It is notable that, by the 1980s, some women viewed their experiences with “free love” and the sexual revolution somewhat skeptically. While there was an undoubted change in the way women dealt with sex during the Sixties, the perspective that many women took by the 1980s was far from a total endorsement their sexual lives from the time. For example, Lillian Rubin interviewed one woman who argued that the revolution, which had freed them to say yes, also disabled them from saying no. “It was weird; it was so hard to say no,” said 38-year-old Paula…“The guys just took it for granted that you’d go to bed with them, and you felt like you had to explain it if you didn’t want to. Then if you tried, you couldn’t think of a good reason why not to, so you did it.” A number of other women interviewed by Rubin repeat this theme. Rubin herself notes that “it was the coercive force of a movement that, in fact, had wide appeal to women, while it also rested on a deeply entrenched structure of roles and relationships that was bound to corrupt the ideals on which it was founded.” Thus free love without sexual equality could lead to coercive expectations on women around sex.

Despite all this, when rapes occured at the Woodstock festival in 1999, it was seen as a condemnation of “young peope today” and moral panic about the manner in which this mythologised event was being diminished. And this is essentially the danger of mythologising and tropes. We can’t critical analyse in a past when we are too obsess with protecting it and with seeing it as representative of everything about an era. Nothing, no single event, and especially not an LSD fuelled orgy can represent an entire decade, and entire generation. To try and argue that it does oversimplifies and, in so doing, distorts the past. And by distorting the past and obscuring the analysis, we can’t understand it in all its complexity.

So, I might have liked to have been at Woodstock – although I tend to avoid music festivals where I have to camp…And it certainly is an interesting event which illustrates the peak, arguably, of a certain small subculture within North America at the time. But let’s not overblow its meaning, let’s not oversimplify what happened in the past.




I love Lily

Walking to work the other morning with the iPod in, I heard Back to the Start and listened to the lyrics properly for the first time, and I actually got almost a little teary. The song really captures the jealously and slightly irrational casual cruelty which girls indulge in, the way they hurt each other as a manner of exercising power and control, an later grow up and realise how stupid that all was. Having once been a girl, this resonated with me in a way which was enough to provoke a visceral emotional reaction (of course, nowadays, all sorts of things make me cry, whereas I used to laugh at my sister and mother when they got teary in Lassie and Disney movies, but anyway…).

I am a big Lily Allen fan, and while I love the catchiness of the music, it has actually generally been the lyrics which appeal. I think it is a massive pity to see her compared to the likes of Katy Perry, when she is much more like the original I Kissed a Girl (an infinitely cleverer song than the current one) singer, Jill Sobule. Jill, while more folksy than Lily, combined catchy tunes with cleverly observed lyrics about identifiable situations and ideas. Margaret (about the downfall of the prettiest girl in the school) and Karen By Night (about the secret life of a shoe saleswoman), in particular, demonstrated Jill Sobule’s ability to tell an engaging story in a short time to a catchy singable tune. Lily Allen  demonstrates the same witty approach to her music. Anyone who has had a younger brother can identify immediately with the frustrations of Alfie and the notion of “how do you expect to get laid when all you do is play and play on your computer game.”

The other comparison which would do Lily Allen’s music far more justice is with the Brit-pop tradition which she clearly follows – Blur and Pulp in particular. LDN for example has a lot in common with a song like Park Life in the manner in which it captures the a side of British life. Again the juxtaposition of the catchy music and the clever lyrics which contributed to the enduring popularity of these bands and their songs are present in Lily Allen’s songs.

So let’s not dismiss her as a pop princess and ensure she gets considered in the more enduring tradition of music, because I think her lyrics deserve it.

Final (I promise) thoughts on the Triple J Hottest 100

Having read lots of the debate online and the listened to the comments on Hack on Monday, I thought I might go back to a couple of original thoughts.

I don’t think that the result (ie only 2 female vocal tracks and only 9 tracks by black artists) makes Triple J or its listeners sexist, misogynist or racist. nor are those who didn’t include a woman in their own Top 10 misogynist – hey, I, all without realising, am guilty of that charge. What I think the result actually reveals is systemic sexism – within the music industry itself and more broadly within society. As noted by blogger Orlando:

Whenever words like “greatest”, “most important”, “best”, “most influential” and so on, are used in any context we are taught to think of men (I think this is exactly what happened when JJJ put their history pages together). We just aren’t given models in our formative years of women having places beside men in “history”, just occasionally in that disreputable annex “women in history” or “women in rock”.

It is easy to throw around terms like “misogynist” without undertaking much analysis. It is much harder to tackle this notion of systemic discrimination. The Hottest 100 did what all democratic processes do (and thus reveals the limits of democracy) – it reproduced the prevailing ideas/ideology of those who participated in the voting. Democracy is not progressive as a system; it requires progressive activism to prompt change and usually follows social movements rather than leads them (the Green movement and Green political party is a case in point).

The other interesting little side-alley that this debate has gone down appeared in The Punch yesterday when Chris deal brought a whole new dimension to the debate by introducing class. He argued:

Triple J have confirmed the rumour that the only thing that stands between them and mainstream rock stations like Triple M is the absence of an ad break. Their previous tenants have moved out, and the lease has been signed by the nouveau-bogan elite. They’re got a bit of coin. They’ve discovered ecstasy. They’ve infiltrated the Big Day Out. They adorn their torsos with Australian flags and sing along to the Kings Of Leon like their founding bogan fathers did with Cold Chisel. And Triple J is now the shining star in the night sky with which these un-wise men follow towards their Rock Jesus.

Now this is quite interesting. The article appears to imply a link between misogyny and class – well, class in the sense of bogans. Now I understand that bogan is not necessarily a class based term in the strictly Marxist sense of the word, but it does tend to generally apply to the lesser educated, more traditional working (or non-working) classes. And I do recognise that there has been an infiltration of the alternative music scene and particularly the festivals by those who Sartre-debating types would turn their noses at. And yes, traditionally working class culture is less progressive in respect to its position on women. But, and this is a big but, I think it is a major cop out to try and imply that sexism and misogyny are the province of bogans alone. It is present across all class spectrums as is obvious in any cultural analysis. So we need to be careful about reducing the debate to simple stereotyping.

Also, I must admit that there is some beautiful irony in the idea that Triple J’s progressiveness is being brought down by bogans whose culture was so ruthlessly appropriated by the university elites of the early nineties as grunge took to the stripped back guitar based tradition which had been oft the province of the bogan during the synthesised 1980s, and students everywhere emulated their Westie fellows in flannies, tattered jeans and battered boots. Ah, how the circle turns.