Thursday, November 03, 2005
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
Albion, the Country and Bands
I feel like I should have made more explicit in my last post that my background
is rural-as-hell English. I spent the first 13 years of my life in a tiny village
outside Hereford. I only moved to Canada six years ago, at the age of 25.
So, I guess, all I'm saying is that I feel some kind of organic connection to the
English folk aesthetic that (superficially?) informs the whole free/freak-folk
scene. Being an expat gives me a really odd perspective on that connection.
It's like I had to leave the country(side) for a protracted period of time before I
realised what an essential part of my cultural outlook all that stuff always was.
Anyway, I'm actually more into actual English folk music and folk-rock than I'm
interested in the contemporary American post-folk scene. I really love
Fairport Convention, The Pentangle (check out the picture of me in a Pentangle
shirt on this bloc), Shirley Collins, Anne Briggs, Davy Graham, The
Watersons, Incredible String Band, Forest, Trees etc. etc. The catch is that I
didn't discover this stuff until a Canadian Britpop fan played me the first
Pentangle album about five years ago.
I'm extremely aware that my interest in folk music may be due to nostalgia for
an imagined England that never really existed/is a mere delusion of a
homesick expat. However, I know that a lot of people in the UK are also
digging this stuff and that the old real-ale-finger-in-ear stigma around britfolk is
finally fading away. Look at the success of the Green Man festival, just a
short trip west from where I grew up. Also, what's wrong with using music as a
means with which to envisage Utopia?
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
Weird, Ain't It?
Wise Reynolds words in the Village Voice re: The Weird New America.
I feel the same way as Simon for the most part, although I suspect that I'm a little more familiar with and discerning about the genre/scene then he is. Basically, I listen to quite a lot of that stuff but I've never been
able to buy into it completely.
From my experiences actually playing in a free folk ensemble (The Bastion Mews), I'd say that being an English ex-pat has a lot to do with it (Reynolds and I both grew up in the
and folklore etc.) are embraced by North Americans in a rather insubstantial "Rocky Horror Show"-loving Drama Club Goth fashion. So, while Wooden Wand are a great band and I did buy one of their LPs ("Sunset Sleeves"), they'll never mean as much to me as Coil or Richard Youngs - artists who are closer to the source in every sense.
This cuts pretty deep and runs beyond the realms of any kind of avant-noise music and into the singer-songwriting world. I really like US freak-folkers like Joanna Newsom, Devendra Banhart, Josephine Foster and Marrissa Nadler. And yet, I'll always prefer the work of relatively "corny"
James Yorkston and Chris T-T because there actually seems to be a point to and context for what they do. Listen to Banhart's protest songs on his new album next to T-T's "Bored of the War". The latter may make you cringe at its sincerity but the former will just wash over you - those songs could be about anything really and they'd have the same level of impact (medium).
I understand that Modest Mouse are a very popular band right now. It makes sense that, in the wake of their last album, there would be a slew of terrible major-label indie-rock acts who sound just like Modest Mouse (hellooo Wolf Parade) but what's the deal with previously good (or, at least, interesting) acts trying to cop a bit of that quirky-but-commercial magic. All of a sudden, The Double are signed to Matador and have gone the whole hog looking for a guest spot on The OC (well, they don't sound like Death Cab yet but have you heard the new Why? album?) and now The Animal Collective??? I had these guys down as one of the few truly interesting acts in indie rock today but listening to Feels is somewhat akin to having a good friend try to force turds into your ears. And then, the band have the nerve to complain about record labels insisting they keep their band name the same for every release. Bullshit!