Tuesday, August 22, 2006

On the Other Hand...
Carl reminds of the need to keep music evil in the coda of this post, basically a thorough character assassination of St Etienne. I certainly agree with the general anti-Popist, pro-imperfection sentiments here but I have a few problems with the specifics.


(i) Carl takes St Etienne to task for being, essentially, "politically-correct" pop. My guard always goes right up when someone plays the PC card. It almost always turns out to be some embittered right-winger, bashing an outdated academic trend in order to discredit anything politically to the left of Ghengis Khan. Which obviously isn't the case in this instance but...

While I can see what he's getting at, I can't help feeling that - in some sense - it's particularly inappropriate to describe Saint Etienne as PC. Political Correctness, to me, is inextricably linked to multiculturalism and St Etienne could hardly be more generically non-multicultural. Indeed, having an almost fascistic desire to bleed pop white is probably the worst charge one can level at St Etienne.

(ii) Carl also takes St Etienne to task for what he perceives as their bland childishness. Well, you know I'm a huge Jonathan Richman fan so...

I'd argue that most blandness in pop has far more to do with "adultness" than "childishness". Children are fascinating precisely because they are "imperfect " - unfinished, messy (both figuratively and literally)... It's this, as much as the supposed innocence and wonder of childhood, that J-Rich plugs into and it's this that gives him an edge on your run-of-the-mill twee pop. Whether St Etienne have this edge is open to debate.


(iii) I've always had a slight soft-spot for St Etienne. Have to admit, though, that this is mainly because I once interviewed them and they turned out to be shockingly friendly, considerate and not at all snooty. Have to agree with Carl that their music is largely quite unappealing but I'd just like to assure him that they are not twats.

Anyway, another great Impostume post that reminds us of the treasures to be found in the dollar bin. Carl's going to love my "UK Post-Rock Volume Two" mix CD (coming soon!)

4 comments:

carl said...

Actually I'm also a huge J.R fan. Really. I'll respond more fully on the blog, Sam. Actually I probably just used Saint Etienne unfairly as a way of venting spleen on certain Popist cliques that have always got my goat....

Samuel said...

I suppose I should point out that I favour the "bad" later J-Rich material over the classic early Modern Lovers stuff. Does that change things?

Simon Reynolds recently claimed that the Popist critique hadn't actually produced any music at all. I think the existence of St Etienne disproves that. I mentioned the Pet Shop Boys to him at the time...

Okay, but has Popism ever produced any really great music? Does Scritti Politti count?

carl said...

well yeah i really liked his last LP, for example, "not so much to be loved as to love" i think it was.. for me he has a level of sheer charm and panache that always gets to me .....I'm not a great admirer of the pet shop boys either,, there's something flat and knowing about them, Erasure grab me much more.... another example of journos making music maybe..here's a confession.. i've never really litened to Scritti, but what i know, "Wood Beez" and " The word girl" i find really quite unappealing .. again, loads of people whose judgement I respect love them..maybe i should make a more concerted attempt at the early stuff.

Samuel said...

"well yeah i really liked his last LP, for example,"

Yeah, great stuff. Loved that "the world was showing me it's hand" song.

"for me he has a level of sheer charm and panache that always gets to me"

Yeah, it's like the Kate Bush thing. Either you don't get these people or you fall completely under their spell and they can do no wrong.

"here's a confession.. i've never really litened to Scritti,"

Again, Green has such a force of personality that, for me, no matter how far he goes in the direction of insipid dance pop, I still lap it up. However, the "Early" CD on Rough Trade is a great survey of the early avant-punk Scritti and "Songs to Remember" is a fantastic period-of-transition album. The new album is something else altogether (unironic, confessional home-computer pop) and is - I have decided - the best album of the year.