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Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Numbers 50-41, "Formed a Band"

#42, Liars
50.Formed A Band - Art Brut
Bang Bang Rock & Roll (2005)
"It's not irony/ it's not Rock 'n' Roll/ we're just talking, to the kids." And that of course is just oozing irony. It's the song that tries to be as banal as possible. "Formed a band/ we formed a band/ look at us/ we formed a band." But it's a case study in pop banality and pop meanings, this song is about every song. The fact that it generates a quite profound narrative from elements that are in their own right so bland is its genius.

Art Brut's debut album seemed to offer so much potential, it crackled with about eight tracks that were all single-worthy, and Eddie Argos seemed at least to this observer to be the absolute next great thing, and mostly because of the well-worn hipster irony. "I'm drinking Hennesy/with Morrissey" is about as knowing as genius gets, at least until he starts singing about David Hockney, or 'Ockney, as pronounced "Modern art makes me/ want to rock out."

But something went wrong. He'll probably fancy I'm just kissing arse, but when Chris Chinchilla upped and made Melbourne home, the band seemed to totally lose the knack of writing pop music altogether. And Eddie Argos suddenly didn't wear his ironic pantaloons nearly half as well. So if you buy an Art Brut album, make it this one. JUST this one. And you should, because I'd probably have it in my decade's Top 20.

49.Poison Dart - The Bug Feat. Warrior Queen
London Zoo (2008)
So we've spoken about dubstep, we've spoken about grime. This beast distils and melds all the greatest elements of both. A beat that sounds like a heart attack. A rap that belts you with a sonic baseball bat. Wire magazine had this as their best album of 2008, and they know a thing or two. The culmination of about twenty years quiet achievement by Kevin Martin, I'm really not terribly familiar with much of his other work, and I need to fix that.

48.Matadjem Yinmixan - Tinariwen
Aman Iman: Water Is Life (2007)
There's not a heap of World Music in this list, and I'll confess that's because it's a bit of a musical gap of mine. The Tuareg are a semi-nomadic desert Berber people from Mali, and Tinariwen actually means "the deserts" in their native tongue. Tinariwen the group formed while the founding members were exiled in Algeria during the Malinese civil war, basically building their own guitars, in one case out of "a tin can, a stick and bicycle brake wire."

The band were actually trained as rebel soldiers by Gaddhafi's Libya, eventually returning to their homeland following a Tuareg uprising in the early 90s, and finally laying down arms for guitars on a permanent basis. Their guitar style is known locally as 'assouf', and as is obvious from even the first bar of this number, draws substantially on NON-western musical traditions. While there's a hint of blues to it, it appears to be because it's sourcing the same West African traditions as the blues itself. The band claim never to have heard any actual blues music until they started touring internationally in the early noughties.

But in a decade where my thesis starts with "you've heard it ALL before", Tinariwen stand very resolutely out, because unless I've got a bunch of Touareg nomads online here, you very definitely HAVEN'T.

47.Ready For The Floor - Hot Chip
Made In The Dark (2008)
Hot Chip, if Pee Wee Herman went electronic. No question these guys produced some of the catchier indie-centric dancefloor numbers of the decade, the art of it all is these strange, languid almost anti-dance melodies that somehow find themselves very neatly shoehorned into their least suited genre. It all just works.

46.Nine Samurai - Kode9 and The Spaceape
Memories Of The Future (2006)
OK this is the last of the dubstep. Which means this is the decade's finest dubstep.

The riff sound at all familiar? It's Fumio Hayasaka's "Seven Samurai Suite" from Kurosawa's "Seven Samurai", and would you have ever thought that would work as a dubstep tune? No. Nothing about this should work. Yet EVERYTHING does.

45.(I Know) A Girl Called Jonny - Rowland S Howard
Pop Crimes (2010)
A collaboration with HTRK's vocalist Jonny Standish, it all hangs on the chorus: "She's my narcotic lollipop" intoned into virtual narcolepsy. Is it a love song or a fantasy? The song's subject matter being audibly present in the song is actually extremely unsettling. It's as creepy as it is romantic, this musical strangeling really does stay with you.

44.Single Ladies - Beyonce
I am Sasha Fierce (2008)
No credible summation of the decade could leave this  out. Arguably the only real candidate for single of the decade, Beyonce has always had a knack for walking JUST enough the artist's side of the populist street, and that extends to every element of the "brand". She herself is possibly the quintessential postmodern gesamtkunstwerk. So this is WAGNER ...

43.NY Excuse - Soulwax
Any Minute Now (2004)
If there were such a thing as dance-punk, this would probably be its anthem. Lyrically its a pick-apart job on late capitalism's erosion/appropriation of human identities "This is the excuse that we're making/ is it good enough for what you're paying?/ You're PAYING!"

For all the effort house music most specifically goes to in manipulating the listener's emotions through normally facile "builds" and "drops", this is a properly crafted work of art that starts sloooowly ratcheting up from the minute it starts, and it builds towards a crescendo that Tiesto reckons he'd know exactly what to do with, Soulwax, whom you may also know as 2manydjs, are quite happily to let NY Excuse spin off like a mad loose bobbin into the realms of self-annihiliation. And therein is the genius.

42.The Other Side Of Mt. Heart Attack - Liars
Drum's Not Dead (2006)
Well worth seeing live, if you ever get the chance, Liars are largely LA-based aussie Angus Andrew's project. And throughout the decade they were certainly amongst those bands doing some of the most interesting stuff in the noise/experimental zone. Although let's face it, a lot of that's not really all that interesting. The album's terrific too. Experimenting with gated rhythm and pedal effects to fully deconstruct the entire idea and purpose of rhythm within the traditional song format. Here, rhythm is present, but it's almost totally indistinct from melody, and with a genuine sense of poetics, the vocal is amongst the most effective and affective things that the noughties produced.

41.Icarus Smicarus - McLusky
The Difference Between Me And You Is That I'm Not On Fire (2004)
I challenge anyone to not let this beast leave them reeling from exposure to even a fifteen second sample. This is absolutely everything that's great about McLusky. Completely irreverent, middle finger thrust proudly in the air. If it's not poetry, and it isn't, then that's basically just poetry's loss. As a great man once said, "play FUCKEN LOUD!"