The Church Of Me
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Kissing in the churchyard, I know a righteous woman

Tuesday, September 10, 2002

You know what we need right now? Less Beatles/Stones/Roses tribute bands…and more KLF tribute bands! If one is to venerate the past then try to venerate a part of it which isn’t already overcrowded with chasers of a long-gone ambulance. And because I can only assess through my own perspective, I am justified in saying that Push The Beat For This Jam: The Singles ‘94-’02, a compilation of hits by German stadium house operatives Scooter, is a far worthier, far more stimulating, ultimately far more compassionate companion than the collected works of Bob Dylan. For me. To me. It sings to me because it sings to too few others. Or other lovers of music and movement who are sufficiently wise not to analyse and know that movement counts above all else.

Their formula has scarcely changed in the last eight years; they are reliable but always fresh because no one else is doing it. There is no ZZ Top to nullify their Status Quo. Roaring crowd sounds, blissfully obvious fast beats, and a German toastmaster/ringmaster who can sound almost like Shaun Ryder if you squint your ear enough.

The opening track “Hyper Hyper” would coincide with Mike Skinner’s epiphany of the lazily swaying cornfields, except this is visceral rather than soothing (although the latter can never be ruled out; poignancy, intended or otherwise, is essential to all great Europop). A galaxy of DJs is saluted, out of whom only Carl Cox and Laurent Garnier appear still to be prospering.

The introduction to “Move Your Ass” is sublime – “Get off your shirts and wait for further instructions!…I’ve got one message for the next decade – MOVE! YOUR! ASS!!” A “Kick Out The Jams” for the generation succeeding me, suitably apolitical, yet in its wider implications paradoxically much more political. A 2 Unlimited-style stomp without the distracting cheese – and can we trace the history of the stomp in European pop through Joe Meek via Glam and Moroder, finally emerging into what we hear here? “It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice!” The MC (commonly known as “Dave from Sheffield”), who fittingly looks uncannily like Heinz, outlines his utopia.

After that it is predictable, true, but a predictability which entices rather than a predictability which simply bores or frustrates (the B Gillespie Academy of Proper Music). “Friends” marks the first appearance of another of their trademarks: the speeded-up vocal, determinedly asexual – sex has no real place in this music, celebration (of what?) is all. “Friends – we’ll be friends” the echo repeats to an impossibly jubilant major chord change suddenly dipping into warped mid-line synth bass and re-emerging triumphantly.

It is the MC’s job to uplift. “Party people! The sky has changed! Can you smell the sun? It’s time for the most exciting season – an ENDLESS SUMMER!!” the next track begins. It is relentlessly euphoric, and here there are indeed rising piano tones looping over and over and a yearning diva (another legacy from Meek?). The polar opposite to Fennesz’ idea of an Endless Summer, though the latter would sound great at 6:30 in the morning as you’re winding down and getting back into the car. “Feel the energy – rough and tough and dangerous!” he exclaims, after emitting an unearthly scream. The speeded up vocal here sounds, however, uncannily like it’s singing “I walk alone” – a comment on the transience of the “generation of the future” so smartly nailed by Pulp and the Streets? Certainly the crowd fadeout could well be a football chant. The sublimely absurd, just the right side of the cheese fence, central riff of “Back In The UK” – somewhere between Kraftwerk’s “Radio-Activity” and Cannon and Ball’s Casino. “I wanna check the birds, the trees, the cows and the seas!” Beat that, Dickie Ashcroft. The distended, shattered choir which kicks off “Let Me Be Your Valentine” – a love scenario which would be, I suspect, unreproduceable outside of a Russ Meyer film or a Larry Clark photojournal. “Listen to the voice of Valentine – MU MU MU!” The first of several overt tributes to Drummond and Cauty. Clearly these men have studied the How to Have a Number One Manual in loving detail. Well, someone had to. “This is a Valentine’s party!” “Heil! Heil! Heil!” the crowd may or may not reply.

Alas, as is common with this genre, they lose the knack when they make the mistake of letting other music(s) invade their territory. The cover of “Rebel Yell” is ill-advised and far too reverent, showing the joins. “I’m Raving” works better – this starts off as a straight cover of Shut Up and Dance’s original Cohn-sampling “Raving I’m Raving,” but instead of going proto-junglist, the track quite remarkably segues into synthesised bagpipes playing “Scotland the Brave” FOR NO LOGICAL REASON AT ALL (hey it’s the Illogical Song!). Quite remarkable in its unabashed genius.

The next track “How Much Is The Fish?” might reasonably lead to expect sampling of Stump (“does the fish have chips” et al), but no – this begins “the chase is better than the catch” followed by what may or may not may be “transforming the Jews – we need your support!” if you’re not listening properly. The titular question appears to have little to do with the general urge to movement proclaimed in this song, though the synthesised folk song seems here to be modified klezmer (or possibly a mutation of the Jeux Sans Frontieres theme tune, voiced by the Red Army Choir at this song’s climax). Isn’t this a truer resurrection than “Bitter Sweet Symphony”? Even “Fire” which is a fairly unremarkable attempt to do the Prodigy, is redeemed by the “hey-hey-HEY” chant remembered from Geordie’s great forgotten plumber-glam stomper “All Because Of You.” “The Age of Love” promotes “love, peace and unity” and in the next breath claims this purity to be “rough and ready.”

With “No Fate” an air of melancholy begins to infiltrate Scooter’s anthems. This is low-key (their equivalent of a ballad) and although it talks about saying “goodbye to the past, hello to the future,” Dave warns that “the struggle continues.” It’s the first minor key song on the album.

But next, out of chronological sequence, but still a stroke of genius, comes a compromise with doubt and a consequent dismissal of angst, so brilliantly evoked in the best single of 2002 so far, their visionary rereading of Supertramp’s “The Logical Song.” What a work of art this record is. Starting with the first four lines of the original, with the speeded up voice returning, but sounding more wistful and perhaps more hurt than ever. A recollection of a golden youth which may only have happened in one’s imagination. Wisely the song sticks with the first four lines, not bothering to list the causes of the singer’s subsequent descent into deathly cynicism. No song since the Pet Shop Boys’ “Being Boring” has managed to evoke the past so poignantly, and yet still sound utterly futuristic.

The angst is dispelled by Dave’s over-eager voice intoning “Good morning” like Fenella Fielding over the tannoy in The Prisoner. Like Hendrix, rising out of the ashes of Woodstock at 10 am on Monday to blast out “The Star Spangled Banner.” Life returns despite repeated attempts of the Supertramp excerpt to negate and demolish it. Yes it was beautiful and magical, the MC is saying, but it can be AGAIN. It will be DIFFERENT, she will be DIFFERENT, but it will HAPPEN AGAIN. What better way of reaffirming life than to blow a raspberry in the face of despair. Dave’s climactic proclamation of “Love, peace and unity – SIBERIA IS THE PLACE TO BE! The K, the L, the F and the Ology…HALLELUJAH!” may well be one of the most sublime moments in love ever perpetuated by pop music.

The KLF intonation initiates a full-blown homage. “Posse (I Need You On The Floor)” IS (at least in its first half) “What Time Is Love?” The delivery becomes more unhinged. “Materialski!” “I’m bigger and bolder and rougher and tougher” he samples. “In other words sucker, I’VE GOT NO BROTHER!” (negating the community again) “Check your watch! We’ll never stop!” Subliminal drum segments recalling the Dave Clark Five, immediately succeeded by synth burps evoking Cabaret Voltaire. “Haile Kylie!” he may or may not be yelling. The synthesised Russian choir and tympani which drive “Call Me Manana” and which would be worthy of ZTT at its peak, and which unaccountably mutates into a fairground organ at its fadeout.

Were that not enough, we now get “Fuck the Millennium,” though this is not quite the KLF tune. Instead of sturdy trawlermen at sea, we get “I’m the candyman. Also known as Dave. Dave from Sheffield. Furthermore known as the Screaming Lord (Sutch? Another Meek reminder). But you can call me Ice…Ice Ice Baby – THIS IS THE LIBERATION! I wanna fuck!” now sounding like Iggy Pop. A synth siren wavers. The song suddenly grinds to a halt. “Staying on the edge” smirks “Dave.” Inexplicably we now go into a Eurocheese version of “Wheels Cha Cha.” McLaren could never have conceived this. This is completely devoid of self-consciousness, and all the better for it.

“Coming at ya like Cleopatra!” says Dave, quickly drowned by a cinematic choir on “AIII Shot The DJ.” Morrissey talked, “Dave” acts. “All I want to do is chasin’ the punani” he, however, adds as a qualification.

The Scooter musical heritage appears to be a remembrance and recycling of all pop music of the last ten years remembered and recycled by no one else (electroclash hasn’t quite got to that stage yet). “Faster Harder Scooter,” for instance, shamelessly recycles the verse riff from the currently deeply unfashionable Shamen’s “Move Any Mountain.” Somehow this is much more palatable than, say, the Coral’s gruel-dominant, worthy diet of the Bunnymen, Madness and Morricone (misunderstanding all three, naturally).

Finally we hear the upcoming single “Nessaja,” another anthem of genius. “Always lived my life alone/Been searching for that place called home” says the speeded-up asexual voice with even more poignancy than before. “3 AM!” says the eternal Dave as the rhythm lurches once more into a race for immortality. “I AM THE JUNGLIST SOLDIER! It’s not a bird, it’s not a plane, it must be Dave who’s on the train! Wanna wanna get drunk! Am I gonna get dry?”

The alternating pelvis-driven beats and the inner voice telling Dorothy to come back. Back to life. It ends with a plaintive affirmation “I know that it’s not too late.” It is heartbreaking. It is the only climax imaginable for this divine pop record, which, being deadly serious about its deliberate facileness, presents a truer picture of what pop music meant to people over the last decade than virtually any Britpop back catalogue.

And it’s a message to Paul Morley, to Simon Reynolds, to Paul Lester, to all the acolytes of 1982 who never stopped believing; for ecstatic, shiny and wonderful pop music, you KNOW that it’s never too late.

posted by Marcello Carlin Permalink
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Spare a thought for Canada’s forgotten hip hop visionaries the Dream Warriors. I have recently rediscovered their 1991 debut And Now The Legacy Begins, and contrary to many of the artists/records I have lauded elsewhere on CoM, the trails they laid do seem to have been followed, albeit belatedly.

Unjustly dismissed as an Acid Jazz novelty act following their two hits “Wash Your Face In My Sink” and “My Definition of a Boombastic Jazz Style,” these tracks in fact manage to be mischievous as well as aesthetically astute. Borrowed from Gilles Peterson’s bottomless collection the samples may have been, but they still signpost a way forward from the original De La Soul template with their ingenuity (hear how the “Sink” sample – from Count Basie’s cover version of “Hang On Sloopy” (?!) – is artfully deconstructed into a ska rhythm in the intro and middle eight, thereby opening up another avenue of influence). The lyrics are playful and perhaps not very meaningful – gleeful gallimaufry as opposed to DLS’ primary-coloured surrealism. Indeed, the album as a whole gives an idea of what De La Soul Is Dead might have sounded like, had not sample clearance difficulties scuppered that particular record’s aesthetic (the original mix have gone down in history as the Smile of hip hop).

While some of the record is light – the deliberately warped skank of “Ludi” for example – other parts of it are determinedly adventurous. Try the near-industrial clanking of “Follow Me Out” with its refrain “who is the fool? The fool or the fool that follows the fool?” – ominous in its undertow; the title track with its subliminal minor-keying of “Genius of Love”; the astonishing “Tunes From The Missing Channel” which anticipates both trip hop and glitch in its stumbling, cut-up beats; and indeed the whole of the second side, which, with its skewered sci-fi lyrics and its sonic middle range concentration, makes them precursors to the likes of Deltron 3000, Mike Ladd and, ultimately, Dif Jux. This is an adventure which, perhaps predictably, was not satisfactorily followed up by its own creators; to my knowledge, there was one more album a couple of years later which failed to stimulate anybody, and then nothing. But it’s an important record which shouldn’t be overlooked.

posted by Marcello Carlin Permalink
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