CURVEBALLS OF PUNCTUMOur Club Poptimism playlist from Last Night (Friday 6 April 2007 for the benefit of future Channel 4 documentary researchers)There are few spectacles capable of stirring one's heart with such deft aplomb as providing a highly listenable soundtrack to accompany the playing of sundry board games - is 'Allo 'Allo The Board Game the croquet de nos jours, and if so are Lena and I supposed to be the prematurely defiant Anne Elliot of this tarnished age? - as we did in the Dickensian surroundings (think Barnaby Rudge, just after the riot sequence) of happening Clerkenwell gin joint The Union Tavern on a pinky blue Friday evening. Many thanks to the regulars who greeted Lena and I with such friendliness and goodness of heart, and in particular to those who ambled up to the decks to compliment us on our expert eighties retrosalad yeah selection of golden grooves (particularly Messrs Brennan and Hester). Sadly there was insufficient darkness and surfeit of comfortable tables to provoke any dancing, as such, but we hope that even as a listening experience the music licked its way into the more pulsatile of your veins like a stray drop of Bailey's Irish Cream seeping into a field of near-ripe raspberries. Our playlist - Lena-led, but MC-mixed - was as follows:James Brown - Soul Power Pts 1 & 2The real precursor to "Boom, Shake The Room."Afrika Bambaataa & the Soul Sonic Force - Planet RockGermans listen to JB, Harlem listens to Germans, the world is a circle and nobody hopes that it really ends.New Order - Everything's Gone GreenFor private reasons, the greatest pop single ever made. That's private as in "none of your flipping business" rather than in the Wandsworth/Brighton PRIVATE SHOP sense.Altered Images - Bring Me CloserThe tequila-free crossroads where glam, New Pop and true lushness encounter and merge with each other: "If I could achieve" resonates with so much more real a passion than the "I ACHIEVE" bullroarer which obliterated most 1983-89 pop almost before the songs were even written.Associates - Love HangoverThe superior Peel Sessions version where MacKenzie plays both torch tempter and torched tempted with Martha Ladly before springing out of himself, asserting "That's it!" like pop's stout Cortez and UNDERSTANDING Motown as Soulful, Passionate and Honest post-New Pop pop could never hope to do.AR Kane - A Love From Outer SpaceIf you wanted a memorial to New Pop by the eighties' end, all you had to do was look around; two years ahead of Screamadelica, "i" summed both past and future up and "A Love From Outer Space" should now be part of the rolling schedule of shopping mall sound systems on this and all other planets. But the 1989 public preferred Jive Bunny, looking back, the war; Gil Scott-Heron's "they wanna look back, even if it's only last week - not to face NOW or TOMORROW but to face BACKWARDS." A society gets the inevitable, consequent anal facsimile of pop it deserves.Janet Jackson - You Can Be MineJam & Lewis learn from Art of Noise and Scritti, push it forward as a less arthritic Motown would once have done, and make love and sex an invitation rather than a final demand (i.e. "you can be mine if The Price Is Right"). Janet breathes, tenses, teases and whispers like an immediately pre-coital 1965 Steve Reich sample: "should...be...my...ba...by" and we explode in creative carnality, turning us on all the more because of the utterly friendly nature of its enclosure.Scritti Politti - Absolute (Version)The lesson of course being is that there is no "absolute"; Green's voice plays hide and seek with both us and the Fairlight, wafting into side view like John Piper's clouds - some pink, with orange and purple flashes, others the purest white if only because they are embellished by the underlying black - and the song never quite unifies into Reithian rationalist "focus," but then where's the song, and more importantly WHY's the song? The benign cascading avalanche of "To LO-HUH-UH-OVE (me?)" acts as a diving board into a plentiful pool of dazzling fragments of gold, but you can still float with ease on its welcoming (and not at all sterile) surface. Horn stops here, and Xenomania may yet start from here. "I Never Loved A Man"? Arif Mardin understood all right(s).K-Os - Sunday MorningI noticed the agreeable "what the fuck is this?" sedentary toe-tapping of several passers-by within our "audience"; a beat which may start with "Hey Ya" but a bluer, and perhaps a more vulnerable, meditation on what happens after the fun is over - is further fun/life denied or do we decide to live it in a way which doesn't involve PRESS-GANGING for PARTY TIME but rather prefers working and growing together in order to create something which actually might be new and maybe unprecedented? He doesn't bark about fallen women, armature or jewellery and we should de-padlock the customs gates again, and conveniently lose the keys in the swirling Stygian waters consuming all cynicism.Farley "Jackmaster" Funk with Darryl Pandy - Love Can't Turn AroundImmediate silence greeted Pandy's opening acappella vocal, a voice so naturally imperious that there really is no alternative but to shut the fuck up and listen (and preferably also stand the fuck up, but as Frankie Howerd correctly noted, you can't have everything). An upwards drum stutter and ascending, backwards waterfalls of piano like the reconstituting of Tristan and Isolde from selected forests and fields heralds a record whose appearance in the charts of the summer of 1986 was the most notable and least avoidable of several bombs exploding at that time. Over the contrasting counterparts of high (the marauding synth) and low (the barber's chair lowering of bass trombone), Pandy screams like the Buckley of Starsailor over a backing track possessing a memory of an Isaac Hayes song Farley might once have listened to but bounds with garrulous grace into Our Future with such unanswerable power that all deadened spirits have no option save that of resurrection.Good record, too.
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