The importance of the Velvet Underground was outlined to me at an early age with the explanation “The first Velvet Underground album sold 10,000 copies, but everyone who bought a copy started a band.” Another person described all of music as “the space between the noise of Metal Machine Music and the silence of 4’33””. The great rock critic Lester Bangs said “Lou realized the implicit absurdity of the rock ‘n’ roll bête-noire badass pose and parodied, deglamorized it”. My first experience of Lou Reed was, the same as many people, Walk On the Wild Side, and I’ll never forget that creep from the first verse “shaved his legs/then he was a she”. I remember fascination that this was so seemingly inoffensive, and yet had such subversive clout. I learned from Lou Reed to approach life with total honesty, not the hostility with which Ginger Baker seems to slice through existence, but a complete and total honesty and freedom from falseness or courtesy.
You know it’s a lean year for music when the first article I write in over a month concerns a disappointing album. Oh how I wanted to love this a lot. I do love some of it a lot. Several tracks showed real promise for this album, but their allure was deceptive, leading me on to believe that these first few morsels of Moon Tides was wholly representative of the remainder, and alas that was not the case. Pure Bathing Culture make music in the realm of what could broadly be described as “Indie Pop,” a tag I am loathe to explore due to the majority of what I hear being pretentious and meandering; forsaking structure and songwriting ability for a certain “mood” or “experience.” Don’t get me wrong: the dreamy, hazy atmosphere that a lot of indie pop aspires to is truly appealing to my ears, but the marriage between atmosphere and songwriting is often sadly mismatched. Safe to say I’ve been lured in many times by a track that achieves this balance only to find the rest of the album is an exercise in style over substance. And unfortunately I’ve got to say that’s what’s happened here.
We all like rock and roll because for all its Billboard chart prostitution and the forty-year long corporate dentistry de-toothing it has received; rock and roll is still a little bit naughty. Like riding a motorbike or drinking. That’s the point of rock and roll. That image of the phallic guitar, standing tall over fans. Rock singers spreading themselves out, arms up, legs apart over the crowd, those are great images and going to a rock show, even something as corporate and monosyllabic and glacial as Franz Ferdinand has a little sumthin’ sumthin’. The new Arctic Monkeys album passes the fourth wall by being entirely empty of menace or violence or intrigue or power.