Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Just Exactly What You Need

I was going to write a column - well, an article, but since this is semi-regular, I like to think of it as a column, even if putting the words "semi" and "column" in the same sentence is a bit Carry On - about Christmas.

At least, I'd been threatening Somik with the prospect of doing so for a week or so.

I was going to write about christmas songs, and how Stop the Cavalry and Fairytale of New York are the only real christmas songs I can stomach. I was thinking of throwing in some of the conventional wisdom that christmas is really all about children, and it's much better when you either are one or have one, because that's what everyone I talk to seems to say.

I was going to talk about how I hate christmas.

Some of it was even tangentially going to relate to music. I promise. 

Well, maybe.

I had this whole thing about how I fucking hate christmas. Even the fact that the spell checker here is angrily underlining the word in red because I'm steadfastly refusing to capitalise it after the first time. I wish this were a political statement, but I really, just, can't, be, bothered.

I get the idea of a seasonal holiday. It's the middle of winter - bleak, you might say. It's cold and dark - the darkest time of year - and the weather is horrible. So at the end of the calendar year, why not have this big schmancy holiday? Why not have a time when everyone gets together and celebrates another year done with (almost)? Lots of food, seasonal television, and then everyone can go their separate ways happy in the knowledge that they don't have to do it for another year.

The problem is... Well, the problem can be distilled down to a single example, and then built back up.

The problem is Chris Rea's Driving Home For Christmas.

(See? I said music would eventually come back into this.)

Music gives us unrealistic expectations of how christmas should work. There are many christmas songs about love, and about family, and about celebrating, well, generalised stuff.


Except having a successful christmas song seems to be the ultimate in good news / bad news situations. Let's take the classic examples, in this instance being Wizzard (I wish it could be christmas every day) and Slade (Merry Xmas Everybody). And, in due deference to Noddy Holder, I'll refer to it as xmas from now on.

Because why not.

But in all seriousness, before clicking Wikipedia open, I tried to think of a single record I could name by either band that wasn't their xmas hits. And I couldn't; I don't know if this was just seasonal blindness, or something like that, but as far as I can tell, after 1973 both bands kind of just... Wandered on.

(Sidebar, though, in that Wizzard waited twenty-six years after their second album to apparently record a "jazz-rock, uncommercial album" in 2000, according to Wikipedia.)

Oh, I wish [...] troubled the charts ten more times across the four decades since it was released -

- And my life but I've just realised the song is forty years old -

- But still. After the successful christmas song which has an unlimited shelf life in the territory it was released in, why do you even need to go on, except to release the jazz-rock album you've been waiting two and a half decades to release? Every year, like clockwork (and if you had a good agent and rock-solid recording contracts) then the royalties will keep coming in. Xmas songs destroy bands, which is, I would say, probably the conventional wisdom, and probably has been for a while now.

This morning, though, I was out driving, errands to run, things to do, you know how it is, etcetera. On the way to a final errand, I had to pull over and stop, because in the middle of all the xmas fandango - or, more accurately, fandangos - I'd had 6 Music on the car radio, and they'd managed to completely surprise me, to the point where I pulled over and stopped to listen to the track that had been selected.

(Okay, I was actually at my destination. But I sat in the car and listened to the track until it was done. Which, given my attention span, is still an achievement.)

So sat sitting in my car, wind lashing on the windows and rain a-falling, I enjoyed... This:

Yes, the video has handy Spanish subtitles. No, I don't know why. Yes, it's six minutes long.

This completely changed my day. There's only so much xmas music you can take in every shop you visit and every place you go and even on 6 music, even if it's Summer Camp.

I Spy is what I like to think of as classic-sleaze Pulp. I don't claim to have been Pulp's biggest fan, but they occupy a privileged position in my musical memoria, in that I listened to Different Class more or less obsessively back in the mid-1990s, and devoured their back catalogue, such as was available at the time. (And no, Som, I'm not going to start going on about access and CDs etc.)

There are a couple of different Pulps - or, maybe more accurately, a few different Jarvises - out there, as far as I could understand it. There's the quasi-innocent social commentary aspect, which wanders from Babies through Common People to Bar Italia, where there is, like I say, some innocence there.

Then there's the sleaze. You could quite confidently start with Razzmatazz, and obviously include This is Hardcore. Pencil Skirt maybe qualifies, Underwear is on the line between the two states. F.E.E.L.I.N.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.L.O.V.E is also a maybe, and equally a bastard to type in a hurry.

I Spy is just sleaze incarnate, though. It's very simply, to paraphrase, I think I'm better than you and I've been having your girlfriend, although it's that sentiment stretched out to cover a block of resentment and anger and disappointment.

What I find most interesting, of course, is that I never actually paid much attention to I Spy on Different Class, sandwiched as it is between Common People and Disco 2000. I only really noticed it on - and before you ask, yes, really - the soundtrack to Mission: Impossible. Because the person who put that soundtrack - back when you could have the tagline 'songs from and inspired by' unironically - was perhaps taking the piss; you had Jarvis Cocker being as sleazy as you liked, followed by the Longpigs, Skunk Anansie, and, perhaps for the first and only time in music history, both The Cranberries (although if memory serves, that was actually in the film) and Nicolette, who, before you ask, was not a brand of gum created to help people stop smoking. (Brief research indicates that she actually had several albums, so there you go.) But if I ever meet the person who put the soundtrack together, I'll shake them by the hand, because it made me pay attention to a Pulp album track I'd previously used to skip over.


6 Music kind of saved my xmas with sleaze.

Make of that what you will.

Anything and everything else aside, though, all the best for the festive holiday season from us here at Disparancies. I'm now off to check the fact that apparently in my music collection on this computer I have 86 Pulp tracks, which was news to me, and now, I guess, is news to you as well.

No comments:

Post a Comment