Friday, August 07, 2009

The New/Old Man

First in what will be two posts sort-of-about Gary Numan. About a year ago I visited Shirley High Street and purchased, among other delights from it's 74 charity shops, a Gary Numan album with accompanying poster, which now sits above the kitchen table where I write this nonsense. A couple of days ago on the same street I saw a middle-aged man with bleach-blonde hair walking unassumingly up said street, with the logo above tattooed on his arm.


Blogger Savonarola said...

Given the short-circuit between two of your aural predilections, any views about RZA/GZA rapping over Numan's "Films" (in GZA's Pro Tools album)?

(The tubeway army picture looks like it's drawn by the North Korean animators who did Gandahar...)

7:42 pm  
Blogger owen hatherley said...

That very GZA track was going to be the subject of my second Numan post!

8:02 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm starting to find it curious that you (and k-punk) venerate new pop stuff like Numan, Visage etc. - I can't help seeing as an 'ideological apparatus' (not so much a comment or 'opposition') for the ravages of early 80s Thatcherism. Wasn't it just a 'taming' of the more volatile energies of post-punk? Numan being a strong case in point - I remember his TV rants about pop being hijaked by 'lefties', and how Mrs. T was wonderful for 'entrepeneurs' like himself.

11:23 pm  
Blogger owen hatherley said...

Some truth in that, no doubt. I can't speak for Mark, but I see it in the same vein as the likes of Ballard, Baudrillard or The Terminator, something which caught both the seductiveness and the horror of what was happening/what was to come. So with 'Cars' (and the whole rest of The Pleasure Principle) you have an actually pretty honest admission of the fuck-everybody-else ambitions of the time - 'I feel safest of all, I can lock all my doors', etc, no ideological dressing.

Meanwhile, I don't think there's an incipient Toryism in John Foxx or David Sylvian at all, though there is a certain anti-collective fastidiousness and vanity - I rather wish glamour and futurism weren't so often the enemy's territory, but they too often are. And more to the point, the records were phenomenally powerful and original - and the much more right-on world of Detroit techno basically derives itself from 'Cars' and Frequency 7, at least as much as it does from the leftiness of P-Funk.

11:41 pm  
Blogger it said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

12:16 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Funny enough, even though I was once a huge fan of Detroit techno, I found its references to UK synth pop to be its weak spot - happily Drum'n'bass pretty much erased that aspect (but retained a lot of other post-punk tropes like two tone, PIL etc).

As for Foxx, Sylvian etc. - even at the time (at a rather young age) I couldn't shake off the feeling that they were just lame Bowie wannabes (haircuts, cold war references, the lot). As 'orginal' as Five Star.

Trevor Horn may be the most interesting figure of that time - not least how his ideas lived through the brilliantly marketed images of other people. Perhaps the most 'futurist' approach of the early 80s.

10:30 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

... and that Visage track you linked sounds like an out-take from 'Low' - obviously trying to ape its drum sound!

10:38 am  
Blogger owen hatherley said...

...well in that case we're just arguing about taste, which doesn't really get us anywhere. And citing PiL, fronted by soon-to-be LA property developer Johnny Lydon, doesn't help your case much...

1:20 pm  
Blogger carl said...

ho ho!

also.. well there was lots of stuff i hated when i was fourteen that now sounds absolutely spot on to me.. it's always possible that when you were a kid you're ideas were a bit shite innit? i mean i wouldn't want to spend the rest of my life defending some of the stuff i came out with yesterday, let alone twenty five years ago....i think the Ballardian Continnuum is about the only persuasive and coherent critical meta-narrative we've had for a long time, i applaud it even though i've spent most of my life NOT enjoying any of its elements...perhaps i need to think again....

also i think that it underpins the vital role criticism has in opening up receptivity.. i've listened to different thing more carefully and thoughtfully with greater engagement and pleasure as a result exactly of the force of people like Owen and Mark's arguements....

11:26 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I suppose the Ballardian continuum was an improvement on the Moorcock one of the previous decade - Hawkwind?!?

Yeah I know Lydon was to become a property developing reality TV whore - but don't they all? Mark Stewart or Penny Rimbaud are the exeptions, not the rule.

1:39 pm  
Blogger owen hatherley said...

...or they could be reactionaries from the off, like Ian Curtis, recently and amusingly described by Edwyn Collins as 'by all accounts a little uptight nutty Tory'

Incidentally, Hawkwind are as canonical as John Foxx, as far as I'm concerned. How one cannot love 'Silver Machine' is as beyond me as how one cannot love 'Underpass'.

2:41 pm  
Blogger owen hatherley said...

....I mean, if Hawkwind were called Spasswurst and were from Dusseldorf they'd be one of the hippest names you could possibly drop - metronomic, no solos, noise and electronics, cosmic rhetoric etc - and face it, they were actually better than most krautrock groups. Similarly, most New Romantic electropop, at least before it all goes Wham-shaped, would be considered vastly cooler were it not associated with things we thought were crap when we were 15.

2:47 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Point taken - but then I've recently re-assessed 99% of krautrock (ie. except Can and Kraftwerk) as embarassing hippie dross, so what do I know (I can't bear Peter Hamill either)? Maybe punk propaganda is proving hard to shake off.

7:17 pm  
Blogger roger said...

I don't understand your point about PiL. If Lydon was a LA property mogul back when he was making those records, there might be some relevance. Otherwise, it is sort of like all the while, evil in his chrysalis, he was planning on becoming a LA land mogul. Which I very much doubt. This is teleology run amuck. You can hate PiL for any number of reasons, but surely not because its head became a dick thirty years after its heyday.

8:57 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Most of my favourite musicians are/were utter dicks - from wife beater Miles Davis to murderer Phil Spector. Its more about the ideology conveyed by certain genres.

9:22 pm  
Blogger Alex said...

Danny Rampling says life has become much better as a property developer.

Superstar DJs - here we go!

12:24 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rampling was just shit anyway. He DJs like a property developer.

12:36 am  
Blogger Alex said...

You have a point.

10:46 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i blame Cope for the general elephant in the living room crapness of most Kraut.. i mean Ammon Dull better than Neu.. do me a favour...heard msot of the stuff on Jap rock sampler? Flower Travelin Band... i mean.. they're alright...

had a similar conversation about Hawkwind the other day...naturally we discussed the Lemmy period...early Motorhead is still very Hawkwindy i'm told, prior to Vic Maille getting involved as producer...does this mean that potentially Baron you may at some point endorse Motorhead?

6:33 pm  
Blogger owen hatherley said...

Quite possibly - I shall investigate!

Yes, the kraut Cope mostly likes is the sloppy, longhair side (with solos!), none of which I can abide and none of which is as good as 'Silver Machine', although I'm sure Cope would concur on the greatness thereof. (there is only one Amon Duul II song which I have listened to more than once or twice, and I'm sure you can guess which)...and he perpetuates the fallacy that Can sucked after Damo Suzuki left (most of Soon Over Babaluma is easily as good as Future Days or Tago Mago...*) but I sort of forgive that for the quality of the writing.

* which reminds me - the period where synthpop and kraut meet, with bands like Der Plan, Grauzone, DAF etc etc, is actually better than most proper 'krautrock', where the good stuff is either Can, or 5 people who all knew each other in Dusseldorf (the continuum of Kraftwerk/Neu/Harmonia/Cluster/La Dusseldorf). I do like a few things by Faust and (whisper it) Tangerine Dream, but Ash Ra Tempel, either Amon Duul, Cosmic Jokers, Guru Guru...this is where I agree with Anon here about hippies.

9:23 pm  
Blogger owen hatherley said...

Point upthread on ideology vs personality is bang on, of course. My mentioning Curtis and Lydon's (later) associations was only tit-for-tat for the mention of Numan's. But my earlier point was that there was certainly a Thatcherite side to Neuromanticism, but all sorts of other, less easily assimilable elements too. Follow it one direction and you get Wham!, follow it another and you get Underground Resistance. Similarly, post-punk could involve (frequently musically and culturally intriguing, sometimes dumb and inane) fascistic posturing, or serious attempts at constructing something outside of music industry capital.

I think the argument could then have potentially devolved into being about drum machines and cold synths vs roughness and grain, and neither have inherent ideological properties...

9:29 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Like any technology or any cultural form, timber or 'grain' always has ideology moving through it. So - was Numan more than just a 'symptom'?


12:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course all 'big ideas' mutate into different strands (the theme of Adam Curtis' documentaries). Look at how synthpop and post-punk is pastiched now, in the most conservative pop era EVER. Instead of transgressing boundaries of class and space, its now a badge of drama school careerism and bland celeb cult. Ditto hiphop. But I suppose its clear that we can't look to the charts for inspiration anymore...

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