The Midday Meal

A repository for the various things i consume in the course of daily existence

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Song 11 You Am I - Berlin Chair

Back in the early 90's a number of friends of mine were in local bands, some of them have even gone on to be in local bands in other states. One day on the bus to uni I ran into one of these friends who insisted that I listen to this great new Australian band who was going to remind us all what rock and roll was all about. So I humoured Murph and had a listen, Murph's walkman was pretty crappy and the tape was a copy of a copy so what I heard was fairly indistinguishable and a bit rough. But I told Murph it sounded good none the less (you want to stay on the good side of budding rock star mates just in case they make it) and he promised to get me a copy, which he never did. Luckily for me I got to see and hear a lot of You Am I over the next few years anyway, and Murph was right.

You Am I helped me discover Australian music. Growing up I don't think I had a great deal of respect for Australian Culture, it always looked a bit shit when compared to the shiny and bright American culture which filled the content of our TVs and Radios. This probably wasn't helped by the fact that the Australian stuff that did get heard was the commercial radio staples of Chisel, Aussie Crawl and INXS. For me, the fact that an act was Australian was reason enough to dismiss them as culturally irrelevant and they were going to be crap.

You Am I saved me from this, and in turn introduced me to an entire generation of fantastic Australian bands. Some of whom are still with us, and many have got the accolades and praise that You Am I missed out on, despite the three from three ARIAs on their first three Albums. They are still around, and still doing much the same as they were, and Tim Rogers is getting more and more outspoken on the inadequacy of his competition…

I'm pretty sure I am not over this anti Australian thing, for instance no matter how many people tell me how good the Whitlams are, I know for a fact that they are truly shit boring. I never jumped the Silverchair wagon either… because I'd discovered good Australian music and didn't need a couple of Newcastle teenagers wanting to be nirvana (and later trying to beat Billy Corgan's worst excesses with the smashing pumpkins) when I had a bloke from all over the country who was convinced he was better than Keith Richards, Mick Jagger and Pete Townsend all rolled into one.

But I also have You Am I to thank for a number of other great bands - Magic Dirt, Something For Kate, Tumbleweed, Rocket Science, Even, The Fauves, Gerling, Tism, Spiderbait… all of whom I'd have never found, or quickly dismissed without Tim and the boys teaching me that “Australian” didn't necessarily mean crap.

(for those of you who are wondering what happened to Murph... he did go on to bigger and better things, but unfortunately we grew apart so I was unable to take advantage of this. You can hear his old band Youth Group on triple J on a fairly regular basis... although Murph has left the band so I couldn't try and weasel in on that gig now anyway...)

Excuses and Explanations...

Well I have finished... it wasn't as hard as I probably made out it was... it was more of a challenge to my motivation and work ethic than anything else, but last Monday I handed in what will more than likely be the final essay in my graduate diploma...

This probably doesn't mean very much as I didn't devote too much actual time to it... but already I can feel the absence of the (minimal) pressure i put on myself by doing it. I didn't commit great deals of time to it, but when I had work to do I felt quite guilty about reading stuff that wasn't related to the topics I was supposed to be writing essays about. For some reason this guilt didn't extend to watching TV while I should have been doing reasearch, but that's not important now.

I started writing this last week when I was of the hope that the end of uni and outside pressure would mean I was able to read more and therefore have more to say... it would appear that the uni thing hasn't helped with that, and maybe i need to look for a new job where I can waste my work hours reading and trying to tell people what I think.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

and you thought it couldn't get much worse...

then the only intelligent moderate in the white house took his bat and balls and went home...

Monday, November 08, 2004

Song 10 Underworld - Born Slippy

I realise this one is hardly a surprise, to post a list of 32 of my favourite songs and not include at least one Underworld track would have been dishonest. I had intended to make you wait, for this to come later in the list, so that it could follow some kind of chronological order. So this would appear in the second 15 of the list which would cover the last 7-8 years of my listening. However this plan has fallen by the wayside for a number of reasons. The primary one being that a lot of songs I intend to list will require some re-acquaintance time in order to allow the feelings and responses they invoke to be communicated to others, that reflection isn’t necessary with this one.

I don't think there's anyone out there who wouldn't recognise the synth stabs at the start of Born Slippy, and as their record company’s marketing people claimed, there isn't a person who has lived and loved dance music over the past decade or so who doesn't have a particular Underworld inspired memory. For most of them it is this tune. I have a great many. From playing Born Slippy on repeat for about 2 hours to keep us awake driving north from Melbourne following the heartbreaking world cup qualifier against Iran in 97 to Dave Seaman's evil grin as the cheesy piano of Rick Smith's 2003 mix started up at lot33 earlier this year. By far the most memorable is being in a massive sweaty room at the Big Day Out and halfway through the song, just as Karl stopped his insane chant and the synths started up again, the roof started raining massive balloons and 10,000 naked sweaty punters went completely mental.

I think the true beauty of techno music is its essential fluidity and ownerlessness. The nature of the medium is such that the artists of the genre create work to be co-opted by their colleagues, to be incorporated into sets of music bigger and greater than the original, to adapt and vary and remix it. Once created the realisation of the muse's inspiration is put into the public domain and the validity of its subsequent interpretations left up to the listener.

As a result the landscape of techno music is littered with white labels and remixes, of collaborations between artists, often fleeting, increasing the temporal nature of the medium. Indeed of the major artists who have translated success commercially from techno music to the sustained mainstream success (the Chemical Brothers, the Prodigy, Faithless) have done so on the back of applying the electronic sounds and processes to the linear rock/pop narrative, but the history is scattered with one hit dance wonders who return to relative obscurity after their big smash tune.

Underworld's work is anything but linear, the rambling mutterings and shouting of Karl Hyde's lyrics are mostly snippets of thoughts and actions, randomly pieced together and completely removed from context, indeed Born Slippy is the only song they've ever tried to explain. If only to deny the beer boy interpretation of the "lager, lager" chant.

The trainspotters amongst us will tell you that the Born Slippy we are all familiar with is actually the combination of two Underworld tracks, Born Slippy and NUXX, which have grown together and formed a symbiotic relationship similar to that of Rez and Cowgirl. So that the tracks now sound out of place when not played together. Indeed when Underworld play live, Born Slippy rises out of the driving percussive techno of NUXX for a few minutes of beauty before diving back into the chaos.

However you interpret it, whatever the hell Karl saw in the tube station on that night out waiting for the train back to Romford isn't important. What is important is the glow of recognition and joy in the faces of everyone around you when the first strains of the songs come over the speakers, and that rush of energy about 1 minute and 50 seconds in when the drums start and all techno hell breaks lose…

Saturday, November 06, 2004

So, where now?

So we now have seen two of the three coalition of the willing leaders up for election and get returned with increased majorities, and a fair bit of wailing from those amongst us who recognise the damage that is being done by the actions of these administrations. However I am starting to get the feeling that all may not be as bad as we thought.

Although we will have to live through the detrimental effects of their actions, both in an international sense but also in domestic issues such as the massive US deficit and the ridiculously overinflated housing market and the artificial boost to the economy that results from that which the Howard government rode back in to government on. We may yet get to see those responsible have to confront the very problems they will cause.

The thing is that both these issues are likely to come back an bite the governments of Australia and the US in a big way... a Government cannot continue to spend more than it makes to the extent the US is. I do not necessarily believe in the Peter Costello theory that the budget must always be in surplus and Government mst run at a profit, and so I can accept that deficits in a national budget are quite acceptable as long as the reasons for them are appropriate.

The US defecit goes well beyond this limitation and George Bush is currently spending at a rate that cannot be maintained. Due to its size the US economy isa little more robust than ours, but even an economy as big and as influential as the US's can only be mismanaged for so long before the financial markets start to punish it by looking for their profits elsewhere. It's probably best that John Kerry isn't president when that happens, as it will allow those responsible to point the blame elsewhere, particularly as the political memory of the public is quite short.

Similarly an economy cannot maintain growth when that growth is built on the private debt of most of its citizens. The changes to capital gains taxes and the negative gearing loophole, coupled with increased access to mortgage finance provided through offshore banks has led to the massive overinflation of the Australian housing market. The Australian public appear to have been convince, through the real estate pornography of television shows like the block and auction auction that the Australian dream entitles them to the right to own a massive mansion with landscaped lawns close to the city and all amenities. The Government (and the opposition) haven't helped by pepetuating the myth that interest rates can be kept at the current level for the foreseable future. This is despite the risk inherent in building an economy based on the static capital of real estate instead of capital generating of a manufacturing economy.

Australia may not still ride the sheeps back, but we haven't moved far from it, simply adding other primary industries to the list. We have been left behind in the technological revolution of the past 30 years, and given the Liberal parties attitude to funding education and research we aren't likely to catch up. We are and continue to be an importing economy and as such are living well beyond our means.

Again, this is not a situation where we can fool the world forever, and at somepoint we will have to pay the piper. It will always benefit the party in opposition when that bill comes due. We can only hope it happens sooner rather than later, that way the interest on our excesses will not cost us so much.

I am not foolish enough to believe that the people who lost in the last few weeks would have been able to stop this. I do believe that they are more likely to attract and listen to the kinds of people whose solution I would find most acceptable, and I'd rather they were saved from the blame for what will come and instead given the opportunity when the incumbent mindset fails to offer an alternative.

I've also realised in the last few weeks that not much is achieved by looking at these things and doing nothing, and I am not sure what action I will take, but the intent is there to see what impact I can have.