Amoeblog

20th Anniversay of the Second Summer of Love -- Madchester and the Baggy Explosion

Posted by Eric Brightwell, June 12, 2008 09:00pm | Post a Comment

The Second Summer of Love

It was 20 years ago today (well, this coming summer, which is just around the corner) that what was known as The Second Summer of Love occurred. England's youth fell in love with Ecstasy, which they combined with a taste for Chicago House Music and the results made history. As is often the case, the fashions of 20 years ago (in this case, the 1960s) became fashionable again. Tye dye and peace symbols abounded on teens around the world. Thousands of people started attending massive Acid House raves. A feeling of pacifistic and environmental optimism swept much of the planet (or maybe that was just my teenage outlook). The Factory label's Hacienda nightclub featured DJs and bands which mixed disco, house, hip-hop, electro and indie rock. Soon, other northern clubs followed their lead, such as Boardwalk, Devilles, Isadora's, Konspiracy, House, Soundgardens, Man Alive, The International, Bugsy's and The Osbourne Club. And the hooliganish Casuals tuned in and begat Acid Casuals.

Madchester, So Much to Answer For

Half a world away in Columbia MO, I used to listen to KCOU, which would play lots of Acid House and Belgian New Beat. It was the first contemporary music that I was into as it was happening. My parents only played soul, bluegrass, jazz and classical records. Then I discovered the Doors, T Rex and the Beatles through the radio. And after discovering College Radio, a new world opened up. I would dance (in private) on the hearth in the living room to these strange, new sounds and hope that my mother wouldn't ask what the hell that stuff was all about because I couldn't really explain its hold on me, although it's debt to my beloved Kraftwerk was evident. Our exchange student, Alexis Poul, found an Acid House button at JFK which was, of course, a smiley face with the words "acid" and "house" printed on them. Alexis told me that all anyone listened to in France was house music. And when I went there, in '89, it was true. Even the buses played house.

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Sissy Rappers - Tell me what a sissy know

Posted by Eric Brightwell, April 3, 2008 04:42pm | Post a Comment
In hip-hop circles, you often encounter self-appointed arbiters of hip-hop taste who decry certain supposed negative trends in hip-hop. One frequent target for these musical Taliban is the prevalence of "bling," which is regarded as a new corruption of the scene (conveniently ignoring Gucci-clad, Rolls Royce-flaunting, "paid in full"-singing Eric B and Rakim or the massive gold ropes that adorned every rapper from Big Daddy Kane down the alphabet to Yella.) These paternal advocates of fiscal responsibility feel that rappers should be saving their money, I suppose, and not spending on ostentatious jewelry.

These conservative cultural watchdogs usually then go into an oft-repeated, well-rehearsed diatribe about meaningless, party-centric lyrics, the lack of reliance on DJing, the importance of being real and other things that place them ideologically in the traditionalist camp alongside their trad jazz forebears that griped when jazz moved beyond its Dixieland roots, the guy that yelled "Judas" when Dylan plugged in and prog-rock fans who decried the lack of humorless, showy, technical proficiency when glam began took over the charts and hearts of rock fans in the 70s.

But music evolves, regardless (and sometimes in defiance) of the griping and sniping of those stodgy snobs who stand scowling and motionless with arms folded whilst the masses keep on getting down. In 1968 Nik Cohn virtually created rock criticism with his book Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom: The Golden Age of RockAs the title suggests, Cohn viewed the meaningless, shallow, fun music of rock's dawn in higher regard than the pretentious progressive rock of his day.  Another genre of music that haters love to hate is Bounce music. I felt like my love of this despised genre was validated, in a way, when the same Nik Cohn moved to New Orleans and worked with Choppa, an under-rated rapper from Algiers on the West Bank who had a big regional hit with "Choppa Style." Choppa dubbed Cohn "Nik the Trik" and Cohn wrote another book of criticism about his experiences, Triksta: Life and Death and New Orleans Rap.

Grebo -- Spotlight on the spotty

Posted by Eric Brightwell, March 28, 2008 11:57am | Post a Comment
Grebo was the name given to a short-lived music scene/subculture in the late 1980s/early 1990s which was centered in England's Midlands region. Key bands in the scene were Pop Will Eat Itself, Ned's Atomic Dustbin, Carter USM and The Wonderstuff. Other bands associated with Grebo to varying extents include The Levellers, Zodiac Mindwarp, Crazyhead, The Bomb Party, The Hunters Club, Scum Pups, Gaye Bikers on Acid, The Senseless Things, Mega City Four and New Model Army. These musically diverse bands on the surface had little in common with one another but were united in their incorporation of (to varying degrees, given the band in question) musical influences taken from many of the more marginal scenes of the day such as heavy metal, alternative, dance, glam, hip-hop, punk and industrial. Though rarely, if ever, termed Grebo; Jesus Jones and EMF applied a strong pop sensibility to an undeniably Grebo-esque formula which carried them to considerable, though short-lived, heights.



Still, where there is little recognizable commonality to the musicologist, there is an undeniable vibe evident in their attitude, sartorial sense and Chaz's Grebo dance, which the subcultural anthropologist can recognize easily. The Grebo look often involved dreadlocks, topknots, crimped hair or otherwise unflattering, grubby coifs. The clothing often saw long-sleeved lumberjack shirts or Ts combined with shorts and heavy boots.  Skate brands and surplus were often topped off with odd hats which were popular in the early 1990s and will prove an essential, if unflattering, ingredient in any upcoming 90s revival. The result was deliberately ugly, comical and political, in keeping with most of the music.

Rive Gauche

Posted by Eric Brightwell, March 7, 2008 09:14pm | Post a Comment

Roughly occurring at the same time as the more well-known and more celebrated French Nouvelle Vague (or New Wave), another group of frequently collaborative film-makers were grouped together under the moniker "Rive Gauche," named after Paris' artsy side. These film-makers (Agnès Varda, Chris Marker, Jean Cayrol, Henri Colpi, Marguerite Duras, Alain Robbe-Grillet,) applied to film the concepts which defined the Nouveau Romain in contemporaneous literature. Duras and Robbe-Grillet were also writers and associated with the literary movement in which experimental authors sought to create a new style with each work. Together, they produced an amazing body of film which remains largely overshadowed by the much more popular New Wave, though no less interesting or significant.

Because of the film-makers' approach to art and their being French, as well as contemporaries of the New Wave, they're often lumped in with them even though the New Wave, while radically experimental, was more stylistically consistent due its focus on the director as the film's author. Ironically, the New Wave view served to encourage the personal and recognizable authorial nature of film, whereas members of the Rive Gauche often sought to depersonalize their works in an attempt to defy expectations, placing them in polar opposition in this regard.



Alain Resnais began making films in the 1940s. He is best known for his films Nuit Et Brouiilard (1955), Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959) and L'Anee Derniere a Marienbad (1961).

Nuit Et Brouillard stands alone in cinematic history in its depiction of the Jewish Holocaust. Resnais avoided the familiar black and white stock-footage for most of the film and instead presented tranquil scenes of the by-then abandoned concentration camps in color, with flowers growing through the cracks and sun beams shining on the desolate remains. Compare, for example, Nuit Et Brouiilard to a cinematically conservative film like Schindler's List. Spielberg chose to film in black and white (both literally and morally), with big name actors and with action unfolding in a familiarly un-ending winter that makes the events seem cliche and safely remote.

Vietnamese New Wave - Part I - German Euro-disco

Posted by Eric Brightwell, January 8, 2008 10:14pm | Post a Comment
Vietnamese New Wave

Are any of my readers out there Vietnamese? I was turned on to this amazing genre by "the Jewel of La Puente," the one and only (OK, one of thousands but still one of a kind) Ngoc Nuyen. I have asked the experts here at Amoeba Hollywood about "Vietnamese New Wave" (also referred to as Asian New Wave at times) groups and no one seems even remotely familiar with any of them, with the exception of Chris Matthews, to whom "Modern Talking" sounds familiar ...

First of all, when people talk about Vietnamese New Wave, they’re not talking about Vietnamese artists (although there is Thu Thuy, Lynda Trang Dai and supposedly a tieng viet cover of a Night Society song), but rather a movement that includes mostly German Euro-disco, Italo-disco and English synthpop artists who acquired, through means that no one seems to understand (although it definitely involves mixtapes) massive popularity amongst Vietnamese in Cali, Texas and Canada (and maybe elsewhere).

And whilst there’ve been at least four or five documentarians who’ve explored the still supposedly strange popularity of Morrissey amongst Mexicans and Mexican-Americans, to my knowledge no one has yet delved into the mysterious “Vietnamese New Wave” movement in which (in addition to OMD, Pet Shop Boys and Gazebo's "I Like Chopin") four German performers, with no radio play, no MTV exposure, no Amazon recommendations, no local performances came, against all odds, to achieve stardom in the Vietnamese immigrant population.

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