Tuesday, 8 November 2016

In praise of “WTF” records

Record sleeve for "Warm Leatherette" by The Normal.

I like having friends younger than me, particularly when it comes to the music round in the pub quiz. And because it gives me a different perspective.

But sometimes it makes me feel old, like when they turn out to have heard of Mott the Hoople because their parents had the albums.

And when I have to admit to them that I don’t search out new music any more, I make myself feel old.  Having defined myself for so long by the music I love, it feels as if I’m letting the side down by not keeping up with what’s happening now.  But somewhere between “life’s too short” and “I love too much already” there never seems to be the time or motivation.

And then there’s the argument about whether the payoff will be worth it. One of my friends is trying to educate me. Exhibit A: the Sparks song What Are All These Bands So Angry About?  because it challenges the notion that there aren't any musical pioneers anymore. 

It’s right that Sparks (and my friend) are challenging that assertion. But I can’t help feeling that in 1974 "This Town Ain't Big Enough for Both of Us" definitely had the "WTF" factor, and the stuff they are doing now doesn't.

I enjoyed most of the stuff my friend chose for me: Clinic, Caravan Palace... (And I was pleased he’d gone to the trouble.) But none of it felt new or surprising to me.

Maybe that doesn't matter if it the music is good. And maybe it’s just my age. (I bet YouTube didn't show ads for "Silversea senior cruises" when my friend watched the videos.)

But for every Metronomy track, I feel like saying “I’ll raise you the Human League”.  So, for the record, here's my choice of some absolutely “WTF” songs. What would be yours?

The records below all made me sit up and go “what IS that?” when I first heard them. I can’t prove now how pioneering they are, because they’ve become part of the landscape. Anyone younger will just have to take it on trust that once upon a time these were truly different.

Virginia Plain  The beginning is brilliant. So is the ending.

Being Boiled They turned into a pop group later. But I like this more.

Warm Leatherette The original. Better than Grace Jones. Haven’t played this for ages but it still sounds astonishing.

Wuthering Heights Who is this woman? And what's she doing?

Bank Robber It wasn’t punk any more. But what was it? (I still love this And I still miss Joe Strummer.)

Only You That voice and that music shouldn’t belong together. But they do.

1977  1 minute 39 seconds. All you need. Say what you have to say, then stop.

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