Saturday, 13 February 2010

Music that sounds like a Train Crash

Normally, I like music that sounds like a train crash. I like Tom Waits at his most shambolic, hitting anvils, playing saws, singing as if he’s been gargling a mixture of Drano and cat litter and sounding for all the world as if his band’s collective wheels are about to fall off like a police car in a Keystone Cops movie. I like Sonic Youth, a band for whom the phrase “shimmering cathedrals of feedback” was invented. I remember Quicksilver Messenger Service, back in the sixties, ending their gigs by propping their guitars face-in against the stacks and then walking off until roadies braved the screaming noise or the speakers exploded. I like the Jesus and Mary Chain and My Bloody Valentine, who played at such volumes that the feedback was uncontrollable. So it always surprises me when I get out my old copy of the Beach Boys’ Surf’s Up and listen to Disney Girls and fetch up weeping uncontrollably with all the hair on the back of my neck standing on end. And it worries me a little at Christmas, when I play Frank Sinatra’s Greatest Hits in my shop instead of Metallica, and Moon River and Summer Wind stop me in my tracks. And when my kid watches The Wizard of Oz and Judy Garland sings Somewhere Over the Rainbow I have to remind myself that I’m a married man with no gay subtext that I’m aware of.

I’m not supposed to like shit like that, am I? I’m not supposed to tap my feet when Robbie Williams sings Beyond the Sea over the closing credits of Finding Nemo. I’m supposed to enjoy Terrible Canyons of Static by Godspeed You! Black Emperor; I’m supposed to love Too Drunk to Fuck, by the Dead Kennedys. The way Sonic Youth close Daydream Nation with Eliminator Jr. is meant to fill me with awe. And usually it does. Melody? Fuck off. Tunes are for girls. That’s the way it’s supposed to be, isn’t it? When Jeff Buckley holds that note for about five minutes in Hallelujah, he’s just doing some kind of Freudian musical one-upmanship thing as far as his dad is concerned. Take the fucker off and give me People=Shit by Slipknot instead, for God’s sake, I’m supposed to say. But I don’t.

I guess we all like a tune we can hum to sometimes. There, that’s my credibility fucked forever.

So let’s fuck with it a bit more. The X-Factor is high art, and I love it. And Simon Cowell has done more to manipulate British musical taste than anyone since the glory days of John Peel (in an antichrist sort of way, of course.) Don’t get me wrong; I mean, I don’t like that silly girl’s version of Hallelujah, nor do I own any Hear’say records (although I’d slip Myleene Klass one out of pity, I suppose. God, the possibilities. Me, her and Crack Whore Bronti. Although Jane Austen’s hitting back next week with a revised version of Scents and Sensimilla, a hydroponic love story for Generation X). And I’m always wary that some contestant or other will offend my ears with a version of Whitney Houston’s I will Always Love You, and I’ll have to hit the mute button until they take her outside and shoot her. But the programme itself is a hoot from start to finish.

But it might be slightly better if they abandoned all pretence that it isn’t the Arena and we’re not the new Romans. They could have lions eat the rejects (especially Benny Dictus and Benny D Carter, the hymn-rapping duo who have beards but no moustaches and are there because the Lord told them to do it), or soldiers could machine-gun the wheelchair-bound grandmothers the contestants have dragged out of the Autumn Days Nursing Home for the day to tug on our collective heartstrings. They could have slow motion replays, like a Peckinpah western. It’s a no from me, says Louis. Fire! Budda-budda-budda, go the rapid-fire armalites, and we watch as Ethel Gumption is lifted from her mobile life support system by a fusillade of shots, and sails gracefully across the stage as her blood spatters the white curtains before her twisted, shredded, wrinkly old corpse comes to rest in front of Dannii Minogue, like a perfectly posed heap of rags in front of a glorious living monument to silicone. (“Hey, Dannii, look at her! This is what time will do to you! You can’t escape its evil clutches, no matter how stupidly you spell your name, no matter how much botox you pump into yourself. Let’s have a War Against Time! Because you’re worth it.”) They could practice decimation in the queue for the auditions to save a few hours, and at the same time they could teach newsreaders and journalists the correct meaning of the word, which is to kill one in every ten. (“Hurricane LaToya has decimated Cuba.” What? One in every ten Cubas has been killed by weather? Astonishing.)

Anyway, That’s my Saturday night sorted. Buy the lottery tickets, get a Chinese takeaway and a few bottles of Wifebeater, go home, check the football results on Teletext, empty the dog and tell the kid to go play in the traffic while I watch telly, eat spare ribs and wipe my greasy fingers on the sofa cushions. Life is such a wonderful, inspiring gift sometimes.

The X-Factor is a reality show that bears no relation to reality whatsoever. We know that the kids with white teeth and perfect haircuts come from stage schools, and that they will win. We know the salad-dodgers from Droitwich who want to be Britney Spears will never achieve their ambition because they look like hippos in tutus and have the sort of dentistry that would allow them to eat an apple through a tennis racquet, so we shoot their grandmother as a belated punishment for polluting the human race with such talentless ugliness. Perfect. But it’s not reality. If The X-Factor was a watch, it would be folded in half over the branch of a tree growing in front of a fireplace with a train coming out of it, and we wouldn’t be able to see it anyway because they’d have put an apple wearing a bowler hat in the way. As such, it’s high art. I rest my case.


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