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Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
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Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Should I really be doing this?

POP EXPLORED. Part three. I know nothing about pop and am inevitably prejudiced. But Tone Deaf covers all music and I need to listen and learn. I’m apprehensive. These three songs represent the two generations after mine. Surely they’re going to be extreme – but in what way?

Tim Minchin (illustrated), White Wine in The Sun (Recommended by Cool Kid, granddaughter’s boyfriend). A piano! Monotonous on-the-beat three/four-chord accompaniment to limited-dynamic but pleasant song. Australian Tim likes Christmas but not Christianity though is willing to break bread with Archbishop Tutu. Long unscannable lines like operatic recitative. Sample: “I don’t go in for ancient wisdoms; I don’t believe just because I’ve got ears ourtenacious (Played it four times - that’s my best guess.) means that they’re worthy.” Charmingly old-fashioned.

Keane, Somewhere Only We Know (recommended by Younger Daughter). Acoustic guitars (?), briefly reduced to single-string picking, piano added later. Starts quietly, gets noisier. Chubby-cheeked lead singer must be about 14 (judging by mimed video) and has a tiny voice. OK by me; it’s the shouting I feared. Lyrics less audible than Minchin’s but I get the drift: he’s back where he knows “pathways like the back of my hand” and finally asks question: “Is this the place we used to love?” Not offensive but neither is it individualistic.

Arcade Fire, The Suburbs. (Recommended by Younger Daughter’s husband) Very traditional four-bar intro on block-chorded acoustic guitars, though the sound thickens up as other instruments are added. Guitars are forwardly recorded blotting out the lyrics. The singing is more adventurous than Keane and employs passages of falsetto descant – well sort of.

Conclusion: All three much gentler than I expected. Instrumental music not very ambitious (cf. Paul Simon). Not much expected of drummers. Minchin’s simplicity makes him most memorable


  1. After a while you may learn the language of pop and even discover how to hear the words, which nearly always elude me. Often they turn out to be important. Like you I have an open mind where it is concerned, and try to keep my mind empty when listening to see what ends up inside. I shall try where possible to follow your recommendations. Tim Minchin appeals. Monotony has a charm all of its own,like some religious chanting.

  2. It's 'Just because ideas are tenacious, doesn't mean that they're worthy'

    And he also says he'd rather break bread with Dawkins than Desmond Tutu.

    The Cool Kid

  3. I just listened to the version I sent you and it does sound like 'ears are tenacious' but another version on youtube and the version I have from the live performance me and Bella went to which is on my phone confirms it's definitely 'ideas'.


  4. Plutarch: I am honestly pursuing this with the aim of learning something. All I can do for the moment is describe what I hear and then arrive at conclusions based on that alone. As you say, start with an empty mind. I agree about monotony - it's also to be found in the minimalists.

    CK: I'm rather sorry I wasn't able to decode that line because it turns out it's excellent. Also, I did imagine the other line contained Dawkins but couldn't be sure and in any case couldn't string the rest of it together. Encroaching deafness may be one good reason why this may turn out to be a foolish project.

    I have no doubt now about the line. It's intelligently conceived.

  5. CK: One thought occurs. Where I have problems with the lyric I should check it via Google.

  6. More serendipity: just discovered Mr. Minchin on YouTube. Now there is an act I'd pay good money for. As to rest of moderne pop, over my head, rarely hear it.
    I look forward to your insights on music, pop or not.

  7. Two words:
    "Leonard Cohen"

    Try anything on youtube, but especially "Tower of Song" or "I'm Your Man.

    "Hallelujia", although superb, has become commercialised and hackneyed from use in the dreadful film "Shrek".

    Here is a once-famous poet/singer who became a Buddhist monk for 12 years on the top of Mount Baldy, during which time his agent stole all his previous savings.
    So he was forced to take to the road again at 76 and has received a fantastic worldwide comeback.

    Always one of my favourites during the '70s, although unfashionable then ("Music to slit your wrists to"), he has become well-loved, almost venerated, with age.

    Plutarch will even be able to understand every word he sings.

  8. Avus: I think I've heard fragments of LC here and there - a bit like Sprechstimme. But Tone Deaf is required to approach all suggestions with an open mind. Suppose I disliked him. Would that mean the end of our two-wheeled friendship?

  9. Yes - your intention to approach all suggestions with an open mind encouraged me to mention Leonard C. (also a great favourite of HHnB's)

    No - of course your not liking it would not end our "two-wheeled " (but more than that) friendship. Amongst music lovers there should be room for different tastes and open minds. Who knows - you might even become a convert (he said; tongue in cheek)

  10. That reminded me - it was George Bernard Shaw who wisely remarked,
    " Do NOT do unto others as you would they should do unto you - they may have different tastes."