Saturday, October 11, 2008

What the fuck happened to R&B? Part Three.

I've spent the whole morning listening to Public Image Limited's Metal Box/Second Edition album, and there's more soul in that record, regardless of its bleakness, than in the entire top40  and dance charts. John Lydon and Jah Wobble are both reggae nuts, and by sounds of Wobble's basslines, there was a taste for funk too. I remember reading an old Face magazine and there was an interview with Wobble while he was in hospital and the interviewer asked him what he was listening to while he was sick and he said disco, because he found it very life affirming. Isn't that poetic? It reminds me of the spirit of the '80s, the real spirit of it, not this generic taste for the "unremembered '80s," to quote Mr. Murphy again. 

That spirit meant that you were checking out P.I.L. (you wore the button badge on yer school blazer), the Clash and  Killing Joke, but you still shimmied about to Shalamar, Chic and "Cockney Translation." Eclectic is the term that's bandied around now, a generic term in a way, but it just meant you were open to a lot of stuff and a lot of people. Four hours of '60s soul,or disco, or reggae djed by earnest young men with beards is not my idea of a good time, but it seems to be the norm in San Fran. Will the coming decade bring any respite? 

Even house music has been gutted of its soul content — though the diva driven stuff at the end of the ‘90s was getting kinda ridiculous and a lot of it was embarrassing when compared to the work of classic vocalists like Gwen Guthrie, Loleatta Holloway, Shawn Christopher and Shay Jones. Now house — US garage seems to be a dead form at this point — is being replaced by minimal techno, it ain’t techno, it’s house with all the fun bits taken out, a stiffer beat, made by dudes withs high hairlines, intelligent eye wear, stellar educations and impressive bank accounts. To me techno always had a bit of rawness to it, and when it was melodic, it was galactic in the vein of the soulful techno of Underground Resistance and Sterac.

Some questions: when will these fucking planes stop buzzing the city, it’s Fleet Week, or sheet — duck — week as I like to call it, when will someone just put on a decent night of tunes, with some able guests, and residents, who not only have the good records, but can put them together too? Preferably an eclectic night too. And if some of the the records have black girls singing on them and the lyrics can’t be construed ironically, or the records aren’t so old as your granny would be into them (too many nights listening to messy ‘60s soul sets played through tinny sound systems) that’s ok with me.

And finally, back to R&B related matters, why does a black music form have to be dead for twenty years before white, middle and upper middle class intellectuals can embrace it in its country of origin, when the same music was embraced in the UK at its time of release by people who never even finished high school? Is intellect on a twenty-year timer and does that mean people who pick up on shit later are smarter? How does this notion affect discussions on Special Ed students and slow learners? Anyone, anyone?

Put the soul back in the mix people, please! Listen to Rahsaan Patterson’s last album, Wines and Spirits and start from there. And go easy on the irony, it’s getting tired as this conservative and obvious era ramps down, finally. Soul ain’t just a genre, it’s a feeling, and it’s kinda missing at the moment. I can’t find it in Justice or in Rihanna. Where could it be?

Orr

3 comments:

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Pictograph Slang said...

this blog sucks so rad, i love it! this piece echoes my sentiments exactly. well done.

BananaSpam said...

Thanks for the kind words Pictograph Slang.