Thursday, August 28, 2008


I've just finished reading Homage to Catalonia. It was excellent, as Orwell tends to be. Aside from when he's inspiring citizens of western democracies to reduce every piece of bureaucratic legislation thrown at them to 'just like 1984'. But that's not his fault. Or theirs, really. Modern approaches to government are just confusing and crap.

It's similar to when a caretaker manager is dumped in charge of a football club with the understanding that he's just keeping things ticking over until a guy with actual ideas shows up. Except the guy with ideas is never actually found so the team plays ill-conceived, reactionary formations every week resulting in a series of 5-0 drubbings and half the fans taking to posting braying hate-screeds about gypsies appended with YOU COULDN'T MAKE IT UP!! all over the internet, along with the gradual death of all idealism ever. That's not a government being 'like 1984', that's just 21st century politics being monumentally wearisome.

I'm sorry this introduction has been waylaid somewhat. I suspect it needed a holding midfielder.

a holding midfielder, yesterday


The book has a number of contemporary parallels, which are thoroughly disheartening in nature but useful for expressing the continuing relevance of history. I've bullet-pointed them in order to give the list an unwarranted sense of scientific objectivity.

- National media reporting on foreign wars is complete bobbins. The simplistic narrative (Spain's civil war was a conflict between lovely wholesome defenders of the democratic republic and pesky fascists) wins out over the complex reality (multiple left-leaning parties and unions with differing aims and objectives, a semi-completed workers revolution, the rising influence of the Russian-backed Communist party, and on and on) every time. It is unhelpful to the media story for Spain to be in the midst of a revolution, so it is not mentioned. The dots don't need to be joined too clearly to spot the modern equivalence here.

- Fear-based propaganda spread by a powerful party is alarmingly effective. When the POUM (Workers Party of Marxist Unification) are blamed for civil unrest in Barcelona and accused of being in the pay of Franco, it is eagerly gobbled up by Communist partisans and quickly spreads as truth to other areas of society. Even though the POUM had been holding parts of the front line for months and own about twelve guns between them in the city. Today, it's even easier to dispel rumour and innuendo, but many still seem to find it beyond them. It is pretty simple, for example, to remove any concerns about Barack Obama being a baby-killing terrorist monster by applying some rational investigation to the topic. Yet such defamatory tactics still work a treat, because there are enough people happy to buy any bullshit that confirms their own prejudice. It's even possible to hold two completely conflicting views at once (he's a pinko Commie / he's a secret Muslim extremist) without any concerns about how those two beliefs may possibly conflict just a little bit. Not to mention the implicit racism.

- The Daily Mail has always loved fascism. The twats.

correctly labelled for once

History is important, kids.

All of which, really, is just a preamble for my attempts to launch a splendid new music scene; because I'm pretty sure that's the primary role of influential blogs like this one. Bands definitely make it through internet exposure these days. Unless that concept is a cynical marketing illusion engineered by record labels in order to create an artificial mystique as a selling point. But that would be unthinkable. Social networking is truly vital and pure (ps - join the Rocktimists facebook group).

Nu-rave is dead now, right? Great. Because historical rock is on the way, which I've obviously decided to re-package as Historock. It sounds clumsy AND stupid so it can't fail. Nothing can stop Historock! Except the worrying tendency for it to be misheard as hysterectomy, I suppose.

What are the defining aspects of Historock, I hear you wearily sigh? Well, I'm glad you asked rather than just giving up on this post completely. It is bands who love old stuff that happened before today so much they just have to compose entire albums about it. I don't actually have too many examples of this, because despite writing about music quite often my breadth of knowledge is akin to somebody you may wish to refer to as a horrible fraud. A couple do spring to mind though: intense, railway uniform wearing funsters iLiKETRAiNS (whose last album was unfortunately recorded in a cholera swamp) and Piano Magic's WW1 correspondence-fest Artists' Rifles. Hey, it's a blossoming phenomena. Which brings me to Clawjob.

Actually it doesn't quite, because first I'm going on a tangent about Stylus. One of the many things I loved about the site (yes, sorry, this blog bangs on about Stylus a lot, but some of us really liked writing for them) was the absolute creative freedom. It didn't really matter if an album was a bizarre avant-garde fartcore reissue from 1972, if it was interesting and there were 500 or so words to be said about it, it was a goer. Which is how I was able to review a love-triangle space rock-opera about crackers. Bringing me back to Clawjob again.


As this is a similarly easy-going space (unless I call Nick's cats nasty names), I can revisit Clawjob in their new-found Historock glory. That's right! You see, it all ties together. Loosely. Very, very loosely.

The latest edition of Clawjobbery, Manifest Destiny, welcomes us all to 19th century America. It's pretty grim there, apparently. Either you're being operated on by inept surgeons or you're being 'relocated' to a reservation for your own good. The message is clear throughout: accept the misery of the human condition and acquiesce to events and circumstance, or attempt to break out through illegal means. In (mini) album terms, that's six tracks of cynicism and good-time guitar licks. Hurrah.

Each plays out as short, self-contained tale, largely delivered from the point of view of naive characters unaware of the dramatic irony of their situation and doomed to failure. The unfortunate sap of "This Glorious System" expresses an eager, wide-eyed expectation for the magnificent dawning of the industrial age, where merry workers will abandon their fields in favour of pushing buttons and pulling levers for a few short hours per week. His vision is outlined by conveyor belt rhythms, sliced through by the foreshadowing reality of spiky, oppressive tones - forcing a musical spanner into his utopian works. Elsewhere, the Jefferson Airplane style haze of "Ether Frolic" is a neat enough gag, until the bad trip thrash-fest coda carries it over into an even better punchline.

When the protagonist is not a tragic figure they are instead a con artist or crook. The excitable rabble-rousing of "Diamond Hoax" is uncannily reminiscent of a used car salesman waving his hands around in astonishment at the incredible deal he is about to give away. A fair warning about finance and credit deals which are too good to be true - another of the slices of wisdom served from the Manifest Destiny meatloaf. It's educational, it's raucous and it takes less time to digest than a Ken Burns film.

Historock. You heard it here first. And probably last.

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