I'm not a grumpy old man, just an out of synch hippy

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Whatever happened to doo-be-dooh?

We went to hear Ian Shaw the other night, in a well-known London club. Ian's a great singer who tackles the 20th Century songbook (Joni Mitchell, Fran Landesmann,James Taylor) in a jazz style which is exciting and moving. But enough of him, I'm not his sodding agent.

However, the other acts in the club's brochure made me realise why I don't go to more music gigs. Or rather, their blurb does. Take one band on the programme, whom I'll call Bla Bla Bla. They're described as "a fermentation of  shape-shifting improvisations, stories of minimalism and intoxication. Picture Cecil Taylor and Samuel Beckett out on a night of romance and in quest of a good bar fight." Well, no I can't. And I don't want to. If I could picture Samuel Beckett swinging a broken glass at the barman, I'd never be able to see "Waiting for Godot" again. This kind of prose is pretentious drivel and gives no idea of what the music actually sounds like. Well, perhaps it does - they're all playing out of their Blas.

Another band is described as "a phenomenon of austere beauty, a barely audible noise that occurs when human breath causes  multiple collisions  among the ice micro-crystals in the air." So they're asking me to cough up £15 for something I can't hear - and which makes me feel as if I'm freezing to death.

The words I dread are "sonic landscape" and "ambient". If they're used to introduce a band I head for the pub and throw a couple of pints of ESB down my neck. That's proper ambience. The "A" word means it's going to sound like yawning whales. Synthesisers will be featured. The music will sound gloopy, sleepy, wheezy, droopy, tack, whiney and crappy. That's right - the Seven Barfs.

There are some terrific young musicians around who are worthy of Coltane, Miles Davis and Charlie Mingus. We went to hear a great band called Polar Bear a while back. I could describe them in three monosyllables: Jazz meets Punk. They made me feel twenty years younger. They played proper instruments. They didn't use synthesisers. Unfortunately their support act did. They were ambient all right. They made me feel twenty years older.

If I'm glad about one aspect of getting old, it's that I know what my tastes are. And they're good. Anyway, they're my tastes. I never again have to be in the same room as a band of young semi-competents playing the musical equivalent of Cremola Foam and tell myself I should keep listening as I'm supposed to think they're good. They're what the bar next door was invented for.

But it's the blurbs wot do me in. If I read more of them, they'll start taking me over. So, as I sign off, using a verbal landscape of suggestive anglo-saxon improvisations mingled in an intoxicating fusion of ambient tonalities reminiscent of the final double Jamiesons I drank last night.....

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