Friday, February 16, 2007

Tell The Children That We're Off The Beach

Pop will eat itself? We've taken that as a given ever since Elvis went MIA in Las Vegas ... but did we realise it would regularly regurgitate itself and enjoy the meal again and again? The surest infotainment these days is guessing which pop dinosaur, long thought extinct, will be staging a Lazarus - The Police, Genesis ... what brings these ghosts of Christmas past back? Not the money, surely; these swine were inordinately rewarded for the ability to sing falsetto in a cod-Jamaican accent or reduce musical complexity to an easy-listening aural warm bath. So, if not the elusive spondoolics, what? It can only be the adulation of the crowd. How pathetic ... such ego, such hubris. Like a long-retired boxer, hauling the flab back into the ring one last time ... don't these punch-drunk popsters realise that they had more than their allotted slice of fame and wealth the first time round? Certainly more than idiots bereft of talent, wit or charisma could reasonably have expected ... the dread possibility suggests itself ... these fools actually believe that they, and even worse, us, deserve it.
More interesting to me are those performers who didn't get their just deserts in the first flush of youth ... people who didn't salt away a fortune or were never accorded the critical respect lavished on lesser talents ... who would deny them a sliver of pie?

The Cravats ... keep death off the road

I saw, recently, a Myspace site dedicated to the Cravats and , my God, that took me back. The late 1970s to the early 1980s ... when was that mad weekend at the ICA ... 80? 81? The saxophonist with his little noise boxes ... were the lads punk's very own Van Der Graaf Generator? Imagine 'Fiery Jack'-era Fall jamming with Ted Milton, then you would have a rough idea of the unique Cravats sound - Dada lyrics, toy town rhythms, elements ripped willy nilly from rockabilly, punk and jazz ... The Cravats were always too eccentric, too wilful to essay a lengthy career; scratchy guitars, thunderous bass, screaming saxophones, shouty vocals ... they exerted, in their short career, quite an influence on subsequent developments.
A brace of singles and a couple of albums (including a rewarding relationship with Penny Rimbaud and Crass Records) and they were gone ... mutating into The Very Things and the proliferating madness of the Dada Cravats Laboratory umbrella organisation.
But why didn't they sell more records, last longer, inspire more teeny boppers? Well, as said, they were too odd, too angular ... and also, in an industry remarkably forgiving of wife-beaters, child molesters, rapists, murderers and what have you, The Cravats committed the one cardinal sin ... they didn't take themselves seriously. Their very stage names give the game away ... The Shend, Svor Naan, Yehudi Storageheater ... why, the suspicion goes, people that ready to laugh at themselves may be just as ready to laugh at you ... and we couldn't have that in a business founded on overweening ego.
They have had an odd kind of afterlife ... many more bands (anticipating the revival of interest in pop psychedelia, some of them), and The Shend, bassist, vocalist and man-mountain, has turned up on your TV screen in a number of guises - background heavy in Eastenders, or caged psycho killer in Torchwood ... and now, they have a new single out - (after a fortuitous meeting in Brighton, a collaboration with ex-Orbital genius Paul Hartnoll - it's called 'Seance' and it sounds rather good) - and a compilation CD, The Land Of The Giants ... an excellent career retrospective, packed full of quirky tunes and Surrealistic lyrics - marvellous stuff and well worth a listen. The Cravats ... I hadn't realised just how much I'd missed them.


Blogger Molly Bloom said...

I wonder if Sting thinks that his career is Tantric - that it should last far longer than it should. Ahem. I've never quite understood why the coffee table bands have gone on and on and (I can't go really I shouldn't go on, no, really, please don't go on, Sting, Phil, please.)

There are few bands that can really do it years later. Correct me if I'm wrong. Perhaps it really is better to get out by the third series. Retain some of that unique quality that keeps the mystique going. Perhaps that's why it's better to die young. You can never get shit. Even if you were shit in the first place.

I like the unknowns, the ones that sit in the corner of life. The ones that perhaps just fight on. Keep going underground. Now, that's what I call music.

8:57 AM  
Blogger St. Anthony said...

Coffee table bands, that's a good one. Yes, the Sting question - he really does take himself rather seriously ... for a twerp who turned out a few derivative little ditties. He's not exactly Mozart is he? Or even the Beatles.
Why bother returning when you've made a pile already and you were shite in the first place? Got to keep the old ego stroked, that's why. The adulation only an adoring audience can provide ... all very Nuremberg Rally.
Now people like the Cravats ... good luck to them, I say. Hope they make a few pennies, hope a few more people get into their stuff.

2:30 PM  
Blogger Dr Anthony Donovan said...

Oh Molly, 'coffee table bands' - priceless. I'm reminded of the brilliant, and brilliantly-sardonic, music journalism contained in Bart Easton-Ellis' 'American Psycho'. He gets to the middle of that unattractive fake plastic sheen inherent in your 1980s-stuck Sting and Collins types. All comic reverb, 6th form poetry and neon-lit artless bluster they are from my vantage-point. Sting reading Jung on the cover of the overwrought, thematically-strained and silly 'Synchronicity'... hilarious. Yes, Anthony, it cannot be for the money. I could almost forgive that - if the rent was due. But these pompous cretins do it for some kind of tepid nostalgia, franchised by a resussitated public demand. They think Spinal Tap is a documentary.

12:21 AM  
Blogger Tim Footman said...

I almost went to see The Very Things at the Hacienda in 1987. But I stayed in the Granada TV bar, drinking whisky with Bamber Gascoigne instead. I kinda got the feeling the Hac wasn't his sort of place, but in retrospect, I wished I'd dragged him along.

6:25 AM  
Blogger St. Anthony said...

Yes, if they were only in it for the money, that I could understand, if not approve of, but these oiks really do think it is their due - constant ego-stroking adulation.
Old Sting and his Jung quotes - didn't he carry that on into his solo career? I remember reading a review of one of his solo atrocities - blue turtles and whatnot - and reeling from the pretension and arrogance. Completely humourless too, one of the biggest crimes in my book.

Bamber Gascoigne and The Very Things? It could have been the greatest pairing since Burns and Allen.

7:05 AM  
Blogger Dan Barrow said...

Always glad to see The Cravats getting a boost, they're one of my... ooh... Top 10 favourite bands. Actually, I wouldn't mind the Police reunion if one of the tour events were a boxing match between Sting and The Shend. Although The Shend is allowed to use his bass as an offensive weapon. Wrapped in electrified barbed wire.

It's true though, the only place for quality to flourish is in the shadows, because they work outside the hand of authority that makes them objects of history. 'Working Down Underground'...

9:37 AM  
Blogger St. Anthony said...

Ha ha ... my money is on The Shend ... and I would pay good money to see that particular bout.

Yes, underground, on the margins ... areas twerps like Sting don't even suspect exist, with his multiple Grammys and his wealthy friends and his massive self-regard ... give me a bunch like The Cravats any day.

10:55 AM  
Blogger Dr Anthony Donovan said...


8:33 PM  
Blogger St. Anthony said...

Peripheral and proud.

8:36 PM  
Blogger Dr Anthony Donovan said...

Let's organise a march: Periphery Pride.

Listening to The Fall as I type ...

10:09 PM  
Blogger rockmother said...

Coffee table bands - that's such a wholly accurate appraisal of what those bands/artists are. I'm going to re-check out The Cravats - I haven't heard them for years. Did they live at Dial House or were they just on Penny Rimbaud's label?

9:21 AM  
Blogger Eleuktra Starsoft said...

I remember pissing myself at seeing the opening line of copy in a programme for a Sting concert back in the eighties which went, "Sting is a lion!"

The lion of England. Ha ha. Prancing and roaring.

Mummers who take themselves too seriously deserve public laughter and a kick up the arse, and Sting always did take himself too seriously.

Mind you, I quite liked some of the tracks on Dream of the Blue Turtles, though last time I listened it sounded horribly dated in its production. Stuff worthy of the sick bag.

Would you care for some medieval lute playing then, love? What a knob.

2:14 PM  
Blogger St. Anthony said...

Straight outta Redditch, the Cravats ... don't think they ever fetched up at Crass Commune Central ... would have been quite funny to see them there, though. I think they were anarchists with a small 'a', rather than a big 'A'.

Sting, the Lion of England, eh? You've got to laugh ... he's a case, alright, with his lutes and his tantric marathons and his Amazonian tribesmen as fashion accessories.
Didn't Wynton Marsalis sack his brother Bradford for working with Sting's band? Wouldn't agree with Wee Willy Wynton about much, but am in complete accordance with him on that one.

7:24 AM  

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