Monday, January 24, 2022

Position Normal

 Cool to see an appreciation of Position Normal - plus a recent interview with Chris Bailiff - in this mainstream-looking publication Today in 24. (I can't work out if the interviewer is called Jenesaispop or if that's a section or subdivision  of Today in 24. )

Something I learned - that some of the children's voices on Stop Your Nonsense come from Michael Apted's 7 Up  - the latest, moving installment of that series was among our viewing last week. But then I did wonder if that is actually accurate or a misunderstanding of an earlier reviewer's analogy? (C.f. the attribution of the sampled voice in "German" to Lotte Lenya - which seems to be originate in my reaching for a vague reference point when reviewing it. But then again, maybe it is Lenya).  Bailiff does say that "I am interested in documentaries, series and movies as much as I am interested in music" so it would make sense that he ransacked 7 Up.

Another thing I didn't know, or maybe I did and forgot: one of the later albums was funded by The Prince's Trust! 

 Here's a nice quote from Bailiff about using his teacher dad's collection of spoken-word records as a sample bank:  

"In one of the discs, a person asked a group of children what they want to be when they grow up, and one of them answers that he wants to be a whale. The boy took the question seriously and answered seriously “I want to be a whale.” 

Saturday, January 22, 2022


" Is Old Music Killing New Music?" asks Ted Gioia at his substack The Honest Broker, and goes on to explore the steady growth of catalogue sales in music. 

"I had a hunch that old songs were taking over music streaming platforms—but even I was shocked when I saw the most recent numbers. According to MRC Data, old songs now represent 70% of the US music market....

"The new music market is actually shrinking. All the growth in the market is coming from old songs.

".... the 200 most popular tracks now account for less than 5% of total streams. It was twice that rate just three years ago. 

"The current list of most downloaded tracks on iTunes is filled with the names of bands from the last century...

"....Never before in history have new tracks attained hit status while generating so little cultural impact. 

"... Old recordings, like zombies in those bad films, are out to kill the living"

Gioia also points to declining audience figures for the Grammies, radio programming trends, hologram tours, A&R and other music biz executives losing confidence in the present, and other symptoms. 

In Retromania, I looked into this issue of catalogue outselling new and recent ("deep catalogue" being a particularly potent category) and asked Billboard's Ed Christman for his specialist-knowledge low-down. So I'm not surprised to see the tendency has continued and escalated... 

It's a kind of oligopoly of the elderly -  a gerontocracy comprised of those who were able to establish  enduring stature through the Analogue System aka the Monoculture. Now as Gioia observes, they are selling off their publishing for massive sums, to investors betting on a posthumous dominance that will continue to hold sway: 

"The hottest area of investment in the music business is old songs—with investment firms getting into bidding wars to buy publishing catalogs from aging rock and pop stars. The song catalogs in most demand are by musicians in their 70s or 80s (Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen, etc.)—if not already dead (David Bowie, James Brown, etc.).  Even major record labels are participating in the shift, with Universal Music, Sony Music, Warner Music, and others buying up publishing catalogs—investing huge sums in old tunes that, in an earlier day, would have been used to launch new artists."

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

retrotalk2022 #2

Alexandra Fiorentino-Swinton asks "how can we ever be nostalgic for media that never ends?". It's part of Real Life's column series New Feelings, which is "devoted to the desires, moods, pathologies, and identifications that rarely had names before digital media." 

“While much has been made about the overload of nostalgic pop cultural mining in music, fashion, and other media content, the very structure of our most prevalent plot devices indicates a cultural atmosphere of temporal erosion. Fictional plots today may be taking our increased continual connectivity into account, eschewing the tight contours of the singular, removed adventure narrative that once defined youth media...  In contrast to the “analog era” movies that featured encounters with “hard nostalgia” — idealizing youth as a bittersweet place of departure, as something that is over just as it’s happening — my experience of youth media is one of continuity. Movies and TV shows today account for continuing digital connectivity in their use of equally weighted character perspectives, stop and starts of individual storylines, and a default industry-wide push (granted the viewership numbers) toward a stream of sequels and reboots. In popular entertainments marketed to me, stories are supposed to go on forever — bolstered by endless spin-offs and fan extensions....  An entire cottage industry has emerged out of finding nostalgic and referential easter eggs in these kinds of films, reifying the iconic nature of what came before as it is continuously brought into the present. They survive on the commodification of their own history — and so do we, in a social sphere that mirrors the entertainment sphere: in ongoing curation, narrativization, and calculations of value in an algorithmic setting."

Monday, January 17, 2022

retrotalk2022 #1

Atlantic piece on how the newest film in the always-meta Scream series takes the meta-piss out of legacy sequels, pandering to the nerd-fanbase, and that target market's own bad faith of endless reconsumption

David Sims writes: 

"This franchise... can submit to obvious tropes while its characters roll their eyes at them; you can always count on a scene in which a character smashes through the fourth wall with a knowing monologue about the predictability of horror films. However, the latest film, directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett (Ready or Not), takes aim at not just the genre it’s working in but Hollywood culture at large, wherein studios rely on familiar names instead of the barest bit of originality.

"Because everything old must be new again, this film is simply called Scream, not Scream 5, and the three biggest characters from the prior editions return. Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), the usual main target for Ghostface’s villainy, is now a flinty, gun-owning mom; Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox), an ambulance-chasing TV journalist, has become a morning-show host; and Dewey Riley (David Arquette), the town sheriff, has fallen on hard times.... 

...The effective opening sequence mirrors the original Scream: Tara talks on the phone with the killer as he quizzes her about scary movies. This time, though, she scoffs at questions about horror fogies such as Freddy and Jason; she’s into “elevated horror,” she says, like The Babadook or It Follows. That shift in the genre is what Scream now wants to mock—after all these years, are audiences still going to fear the familiar specter of a guy in a mask with a knife?

"... It can’t reach the terrifying heights of Craven’s original, but none of the sequels could; each one always leaned a little more on meta-humor as the series went along. That type of self-skewering, à la the latest Matrix sequel, is far more familiar in Hollywood now than it was in 1996. This film, however, takes that tactic one step further, jabbing not only at legacy sequels but also at the intense fandoms that inspire them. Befitting their postmodern outlook, the Scream movies have a fictional horror-film series within them titled Stab, and viewers learn that the Stab sequels have apparently gone off the rails, as the newest entry (which was “directed by the Knives Out guy”) angers enthusiasts by upending established rubrics.

".... In the fifth Scream, the killer is motivated to bring things back to basics and reeducate the next generation about classic scares of yore. Given the franchise’s DNA, it is naturally a movie where horror canon itself is the villain; even if the person in the mask has changed once again, the real adversary is film fans’ unwillingness to let go of the past."

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

"my little ( time) bubble"

 A whole family of Teddy Boys in Potters Bar, Hertfordshire - "socially dedicated to the past" as the presenter puts it  - and who are keeping the faith into the early '80s, as far as I can tell from this UK TV clip

Wonder if the little boy, who must now be in his late 'forties, early 'fifties, is still staying true to the cause and wearing his hair like that.