Song Of The Day – MVP by Big L

From the album ‘Lifestylez Ov Da Poor & Dangerous’ (1995)

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Song Of The Day – The Best Songs Of 2022

It occurred to me that I should rename this column my favourite songs of the year, rather than the best songs of the year. Until I realised my stupidity as the distinction is irrelevant, this is my blog, of course it’s my opinion and only my opinion. That’s one of the issues with doing a yearly roundup, in my case you forget what the yearly columns are called and have to go and check last year’s. Another is that I’ve been naming it this way for nigh on ten years now, we’re too far down the road to change course.

I committed a wee pratfall with my best releases of 2022 column. I published it with only nine releases instead of ten. Out of habit I transport my columns from a Word document due to the dreadfully restrictive interface of the WordPress editor. The paragraph for Death Is Not The End’s Pause For The Cause releases just happened to be located in and around the page break in Word and I forgot to copy that bit over. At least I spotted it and rectified the mistake.

Hopefully all youse cunts had a Merry Christmas and the New Year treats you well. Big up to those on strike. Bring down the government before the laws ensuring equal pay for women, paid sick leave and statutory annual leave are scrapped by the end of 2023. Again, a big fuck you to anyone who voted for Brexit. You mugs. This is supposed to a column that exudes the positivity of quality, so enough with the boring political ranting and onto the list. As per usual these songs are presented in alphabetical order, with Bandcamp links where possible. YouTube’s unusable now with the frequency of its adverts, yet another thing destroyed by greed.

If I had to pick a favourite here it would be the Soft Pink Truth’s beautiful deep house cut Deeper Than This (Dark Room mix). SnP 500’s Dus is a close second as it’s a ciggie paper away from being some Basic Channel level business, but I assure you these are all nice.

Catch you in 2023 homies.

Afrorack – Osc

From the album ‘The Afrorack’

CITIES AVIV – Smoking On A Brighter Day

From the album ‘Man Plays The Horn’

Fort Romeau – Spotlights

From the album ‘Beings Of Light’

Jack J – Closing The Door

From the album ‘Opening The Door’

Jamal Moss – Erotic Abuse

From the EP ‘Thanks 4 The Tracks U Lost’

Plastikman & Chilly Gonzalez – Consumed (In Key)

From the album ‘Consumed In Key’

SnP 500 – Dus

From the EP ‘Honeydoo’

Saada Bonaire – So Many Dreams (NYC Classic Edit)

From the album ‘1992’

The Soft Pink Truth – Deeper Than This (Dark Room mix)

From the EP ‘Was It Ever Real?’

Working Men’s Club – Ploys

From the album ‘Fear Fear’

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Song Of The Day – Wonderful Christmastime by Paul McCartney

From the album ‘McCartney II’ [Deluxe Edition] (1980)

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Essential Listening: The Best Releases Of 2022

It’s been a year of nostalgia through sound meeting the innovation wrought by modernity, reflected by the diversity in my choices for best releases of 2022; a street-soul compilation, unreleased demos from the sixties, a discarded album spanning material from two decades, nineties house music of various stripes, the refactoring of one of the nineties best techno minimalism records, and an album that’s structurally in the tradition of nineties hip-hop but is a sonic magpie.

In all other aspects of life I prefer to look forward than reminisce, and that makes me an optimist rather than a pessimist. I don’t believe my choices to be a subconscious reflex to the fraught present, as I’ve listened to and enjoyed quite a number of contemporary releases this year. Things aren’t worse today than they were twenty or thirty years ago – certain trivialities aside, say Sensible Soccer’s gameplay is better than any recent edition of FIFA’s. While the decline of living standards and home ownership, widening wealth inequality, stagnant wages and a contracting economy (gee, do you think maybe all those things are linked?), are real, the trite it-was-better-back-in-the-day routine is boring, inaccurate and most importantly completely pointless.

Clearly this cleaving to sounds synonymous is the result of an aging psyche (and body; inflammation, body odour and flatulence) that is starting to oppress me in an undesirable way and that my remaining time is ever diminishing. You pitied the hidebound tastes of your elders, and you vowed never to emulate it, only you end up becoming a curmudgeonly old cunt yourself. I’m becoming less tolerant of what I dislike and more drawn to what I know I will enjoy. The wrong response is to be disproportionately angry about this, say in a Ray from Nil by Mouth way, but as an optimist I’m embracing it as successful introspection. Knowing who you are should not be viewed as a battle, never mind one that’s impossible to win, as it’s truly one of the few benefits of aging. But so many succumb to vanity and the despair at the inability of any cosmetic means, no matter how sophisticated, preventing physical aging. Still, it’s fun to laugh at the individual foibles and failings of others that age fails to correct. Jacob Rees-Mogg behaves the way a thirteen-year-old you’d suspect of owning a shrine full of nineteen-thirties fascist memorabilia and a lock of Margaret Thatcher’s pubic hair would.

While my music tastes are narrowing, the kind of releases I listen to seems to be widening. That’s a result of digitalism (hey at least I’m embracing it!). Bandcamp has supplanted My Space, and Soulseek has done the same for Napster. Both are huge quality of life improvements for music sharing and discovery, as is YouTube. A YouTube music rabbit hole is a the only true thing the medium is good for (other than Limmy clips). All the others are to be avoided, especially the ones related to the trans-rights holy war between barmy trans-activists and feminists, most notably J.K. Rowling and Graham Linnehan. Then there’s a nastier vortex where weirdo authoritarian and fascist nutters tethered to Donald Trump are lampooned by virtual signalling uber lefties. What a waste of bandwidth.

But not everyone is wasting your time. It’s never been easier to get content out there. While there’s so much more to sift through, for music cutting out the middle man has been a real boon for experimentalism and innovation. More obscure stuff is readily available for public consumption than ever before. Would a release compiling a bunch of adverts from nineties pirate radio stations in London have ever seen the light of day fifteen years ago? Perhaps on some cassette tape made by your mate with shoddy quality migrated to CD, but easily accessible to everyone, everywhere, all the time? No way.

Best of all digitalism hasn’t meant analogue is dead. It’s still fighting on, to the point that we’re getting stuff released on what was previously thought to be obsolete formats, some even cassette only. There are Vinyl shortages, thanks to a lack of production factories failing to be operational in time to meet demand and that a billion (okay, a million) copies of Adele’s 30 decimated what capacity there was.

It’s good to remind yourself that if enough people ask for something, someone will more than happily provide them that service – more Les Rallizes Dénudés reissues please. And that despite all the hand-wringing over social media’s influence, the rest of internet still offers us an egalitarian flow of ideas and content which, enough of the time, is consumed on merit. The ten selections on my list being an example of this.

Anyway, enough of the preamble ramble, and to the list. As per usual it’s in alphabetical order. That said, the EP release by The Soft Pink Truth and the reissue of Jan Jelinek’s Textstar+ under the Farben moniker are must haves. Have a Merry Christmas, and I’ll post my top ten songs of 2022 between Christmas and New Year.

DJ Fucks Himself – Weisse Weste (EP)

Marries beautiful deep baselines that evoke some of Rupert Parkes (Photek) best early nineties stuff with frenetic beats and jungle inflections. Buttery smooth production is made for good headphones.

Farben – Textstar+ [reissue]

If you get the chance, check this out, it truly was the sound of the summer. I jesterhat. Farben’s (aka Jan Jelinek) punchy fusion of funk, jazz and disco loops will always leave you craving more, and it leaves me longing for summer to return in this outrageously fucking cold winter we’re having. Just don’t call it microhouse or nu-Jazz or some other twatty bollocks please.

Lou Reed –  Words & Music, May 1965

Lou rips off embryonic demo versions of what were to become VU’s classic hits. Reed’s aptitude for melody to take centre stage here, before Cale’s noise distortion made them the darlings of the New York avant garde art scene. Even a bootlegish offering this kind, which definitely proves that songs often take years of honing still fail to disabuse me of the notion that ‘good’ songs are crafted spontaneously over a short period of time. Watching too many Beatles and Stones documentaries will do that.

Michael J. Blood – Blood FM 1 & 2

Both hour long mixtapes transition through and at times mesh the genres of electronic music randomly, but meticulous producing creates a flow and aesthetic that never feels rushed. Is the ecstasy to Galcher Lustwerk’s Blowing Up The Workshop mix’s ketamine.

Pause for the Cause [Death Is Not The End]: London Rave Adverts 1991​​​-​​​1996, Vol. 1 & Vol. 2

To call this a music release is a bit of a stretch I’ll admit, but it perfectly captures the DIY haphazardness of early nineties pirate radio, and the adverts work as a perfect ode to the last analogue era, the vibrancy of rave culture’s esoteric milieu and creativity pirate radio’s medium inculcated (the Instagram generation should take note). There are some absolute crackers and some nonsense here, all of it oozing charm. “Entry only ten pound” (That’s the cost of a drink now – there’s me doing that “it was better back in the day” shit again) and terrible rhymes over jargy rave, drum and bass and jungle beats. Preserved for posterity. Chuck the label a couple of quid for compiling both volumes please.

Plastikman & Chilly Gonzalez – Consumed In Key

As I wrote in May: Perhaps not surprising that Consumed in Key exists if we consider Keith Richards’ musing when rehearsing with Bob Dylan (as Voices of Freedom) for Live Aid in 1985 “that when you’ve been playing your own songs for so long you start to re-write them”. So why wouldn’t Richie Hawtin (aka Plastikman) or anyone revisit past works and tweak them. To quote someone more reliably lucid that Keith Richards, W.H. Auden is often attributed with the adage that “a work of art is never completed, only abandoned”. Indeed the Bandcamp explainer for Consumed In Key hints at this being the reason for its existence, ““Consumed in Key” is born of the obsessive love of a timeless work of art, an obsessive fascination untempered by fearful reverence. It is the result of a 30-year cycle of musical evolution and inspiration, a touch of Canadian kismet (all three are from Canada) and artists finding common ground where others would see none.” Job done. I prefer it to the original.

Saada Bonaire – 1992

The mythology of this release; discarded tapes, random dysfunction, and a forgotten album finished in a sex shop is almost alluring as the act’s concept of Arab women navigating the freedoms of the West. The base heavy Italo-disco eighties releases give way to cheesy early nineties Balearic piano house here. Top pop.

The Soft Pink Truth – Was It Ever Real? (EP)

Gay as fuck deepest house of house (hey, it has a track called Anal Staircase) and better off for it. Ramps up the sleaze and works as the perfect way after the after hours accompaniment to DJ Sprinkles’ Midtown 120 Blues.

They Hate Change – Finally, New

Less is more, just beats and rhymes. This sounds as though it was recorded in some dank stoner boudoir with a janky eighties Roland mixer, but hits on all the classic hip-hop sensibility, with some trap and grime influences, and yeah, that means no fucking autotune. Thank you.

Various – V4 Visions: Of Love & Androids

Not exhaustive by any means, but a substantial account of the febrile Black British music scene from the late eighties to early nineties. It wasn’t just Soul 2 Soul. Loads of street soul, some R’n’B numbers, Madchester flourishes and this comp makes clear the influence the genre and scene had on honing that quintessential early nineties house sound. Highlights include Ashaye’s Jungle mix of “Dreaming” and Julie Stapleton’s “Where’s Your Love Gone?”.

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The Billionaire burn

Don’t hesitate, or exit the car. Being here is a risk. Nearly all areas in all cities are hostile now. If they get a whiff of your Clive Christian Osmanthus cologne, or spot your Balenciaga shoes, they’ll turn feral.

Why do I come to these places? Awe. In the privilege of decadent upholstery I marvel that these slums of disintegrating concrete and scabby cladding can make tens of millions in profit for me every year.

This time I’m on reconnaissance. My focus is an austere tower-block twenty-three stories high. A fellow billionaire is selling it to expand his overseas property portfolio and I’ve made my interest known. Billionaires selling some of their dross has become a trend. Social housing is cheaper abroad, in better condition, and the profits greater, even though the rules around rent are stricter. But remember, where there is a winner, someone loses. Buying property and land here, whatever state it is in, has not failed me yet.

Demand must continue to outstrip supply to keep rent prices high. New social housing developments are kept to a minimum. This maintains our economic position. But the increasing concentration of assets among fewer and fewer billionaires means house prices have reached absurdly high levels. The proletariat have already had their housing disaster, losing ownership of their homes to us, but ours is on the near horizon. A dismal studio flat in Slough with less than three-hundred square feet now goes for £4m.

The war of the day isn’t between class, that has long since been settled. Only two remain, landlords and tenants. All that remains of the housing market is skirmishes between billionaires squabbling over urban decay to see who can become the first trillionaire. While asset value is relative, and what you own still somewhat matters, increasingly it’s about volume. The battle of the billionaires is the only form of meritocracy we have left. And why shouldn’t the winner of that be me?

Unregulated capitalism’s greatest achievement was to embrace rapid technological advancement in concert with financialisation. Together both have quashed the revolutionary spirit of the renting class. First it made our need for their labour largely redundant, this keeps wages stagnant. Second, technological advancement raised living standards significantly, even for the poorest. Third, technology gave them all manner of means to drive themselves to permanent distraction.

Sure, there is dissent. Counter-cultural and revolutionary prose are now merely entertainment products from a bygone age. A few form militant groups, who we pay the media to brand as terrorists. They make threats, but they’re too small in number to gain traction, and the inequality gap is now so vast their message of change no longer seems feasible. Most renters comply knowing they never had it so good. The ennui inherent in social media, reality television and dating apps sees them consumed by petty forms of neuroses and over-wrought introspection. The political class are lobbied or populated by our less capable family members. We own all media platforms, and allow a few media employees to buy a few of our luxury properties. To us it’s a pittance to ensure there is no deviation from the message.

Economically we’ve established a perfect loop where the renters produce roughly what they consume, and as we own the means, we take the profits. The populace’s sense of value is maintained with jobs that are superfluous or serve little practical function. Never under-estimate the power of words and an ostentatious title; advanced admin assistant, deputy assistant manager, quality-control advisor to the supervisor, specialist workstream analyst.

Leaving them enough tradition and routine so that daily life still retains a sense of normality is key to the project’s success. Women eventually succumb and cleave to having children. Male tribalism is assuaged thanks to the ten remaining football clubs, all owned by the wealthiest heads of foreign states. City centres up and down the country continue as the arenas where men violently vent their frustrations on each other. Bingo halls, fruit machines, bookies and casinos hoover up any additional capital they manage to procure through debts, which, of course, we own. Pubs, now the ultimate loss leader, remain open thanks to subsidies.

My rival wants to meet. He selects a gentleman’s club I have never frequented. The exclusivity makes me envious. It was now late at night, and empty but the excessive consumption of cigar smoke and various sprits from earlier still lingered on the nose. We negotiate prices and discuss the demographic of the block’s tenants “a gang of whining cunts”. “Aren’t they all”. He wants £780 million for the whole lot despite it being “in fucking shit condition”. That’s less than three and a half million per unit “a bargain”. Loathsome riff-raff he may be in old-money but on the latter point I cannot disagree. He claims to have an offer of £800 million from a rival, but this rival is richer than he. Pride is a fatal weakness at this echelon. He’s an asset rich, capital poor billionaire, and he needs capital quickly to close on his foreign purchase.

Unprompted, he offers to show me around the tower block, which I take as a sign of desperation. With assiduous smugness he presents his armed protection team of six wardrobe sized HGH farmed mercenaries, who all seem to be called Brad or Gary, one by one. My safety concerns satisfied, I agree to the viewing. He knew I would. If it’s in a worse state than I expect, there’s still some potential for haggling. He’ll have done his research on me. In the unlikely event you’re selling, you have to ensure that the buyer has the cash ready. Money, unless it is converted into holdings, loses value so swiftly due to perpetually high inflation.

Arriving outside the tower block in question it appears even more bleak than on my earlier viewing. Its darkness creates an ominous shadow on the overcast night sky, coloured an orangey hue by the city’s light pollution. The lift is out of order, so we enter the main stairwell, which, similar to the landings, is exposed to the elements. My regret builds as the wintery wind starts cutting through my seven thousand pound handmade cashmere top coat.

“Fancy meeting some of your prospective tenants, then?” I remain silent in the hope of dissuading him. But he ploughs ahead and knocks on the door of number six, floor thirteen. Who does he think he is? Keith Chegwin? He’ll likely be less popular at this hour. Part of me hopes he’s humiliated with the rebuttal of a swiftly closed door. But with who he is to them and his protection flanking him closely – dwarfing him, despite him being of slightly above average height – and consuming the entirety of the doorframe, it’s likely to be interpreted as the menacing imposition it is.

The door opens and we’re met with a portly woman with a scowl and dreadful complexion made worse by the inadequate application of makeup heavily centralised around the eyes, lips and cheeks. “Can we come in luv?” Before she can answer we’ve funnelled in through the narrow hall way into a living room which is cosy, and has become considerably cosier with the arrival of me, the slumlord and three of his mutant henchmen. The sitting rooms of these units are not designed to hold more than four or five at a time. Her six children are squashed together on the only sofa. Despite their father being at work, or, hopefully, getting a vasectomy, none of them are occupying his seat. Perhaps it’s because of the purplish stain located right where his anus would land.

Jollily the slumlord takes his place on dad’s seat as if he owns it, which, technically, he does. The faces of the children seem perplexed by events, or afraid, or apprehensive, and somewhat mirror the cocktail of my own emotions. “I think we should leave these people be”. He tuts and attempts to antagonise me for being “too posh for this”. The ambivalent response from the audience makes me pity him, clearly he seldom gets to posit himself as a salt of the earth rotten pastiche of Fred Dibnah, and this time it couldn’t have gone any worse.

“£770m”. He’s a sucker for hipster billionaire chic, his elbow patches on his checked wool shirt are extra-large, the cuffs distressed intentionally, with dirt under his fingers nails. Despicable cunt. “£675m” I reply. His stupid little mangy mongrel operates as an amendment to his steel toe-capped boots. Fake riff-raff wanker. “£750m. That’s my final offer”. He shifts in his seat as though he’s just farted. Scum. “£725m”. “Fucking hell”, he smirks and stifles a laugh in his throat before continuing “you’re everything I expected.” Sometimes negotiations can be fraught, but the hostility of his tone and the colour of this comment takes me by surprise. He shouts “done” as he rises to his feet. I’m just relieved that we now have a reason to leave. “Let’s do the agreement now”. Now I’m getting nervous. “Can’t it wait?” “I’ve got somewhere to be” he insists. “The paperwork’s prepared, digital money transfer all ready to go” he states, with a pointed urgency. “Fine” I say. It’s not the way a gentleman does business, but then he isn’t one, and I’ve managed to secure land and housing for £75m less than I budgeted. Success.

I catch the eldest girl, who looks around thirteen I’d say, smirking unexpectedly while I fill in the bank details for my funding account on the tablet produced by one of the henchmen. Purposely avoiding her glare I try not to dwell on his nose, which has been repeatedly mutilated to the point that at a certain angle it is imperceptible from the rest of his face. She has a magnetic glint in her eye that suggests an intelligence and confidence outwith her gene pool and circumstances. Little doubt her parents would sell her to me if they could. Most of them will do anything for a reprieve from their servitude to lifelong debt, arrears and rents, even if the feeling of freedom is only temporary.

Money transfer complete. I receive a notification – a legally binding agreement stating the deed has been transferred to my name has been sent to my solicitor. My back muscles relax. “Are we done here? It’s late and I’ve been here long enough”. “Have you?” I see him signal them by simultaneously raising his chin and protruding his bottom lip. My feet elevate off the floor, as severe pressure is applied to my neck. Suddenly the whole room goes black, with only the light from the TV perceptible through the material covering my face.

I’m sitting in the dad’s chair, alone in the living room. Standing up takes more than one go, my neck locked stiff from it being used to support my body weight in mid-air. My pockets are empty, as is the house. I eventually make it out onto the landing and I’m met with an overpowering stench of petrol, tinged with what seems to be rotting meat combined with damp. It is quiet. All the lights are off, the street below is barren, the dozens of parked cars there on our arrival have all disappeared.

The stairs are thoroughly barricaded by a mixture of super market trollies, abused prams, barbed wire, bricks, cinder blocks, rusty push bikes with missing wheels, pallets and assorted timber. I return to the flat to search for my phone. Nothing. Trails of smoke reach my nose, before I hear the sound of cracking above. One of the floors above is ablaze. My ankle collapses after kicking in one of the doors to another flat on this floor. What I assume is a back bedroom window, as there’s no furniture, is barred up. Rigidly. Fuck. I’m drawn back on to the landing by indeterminate wails and sounds which appear to be emanating from outside and below.

I sag over the walkway’s handrail. A raging bonfire of tires, wooden pallets, cardboard and random household debris is being diligently constructed at pace below. A clearly expectant horde has gathered in the street. A constellation of mobile screens are there to record me plead, to humiliate me, before grating me a reprieve. Anything but my demise. Anything. I offer them money. Enough to escape all this and be more than comfortable. After the shouts of “scum” and “fuck off” have died down, my adversary replies through a speakerphone ‘we’re well past that’. It’s met with cheers followed by one clear shout of “Burn the fucking rich cunt” which intensifies the crowd’s excitement.

As the flames grow closer and the chants from the baying mob gets louder all that remains is a choice – jump or burn. Jumping is my only chance at a sudden, painless death.

As my forehead torpedoes towards the pavement thoughts of the unresolved rush in. Is this how the revolution begins? Am I the first they’ve done this too? My last thought is not of dismay at my impending doom, but how easily that simpleton duped me.

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