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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Subtitled 'A History of Pop in the Shape of a City'-, 21 July 2003
This review is from: Words and Music: A History of Pop in the Shape of a City (Paperback)
Paul Morley follows up his wonderful auto/biography/exploration 'Nothing' (2000) with 'Words and Music'- which uses Kylie's Can't Get You Out of My Head as its starting point: Kylie's pop classic pointing back to a past when there was an idea of the future: Kraftwerk, Moroder, Human League, New Order. Morley takes us on a journey from and around Can't Get You Out of My Head- the destination here the lists to end all lists, in a book that flows with cultural reference points- from Morley himself (& other notable music critics, eg Lester Bangs, Nick Kent, Simon Reynolds) to Messiaen to Philip Glass to Amazon to Philip K Dick to Eno to Tangerine Dream to T Rex to Now That's What I Call Music! to The Art of Noise (and on and on and on it flows forwards & backwards & sideways and around...)Anyone who LOVED Paul Morley's now mythic period at the NME (I was mildly too young...)should love this book- in the list sense, it's far more Rick Moody (Demonology-The Black Veil- Ring of Brightest Angels...) than Nick Hornby. Which is a good thing. As with 'Nothing', Morley shifts through many styles- and there are lists galore- there is also some wonderful humour. A wonderful history of pop culture occurs and recurs throughout the book and the presence of The White Stripes in the 1963 section is almost as amusing as The Manic Street Preachers section (as Welsh as...), or the section on Metal Machine Music that concludes with the hilarious list'How to Be Annoying' (TYPE ONLY IN UPPERCASE-Begin all your sentences with 'Ooh,la la'-Leave tips in Bolivian Currency etc) which is the most amusing thing here. Demented humour rules with this list & the handy tip "Rouse your partner from sleep every morning with Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music"!
There's so much here- impossible to get into 1000 words- but it's safe to say you could pretty much forget about buying most of the music press and what's hip this month (moustaches, ironic 70s retro that sounds like Lynrd Skynrd or Nazareth) & get this instead. I'm a great lover of books with lists and bits- the words relating to the music here & would rate this up there with lovely books like JG Ballard's A User's Guide to the Millennium & the Bangs collection Psychotic Reactions&Carburretor Dung. Words & Music and the upcoming publication of more of Bangs writings shows that great music criticism- which may use music as its starting point & go off anywhere (Allen Ginsberg- Eminem- Britney Spears- Scott Walker- Claude Debussy- Eric Satie- Joy Division- Captain Beefheart- Crash- Amazon- I am sitting in a room- Can't Get You Out of My Head- and on and on and on...)- is alive and kicking. You just wouldn't know it if you read the majority of the music press (& can anyone tell me when, or rather why, Uncut has turned into Mojo?). The lists are great, proof that music has never been better and always been as great- wonderful to see nods to such wonderful records as Tilt, I Travel, I'm a Slave 4 U, Rock Bottom, Laughing Stock, John Cage, Faust, Eno/Eno/Eno/Eno/Brian Eno, James Joyce, Madonna, Pop Group, Overload, Neu!, Nick Drake, Magnetic Fields, Depeche Mode etc- because pop can be anything. and everything. and I suppose sometimes nothing. Yes, the lists and the footnotes are an utter joy. Where else can you read about Britney Spears one second and Slint the next? Or about Ballard's Crash then Can't Get You Out of My Head magnified, as if In Every Dream Home a Heartache...
Words And Music is a great book for those who can't get either out of their heads, for those who want more and think more of music than the Cowell-Fuller 50s exploitation department, or the futile retro of Oasis. Morley's argument about Radiohead is one I'm coming round to- much more interesting than the majority who wish Radiohead were like The Bends (again)- it points out how unweird Radiohead are and offers a few lists to show why. Rather than bemoaning Radiohead for not being a conservative sub-Zooropa band, they should be bemoaned for not being weird enough- they're not exactly Swans, are they? Words & Music is shockingly NOW, which is great, as the music scene has severe problems- mainly derived from its increasingly corporate behaviour (merge, drop, etc). & for anyone who has read or written about music on the net- here on Amazon maybe?- Page 122 will be a joy! A great book, one that I'll come back to again and again...(Thanks, Paul)...
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