Thursday, 16 April 2009

'Duke Pandemonium', Marmaduke Duke

Marmaduke Duke is the side project of Simon Neil from Biffy Clyro (The Atmosphere) and J P Reid from Sucioperro (The Dragon), and their first album The Magnificent Duke was a mad conceptual screamo-meets-noise-rock 18-track explosion of sound. Even if you decided to give up trying to dissect the album for its various 'concepts', it was a musical masterpiece which left you feeling bemused, emotionally tired and mildly enlightened.

On first listening, Duke Pandemonium could have been made by a different band to The Magnificent Duke. It is electronic synth-and-drum-machine-based pop, but it's amazing. I listened to it first on the bus, finding it hard to control my shocked facial expressions, especially in the breathtaking, muted soaring guitars in Erotic Robotic, and during the very weird Skin The Mofo Alive, in which there is every type of percussion you can dream of, including tropical drums and...spoons? I can definitely hear pots and pans being hit elsewhere. Tracks like Skin The Mofo Alive border on parody, though what it would be a parody of, I do not know; this is by no means a bad thing. In fact, it's genius.

This is what side projects should be like. In Plato's world of ideals, this would be the archetypal side project. It's exciting, always changing; all of the Biffy and Sucioperro ideas that were just too daft or mad to use have been rolled together to make this, and skilfully. Highlights include the seven minute extravaganza Pandemonium, sexy and lyrically amusing Erotic Robotic, and the ridiculous but sublime Je Suis Un Funky Homme. Anything here could be a dancefloor classic, but each track deserves more listening to that.

Have I ever heard anything like it before? No way. Is it too daft? Maybe for some. Do I like daft music? Hell yeah. Marmaduke put the 'mental' back into experimental.


Saturday, 11 April 2009

How do you judge experimental?

It struck me while I was trying to get to sleep last night - when listening to experimental music or looking at experimental art, or even concept music and art, how do you judge it? If you can't judge it on musical skill because that 'wasn't the point', or on popularity, because that's 'not the point' either, then what do you judge it on? How do you tell a 'good' concept from a bad one?

The only way to judge, I suppose, would be on how well it fulfilled its desired intention, how well the concept was portrayed...but if it has done this so badly that you can't tell what the artist was going for at all, then they can hide behind a screen of superiority and self-righteousness, because you're clearly just missing the essence and meaning behind their masterpiece. So, surely it should be judged on how many people get the art or music. But surely that cannot be true, as if there's one thing I've learned in culture, it's never to judge quality on numbers: Bob The Builder got to the top of the charts.

An artist called Mary Riley started me thinking on this. How many times can artists paint canvases white and get away with it, ay? When will the art world stop nodding along and just say, without a hint of cynicism, 'That means absolutely nothing, and you well know it. Get a job'?

Thursday, 2 April 2009

The 405 - A Recommendation

I am now on the writing team at The 405 (click here) and my first two reviews are online now. One is a retrospective review of Blur's Parklife, and the other is a review of rockers Hundred Reasons' new album, Quick The Word, Sharp The Action. There is also an interesting debate over whether The Libertines should get back together starting up at The 405 Debate.

The 405 (and yes, this is a plug) is an excellent review site, looking at art, books, film and music, which is just about to turn 1. It's really worth a look, and worth favouriting if you ask me. I wouldn't have offered my writing 'services' did I not think it was a brilliant site. Go on...