JGB, Interplay and Ghosts
April 13, 2011, 7:13 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized, Unpublished

JGB Interplay and Ghosts

_words John Calvert


After kissing goodbye you walk up through the concourse, assessing the local night-crawlers as you travel. You pass through the phantasmagoric bustle into a narrow side-alley. The abrupt disparity of volume precipitates a visceral sensation of sudden solitude. It’s oppressive. You feel embraced but naked. So you’re travelling this energy-pocket, this infinitesimal nook of the greater urban matrix, this something / nothing repurposed by the human traffic. The wonderers impose new imaginations on the concrete that the city planners could never have anticipated; extracting the ‘hidden architectural intentions’. In that way we own it; or our minds too for the duration of our stay. The sound of your footprints are reformed, pitching up, then down, starved and dry, gated thumps on a hollow patio – the city making its impression on you, changing you with dead echo and unnatural contours. As you pass below the obnoxious sodium orange, your shadow emerges from beneath your feet then elongates smoothly to a distance of 10 metres. At its tip is a person. Before it’s too late the faceless creature passes by at an erotic proximity. Another close encounter with another stranger, in a strange land.

This Is Interplay.

Hauntology academic Peter Buse’s description of the ghost as neither of the present or of the past perfectly describes Interplay; as do Foxx’s own ‘sound recording as séance’ ideas or his ruminations on the ‘ghosts of the media age’: specifically the way in which media from the past “haunts the creative acts of our present and future”.

However. Mouth-watering though it may be to imagine a cross between Foxx’s classic Ballardian diagrams and modern-day hauntology, to categorise Interplay as ghostly in the Pink / Salem / Demdike Stare sense is drawing an incorrect parallel. This is a pop album, in the traditional sense, all spiky perspicacity and a brittle magnetism.

The distinction is thus: rather than channel the ghost, Foxx is the ghost, returned to us here to walk that thoroughfare of vintage Ballardian psycho-geography, repeating a flickering transmission in 15-second loops forever, in more or less his past self form c.1980.

On Interplay with the multitude of various treatment distorting his voice, Foxx inhabits his own concept of spectrality, which in interviews he forms around the video records of Marilyn Monroe – elaborated on here in Foxx’s conversation with Stereoklang: “made of light and electricity, she talks dances, sings, smiles, yet she has been dead for forty years, she is dust – yet she lives on”.

It’s important to note how on the money the electro-deity was in the Hauntology respect:

The attendant tune to Foxx’s Monroe fixation – ‘Dust and Light’ from 2003’s Crash And Burn contains prototypes of Mike Powell’s concepts, especially that of ‘the anamorph’ and the peripheral location of ‘the ghost’ in any effective spook story: “Sometimes I’ve seen you walking among the population /Hidden in the margins for a while / Flickering through the faces and the times / Glittering in the corner of my eye’.

Consider too Foxx’s recent comparisons between his avant material and a séance, or his points in a recent interview with Fortean Times: “We still use the term ‘medium’ to describe a modern technological communications process, for instance, when this was previously used as a term for someone who claimed to communicate with spirits”.

cf.K-Punk saw it wise to interrogate Foxx on concepts closely connected to the subject, way back in 2006.

cf. Foxx’s take on the discourse seems closely alignment with the J-horror concept of the ghost – a something which exists in the non-spaces of television static, telephone wires, cctv footage and other virtual dimensions of modern tech.

cf. In Nineties hard sci-fi novel Snow Crash – a study on memetics and archeology – the television static is a gateway into a metaverse.

cf. In Tobe Hooper’s Poltergeist the little girl breaks the fourth wall backwards, into the negative expanses the girl is a tv tommy type who’s habits put her closer to the spirit world. She’s a blonde button nosed paragon of americanism; a very hauntological-esque figure. The television is her portal.

cf. Between events at The Red Room, Lynch often cuts away to the TV Snow, so to reimpose the artifice and hyperreality on the viewer.

cf. Applicable to Interplay, Wire magazine have described how James Blake makes music that is a memory of itself.


Live Review: Albert Hammond Jnr.(Unpublished)
October 31, 2009, 1:41 am
Filed under: Live Reviews, Unpublished


Albert Hammond Jnr.
Spring and Airbrake
8 July 2007

Do you remember those elegant young Manhattanites, those insocient demi-Gods lazily rescuing us from the doldrums of Starsailor, JJ72 and Corporation approved Nu-metal?

The Strokes made the world privy to Is This It almost six years ago. It might as well have been a lifetime ago. They showed the UK the way back to fast, edgy rock and rolling, back when most of tonight’s attendees were yay high. A lot of water has passed under the bridge since, and gushed through the door they left open in 2001. The Libertines, The Post-Libertines, the third generation, the Landfill indie boys, the fourth grade copyists. Gushing and gushing.

The man who sold a thousand pairs of skinny jeans stands downstage sporting a permanent, sleepy grin that’s topped by a frizzy barnet which in turn is haloed by the stage lights. It’s a little surreal to be just feet from him, close enough to smell the boot shine. Albert Hammond Jnr; the beating heart beneath The Stroke’s exquisite but calculated homage to L.E.S Cool.

Yours to Keep is an easy, charming alternative to The Strokes’ increasingly burly style and relief from the long shadow cast by an increasingly troubled Cassablancas. On record, the songs are intermittently marred by a tameness. Its likeable fare that is both nourishing and heart-stealing but the horizontal song writing, eternally bathed in diffused light, is frequently energy-deficient and occasionally forgettable. Live though ‘Bright Side’, ‘In Transit’, ‘Blue Skies’ and crowd-pleaser ‘Holiday’ all but fasten great white wings to The Spring and fly it out of Belfast towards the nearest Red Bull dispensary. The set gushes luxuriously with skin-pricklingly good New Wave, bolstered by the harmonic grace of not just two but three guitars.

On completion of his signature song, the Strokes-ian soufflé ‘Back To The 101’ it feels like a good time to call it a night. The band have other ideas though, re-igniting with ‘Postal Blowfish’ by (Stroke’s favourite) Guided By Voices, which kicks off an encore of scuzzy Garage Rock. Most of which makes you want to travel back to 1978 and split vein out the back of some Bowery shit-hole with a cast of New Yorkan junkie sub-humans. Like the good old days, or how we imagine it to have been.

Arguably, out of the three Strokes albums Hammond Jnr.’s cute little debut record shares the most in common with Room on Fire. However, with the onus on sunshine melodies at every opportunity, he’s successfully distanced himself from Cassablancas’ burnt-out melancholy and trust-fund ennui, painting a vivid profile of his life, his loves and his city that radiates with all the hope and promise of Manhattan at dawn. Both on record and here tonight the songs possess a dainty élan when compared to the blustery overstretching on First Impressions of Earth. This is the live set of a guy who is still enjoying the opportunity to build his own world, unheeded by the choking controls of stern planning officials.

Arctic Monkeys
October 28, 2009, 4:18 am
Filed under: Album Reviews: Noted Artists, Unpublished



Its been a disappointing year for follow-up albums. One after the other, former stellar beings fell short of the promise of their debut. Kasabian’s glam offering Empire to their detriment retired Kasabian’s stupendously exciting Post-XTRMTR, steel-fisted swagger, The Killers grandiose Springsteen-cribbing on Sam’s Town dulled their bright-eyed Indie sparkle and Razorlight tendered for global dominance, carving the insides out of their heart-racing strain of Television-indebted rock and roll.

Of all the new acts, however the Arctic Monkey were deservedly the story of the times. On 2006’s Whatever…, the fastest-selling debut since Definitely Maybe, insanely catchy pop-punk combined with Alex Turner’s precociously wise social observations to conjure a micro-universe, a figurative tacky Saturday Night Club thick with blue smoke, St-Tropez and cheap perfume, where a table of Bacardi Breezers is upended by a fight with a wayward old school friend, all the while underage adolescents, students, thugs and spinsters to-and-fro between the ciggie machine, the dance floor and the inside of a stranger’s smoky mouth. The songwriting, the untrammelled energy, the musicianship and Turner’s vivid, irascible story-telling, together yielded an instant classic.

Initially it seems as though the Arctic Monkeys have, like many of their peers, dropped the ball on this their follow-up L.P, Favourite Worst Nightmare. Coming in at just over 35 minutes, the album has no shortage of punch, but it seems bland, uninspired, maybe even laboured in comparison to its predecessor. It’s only after two or three listens that its myriad charms successfully wrench your head-space from the clutches of Whatever. And after you become accustomed the new taste, when you restart the rotation with heavy surf-rocker ‘Brianstorn’ the buzz returns and your adrenal glands flood with all same pleasures that Whatever afforded. The rest comes away like a ceaseless all-nighter on the tiles, the boys bouncing from pub to club to Kebabery, dodging local crims, sharing cigarettes with down-and-out Sheffieldians, poignant tutorials with wizened steel workers, stealing kisses from Debbie Mid-Riff and then back to base camp to trade sad stories, pine for past girlfriends and weather the inevitable come-down with a glass of warm brandy.

Such is the prevailing trend of the Noughties, a real plurality of influences informs Monkey philosophy. Turner’s admiration for Roots Manuva has him again spitting lyrical dexterity from minute one, relenting only for the surprisingly long interludes of tribal drums and scratchy jaunts into whirling riffage, completely incompatible with the verbose pop fare on Whatever. Shades of QOTSA’s howling racket of weirdness are pronounced, made possible of course by the considerable talents of Matt Helders’. And again contained in Turner’s winsome northern poetry is the ghost of old Misery Guts.

Track 2 is ‘Teddy Picker‘. An attack on the British media that’s hammered out with vitriolic intent by young men who have faced its white-hot worst. It still manages the trick of being neither self-pitying, undignified or spitefully puerile. Naturally though, Turner still makes times for a few well-aimed swipes at the press-men and ends with the jibe ‘How can we be a band of the people / when there’s people like you?”.

An uplifting slice of sweet whimsy, ‘Fluorescent Adolescent’ serves as incongruous reminder of Turner’s special gift for the three-minute Pop song, which is tailed by the plaintive ‘Only One that Knows’, an exercise in balmy ambience that’s carried on crestfallen slide-guitar. Its at this point that the album veers into uncharted territory proper.

A band whose meteoric rise to mainstream ubiquity caught even the professionals off-guard could never write the same laser-precise profiles of young life in Britain, post fame. After all, their lives are most probably far from typical of your average 20-year old. As a result though its perhaps not the seminal crystallisation of U.K youth culture that was Whatever, due in part to the fact that Turner can no longer reside bar-side unnoticed, able to cast his acerbic eye on his funny little generation undisturbed and as one of them, so why not take the band into the stratosphere and into the realms of something resolutely more unearthly and indefinable? Hence, Side 2 becomes a grinning evil of oblique, forceful song writing paired with colossal rock licks and cryptic, impressionistic lyrics, far removed from the cute pop-smithery and naïf sweetness that defines their back catalogue of classic single and superb B-sides.

All of which amounts to a daring escape from what could have developed into a career in Lad-Rock pandering,at once a maturation, a continuation and a departure, showcasing a much more intense sound but unmistakably the sound of the Arctic Monkeys. Once again its a brilliant effort from four young men barely old enough to vote.