Back to those weekly columnists. Returning again for his second installment is none other than Everett True, author of Nirvana: The Biography (da Capo Press)–like anybody really needed another book about one of the most overrated bands of the Nineties–and publisher of Plan B Magazine, a title dedicated to writing about music (and media) with barely a nod towards demographics. Last week, True said goodbye to Punk Planet. This week, he says hello to antifolk. E-mail Everett at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Antifolk bloke Filthy Pedro, who is coincidentally playing a show tonight at Goodbye Blue Monday in Brooklyn.
The Outbursts of Everett True
There’s a new movement in town.
It’s British, predominately. Wouldn’t translate to the States or Europe, let alone any of those countries where they object to the cultural hegemony of a bunch of rich white corpulent complacent war-mongering tastemakers. It’s too rooted in the humour of the culture: the ways it is and isn’t acceptable to express (male, mostly) feelings within that culture. It exists on that weird crossover point where laddish working-class male humour meets downwardly-mobile public (US: private) school banter: it’s not below taking pot-shots at itself (in fact, it frequently does) and it’s both pissed off and alienated by the current prevalent mainstream, both at its reliance upon NME-sanctioned guitar bands that ceased to have any resemblance to being a tool of the revolution in about 1982 (and yet still fucking pretend that they are!), and its reliance upon pumped-up elongated talent shows where cynicism and the ability to bully someone in a less fortunate situation than yourself are seen as pluses.
This new movement is called antifolk–and it should not be confused with its far more refined, stylised and effete American and Continental counterpart, anti-folk, which is basically people who are folk singers by any other name (albeit with a smidgen of punk attitude thrown in, whatever the hell that is supposed to be in 2007) singing with acoustic guitars and a semblance of melody. Sure, it’s a relation of the other genre. . . the sort of relation you only ever talk about in subdued murmurs and scandalised whispers at weddings when your mother’s back is turned.
It’s quite a small movement: as far as I can ascertain the scene only really exists in a couple of places–London, mostly centered round the West End’s minuscule 12-Bar Club, where inebriates…sorry, I mean initiates…are encouraged to get up on stage and cunting swear at every available opportunity; and in my hometown of Brighton, where the PC-baiting eccentric Larry Pickleman‘s Sunday Sermons hold sway.
Antifolk’s participants don’t, musically, seem to have much in common on first sight: beyond a propensity to get up on stage and yell and swear and drink and maybe sing or use some form of rudimentary electronic backing (see the schoolyard humour of LOOK LOOK (dancing boys), or mandolins (see the excellent, we’re-more-twee-than-you Bobby McGee’s, with their self-pitying paeans to loser-hood and loneliness), or a drum machine–whatever it takes to make an impression.
In the Plan B offices, they’ve taken to calling the music ‘truecore,’ in honour of my own fondness for winding folk up from on stage (although if that was the only point of clambering up there it would get tired pretty quick). And sure, I have sympathy with these people – Irish talisman Jinx Lennon with his quick-fire verbal sorties, the diminutive blagger Spinmaster Plantpot (office manager at the Houses of Parliament: now carving out an alternative career as a TV’s resident mouthy short-arse), the foul-mouthed Filthy Pedro, 12-Bar stalwarts David Cronenberg’s Wife, the Dolly Parton-sampling Milk Kan (like a less subtle version of Mike Skinner’s Streets), former Country Teasers The Rebel, the incredible and wired London-based, Dizzee Rascal-covering acoustic rapper Stuart James, Winston Echo (North England’s own answer to Daniel Johnston)…There’s such a range of wit, such a willingness to put themselves on the line that is so rarely encountered amid their better-known, more acceptable peers, the rock’n’roll (yawn) bands.
There’s a great compilation album out now, AFUK & I (Vol 1): Up The Anti! On AFUK. I’d recommend you track it down.
1. OLD TIME RELIJUN, “Indestructible Life!” (from the K album Catharsis In Crisis) . The spirit of old school avant punks the Pop Group and Captain Beefheart is channelled via Calvin Johnson’s fabled Dub Narcotic studios in Olympia WA, courtesy of equally-fabled Seattle producer Steve Fisk and ferocious lead singer Arrington de Dionyso.
2. PETE AND THE PIRATES, “Knots” (from the Stolen Recordings compilation album Stolen Recordings Compilation). The spirit of Flying Nun Records’ peerless guitar-led roster from New Zealand in the Eighties (The Bats, The Chills) is channelled courtesy of four young kids from Reading, England.
3. FABIENNE DELSOL, “Bluebirds Over The Mountain” (from the Damaged Goods album Between You And Me). You may have heard of East London’s Toe Rag Studios (Billy Childish, Holly Golightly), thanks to The White Stripes’ patronage (Elephant was recorded there). Delsol is Toe Rag engineer Liam Watson’s other half–and this album is as detailed, delightful and out-and-out analogue as you’d hope, the spirit (and sound) of Sixties girl pop perfectly transported.
4. KARL BLAU, “Heatherwood” (from the Marriage album Dance POSITIVE: The Songs Of Bret Lunsford).
Lunsford is best-known for being one-third of Beat Happening; and also as the main inspiration behind both Blau and fellow D+ member Phil Elverum (Microphones, Mount Eerie) formative musical careers in their native Anarcortes. It’s a real treat to hear Blau pay tribute to his gentle, chiding, naïve magic.
5. TOM WAITS, “Diamond In Your Mind” (from the Anti-compilation Healing The Divide) Backed by the Kronos Quartet, and in a rare affable mood, Waits leads the audience in a tear-stained, bluesy singsong at some sort of live tribute to His Holiness The Dalai Lama. And why not, dammit?
Filthy Pedro plays a show tonight at Goodbye Blue Monday in Brooklyn.
HUGS AND KISSES: Everett True on Punk Planet and Careless Talk