Who Watches The Watchmen?

(This is a reply I did in an online forum in a post about black urban culture being more violent than mainstream white culture.)

A lot of the criticism that’s levelled at black culture and its music is from a white media perspective. I’ll use Noam Chomsky’s method and give you a paired example.

1. Professor Griff is alleged to make anti-Semitic statements. Huge furore, articles in NME, much hand-wringing etc… these terrible racist black hip hoppers – they’re all in the Nation of Islam and hate all Jews!

2. David Bowie arrives back in Britain and does a Nazi salute… white rock press mumbles a bit but then everyone forgets. He was probably on drugs so let’s let him off.

Do you see the difference? I won’t even repeat the racist stuff Shane McGowan, Eric Clapton and Elvis Costello said, it’s all known and forgiven by the white media and rock press.

Here’s another one:

1. NWA release ‘A Bitch Iz A Bitch.’ Again, much outrage and censure from feminist groups  but NWA claim they’re writing from the point of cold-hearted gangsters, in character. Still, they’re widely labelled as sexist forever.

2. Mark E. Smith, indie icon, physically attacks his girlfriend in a New York hotel, punching her to such an extent that the police are called in. It’s a news item, sure… but Mark E. Smith – he’s an icon! The Fall are cool… so.. let’s forget about it all. NWA are labelled as misogynists just for using some bad words whereas Mark E. Smith beats his gf up and no-one gives a shit!

And another popular wifebeater, beloved of the great British public: step forward Gazza!

I know I’ve gone all round the houses in this post but can you see what I’m getting at? British culture and its media is normalised to white values. Therefore black culture and its music is always demonised, always over-represented in bad ways whilst white musical cultures/artists being equally evil get away with it. How about these Guns & Roses’ lyrics:

“Immigrants and faggots
They make no sense to me
They come to our country
And think they’ll do as they please
Like start some mini Iran,
Or spread some fuckin’ disease
They talk so many goddamn ways
It’s all Greek to me”

And yet, where was the widespread censure for G’n’R? They’re now re-habilitated and played at every rock/indie night in Britain. But all those nasty garage MCs and rappers – ooooh, they’re all sexist and homophobic! As a sidepoint, I always find it hilarious when white Americans complain about “immigrants” cos this translates as “you got off the boat the day after I did.”

Perhaps the sad part of this discussion is that I’m not so much arguing that the periphery of the current urban music scene is peaceful and loving but that it’s no different from the extremes of a lot of other youth-based musical scenes

It’s not even to do with drugs. There was a right old hoo-haa in the US last year cos a bunch of twats who happened to be straight-edgers beat up some kids in Salt Lake city. See, you can even be drug-free and act like total dicks.

Another thing I’d like to throw in is that maybe something like contemporary indie rock doesn’t have as much trouble because the scene is overwhelmingly middle-class. Whether indie kids are black, Asian or white, they’re probably from nice areas and have safe homes. Their neighbourhoods are policed and cared for, their educational opportunities are greater.

The same can’t be said for a lot of the kids who get into extreme ragga and hip hop, including plenty of roughneck white kids. The same as any dis-enfranchised group, they may feel they have nowt to lose from criminal behaviour. Or, as Cabaret Voltaire more succintly put it, “In hard times, hard thrills.”
love and kisses,

Fila Brazillia Gig Review

Derby Old Institute 10/3/2002
Newsgroups: uk.music.alternative
Date: Mon, 11 Mar 2002 01:28:51 +0000

I’ve just got in and I want to post this review whilst it’s all still fresh in my head.

Tonight, Fila Brazillia were *awesome.* They took to the quite small stage and the plangent opening tones of ‘Bumblehaun’ made everyone crowd to the front. I was a bit worried that the venue would be too reverby but actually the sound was clear and definitely bassy enough. ‘Bumblehaun’ rocked along, Matt Swindells’ live drums slotting in perfectly with Steve Cobby’s vocoder crooning and Man’s guitar (at least, I think he was playing guitar on that one, he swapped round a lot). They played most of ‘Jump Leads.’

It’s hard to describe the live sound FB have. It’s not like some dance/electronic bands I’ve seen where they merely play over pre-arranged backing tracks – it’s more organic than that. There’s a real feeling that the music/night could end up anywhere, something that sadly a lot of electronic-based music lacks live. So they’re not your trad ‘dance-band-goes-live’ but neither are they that terrible behemoth: rock band gets funky. What they are is something different, just the same as their records.

‘Motown Coppers’ stomped in even more rocky than the Jump Leads version, sounding more samba and less Yello live. Very tight and very aggressive in that ‘Here Comes Pissy Willy’ way.

Steve Edwards came on stage and sang his heart out. Bear in mind that the Old Institute has got quite a large balcony area, which a lesser singer would be intimidated by or unable to connect with. Steve, however, sang to everyone in the place, wherever they were. Also cool was his mcee-ing which got even a Derby audience (notorious for our… apathy) jigging along. Hell, he even got us clapping along, which is a riot by Derby standards. I’d even go so far to say that his vocals sounded better live than on the album, which is no insult to FB’s recording ability but more that I think the guy’s a born performer. He certainly rose to the challenge tonight and met it easily. Very funky moves, too.

All to soon, they’re saying goodbye but we managed to get an encore and they chose the lovely ‘Green Green Grass of Homegrown.’ Matt swapped onto synth and Steve and Man almost drawled the country guitar chords. Steve Edwards’ singing on this was absolute mastery. Beautifully soulful, sad and yearning. A real torch song of a closer.

This was one of the best gigs I’ve seen in *years.* If you get the chance to see FB at their coming Shepherd’s Bush Empire gig (they’re also playing Sheffield and Manchester) please do. Sorry if this review is a bit scrappy but I’m knackered and want to bash it out before tomorrow. I can’t genre-box them to sell them to you cos they don’t fit into any one genre, especially live. All I can say is that they rocked the crowd tonight and left us all happy and humming,

love and kisses,