Posts Tagged 00s
If my life had any kind of continuity that made sense, I would have known about The Damage Manual before a couple years ago. I was into industrial music in the 90s but there was a period when I associated it with bad memories and I didn’t just stop listening to those old records, but stopped following all those bands completely. Unfortunately, this period spanned the entire length of Damage Manual’s career. This is hardly the most tragic event of the last however many years, but they were a pretty good group to totally miss.
I bought this one at one of Martin Atkins‘ Tour:Smart events—which had a small merch table for Invisible Records, naturally—with the intention of writing a rambling review that got into my feeeelings about his whole thing now. If you were trying very hard to seem clever, you could say the concept of Tour:Smart* is ideologically ‘post-punk’, because it seems, at first glance, to some people look like a “how to sell out” manual. But those people think “punk” is about glorifying being a fucked-up failure. Which…it’s not. I don’t think I just won an argument there but, who cares? I don’t want those kind of people in my band or life in general. Anymore I mean. It can be a lot of fun for a while. I had this idea for a long time you had to be fucked up to be an artist, man. On some level it’s the inspiration but it’s terrible way of thinking to be trapped in. Also, it’s over. Now I see you have to have your shit together to be an artist anymore. Whatever it takes! So that’s what I’ve been up to. But if I’ve got my shit together, I can just get a real job, right? Yep, that book changed my life.
Anyway, Atkins is mostly known for industrial supergroup Pigface. Damage Manual is also kind of a supergroup on a much smaller scale. But it isn’t strictly an industrial band; unlike Ministry and Nine Inch Nails who hired live drummers to play or play along with drum machine parts, Atkins is a full member of the group and the live drums are integral to the band’s sound. Atkins is credited with “drums and low end tweaks and blips” and Lee Fraser does “additional programming”. I always think of “programming” on a record as just the drum machine but there’s melodic or at least very non-drum electronic sounds that I like to imaging someone performing live somehow, but I guess they were added later or part of a backing track laid down with the drums. There’s clearly a keyboard on several tracks but there’s no keyboard player credited, it’s all Atkins just augmenting the drum tracks in pre or post-production. I’ve been slow to warm up to this concept of a middle ground between a totally organic rock band setup and something that’s explicitly electronically-driven, but like anything, it’s good when it’s done right.
The band is more Atkins-era Killing Joke than anything else. Which is a good thing. I’ve had it on repeat all day now because I keep getting interrupted and this album is not gonna blow anyone’s mind but it’s solid. Unlike, say, most Pigface albums, which tend to have a lot of experiments, like long spoken word pieces or tracks that are just noise or samples. That’s cool, but you get sick of it after a few spins. DM are not exactly a pop band, but they have straight-forward songs for the most part.
Chris Connelly should get some credit here, as he is the frontman. He played keys in Ministry live. (I’d like to know what was going on there technically because that mostly seemed like backing tracks and samples but that’s another story.) Here he just sings and plays some incidental guitar. He’s credited with lyrics, but the full group gets co-writing credit for the music. I like the dynamic of the group. He’s a good frontman but it’s not all about him, unlike these other groups that are really just solo projects with add-ons.
I like his accent. It only comes through sometimes, like on the appropriately named Mad Dialect which has a great 3 note elliptical keyboard (programmed loop) part throughout that moves around the beat and the words. The gang vocals are perfect on that track too.
Steven Seibold rounds out the group on this record, doubling on bass and guitar, replacing both Jah Wobble and Geordie Walker from the first record. Despite being much less famous he does a pretty good job. Seriously, it all sounds great. He’s from the Hate Dept. a band I never heard of before I just looked them up. Seems he plays keyboard in that band. That’s all I know. He was also in Pigface but everyone was in Pigface. (I was not in Pigface. A lot of people were.)
I’m not sure it’s the best song, but if there was a single, it would be Quiet Life. It’s catchy and the lyrics seem to be about something normal people can relate to rather than whatever South Pole Fighters or any of these other songs are about other than vague menace and weird angst. I’m a fan of vague weirdness myself, but Quiet Life delivers straight up angsty menace anyone can get. Unless you live on a farm or in the forest or something. Even then, do those cows ever shut up with the goddamn mooing? And owls, fuck it, the crickets at night—it just never stops does it? Give it a rest, nature! All you can do is yell at it I guess.
So, on an album driven by menace, to call a song Driven Menace might already be a little on the nose but the chorus spells it right out: M-E-N-A-C-E. Might be my favorite. It’s the most bleepy industrialish song with a danceable hihat-busy beat and a mopey pre-chorus (yesss) that crosses over into Goth territory. This also happens on Laugh Track to some extent, and throughout the album. It’s a mood that comes and goes. Goth is not a real genre, right? It’s just industrial that’s sad instead of angry. Unless it’s like, The Cure. I don’t remember ever hearing anyone say the Cure was ‘post-punk’ back in the day. We just thought of them as “The Cure”, cause there were so many fewer bands then, you could actually do that. When people started calling ‘post-punk’ ‘alternative’ it was partly because major labels wanted to pretend a 10-year-old movement was brand new and they just discovered it, and partly because kids just discovering punk rock of the 70s were not ready to accept it was already over (which, conceptually, it’s still not, just commercially and artistically. But I’ve gone too far. There’s still Punk, kids. But the Sid Vicious bullshit is done, no record company is ever going to pay you just to destroy yourself. I know, I’m sorry.) Point is, overall this is a general purpose post-punk band. I mean, they’re wearing suits on this lovely fold-out poster. You can’t get more post-punk than a clean suit.
There’s no reason to cover every track, it all meshes together really well. The album ends with the “Can Remix” of Expand, a song from the first album. I didn’t think it had anything to do with the band Can at first. It doesn’t sound anything like Can (or like the original song). It’s gotta be like a “DJ Can” or “(Can Remix)” is just part of the title as some kind of meta joke, I thought. Well, I was wrong, but it’s a little misleading. It’s actually by Irmin Schmidt and
, it’s more like a Kumo remix, since Kumo isn’t a member of Can and Schmidt has appeared on Kumo records. But it’s a good way to end things I guess. It’s not like the other tracks but it still fits with the whole, doesn’t feel tacked on. Or maybe it does, what the hell do you want from me? I like it.
The cover of the record is a 3 dimensional piece of plastic. (At least the first pressing which seems to still in print. There is a later import version that’s just a photograph of the material.) There’s not really anything justifying this beyond it being kind of cool. I heard Atkins tell the story of how they just had a bunch of this material in huge sheets for a stage set or something, so they just cut it up into squares for the cover. If I was still really into keeping my CDs in alphabetical order on a uniform set of shelves, this is the kind of thing that would really bug me, but as things are, it really helps me find the CD (or at least the case) in The Pile which is currently my life. My digital files are not much better if I try to look through the folders. They’re even worse, nothing tangible makes any of them stand out from the others. But what can you do but yell at it? That’s how I get through the day. %
*Japan has no monopoly on meaningless punctuation, just saying.
A few posts ago I stated irritatingly punctuated J-pop mega-entity Hello! Project puts out about 100 songs a year. Since I made this statement on the internet and no one corrected me, it must be true. And yet, it’s more like a number I just pulled out of my ass. There’s no easy way out of this paradox. It’s going to involve…counting. Yes, no one else has counted the number of songs these people have put out each year. Worse than that, no else has made a list of just the songs for each year. I will have to look up each release and…count the songs. Because records are not episodes of long-cancelled tv shows, wikipedia is not always a help here. Luckily I’ve found a new independent fan wiki (and others) to help with this pointless task.
[NOTE: I'm only counting original songs, not covers, "album versions", remixes or re-releases (lotta those). Permission to double-check: granted. Just keep in mind this is not an exact science and also that life is worth living. Gambatte.]
97: MH: 2 MM: 1 = 3
98: MH:15 MM:14 TP:2 YN:6 = 29
99: CN:2 CT:4 MH:4 MM:14 PM:2 TC:6 TP:11 YN:2 = 45
00: CN:1 CT:4 MH:5 MK:4 MM:14 NA: 1 PM:2 SD:2 SG:4 TC:2 TP:4 YM:2 YN:2 47
01: AM:8 CN:2 CT:5 MG:3 MH:4 MK:4 MM:5 mm:9 PM:4 SD:5 SG:5 TP:4 YM:2 YN:4 = 64
02: AM:13 CT:3 GM:1 MG:8 MH:2 MM:17 mm:16 MF:8 MK:6 PM:3 TP:2 SG:4 YN:2 YM:2 = 87
03: AA:2 AM:13 CT:4 RM:2 OA:2 PM:1 MF:7 MG:10 MK:13 MM:14 mm:23 MO:2 SG:4 YM:2 YN:3ZYX:2 = 104
04: AM:15 BK:16 CT:2 EM:1 KI:14 MG:10 MK:14 MM:14 mm:5 MO:1 MS:1 NA:11 NN:2 NR:1 SG:3 UU:4 VU:2 YM:4 YN:7 = 124
05: AM:9 BK:14 DD:1 KI:10 MG:11 MM:8 NA:4 SG:3 UU:11 VU:18 = 91
～ AA: Aa! | AM: Aya Matsuura | BK: Berryz Koubou | CT: Country Musume| CN: Coconuts Musume | DD: DEF.DIVA | EM: Ecomoni | GM: Gomattou | KI: Kaori Iida | MF: Miki Fujmoto | MG: Maki Goto | MH: Michiyo Heike | MK: Melon Kinenbi | NA: Natsumi Abe | MM: Morning Musume | mm: MiniMoni/MiniHams | MO: MM Otomegumi | MS: MM Sakuragumi | NN: Nochiura Natsumi | NR: Natsumi Abe & Rika Ishikawa | OA: Okeisan & Abe Natsumi | PM: Pucchimoni | RM: Romans | SD: Sheki Dol | SG: [shuffle groups] | TC: Taiyo & Ciscomoon/T&C Bomber | TP: Tanpopo | UU: W | VU: v-u-den | YM: Yuki Maeda | YN: Yuko Nakazawa | ZYX: ZYX ～
That all took at least 5 hours. But I was kinda right, so, clearly, I’m not wasting my life here.
Anyway, we can see that things started off simply for the H!P but by 2005 it was out of control. And this was before °C-ute, S/Mileage and a number of groups with meaningless mathematically notated names. These groups made a lot of songs and many were great or at least catchy and/or “fun”. Were some of these songs terrible? You bet. Saying that every H!P song is great isn’t just drinking the Kool-aid, it’s trying to eat the paper cup. No matter how much you like Kool-aid the entire package is not digestible.
Now, I like the early stuff. It’s kinda cheesy, kinda wrong…whatever. It hits the right notes emotionally, if not technically. Before the dawn of autotune, voice lessons and the better singers that would eventually come (and leave) H!P, it was an enjoyable but quaint operation. But what the group is rightfully known for is batshit maximalism. This didn’t really happen until their 8th single LOVE Machine in 1999 and to lesser extent the followup Koi no Dance Site in early 2000.
So that knocks of a couple years. I’m also knocking off those two songs cause everybody reading this already knows them (I just linked to them). And the videos are pretty bad, right? Worse than dated, they seem like they’re ten years older than they are. The success of these songs is what got them the budget for their best videos. The video shouldn’t count, but something’s gotta count. Out of a total of 594 songs I can only pick 10. Also this is the internet. It’s a blog post. I’m gonna post the videos. But I tried not to let it sway me too much. Joshi Kashimashi Monogatari, for example, is hard to defend as a song.
A lot of songs by the other groups hold up tho. Tanpopo, Pucchi Moni and the Otome/Sakuragumi splinter groups did some of my favorite songs. But were those songs better than Momusu’s Big Singles? I have to say no. Because I already made the list and I can’t spend anymore time on this. It’s killing me. Literally. Halfway through counting the 2004 singles they had to attach an IV. They’re real nice to me here. But understandably worried. I worry more about them; I suspect they’re starting to take AKB48 seriously. Even the thought is unbearable.
If you’re looking to buy, all of the songs below are on the very nicely packaged ALL SINGLES COMPLETE double disc. If you’re looking to explore beyond that into the other groups you want the “Petit Best” comps.
But that way lies madness. And some good songs. But now, I present to you:
The Top 10 Hello! Project Songs from 1999-2005 which are all Morning Musume Songs but not Love Machine or Koi no Dance Site Because That’s Too Easy and the Videos are Not Very Good and This Is the Internet, But Let’s Stick to The Songs That Are Actually Good Songs, In Alphabetical Order:
“AS FOR ONE DAY” 
“Do it! Now” 
“Koko ni Iruzee!”
“Iroppoi Jirettai” 
“Osaka Koi no Uta” 
“Ren’ai Revolution 21″