I feel like Let England Shake is, on one level, a protest record for aesthetes,--which may be why the record feels like an irgent statement despite having such esoteric subject matter--and being such, it is about war but it makes its points obliquely. Perhaps that is one reason for the preoccupation with WWI: she needs to peer at war from a hazy distance. And yeat, maybe not: the distance between then and now is traversed without comment in "Written on the Forehead": with very little shift in tone or production, suddenly we are in present-day Iraq, and I suspect that through the shoegazey fog that Harvey is intimating that all wars are the same war (a point maede by many creative people before her) and that war, ostensibly what the album is 'about', is also a metaphor of the 'ethereal atemporality' I mentioned upthread. History is the myth of mankind's forward progress through the centuries, but things are the same as they always have been and here is the bloodshed--the deformed children--to prove it.
That view of collapsible history is something she shares with, say, TS Eliot, along with a method of juxtaposing wildly disparate sources and allowing them to comment ironically on each other: Doran has already pointed out how the first half of "The Words That Maketh Murder" are strongly reminiscent of Goya's painting (along with Shirley Collins' WWI-themed folk songs as La Lechera pointed out to me) whereas the ending quotes "Summertime Blues". Of course collage is nothing new in pop music, but the peculiar piquancy that results from those distinct modes scraping up against each other is an effect you wouldn't find in Odelay, for example. And like Eliot, who sbsequently wrote massive annotations crediting all the different sources that went into The Waste Land, Harvey also listed everything that she sampled, or just drew inspiration from. Confronted with the thematic and compositional affinities with Eliot, suddenly the WWI preoccupation comes into sharper focus. Perhaps this is another reason she wrote about that war was that she was confronting a particular cultural moment--early 20C modernism--head on, and that is the legacy she is wrestling with. Of course the question I always end up asking is: why? What is she looking for back then that she can't find right now?
I probably have given this album short shrift: I haven't mentioned much about how she operates in the folk tradition, or how she is commenting on English imperialism; there's likely much about the album I will never fully understand. But there's no doubt that the album is uncommonly rich in potential meaning, and that it sets the bar fucking high for the decade.
― flog this poster for moderation (Drugs A. Money), Monday, 6 February 2012 05:46 (six years ago) Permalink
Wow that's longer than even I thought it was going to be. Good luck :\
― flog this poster for moderation (Drugs A. Money), Monday, 6 February 2012 05:48 (six years ago) Permalink
why does this shitty thread have so many posts in it? should i read it or is it some you had to be there thing now?
― Lamp, Monday, 6 February 2012 06:00 (six years ago) Permalink
i really want to have some cool opinions to share with ilm re: this thread but everytime i think abt listening to 'pj harvey' on utube i start mentally totaling up all the time ive spent waiting for the subway in the morning, staring at nothing and wishing i was i still in bed
― Lamp, Monday, 6 February 2012 06:01 (six years ago) Permalink
Lol I wish I had already gone to bed
― flog this poster for moderation (Drugs A. Money), Monday, 6 February 2012 06:04 (six years ago) Permalink
holy fuck, drugs, thanks for saying what i imagined i might be thinking so much better than it might ever have actually though it, had i had the wherewithal.
Perhaps this is another reason she wrote about that war was that she was confronting a particular cultural moment--early 20C modernism--head on, and that is the legacy she is wrestling with. Of course the question I always end up asking is: why? What is she looking for back then that she can't find right now?
why? because that was the last war with which the folk tradition, the human tradition with which PJH is attempting the engage, was itself meaningfully engaged with the human experience. that was the point at which the mechanisms of society diverged from the course of human affairs, when the "merely human" became truly mere in the grand imperial scope of things. modernism was a reaction to but also a ratification of the culture of the machine, of human demographics, and that's a big part of what she's responding to, the break between the human (individual) and the ostensibly meaningful (the mechanically social). i'm gonna take my problem to the united nations...
― Little GTFO (contenderizer), Monday, 6 February 2012 06:06 (six years ago) Permalink
think LES is over-reaching and within that its great at what it does. BUT honestly think 'the good the bad and the queen' album did it much better and more succinctly years ago tbh. 'kuputt' is a uber swazzy and fricking beautiful yacht rock album for the ages
― Michael B Higgins (Michael B), Monday, 6 February 2012 06:11 (six years ago) Permalink
xp I can totally see what you mean contenderizer re: folk/humanism vs. mechanical/social
― flog this poster for moderation (Drugs A. Money), Monday, 6 February 2012 07:21 (six years ago) Permalink
there are some great posts in here about LES but i also want to make the point that it's not just its "importance" or "ambition" that make it so great - PJH's mastery of the sounds and arrangements on her record has always been incredible, and that's the case here too - as pure sound the windswept layers of "let england shake" and "the glorious land" are thrilling & unlike anything else, as evocation of an exact place both emotional and geographic "the last living rose" does an immense amount with relatively few ingredients, the way she uses specific modes of singing to convey both the emotion of the songs and the observation-from-the-sidelines journalistic quality she was aiming for is what makes it such a moving album. every sound on every song is there for a reason. and the melodies are amazing too, both the ones that sound ethereal and elemental and the ones that sound like some ancient pub drinking song.
lots of people seem to be talking about kaputt in terms of sounds and arrangements - i couldn't care less about the retro-nostalgia aspect of it b/c i mostly haven't heard the originals of what he's pastiching, though that quality would be useless to me even if i had (AND SHOULD BE USELESS TO EVERYONE NOSTALGIA IS THE ULTIMATE ADMISSION OF DEFEAT KMT). but this "fresh sounding" stuff just seems nonsense, the arrangements are dull and non-evocative and do not take me anywhere. scott made the comparison to dance music upthread and that seems key to destroyer's uselessness for me - i listen to so much balearic/nu disco stuff that effortlessly achieves the vibes i think destroyer is attempting, why would i need his failed take on it with added disgusting vocals?
i do not get the impression that a lot of destroyer fans in this thread have heard the PJH album though
― first period don't give a fuck, second period gon get cut (lex pretend), Monday, 6 February 2012 08:36 (six years ago) Permalink
I'm a huge PJ Harvey fan. Katy B was in the top of 5 of my ballot. Kaputt was number 1 though. I am from England. PJ was nowhere to be seen in my ballot, i've probably listened to it twice since it came out.I enjoy the Kaputt album a lot more than I enjoy the PJ Harvey album.
― Jamie_ATP, Monday, 6 February 2012 09:01 (six years ago) Permalink
along with 80s new romantic smoothness, kaputt does recall 70s futurist smoothness, al stewart type stuff, and the way that sound moved into the 80s with the likes of alan parsons or w/e. still, i hear it primarily as 80s pastiche.
― Little GTFO (contenderizer), Sunday, February 5, 2012 9:13 PM (Yesterday) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink
eh i was kind of trollin w/ my post in the first thread about it i think i said it sounded a lot like 'avalon' to me (which was one of my dad's '80s car trip tapes like 'graceland') which is '80s' but in a hyperspecific way, but i think the reference pts being SO specific makes it feel less like 'period pastiche' to me the way gated drums sound or w/e and more like a continuation of a discussion that was happening a few years back, like when someone revives an old ilx thread & argues with some point made by a belle & sebastian listserv fan who hasn't posted on ilx in 7 years
― D-40, Monday, 6 February 2012 09:01 (six years ago) Permalink
^^^^ yeah this is part of what I was getting at upthread, this is not general 80s nostalgia. That's a fantastic analogy for it though.
Scott's invocation of dance music is useful in this regard not so much because "dance music does this better" but because this approach seems much less controversial in dance music circles, perhaps because the music's present use is foregrounded. Interestingly you don't see the word "pastiche" used so much to describe retro dance music except in respect of the most ostentatiously magpie-like produces (Pictureplane, say), perhaps because (a) panning the (sub-30 years) past for gold is so second nature; and (b) dance music then organises itself among much more specific lines of derivation and descent.
*which is correct but mostly in the sense that dance music does just about everything it attempts to do more efficiently than rock and other song-oriented musics - the attraction of rock etc. in this regard, perversely, is its inefficiency: rock struggles to evoke the layered bittersweet feeling of observing the past from the viewpoint of the present with the purity that dance music does precisely because the idiosyncrasy of the music's presentist persona gets in the way; and if it doesn't it seems lacking in persona. This is one of the more unexpected ways in which dance music can be more "functional" than rock, but it hardly bears repeating in the absence of a strawman kaputt listener who doesn't like nostalgist dance music, of which I suspect this thread contains none.
― Tim F, Monday, 6 February 2012 09:18 (six years ago) Permalink
Footnote above is a footnote to the "dance music does this better" claim.
Equal parts sense and guff in this thread.
― Sick Mouthy (Scik Mouthy), Monday, 6 February 2012 10:21 (six years ago) Permalink
i dont really think of kaputt as "making fun of the 80s." its def more an ariel pink move. its not about irony. thats not to say the sonic signifiers are not there as signifiers. its dense and woozy with this feeling of time layered up and piled up on itself. it feels more like those records than they themselves do. this strange mix of machine exactness and thick, smoky density. it feels alien and strange, a kind of uncanny approximation. and yeah i do think its a sort of retro futurism but not in the "this is what the future looked like in the past" way, but this is how the future might put the past back together. its like reading a google translation, what is foregrounded is how everything is just slightly off, every angle too crooked, every surface overly buffed. its a difficult record to explain because maybe you pick up on this or you dont. but its a subtle album or an album that is about its subtleties.
― judith, Monday, 6 February 2012 11:07 (six years ago) Permalink
^^^ good post.
I have been thinking for a while that judith is an a+ poster and this seems like a good moment to pause, take stock, and acknowledge that.
― Tim F, Monday, 6 February 2012 11:11 (six years ago) Permalink
Kaputt is to the eighties what Disney's Tomorrowland is to the future.
― Exile in lolville (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 6 February 2012 12:54 (six years ago) Permalink
So I've been trying to listen to Kaputt and so far I'm coming up with nothing. I get how people like this luxurious, oddly sedate sound, but to me it's way too one-note in mood for me not to get absolutely racked off after any more than three songs.
Nostalgia in itself isn't a bad thing if used effectively. But good grief, isn't the eighties retro thing just a LITTLE BIT played out now? I think I still have a little time left for the ongoing excavation and development of my childhood decade - it's a rich seam of inspiration so why not keep tapping it? But Kaputt feels like it's trying to explain the punchline way after the joke has run its course: We get it. Wet drums, synths, yachts, saxophones - WE GET IT! FFS we got it in 2001, we get it now, but instead of subtly recalling some faded impression of the past you're just piling on the Enola Gay and Digging Your Scene vamps. Buying one of those cut-price 'Electric Eighties' compilations from the rack in the Shell garage is more likely to have an effect on me than this.
I feel that this kind of thing has been executed a lot better by others. That Gayngs album from 2010 wasn't perfect, but at least it wasn't actively annoying. Kaputt makes no bones of smacking you round the head with its touchstones. The telltale sign is on the title track: "Sounds, Smash Hits, Melody Maker, NME, all sound like a dream to me". This is NOT charming - it's sycophantic romance lisped in this over-affected Anglo-side accent. He's going for Neil Tennant, ends up sounding like a fruity pantomime dame. The more I think about it, the more his voice grates on me.
And yeah, if this hadn't beaten out PJ in the poll, I'd be pretty indifferent - a bland bland album by some indie guy who's decided to go "all eighties" - that's harmless enough, I can ignore it. But put it next to Let England Shake and what do you have? It just seems so effete - so asinine by comparison on pretty much every level: inspirationally, musically, lyrically, conceptually. You can't compare them because Kaputt is virtually invisible next to LES's towering heights.
― Sounds Of The Baskervilles (dog latin), Monday, 6 February 2012 13:02 (six years ago) Permalink
I liked LES, but this thread makes me want to never listen to it again.
― pandemic, Monday, 6 February 2012 13:07 (six years ago) Permalink
Now more guff in the thread.
― Sick Mouthy (Scik Mouthy), Monday, 6 February 2012 13:14 (six years ago) Permalink
I have heard it. I like it. It's her best solo record since Stories from the City, I think. But I like the Destroyer record way more.
― jaymc, Monday, 6 February 2012 14:06 (six years ago) Permalink
Wet drums, synths, yachts, saxophones - WE GET IT!
I feel like you guys are overthinking this. For me, there isn't anything to "get" about Kaputt. That instrumental palette isn't an academic joke so much as a recipe of sounds/textures that sound pleasing to my ears.
― jaymc, Monday, 6 February 2012 14:15 (six years ago) Permalink
xpost I think the main thing for me is how anyone can get truly excited by a record that sounds like Kaputt - discounting the vocals it's pleasant in its own way I guess. But is this really the album of 2012? I still don't think I've read a reasonable explanation as to why, and I am genuinely interested in finding out.
― Sounds Of The Baskervilles (dog latin), Monday, 6 February 2012 14:19 (six years ago) Permalink
Wet drums, synths, yachts, saxophones - WE GET IT!I feel like you guys are overthinking this. For me, there isn't anything to "get" about Kaputt. That instrumental palette isn't an academic joke so much as a recipe of sounds/textures that sound pleasing to my ears.― jaymc, Monday, 6 February 2012 14:15 (4 minutes ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink
― jaymc, Monday, 6 February 2012 14:15 (4 minutes ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink
I'm not saying that Bejar is literally making a joke of the eighties, rather his reference points feel a bit bludgeoning and explicit in 2012. Cramming in these very obvious shoutouts to the Blow Monkeys, New Order, PSB, Lloyd Cole and OMD - he might as well get a Flock Of Seagulls haircut and body-pop around the students union wearing a shellsuit and rapping The Message. His approach makes Fischerspooner look like arbiters of subtlety, and yet it's all wrapped up in this smoothed-out long-haul impression of Now! Vol.7.
― Sounds Of The Baskervilles (dog latin), Monday, 6 February 2012 14:31 (six years ago) Permalink
Maybe this is a US-centric POV, but I don't think Blow Monkeys, Lloyd Cole, and OMD are "obvious" reference points.
― jaymc, Monday, 6 February 2012 14:38 (six years ago) Permalink
I find it hard to read this:
"Wasting your days, Chasing some girls all right, Chasing cocaine to the back rooms of the world all night"
as not ironic on some level?
― iatee, Monday, 6 February 2012 14:41 (six years ago) Permalink
xpost You could be right. Over the last decade in the UK there's been an influx of comps available from pretty much any supermarket in the country that would contain these acts.
So is this it? Is it a matter of Kaputt sounding quaint and exotic to US ears, while to UK ears it sounds a much more like a pastiche?
― Sounds Of The Baskervilles (dog latin), Monday, 6 February 2012 14:45 (six years ago) Permalink
I find it hard to read this:"Wasting your days,Chasing some girls all right, Chasing cocaine to the back rooms of the world all night"as not ironic on some level?― iatee, Monday, 6 February 2012 14:41 (4 minutes ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink
"Wasting your days,Chasing some girls all right, Chasing cocaine to the back rooms of the world all night"
― iatee, Monday, 6 February 2012 14:41 (4 minutes ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink
Buckets of it, certainly.
― Sounds Of The Baskervilles (dog latin), Monday, 6 February 2012 14:46 (six years ago) Permalink
but I think it's quaint and exotic and pastiche
― iatee, Monday, 6 February 2012 14:47 (six years ago) Permalink
I'm now trying to imagine what reaction Let England Shake would have received (particularly from the US) had Polly Jean been listening to tons of Boston and Styx and instead of Summertime Blues, she'd appropriated lines from 'Don't Stop Believin''.
― Sounds Of The Baskervilles (dog latin), Monday, 6 February 2012 14:49 (six years ago) Permalink
that genuinely sounds like a more interesting album?
― iatee, Monday, 6 February 2012 14:49 (six years ago) Permalink
I should clarify, I'm not arguing that Bejar ~isn't~ employing irony or making statements about a previous era, but that's really not the main thing I get out of it.
― jaymc, Monday, 6 February 2012 14:50 (six years ago) Permalink
There's a sadness and a nostalgia here that DL's missing. It's hard to explain; Bejar is both ironic and knowing and ABSOLUTELY SINCERE at the same time. He's not using these sounds as 'signifiers' half as much as some people are suggesting; he's using them because he loves them.
― Sick Mouthy (Scik Mouthy), Monday, 6 February 2012 14:55 (six years ago) Permalink
well I don't think you can avoid the signifiers
― iatee, Monday, 6 February 2012 14:58 (six years ago) Permalink
but I agree w/ your first two sentences
lol so listening to Kaputt for the first time, it's very hard to give this a fair shake because all I keep thinking is "the Pet Shop Boys put out almost this exact same album ten years ago"
― I spend a lot of time thinking about apricots (DJP), Monday, 6 February 2012 14:59 (six years ago) Permalink
An honest answer is that I like the songs on destroyer but I wouldn't have given myself permission to accept *that sound* if not for its meat&potatoes indie rock provenance. I feel quite ashamed of this, but it is true.
― thomasintrouble, Monday, 6 February 2012 15:09 (six years ago) Permalink
It's fair to say there's more to Kaputt than mere Anglo-Eighties fetishism, but it's a huge stumbling block towards my appreciation of it because not only have we seen this before, but we've seen people reviving it before. So is this a continuation of the last decade's eighties revival or is it part of some hideous third wave of eighties revivalism, and if so when will the madness stop?
Trying to appreciate this on levels other than pastiche/retro, I'm still struggling. I don't find the songwriting particularly engaging. The Blow Monkeys weren't exactly a fashionable band, but Digging Your Scene succeeds in that it has a soaring ecstatic chorus breaking through the shimmer. 'Being Boring' ('Kaputt', the song's closest reference point) was wry, witty, bittersweet and somehow evoked nostalgia without pandering to the past. Compare the Pet Shop Boys' lyrics to Bejar's empty signifiers of cocaine backrooms - one is slick, literate pop; the other, well...
― Sounds Of The Baskervilles (dog latin), Monday, 6 February 2012 15:09 (six years ago) Permalink
pastiche and retro are not the same thing
― iatee, Monday, 6 February 2012 15:11 (six years ago) Permalink
Bejar's not a pop songwriter, either.
― Sick Mouthy (Scik Mouthy), Monday, 6 February 2012 15:11 (six years ago) Permalink
double irony thomas is that i dig the brief bits of it i've heard but won't listen to it cos of its meat&potatoes indie rock provenance :D
― dayove cool (Noodle Vague), Monday, 6 February 2012 15:13 (six years ago) Permalink
― iatee, Monday, 6 February 2012 15:11 (36 seconds ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink
They both apply here. I've no doubt that Bejar has nothing but love for this sound, but his mimicking of it is pure pastiche.
― Sounds Of The Baskervilles (dog latin), Monday, 6 February 2012 15:13 (six years ago) Permalink
DL, you have to take (the song) Kaputt in the context of the other songs on the album; he makes explicit reference to other songs in the lyrics. The whole thing paints a picture. Bejar writes (and this sounds amazingly wanky, and is, but is also kind of compelling and intriguing) about musicians and music and music journalists (I know PSBs did this too on occasion; I've just never been that taken with them), and the whole album together paints a picture.
I'm not sure I see Bejar's past as meat&potatoes indie rock. Listened to Rubies this morning; the guitar is Ronson, not Pavement (obviously).
― Sick Mouthy (Scik Mouthy), Monday, 6 February 2012 15:15 (six years ago) Permalink
yeah, this "meat&potatoesindierock" shit is meaningless...
― Laughing Gravy (dog latin), Monday, 6 February 2012 15:17 (six years ago) Permalink
it's kind of hair-splitty tbh Sick, what constitutes tru indie now. i think the general point i'm making is that i'm suspicious in some way or uninterested in what the dude's doing even tho i'd probably go to bat for a lot of stuff in the sonic tradition of Kaputt
― dayove cool (Noodle Vague), Monday, 6 February 2012 15:19 (six years ago) Permalink
This is my problem with Kaputt - I like the sonics, I'm not really bothered about whether it's pastiche or not (I think I just assumed genre-hopping was part of his whole deal, not being familiar with much of his other work) but it's kind of weak in terms of hooks and/or melody. His vocals are too one-note here ("fiercely casual" is about right) and it grates more than it might do with a different musical backdrop. He's written some incredibly poppy (and great) stuff with the New Pornographers though.
― Gavin, Leeds, Monday, 6 February 2012 15:20 (six years ago) Permalink
xps ha oh shit I've started another bloody discussion on what is or isn't indie.
― thomasintrouble, Monday, 6 February 2012 15:20 (six years ago) Permalink
i was gonna try not to indulge. i think it's at best disingenuous to say there's no such thing as "meat & potatoes indie", the rest of the argument is just filing
― dayove cool (Noodle Vague), Monday, 6 February 2012 15:21 (six years ago) Permalink
cos i think what you're saying - and it seems totally reasonable to me - is that Bejam's indie credentials gave you a way into the album, and i'm saying that the same thing sort of locks me out of it
― dayove cool (Noodle Vague), Monday, 6 February 2012 15:23 (six years ago) Permalink
wish I had time to read and respond... two of my fave albums of last year
― I GUESS THAT CINNABON GETTIN EATEN (Edward III), Monday, 6 February 2012 15:23 (six years ago) Permalink