If nothing else, at least I’ve located the sweet spot where West Hull meets downtown New York:
I usually end up in Paris in-transit, at 7am, straight off a late-night, Dover-Calais ferry with 12 hours to kill before catching the night train south to the Basque Country. In fact, the one time I actually went there for an overnighter is indelibly marked by the roughhouse groping I received on Boulevard de la Chapelle. Each time, early doors, before our layover begins to drag with 10€ steak-sponges, blisters, nark and catatonic meanders in the Forum les Halles shopping mall, I always make a beeline for 5 bis Rue de Verneuil, Serge Gainsbourg’s former home off the Champs Elysee. Many others do the same: the high wall that hems Serge’s Paris house is covered with stencilled grafitti and scrawled messages of respect, admiration, desire. Each time, I kick my heels on the kerbside, astonished by the kind of (not cultish or kitschy, but truly popular) devotion he inspires.
Currently, 18 years after his death, Serge’s house remains pretty much as he left it. Not that you’d be able to tell from the street; his family have installed security gates to keep devotees out. In 2007, it was reported that Charlotte Gainsbourg, his famous daughter, was hoping to convert it into a museum. For now, here’s a look inside from Vogue Paris in 2007.
A totally gorgeous concession to the festive period. Others might choose Fairytale of New York, but I’ve never heard anything as hopeful, as giddy, as weak-at-the-knees as this.
The specialness of St Etienne has been articulated a thousand times over, and I’ve never felt quite comfortable grappling with the grammars that rightfully belong to a certain kind of student from the early 1990s. Listening to St Etienne provokes a sense of second hand nostalgia usually only available from childhood memories experienced via an overweening older sibling. Even more disorientatingly, they seem to hit the sweet spot of a whole plethora of historical moments simultaneously. There’s some great bits in here: Tim Burgess employing the indie-bloke monkey-walk on the race to the church, planting a kiss on the everso mature and sophisticated Sarah which misses the mark by miles.
Of course, this kind of utterly key sentimentalism about pop music is a site like Freakytrigger’s stock-in-trade; read what they say about I Was Born on Christmas Day here.
And, of course, Merry Christmas!
Bp just keeps on serving it up. Last night we went to see Frenchies Jack of Heart (bestockinged frontman, marvellous) and The Magnetix (knackered, falling over, wonderful) play on a boat on the Danube, tethered under the Erzsébet híd. The word on the street is – natch – all in Hungarian, so our gig intelligence was rather less sophisticated: a poster on the toilet door at Joe’s favourite bar.
Joe’s notes the innate suitability of the Frenchies and garage here, and I think he’s dead on. Garage rock French-style replaces US-UK blokishness with a playful element of high camp. As a teenager, flummoxed by the ineffability of taste, I leant heavily on the descriptors masculine and feminine to explain why I like, say, Blur over Oasis and I think this kind of gendering, crude as it is, still stands.
The gig also QED’d the thoughts on music and cultural difference (a pretty grand title for thoughts liberally sprinkled over beer at Szimpla, but nonetheless) we’ve been having during our time here. The reason for the inexorability of the UK pop industry overseas is only partially Anglophone pop imperialism; it must also be something to do with how UK pop introjects British culture’s self consciousness and fashions it into irony or longing or scathing, with examples too obvious to illustrate.
Oh, okay, like him here (any excuse):
Anyway, teenagers from Paris and Kiev and Florence and Johannesburg and Osaka &c &c &c are all sweet on UK pop exports because they’re drawn to those elements, that worldview, that are being pubescently produced in them but aren’t so readily available from pop at home in cultures that aren’t eternally afflicted with the awkward dance. I think that’s why Brits abroad find European pop (obvious shite – Sash!, The Finger Song – aside) such a shocker: it’s done straight, there’s something missing. And Brits simonising their own weirdness, well, that’s not a British trait at all, is it?
Jack of Heart and The Magnetix are currently on what looks like a thoroughly gruelling European tour. You can catch them in Belgrade tonight or follow pictorally here. A bazillion props to organisers RNR 666 – my first gig in Budapest was utterly marvellous.