Saturday, 29 January 2011

Blows Against The Empire

The Skids were a seriously great band, and I'll probably have to write about them at length, but firstly here's one of their big hits from 1979:



Hearing "Working For The Yankee Dollar" for the first time was a shock to my ten-year-old self because it introduced me to the concept of anti-Americanism, the unsettling fact that there were people who simply didn't like the country where everything good came from. In many ways this record felt like a watershed, because the decade that was to follow was to see a surge in antipathy toward Uncle Sam, from Greenham Common to Spitting Image's ceaseless mockery of Ronald Reagan. What had initially seemed an incomprehensible outburst was to become one of the ambient themes of the era, the "common sense" idea that the Leader Of The Free World was dangerously out of control, a gunslinging outlaw in the saloon of global politics.

Also, it's a cracking video, isn't it?

10 comments:

W. Kasper said...

It's interesting that, just a couple of years later, the big British/Celtic bands were so slavishly peddling 'Americana' and Hollywood imagery of the working class and 'heartlands' (The Clash's 'Combat Rock', Big Country's 'East of Eden', Simple Minds 'On The Waterfront', endless awful Motown tributes, everything U2 did - or even those Bryds-esque indie bands).

There was obvious market advantages to this - but it's telling how so many of them are remembered with outright derision now. It's doubtful that their 'greatest hits' would make a dent on the charts (except U2, who just refuse to fuck off).

Phil Knight said...

Jobson remained virulently anti-American though, possibly even more than Jaz Coleman. I need to have a good listen to The Armoury Show, which the critical consensus of the time dismissed, but, of course, the critical consensus ain't worth shit.

I think I might do a post on Big Country on FOP/TMC. I think Scotland is in many ways a much more extreme country than England, and so I think it's no surprise that it has more of a cultural affinity with the US. There's that same chasm between the almost Darwinian urban poverty and the breathtaking rural scenery, that seems to provoke a kind of misty-eyed escapist grandiosity.

W. Kasper said...

Scotland's music scene is arguably healthier for being so far from London and the whims of the music press/the fashion industry/TV. It's 'indie' scene in particular - they tend to get more time to build an audience without worrying about being 'flavour of the month' as much. When things go out of fashion south of the border, they tend not not to give a shit; which I kind of admire.

Phil Knight said...

Yes, I think the best aspect of Scottish music is its playfulness, of which I suppose the best examples are Alex Harvey and indeed Richard Jobson.

I've long thought that music journalists, with a few honourable exceptions, are more about judging character than judging music. There's a certain sort of frontman who has really figured out what makes scene-making journalists tick, and is expert at "playing" them. I think Nick Cave and Jarvis Cocker are good examples of this - they know how to remain darlings no matter how mediocre their music.

People like Jobson or Paul Weller, who are occasionally daft or gormless or fall flat on their faces usually end up being derided for these personal quirks, that are then projected onto their music. But you know, I really prefer the kind of labrador enthusiasm of Jobson, which invites disaster, to the smooth politicking of a Nick Cave or Green Gartside.

W. Kasper said...

Apart from the 'early funny ones', I've usually been much more entertained by Green and Nick's interviews that their albums!

Britpop was a primo example of what you're saying though. Maybe I'm wrong, but I always got the impression that they got so much coverage simply because the bands were fun to get drunk with, because nearly all of them were crap.

Phil Knight said...

Well, Cave's solo oeuvre must be one of the longest stretches of tedium out there. His records always had very nice sleeves though. Scritti Politti? Meh.

As for Britpop, I remember at the time thinking that Pulp were the absolute epitome of all the very worst aspects of it - the parochialism, the kitsch, the triviality, and then I read an interview with Cocker in Vox or Select (remember them?) in which he volubly disowned Britpop, and I remember thinking "ah, smart move...".

And, of course everyone bought it, and they're now remembered as some kind of shining exception, instead of the atrocity that they were.

W. Kasper said...

Have to disagree about Jarvis - His'n'Hers' was the saving grace of britpop imho.

But Nick Cave - if you think his albums are bad, try readig his novels...

Phil Knight said...

I feel like Donald Sutherland in "Invasion Of The Bodysnatchers" when it comes to the subject of Pulp. The only aural experience that I can possibly imagine would be worse would be Bob Dylan fronting U2 with Joni Mitchell on backing vox.

That said, I'm soon going to be writing about what a great film Mick Jagger's "Ned Kelly" is (and it is!) so I'm used to wandering alone through the wilderness...

W. Kasper said...

Ned Kelly? I can see Donald pointing and screeching already!

Phil Knight said...

Lol!

Yeah, this message will self-destruct in nine seconds....