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click opera
February 2010
 
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Thu, Nov. 12th, 2009 12:22 am
My noughties 1: Two zeroes and a blank sheet of paper

The Noughties Were Shit, proclaims one British blog, looking back with a jaundiced eye on the decade just gone. Personally, I paid zero attention to the celebrity chefs and crappy inventions the blog marshals as evidence of the decade's inherent excrementality. Any decade is going to look like rubbish if you pay attention to celeb chefs, let's face it. And complaining about things you nevertheless fail to switch off -- and even, in fact, switch on specifically to hate and slate -- is a key symptom of The British Disease, much more likely to perpetuate crap than end it.



I want, over a series of Click Opera posts, as we approach the end of the year and the end of the decade, to look back at my noughties, and specifically the five or six albums I released. If I had to conjure a single metaphor for how the decade felt to me, back in 2000, I'd liken it to a blank piece of paper. I felt as if there were no rules, no commercial expectations. Just as I was free to travel (I spent the decade in New York, in Tokyo, then, mostly, in Berlin), I was also free to "experiment", to make things up as I went along, to improvise, to develop a sonic grammar that was mine alone; an electronic folk-lieder aimed as much at the "salons" of Chelsea art galleries as the rock circuit.

Although some of my more conservative fans -- notably Swede John Thelin, once (as "Count V") the mainstay of the alt.fan.momus newsgroup -- characterised the noughties as a time in which "Momus forgot how to write proper songs", others -- notably the Web 2.0 generation, who ranked Nervous Heartbeat and Frilly Military at least as high, in terms of YouTube views, as my old hit Hairstyle of the Devil -- liked my noughties stuff better than what had gone before. With 154,000 views this -- my 2001 collaboration with Montréal group Bran Van 3000, reggaeton vocalist Eek-a-Mouse and actress Liane Balaban -- is the most-viewed Momus-related track on YouTube:



So how did things stand with me, musically and stylistically, at the lead-in of this "fresh reel of blank tape", the decade we learned to represent with two zeroes? I think a key track -- and one I still like a lot -- is my 2000 collaboration with Dusseldorf band Kreidler, entitled Mnemorex. It's key to what comes later because, for a start, it proposes a new sort of electronic folk song:



As in the Bran Van 3000 song, I'm only responsible for the topline melody and the words and singing here, but this points the way forward -- my 2008 collaboration with Joe Howe is still very much on the same page:



Mnemorex also points forward in the sense that it's German, and references Japan (the Osaka World's Fair, also known as Expo '70), and I'll spend most of the 00s with a predominantly German-Japanese frame of reference. Even living in New York between 2000 and 2002, the records I was listening to were mostly made by Berliners like Tarwater, F.S. Blumm, Pole and Rechenzentrum. In 2000 I returned to Europe to tour Germany with Kreidler, who really deserve their own Click Opera entry; after a long absence they released a new album last month called Mosaik 2014:



I don't want to snow the blank sheet with too much data, so I'll close this scene-setting entry. Next in this series I'll cover the first proper Momus album of the new decade, my, ahem, folktronica album, Folktronic. In that entry, and the ones that follow, I'll be re-listening to my noughties albums, tracing their influences, intentions and themes, and recalling the times and places they were made in. And one reason I'll be doing this is that it's pretty safe to hazard the guess that nobody else will, though there'll no doubt be endless artistic explorations of, for instance, the UK's Top 10 bestselling albums of the decade. Here they are, just to set the scene:

James Blunt Back To Bedlam
Dido No Angel
Amy Winehouse Back To Black
David Gray Wide Ladder
Dido Life For Rent
The Beatles 1
Leona Lewis Spirit
Coldplay A Rush Of Blood To The Head
Keane Hopes And Fears
Scissor Sisters Scissor Sisters

Next: Folktronic

53CommentReplyFlag


(Anonymous)
Thu, Nov. 12th, 2009 12:03 am (UTC)

A request that you include Summerisle in your serial recollections. (Hopefully you were going to go over it anyway, but the 'five or six' does seem like you hadn't quite made up your mind!)


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Nov. 12th, 2009 12:16 am (UTC)

Oh, I will cover it in at least half an entry. It's only half my album, after all. I said "five or six" because I didn't feel quite right referring to it as a "Momus album".


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(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand

imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Nov. 12th, 2009 01:03 am (UTC)
Ripping up the charts

Talking of UK sales, something rather miraculous happened to my Amazon.co.uk sales ranking for mp3 sales this week. As this Amazon.com tweet reveals, my mp3 sales in the UK shot up by 1,900%, propelling my sales rank in UK Music Artists from 2,280 to 114. It seems mostly to have been due to people buying my Brel covers, and people seeking the original of Amanda Palmer's very successful live cover of I Want You, But I Don't Need You. (Record it, Amanda, you know it's going to be huge!)

The Amazon mp3 sales ranking for Momus, though, gives a much more conservative picture than the YouTube viewing ranking for Momus videos. Only two out of the top 50 Momus tracks in there were recorded this decade.



Edited at 2009-11-12 01:06 am (UTC)


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Nov. 12th, 2009 01:14 am (UTC)
Re: Ripping up the charts

But for Amazon UK Momus album sales, it's a different picture again. Out of the Top 10 bestselling digital downloads, four are this-decade albums, and the Joemus album is at number one.

(I don't usually look at this sales data at all, but shooting up 1900% in the space of a week has rattled / needled / pricked me.)


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fishwithissues
fishwithissues
jordan fish
Thu, Nov. 12th, 2009 02:43 am (UTC)

the oskar tennis champion sleeve is still shockingly pretty. i think the artist used a radiosity engine to render it!

also i've been meaning to mention that the ashes video has been resuscitated on vimeo, with cleaner compression to boot.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Nov. 12th, 2009 10:11 am (UTC)

the oskar tennis champion sleeve is still shockingly pretty

Florian Perret made it. He now works in 3D animation in New York, after spells in China, Japan and Australia.

One day there'll be an incredibly arty Momus kabuki opera at The Frankfurt Opera or ENO and that'll be the set.


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count_vronsky
count_vronsky
Thu, Nov. 12th, 2009 02:47 am (UTC)

So there is another Count V who is major momus fan? My ghost double, my doppelganger, my evil twin? Weird.



also - yay Pole!


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count_vronsky
count_vronsky
Thu, Nov. 12th, 2009 03:14 am (UTC)

galembo


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eptified
eptified
H. Duck
Thu, Nov. 12th, 2009 03:04 am (UTC)


I saw a flash featuring the eek-a-mouse portion of "Shopping" which transcribed the lyrics phonetically into Japanese and then did ascii renderings of the newly uncovered plot: "me go shopping" became "miko shappen", and so we got a priestess with a ballpoint.

My take on momus in the naughties is that I liked "otto spooky" a lot. It marked a sort of midpoint between the silliness of the early '00s stuff and recent abstractions. I like the music that you write yourself - and I know writing music is a pain in the ass and you've been doing this long enough to get a free pass to do whatever you like - but I hope we have more "all momus" albums to look forward to in the future.

Which isn't to say mnemorex isn't a lovely little burble. Look at the bunny!


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(Anonymous)
Thu, Nov. 12th, 2009 03:40 am (UTC)
Luke Haines

The outro to the show tonight was " Murderers, The Hope of Women"..I gave Luke a lazy 'Momus' badge later when we were very drunk on wine, he smiled..

maf


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pay_option07
pay_option07
Thu, Nov. 12th, 2009 03:35 am (UTC)
soul wars

"The Cooper o' Fife," finally!


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count_vronsky
count_vronsky
Thu, Nov. 12th, 2009 06:11 am (UTC)


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count_vronsky
count_vronsky
Thu, Nov. 12th, 2009 06:46 am (UTC)


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(Anonymous)
Thu, Nov. 12th, 2009 07:44 am (UTC)
fuckery

the beatles stand out of that list like shakespeare would on a list of sitcom writers.


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(Anonymous)
Thu, Nov. 12th, 2009 08:44 am (UTC)

Your noughties weren't really about your records though, were they? Or if they were, it was the decade when the media utterly lost interest in your music. Some of your noughties albums didn't garner a single review in the music press or national newspapers. But the noughties were the decade when you became recognised as a writer, first as a blogger, secondly as a journalist and lastly as a novelist. If it wasn't for your writing, you would have been pretty much invisible this decade.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Nov. 12th, 2009 09:50 am (UTC)

Your account leaves out a parallel career as a contemporary artist, established from 2000 on. I'm currently the 4702nd most important contemporary visual artist in the world, according to ArtFacts!

Whether you call that "visible" depends on where you're looking, I guess.


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(Anonymous)
Thu, Nov. 12th, 2009 09:57 am (UTC)
I *heart* the Zeroes

The "Noughties" would have been much, much better if we’d called them the Zeroes, as I originally suggested. The New York punk nihilism would have chimed with 9-11 and Ground Zero, the circular motif with the design of the iPod. They just wouldn't listen..


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Nov. 12th, 2009 11:42 am (UTC)

Simon Reynolds has a beard-scratching look at another aspect of the decade:

"the beard has become one of the crucial, era-defining signifiers for non-mainstream rock in the noughties"

Reynolds' take is pretty close to mine in my recent Playground column The Old Revolution. I'm watching rock musicians at the airport, thinking: "they appear to have been beamed in from the past; their hairstyles and clothes are the essence of 1972; shaggy, fluffy, forward-combed hair, tight, exotic materials like velvet and satin."

Reynolds is watching rock musicians in a British Airways TV commercial, thinking: "the panorama of long straggly hair, peasant skirts, acoustic guitars and beards feels more like you've gone through a time tunnel to 1972."



Edited at 2009-11-12 11:48 am (UTC)


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(Anonymous)
Thu, Nov. 12th, 2009 12:22 pm (UTC)

Is it time for a Tabula Razor? Even moustaches. Baby's bottom is the new forest? I'll get my coat.


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(Anonymous)
Thu, Nov. 12th, 2009 12:27 pm (UTC)

ルイス、11月中に出てくる気があるの?


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(Anonymous)
Thu, Nov. 12th, 2009 01:11 pm (UTC)

Momus, what do you think is the most rock'n'roll song you've ever written?


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Nov. 12th, 2009 01:26 pm (UTC)

Coming in a Girl's Mouth. Those sissy babies in Primal Scream and The Rolling Stones would never dare sing a song as rock'n'roll as that.


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I did think - (Anonymous) Expand

(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand

(Anonymous)
Thu, Nov. 12th, 2009 02:29 pm (UTC)
Wow

the Scissor Sisters were in the top ten in the UK?

And don't get too excited about the Tens, I'd say. Looks like Lady Gaga is going to be leading the way. Ripping off Grace Jones and Madonna with some of the most inane lyrics of late? No thanks.

-Robyn


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bongo_kong
bongo_kong
Thu, Nov. 12th, 2009 07:09 pm (UTC)
Re: Wow

What, you don't even like Poker Face? Everyone likes Poker Face.


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(Anonymous)
Thu, Nov. 12th, 2009 03:15 pm (UTC)

Nicky was the first song i heard. Its still my favorite.
I like your albums recorded in early 90s best. I listened to 20 vodka jellies a thousand times.
BTW I also listened to James Blunt Back To Bedlam a thousand times.


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(Anonymous)
Thu, Nov. 12th, 2009 06:06 pm (UTC)
Clarification

Hi again...just to clarify..Luke Haines didn't cover your song, it came on as the performance ended, backstage later I told him I was very impressed he choose it, he said " Oh I really like Nick"....I then gave him the Momus badge and he said " thanks..I like him but I won't wear it.."

maf


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