imomus (imomus) wrote,
imomus
imomus

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
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