People started growing, instead of being crushed and people started slowing down instead of being rushed (Carbon Silicon)

After 2 years away there is a new song & video from Carbon Silicon & that is nothing but good news. CS combines the talents of Mick Jones & Tony James, two guitarists who go way back to the days when all the London punks could fit into the The Roxy on Neal St. In fact Tony’s Generation X played at the club’s first gig while Mick’s Clash headlined the official opening. The video for “Big Surprise” is a modern take on the “Subterranean Homesick Blues” film, a snapshot of the diversity & warmth of the good people in our capital city.

There…that’s better isn’t it. Put some friends on to that. It’s a good way to start the day. Stripped down & simple, people who’s ears I trust (though perhaps not their other body parts) have drawn comparisons with the ballads of Mott the Hoople, Mick’s favourite band when he was a lad. “Big Surprise” sounds like the “Higher Power” LP released as Big Audio in 1994. I think that Mick had been ill & I enjoyed those back to basics songs like ” Light Up My Life” & “Modern Stone Age Blues”. If you were expecting anger & aggression then you can’t have been listening since “London Calling”. One of the many outstanding things about the Clash was that did not just rage at the world but sought answers & alternatives. It may be the case that “he, who fucks nuns, will later join the church” but the journey does not have to be from angry young man to grumpy old sod. Strummer & Jones’ lyrics have always had a positivity & if Mick has something to say about the 21st century then I am listening.

In 2007 Carbon Silicon released the best rock CD of the decade. “The Last Post” referenced guitar rock of the past 40 years, combined righteous punk anger with optimism & became the first music for years that I became a little obsessed by. It started like this…

Good morning here’s the news. All of it is good & the weather’s good. After 9/11 this was not the case. Western governments exaggerated the threat of Islamic terrorism & downright lied about Saddam Hussain’s weaponry so that we allowed both incursions into our civil liberties & the invasion of a couple of far-off countries. Movies & TV were rammed with super-heroes queuing to solve problems beyond us mortals. If it was not some end-times fantasy then it was a post-apocalyptic anarchic wasteland. Now I know, & so do you, that for the development of a meaningful class consciousness there needs to be not only a perceived opposition to Babylon but a meaningful alternative, a sense of how things could be better. In the first decade of this century you did not hear or see a lot about a future based on co-operation & consideration. One place I did hear it was from “Here Is The News” by Mick Jones & Tony James, a couple of concerned artists who knew it too.

The songs on “The Last Post” were , I think, based around the band jamming on their favourites. You can hear the Kinks, the Who, a quote from Fleetwood Mac. There’s an authoritative, anthemic, twin-guitar crunch but no retro-recrudescence of an old sound or of redundant punk poses. “National Anthem” is a considered invocation to parents, a recommendation that teaching children the difference between right & wrong is a good thing. I had an early version of this with James Jamerson’s “Grapevine” bass line (thank you Alan McGhee off of Creation Records) but samples need clearance & involve lawyers. I get the feeling that the two of them have had quite enough music business business thank you. These are modern day protest songs written by people who have knocked about a bit & still have something to say about the way things are. If it gets too much, if the arguments just wheel & come again  then, as the song goes, “What The Fuck”.

“Caesar’s Palace” is a brilliant re-write & update on “Lost In The Supermarket” one of the great Clash songs. It’s a contemplation on consumerism & its victory in our tarnished democracies. “The greatest crime was to fool all of the people to spend all of the time”. Oh yes…it is a wrong em boyo. This is another appeal to what may seem like common sense but it’s just not gonna happen. The closing lines…”Brought up in a world of Caesars Palace & the odds are a trillion to one & still I want some.”…nailed it. We don’t like it, we sneer at the excesses but we live in the material world & we would not say no to some of that stuff. “The Last Post” is full of good mature songs played by good mature people for…well, give it a listen. I was down my local record shop (now sadly closed) on the day this was released. it is still highly recommended. Ah here’s the “National Anthem” a manifesto for those veterans of the Punk Wars who are still trying to do the right thing.

The emphasis here has been on Mick Jones because I am a bit of a fan boy about the man. Tony James has been around a long time & maybe it is time that I got over Sigue Sigue Sputnik. I have a friend who knows that Tony is a legend & has been since Generation X. My friend actually gets paid for the words he writes…imagine that ! If Danny would like to select Mr James’ finest moments & add a few of those words the loosehandlebars budget could stretch to a quarter of Kola Kubes & a carton of Umbongo (Google them). We would be more than happy to include them here because Carbon Silicon has wrecked all that hanging about with the blatherskite Billy Idol & we need to know more.

An Alternative To The Olympic Closing Ceremony.

Some classic avoidance going on here. Knock out the easy ones, the stuff I can do while spinning on my privates. Meantimes the blogs I really want to write are stuck in draft limbo. I have convinced myself that describing “That Obscure Object of Desire” in three glib yet lucid and mildly humorous sentences is, in fact, an impossibility. Hey, I’ll get to it and will try harder.

I loved the London Olympics. Wall-to-wall sport for 2 weeks is my kind of TV. I was, though, unable to watch the whole of the two ceremonies which topped and tailed the gathering. I did not watch earlier versions when blazered & straw-hatted competitors strolling around an athletics track was all the entertainment on offer. Now they are designed as prime time TV spectaculars (were the pyrotechnics in Beijing CGI’d…crazy). Prime time TV is not made for me, actually not much of the rest appeals either. That’s OK, what I did see of the opening ceremony I liked. Danny Boyle is a smart man and was a good choice. When I felt the lowest common denominator, something for everyone, offending no-one, kick in I reached for the off switch.

The closing ceremony was trailed as a celebration of British music. As may be obvious music is something I care quite a lot about. It is indisputable that for the last 50 years Britain has not only participated and contributed to this popular art but has often led the way and produced artists who have affected the world. I knew that there would be moments which would jar,( If there is one area in which I am at all a control freak it is that I try, as far as possible, to live in a Queen-free universe). A friend called around in the afternoon and dropped the names of Take That & the Spice Girls. My heart sank. I did watch, Ray Davies, compulsory, Madness, very British, Pet Shop Boys,mmm, Emilie Sande, well Adele was not available. It was George Michael, promoting what I believe to be his new single, that did it for me and off went the idiot’s lantern.

So here’s my point (finally!) . A celebration of British music watched worldwide could have used a little imagination. That same imagination that supplied all the innovative music in the first place. For sure celebrate what we have done but why not show the world that we are still doing it. Artistic success is not just measured in record sales. Here are 3 bands, from the 21st century, I would have liked to have seen and none of them are the Ting Tings !

Mick Jones would be, if the phrase was not now so overused to be cliched & therefore meaningless. a national treasure. His former partner, Joe, is dead now so we are never, and only in my nightmares did it happen, to see a Clash reunion. Mick’s musical and personal development mirrors that of a generation of British men & women who are veterans of the punk wars of 1976-79. I saw him play at the biggest anti-racist rally ever held in this country and they were the Clash’s audience. Later Big Audio Dynamite appeared at a massive anti-apartheid concert which brought South London to a standstill. We knew he would be there and we were glad he was. Here Carbon Silicon play “The News”, a song about a near future when people decide they have had enough of the materialist shitstorm and plan a society based on consideration and co-operation. My point is that Mick Jones has always chronicled the feelings of British people who, despite being abandoned by politicians, retain a political consciousness and that’s a lot of us. If the N.H.S. is to be celebrated then so should this spirit.He is the guy who shows how punk really affected people and how they matured. Oh yeah, the LP “The Last Post” is the last new rock album that I truly, madly, deeply fell in love with.

The British have always loved wordplay and a facility with words. English, the language of the Internet and of the world, we invented it. Satire, irony, even gobbledegook, we love it all. Scroobius Pip’s litany of commandments for 21st century youth, backed by the electro bleeps of Dan le Sac can only have come out of this country. For a very short time there was an urban underground music scene which promised to shake our charts up. The rapidity with which Rascal, Tempah and others were chewed up by the industry and spat out as innocuous pop muppets was a little depressing. “Thou Shalt Not Kill”  is a list of ways that conformity has become accepted as the norm. For 5 decades British youth were able to set their own rules, wear their own fashions and make their own music. They should still try to do it because no-one does it better. Oh and the song, very importantly, is funny.

For the big finish, after the Who have done 6 minutes of very old songs and Muse have paraded their tuneless noise, we needed the lovely racket of Ritzy Bryan & her boys, the Joy Formidable. The best British single of 2011 would have caught the attention of the mass audience as would the charming diminutive lead guitarist. As the tune breaks apart into feedback with Ritzy kneeling over and thumping her pedals, there is your “What the Fuck ?” moment. This is modern rock music. Seriously all the best music has been disliked by the mass audience at first. It is because it is new and different. Most people do not like change or like to be challenged. It would have been fitting for any celebration of British music to have ended on something that had not yet shifted squillions of units but bloody well could do if given the exposure.

This is perhaps the most negative thing I have blogged since I began. I really do not like Internet rants. I will get back to being that chilled out old hippie guy tomorrow. Promise.