Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Take a powder


I promise that this isn't going to turn into a Scritti Politti blog, I really do. But just one more post. Then, after that, no more, I promise. Well, at least until August, when they're due to play in Edinburgh.

But they really are dans le vent at the moment. Live dates, rave reviews, Jonathan Ross appearances...however, the reason for this post is the very enjoyable hour I've just spent at Simon Reynold's blog, and at K-Punk and at Owen Hatherley's, where they discuss the meanings and possibilities of White Bread, Black Beer. All note that Green has toned down the self-reflexivity, the meta-this and -that, and the tricky wordplay of previous outings, trading it in for stabs at narrative, veiled confession, and non-ironic, undistanced honesty and emotion, unencumbered by quotation marks. However, Mr. Reynolds also picks up on some of the references in the lyrics (to various illicit substances) and constructs a possible scenario to explain Green's need to retreat to Wales every five years or so. It's not darts and beer he's escaping for. It's rehab. True? Well, you can never be sure of anything when you're talking about a group that uses artifice and construction as much as Scritti has. And Green looks extremely good for a guy who makes veiled references to expensive habits. But, as Simon notes, the clues are certainly there.

And actually, they're not exclusive to the current album. Nor are the stabs at narrative. He actually attempted something similar in the very last song of the previous CD...

While 1999's Anomie and Bonhomie featured a stellar list of collaborators (like Cupid and Psyche and Provision before it) and also foregrounded the self-conscious, deconstructed lyrics in a similar way to all his/their previous long players, one song stood out for being so different, both from the other songs on the album, and from anything Green had attempted before. Tucked away at the end of the CD, Brushed With Oil, Dusted With Powder is a string-soaked, cinematic epic that obliquely tells a story of...what, exactly? Well, there's a police chase, a wrecked hotel room, some mysterious keys (kilos?), an interrogation...and again those clues, especially in the alliterative chorus ("On Highbury Fields, the West Side Highway"), and the references to powder. Fingerprinting powder possibly. Or could it be... Of course, this scenario that Green hints at may not be autobiographical, any more than Michael Mann is a contract killer, or Quentin Tarantino a martial arts expert. But, a skilled lawyer would file it under "Evidence for the Prosecution".

Even though White Bread, Black Beer was recorded for a fraction of the cost of the string section on Brushed, in many ways it seems to pick up on some of the lyric, narrative and confessional elements of this incredible, oblique song. Decide for yourself below.


Download Brushed With Oil, Dusted With Powder (deleted Feb 2007--sorry!)

1 comment:

brenda said...

Blah blah blah...all good stuff but more importantly for the ladees Green is totally holding it together and dspite his diet of beer and bread and whatever is more gorgeous than ever xx