Believe what you've read. Believe every word of it. I believe everything I ever read about music. I'm not that cynical yet. I never listen to it, of course, but I believe everything I've been told that "Who's That Girl?" sounds fucking great on the Chris Moyles show precisely because of its utter difference from the tawdriness of its surrounds. I believe everything I've been told that it's a pop shot. I also believe everything I've been told that it's a great pop shot, a masterpiece in itself. And oh, it is.
I believe everything Reynolds and Ewing and Finney tell me about "the streets" - that weird interzone between mass-production chartpop and the underground - as being where it's really happening, freed from dulling connoseurial ideas of "class" and "status" in each genre. I believe what they tell me about the Ruff Ryders label being one of the greatest examples of this. I simply take it as read. I listen to it, I think it's brilliant. And then the word "gangsta" hits me in my face, unable to leave. "Gangsta Bitches", a stunning free advert for an entire way of life I'd find unspeakably vile if it hit me in a more literal sense, a perfect example of pop's enduring good-evil role as cultural brainwasher. Then there's Styles boasting that "Eve don't give a fuck about you" as a calling card, a definition, the criterion by which she defines herself. Then there's the English language reduced to its most brutal, its most elemental: "I'm a thug in the street and I know what to do / If you're fucking me with me I'm a-fuck with you / I don't give a fuck now / I'm doing my thing" (the rhythm with which these words are delivered recalls a nursery rhyme; no way could (Blue) Jam ever have got this sick, if I can be excused a one-word slip into Sun-speak). And then I remember that I'm supposed to be some kind of environmentalist, progressive thinker, believer in forward-looking communities and social democracy for all. I'm supposed to believe in people setting their differences aside and getting on with each other, not this reduction of humanity to combat and opposition and undeclared war. And then I hate it.
(You write about pop music, Carmody. You write about what's out there. You're a radical populist, and you're fucking proud of it. Why are you letting these petty moral objections bring you down? That's the Guardian's job.)
Yeah, fucking right. Morality and taste in pop are Tom Cox country, and therefore something to be avoided. Morally sound music is for the boring students, the ones who sit around all day listening to fucking Starsailor or some shit like that, the ones who never want a challenge, never want to think about anything. You're not like them. Weren't you the one who hated so much of your adolescence because of the desperate urge you felt to hide from them? You're free from those concerns. You love pop music, full stop. Just stop giving a fuck.
(You can't be saying this, Carmody. Weren't you the one who started saying after Bush got in that all American pop culture was now a threat to civilised, social democratic societies? Weren't you the one screaming that you could see a new Triumph of the Will in the "... Baby One More Time" video? Weren't you the one last week desperately, viciously denouncing what you chose to call the Evil Empire, relishing the moment you destroyed your copy of The Life And Times Of Sean Carter? Weren't you the one saying the puritan socialists of the 50s were right when they said that if you preferred Jerry Lee Lewis to Ewan MacColl you could never be a true socialist?)
This is an album to play loud, and often. After the storm, "Be Me" is particularly ace. During the album's defining, vicious middle section, "Cowboy", "You Had Me, You Lost Me" and "Got What You Need" are awesome, no other word for it. But what animates it? What drives it? Did "Gangsta Bitches" and "Screamn Double R" and "Thug In The Street" arrive fully-formed, and could they be such thrilling, driven, lacerating masterpieces if I didn't hate them?
(Maybe this is what happens after humanity; maybe, when all remaining traces of politeness and virtue and value are excised from the human race, when all television is boiled down to Big Brother and Survivor, when people watch videos of Catweazle as though it's a relic from a society as distant as medieval times, this is what all music will sound like. Maybe "Welcome To The Terrordome" was a failed intellectual's idea of what the apocalypse might sound like and this is how it actually sounds like when humanity, given over to its innate aggression and selfishness, its pure base level, are creating it. Maybe I'm just an over-educated middle-class kid who intellectualises everything way too fucking much. Maybe I have no right to be writing this.)
"(10cc's) The Original Soundtrack is brilliant. And I hate it." - Charles Shaar Murray, NME, 1975.
Ever thought of making the last six words of that description into your personal self-definition, Carmody?
Robin Carmody, 18th May 2001