Sunday, 15 April 2012

Not So Guilty Pleasures

Nicked by the Music Police

Long before DJ Sean Rowley copyrighted and franchised the concept of the Guilty Pleasure there was Club Beer, a night of music that, according to the promotional flyers, "only sounds good when you're drunk". Having occasionally swung my pants at Club Beer, I can attest that the basic premise was identical to Rowley's Guilty Pleasures, that is, to play music that most people would never openly admit to liking, but will happily spend an evening partying to when sufficiently mullered. Both Rowley's and Club Beer's events tapped into the seemingly inexhaustible appetite of the glacially cool music snob for irony in whatever form it takes, whether that be School Disco club nights or oh-so-tongue-in-cheek Top Shop-branded Iron Maiden T-shirts. As far as I can tell, the reason that Sean Rowley has enjoyed a level of success that the Club Beer promoters could only dream of is that 'Guilty Pleasures' is a more easily marketable name for the exact same product. Oh, and having his own radio show to promote the concept may have helped. The fact that the music on his show could all be found gracing any number of irony-free middle-of-the-road radio stations elsewhere was no doubt lost on his listeners. I suppose that being caught by your mates listening to Europe's The Final Countdown on Rowley's show in some way lends you a patina of knowing, disdainful cool. Being caught listening to the same track on Heart FM brands you a sad geek. If only somebody could dream up an ironic way of masturbating we could all sit around in public whacking one out with brazen impunity.

The point of this blog entry isn't to knock Sean Rowley's business acumen, but to pour scorn on the whole idea of any music constituting a guilty pleasure. There are as many reasons to like a song as there are songs themselves, but to secretly like a song, whilst pretending that you don't for fear of what others might think is, quite frankly, pathetic. Grow some nuts, for crying out loud! There will always be people who will criticise your musical taste, but instead of pretending only to like what the music police deem cool, how about defending your taste. Arm yourself with compelling reasons why Phil Collins' Face Value is an essential part of your collection. Plenty of sheep bought that album because they lacked the imagination to buy something other than an LP that, by topping the album charts, had the approval of their peers, but almost as many sheep offloaded the album when the coolerati decided Phil Collins was naff. At the risk of sounding like American Psycho's Patrick Bateman, I love Face Value. Phil Collins is an exceptional drummer who managed to coax a couple of long-overdue creditable performances out of Eric Clapton on an album that holds together beautifully as a document of the pain caused by a disintegrating marriage. Plus, it boasts the classic In The Air Tonight as its opening track. Some of his later solo work leaves me cold but, if you have good reason to love it, then fair play to you.

You may have noticed that in a recent post, amongst the LPs I bought at the Olympia Record Fair, was an Osmonds album. That's how contemptuous of the music police I am! The idea that the Osmonds might have had some redeeming features (beyond Marie Osmond's ability to get a pre-pubescent Shelf-Stacker's heart racing) first occured to me when I bought Tank's Crazy Horses 7" single back in 1982. In actual fact, I think it took a clued-up girlfriend a few years later to alert me to the fact that it was originally an Osmonds song. Much more recently a posting on my favourite blog made me curious to hear what other deep cuts might be hidden amongst the schmaltz in the Osmonds' back catalogue. And so, for your delectation, or possibly just mine, I proudly present a selection of decidedly irony-free, innocent pleasures from the seldom-heard, hard rocking, Osmonds back catalogue.

From the Crazy Horses LP we have Hold Her Tight, which blatantly steals the riff from Led Zep's Immigrant Song (listen to it and tell me I'm wrong!), then we have Crazy Horses itself which kicks off like a theremin-abusing Motörhead and, finally, the pace drops to a hazy, lysergic meander for Life Is Hard Enough Without Goodbyes. From what I can surmise, The Plan is a concept  album. What that concept is, I haven't the foggiest. Something to do with Mormonism I suspect. Regardless, Traffic In My Mind is a swaggering slice of psych complete with phased vocals and nagging fuzz guitar, whilst Movie Man is a Beatlesque chunk of carnival mood Power Pop that should put smiles on the faces of Jellyfish fans everywhere. Mirror, Mirror serves up another portion of  irresistible Power Pop which leans heavily on Jew's Harp and Harmonica for its perky, upbeat sound. Good luck keeping your foot from tapping when you listen to this one! Brainstorm provides the track that I first heard at the aforementioned blog. Gotta Get Love has a riff that brings to mind Thin Lizzy. A Billy Gibbons-alike semi-spoken lead vocal nonchalantly shares the grooves with an obnoxious, twisted, cocktail of guitars, phased backing vocals and spacey synths. Next time you see an Osmonds LP languishing in a charity shop, you could do a lot worse than to take it home with you, if only to play the "I bet you can't guess who this is" game with your mates.