John Peel was totally into Public Enemy before it took a nation of millions

Since I half-heartedly announced a minor meme four years ago, I’ve been broadly keeping my music tastes just that: broad. I’m a perfect example of the self-hating fifty-quid man, so turning each shopping expedition into a game of genre darts is easy enough within my budget.

It’s been more difficult since I resolved to only buy downloadable, DRM-free music: not only do I no longer have the offbeat encyclopaedia of Witney’s Rapture informing my music choices, but avoiding DRM-ruined and CD-only releases limits my choices somewhat. But, as in music, formal structures need not be limiting.

Yesterday, after much umming and ahhing over music from other sources, other possible artists etc.—much as I would have indulged in with high-street browsing—I bought three phenomenal albums from ( is also available).

The first was Zen Arcade by Hüsker Dü (buy). Every muso and his aloof, sneering electronic dog cites Bob Mould’s 1980s hardcore-punk semi-vehicle as a seminal influence on modern alt-rock (Nirvana, Pixies), but I’ve never sat down and listened do them. Zen Arcade is mental, a concept album consisting of somewhere between twenty and two hundred thousand two-minute wonders.

Hüsker Dü are certainly namechecked in Michael Heatley’s will-this-do Peel biography, along with everyone from Queen to the Queen, but I don’t think they ever played a session for the man himself (perhaps Peel thought they had, as he was confusing Bob Mould with Billy Bragg). They’re also quite hard to find on great-quality YouTube, but here’s their Love is All Around from their Eight Miles High EP:

I saw Martin Simpson play Truck XI this year, and my brief single moblog comment doesn’t really do the man justice. I would have twittered more, but generally I can’t type straight with my heart in my mouth. If Little Fish are two people sounding like four, Martin Simpson is one person and his guitar pulling the same trick.

His most recent album Prodigal Son (buy) is, on first hearing, strong and rich. It includes Simpson’s versions of Duncan & Brady and Little Musgrave (I can’t quite get over folk’s complete acceptance of the cover version, but these are both ace), and the gutwrenching Never Any Good, which he performed at the BBC Folk Proms shortly after Truck this year:

My final purchase yesterday was Kala by M.I.A. (buy). M.I.A. very much sits the furthest from my comfort zone of these three, but the brilliant Adam and Joe show on 6Music is dragging me kicking and screaming towards jungle, hip-hop and (whisper it!) world music.

The standout—by which I mean most accessible to fearful white men like me—track on the album is undoubtedly Paper Planes, which is gaining traction on the airwaves in the US, and diss videos from buffoons. Here’s what M.I.A. told Fader Magazine about the song.

[The sample of the gun reloading and then the cash register ringing] was a joke. I was having this stupid visa problem and I didn’t know what it was, aside from them thinking that I might to fly a plane into the Trade Center – which is the only reason that they would put me through this….

… I was going to get patties at my local, and just thinking that really the worst thing that anyone can say [to someone these days] is some shit like: “What I wanna do is come and get your money.” People don’t really feel like immigrants or refugees contribute to culture in any way. That they’re just leeches that suck from whatever.

So in the song I say “All I wanna do is [sound of gun shooting and reloading, cash register opening] and take your money.” I did it in sound effects. It’s up to you how you want to interpret. America is so obsessed with money, I’m sure they’ll get it.

Peel would have got it; he was getting this sort of thing back in the 1980s, only he was getting The Smiths at the same time.

This entry was posted in art, artists, husker_du, john_peel_meme, mia, music, simpson_martin, truck_festival, venues. Bookmark the permalink.

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