heard on the wire

Love of life makes you feel higher

Red Light

The first thing I do after adding a song to iTunes is delete the genre. If ever a label were completely devoid of meaning, it is ”alternative & punk”; likewise “rock” or “pop”.

I like to think of most of the music on this blog, itself a reasonable reflection of my complete collection, as “rock ’n’ pop”, a description that blends what have been two predominant, mutually nourishing streams in popular music since Elvis first gyrated his hips.

Sadly it’s a label that’s never caught on and, in the absence of a better suggestion, the genre field stays blank.

Of course, this being a rule, there are exceptions. Reggae, blues and country are not only useful definitions—particularly if I want to listen to some reggae, blues or country—they also have specific cultural, historical and political roots; likewise classical.

And even those cover a multitude of sins, it’s all so vague and unsatisfactory. As for those genres with a multitude of subdivisions—dance and metal music—the precision only leads to exclusivity, the arcane language of a private club.

All this is why the discerning music blogger is happy to bring you music from every point in the popular spectrum. (I avoid classical, where my lack of knowledge would plainly be offensive, and the impenetrablye morass of the four-people-in-separate-rooms-making-it-up-as-they-go-along variety of jazz.)

In that vein, the usual guitar diet is supplemented by this delightfully haunting electronica, a collaboration between French ambienteers Krono and the sweet soul voices of Vanjess.

Krono featuring Vanjess :: Redlight

The absurdity of genre is never more obvious than in the case of Siouxsie and the Banshees. Having hung around with the Sex Pistols and emerging from that punk scene, it was perhaps inevitable that they would be labelled as such. And indeed they are, as their Wikipedia entry testifies.

But they’re also “alternative rock, post punk, gothic rock” and “new wave“—none of which remotely describe the band’s onomatopoeic third LP, Kaleidoscope, which is as close to the prevailing electronic trends of 1980 as it is to the band’s roots.

Siouxsie and the Banshees :: Red Light

Audio MP3


At least the Clash could reasonably be described as a punk band; their self-titled debut LP is one of the classics of the genre. But has there ever been a band more willing to defy typecasting?

While the most uncompromisingly punk records were remarkable in reflecting nothing of popular music’s roots in black music (a point Danny Baker made on a recent TV documentary), punk and reggae stood side-by-side in the late ’70s, both as the music of a disaffected youth and as the soundtrack to Rock Against Racism. The marriage manifested itself in the Ruts’ roots-tinged Love in Vain, Stiff Little Fingers’ cover of Bob Marley’s Rita Marley-penned Johnny Was and both The Clash’s greatest single, (White Man) in Hammersmith Palais and, on that first, “punk” LP, their take on a song originally written and recorded by Junior Murvin and Lee “Scratch” Perry.

The Clash :: Police and Thieves

Audio MP3


In the end, it’s all just music.

Joy Division :: The Sound of Music

Audio MP3


Photo: Go; some rights reserved.

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heard on the wire is a blog about music old and new, but mostly new. It occasionally uses 21st century file formats that may not be supported by 20th century web browsers. For best results use Safari or Chrome. And If you like the music posted here, please think of the effort and expense that has gone into making it and consider buying a copy of your own.


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