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McCarthy / Herzfeld / Stereolab

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silverphisch @ 01:05 am: The following is an interview with 'McCarthy' published in the NME, 12th December 1987.
... In the naive and cumbersome words of Bob Stanley:


The first thing that strikes you about McCarthy is that they look so bloody normal. Could these whippersnappers really be behind some awesomely powerful pop as 'Red Sleeping Beauty'?
Sprawled out around a Barking sitting room are singer Malcolm, guitarist Tim and drummer Gary, who looks as if he'd be more at home on an athletics track than a drumkit. The boys are fresh from a bizarre sounding interview with Radio London: "It was this geezer who does a programme Cowboys and Indies. He didn't look at us at all, just into his microphone, and he was asking some wierd questions" says Tim. "He said 'say a rude word'".
Malcolm chips in: "He asked me 'what are you doing after this interview?' and i said 'what do you mean?'. He said 'well, nice looking boys like you...'"
"I don't believe he said that!" chortles Tim.

Phew, ten minutes gone and not a mention of Satre. Are the boys having an off day or have I got the wrong idea about them?
"Nah! You've got us all wrong mate!" Tim tells me. "We did a thing for Sounds and it reads as if we were coming out with all these profoundities, he mixed things together so it looked as if we were making huge statements and spouting all sorts of manifestoes."
But your song titles are a trifle heavy, are they not? Malcolm, who writes all McCarthy lyrics, seems quite upset.
"But they're meant to be ironic!"
Oh yeah, I can see that, but if i hadn't heard anything by you I'm sure they would have put me off.
"Well at the same time there's nothing abstract about the titles. Like 'The Procession of Popular Capitalism', it could have had a mundane title like 'The Share Offer Song' but I gave it a jokey title instead. If i wrote a song about gorillas I wouldn't call it hamsters though. By the way what are your favourite songs on the LP?"
I make the grave mistake of saying 'An MP Speaks' and jaws drop.
"B-but... that's meant to be a JOKE song though!" stammers Tim, a look of abject horror on his face. "The music's a joke, sort of cabaret so it appeals to people. And unfortunately everyone says it's their favourite song."
Malcolm reveals all: "I wrote this lyric about ******** ****** who at the same time was going on about child abuse and morality while it struck me that his intense interest was a little unhealthy to say the least" can YOU guess who it's about, viewers?
"Then we did this awful hammy tune which was totally against the lyric. What other songs of ours do you like?"
I mention 'Red Sleeping Beauty', one of the most beautiful singles of 1986, at once towering and fragile, described by one writer as a "cathedral of sound".
"Nah, crap! Sounds like a U2 song."

Once I've been told that bassist John won the 'Most Beautiful Baby In Barking' competition in 1963, the subject turns to record labels. They are currently on the tiny September label, but some major have recently shown some keen interest. Would you sign?
"Well, it would depend upon what the label looked like" offers Tim. Malcolm: "Major labels are getting reactionary. I mean, I'm starting to write things which are getting a bit rude, politically risking, I don't think they'd put up with it. They may start censoring us so I'm a bit worried about signing to a major. It's like that thing on Spitting Image. Prince 'Rambo' William killing Prince Harry -- it's on the front page of The Sun, they want the programme banned"
The conversation suddenly becomes more serious. The stage has been set and now we see McCarthy with their politics, party and musical, showing quite clearly. Malcolm: "At the moment you get people trying to appeal to everyone, to the lowest common denominator, that's what the labour party are doing. You may as well just say what you think all the time. You have to be unreasonable these days."
Surely you have to use reason?
"No", argues Tim, "I disagree. I mean the most we could hope to do is cause a riot"
Pardon me?
"I don't think merely entertaining people is a good enough reason for being in a group, it ought to affect people."
Oh, I don't know -- why do you read a book, to be entertained, yeah?
Malcolm disagrees: "What dreary book would you read just to be entertained? What book is entertaining without changing you? I mean we do want to entertain but we want to build on that. 'The international Narcotics Traffic' on the LP is about that - people just seeing groups to pass the time. Treating music as a narcotic, the King Kurt syndrome."
I'm just saying I don't think music necessarily needs 'a message'.
"Who are you favourite group at the moment?" asks Malcolm.
Umm, the Razorcuts I suppose.
"Well, the Razorcuts write about love in a fairly conventional way, the Beatles were doing that in 1963. It's too easy to repeat what's been done before, you should avoid repitition. I don't think watered down versions of what's been done before are good enough. Like Gaye bikers On Acid, it's all 'a laugh', a few drinks and all that, but it's a totally vacuous exercise.
"I don't see why pop music shouldn't be more adventurous, I think it's just as valid as literature or art. Why should people repeat the same trivial crap? I don't see The Housemartins as challenging - that 'love is the answer' thing that got to number one, that wasn't challenging."
Does music have to be challenging?
"It does! Why are the Housemartins in existence if not just to make themselves rich?"
Tim sums up: "The point is there is a lot more potential in pop than is exploited at the moment. There's only as much in pop music as you put there."


[User Picture]
Date:July 16th, 2004 05:28 pm (UTC)
I have to admit that I really like 'An MP speaks' but it's not exactly my favourite. I think that it's hard to gage to what extent somebody has analysed a song and the amount of insight that that person has gained. You can never underestimate the intelligence of the average Joe. Having said that focalisation is a well-trodden narrative technique and so you really would expect people to pick up on how cheesy and ironic the song is... mind you, how many idiots took offence to Morrissey's 'National Front Disco'?
[User Picture]
Date:July 16th, 2004 06:22 pm (UTC)
this journalist - Bob Stanley - is about as creative in his writing as i am in my choice of breakfast cereals.

I really cannot fathom as to precisely who 'An MP Speaks' is about.
"******** ******"?
Date:July 24th, 2005 10:01 pm (UTC)
great article.
thanks you very much.
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