Home > The posts that celebrate themselves > The posts that celebrate themselves: Babyshambles, Dizzee Rascal and Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong, Wembley Arena 27/11/07

The posts that celebrate themselves: Babyshambles, Dizzee Rascal and Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong, Wembley Arena 27/11/07


Far be it from me to blow my own horn too heavily, but occasionally I do come across something I wrote a year or so ago that reminds me that when it comes to music crit, I’m the only big money game in town. So here’s the first in an occasional series here at ILB where we just copy and paste a review I wrote elsewhere 12 months ago because, to be frank, you almost certainly didn’t bother reading the site it was on in the first place. Because you had they’d have enough money to (zing deleted on legal grounds).

Joe Lean, Joe Lean, Joe Lean,_ Joe Lean, I’m begging on you please: stop now. I’m loathe to clown Mr Lean and his ‘Jing Jang Jong’ too heavily, because, rest assured, chucklehead music critics are going to be lining up in forthcoming months to take pot-shots at these dudes. It’s just far too easy to sit and listen to a band who, 15 minutes into their set, the only thought you can muster up is _“Okay, form a band that sounds exactly like Razorlight, fine: they sell a lot of records, and dignity is over-rated. But form a band that sound like Razorlight without any pop sensibility whatsoever? What kind of fucking zero sum game is that?”

JL&TJJJ have this weird, painful quality of a group lifted directly out of a sixth form practice room and dumped on a large stage with the world’s most expensive amplification system, without being given any instructions on what to do with it. They thus make that loud-yet-nowhere-near-rocking noise that has all of the subtlety and charm of Keane being played through a Notting Hill Carnival soundsystem. Or a sonic boom. The dude even throws in a spot of angular dancing at one point, presumably to make us all nod sagely and go,_ “Ah, Ian Curtis, there was a flame that burned out too soon”_, but actually just lets you know what Larry Grayson suffering an epileptic fit would have looked like.

This shower is followed by Dizzee Rascal. Some part of me wants to feel sorry for Dizzee. In 2003, he was media-ordained ‘voice of yoof’, and preparing to ascend to a position as a major player in world hip-hop. Four years later he’s shuckin’ and jivin’ for a bunch of indie kids waiting for a junkie-fronted C-list pop act to turn up. To his credit, his performance brings to mind Doctors and the Medics rocking out your local village fete: he knows his role, he knows you just wanna hear the hits, and he gets down to his grind.

It’s awkward though. Very awkward. The crowd bounces hard for ‘Flex’ (preceded by the Raskit shouting, “ARE THERE ANY SEXY LAYDEEZ IN THE AUDIENCE?”_ to a crowd that has an average age of 15-and-a-half), but with every single motion they make, you’re expecting 3,000 people to collectively channel Emily Parr at any moment. Particularly the three gymkhana-looking bitches sat in front of me who seemed to find the very concept of dancing to ‘urban’ music the peak of outrageousness.

But there’s an awkward truth at the heart of Dizzee Rascal nobody wants to acknowledge, but it just becomes too apparent live. Okay, he’s not hip-hop, we argued out that point in 2005. So we went off and said, oh, he’s grime, he’s urban, he’s part of a chain of British music going through jungle and 2-step and blah blah blah. Do you really think 13-year-old Dizzee was listening to Wookie? Of course he wasn’t: dude’s a failed mosher kid. Think about it. Sit down, ignore the vocals, listen to the tracks. ‘Jus’ A Rascal’ is one of Trent Reznor’s old-school robot-molestation joints, while ‘Fix Up Look Sharp’ is a less danceable version of what the Ramirez / Gacy / Fish axis used to serve up in their sleep circa Mechanical Animals. And, really, should we be praising a guy who makes his own particular brand of music because he can’t play bass, and stays awake at night crying over the fact that he’s not a member of, I dunno, Trivium or Bullet For My Valentine? No. No we shouldn’t.

Cynicism is too easy, yes, and admittedly he can move the crowd, so give him credit for what he is: a decent showman. But then again, so’s Joe Longthorne, and I know whose back catalogue I’d rather sit down and listen through. Plus the sole reason to see Dizzee live is to laugh at DJ Semtex and his lack of a right arm. That shit never gets old.

So as one ‘poet for a generation’ becomes a version of Lethal B with less shitty sunglasses, another one seems to be doing okay for himself. Doherty walks on stage (he doesn’t stumble), decked in all black with a porkpie hat and a shit-load of Lizzie Duke chains, looking to all the world like a kid with sickle cell trick-or-treating in the world’s worst Jam Master Jay costume. And Winehouse becoming the tabloid fuckup a la mode has obviously suited the guy: there’s no falling over, walking off after two songs, or drool running down his chin, just so you know he’s TROUBLED. In fact, the guy appears to have his shit together so much that he’s forced into adding missed notes into his guitar solos (there’s none missed during the songs themselves), just so you are reminded that he’s TROUBLED.

The worst thing about Doherty is that his shtick is actually genuine, which is a weird concept in modern day indie. While his guitar-drums-bass peers are wandering around pretending to be lads, working class, heavy drinkers, bisexual, etc etc, he ploughs his own furrow as a romantic nationalist (Google the term: it explains so much with regards to his career to date). And that’s annoying, of course: Byron was a cunt, and Doherty, wandering around a stage designed to look like a selection of World War II matchbooks (seriously), doing Kinks pastiche after Kinks pastiche after Kinks pastiche is… horrid.

So bombarded are you with visions of Englishness (Union Jacks on stage, from back when ‘English’ meant ‘Countries governed by England’, Winnie Churchill and Tony Hancock images on the backdrop, faux-working men’s club comperes introducing it all), that the entire event begins to resemble Henman Hill with reverb.

I used to think it was a class thing with Doherty, then I thought it was an age thing (I’m about three years too old to have spent my campus years writing really awful “Actually, I don’t like The Libertines, marvel at my shocking opinion” articles for my student newspaper). Then I thought it was a nationalist thing, the same reason 1950s kitchen sink dramas leave me cold (this isn’t my past, my grandparents didn’t live through this, how can I relate?). But it’s none of them. The reason Doherty means nothing to me, and never will, is because he’s wrong.

It’s all about Englishness, sure. But it’s an Englishness that’s never existed. Doherty is a man whose entire concept of Albion is borne entirely from Smiths album artwork. The back artwork, with Churchill, Hancock, all manner of other clichéd dead Brits interspersed with image after image after image of dead 1940s dolly birds, 1930s whiskey adverts, none of it is real, none of it has anything to do with England. Babyshambles are basically the décor for an English theme restaurant located somewhere in Delaware, or Maryland.

Does the music even matter? I can’t see how it does. Doherty has no vocal skills and no stage presence, and yet there’s a few thousand kids here who have their spokesman. One song kinda sounds like Cast. They do the song about giros, it makes me nauseous to actually sit and listen through. They end with ‘Fuck Forever’ (admittedly a lot better live than it is on CD), accompanied by a crowd karaoke, the crowd singing along helped by a bouncing ball in the shape of the Union Jack on the backdrop. It takes every ounce of strength in my body to not shout “COME ON TIM” while this is going on. We need a Andy Murray of indie, ASAP.

  1. Nathan Woolls
    December 12, 2008 at 9:59 am

    I DID read this at the time, thought it was one of the best things I’d ever read then, and still do know. Sometimes, you’re a fucking genius, Dom.

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: