PDA

View Full Version : Lloyd Bradley - Sounds Like London



Slothrop
17-11-2014, 10:55 PM
Anyone else read this? History of black music scenes in London from about 1920 to the present, written by That Bloke Who Wrote Bass Culture.

I generally found it pretty interesting - there's a bit of a cosy, celebratory vibe to the whole thing, but there's loads of stuff about scenes that I knew very little about, eg calypso, steel pan, 70s UK soul, and some cool stuff about the US and Caribbean influence on afro-funk being channelled through the London scene. So I'd recommend it to anyone who isn't already an expert on that stuff.

But oh my days the last couple of chapters (jungle, garage, dubstep, grime, pop-grime) are shoddy. To pick a few examples
* on jungle, talks about V Records and Congo Natty but doesn't mention Reinforced, Sub Base or Moving Shadow
* "it wasn't unusual to find black kids at hardcore raves, however, this had more to do with increased multi-cultural socializing than their being genuinely engaged in the scene"
* weirdly, quotes Wookie as saying that "the hardcore scene was mostly Manchester"
* label shot of Ripgroove is clearly the 2006 Skint remix 12"
* talks at length about grime without mentioning Wiley except in passing
* "Pretty quickly, grime had acheived a self-sustaining upward spiral..."
* "it's not hard to see [...] why grime went mass-market so quickly"
etc.

I thought at first that he had an interesting thesis to advance that challenged the nuumologists by positioning the core of jungle as basically an organic development of ragga soundsystem culture rather than a development of hardcore rave, but on further reading I got the impression that he knows roughly feck all about anything that happened after about 1990, interviewed a couple of people and pulled together a few odds and ends that fitted his general narrative.

So yeah, in a weird symmetry with Bass Culture, read the book but stop before the last couple of chapters.

droid
18-11-2014, 09:19 AM
lol. Yeah, makes sense. If he's blind to everything that happened in dancahall post sleng teng, how is he going to write anything decent about everything it influenced?

Also some cultural revisionism going on in all his stuff, privileging particular views on reggae, musicianship and authenticity. Old man disease.

rubberdingyrapids
18-11-2014, 09:58 AM
he did a pretty big piece on grime for mojo in around 2004 iirc, i think his heart was in the right place, but he didnt really have the knowledge, only kept drawing comparisons between the infrastructure of punk and grime, so what youre saying about the book is not so surprising. slightly off topic, but he and don letts seem to be the safe go-to guys for old rockers/punks looking for someone with some sort of reggae cred, guys who will basically tell them that yeah, its all been downhill since the 70s, nothing good has happened in jamaican music since then (or black music overall maybe). i remember seeing don letts at some event for one of simon reynolds' books (i think it was the bring the noise one), and he was at pains to tell the audience how he couldnt listen to dancehall today because of the homophobia, which of course IS a problem, but it just seemed a bit too readily apologetic. all playing it a bit too safe and binary imo... anyway, back to lloyd bradley and his book, which i would still like to read, cos the stuff hes writing about IS still a kind of secret history of london - everyone knows about punk, mods, the 60s, etc, but info on the genres hes talking about are much less accessible. maybe it should have just ended with the 80s. ill wait for bbc4 to make it a series.

droid
18-11-2014, 11:25 AM
Dont mention Don Letts or you'll have Martin along with his dossier!

Slothrop
18-11-2014, 12:53 PM
Also some cultural revisionism going on in all his stuff, privileging particular views on reggae, musicianship and authenticity. Old man disease.

He mostly keeps a lid on that stuff in SLL, so that's a plus. His general narrative arc is along the lines of "great black music scenes keep cropping up in London, keep almost making a sustainable crossover into the pop mainstream but failing (often because the record business is clueless and/or racist), finally pop-grime does it and you get people like Tinie Tempah who are fully fledged pop stars who are still very much of black London, hooray." And either he's actually mellowed or he's got to keep up the "isn't it brilliant" narrative arc but he's generally good with eg early grime producers banging tunes out on Playstations.

Slothrop
18-11-2014, 01:07 PM
he did a pretty big piece on grime for mojo in around 2004 iirc, i think his heart was in the right place, but he didnt really have the knowledge,

Yeah, that's about right. You get the feeling that he didn't really know much at all, interviewed a few generally decent people (eg Jammer, Wookie, Zed Bias, Marc Williams from A Homeboy A Hippie and a Funki Dred) and then put something together without having the general background to see if there was some perspective that they were missing.


slightly off topic, but he and don letts seem to be the safe go-to guys for old rockers/punks looking for someone with some sort of reggae cred, guys who will basically tell them that yeah, its all been downhill since the 70s, nothing good has happened in jamaican music since then (or black music overall maybe).

Nah, he's actually quite good on that in this case.


anyway, back to lloyd bradley and his book, which i would still like to read, cos the stuff hes writing about IS still a kind of secret history of london - everyone knows about punk, mods, the 60s, etc, but info on the genres hes talking about are much less accessible. maybe it should have just ended with the 80s.
Yeah, agree with that. Definitely worth reading if eg you didn't know [fact alert!] that Louis Farrakhan was a calypso singer.

It's annoying, though, because seeing jungle as a progression from sound systems mixing up ragga and hip hop as well as from big outdoor raves playing breakbeat hardcore seems like a perspective that's underplayed in Energy Flash (or at least, I haven't properly grokked how it fits in - people like Shut Up And Dance get a mention early on but then sort of drop out of the narrative...)

droid
18-11-2014, 01:19 PM
As we all know jungle came about when that sound system tradition met rave - Im sure its a canonical part of the nuum now, though its been an age since I read EF so maybe its underplayed. TBF, there probably wasnt a huge amount out there on the topic when it was written.

rubberdingyrapids
18-11-2014, 01:26 PM
i dont think energy flash was all that big on soundsystem culture iirc. def didnt downplay the dancehall/dub/reggae influence but not sure the whole SS culture was included all that much. i think SR would have been more interested in the new UK sounds developed through soundsystem culture rather than the straighter JA stuff happening in london, same way i doubt he cared much about uk hip hop from that time but was more interested in tricky etc.


He mostly keeps a lid on that stuff in SLL, so that's a plus. His general narrative arc is along the lines of "great black music scenes keep cropping up in London, keep almost making a sustainable crossover into the pop mainstream but failing (often because the record business is clueless and/or racist), finally pop-grime does it and you get people like Tinie Tempah who are fully fledged pop stars who are still very much of black London, hooray." And either he's actually mellowed or he's got to keep up the "isn't it brilliant" narrative arc but he's generally good with eg early grime producers banging tunes out on Playstations.

probably more the celebratory 'isnt it brilliant' narrative. the grime kids-as-pop stars moment has already ended hasnt it? or its definitely peaked at least. the industry liked tinie and labrynth making them a bit of money, and felt they couldnt ignore it forever, but they have no real longterm interest in fostering careers for these artists. so the happy ending seems pretty shortlived.