Get folked

Save yourself from pap pop with accordions and violins.

January can be a bit quiet when it comes to music. A lot of it is taken up by people in the industry predicting what will be popular in the year ahead. I'm not all that fussed about knowing what you or I are going to listen to this year. I'd like to think my favourite records of 2011 will
be by people I have yet to hear, or that perhaps some new form of alien sound is going to descend on the planet and change music for ever.

I do know, however, what I will be listening to for the next couple of months because I am already listening to it and have been for quite some time. I listen to music quite erratically and in quite an unprofessional and childish way - perhaps not listening to anything for a day or two, then a sack of albums in just a few hours. When I find something I like, I tend to listen to it over and over again until I get it so thoroughly stuck in my head that I don't want to listen to anything else. Over the years I have managed to train my brain to be able to pick out very quickly the things it might like to get stuck in it. I thought perhaps I could suggest some new things you might like to get stuck in yours.

My most recent obsession is an American folk band called Dark Dark Dark, a rather lost- looking bunch whose numbers fluctuate and who briefly claimed they met as a result of choosing to sleep under the same bridge. I met them recently at a gig in London and they are a slightly odd and, by their own admission, pretentious lot. Their songs contain a great deal of accordion and piano, sitting often quite dramatically at the front of most of their songs. Those instruments alone could make even the most bitter heart swoon before anyone has sung a word.

I gush a little when I talk about Dark Dark Dark and this is because the noise they make is stupendously beautiful. It is also tragic and has a tendency to make me cry a bit, which makes them quite hard to introduce on the radio. Despite their ability to bring out my more pathetic side, I have managed to play their records so often that I've been accused of having a vested interest in their sales figures, which would be absurd, as they currently don't have any records you can buy. Their album, Wild Go, is out in the spring but until then you will have to put up with streaming their records on the internet. Do it as often as I have and soon your brain will be able to play it back to you perfectly without the need of a stereo.

Shit Horse, from Brooklyn, have a silly name but are really rather good, moving wildly from screeching blues to psychedelic rock with the odd moment of tranquillity in between. I haven't heard anything like them before and am therefore rather excited by them. I get the impression they don't take themselves all that seriously so perhaps it is our duty to do that for them. Their album is called They Shit Horses, Don't They?, which isn't going to make our task any easier.

There's one more band that I can guarantee won't get the attention they deserve. A Hawk and a Hacksaw are a couple from New Mexico. With just the use of an accordion and a violin - we'll call it "Balkan folk" - they can fill the largest of rooms with joy. Their album Cervantine is out in March; it will make you want to run away with a family of gypsies.

I am trying to assist you in letting good music get stuck in your head because if you leave a void, something awful might find its way in. My little sister has a nasty but effective trick she plays, which involves saying, "Simply Red - 'Fairground'" when she greets you in the morning. It stays with you all day, torturing your mind. Oh no, you haven't got that stuck in your head, have you? Quick, go and listen to the bands I mentioned - they'll wash it out. l

Tom Ravenscroft's radio show is on BBC 6 Music every Friday at 9pm

Fresh sounds from the BBC 6 Music DJ
Vevo
Show Hide image

Katy Perry’s new song is not so much Chained to the Rhythm as Chained to a Black Mirror episode

The video for “Chained to the Rhythm” is overwhelmingly pastel and batshit crazy. Watch out, this satire is sharp!

If you’ve tuned into the radio in the last month, you might have heard Katy Perry’s new song, “Chained to the Rhythm”, a blandly hypnotic single that’s quietly, creepingly irresistible.

If you’re a really attuned listener, you might have noticed that the lyrics of this song explore that very same atmosphere. “Are we crazy?” Perry sings, “Living our lives through a lens?”

Trapped in our white picket fence
Like ornaments
So comfortable, we’re living in a bubble, bubble
So comfortable, we cannot see the trouble, trouble
Aren’t you lonely?
Up there in utopia
Where nothing will ever be enough
Happily numb

The chorus muses that we all “think we’re free” but are, in fact, “stumbling around like a wasted zombie, yeah.” It’s a swipe (hehe) at social media, Instagram culture, online dating, whatever. As we all know, modern technology is Bad, people who take photos aren’t enjoying the moment, and glimpses other people’s Perfect Lives leave us lonely and empty. Kids these days just don’t feel anything any more!!!

The video for this new song was released today, and it’s set in a (get this) METAPHORICAL AMUSEMENT PARK. Not since Banky’s Dismaland have we seen such cutting satire of modern life. Walk with me, through Katy Perry’s OBLIVIA.

Yes, the park is literally called Oblivia. Get it? It sounds fun but it’s about oblivion, the state of being unaware or unconscious, i.e. the state we’re all living in, all the time, because phones. (I also personally hope it’s a nod to Staffordshire’s own Oblivion, but cannot confirm if Katy Perry has ever been on the Alton Towers classic steel roller coaster.)

The symbol of the park is a spaced-out gerbil thing, because, aren’t we all caged little hairy beings in our own hamster wheels?! Can’t someone get us off this never-ending rat race?!

We follow Katy as she explores the park – her wide eyes take in every ride, while her peers are unable to look past the giant iPads pressed against their noses.


You, a mindless drone: *takes selfies with an iPad*
Katy Perry, a smart, engaged person: *looks around with actual human eyes, stops to smell the roses*

She walks past rides, and stops to smell the roses – and the pastel-perfect world is injected with a dose of bright red reality when she pricks her finger on a thorn. Cause that’s what life really is, kids! Risk! At least she FEELS SOMETHING.


More like the not-so-great American Dream, am I right?!

So Katy (wait, “Rose”, apparently) takes her seat on her first ride – the LOVE ME ride. Heteronormative couples take their seats against either a blue heart or a pink one, before being whizzed through a tunnel of Facebook reaction icons.

Is this a comment on social media sexism, or a hint that Rose is just too damn human for your validation station? Who knows! All we can say for sure is that Katy Perry has definitely seen the Black Mirror episode “Nosedive”:

Now, we see a whole bunch of other rides.


Wait time: um, forever, because the human condition is now one of permanent stasis and unsatisfied desires, duh.

No Place Like Home is decorated with travel stamps and catapults two of the only black people in the video out of the park. A searing comment on anti-immigrant rhetoric/racism? Uh, maybe?

Meanwhile, Bombs Away shoots you around like you’re in a nuclear missile.


War: also bad.

Then everyone goes and takes a long drink of fire water (?!?!) at Inferno H2O (?!?!) which is also a gas station. Is this about polluted water or petrol companies or… drugs? Or are we just so commercialised even fire and water are paid-for privileges? I literally don’t know.

Anyway, Now it’s time for the NUCLEAR FAMILY SHOW, in 3D, no less. Rose is last to put her glasses on because, guess what? She’s not a robot. The show includes your typical 1950s family ironing and shit, while hamsters on wheels run on the TV. Then we see people in the rest of theme park running on similar wheels. Watch out! That satire is sharp.

Skip Marley appears on the TV with his message of “break down the walls to connect, inspire”, but no one seems to notice accept Rose, and soon becomes trapped in their dance of distraction.


Rose despairs amidst the choreography of compliance.

Wow, if that didn’t make you think, are you even human? Truly?

In many ways – this is the Platonic ideal of Katy Perry videos: overwhelmingly pastel, batshit crazy, the campest of camp, yet somehow walking the fine line between self-ridicule and terrifying sincerity. It might be totally stupid, but it’s somehow still irresistible.

But then I would say that. I’m a mindless drone, stumbling around like a wasted zombie, injecting pop culture like a prescription sedative.

I’m chained…………. to the rhythm.

Anna Leszkiewicz is a pop culture writer at the New Statesman.