Friday, 7 January 2011

M - Pop Muzik (1979/ No. 2/ 23 weeks/ MCA)

"n reification. materialisation, turning into an object; depersonalisation (esp in Marxist terminology)"

Talk about!
Pop pop pop pop musik!"

Its perhaps the ultimate punk record, if you understand punk to be something more than the superficial signifiers of youngish men in black leather jackets and ramalama three chords, but as meaning a certain playfulness of approach, political awareness, and do-it-yourself aesthetic.

Robin Scott was an old 1968 art school co-conspiritor and flatmate of Malcolm McLaren's, and 'Pop Muzik' shares a situationist intent with McLaren's work: showing how the spectacle operates and defines our lives through disrupting the spectacle, hopefully with an ironic, colourful, sense of playfulness. So 'Pop Muzik' acts as a critique of the act of listening to pop music, and demonstrates how this functions as a process of consumption.

Consumerism works through persuading us that our sense of self, and self-value, is bolstered through buying things. 'Pop Muzik' suggests how we as consumers co-opt pop music to form our identities - "Listen to the countdown! They're playin' our song again!" - and in turn, become further in thrall to the process of capitalism;

Let's do the milkshake sellin' like a hotcake
Try some! Buy some! fee-fi-fo-fum

Pop music, of course, also offers the consumer the attractive prospect of escapism;

You're livin' in a disco!
Forget about the rat race!

And creates a sense of identity ("I wanna dedicate it!") and community ("Everybody made it!") for the listener, adrift in an overwhelming and unsettling global system of commerce and communications;

All around the world...
wherever you are...

New York London Paris Munich
Everybody talk about - Pop muzik!

And presents us with a sense of pleasurable - sexy, even - consumer options we can customise for our personal gratifications;

Dance in the street!
Anything you like!
Do it in your car!
In the middle of the night!

The single shows us some possibilities for how to engage and function within with this world of mass consumption. Revolutionary action is briefly alluded to ("Mix me a Molotov!"), but achieving something more lasting within the spectacle seems the more genuinely challenging option;

(Shoobie doobie do wop!)
Infiltrate it...
(Pop pop shoo wop!)

'Pop Muzik' is thankfully a lot more than a tract, though. Pop culture - dancing, fashion, romance - is often tremendous fun, after all! 'Pop Muzik' wouldn't work if it wasn't a beguiling five minutes of stream-of-consciousness rock'n'roll nonsense, and wouldn't have had so much effect if it hadn't become a bona fide massive global hit (number one in America, two in the UK, behind Art Garfunkel's 'Bright Eyes'). While looking ahead to the bright, shiny, clever new pop of the early eighties, it simultaneously evokes the joys of pop of old through some shorthand allusions; the guitar line sounds like The Shadows' 'Apache'; the skwarking saxophone reminds me of Jr Walker.

Its both a brilliant pop single and an amazingly successful piece of pop art.

"Do you read me?
Loud and clear!"

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