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FACT At 10, Part Three: the best lists from the last decade, and two of our favourite takedowns

This year, FACT turns 10. 

FACT began life as a bi-monthly print magazine in 2003, before transforming into an online-only publication in 2008. To mark a decade of operations, we’ll be using this week to assess our favourite content from the last 10 years – much of which is being made available online for the first time.

So far this week, we’ve assessed our favourite features and top interviews from the last decade. Today, we assess our 10 favourite list features from the vaults. There’s a wealth of killer stuff here: Simon Reynolds’ guide to bleep; the 10 best electronic music documentaries ever made; a full guide to Theo Parrish’s back catalogue; and the 20 most important tracks in grime. As a supplement, we’ve also popped up a few selected instalments of our polemical ‘Fuck No’ column, which ran on the last page of the print magazine for a number of years. Enjoy.


Andrew Weatherall 


Lists

10 electronic music docs you need to see (2012)

Lunatic acid in The Hague, Source Direct rolling top-down in St. Albans, jungle pirate radio under the microscope, Bob Moog up close…we don’t know a single person who hasn’t come away from this elec-doc rundown without at least one film to add to their bucket list.

20 best: Acid House records ever made (2009)

What with recent electrospectives from the likes of Soul Jazz and Harmless, Acid is undergoing a thorough reappraisal in 2013. As primers go, however, we’ll always pin our colours to Ed DMX’s comprehensive survey of the best 12″s released from 1988-9.

20 best: Rockabilly records ever made (2009)

“Gyrate, gyrate, do the jive.” Avuncular dance legend and sterling dude Andrew Weatherall offers a high-speed crash course in amped-up rhythm and blues. If Peanuts Wilson, The Jiants and Reverend Horton Heat have yet to flash up on your musical radar, you’re in the right place.

20 best: UK Techno records ever made (2010)

It was toss-up between this and our 2013 guide to the greatest techno albums you’ve never heard, but Toby Frith’s guide to homegrown techno got the nod, if only for the way in which it puts homegrown techno’s recent purple patch in its proper context.

The Essential…Theo Parrish (2010)

Few people excite quite as much fevered admiration as Theo Parrish: like Madlib or Jandek , once you’re in, you’re in. Our primer, written by super-fan Mr. Beatnick, is the perfect point of entry for those looking to get wise to Detroit’s great producer-cum-theorist-cum-sculptor-cum-archivist.


Ed DMX


Simon Reynolds’ Bleep 20 (2008)

Big Daddy Reynolds’ survey of bleep’n’bass is a typically authoritative take on a very particular strand of classic rave music. From Sweet Exorcist to Ability II, these records form a rich alternative history that the likes of wonky, purple and dubstep remain quietly indebted to.

20 best: Soundtracks ever made (2009)

A cornucopia of curios, courtesy of movie fanatic Jonny Trunk. With OST reissues arriving ten-a-penny, this is a great jump-off point for the wannabe cineaste, covering everything from Morricone to Mancini to The Monkees to Magne.

20 best: Grime records ever made (2011)

We don’t think there’s a better portal into the noisy, aggy, rambunctious cypher of classic grime than Tom Lea’s Dorling Kindersley guide to the sound that shook the Noughties.

The Essential… Madlib (2011)

A beginner’s guide to the work of one of hip-hop’s maddest, baddest, most obsession-inspiring producers, from rap classics like Madvillainy to his oft-overlooked broken beat work.

20 best: Argentine Psych ever made  (2009) 

…and finally, a walk on the wild side. Kek-w (“Who else?”, sigh FACT’s long-term readers) goes deep on Argentina’s rich psych-rock heritage, and introduces you to a string of wonderful bands you’ve never heard of. And, really, isn’t that what every list should be about?

Use your keyboard’s arrow keys or hit the prev / next arrows on your screen to turn pages (page 1/2)

For several years, FACT’s print magazine back page was dedicated to ‘Fuck No!’ – you can probably guess the tone of the articles already. Here, we’ve republished two of our favourite takedowns – K-Punk on Sandi ‘I Wish I Was a Punk Rocker’ Thom, and Simon Hampson on Mika:


“The success of Sandi Thom’s ghastly ‘I Wish I Was a Punk Rocker (With Feathers in my Hair)’ is one of the most wretched moments in pop history.

You all know the (fairy) story: poor, desperate wee Sandi, down to her last PR consultant, was reduced to webcasting her songs from her “piss-stained basement” in Tooting. “Rumours of her gigs spread like wildfire over MySpace.com”, and she soon had a number one single.

Whether the MySpace story – now so discredited that Thom and her manager, Ian Wellesley Brown, have taken to downplaying it – is true or not is no longer the issue. The more interesting question is what trumped-up “internet sensations” tell us about the mechanics of hype in contemporary pop.

Hype aims to induce success by claiming that a product is already successful. It seeks to overcome the buyer’s doubts by convincing them that someone else likes the product. Pop has always used such techniques, of course: what are chart rundowns if not attempts to induce consumers to buy products because other people already like them? We take this for granted, but Jean-Paul Sartre’s response when he first came across record charts is salutary: “if he listens to the radio every Saturday and if he can afford to buy every week’s No. 1 record, [the consumer] will end up with the record collection of ‘the Other’. That is to say, the collection of no-one.”

Literally no-one, in the case of Sandi Thom’s webcasts, it would seem. Thom’s PR company, Quite Great, whose other clients include such struggling up-and-coming artistes as Michael McDonald, Meatloaf and Van Morrison, specialises in ‘ghost marketing’, where CDs are ‘accidentally’ left in public places to be ‘discovered’ by potential consumers. It was no doubt the ghosts who enthusiastically watched Thom’s internet gigs in their hundreds of thousands.

Ironically, the idea that there are spontaneous, word-of-mouth internet phenomena is so seductive because it plays on a desire to believe that there is still a popular space where “accountants don’t have control and the media can’t buy your soul.” But it is precisely media manipulators who depend upon the concept of ‘authenticity’. Thom’s defenders maintain that it is the ‘freshness’ of her talent that matters. But blogger Adrian du Plessis, who has worked tirelessly to explode the Thom myth, informs us that, “of 30 songs listing Sandi Thom among their credits, not a single one was written by Thom on her own.” The songs weren’t co-written by her bandmates, Marcus Bonfanti and Craig Connet, neither of whom play on her album, but grizzled hit makers such as Brown and John McLaughlin (who has written hits for Blue and Busted).

Thom is the perfect corporate product: a designed-in-a-lab simulation of authenticity easily marketable to people who look down their noses at ‘manufactured’ pop.”

– Mark ‘K-Punk’ Fisher, 2006


“You’d hope that Mika’s success has to be the nadir, the end-game of the revival of bloated, vacuous, tritely camp music, that started with Robbie Williams’ winks, and was carried by Scissor Sisters’ Bee-Gees-lite schtick.

Right now, large parts of the record buying public seem to be intent on bringing back the very worst aspects of the 1970s. If Leo Sayer hadn’t gone mental on Celebrity Big Brother and expressed a desire to masturbate over Danielle Lloyd’s coat, a comeback would have surely been due. Never before have we needed another ’77 so badly.

Mika is a Rufus Wainwright for Daily Mail readers. Pop music used to be the preserve of the young. It used to be stuff that your parents just didn’t get. No more: 50 quid man has splurged out time and time again at the cash register, buying up all that “proper music” where “they write their own songs”. The stuff he saw on Jools fucking Holland. We just can’t compete with that kind of spending power, nor that kind of utter tastelessness. And so the charts are swamped by stuff that no one who isn’t a middle-aged Englander would ever want to go near, and with good reason.

Mika’s music is foul. I remember hearing ‘Grace Kelly’ for the first time recently over a shop’s PA. It’s one of the few occasions where I’ve been physically taken aback by how bad a piece of music is. “Why don’t you like me?”, he wails, oblivious to the fact that he’s answered his own question. Mika goes beyond Robbie Williams’ preening narcissism and dives head-long into that which is dreaded by all reasonable people: wackiness. You probably know people like this at school, or at work. And you probably hate them.

And the worst part of it is, of course, that it can, and will, get worse than this. A lot worse. Mika’s selling obscenely well, which means one thing: major labels will soon start pumping out ersatz little Mika-clones one after the other. It’s going to be tough out there this summer: good luck, and stay strong.”

– Simon Hampson (with illustration by Alex Sushon, 2006)

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