Arts blog: Experimental music | Fiat Fatherhood
April should be a treat for lovers of leftfield music says David Pollock, while Andrew Eaton-Lewis wonders why Fiat’s new advert is so uninteresting compared to its maternal counterpart.
‘There have been few months in recent memory with so many opportunities to hear aural experiments’
The experimental music festival, judging by April’s Glasgow concert listings, is alive and well and in a state of growth, which suits those of us with a taste for the sonically wayward.
Certainly there have been few months in recent memory with quite so many opportunities to hear aural experiments that might fit a gallery more than a gig venue, with AC Projects’ young but esteemed Counterflows weekender returning, the Outskirts festival of marginal music happening at Platform in Easterhouse and long-standing champions of the extreme and experimental, Arika, bringing their four-day event Freedom is a Constant Struggle to the Tramway. All this, and the large-scale Tectonics event in May.
Each of these events has their own character. Arika is, according to co-organiser Barry Esson, “interested in how social, political and philosophical situations produce experimental art forms, and in thinking about whether those art forms are in any way useful”.
This fourth “episode” of their bi-annual themed weekenders considers freedom, particularly within the USA’s black radical tradition, and looks through performances and talks at the evolution of things like radical poetry and free jazz within that context, and also how Glasgow might apply itself to the conversation, given the city’s history with the slave trade.
Counterflows and Outskirts follow more typically performance-based structures, with the former staging film screenings and a family workshop alongside the likes of experimental Glasgow hip-hoppers Hector Bizerk, a late-night session from experimental muso Jandek plus band and an appearance by the 80-year-old Phill Niblock.
Outskirts will be headlined by the group A Hawk and a Hacksaw, with a wider range of ancillary installations, performances and readings. “It’s driven by an appreciation of artists who are doing something unusual, are inspired by things outwith the traditions of western culture and are entertaining,” says Outskirts’ programmer Alun Woodward, yet he also points out that the community role of Platform requires a sense of broader appeal for locals and families.
An accusation sometimes levelled at events like these is that they’re elitist or unnecessarily highbrow, but personal experience bears out the fact that it’s important to have lofty conversations within and about music, an artform which is too often reduced to the lowest common denominator. The most exclusive element of such events might in fact be the potential audience-member’s own prejudice, a point echoed by Arika’s ethos. “We try not to market the event at anybody,” says Esson. “We’re undertaking an exploration of a theme that we hope is pertinent in Scotland today, and we invite different communities to take part in that with us, be they artistic, political, social or academic.”
Then there’s the finance – how do these niche events manage work? “It’s always a challenge,” says Counterflows’ Alasdair Campbell, “but in some respects there can be a more committed, dedicated, and engaged audience for the alternative scene. Promoting alternative music’s never been the easiest way to make money for artists and promoters alike, so the ambition is more focused on the delivery and on a more personal commitment.” In other words, the experimental scene has a stronger sense of community than most, as those with a common marginal interest come together to work for its survival.
• Counterflows is at various venues, Glasgow, 5-7 April, blog.counterflows.com. Outskirts is at Platform, Glasgow, 20 April, www.platform-online.co.uk. Freedom is a Constant Struggle is at Tramway, Glasgow, 18-21 April, arika.org.uk
‘Fatherhood is too busy trying not to be sexist to say anything interesting’
I HATE most car adverts, mostly because the whole idea of a car being any kind of status symbol is baffling to me.
Strangely, though, I have a soft spot for Fiat’s “Motherhood” ad, which came out last year, and features a white, middle-class mum rapping with a baby on her knee. This could have been excruciating, but Motherhood was clever and knowing enough to get away with it, somehow managing to poke fun at hip-hop’s misogyny (“got my bitches at my side and my hoes in the back,” the mum raps, as the camera shows us two Scottie dogs and, yes, some garden hose) and grown-ups clinging on to their youth by, well, rapping.
It also had some very funny lines. Personal favourite: “I’m a school fun taker, fairy cake baker, deal-maker, orgasm faker, nit-raker, rattle-shaker, cheese grater, night-time waker. I’m a placator, peace-maker,” all delivered with hip-hop hand gestures.
I was a bit excited, then, when I discovered there’s a new ad for new dads – the Fatherhood. Sadly, it’s a bit of a disappointment. Rather than rap, the ad dad is an ageing New Romantic, so for a start “Fatherhood” makes no sense. New Romantics don’t live in ’hoods; if anywhere they live on yachts or spaceships or, more likely, in neon nightclubs or dingy bedsits.
The song is, sadly, not much cop either – a variation on the Human League’s Don’t You Want Me but without any memorable melody and, for some reason, a Kate Bush lookalike in the chorus, complete with unicorn. Pay attention, Fiat. Kate Bush wasn’t a New Romantic, unicorns are more 1970s than 80s, and Dad’s claim that he “wouldn’t trade your mother” begins to look a bit shaky once he’s driving around country lanes with a fantasy female pop oddity in the passenger seat, even if her unicorn is keeping watch in the back.
There are a couple of decent lines: “You’ve ruined all my favourite clothes and peed on all my bedding, but I know I’ll get my own back when I’m dancing at your wedding” raised a smile. But mostly Fatherhood doesn’t quite work. Why not? It might have something to do with the fact that it’s trying so desperately hard not to be sexist. While the rapper in Motherhood has wise, true things to say about the pressure to breastfeed, spending months in pyjamas, disastrous diets and “flooding up your timeline with my baby news”, the Fatherhood ad is so busy emphasising that its dad is loyal, hands-on, loves his children, and would never cheat on their mum (even with Kate Bush) that it doesn’t have time to say anything interesting about what being a new dad is actually like.
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