Martin Creed, and pop music’s other ‘midget gems’

On Monday, artist, provocateur and musical dabbler Martin Creed will release his second single Where You Go, a sparse piece of electro whimsy, billed with what one can only assume is vague accuracy as “the shortest single in a long time”.

Creed is a creative wag of some repute, winning the Turner Prize for turning some lights on and off, choreographing a ballet with “lots of starting and not much finishing” and now producing pop singles which have just about finished before they even get started.

Last year, he released Thinking/Not Thinking, aka Work No. 431, a lo-fi strident jangle which clocked in at a succinct 80 seconds – the same length as Primal Scream’s wide-eyed Velocity Girl and the atmospheric Nadine by the late, lamented (by me anyway) Levitation.

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Where You Go is nowhere near as good as either of these midget gems, but it is shorter, lasting a mere 66 seconds. Never mind the hallowed discipline of composing the perfect three minute pop song; think of the rigour involved in getting in and out, saying what needs to be said in around the one-minute mark. And how refreshing at a milking-it time when extended, deluxe, souvenir, remastered, remixed and regurgitated “special” editions of already overlong albums are punted as value for money to find that Creed is not alone in his need for speed.

So far this year, Field Music have released the excellent Plumb, dispatching 15 idiosyncratic post-punk pop delights in 35 minutes, while the return of Guided By Voices and a solo album by their frontman Robert Pollard has yielded a fresh trove of pithy garage grunge ditties.

Stephin Merritt is another songwriter who doesn’t mess around, and his forthcoming Magnetic Fields album is one more petite masterpiece of concise drollery. But rockabilly spiv Dan Sartain has trumped the lot with Too Tough To Live, a 13-track three-chord punk tornado which lasts all of 19 minutes, and not a nanosecond of it wasted. He even finds the time to fit a guitar solo into one of the more epic numbers which, at 85 seconds long, is still pretty damn short.

However, Messrs Creed, Sartain and Pollard are practically dicing with the progressive rock triple album odyssey in comparison to The Electro Hippies, a 1980s thrash band much loved by John Peel, whose songs rarely reached the one-minute mark and whose one-second, one-chord track Mega-Armageddon Death has the distinction of taking longer to say than it does to play.

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