Skip to main content


Showing posts from January, 2012

like a Ruritanian Bob Dylan

Careful, folk/rock singer/songwriters of the world: there is a spectre haunting you. If you're:
eminent back home;
or just the first big rock guy in your language;
vaguely political;
or lyrically pretentious;
or mischievous;
possessed of bad voice;
or accused of capturing a moment in your people's cultural history

then look out, my foreign friend - for you are sooner or later gonna catch a comparison to Dylan. In recent times the simile has become so wild and virulent that non-musicians must be careful also:

Steve Jobs is right up there. He is, in many ways, the Bob Dylan of machines, he's the Elvis of the kind of hardware-software dialectic."
- Bono

1. "the English Bob Dylan"

Richard Thompson

Dylanesque Score: 6/10

Roy Harper

Dylanesque Score: 7/10

or even
Billy Bragg

Dylanesque Score: 5/10

1'. "British Bob" (the Scottish English Bob Dylan)


Dylanesque Score: 8/10

1''. "The Welsh Dylan" - says the BBC
(though there's plenty of D…


Hear my firstworld woes!
o they strike heinous blows:
today my fridge froze my tomatoes.

on hearing that they'd froze, no-one proposed
aught but hiring Dada so and sos -
"those the better to compose (apropos tomato woes)".

To close: my cow howls and lows
and my bull won't doze
Cos the bastard fridge froze my tomatoes!

songs of disbelief

Indie music is well if not completely captured in the feeling of discomfort with oneself. And consequently, one's disbelief in oneself, or in life. I'm not so keen on those songs at the moment. So, instead, here are some songs of disbelief in other things than the shit person you have to spend all your time with.

I did look for songs that used "belief" in the technical sense, of epistemic claim, but there's few, few. See Lennon at #7 for a quite different usage - "belief" as one's identity-defining opinions. Anyway, the really common use of disbelief is not for the assertion of falsehoods, but instead for the other incredulity - as in "I can't believe it!": the sudden gaping inability to make sense of the world (which is of course a key symptom of love).

If as a musician or other kind of person you come to pass off "I can't believe you're gone" as lyrics or other kind of self-narrative, then you've no doubt forg…

i think you'll find it's pronounced natse

"I think you get taught a set of rules and then you learn to abuse them – that’s part of what linguistic facility is. It’s about going beyond competence and understanding when you can violate conventions. We talk about rules but it really is more sensible to talk about conventions. The point is that these things will change."
- Henry Hitchings

One of the few things I'm anarchist about is language; or, properly speaking, prescriptivism inlinguistics. (Another is scientific methodology.) There's no pettier a way to get me angry than correcting someone's speech from a purist high horse. This is not just because it's generally needless and unkind, but because it stems from a mistake about the nature of language: as fixed, or as logical, or as containing national essence, or as a top-down construction - when it is none of these things.

1. Claim: Language is for the communication of ideas.

1'. Consequence: Any utterance which passes the relevant idea along is succe…