Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

OTR on the road in the U S of A: Los Angeles

Greetings from Los Angeles: why everything from the light to the music is different out in California

The blue of the day: Swimming Pool by David Hockey

Fri, Mar 22, 2013, 09:42


The light is different out here. Maybe it’s the pollution, the smog, the endless particles of dust from the constant streams of traffic working their way round and round the freeways in an effort to get somewhere else, but the light in Los Angeles cast by the desert sun through the dusty prism which covers the metropolis glows like nowhere else.

Many have been smitten by it. David Hockney, for instance, talked about how “the wonderfully strong, crisp shadows” cast by the light in Los Angeles filled his imagination in the endless gloomy winters of his youth in Bradford and drew him eventually to California.

Hockney was not the only one drawn to journey out here by that light and who chose to make the city his home. Countless other artists, movie-makers and musicians have followed that hazy, lazy sunlight to the west coast.

It’s a place where you can go to reinvent yourself and no-one will pay a blind bit of attention because everyone else is at the same game. Everyone arrives with dreams and aspirations and slowly works it all out and makes peace of sorts with themselves like Jeff Lebowski. The sun will always rise again tomorrow.

The music hum in Los Angeles has always been loud, but has never quite reached the same volume as other cities with similarly sized scenes. Chalk it down to this city’s long-established place as the global hub for films and TV shows. The big – and small – screens have always been the dominant entertainment pleasuredomes in these parts and the inhabitants’ fascination with this is greater than the sum of their interest in anything else.

Perhaps this focus on the silver screen is why sp many of LA’s finest, gnarliest and most storied bands have always been a little on the cartoonish side. From Mötley Crüe to Guns N’ Roses to Hole, LA rock has also been a colourful, controversial, action-packed freak scene populated by larger-than-life characters. Even the behind-the-scenes’ players carried on as if they were reading scenes from a script for Entourage: could Suge Knight’s outlandish stewardship of Death Row Records have happened anywhere else other than LA-LA-land?

Los Angeles from the Griffith Observatory

Yet of late, LA’s music has taken a different turn and provided a welcome respite and counterpoint to the garish legends-in-their-own-minds puking their guts up between the music instrument retailers, pawn shops, dive bars, desperate nightclubs and liquor stores on Sunset Boulevard.

Those who watch pop’s comings and goings will know of bands like Haim, The Neighbourhood, Wildcat Wildcat, Sir Sly and NO (all of whom were to the fore at last week’s SXSW festival in Texas) who’ve been throwing shapes new-school boho hangouts in Silver Lake and Echo Park on the map. Perhaps it’s a new Laurel Canyon in the making or perhaps it’s just a case of LA’s time has come again and this is the sound of now.

But, no doubt, there are A&R men and music business swengalis experimenting right now with the city’s petri dish of blow-ins to find a new hair-metal band or hard rock troupe to dominate the headlines for the next few years. LA’s music scenesters like the spectacle of these ensembles because these acts reflect the big, extravagant, wondrous sprawl of the place. Like the light, everything out here has to shine that little bit brighter.

Five great new-school Los Angeles albums

Jonathan Wilson “Gentle Spirit”

The modern incarnation of that fabled Laurel Canyon sound.

Kendrick Lamar “good kid, mAAd city”

Where hip-hop is going next.

No Age “Everything Inbetween”

Post-punk lessons for new-school beginners

Miguel “Kalidescope Dream”

Delivering the r’n’b slam dunks with aplomb. Playing Dublin’s O2 on May 21 and 22 as support to Alicia Keys.

Ariel Pink “Mature Themes”

Dreamy pop for the modern world from the wide-eyed lad from Beverly Hills