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Black Sky Thinking

Jungle Clearing: Musicians Who Dream Of Excising Their Google Traces
Robert Barry , July 24th, 2014 05:50

Beige-yet-hip troupe Jungle have made an astounding effort to hide their identities. Is this to create an enigmatic non-presence, asks Robert Barry, or for the privately-educated duo to hide bracingly American Pyscho-esque comments about their grasping desire for fame?

Cover, featuring two models, of Jungle's The Heat EP

I have my own theory about Google's response to the European Court of Justice's controversial ruling in the recent Costeja case. As complaints mount from journalists concerned that their copy is vanishing from search results, it strikes me that the online giant are deliberately making such a pig's ear of the so-called 'right to be forgotten' that the ruling gets overturned by popular demand.

But if a potty-mouthed lawyer, a lying football ref, and even a disgraced banker (is there any other kind?) can appeal to edit their own search results, the question naturally occurs: which of our musical artistes might wish to edit the past they show to the online world?

Well, Kelly Osbourne, apparently. Which is odd because I was rather under the impression that the whole world was already earnestly conspiring to forget about Kelly Osborne. Now it seems she's decided to get in on the act herself. Only a few weeks ago Sky News received a notification from Google that a story about the singer-slash-serial reality TV guest being ill had been removed from the search spiders of the information super highway for undisclosed reasons.

I can't help but think this was a bit of a missed opportunity. While she was filing take down requests, couldn't she have helped us to forget about her cover of 'Papa Don't Preach'?

Come to think of it, it can only be a matter of time before David Bowie requests the entire Tin Machine back catalogue out of history. Ian Brown, likewise, is probably already entreating something else to turn up when people type "stone roses reading 1996" into their browsers.

I have heard that Bob Geldof gets enormously pissed off any time he has to hear 'Do They Know It's Christmas'. I feel just as allergic to the song myself but I'd hate the world to be deprived of another means of getting on Geldof's tits.

Perhaps few groups have gone to greater lengths to hide their pasts from the web – and with greater reason – than hotly-tipped newcomers Jungle. I saw Jungle play recently at the Eurockéenes Festival in the north of France and, aside from a few rather odd lapses in taste in the form of dodgy guitar licks, rather excessive use of the chime tree, and the onstage wearing of one's own branded bomber jacket, the thing that disturbed me most about their performance was the huge pop shields between the duo's mouths and their mics. How odd, I thought, to be so concerned about the deleterious effect of aspirated plosives to go so far as to almost completely hide one's face from the crowd.

Ah, but you see, confided a fellow scribe, they're trying to hide their identities. This writer alluded uncertainly to some old interview in which the Jungle boys in their pre-Jungle days had been revealed as the venal scions to capitalist fortunes. Call me a cunt but upon hearing this, I couldn't let go of the idea that their smooth blue-eyed soul-meets-yacht rock ditties sounded uncomfortably like the soundtrack to one of American Psycho Patrick Bateman's brutal slayings. That's a very fine chardonnay you're drinking, he might say before raising his chainsaw aloft, the smooth downtempo groove of 'Busy Earnin'' burbling out of hi-fi speakers in the background. The image was inescapable.

And sure enough, when later I typed their names into a search engine, one of the very first results was a 2006 interview with The Guardian when the boys were still pupils at Latymer Upper School, a public school in West London, alma mater to Hugh Grant, several barons, and a sizeable handful of lords.

"My parents have done well," noted the young master Josh Lloyd-Watson, whose father is identified as owning an advertising business and whose mother is said to own a PR business. "They're not employed. 'Employed' is running like sheep following everyone else and being told what to do. I'd say I've got a harder life ahead of me than they had, because I've come from a public school." Indeed, money and privilege must be such a burden – especially when coupled with such naked contempt for anyone careless enough not to be born into it. "Nowadays, you see people like Jodie Marsh getting rich," Lloyd-Watson's future partner, Tom McFarland gasped, positively seething at the prospect of someone from Essex acquiring a fortune.

"In 20 years I'll be 36," Lloyd-Watson continued. "If everything pans out I'll be touring the world and living a rock-star life. I want to be bloody famous and successful. I don't want to care about anyone else. I'll be backstabbing if I have to." And lo the image of Bateman's raised carving knife rears its inexorable head once more…

Of course, as m'colleague Luke Turner pointed out over sherry and truffles when I first pitched this piece to him at the yacht club we both frequent, background isn't important. Loads of posh people make ace music. It's hiding it that's embarrassing.

And Jungle, it strikes me, have gone to some lengths to hide it. Keeping out of their own videos, avoiding photographs, insisting on being known only by the Kafka-esque initials 'J' and 'T'. Finally going so far as to deliberately choose one of the most ungoogleable band names since Girls made picking ungoogleable band names into a thing. Even their songs have this curiously unctuous, ungraspable quality, so silken smooth they slip from the mind completely almost as soon as they have finished.

They are like the musical equivalent of Claude Shannon's "Ultimate Machine" that switches itself off as soon as you switch it on. Their whole purpose seems to be the work of their own erasure, pre-empting the need even to officially request it.

So for the time being at least I hope Google will be successful in persuading the world, by sheer ineptitude, of the iniquities of the ECJ ruling. Even if Jungle's duck's-back-like quality continues to render them invisible to digital eyes, I don't want the musicians of today to erase the music of yesterday – if only so Bob Geldof continues to be tormented by Band Aid at the Sainsbury's meat counter "every fucking Christmas".

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