Sunday, 20 December 2009
The reality is sinking in. Not only did hundreds of thousands of people rebel against mass markets, advertising, reality TV and rich corporations but they gave themselves a voice. Most of the buyers have probably never had much of a say in who rules the charts, but they have one now and the effects will go down in history as shitty teenage music channels are forced to play the black sheep of christmas singles - 2009.
Will we be shopping for our Turkeys in M&S to the tune of Killing in the Name next Christmas? I sincerely hope so.
A fitting end to a decade governed by the public's lack of imagination and action, this is genuinely a victory. It shows the power of crowd consciousness and emotion, the relevence of online media, music's ability to unite and empower and the fact that underneath a very consumerist layer lie people that are genuinely individual.
A sentence I never thought I'd say: Facebook just saved Christmas.
Wednesday, 16 December 2009
Isn’t it refreshing when a band plays their best tracks, rather than cramming their new material down your throat? The Mars Volta gave the audience a master class in crowd pleasing at on a God forsaken winter evening in London.
Opening with the heart thumping “Son et Lumiere” and “Inertiatic Esp”, the band took in all four albums during their mammoth two hour set. As expected plenty of that was spent watching the band jam away as if no one was watching, but these breaks only served to make the climaxes more exciting. “Goliath”, from their formidable “Bedlam in Goliath” album, was jarring – forcing you to move and sway to the Hispanic grooves. Stood at the top of some stairs I was mesmerised by the sea of heads and hands below, moving like sound waves towards me.
The band still tore the stage up, echoing their more legendary sets as At the Drive In, but this was a band in complete control of their irrepressible talent. Cedric’s vocal range was unbelievable and Omar was like Hendrix incarnate, his fingers a blur as he jammed away.
The set highlight was “Cicatriz Esp”, where a break down took 10 minutes to reform into the song’s finale. When it did, however, I have never heard or felt an ovation like it. In an industry where intention spans are getting shorter than ever, The Mars Volta are a reminder of how much patience can pay off.
Saturday, 12 September 2009
You must check this band/man out - the music is simply stunning. Billed as a Dubstepping Muse (it really is the best way to describe it) and already tipped for the top, I would like to add my tip to that pile....
That sounded wrong.
Friday, 11 September 2009
In an inspired piece of article titling, the infamous (really?) Irish Times labelled a letter of complaint sent by Chris de Burgh "Chris de Burgh Sees Red". The paper then ruined this by calling the episode "Chrisgate".
The letter was in response to a review of his latest tour in Ireland, claiming that the writer was prejudiced. The truth is that reviewer, Peter Crawley, was prejudiced, but this is not the first time a musician has reacted to a bad review. This time it has hit the papers because...
a) because de Burgh has been so middle of the road for so long it's a miracle he hasn't been run over,
b) he is such a spanner it's a miracle no one has ever swerved to run him over,
c) because the Irish Times called it "Chrisgate".
To be fair the review is harsh, dismissive and breathtakingly prejudiced. Not once is the music mentioned, but constantly is de Burgh's short, pristine appearance and fondness for the crowd. It seems that it is not so much the music Crawley hates, but the man behind it. While the piece makes partially entertaining reading, it is a disgustingly lazy and predictable piece of journalism which leaves you in no way enriched, satisfied or vindicated. In fact it makes you like de Burgh a little more - surely not the point of the review.
De Burgh's letter is only slightly more mature, picking at critic cliches in the same way that Crawley does at middle aged, middle roaded pop stars. However, he manages to take the moral high ground by offering to meet and coming up with far more imaginative put downs (I particularly enjoy the part about Crawley "riffling through the garbage bins of despair".
Mr MOR as I like to refer to him is, of course, wrong in saying that Crawley was the only person at the concert that didn't want to be. I'd imagine none of the husbands did, but I bet at the end they went out singing "Spanish Train" or thinking of buying their wife a slutty red dress.
The horrible thing about MOR music, and the reason it sells well, is because deep down we all love it a little bit. The only exceptions are people that don't have anything "Deep down". Like most critics.
The review and response can be found if you click on this blogs title, or look at my previous post on a similar subject (but with a funnier title) by clicking here!
Thursday, 10 September 2009
I was amazed, while watching deal or no deal the other day, to see an advert for Noah and the Whale. The band, who to me had always been a one hit wonder (with "5 Years Time"), appeared to have taken the critics by storm with their second album.
I decided to take a risk and buy it, largely because my girlfriend offered to pay. To my joy and surprise "The First Days of Spring" turned out not only to be a million miles away from the twee folk-pop of their debut, but actually a breath taking and intimate break up album. It was made even more personal by its featured break up, between singer Charlie Fink and solo singersongwriter Laura Marling.
The album opens with the first glimmer of hope in Charlie's eyes, the idea that spring brings new opportunity. But just as winter surely follows summer, so do hard times as the album flows. The lyrics, while occasionally predictable and cliche are so raw and matter of fact that they evoked in me an image of Laura sat listening to the album for the first time. It feels like the singer is reaching out to touch Laura, and in doing so accidently touching us too.
The story is told expertly, perhaps better than any break up album before, both lyrically and musically. A brief restitative in track two ("Our Window") that comes back as the focus in the albums break through moment ("Blue Skies") and the albums crest and trough nature shows that recovering from trauma is never as simple as an arching crescendo back to happiness.
Altogether the album is wide and expansive, but sometimes chokingly claustrophobic and personal. Indeed, Charlie seems to choke on his words as several points during his subtle and restrained vocal performance. There are no sickly harmonies and sunny refrains in this album. Strings, brass and timpani compete with reverb heavy, lightly disorted guitars that echo of early Sigur Ros without ever leaving very british shores and reaching the sky.
To call it ambitious is to miss the point (here's looking at you Mojo) it is intensely personal, and like all good music is meant as much for the creator as the listener. While the music is complicated, atmospheric and scrupulously put together I feel there was no ambition in its writing, save to get its message across, which it does beautifully.
Thursday, 3 September 2009
So the Banks are in trouble again. This time it's the far more popular, but equally faceless artist Banksy. His cartoon of the Royal Family waving on a balcony, which was once used on a Blur single cover, has been painted over.
This is not the first time something like this has happened. One of his other works was painted over, simply because NOT removing it would be condoning graffiti.
The decision, made by Hackney council, stinks of passing the buck. At some point, somewhere along the command chain, someone said that Banksy's work is not art, which is a valid point of view (however wrong it may be). From that point onwards people started saying things like this:
"Hackney council does not make a judgment call on whether graffiti is art or not, our task is to keep Hackney's streets clean. We made four attempts to contact the owner of the property to inform her of our intention to remove the graffiti" (Alan "pass the buck" Laing, the Hackney council cabinet member).
The fact is though Alan, you HAVE made a judgement - you called it "graffiti" the above quote, and more importantly you removed the bloody painting. Even when it is put in councillor speak the decision makes no sense - The piece is estimated to have brought in £10,000,000 to the local area and attracted 300,000 visitors in the last 3 months. How many pieces of graffiti do that, and how many are as artistically styled or culturally astute as Bansky's efforts?
There will always be arguments about what is art and what is not, but this occurs all the time in art galleries and those that lose the battle aren't painted over or dismantled. Graffiti is an anti-establishment activity, and thus the harder you suppress it the more people will attempt to undermine the laws and do it anyway. Instead, show that artistically integrous painting, in suitable places, will be accepted with open arms.
Will it cure the problem? Hell no, but it might eventually improve upon the countless "Trevor luvs Sharon" spatterings that blight our walls. Trevor will just have to tell Sharon in a text.
Tuesday, 1 September 2009
Sunday, 16 August 2009
Good Writing for Journalists by Angela Phillips promises a lot in the title, and whether it fulfilled its actual purpose is now completely irrelevant because it has saved my life. I wish I could say I had it in my jacket pocket and it stopped a bullet. Being rather thin I'm glad to say it never had to try. Instead it pointed to me (metaphorically) and said "Jonny, one day you will be a damn fine music journalist, and work for whatever magazine/website you choose".
And how did it tell me this? By pointing out the obvious - That music journalism today is, by and large, and in the style of a music journo.
"Like the bastard child of a dyslexic and a Jeremy Clarkson impersonator." (read poorly written, self important tripe)
Despite being among the most popular forms of journalism and, in my opinion, one of the most important, the quality of writing is nowhere near the standard of other cultural journalisms.
All to often we try to be witty, cutting, original, subversive and offensive. I believe this is because to be a music journalist you don't necessarily have to have a journalist background. If you have an ear and a passion for music, and know a few people in the industry you are half way there. I understand that a slating review is exciting to read and an absolute must for music enzines, but the need for such reviews has overtaken the need for balanced, contextual and factual reviewing. Opinion seems to be far more important than eloquence (to put that in context, taxi drivers have opinions, should they be allowed to air them in print?) Like bulldogs bread to have noses so flat many couldn't breath, NME has recruited writers gradually more and more hateful to the point where when they hear bad music they choke and gasp out a review of such malignance that it makes readers react with pure venom themselves (see here - http://www.nme.com/reviews/sam-isaac/10733 and make sure you read the comments.)
Music journalism of old used to be written for its love of bands, festivals, gigs and albums. Now we take as much pleasure in hating bands as we do loving them, and as journalists we have to rise above this or at the very least justify ourselves when we can't. By writing on the manner of the article I have linked we take away the ability to debate, to critique and to enjoy. There is no music in the world that deserves the slamming that Sam Isaac got (even the schiztophrenic NME seem to think so, having given his single a glowing review). NME, by recruiting these lamtentable and hateful "free spirits" are slowly destroying music journalism, people's interest in it and the forum for the furtherment of musical brilliance.
Knowing this means that I can endevour to be a better journalist than all the "journalists" at NME, who ultimately have jobs that many writers would kill for. Reviewers have a unique opportunity, and therefore responsibility, to write and be a positive part of the world of music. When they waste it they become part of the problem they seek to slate, and to be a honest a toddler could write better reviews than most of them.
Thursday, 6 August 2009
"Quality journalism is not cheap, and an industry that gives away its content is simply cannibalising its ability to produce good journalism,” - Rupert Murdoch 2009.
So the hours of debate, rolls of blog and endless tweets have finally resulted in something tangible. Murdoch has decided to charge for his site's content, starting sometime next summer. This means if you read the Times or the Sun (God help you) Fox news then you will have to chip in for the privilege in the future.
Or not. Murdoch is the first mogul to make this decision, and the rest of the industry is still umming and erring, so for now all you need to do is switch you online site for a different free one, there by giving Murdoch the biggest headache of his career. Or indeed wait for unhappy readers to log in, copy the content and give it away for free.
It seems he's made a tentative step towards paid content - no dates, no details, just a proverbial toe on the water. He has seen the NYTs failed attempt to charge for comment (they lost a large share of their readership), and although he must recognise its implications, has decided his model will work. He just doesn't seem to know what it is yet.
As Matthew Wells of the Guardian correctly points out, a major problem with the model is that however many companies take on such a model there will always be those that never will, and their share of online readership will come to dominate the market. In fact some already do - the BBC.
Monday, 3 August 2009
"AAHAHAHAHAHA THIS SHIT ISFCKN FUNNY LFMAO not like i would do that to a baby but this is funny x)"
Firstly learn to type, secondly learn real english, thirdly stop using abbreviations no one understands, fourthly stop feeding the paedophilia-fear flame and fourthly stop and think and realise that you would never do that to a baby because you would never put your hands together with your 10 year old mate in a crowded park, give birth to a live child then be asked to play football.
It's not about music I know - but its got to be said - comment sections are breeding grounds for idiots. If you aren't self aware enough to see your stupidity, even when its written for the whole world to see then please do the world a favour: unplug you computer, lick your fingers and shove your fingers in said socket.
Sunday, 2 August 2009
I'm sick of people telling the younger generation that technology is going to ruin our social abilities. Does the Archbishop (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8180115.stm) really think that, when we step out squinting into the natural light and have to interact with a real person, we will lose our power of empathy without the persons "status" being plastered across their forehead? Or is he just reacting to something he doesn't truly understand?
If he has ever used such sites (and I sincerely doubt he has) he clearly has not realised the brilliant and powerful connections such sites can forge. I can keep in contact with friends all over the world, for free. When my friends go travelling I can see their photos, videos, blogs and messages all in real time. Now tell me how that reduces my ability to make and maintain friends. His Holiness would know what the Pope gets up to when he's not telling Africans that condoms spread AIDS. In fact I think we'd all like to know what man that stupid, blind and destructive does with his day.
The Archbishop claims that facebook specifically encourages quantity over quality in terms of relationships, but I have neither gained nor lost friends as a result of the online revolution. I have the same best friends I have had for 10 years. Yes I am in contact with more people than I would be if all I had was a phone, and yes those relationships are somewhat shallow and transient, but they an addition to my social circle, not a replacement for my core friends.
I find such claims so ridiculous I have to ask, are the Archbishop's comments just born out of jealousy of everyone else's friend count?
Tuesday, 21 July 2009
“It’s like a crazy contest between an orange and a spaceship and a potted plant and a spoon - which one do you like better?”
Imagine, and it wont take much imagination, that you get a bunch of musos together in a room. Someone gives them too much coffee and some sandwiches on those bendy, tacky tinfoil platters and then ask them to pick their favourite 12 albums of 2008, from a selection of (very, very roughly) 30,000. Then, take the albums they choose and call them "Albums of the Year". Then get them to choose one, and call it the winner.
I would not for a second imply that this is a pointless exercise. I can't pretend to have heard all the nominated albums this year, but I'm sure that they are all stirling efforts and more than worth their nomination (actually I'm not, but its not up to me). However, I do have to question the task the judges put themselves up for. Regardless of genre, they decide one album is better than another, something that, at this level, clearly cant be judged on anything but a subjective level. As 2005 winner Anthony and the Johnsons (who?) wisely said “It’s like a crazy contest between an orange and a spaceship and a potted plant and a spoon - which one do you like better?” Now obviously we'd all choose the spaceship, but his point is clear. Its a hopeless exercise, but not a pointless cause.
It creates educated, balanced debate, highlights talent, encourages broad music tastes and makes you feel vindicated when surprise winners fade to nothingness while your champion is still charting. The Mercury Prize is flawed and wonderful as all music competitions are (except T4 unsigned), and thus I will put my educated, balanced debate out there:
Why the fuck are Kasabian nominated, and Doves not?
The other nominations are (with William Hills predictable odds on):
Florence and the Machine – Lungs 5/1
Kasabian – West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum 5/1
Bat for Lashes – Two Suns 6/1
La Roux – La Roux 6/1
Glasvegas – Glasvegas 6/1
Speech Debelle – Speech Therapy 8/1
Friendly Fires – Friendly Fires 8/1
The Horrors – Primary Colours 8/1
Lisa Hannigan – Sea Sew 8/1
The Invisible – The Invisible 10/1
Led Bib – Sensible Shoes 10/1
Sweet Billy Pilgrim – Twice Born Men 10/1
Sunday, 19 July 2009
One such medium, that in my opinion would have already died a death if it weren't for car stereos, is Radio. Those god awful afternoon dramas, annoying DJs, terrible playlists, amatuer adverts and the fucking Archers aside, it is simply a medium that filled the gap between social cohesion and TV.
The fact is that everything Radio can do, TV can do better. With a few exceptions - one being Desert Island Discs. There is something so inherently sonic about the show that the idea of adding the visual seems completely destructive. Music is an Aural pleasure, and thus a TV or live version of it would leave one not knowing where to look. In fact I think most people would close their eyes and pretend it is a radio show.
I listened to Desert Island Discs for the first time in years today, because the hero that is David Mitchell was on. As a self confused non-muso he chose a wonderfully mixed bag including, amongst others, "Rainbow Connection" sung by Kermit the Frog, Elgar's Cello Concerto in E Major and Radiohead's "creep". He also chose "Spanish Flea" by Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass, stating that is would be the perfect song to go mad to on a desert Island. To watch David Jiggle about to the Spanish Flea on TV would be too much to bear.
Listening to Radio still has its pleasures, ones I forgot until this morning. It makes you concentrate on the music (thus why Dizzy Rascal's "Bonkers" is so completely intolerable in this form....actually any form) and also listen to what it's speakers say, rather than gawp at how the camera adds ten pounds to David Mitchell (although less cameras must be on him recently). Radio still has it's place, it's just that that place has moved, and it needs to remember why it is different to TV not why TV is better than it.
Long live Desert Island Discs, and long live Radio.
Thursday, 16 July 2009
Caitlin Moran however, very much hates the woman, and in her own enviable style puts her down like an old dog: "her on-screen style that seems to inspire the main rage — a decades-long, squirming awkwardness that makes her look as if she’s about to corkscrew right off her chair and start drilling into the ground. This awkwardness extends into her conversational rhythm, which is angular — possibly free-jazz — in origin."
But Caitlin - you must be preparing your razor sharp tongue once again, because a much easier target has swaggered in front of the sniperscope. Fearne Cotton will now be doing the midmorning slot. As a young, attractive and slightly trashy sounding lady she is bound to be victim to some highbrow brow raising. I as a young, virile young man have no problem with her. Except she's shit.
How can she now present the Live Lounge when she dated a Fame Academy offshoot and the Lostprophet singer (the only man alive to exclusively sing through his nose). How can she take over the £250,000 a year salary off the back of a career on Top of the Pops and Red Nose Day?
Whiley, for all her sins, was a music lover, a recognisable voice, a live lounge co-creator and the voice of reason on T4 unsigned (if that exists). Fearne, they may not be massive shoes to fill but at the moment you look like you have very small feet.
Despite the occasional cameo from Piratebay, it seems the ugly head of illegal downloading has gone back beneath the surface. That is not to say it is no longer an issue, but that the media has decided that something that isn't new...isn't news.
I would love to say that another reason is that people have found more legal ways to enjoy free music, but that would be niave. So here I am, a one man army saying that I am totally against illegal downloading, and even more against it now I have stopped doing it. That is because I have discovered Spotify.
Spotify, in its most basic form, is like a jukebox with almost every song in the world on it that you can access whenever you have an internet connection. For a small monthly fee you get advert free music on a scale never before thought possible. You can also pay one measily pound and get a day's worth of free music. Or even better, don't pay at all and every 20 minutes of so get a 30 second add.
Its all ad and link funded, so the conscience is left untainted, even if it gets a little nervous every time you find a really good album you'll never have to buy. I personally think it outshines the wonder that is Last.fm, which does offer the musical scope and media variation, but not the ease of use or simple playlist ability. Spotify also seems far more reliable for streaming, though this may be due to the numb er of listeners involved.
So for you thieves - start borrowing music instead. Its free, easy, legal, supportive of bands and a hell of a lot quicker at finding the tracks you want. It also has loads of kareoke tracks...I've checked - You've Lost That Loving Feeling is there.
Friday, 26 June 2009
I hope those people that did thrust that pin are now biting their lips and wringing their hands, because if justice works then Michael was proven not guilty and should therefore be mourned and loved as any other good person. But he should also be mourned as a genius, and king, a god, a creator, a legend, an innovator and a million other words that he deserves.
He showed us in his own unique and dysfunctional way that racism is absurd, poverty unjust and politics merely the means to an end. He defied not only colour but age, money, sanity, and class. He questioned our morals positively and negatively. He changed music forever, the industry for years. He reinvented choreography, music videos and the idea of pop idols. He was a great man, like all great men: flawed, but ultimately still great.
Without meaning to end this post on a severe example of bathos, I will fight anyone that says differently.
Rest in peace Michael.
Thursday, 11 June 2009
It's not so much the music business but the musicians who have shot themselves in the foot. For years mainstream bands have released woeful albums of the back of decent singles through the combination of laziness, cockiness and lack of real talent in the first place. Now that the consumer doesn't have to buy the whole album to get the good tracks musicians shouldn't be left wondering why their album sales have dropped off. The truth is that illegally downloaded tracks don't themselves represent a "lost sale" because if people had to pay for these extra tracks, they wouldn't download them. These albums that were knocked of in 3 months, all sounding the same and being slightly less catchy carbon copies of the "single" tracks have stopped selling (just look at the Kaiser Chiefs. Oh wait, you cant, they've disappeared).
Lack of "artistic endevour", so evident in other entertainment industries, has cost the major labels dearly. Notice how smaller, less MOR bands have been making waves recently as their heads show above the ocean of mediocrity, selling and gigging as well as ever. Changes in the industry (downloads, increase in festival numbers/sizes, music channels, youtube etc) have in fact helped the least commerical bands get their sound out. The music industry's thirst for money has been its biggest commercial mistake, and speed over quality has smashed them over the head with a wii fit in the living room.
Sunday, 24 May 2009
Thinking that it would simplify things I invested in a mobile internet contract. I was assured that it was the "next big technology", and having seen it work like a dream on my previous mobiles felt assured that it could only be better on a laptop with a dedicated USB modem. Turns out I was wrong.
I use the internet for 3 things. Blogging, uploading photos and streaming Youtube/news content. I cannot do ANY with a degree of consistancy. I have now tried 5 times to upload images to this blog, and been thwarted everytime my computer failing to "connect with blogspot". It finds it in seconds when I am uploading just text.
As for videos, unless I have full signal, even the crappiest resolutions load at about half real time, meaning Youtubing takes more than twice as long to surf. What is more ridiculous is that I have a fair usage policy (which I was not made aware of but is in the contract) which limits me to 4gb. Thats plenty for me, but not when I'm uploading and redownloading every fucking site I go to to get the whole page to load.
How is this worth £15? The answer is its not. And to add insult to injury, I'm constantly being informed that the autosave is failing while writing this. This is a pointless piece of technology - its meant to let you roam where ever you feel, but you are a slave to signal, even down to where on the sofa you sit. And once you get a signal, chances are it will be as quick and reliable as a Dolorian. Without Michael J Fox. Wifi will eventually cover the whole of England (London by 2012) so just do yourself a favour and stay well away from this, even if they offer you a free laptop.
Friday, 22 May 2009
They were everything I hoped - hypnotic, epic, heavy yet intricate, emotional yet effortless and loud. So loud in fact that my right ear is still ringing, and gives the occasional twitch. That's not right is it?
I took a lot of photos so I'll stick some up asap - out of the 120 I took I'm sure one is presentable.
Special note to the Xcerts who were also fantastic - despite having a Buddy Holly look alike for a bassist sounded a lot like Biffy Clyro if they had got drunk and lairy on a night out and sang all the way home. And that image is awesome.
Things to do today - buy some earplugs.
Wednesday, 20 May 2009
They have already hit the dizzy heights of Britains Got Talent, standing and triumphing in front of the mighty and respected critique of Amanda Holden. Simon of course, being small fry in comparison, didnt get the joke and dismissed it as "an act". Shut up Simon.
Tuesday, 19 May 2009
But those who predict the end of journalism couldn’t be more wrong. Yes there are unemployed journalists out there, but that has as much to do with the recession as it does the apparent death of journalism itself. The truth is that online journalism is still vibrant and growing, and if the industry learns its lessons quickly (indeed pre-empting and making the changes) there is no reason for the jobless to resign themselves to a life on the dole.
The face of journalism is changing, and we have to stop focussing on the death of tradition and look to the future. Yes there is an argument that blogs are stepping on the toes of “traditional” articles but this just exposes the industries apparent self importance and arrogance. Firstly it should be seen as a test for Journalists; a chance to show why they get employed for what they do. Does the wealth of unsigned bands in the UK ruin the market for the larger bands? No, in many cases it simply serves to show why some bands have made it to where they are (if only that were true for all mainstream music!) Secondly, and more importantly, with great change comes great opportunity and journalists need to see the open door, not rue the one that just closed. There is an inconceivable amount of content that needs to be written on the web, and custom publishing is one such industry growing like an amoeba, crying out for decent writers, bloggers and designers. So it is in this sense that I have to disagree with Alan Rusbridger (editor of the Guardian) on the consequences of print medias decline...
“Bad things are going to happen where newspapers are going to die. There are going to be fewer journalists and the really pricey business of quality journalism is going to require subsidy from somewhere. It’s a broken model.”
Yes it is broken, but that doesn’t mean that the quality journalists will be forced to wait tables for the rest of their lives. Such a statement assumes that journalists and readers want the traditions and old order to be maintained. This is not the case, nor would it be possible to maintain if it was. The changes happening in the media world have snowballed from the conception of the internet, it cannot be reversed, it can only be barrelled onwards. We have reached a place of greater accessibility and immersion, and a place that cost wise (and environmentally) makes things a lot simpler. In as clichéd way as possible: You can’t halt progress.
Journalists should be making the most of Twitter, feeds, the blogosphere, getting involved in custom publications and utilising the hundreds of technological advancements that are CREATING journalistic opportunity, not destroying it. Writers already have and will continue to find these new outlets, and if they don’t they probably weren’t “quality” journalists in the first place. Alan Rusbridger seems acutely aware of this in his appraisal of Twitter, though he falls short of suggesting it is part of journalisms saviour:
“You harness this brilliant pool of knowledge out there. It’s a fantastic marketing tool. It’s a fantastic journalistic tool.”
Rusbridger correctly identifies that the profession will need a new form of subsidy, and this seems to be the real question: not where journalism work is going to come from, but where will profit be found. The financial side of journalism is the broken part, that Rusbridger implies that this question means “bad things” for journalism is flawed fin de siècle doomsaying. If he looked around him he would see some writers, despite the tough times, flourishing and creating.
A case in point is Red Stripe beer, who are never seen in newspaper ads, TV ads or indeed sponsorship deals. For years they have been running the Red Stripe Music Awards, sending out journalists to gigs to find the best in UK unsigned talent. Their site therefore contains news, editorial, reviews and forums for musicians, all branded with the company’s product. Brand financed journalism is growing, and is of surprising quality (see Relentless too).
In Clay Shirky’s fantastic “newspapers and thinking the unthinkable” he alludes to the creation of printing press and the chaos that followed, lasting for decades after. Revolutions are confusing times, even if the order before and after seems to be natural. Don’t get caught watching the death of the paper, instead watch the rise of something altogether more exciting, interactive, intuitive, accessible and as viable a business model as all that came before it.
We just don’t know how yet.
Thursday, 14 May 2009
I saw Dizzee Rascal on The Jonathan Ross show on Friday and while "impressed" is rather a strong word I was surprised to see that he wasn't quite the jumped up bling-ridden tosser I thought he was going to be. Fortunately however, I missed his live performance at the end of the show, because that would have reverted my mind back to my prejudices immediately.
"Bonkers" is without a shadow of a doubt the WORST song ever written by a British Hip Hop artist and that really takes some talent. It has no music integrity, no stylistic ideas (or ideals) and is a shameless punt at making money for minimum effort. They got a synth sound, sneezed while playing the keyboard and then got Dizzee drunk of his face and pieced together some lyrics. Which he repeats. For the whole song. And they don't really make sense.
It's a sad time when this kind of wank gets on our national airwaves, but it's the end of civilisation when people seem to like it. Look at the video on you tube and pray for the commentor's souls:
Skunk Weed Bong
dis tune is fuckin good! whos wid me
IM WIT YUU !!! INNIT!!!
base line of this is fuckin BAAAAD lol i love it
You can bitch and moan about Girls Aloud or Westlife, at least they attempt to make a tune. As far as I can tell they cut up Dizzee's Jonathan Ross interview and made a song out of it. Or he co-wrote it with Skunk Weed Bong. And Sian1law, if you want a better bassline, go lie under a Humvee. Its 3 notes played for 4 minutes!
The truth is that ANYONE could make something like this on garageband in about 15 minutes. All they lack is the PR, the previously high regarded name in the industry and the proclivity to shit all over culture. TO top it off, despite being among the whitest males in Britain, I think I could also rap the whole song as well as Dizzee does.
Dizzee you have let yourself, your fans, society and the music industry down. Sure some people think your bonkers, but most of us just think you're a twat.
Take Microsoft for example. Globally labelled as an evil, multi-national conglomerate bent on world domination via computer desktops, it is hard to find someone that would use windows given a viable alternative. So why is it that Apple are regarded as revolutionary, conceptual and enterprising? They use exactly the same tactics to squeeze money from the hapless customer - releasing dated software that needs updating, creating file formats specific to its programs and releasing similar rehashed products year on year to keep sales ticking over.
Apple accounted 73% of the MP3 player market in 2007 and I can't imagine that figure has dropped at all if we allow for iPhones. They celebrated their 5 billionth dowloaded MP3 track (or should I say AAC) just under a year ago. Now Apple enjoy a monopoly on music downloads and to a lesser extent players, and have have none of the related
backlash. But they deserve it - its tracks can only be played on Apple mp3 players which essentially means that once you have an iTunes library you can only ever buy an ipod if you want to listen to it outside. Imagine if Microsoft developed windows to only work on their own brand laptops. We would all be forced to buy them so our programs would still run.
Of course there is an alternative - Amazon have just slashed all their prices in a bid to get in on the downloading market and in some independent research proved either equal too or considerably cheaper than iTunes. Other advantages include no crappy iTunes, and if this really matters to you try play.com, who dont require any kind of downloading software. (check out this excellent Guardian post - http://www.guardian.co.uk/..technology/blog/2009/apr/08/..apple-itunes-amazon-prices).
Whether you are an apple lover or hater, you owe it to yourself to check out the alternatives. All it takes for evil to succeed is for good men to stand by and do nothing.
I still want an iPhone though.
And while they often change for the better, one particular change does make me worry. I read that Lily Allen is thinking of quitting music. It's not the first time she has said this, and last time she did I almost gave an Alan Partridge style cheer as I sat alone at my computer. But this time I feel differently. I like Lily Allen. She is open, honest and humble. In her interview she admitted that her music career wasn't life-assured but she has proved to have a keen ear for a tune and a willingness to change her style. She is also the very definition of "strangely attractive", and she would be the first to admit that looks can help a gal (or guy).
But it is not so much the loss of Lily that scares me most, but more the void she would leave. The music industry often calls upon the "next big thing" long before the one before has gone, so imagine the backlog of lily allen/kate nash wannabes just sitting on small lables waiting for the call up.
T4 on the Beach would be a nightmare, the only band would be the Kaiser Chiefs.
Cavern Club owner, Bill Heckle, seems to agree claiming that he didn't want to remove the name and only did so after talking to a "paedophile victim" who advised him to. I was pleased to see that a plaque was placed elsewhere, reading that Gary Glitter once played at the Cavern Club but was removed from the wall.
Gary Glitter has himself been a victim of the press and the great things he has done in his life are being erased by public order, while his bad acts are paraded for all to see. He has become the scapegoat that the public can lean on to release anti-paedophilic feeling, brought only to the spotlight when more hate is piled on him. I am not saying he doesn't deserve it, I am just saying that when it comes to it we should be maligning the Paul Gadd Gary Glitter, not the musician part of him.
When John Bonham died to the best of my knowledge the band claimed it would never tour again. And indeed it took several decades for them to do so, only agreeing to the one off gig at the O2 arena because they had recruited Bonhams son, also a talented drummer. I thought this was a nice touch, and was indeed delighted that finally a decent band was reforming as part of the cash-in-quick-we-have-run-out-of-new-music-craze.
But now the band want to do a full on tour, and perhaps wisely Mr Page has decided he doesn't want to. While this probably has much to do with the success of his latest album with Alison Krauss (which incidently I find, with a few exceptions, a tad dull and in fact only features one song written by Page himself) I would like to think he also recognises that Led Zeppelin, while timeless and genius was a product of its time, and such a new tour would probably be brief and unfulfilling for the band as well as transparent as a money making machine.
To my dismay the remaining members seem intent on completing this tour with another singer. Replace the drummer....ok. Replace the bassist....pushing it. Replace the guitarist....not advisable at all....but the singer? The very fingerprint of a rock n roll band? Surely that is mere folly. The one sound unique to one person at one time, and Led Zepp are going to try and recreate theirs. And the list of prospective singers is dispicable - Jack White?! Dave Grohl?! Chris Cornell?! MYLES KENNEDY?!?!
They're all American raspers not high pitched british yellers. What happened to the loyalty they showed John? Unless they intend to play new material such a tour would be nothing short of sacrilege. In fact, I'd rather see the Spice girls tour.
"I'm mainly into Rock" you say.
"Rock music? What kind?" Realising the ambiguity of your statement you mentally kick yourself and start to explain. But something is wrong - your mind goes blank, genres slip like cupped water from your mind and nameless rockstar faces fly in front of your eyes. You try to name a band and all you can come up with is Coldplay. Coldplay?! You're trying to pull this person! You begin to sweat as your target's attention wanes, and they begin to wonder whether you like music at all. You LOVE music, your a fanatic, an expert, a die hard and still, you realise, you have absolutely no idea what Rock music is.
It is impossible, it seems, to describe fully the nature of rock music. Even Wikipedia is a let down in this area. Rock has been through so many stages, fractured in so many places and in many cases diluted into an entirely different form. What was originally a counter culture or an anti-establishment statement has recently become used as a mass market tool and as such has changed the image of the genre. I could write an essay about the sell-outs, the copycats and the money guzzling industry types but the real upshot is that it leaves thousands of guys stranded helpless, wordless and shagless at parties the world over. Don't be one of them - read your trusty music blogs and be equipped for when Fern Cotton asks you what bands you're into...Mmmm Fern.
You need a presence, you need a scene, and most of all you need gigs and songs to play at them. This article will give you a no nonsense, no frills and most importantly no promises guide to getting your band of the ground.
1. Find a sound. It may seem obvious but far, far too many bands recycle the same shit again and again, but with less and less quality – and then wonder why no one wants to watch them. Don't find a riff, hit overdrive, moan over the top and repeat it for four minutes. Even the worst song in the world can be saved by adding dynamics, stops, changes and middle 8s - and even a tiny bit of subtlety will set you apart on the local scene.
2. Don't jump in at the deep end. If your mate is having a party and wants you to play, don't unless you're ready to. You'll need 5 songs all drilled to perfection before you can play in front of people. You only get one chance to impress a crowd and if you want people to come see you again you can't be scrappy, out of time and off-tune.
3. Get a decent recording. If you have a friend with some tech knowledge, get him in, or if you can afford it get some studio time (prices will be from £120ish a day most local places.) A clean recording with a decent mix, presented with contact details on the CD case, will double your chances of getting a gig – but then your songs have to do the rest of the talking. A scrappy demo has the same effect as a scrappy gig – the promoter won't look back.
4. Send out as many CDs as possible. Buy 50 cds, 50 cases and 50 envelopes. Go online, find all the venues in your area and send you CD. Don't be picky – A gig is a gig. Give any dates that you can't play – just to save the promoter time and so you come across as serious and professional (even though you're not). By all means sell some CDs to get your costs back – but don't look to make a profit because then you won't. If it has cover art and 5 songs charge no more than £3, for less songs/no cover art £1 is best - It's about spreading the word remember.
5. Most promoters are moody bastards. It's harsh but its true – they do this every night, their ear drums are shot and if you find sound checks boring imagine doing it four times a day. So - turn up on time, set up without a fuss, sound check quickly and efficiently and get out of the promoters hair if he looks angry. Keep to you allotted set time and don't insult the audience (whether you're Pete Doherty or Jim from The Butt Monkeys you'll come across as a twat) or the promoter. Once you're on stage you can go apeshit – 'coz its wicked – but, and I can't stress this enough, only trash you own equipment! Seriously, a guy broke my drummers bass pedal by throwing it at the audience – he got banned from playing there.
6. Socialise! After playing so talk to people, carry CDs with you (visibly!) so if people want to buy one they know where to go and can see you're approachable. Don't sit and hide behind you pint expecting people to come over, because they won't. Be friendly with the promoter too – if you make good friends with him he is more likely to remember you when you ask for a second gig.
7. Get a mailing list. It's the easiest way to let people know when you're playing. Forget facebooks and Myspace messages because they get ignored way to easily. Everytime you have a gig, send out an email saying where when and with whom.
8. Make your myspace/facebook/bebo/sellaband etc look good - its sad but its true that people judge you by how it looks. If you have spent time on it it will pay dividends. Also, spend some time getting friends and commenting to increase click throughs and messages back. A busy myspace is important!
9. Make sure you apply to festivals, because playing them fucking rules.
10. Don't take yourself too seriously. Work hard, have a laugh and at worst it will be a lot of fun. Most chances at the big time come through talent (which you can't control) and luck. Push and push, but don't get overly excited. It's a cliche but the music world is harsh, commercial and forgetful - but do it right and you wont ever forget that moment when you jumped off the stage and crowdsurfed out the door.
Eurovision song contest, one of the bigger non-events in our music calendar has never been hailed as the be all and end all of great song writing and performance. Yet has always held a place in our hearts that I doubt will ever fade, largely due to the eclectic tunes and short skirts. However, a little bit more leg every year does not stop me hating the night that bit more every time I watch it.
The dreadful acts we as a nation put forward aside, there is a typical ... European flavour to it that leaves a very bitter taste in my mouth. It seems more an exercise in bullying that musical scholarship. The French never give us anything because we don't eat the frogs legs they insist on shipping over (and because we whipped their ASSES at Waterloo), Russia don't give the west anything because they aren't over the Cold War, the Eastern Bloc only give Russia points because twenty years ago if they didn't they were shot and Ireland only give us some because then we might give them Northern Ireland back. Terry Wogan predicted six months ago that Russia would win thanks to the Eastern bloc, and for an old guy, he couldn't have been more right.
It's not a new idea that music and politics are intertwined, but for me this intertwining is becoming a problem. Music used to speak out against political, cultural and ethnic division, and indeed in most quarters does, but when it comes to the most watched musical event of the year, it becomes a symbol of national rivalry and political discrimination. It relates to outdated, geopolitical ties that should have been left for dead after the Cold War. Good lord people, half of the viewers weren't even born until the Soviet union collapsed, so how is it still relevant now? Are Russia really going to stop your nations gas supply because you voted fairly in the Eurovision Song Contest?! Call me sensationalist, but how can we call ourselves a civilised and united continent when we can't even have some light hearted competition in the name of musical furtherment without pointing the finger at the capitalists? I think most of Europe knows that on Saturday night we put out one of the best songs and yet were compared, unfavourably, to the most woeful attempts at music ever (here's looking at you Bosnia) and left languishing with Germany, the black hole of popular music, in last place.
A small scale resolution is obviously to stop semi-finalists voting, as the great Wogan suggests, which would leave the Bloc voting less powerful a force. But is that really the problem, or is it that when it comes to popular culture classroom we are the geek with glasses and freckles who no one wants to talk to? If we are, just remember Europe, Derren Brown was that guy, and no he can fuck people's minds up on TV for money. Yeah, you better watch it.
Before he played my uni bar I caught up with Larry for a chat. Expect nipple clamps, clearasil and stabby bits.
So Larry, nice to meet you, you play Exeter a lot don't you?
Yeah, we know the owners of the Cavern really well so we've always played there. We do a lot of things first in Exeter. Like were starting this tour, and its where we first played Broken Hands too. We played out first gig in Exeter actually. It was millennium eve at the Phoenix. Better than doing it up in London. We were awful. Just really drunk.
You're a big touring band, do you ever get bored of songs?
Well, the stuff from the first album we could play with our eyes closed so that's not much fun, I don't hate it or anything. The new stuffs cool because it's a bit harder. I love playing "Kill You Own" because the stabby bit is satisfying. It's a cheap trick but I love it.
One of the great moments in rock history has the stabby bit before "If I Could" kicks off.
I don't get to play that bit, its Ben. That songs part of a trilogy of songs we have that all sound the same. Someone pointed it out to me that you could play any one part of those songs together and they would fit. Which we've actually done in rehearsal. It sounded …ok.
Are you looking forward to this tour?
Yeah, its only two weeks long because were not having any nights off. We're just cramming them in. We're heading off tonight to Cardiff but its cool. We also have a stand in bassist for the tour because Andy has just been made a father, so he's at home being shit all over.
And you also had to replace Paul last year, how has that changed your sound?
I think its got cleaner. Bens really good. Paul was a fan of throwing the around guitar a lot, sometimes it made sound, sometimes it didn't. Bens totally metal … its made it cleaner, but at the same time there's a lot more to it.
And what are you listening to these days?
I was LA and found this really cool Bjork live box set. I'm listening to that a lot, and Smog. Smog is my favourite person of all time. But I'd marry Bjork still, she can do no wrong. I saw her in Belgium, it was the most amazing thing I've ever seen, and that week I also saw Muse, Pearl Jam and Metallica.
Wow. So you recorded, mixed and produced the new album?
I did, that was quite a bit of work! Its something I got into when I was I was a kid. There was a youth club with a recording studio and we used to go along and record each other's bands. The first thing I produced was a friend's band called "The Walking Abortions" who somehow got a punk label to release a 7". I did the Hundred Reasons demos, but didn't really know how to make real records, but then after the second album I was helping out as a little engineer boy and then I stole their jobs!
Now Hundred Reasons have been through a lot recently …
Yeah Colin had to be silent for a month [he was diagnosed with nodes and told he may never sing again] and spent all that time at home, but we just all met up and wrote stuff. We didn't get to play practical jokes or anything. We could have punched him and he wouldn't have been able to scream.
And what are the implications of your label, V2, being bought out?
Well, we're no longer on V2. They kicked out about fifty-two bands, and kept Paul Weller and the Stereophonics. But they gave us the rights to our record, which is pretty cool, so we're going to do a re-release at some point. Thing is, if you count publishing, we have now had more record labels that albums.
You are a rarity in that you have a cool band name. Where is it from?
Well it doesn't actually mean anything. We wanted Hundred in the name because we thought it sounded cool, and our drummer came up with "reasons." We sometimes let him make decisions. Names that mean something are a mistake, because it's not like an album where you make lots of them. You have to keep it going. My mates Capdown did that, because Capdown is short for "Capitalist Downfall," which they thought was cool when they were kids, and now they have to constantly make up better reasons for it.
Now the obligatory gimmick questions. As Hundred Reasons, here are questions with reasons for answers.
Why did Colin cut his hair?
I don't know. We all told him not to. I think he thought he was growing old, or just did it because we told him not to. But its back now because we went on at him. It's a bit more well conditioned now, you know, he's married.
Why do they sterilize needles before lethal injections?
Do they?! I wouldn't have thought so … well I guess it's just polite. They give you a meal, and a clean death. Or maybe its in case they mix up the needles or something.
Why cant clearosil dub their adverts properly?
I guess they don't need to, because the market is always there. People will always have spots so the adverts don't need to be that good or thought about.
Why does the guy in the Cillit Bang advert insist on shouting?
Ive got Cillit bang! Not on me … But I cant watch adverts, they annoy me, even though their budgets are probably bigger than most of the shows. That's why the BBC exists.
Why do men have nipples?
Erm… so girls can put clamps on them.On that note… Cheers Larry. Good luck tonight.
I don't smoke. I never have, and I never will. I think its disgusting, but until the smoking ban came into effect I would have defended, (perhaps) with my life, peoples right to smoke. Now the smoking ban is in effect, however, I hate all the bastards that do it. Every single one (bear with me.)
The reason is simple. Since the smoking ban, speaking as a small time (but incredibly talented) local band, crowd sizes at gigs have more that halfed because every 30minutes people go out for a fag. Not between sets, not between songs, and never alone. No, right in the middle of a song, and they take what seems like half the pub with them. If one in four people smoke, why are they all going to my gigs?!
No one watches the little band anymore. No one cares that I am pouring my heart out on stage in a way that hasnt been seen since Elton John at Diana's funeral. No, everyone is nudging there mate and trying to signal that they want a fag without spilling their pint. And then theyre gone.
I jest not. I have played empty clubs all over the sotuh west, only to come out into the car park to find over 100 people all smokin away without a care in the world. Something needs to be done, but with the government trying to reduce noise pollution (and therefore openair gigs) and patio heaters becoming more and more effective there are only two options - bring the smoking ban back with its hazy, choking odour that clings to your clothes and risks us serious lung damage, or ban smoking all together so we can breath fresh air and have full gig venues up and down the country.
Make that one option. I quote myself: "I would defend with my life peoples right to smoke."
I appear to have talked myself into a corner. I'll get my demonstation sign and meet you at number 10 ...
I have recently been frequenting music message boards all over the web, and in particular posts about X Factor. For some reason I am still unable to tear my eyes away from the programme, and I am now oblivious to my own words of disgust for it.
It seems I was not as outspoken as I thought in regard to several things. For starters Rhydian wasn't as popular as I thought (while also probably a victim of the "Everyone likes him so I don't" trap) and people were well aware of the fact that he is not that great an opera singer, nor that great a pop singer. Which is a bit of a pickle for a bit of a prick.
But the biggest revelation of my message board surfing is my realisation of the power such sites wield. While my modest site is yet to change the atmosphere of my room, let alone the music scene, many posts on these boards can reach thousands. If the general discourse of a topic goes one way, the thousands of readers that see it will be affected. Whilst reading someone's self important post about how Simon Cowell is deluded to think anyone would buy a "Hope" record, I actually found myself thinking "Fuck you, I'll buy one" before realising I hate everything to do with the band, who are after all 90% make up.
I couldn't say for sure that my words have this kind of effect, I may after all be weak minded, but I do believe that once something is written, whether it is on the web, a book or on your drunks friends face it is there for the duration. Your point of view that Simon Cowell is gorgeous is stuck on the web the duration, as is the memory of your marker pen assertion that your drunken friend is a "Dick."
I think that, while on message boards this is relatively harmless, reviewers and feature writers can lose sight of the power they wield. A case in point is Carrie Bradshaw Layfield's review of the Foo Fighter's new album. Layfield uses the review space not to talk about the album, but to slander the Foo Fighters previous connection to Alive And Well, an organisation that denies a link between HIV and AIDS and claims the African Epidemic is exaggerated.
Whether this exaggeration is true is irrelevant to the album. As is whether the Foo's involvement is questionable or not. As is the fact that they were involved. As is the fact that they no longer are. In fact, barely one sentence of the whole review is relevant to music, except where he compares the "energy" of the Foo's to a dead child.
People reviewing music with an agenda should not be allowed. It's bad enough that politics get in the way of music creation (not always true I accept), let alone its critics. As reviewers, people have a responsibility to deliver an insightful, illuminating and entertaining read, something Mr Layfield fails to do on all levels. In fact, he just embarrasses himself. The words we write mean something. We can't claim we wrote them in the heat of the moment like a harsh word in an argument, because we think the words, spell them, then check them. We think about what we write, so we should think about who reads it.
In every tribe and tongue
Let every heart's desire be joined
To see the kingdom come"
Thank god thats over...
Three, four step inside the venue"
An ass like that.
The way you move it,
Makes my pee-pee go doing doing doing."
With money hangin' out the anus."
This is life."
I want to see your kitty and a little bit of titty
Want to know where I go when I'm in you city?"
It's the sight I fear the most,
I'd rather have a piece of toast,
Watch the evening news."