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."
But for years and years it never seemed to be a problem. Gigs generally happened when they were planned and those most famous for their habits were usually the most creative (The Beatles for one.) Sure the odd hotel room got demolished, but it was good, clean, hazy fun. Even now such crazies seem perfectly normal, fatherly figures for us all to look up to (like alledged wife beater David Hasselhoff) and saner than sane Ozzy Osborne. Not a good example...
But recently there has been a spate of no shows, media interest and un-needed press. I have to wonder why today it seem we have more celebs falling apart. Did the press just not report it? Its a strange state of affairs when Amy Winehouse's boyfriend tops the news bill over world politics. Obviously its what we like to hear about, but as news journalists, surely apaers have a responsibility to steer news in the correct direction? Those that want to read about Amy Winehouse can read a music magazine, look on the internet or just turn the bloody page to the music section.
What happened to lovely poetry award winning Pete and wonderfully voluptuous Amy? They got famous, and got money. That's what happened.
These guys were timebombs just waiting for a spark of ignition and money was that spark. If such people were middle class guys working in telemarketing they would wear suits and reminicse about the time at uni when they got stoned and ate 5 pot noodles in a row. Instead they can get as much as they want of any drug, drink, fast food etc etc All it takes is a certain personality to get into trouble with that.
But what people don't seem to think about is that being an artist is a job. Like you shouldn't get pissed-faced the night before work, you shouldn't the night before a gig. People are paying you, so you owe it to them to turn up and be on form.
It doesn't help that Amy, the current focus of the tabloids, has what appears to be a complete beserker for a boyfriend, and while I can't compare myself to the celebs I assure you, if this blog brings me fame and fortune, I will still be Jonny from the Blog.
I was dragged to this gig by a friend, who told me that "I would appreciate this band.." When someone assures me I will like someone I am usually disappointed, much like when your friend matchmakes you with her "cool" (i.e. ugly) friend. But being drunk I was perfectly willing to be dragged, and at the end of the night was incredibly glad I was.
Despite hailing from Brooklyn, New York, Yeasayer do not scream Rock'n'Roll. The bassist looks like the Principal from "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," the guitarist like a miniature version of Big Chief from "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest" and the singer well...he doesn't look like a singer at all.
But aesthetics aside this is a truly excellent, innovative band, and the fact that the Hub was almost empty was an absolute crime. The guitar pedals, synths, samplers and drum machines used make for an epic but still intensely rhythmical and simple sound. The bassist uses a fretless guitar with bizarre accuracy and skill, whilst still singing along as part of the four part harmonies and counter melodies which create a sense of Texas or South American country. They are the first band I have seen that has truly mastered the mix of rock and electronica, as well as many wide ranging genres. Those that claim the new Radiohead album has done this should take a listen to Yeasayer.
"2080's" vocal hook is unforgettable, and the sparse introduction to sunrise un-nerving yet still catchy, making you feet and arms move completely involuntarily. Each song had a new idea that sets it apart not only from other bands but from each song in the set and the only people moving more than the audience was the singer, who looked on the verge of collapse at any second. After the gig I approached them for a chat and a casual game of "Cock Or Ball" (which they suspiciously good at.) The guys were much more normal the their music might suggest, being very grounded and friendly, moaning about exchange rates and answering all my tedious question about their large array of instruments.
There is a lot of hate in the music industry. To quote the great (!?) Charlie Simpson "Fans take as much pride in hating bands as liking them." It may be a sweeping generalization, but in my experience people, and indeed reviewers, find and cling (sometimes correctly) to any reason at all to hate bands without ever alluding to their music.
Of course sometimes you don't need to. A band that doesn't write its own music rarely deserves the success it gains. In today's industry, where songwriters are ten a penny, many talented musicians are pushed out of the limelight by bands like Westlife, who can quite frankly screw themselves with a rusty spoon and get tetanus.
But all too often I find respectable, talented musicians lumped in with the tripe of boy and girl bands. I'm talking of supposed "Sell Outs" who are claimed to be in it for the money or fame, not the music, simply because they sign to major labels, or start writing more accessible music.
An excellent example is Greenday, no longer sub-level punk rock heroes but world arena superstars, who "sold out" in 1994 by signing to a major, and then somehow again when they released American Idiot. While it was a departure in many ways I think that the album was superior lyrically, emotively, musically and productionally to all their previous records. What is more, the songs on this album, to me, are less catchy and accessible than anthems like Basket Case, Longview or Time Of Your Life.
There seems to have been a movement against corporate music, magazines and labels since Bob Dylan's controversial move from acoustic to electric, which alienated half his fans who believed he was bowing to commercial and progressional pressures.
But the whole notion is absurd, contradictory and completely self destructive for artists. Had Nirvana not signed to Sub Pop (a label half owned by Universal) we would probably have never heard of one of the most influential artists of our time, and the Foo Fighters may have never existed. Of course Kurt Cobain is famous for hating the popular culture lifestyle he was forced to live. Had he been able to embrace it maybe things would have been different for Nirvana.
Money aside, major labels offer an opportunity for musical exposure that few (actually independent) indie labels could even hope to create. They offer advertising campaigns, contacts and placement that can bring an artist right to the public eye. It also creates profits that reflect the talent and work that goes into being in the music industry. Why is it that for an artist to have integrity they must earn a small wage packet and be heard by as few people as possible, or stick to the music or genre they started in?
I maintain that the hardest music to write is commercial music, and in particular commercial music that doesn't sound like everything else on the radio. This does therefore not include the mind-numbing-music-murdering number ones that Westlife or Atomic Kitten churn out. I'm talking about bands like Feeder and Coldplay, songwriters like Gary Barlow and innovators like Matt Bellamy, who despite their vast wealth seem to lose respect of the "elite" the more popular they get, but have offered so much more to music than many of the bands NME claim will "Change your life".
I saw Muse at Wembley, largely because Biffy Clyro we playing, and was completely and utterly blown away by the talent, variety and sheer technical ability Matt Bellamy, and the whole band, showed during their monster 2.5 hour set. And still by many Muse are seen as this over-hyped, overly successful band (type "I hate Muse" into google and you'll see) when I think they will be seen as one of the greats of our era, and for years to come.
Thankfully this notion of "selling out" is slowly disappearing. The creation of iTunes, myspace and illegal p2p software has meant that smaller bands get better exposure, reducing the polarization of the big and the little bands. Bands like Biffy Clyro and System of a Down have managed top twenty SINGLES, and this will hopefully give rise to the pushing out of watered-down R'n'B and manufactured pop artists.
In fact everyone is now selling out, with bigger turnovers, TV ads and interviews, being heard by more people and being branded as commercial without the derogartory insinuations. Downloads mean charts are more accurate representations of music consumption and many indie labels are being brought out, offering new opportunities to their bands.
I think we all know how we all feel about The X Factor. If "A Clockwork Orange" had been written forty years later I feel sure that Alex Delarge would have been forced to watch it. But while the fact that it is on television haunts me every night, I do get a good chuckle out of the fact that it won Best Comedy Entertainment Programme over Jonathan Ross at the British Comedy Awards in 2005.
The thing is, I always used to watch it and I can't for the life of me work out why. The auditions are of course hilarious, Simon Cowell's sheer ego a marvel to behold and the audience wonderfully cringing. But now, even the joy that is Dannii Minogue can't hold my attention. And it's because of all the people in this year's competition, not ONE of them has real talent. 200,000 people auditioned, and here we are now with seven either plain, plain bad or unoriginal artists. Is this really the best the UK can come up with?
I can hear the cry's of angered girls who watch the show, drinking lambrini before hitting town on a Saturday. "What about Rhydian?!" The man has no variation, his Pink cover was laughable and the way he smiles he could be Satan himself having a go at pop. Beverly is obviously just going to produce an album of Whitney and Aretha Franklin covers. Hope, aside from having the worst band name ever, are simply leggy, made up girls who can sing in tune. Also can someone tell the tall black one not to wear heels when the rest of the band are a foot shorter…?
But it is the presence of "Same Difference" that most agitates me. Not only does it scream of a brother-sister relationship with a lot of, shall we say … secrets, they are cringingly plain and boring, and it causes me physical pain to watch. The fact that their selected songs come from Steps, S Club 7 and High School Musical is a testament to the fact that they should be singing at Haven or Butlins, or worse the Eurovision Song Contest.
But let's not get me started on that monstrosity.
So I toddled off to my local CD shop and bought "Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band" simply because I love Fionn Regans cover of "Getting Better." (And because of the Eastenders musical thing on Children In Need.)
Today the record seems a little dated. Many of the people I have spoke to find it a little sickly and the analogue recording a little amateur sounding. Aside from that being bollocks, the truth is that this is a record that changed the world. For a start, what sickly pop songs today are about LSD or have a sitar/bongo solo preceding a song like "When I'm Sixty Four?"
Some of the recording techniques were way ahead of their time - it was so rare for a band of that era to take such care and thought over the recording of an album, even to the point that it doesnt really make sense. The last sonds on the album are the conversations of the beatles in the studio on tape, cut up and stuck back in a random order. A process that is used, to much better effect, all over the album. They used all the benfits of live and analogue instruments to their highest potential, putting vocals through hammond organs and using headphones as microphones (not sure how that works...)
But aisde from this the songs and their arrangements are just stunning. "With A Little Help From My Friends" is a delight, "Getting Better" much better than Fionn's excellent cover, "A Day In The Life" simply epic. The title track sounds like James Brown with the Birmingham Brass Band behind him. Actually it doesn't really, but I cant quite describe it.
The album is a triumph in innovation with mass appeal but also, hardest of all, a master class in longevity.