Saturday, 12 September 2009

A dubstep Muse - What the world was waiting for?

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

Chrisgate - Why do we have to stick "gate" after every public airing of scandal?

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

Thoughts on "Noah and the Whale - The First Days of Spring"

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

Banks for Nothing

Art? Not according to Hackney Council.

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

The meaning of life...

...can be found half way down your arm.

This is the single most emotive piece of music ever written by mankind. You must watch it.