Category: Articles


Because You’re Not Paying Attention

[Don’t panic, this isn’t another Wrecking Ball review. Diz covered that one pretty comprehensively. Still, I think the album is a pretty important case study in modern music. And if you don’t like that, deal with it]

I’ve been enjoying Bruce Springsteen’s latest album, Wrecking Ball. Enjoying it a lot, actually, and it’s been creating quite a buzz. After all, why shouldn’t it? It effectively captures the mood of 2012 America: a tale of dejected men and women, broken families, and the indignation of those whose hard work is rendered null and void at the hands of a reckless few. It’s an angry, dare I say visceral album

After all, compared with previous eras, we haven’t had particularly many songs written about some of the most momentous events over the last few decades. When one looks back to a similarly tumultuous era; the late 60s and early 70s, it seems as if our current predicament is at least similar in magnitude. While there aren’t any direct parallels to the sexual revolution or the Vietnam War, the global economic depression and corresponding widespread mass public protests doth protest that something is rotten in the state of Denmark. Continue reading

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Flash Lights and Great Parties

It’s not hard to explain the appeal of Parliament-Funkadelic, especially to white people, who follow the great maxim of liking black music that nobody listens to anymore. Now while that unfairly throws honkies like myself under the bus – after all, great music is great music no matter where or when it comes from – by the same token it is evident that the unfathomably upbeat and occasionally uncritical has immense appeal to the rock and jazz audience who aren’t completely sold by the material generated by the hip-hop, indie-rock and electro generation. Continue reading

In Love With The Boss

Him?

You’ve got that itch. Palms are sweating, knees trembling, general jitters. You blink rapidly as you wipe your forehead, trying to keep an eye on the road ahead. How long has it been? An hour? A year? A centu – stop! ‘Pull yourself together, man’, you think, ‘this foolishness has to come to an end’. You’ve got to forget this schoolboy obsession, drive it from your mind – by force, if necessary. It’s unbecoming, and it’s getting harder and harder to hide it from your friends. Besides; he’s all wrong for you, you’re completely different types. He’s not proper, he’s not reserved – why, he doesn’t have an ounce of sarcasm in his body. And have you heard that voice of his? Either a steel-wool bellow or a ‘moon in june’ croon – it’s frightful. No, he’s not our type at all. But then again…it just feels so good. You get excited just thinking about it. The stately piano, the twiddling organ, the chiming guitars, THE WAILING SAXOPHONE! LIL’ DARLIN! JOHNSTOWN! CHEVY! MISTER!

Fuck it, there’s no point in denial. You’re in love with The Boss.

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I Got The Collection Blues

 

I have a confession to make: I am one of the six people left in the world who still buys CDs. Yeah, I know, its kind of embarrassing, and trust me, I’ve heard everything that you’re about to say a hundred times before. I know they cost me money, I know they take up space, I know that you believe there is no real difference in sound between mp3 and CD. But the fact remains that I like CDs. I like the way they sound when you pop one into the car stereo and crank it up, I like that slight bit of tension when you try and remove the disc from its case for the very first time, and for a second it looks like you won’t get it out without it snapping. I like the way I can line them all up and see, right there in front of me, a collection of all the sounds that make me feel good. But I’m not really here to talk about the merits of physical versus digital distribution of music; that is a useless argument in which no amount of touchy-feely bullshit will ever change minds. The vast majority of people will do what is easiest, and that will always be the case. The reason I mention CD ownership is not as a starting point for some kind of anti-digital hate spray, but instead because the actual spending of money on music, and the resulting physical presence in my home, set me thinking about something that is equally applicable to a digital collection. All that…stuff – it’s kind of scary.

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Why Pink Floyd

With the new re-releases of Pink Floyd, and the sudden explosion of bootlegs onto Youtube, I thought that perhaps a piece about the band itself was warranted. And what a band.

The most extraordinary fact about Pink Floyd was how little the band itself mattered. For undoubtedly one of the most important and successful bands in popular music, it is astonishing how little name recognition there is for any of Pink Floyd’s members compared to the well-known relationships and antics of comparable performers of the day. Ironically, the only member with significant name recognition is the fire that burnt twice as bright, Syd Barrett, who left the group within a year of their debut and soon became a recluse. Doubtless Syd’s insanity helped to fuel talk about the Floyd, and later greatly influenced their writing of Wish You Were Here and a few of the Dark Side tracks. Continue reading

Snob Rage – Why So Serious?

Pity the music snob. No really, it’s a hard life. No one lets us pick the radio station, our music collection grows exponentially as our taste grows steadily more selective, and every conversation with a ‘normie’ quickly bombs once we dare reveal our affection for semi-obscure alt rock bands from the mid eighties, or even say the name ‘Captain Beefheart’. Oh sure, there are upsides. While everybody else has to make do with being pretty certain that they’ve got good taste, we know it. We’ve got the proof right there; just look at our iTunes library, or even – and you’ll pardon me if I get a little excited here – our record collection. So while your average schlub, unwilling to cultivate a more exclusive music taste, has to make do with whatever music the Top 40 or the club will provide, we will always have our finally tuned, impeccably tasteful and emotionally satisfying collection that makes up the soundtrack of our lives. But we’ve got a little problem. Every now and then our careful ecosystem gets disturbed and we are, through circumstances beyond our control, brought face to face with that thing we’ve devoted every waking hour to avoiding – Modern Popular Music. That’s when even the strongest of my tasteful brethren can fall victim to Snob Rage.

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Remember them? You know, the ones who were like, from England. They had the words by that one main guy, and they were all about going out and drinking and taxis and one of them had the bit about the bouncer. Still nothing? Really? There’s no way you could have forgotten that fast. It was only back in 2006 that Arctic Monkeys were official media darlings, with countless outlets breathlessly repeating the particulars surrounding the release of their debut album Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not. You can’t have avoided it; there are no doubt Buddhist monks living in the frosty embrace of the Himalayas who, despite their best efforts to pursue a life of contemplation free from the material trappings of the modern world, can still recount to you in some detail that album’s internet-fuelled rise to become the UK’s then highest ever selling debut album. If you were to venture deep into the dark heart of the Amazon you could find – oh, you’re getting something? Yes, the album with the Adam Sandler lookalike on the front. Yes, the ones from England, that’s what I said. So we can be certain that you knew of them once, then. Maybe you listened to their first couple of albums; maybe you even had one of their songs set as your ringtone. But, oh fickle Listening Public, you stopped listening, and you stopped caring, leaving it to people like me (you know the type) to nurture the flame until the inevitable reunion tour of 2030 when you will fork out for tickets and holler for the hits, providing we aren’t all still living with our parents. But why? Why did this happen? What has become of the Arctic Monkeys?

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Reviewing “Head of the Hawk” made me remember this article I had written a year ago on my old blog. Despite a minor bit of editing, I think the article’s point is valid and indicative of what I see as an unfortunate trend in music, in which the playlist is replacing the album.

The more and more I look at it, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that we’re proving rather inept in the transition from LP to CD, despite its invention being a staggering 29 years ago. I’ll admit to being more into the age of the LP than that of the CD, yet what I have been noticing is the tendency for bands to create albums that are longer (not to mention louder, more trebly and with worse production), particularly amongst older rock bands – Metallica, Guns N’ Roses, AC/DC, but it seems to be a rather constant thing.

Having 60 minute records isn’t necessarily a bad thing – time itself is no reasonable judge of a record’s quality. But it’s no small coincidence that some of the better records of the CD era, of roughly 1987-onwards, have generally been less than an hour in length. Look at Appetite for Destruction, Nevermind, OK Computer – indeed all of Radiohead’s albums run for around 50 minutes, and they’re all the better for it. Continue reading

[There are a lot of videos in this post. I apologise, but I felt it was the only real way to get my point across. You don’t have to watch them all]

Ah yes, the drum solo. Please don’t leave, don’t use this number to go to the bathroom and get a drink. I promise you it’ll be interesting.

Really it’s not surprising why drum solos get a bad rap. There’s enough negative press about guitar solos as it is, and that’s the one that makes squiggly exciting noises that can be bent by ungodly amounts of pedals, computer processing and any other form of electronics conceived by man. And when your audience is bored of some long-haired jock playing with electricity, well, how does a drum solo begin to compare?

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So What’s Your Point?

As I discussed here, we’re stuck with a largely stagnant mainstream, because mainstream is no longer under competition from the alternative, the underground, the elite and the plain weird. While it’s true that seminal works don’t necessarily need to be popular to be influential (Velvet Underground & Nico; case in point), counter-culture itself is a lot like guerrilla warfare; while you can chip away at your enemy for a long time, you do need to eventually win a conventional battle to be victorious. Yet when everyone’s tastes are satiated, when there’s no real counter-cultural movements because everyone who would otherwise contribute their input into what gets played isn’t engaged, then from whence does any counter-cultural movement come?

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