Archives for category: Music

This may well not be a popular viewpoint amongst these new “tech” consumers, people who have had computers of some form or other in their life for their entire life. People who have come of age in an era of programmes such as the X Factor, Strictly Come Dancing et al.
They claim to “love” things made by people such as musicians. However, they only love it if it is free. They love free, consequence free art. Or, they buy digitally through one of the various portals into which we volunteer reams of data, and ignore a plethora of conditions; in order to only spend seven tenths of a pound on a song.
Who benefits from this arrangement? Certainly not the artist, for often they receive a mere single figure percentage of the received income. Not the record label, as they also do receive barely enough money. It also is not the customer. They receive a low quality product which is designed to be heard once, maybe twice and then mostly forgotten about until the utilisation of something called “iTunes Genius“, reminding you of all these songs you actually have.
So no verifiable person wins, nobody who spent their childhood after school learning an instrument, in the vague hope that maybe one day they could earn a crust from their skills. Their idle wanderings along the fretboard as a teen were for their pleasure, but then they realised they were actually quite good at this old lark. Why not try and do it forever? Making music.
Making music is something which is inherent amongst humans. There has always been music. There always will be music. The worry is that we have entered a new age. Not one of particular beauty, of innovation, of expansion or new thought. One where the race to the bottom is the only worthwhile thing. Where everything is described only in profit margins – from the food we eat to the television we watch.
As a result, we are processed into thinking we have more control over our culture, through televised karaoke. We don’t seem to realise that the more we buy into this fake form of “democracy”, the more we lose sight of what it means to live in a decent society. Art is no longer extant for searching for truth, or beauty or a profound sense of what it is simply to be. It is produced in great factories in order that we, the consumer; can forever try and keep up with the vulgar Joneses.
In a world where we believe we have a right to not pay for anything, what do we expect? Our conditioned greed in this toxic environment leads us to believe that because we have more of everything, it is therefore better and more culturally rewarding than in the past. More songs, more films, more television channels, more books.
What people fail to realise is that it is all pulp. Crass, mass produced stupidity. Where are the good ideas anymore?
We, as the world; have not seen new innovations in politics, literature or art that have changed the entire future course of their areas for decades. Everybody peddles all the same wares. Carbon copies of things once done. We need originality, we need to engender an atmosphere in which the eccentric, the bohemian and the simply philosophical can take root.
Since the advent of television, and its incessant popularity since; we have become weaker intellectually. People think that they have access to new and better information with a television. This would be a fine assumption, if it were possible for people to make television programmes. As it stands, a very small number of people across the globe actually put out any form of prgramming.
We are being trained into being stupid. We are trained into accepting things as they are, accepting that art is only ever money.
Maybe, these kids will argue that there are no more geniuses, which is simply absurd. Genius will always exist in people, but if we create a world in which they suffocate rather than breathe in the admiration of their peers, of course they will be forced into mundanity and a real job.
I do not want to live in a world where people pay only £0.69 for a song. Something which most true artists would have pored over maybe for years. It all starts with the musicians. The longer we allow ourselves to be spoonfed the lie that cheap equals good, the longer we will wander headfirst into a new European Dark Age. We are on the cusp. If we persist in humiliating and devaluing that which has the true ability to satirise our society, thus muzzling it and castrating its ability to have any impact, then we will be judged by history as the people who just didn’t care.
I hope you think twice next time the cursor hovers of “Buy now”. Don’t do it, engage yourselves.

I’m the kind of person who usually is able to “grasp the nettle” of something fairly quickly. Develop if not an expertise, then instead a well-informed opinion on a matter. Not to blow my own trumpet, but to illustrate just how perplexed I am.

America, why have you only just realised that dance music is good? Admittedly, it is your own (yawn) warped version of how everybody else makes it, but still- welcome on board. I know you like to be the best at everything, hence the Superbowl Champions are described as “world champions”; the “World Series of Baseball” (haha!) so on and so on. We get it. You like your own noise.

But Skrillex? Is his music really the best that could be made in order for you to procalim that “EDM”, as you so crassly describe it; has reached the stratospheric heights of being popular? I can’t believe you don’t realise that his music is a cannibalisation of dubstep, a music so far removed from the form that really it does not deserve that epithet. For there is no dub.

Dubstep was born out of immigration to the UK. From an evolution of UK Funky and garage, from acts as diverse as Linton Kwesi Johnson and Kraftwerk. Where is the soul in the american version? Where is the back story?

I don’t understand why Sonny is allowed the moniker of dubstep. I really don’t. It, and he, is more at home in the emo stylings and genre. Sure, artist evolution is fine, as I have written before. But, I don’t know. It just feels wrong. It’s like the whole MK Dons aberration all over again. You’ve no right to it.

So yeah, rejoice like never before. You have discovered that really ordinary blokes sit in their bedrooms playing with knobs (ahem) and make fantastic music. Great.

Just please, step outside your own bubbles. There is a big, culturally rich world out there.

The supreme hatred harboured by everyone who uses the internetz dictates that I must start off by noting that I fucking love Beck Hansen’s work. From Fresh Meat & Old Slabs to Blue Randy. I love it. I am a fan. Almost a mega-fan.

So allow me to voice my malcontent. My disappointment. I am underwhelmed beyond words; for all I wanted was some new music. Songs, a body of work that started with track one and ran until track end. The songs needn’t be related, coherent or even conventionally good. Just some songs, Beck.

It was all so promising. Appearances in the media. Recordings. New songs. Live shows became expected, rather than a dirty hope which needed lots of bottom lip-biting. It could have been great, Beck. I loved Modern Guilt. I thought, and still do think; it’s sublime. A piece of majesty.

I understand, also; why this format was chosen. But please, musical Gods; remind artists we are not all of the hipster generation. Even amongst Beck fans, there are those of us who dream only of music. Whether it be on 180g audiophile vinyl, or a little plastic disc. Either way, man. I also appreciate that in Planet Hipster, it ain’t worth jack unless it’s a redundant medium: glasses with no lens; fixed gear bicycles; canvas anything; handlebar moustaches, humus…

How did this come into being? Who gave the green light for this an economically viable piece of “art”. Or is that the key? It isn’t economically viable, and so it will be “über-limited” to only 3.4 units?

“We’re gonna need a release from you soon…”
“Uh, yeah, it’s just I haven’t done anything. No music really. It’s all too disparate. And being an icon, y’know?”
“Yeah, we love that angle; but we will need something soon”
“I have an idea. Why don’t we exclude everyone? Let’s release an album on paper”
“Fucking genius, Beck.”

I pray to a god, in whom I don’t believe; that is not how it came about. I also really hope this actually turns into REAL recordings of Beck playing the music. It surely must do, hence JMJ’s tweet about “working on new Beck stuff”? Any other Beck fans out in the ether, please either assuage my fears, or tell I’m wrong and why. Please.

 

I guess if it isn’t the coolest fucking thing ever, at least the emperor of tumblr’s new clothes are looking swe…oh.

Specifically in music. I’m conflicted here. I will explain why. In 2006/7 me and one of my friends chanced upon an up-and-coming rapper whose guise was satire. He’d rap about topics in a light, almost nonchalant manner which would belie his often serious observations. It was witty. It was real. It wasn’t important that he was relatively unknown. We didn’t much care for that; “hipster” was a dirty word yet to be invented in the universe we inhabited.
So what’s my problem?
I can’t decide if it is morally just to completely change everything about you as an artist, because you know that is what appeals to record label suits, and people who listen to Radio 1. Is there merit in distancing yourself from your niche, from where your true talent resided in order to play festival stages at 3pm.
I feel at this juncture I ought to explain that I have no problem with a natural progression of styles. I love “Humbug” just as much as I love “Whatever People Say I Am…” for example. What concerns me, is how quickly and willingly artists are shedding their former skin for a chance at pop success.
I am also aware that living as an impoverished artist is not ennobling. Alas, we all need to have something we can market and exploit for financial gain. That is sadly the state of the world. But to what end? Is it callous and cynical to switch from making challenging music about nuclear weapons to songs about saying nothing? It is not that it sounds like the sort of thing that the blokes from Panic! At The Disco and The Killers would throw up after a heavy night out “clubbing”, but; there is no substance.
Also, I suppose with the change in target audience, there is (paradoxically) a lowering of expectations and criticism from your fan base. If the only reason they listen to your music is as a soundtrack to drinking holidays in the south of Europe or for lounging in a field, then they aren’t really too fussy. So long as it has absurd synths and vocodaed vocals. The more successful you are, the more your fans think you are capable of driving the bus per se.
This is not an anti-Example rant. I own lots of his early stuff on records, I’ve seen him in intimate venues and supporting Faithless. He was just the best example I could find, when considering wholesale changes in style for popularity. I wish him all the success he can garner, I really do; I just wish he would sometimes acknowledge and perform as his persona from What We Made.
Artists should never be bound by convention, that is a given. True art is forever pushing taboos and tastes and expectations. That is what art does- it holds up a mirror to reflect how distorted a people we have become.

 

If Example’s latest stuff is reflecting the true state of this people, and this generation then I am definitely in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Industry bigwigs and ridiculous radio 1 types declare it dead. Fools. Instead of dying a death, vinyl and those who sell its glossy, ridged wares are instead adapting to a new climate. Emerging blinking, post apocalypse not post apocalyptic.
In an article I did for my sixth-form magazine, I commented on how people in the music industry need to re-adjust their parameters for “success”, from where they expect to make a profit. Live music is the beast for money. Recorded music has never really made money for anyone except labels- and now apple.
So instead deriding those of us who will happily spend hours browsing through stacks of dog-eared, second hand records, a bit more respect is in order. People actually pay for vinyl. I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest that people who listen to their music in this format are more morally in-tune with something’s inherent worth- it’s just so much easier to steal an mp3 than a 12 inch.
Yeah, everyone steals mp3s. What people often forget is that mp3s cost considerably less to produce. A one-off purchase of a laptop or a decent recording set up, and a connection to the internet (often free in public) and there it is: self made, self published, self distributed. Mp3s are stolen because they are not worth as much as the wonderful black stuff.
Without a resurgent market for vinyl; the bottom would really have fallen out the recording artist and its industry. We may be odd, slightly pedantic, obssessive, completionists- but we subsidise those of you who exclusively obtain your music through stealing.
Without us, you wouldn’t be able to steal.

When one is in Greenwich with the, never again shall this label be needed, cool girlf a cool hang out is required to continue the perpetual coolness, so far so cool: Kraftwerk japanese import 1981 LP? Check. 1st pressing of Nirvana’s “Bleach” album? Check. Now, to take the weight off our cool feet. Cool cinema that serves beer and for which about us we have one free ticket? Check.
Thor or Hanna?
Definitely not Thor, it’s like an 8 year old’s dream about his transformers, not exactly a euro-thriller with a soundtrack provided by The Chemical Brothers . Now that sounds good.
Hanna was a beautifully shot film, the hunting scenes in the arctic circle are visually sublime, jaw-droppingly gorgeous- equally the escapades through ticket halls and mezzanines of Berlin’s U-Bahn system are fantastic.
Hanna lives in a forest, she is being hunted by an unnamed American security service, she is being trained in a forest by her father for just the time when she is “ready”.
The film is great, its central characters are well developped, and its plot works. Unfortunately, it feels as though the gimmick, her DNA has been manipulated, is just an excuse to try and detract from what is otherwise a pulsating, maniacal chase through northern Africa and Europe to evade the inevitable.
The ending, too, differs from what is expected of such a film, with a rather neutral outcome, neither good nor bad prevails outright.
What really is amazing about the film though is the soundtrack. That isn’t to say the film is bad, it isn’t it’s great, but The Chemical Brothers have possibly even surpassed Further (review), this is not the standard nonsense fare often on soundtracks, this feels like an actual album, one they’d release anyway, it is straight out of the same paddock as their previous effort last year.
The song most likely to be familiar to people is the one from the trailer, Container Park, a romp through a port soundtracked with breathy, sigur ros-esque synths and björk like percussion- perfection. But to compare this to anybody else does it an injustice, the music just fits the film completely. The two are a perfect marriage, this is by far the best soundtrack to have ever been made, and even the best original score, too. It blasts the Tron one out the water, that was same old Daft Punk, but this?
This is the Chemical Brothers at their most inventive, on the playful The Devil Is In The Details, their most insatiable on Escape 700. Although this album was made to accompany the film, it is perfect enough to be considered an album in its own right. Superb. Buy it.

Oftentimes, listening avidly to Beck as I do, I have an argument with myself: what is Beck’s best album?! previously thought to not actually contain an answer, much akin to the similarity linking both a raven and a writing desk, I think I’m set on one now.
Modern Guilt.
I’ll grant you, from a glance on the back of the cd, and a perusal of the track names it doesn’t read like this album is going to be promising. Deadpan, cold titles of songs (a typical Beck-ism “New Pollution”, anyone) do nothing to stir the heart. But, it’s just such a good album. The opener “Orphans” is truly sublime, with quite possibly the best opening line to anything, ever: “I think I’m stranded but I don’t know where”, opining back to Mr. Hansen’s days playing his harmonica and acoustic guitar, screaming at everything playing the blues.
“Gamma Ray” is a work of genius, not in a 1994 “Loser” kind of way, but instead Beck highlights how mature his sound collages have become, a neo-psychedelic romp lasting a paltry 2:57, quiet but incredibly energetic and utilising his ingeniuty, his “put on” speech impediment adding to the already impressive percussion.
But it’s opn songs like “Chemtrails” and “Soul of a Man” where this album is set a league apart from anything else knocking about. His almost ethereal, ghost like whisper singing is haunting, and beautiful at the same time. Despite the quite dark lyrics “so many people/ they’ve already drowned” it is a llve song. For whom or what, in true Beck style, it is not evident. It need not be. The beauty of the song is powerful enough to make it important, and vague enough to add an element of intrigue.
In amongst the imagery of death by jet plane the musicianship is astounding. By common consensus not his best band, but this album seems to benefit from a break with old friends. This brand of 60s infused garage rock just would not be possible with DJ Swamp.
Beck, for some unknown reason, has the misfortune of being underrated and undervalued by the general music public, sure everybody has a copy of Mellow Gold, but his canon is much more. His inventiveness that shone through in his third album of 1994 has found a mature home in the now 40 year old. He will one day get the recognition he deserves and has earned. Until then, Beck, do us a favour and put some new stuff out and tour.

Finally, Hot Sauce Committee Part Two will see the light of day, with the tracks of Part One and with a release date before that of the “first” part. Confused? Good, this is the Beastie Boys after all, confusion and delays are par for the course.
But wow, what a way to end the silence. Make Some Noise is superb. Kraftwerkian, Moogy, and essentially late 60s and early 70s German sounds- think Organisation, Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk’s “Ruckzuck”. A delightful change of direction from solid hip-hop, on paper this may not sound like a great mix. Hip-Hop’s aging grandaddies digging through their vinyls and finding stuff most of the audience will never have heard.
They don’t make it work, however. It just works. Of its own brilliant accord, it fits. It is what all hip-hop would have sounded like had Florian Schneider not invented the vocoder and the arpeggiator never been invented.
All this track has done is to force the Beasties back into music consciousness, to remind us that it is in fact they who own the party, and that they are one of the best acts around. I’m gonna check my head for something to douse those doses of their hot sauce.

Awesome? As Fuck

Wow. Where to begin with Green Day’s new gargantuan live album? The beginning, the title. To understand the title of the cd/dvd, you really have to see the dvd. Walking past it in Fopp or HMV, the average customer would be forgiven for passing it over, as completely “arrogant” and “unnecessary”, but the title “Awesome As F**k” (literally how it appears, no I’m not making it up) is 100% justified.
Shot in Tokyo’s Saitama Super Arena in January 2010, it is a perfect setting for Green Day, and all that their superb musicianship has earned them, thousands of adoring fans crammed into the vast space. Not only does the Arena house thier fans superbly, but it gives the film a sense of occasion- majestically filmed Billie Joe appears as a king presiding over his dominion.
It looks great, and sounds just as good. Often live albums are let down by a poor quality set list, not here. Not with Green Day. “Burnout”, “She”, and “Geek Stink Breath” are all included on the dvd, a welcome change from their last effort “Bullet in a Bible”, where older songs were omitted, however the absence of “Longview”, “Brain Stew” and “Minority” do leave a slighlty sour taste. It doesn’t really matter what songs the Oakland trio and their touring band are playing- they all sound fantastic, the songs injected with a new energy and sense of urgency that is quite hard to comprehend for men one year off their forties.
The version of “Holiday” on the dvd is phenomenal. It has the usual interlude in the middle, but Billie’s cry of “Do you want to start a fucking war?!” at the beginning is so perfectly poised, perfectly judged. Therein lies Billie’s true quality as a frontman, he operates the crowd sa though a mere marionette. He implores the crowd to “remember this night!“, and on this form it is unlikely anyone there ever will.
The dvd captures a band at the absolute peak of their game. This tour had been going since 2009, and would continue for another year. That Billie, Tré and Mike are so enthusiastic, energetic and psyched up is testament to their personalities, that after two decades they are still evidently excited to be playing.
But it’s the songs that are really important in a live film, and my goodness do they make the place their own. Their songs just fit on this stage. The scale of the gig is not beyond Green Day, that his songs from earlier releases transfer so easily into this setting shows what a great song writer and performer Billie Joe Armstrong is, creating an epic fest of Green Day love, but also making it feel completely intimate.
That is just how I remember going to see them in London, this dvd is perfect in capturing what it felt like to witness them live on the “21st Century Breakdown” Tour.

My goodness. The Strokes have come from quite afar of left-field with this. All the right things being said in the media, Nick Valensi saying the recording process was “awful” and that they have “a better album in [them]”, others echoing such sentiments. All the downplaying making people eventually relieved that, after such problems, we finally have a new Strokes album released into the ether.
Cleverly done, boys.
This album does what Strokes albums generally do well, it flows wonderfully. The songs feel like they fit next to each other, despite that there is a boggling array of evident influences- Casablancas sounds like a voice double for Bono in the intro to “Call Me Back”, “Machu Picchu” feels like it should be on a Ministry of Sound Electronic 80s album. Such a change of direction for the album’s opener is bold. Were it to be placed “within” the album, its significance would be lost, this song shows an adventurous streak. Sure, it has Hammond Jr.’s superb riffing that is come to be expected of him, but it also features a wonderfully intricate part from Albert, the 80s on a tee. “Undercover of Darkness” and “Two Kinds of Happiness” continue the 80s stylings, and not in a bad hair-metal way, but a cool “hey look, these machines make noises” kind of way.
Only when the album is four(!) songs (“You’re So Right”) in does it offer a song straight out of the barrel of vintage Strokes- fast guitars, hulking vocals, tight drumming, (near) indecipherable lyrics.
The Strokes, then, are back. Presenting out of a fraught and fracturous recording process their best album to date. “Is This It” is universally declared their best, but this eclipses that by a country mile. What that had in abundance was youthful exuberance and swagger, this album is a more mellow approach, but it is still evident that these are 5 men at the peak of their game, oozing craftmanship. In places it sounds like it is about to become “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” (“Call Me Back”) but The Strokes’ act was becoming a tad stale, there is only so many times you can recycle one basic pattern.
The maturity of this album is what makes it superb. Although a slightly lower tempo than that expected of one of their records, it simply sounds amazing. Each of them is on top, top form. So the recording process may have been awful, Nick, but keep it that way- it has made your best album.