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Give me music and give me noise....

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Record Store Day: closed for business

All the chatter about Record Store Day last weekend left me bemused. Record store day? Apart from the fact that they're called record shops in Britain (the UK hasn't quite yet become a franchised part of the USA), the tawdry tokenism of a day had an infantile feel. Cheap PR. Standard, tired-out tricks to try to make people do the same thing at the same time - consume, "support", "participate", "get involved" (gulp).

Amongst all the - slightly forced? - excitement from punters on places like the Guardian comment thread or the official RSD site, there was, thankfully, the odd dissenting voice. One person I follow on Twitter said the event "left him cold", though interestingly he still felt it necessary to wish everyone involved "good luck". It was as if disparaging the event meant you were opposed to small independent record shops and somehow anti-music. "Hey, what are you? A fan of EMI or something? A corporate fascist? You probably don't even like home-made cupcakes ...?"

No, the fake bonhomie and confected community spirit set my teeth on edge (just like those over-sweet cupcakes). If I want to go to a record shop (which I normally don't) I'll go at the time of my own choosing, not because it's the done thing and the appointed day. OK, it was good that a few shops organised live entertainment that Saturday afternoon - but they should do it every weekend, not just on bloody RSD.

Anyway, I'll leave you with a link to this pretty amusing list of questions reflecting the idiocy of many people who go into record shops. They're from an unidentified person ("MFV1037", at 11:49) who apparently used to go to a record shop in Ilkeston which had pinned up some of the more ... er, odd enquiries from customers. As a former employee in the salt mines of record retailing (HMV), I can certainly identify with some of the requests. Apart from excellent questions like "Do you sell sellotape?", my favourite from his list is: CAN I ORDER A CD YES BUT YOU NEED A DEPOSIT (is 15p ok?) ....

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Cut you up, Podcast #92 (Mar 2013)

Here be monsters. Some friendly. Some not so friendly. But all deserving of your attention.


(Link removed for space reasons, but can be re-upped on request).

1: Clapton Girls Technology College, Solitaire
2: Globoscuro, Riccardo III (part 4)
3: Blanche Blanche Blanche, Scam
4: Half Pint, Jah don’t love that
5: Bryan Lewis Saunders, Cut you up
6: Edikanfo, Gbenta
7: Cyco Sanchez Supergroup, My brain hurts
8: .crk, Untitled 4 (blue screen error version)
9: Fiedel Michel, Mein Michel
10: English Touring Opera, from Così Fan Tutte (Mozart) (Hackney Empire, London 7/3/13)
11: Dead Man’s Tree, Ain’t done you no harm
12: Lazer Boy, Lullaby
13: Count Matchuki, Movement
14: Base Cleft, Post-watershed slamdunk
15: RL Kelly, You’re not the only monster from hell
16: I must go on
17: Count Ossie, Wicked Babylon
18: Viscera[e], Nar skogens kalla sinhar
19: Tiny Bradshaw, Walking the chalk line
20: Gregoire Fiaux, Larme á l'oeil
21: Prince Nico Mbarga & Rocafil Jazz, Wayo in-law
22: The Middle Ones, Oh, Bob!
23: Glass Boy, News at 11
24: Little Willie Littlefield, Blood is redder than wine
25: Will have offended many people
26: Polysics, I my me mine


Fuck the rock

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Over-familiarity syndrome: the curse of the regular gig-goer

You've been to a few of their gigs and then, on one fateful occasion, a band member greets you at the bar. "Hey, you were at the gig last week, weren't you?" Guiltily you admit it. Caught! Now there's no going back. At the next gig you'll have two or three of the band nodding at you (what do they do? pass on word about "that weird guy on his own being there again last night"?). Deeper and deeper! Now you're completely trapped. You can't "un-know" them, pretending that earlier acknowledgements didn't happen. So each subsequent gig becomes a chore. You know you'll have to run the social gauntlet armed only with the flimsiest of small-talk. Jesus Christ it's a nightmare! There's nothing else for it. You'll just have to stop going to their bloody gigs, maybe telling yourself you were getting tired of them anyway.

Yeah, a sad story but a true one. Something that's befallen your humble author on several occasions. When will I ever learn! Never - ever - talk to the band. They're not, you know, real people.

OK, in my less experienced days I admit I may have been mildly flattered by this kind of attention. For example, it's fatally seductive to take a friend along to a gig mid-way during a "recognition" period. If your friend happens to be a non-regular gig-goer (er, aren't most people) they tend to be unduly impressed by this kind of thing. "What! You know the band?" An old friend did this with such complete amazement a few years ago I genuinely wished we'd never gone. It felt as if it reeked of self-promotion on my side. "Not really", I mumbled, honestly enough (he wasn't having any of it; he thought I was playing it down, that I almost knew the band members as - god forbid - friends or something).

No, learn from your Uncle Niluccio. Don't ever greet a drummer at the bar or a guitarist at the adjoining urinal (gulp). Don't ever accept an offer to be on the guest list for their next gig or take a free copy of their soon-to-be-released CD single (unless everyone at the gig's getting one). Please, learn from my mistakes! Because once you slip into fraternising with the band you'll never enjoy another of their gigs. Gone is that precious anonymity. You'll be on a terrible slippery slope, hurtling toward excruciating conversations about the turnout at their gigs and the quality of their new songs (invariably not that good).

Ha!, you're thinking. He's just saying all this to doubly show off, humble brag-like. He probably loves knowing the bands, but reckons this is the only "cool" way of declaring the fact.  Alright, have it your own way! I'm a secret ligger*. I can't get enough of the backstage, "after-party" scene. But listen. Don't come crying to me when you can't go to your next gig because of over-familiarity syndrome!


*Does anyone actually use this word any more!? Not sure.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Stopping people filming on their phones at gigs? No No No!

This admiring stuff going around about the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and their “pre-emptive strike” against people with camera phones at gigs - what’s all that about then?

Oh what, the punters have dared to offend the performers by … er, wanting to photograph or film them? On stage. During a public performance. Right, how truly awful of them. Such bare-faced rudeness.

This puts me in mind of those idiot-performers who “shush” the audience, complaining if people so much as whisper during one of their precious songs. As I’ve said on this blog several times previously (what! you’ve never actually read any of my posts before …) there’s already far too much of this self-aggrandising band behaviour doing the rounds. Don’t talk. Don't photograph. Don’t film. Wait and wait until we’re ready to go on stage. Don’t stand there, stand here. All clap now. Cheer the drummer/keyboardist/technical staff. Laugh at our unfunny stories. Whoop when we say whoop. On and on. And, of course, the big one: make sure you buy our stuff from the merch table afterwards …

They’re not all like this of course, but why should we collude with the YYY’s haute grandeur? At gigs I personally wield my battered old iPhone whenever I feel like it. Yep, that’s WHENEVER I DAMN WELL FEEL LIKE IT. Got that! So yes, I’ll probably snap the band's ugly mugs for the gig scrapbook back home and I might even record a quick video (or two!) if I can be bothered to hold the phone out straight for a few minutes.

I reckon bands should be glad they’ve actually got people who want to go to see them (often paying a fair bit of money to do so). I don’t think they should be grouching about people’s - perfectly understandable - behaviour. And I don’t think we, the audience/commentariat, should be applauding the over-controlling behaviour of the bands. So all those who agree with me shout: “Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!” But only when I say so …

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Forget the tunes, give me ferocity

I saw somebody tweet the other day about how they’d been at a particular gig in the 90s. Mogwai, I think. What stuck in my head: the fact that the tweeter described the event as “ferocious”.

Ferocious. Hmm. Is ferocity in music er, a good thing? Actually, much as I love quiet music - and all manner of non-ferocious music-making! - I tend to see ferocity as a positive. At times it’s fierce, ferocious and fiery ... or it’s nothing!

I won’t bang on about all the supposedly in-your-face super-fierce gigs I've been to (one man’s “fierce gig” story is … well, just boring). Instead here are a few observations about how I think some bands thrive on speed, volume, “aggression” or just general intensity. Take that away and they become ... dull. Just another try-hard outfit. A few quick examples:

Speed: Thee Vicars used to be good for speedy garage rock. Also Thee Machine Gun Elephant did this well the time I saw them. But my best in this category: Theee Bat or The Sundae Kups. Both take surf-infused garage rock and speed it up until it starts to disintegrate. Cool!

Volume: yeah, time-honoured and often massively overrated, but I must admit there are times when sheer volume (or perhaps particular kinds of volume) has its place. For example, a Part Chimp gig I went to a few years ago had that wall of noise effect that basically seems to be shaking the entire room. (I had to take a break, retiring to a quiet alcove. It was in the crypt of a de-sanctified church, so luckily there were quite a few ... quiet alcoves). Same with a Tackhead Soundsystem thing I was at in Edinburgh in 1988: stomach-shaking stuff! Also many years ago: Killing Joke. Very loud. Ferociously loud, you might say.

Intensity: bit harder to put your finger on but, in the end, maybe the key thing for true ferocity. Or maybe it’s a case of speed + volume + intensity = ferocity! Never saw ‘em, but The Birthday Party at their peak looked like they got close to this formula. Ones that raised the intensity meter with me have included: Hospitals (bloke on the drums basically pummelling the percussion into submission), a specific Pete & The Pirates gig where their always fairly moody drummer went rather wild with a 25-minute drums-blasted make-over of one of their tunes, Modey Lemon (a blues-ier version of the Hospitals gig basically), and … oh, quite a few really. After all, who can forget that Selfish Cunt gig from ’06 where he chested his way through the slightly cowed audience, Iggy-like, blood smeared on his wiry camp body, spitting at people (including me, direct hit) and sneering as he kicked discarded glasses against the wall …?

Right, stop all this! I’m doing what I said I wouldn’t. Running you through some of my well-remembered gigs, like it … matters which ones I’ve been to or something.

No, this is not quite what I meant to write, but then again it’s hard to capture the thing I’m talking about. I reckon ferocity is crucial in a lot of music - recorded music as well - but it’s not easy to explain. It’s the undefinable something that unites John Lydon’s searing stare at the end of The Sex Pistols' (mediocre) Anarchy In The UK work-out in the Granada So It Goes TV studio in August 1976, and the hyper-kinetic breakcore wildness of WSicko’s Forgotten Memories (to take countless recent examples).

God, “the undefinable something”. I’m reduced to writing that. But hey, you know I’m right….