The last week or so seems to have seen a complete level change in the ‘seasonal giveaways’. So far I’ve downloaded, either for me or the minimoles (more of the latter you can tell) many of the year’s major label hits: Years and Years Florence and the Machine Rudimental Lianne Le Havas Ella Henderson Foals Everything Everything (today’s) Hozier Jess Glynne With the exception of the EE and LLH albums these might all be described as major label successful albums. 9 albums is probably more than an average person’s yearly spend on music downloads…so how does this stack up for the majors? Is the music industry now just a marketing department within Google and Apple? Google’s ‘giveaways’ makes Apples ‘a free foo fighters video’ 12 days of Xmas look a bit anaemic, so what will they do? The entire Bob Dylan back catalogue for 99p?
The recent retirements of Richie McGaw and Dan Carter, together with the anniversary of George Best’s death got me musing about the phrase ‘going out at the top’, and how this seems to be more difficult in music than sport. Best’s CV (in)famously included Fulham and several US soccer teams in a long tail. Surely today he would have been a shoe-in as a pundit and walked away at the top in the early seventies.
In music – where age does not tap you in the shoulder in the same way as sport – it seems to be extra-ordinarily difficult to go out at the top never to announce a comeback tour or have that 3-star ‘return to form’ review after a decade away. So, your bands or solo artists who have done exactly that. No reforming, no comeback albums. And you have to have some kind of ‘top’ to get out of. This doesn’t mean that your last album was your best, but a clear sense that your powers are undimmed. Here’s my three for starters, or starters for three:
ABBA – surely the ultimate ‘going out at the top’ , as the tide of music and their » Continue Reading.
Following the recent Man In The High Castle mini-debate surely it’s time that we debated the merits of the man who is possibly the most influential writer in Hollywood, even if he’s been dead for thirty years. As a card-carrying Phil fan I’m keen to get the Massive’s thoughts on his literary output, and perhaps persuade a few of you to venture forth into the great man’s considerable oeuvre. His enormous influence on current sci-fi, especially in the movies, is perhaps not as borne out in mega book sales as you would expect.
Here’s my ten-point guide to the man’s formidable body of work – at almost fifty novels and hundreds of short stories he wrote a lot – as sci-fi writers had to in those days to live. Quality varies widely, and he dabbled in mainstream fiction and even children’s stories as well as science fiction.
1. Yes the short stories are better than the novels. He’s not the only sci-fi great for whom this is true. Clarke, Asimov, Heinlein and many others writing, let’s say, before 1970 also follow this rule. They were paid by the word and this led to novels being expansions of short stories and » Continue Reading.
Astra Kulturhaus Berlin
There are two approaches to the electronic act goes live. Either you do visual spectacle plus blokes (usually is) behind laptops. This is the Chemicals, Leftfield, Orbital way. Or the onstage party/carnival – the Basement Jaxx vibe and also Rudimental. We got a three-person horn section, two female singers, an awesome drummer, and the core group of 4 lads down the front who did keyboards, laptops, MCing, singing, jumping around and even extra horns. A party/festival vibe from start to finish with yes all the big hit singles – those from the second album up first. We got a bit of soul, bit of 90s house, and lots and lots of the slow verse, huge drum and bass powered fast choruses that is their stock in trade. Not a lot of between-song chat, as I think they wanted to keep the dancing going – but plenty of liveness.
The drummer Beanie gets a special mention firstly for his name and secondly for reproducing the skittering biscuit-tin-down-the stairs rhythms so brilliantly live. Feel The Love and Waiting All Night saved for the encores and predictably brought the house down. Know and love Home » Continue Reading.
Ok now much though No Parlez, SNF soundtrack and Nightflight To Venus are still vinyl gold, the list is seriously outdated @minibreakfast and surely doesn’t reflect the C21 CD racks in Save The Children, Oxfam etc. So let’s take the Most Donated List into the digital era and get your nomination for CDs that are ever-present on the charity shop shelves. one rule: from the CD rack only. My nominations:
Any Robbie Williams solo LP – this is by far and away the most likely Scissor Sisters – especially the second album which had like no good songs on even if you thought the first did All Saints Blue Any Britney Spears album Sandi Thom (yes it’s a topical thread) the album with that song about punks and flowers Any dance compilation with Kiss, Ministry of Sound, Bangers, R and B, Garage etc with the word ‘Anthems’ ‘Annual’ or the year attached
Albums you never find – any Now…. compilation older than about ten years
Over to you….
Don Delillo is one of my very favourite writers. I read Underworld 20 years ago when it came out, but it’s power only really came through re-reading it now. Its famous opening section recreates a 1951 New York baseball match between the Giants and the Dodgers, at which a championship-winning home run is hit. Delillo’s writing is surely (David Peace fans contest) the best ever literary recreation of a sporting event – focusing not so much on the action itself as how going to, being at and experiencing the match felt to those there – who include both J Edgar Hoover and Frank Sinatra – and a boy who wrestles the match-winning ball from someone who has befriended him. Later on we find out that the same night the Soviet Union has exploded its first atomic bomb, heralding the Cold War.
From there we jump forty years to the end of the Cold War, and meet the protagonist Nick as he drives out to the desert to reconnect with a former lover Klara Sax, who is leading a huge art project painting decommissioned B-52 nuclear bombers.
It’s no surprise that Delillo was drawn in a later novel » Continue Reading.
The Institute, Birmingham
Grump up first. This gig was originally billed to start at 6:30pm, then changed to 8:00. Finally, after two hours of rather sweet but definitely time-filling deck-bothering from two sixth-formers Leftfield took the stage at five past ten. Actually, rather sweetly Neil Barnes came on and shook their hands at the conclusion of their set, as if they were either his son and his mate or someone on work experience whose project was really quite good.
On with Leftfield. For the first twenty minutes we had engineer behind laptop, Neil Barnes behind various mikes and a live percussionist. They tore through mostly stuff from the new album, half-hidden behind translucent screens onto which we got the regulation animations compulsory for all live techno acts. I have to say this section was amazing – hard, fast and loud. The tension dropped (perhaps it had to) for a section in which @retropath2 referred-to MC Cheshire Cat and then Ofei provided some vocals. For the rest of the set the ‘best club in the world ever’ atmosphere was restored. Bass came up through the floor, percussion was crisp, and everyone generally thought they » Continue Reading.
I listened to my ‘The Rush Remasters’ copy of 2112 this week, and blow me down if the whole of side 1 – the 2112 side – hasn’t been remastered as one 20-minute track. Now when I bought the vinyl back in the day there were 7 distinct tracks on side one with proper gaps in between. Why on earth would they now say that the listener must experience our progerpiece as one magnum opus? Plays havoc with any playlisting I might want to do that might, for example, use The Temples of Syrinx and not the rest. The only other album I have ever come across that does this is a Laurent Garnier Mixmag Live CD that in the height of ‘DJs as artists’ nonsense made his mix one 79 minute track. Thanks Laurent – we love your ‘journey’ but you know if say you want to pick up where you left off half-way through that’s really irritating. Ironic really from the then proponents of libertarianism that they impose a strict listening order on their own album. So any other examples of ruthless enforcement of listening order via this practice?
What does it sound like?:
So what’s the first classic artist album after the summer of love and acid house? Leftfield – not until 1995, dubnobasswithmyheadman – 1994, The Prodigy Experience – 1991 – surely that’s it. I’d like to advance another candidate: Coldcut’s debut What’s That Noise? from 1989. I bought it when it came out on vinyl, but recently I got hold of a CD copy and,listening to it on a Friday afternoon on the M6 ,it absolutely gripped me.
It’s got a number of storming singles – People Hold On and My Telephone (which together launched Lisa Stansfield), Doctorin The House (they’d already made vocalist Yazz a huge star with The Only Way Is Up) and Stop This Crazy Thing with reggae singer Junior Reid. But every track is insanely listenable to: from the pop upfrontness of My Telephone to the samples and beats frenzy that is Beats N Pieces, which harks back to eighties sampledelia such as MARRS and Steinski and Mass Media.
What I ‘got’ this time about this album was how much it brought together all the elements that were making dance music so exciting at the time. People Hold On is » Continue Reading.
We all know Smells Like Teen Spirit goes a bit quiet in the verse and steps on the distortion pedals for the chorus to create ‘an alternating loud and quiet dynamic’ – thanks Wikipedia. But it’s used by almost everyone at some point. Sigur Ros are pretty much the Mozarts of the loud/soft change – see 1.50 onwards in this one when it changes from angels sprinkling audio pixiedust to trolls with hobnail boots, but let’s have your best loud/soft/loud etc moments please.
Bono: Gosh I’m so bored with being in the worlds biggest band with number one albums and touring stadiums across the world. I don’t know what I should do Chris Blackwell my label boss. Maybe I’ll retire and start an ostrich farm.
Chris Blackwell: Hmmm that is awful Bono Vox. I will see what I can do.
Brian Eno: Hi Bono, completely unrelated to your boredom with being a globetrotting megaselling rock star and getting a panicked phonecall from Chris who’s worried about his mortgage, how does working with me on a collection of ambientish soundtracks for imaginary films sound?
Bono: Gosh Brian that sounds great. I’ll bring me mates. They’ll love it. Just one thing – can I sing about Elvis?
I mean I’m not saying that a soundtrack album for imaginary films in which the drummer doesn’t drum, there’s a guest spot from an opera star, and it’s produced by Brian Eno isn’t without merit as an idea – but it screams Vanity Project. Let’s have your best Vanity Projects. Very different from the Solo Project – meet the real me at last – the Vanity album is perhaps dead already. » Continue Reading.
Very simple. The worst track by your favourite artist. I was listening to All Mod Cons in the car today and yet again barely made it through English Rose. It’s just so awful. The weedy acoustic arrangement and insipid melody. The waves-on-shore effects straight from Bobby Goldsboro’s Summer the First Time. Weller’s gruff bark tortuously unsuitable for such a ballad. And the lyrics oh man. ‘For no bonds can every keep me from she’. A key change that would get Westlife off their stools. It goes on and on. This is on the same album as Tubestation, In The Crowd and A-Bomb in Wardour Street. It’s clearly the worst song recorded by The Jam.
So a few rules. No skits, intros or covers. We’re after original stinkers. Less interested in hearing why English Rose is the best song ever than finding out what is the worst Dylan, Stones, Smiths, Richard Thompson, Van the Man track ever.
Beatles fans – http://www.heartachewithhardwork.com/2006/05/beatles-from-worst-to-first-1-206-191.html
is every single song recorded by the Fabs rated from 206 to 1.
Many here are drowning under a sea of physical and digital stuff, and as time marches on the appeal of throwing stuff away increases to become almost as worthwhile as acquiring it in the first place. So – what have you thrown away recently? We’re after physical charity shop runs, and digital deletions. De-duping is not what we’re after, neither are we counting and CDs DVDs that have been ripped. That’s all just good housekeeping. Things you have waved off to Oxfam never to experience again
CDs of Nas’ I am, a triple CD set of Miami house music from 2006, DVDs – box set of Anime, the first 6 episodes of about ten different series. Bought and never watched. Digital – a Cold War Kids album. Never need to listen to that again. Books – a couple of Larry Niven books (sci-fi horrendously dated) and a recipe book about bread
Year: 2015 Director: Chris McQuarrie
Let’s get something straight from the start. This is a movie reaching a broad demographic – represented in our party by three parents and four children aged 9-13. It’s a broad movie, offering thrills, a few laughs and two hours of entertainment in the dark. It’s not Haneke and several years of taking children to big Hollywood action movies have taught me to:
Forget about the plot. The world will be saved. Tom will not fall off the building/airplane/motorbike and smear himself all over the tarmac. Here there is a convoluted Skyfallesque plot about a secret organisation of rogue agents, which Tom and Simon and Jeremy and Ving have to fight by going rogue. It’s called Rogue Nation. We get it. Everyone is rogue. I bet if they went to Caffe Nero the baristas would have gone rogue.
Enjoy the set-pieces. There’s a pre-credit one on a plane. The best one in this is done very stylishly at the Vienna State Opera – all kinds of assassins turning their brass instruments into weapons, and surely they’ve seen the Marx Brothers A Night At The Opera when we get everyone swinging from the fly floor on » Continue Reading.
On holiday I caught up with Donna Tartt’s latest, published with huge hype last year as only the third from Tartt in a near thirty-year career. We’ve discussed her work recently (see my article on the Brat Pack of US fiction) and unlike McInerney, Easton Ellis and Janowitz there is no sense that the best of her career is behind her. Like both the predecessors this is a doorstop (more later) and like The Secret History uses apparently recherche topics – in that case the study of Classics – in this case antique furniture restoration and art history – to power a thrillerish plot.
The set-up sees teen Theo Decker lose his mother as both are caught up in a terrorist bomb blast in a NY museum. Inexplicably he leaves the scene with a valuable painting, the titular Goldfinch, and the rest of the novel sees him attempting to come to terms with his loss and his place in the world – both of which are bound up in the painting. As Theo is bounced around various carers and guardians there are sections in Manhattan high society, in Las Vegas (with his errant dad), and finally in » Continue Reading.
What does it sound like?:
Sixteen years after Rhythm and Stealth the last of the big four of 90s dance – the Chemicals, Underworld, Orbital, Leftfield – are back. It sounds like a logical progression from their previous two – spacey dub beats, check; huge sense of space – check; bpm slower than you actually think it would be – check; an impressive array of guest vocalists – check. There are some acoustic guitar samples, and ambient atmospheres to go with the enormous dub beats and subsonic bass. Though there are individual tracks the whole thing plays from start to finish as one big Leftfield track. There’s a nod to contemporary music in a vocal guesting from Sleaford Mods (guess what – they’re angry) and the vocalists from polica and TV on the Radio. But had you said this was made in 1998 I’d have gone along with it. Neil Barnes’ profile compared to his compatriots has been shadowy to say the least – no Olympic games or film soundtracks, no partying or festival headlining. Fittingly the album retains an air of mystery, beamed in from some distant soundstage.
What does it all *mean*?
That it’s all about the » Continue Reading.
It’s Harkive Day today – Harkive is an online research project that gathers stories from people about their music listening on a single day each year.
They are good people and it’s dead easy to contribute – you can tweet with the #harkive tag, find them on Facebook etc – just tell them your listening stories from today.
A very Afterword type of project. So far my day has been completely devoid of music, but hoping to rectify that when get home.
Whenever Jen (sorry Laura) is having trouble with malfunctioning synth Anita and looking at the manual with a frown, I expect Chris O’Dowd to come through the door shouting ‘Have you not tried turning it off and on again?’
Other TV ruined – in a comic fashion preferably – by the actors past roles please?
So Roger fell at the last, the collective will of Middle England being unable to prevent him dashing against the rocks of Djokovik’s awesome groundstrokes, mobility, stamina, iron will and focus and general Real Number One quality. It didn’t quite reach the heights to last year, but the second set tie-break was one for the archives.
So how was your Wimbledon? My personal highlights included Kyrgios v Gasquet – a ridiculously entertaining match, as was the Australian terror’s earlier match against the robotic Raonic. The most thrilling match was a women’s. I caught most of Heather Watson v Serena Williams and she took the American right to the end in a match which swung almost with every ball – again something which when it happens in tennis makes it the best watch in the world. Federer’s dismantling of Murray was also astonishing – epitomised by that 17 minute game – and the fact Federer then held serve 60s later in a blink of an eye to go ahead again. Dustin Brown v Nadal may have been an entirely predictable car-crash, but Brown’s serve and volley was brilliant to watch and there’s always joy in watching a man with such awesome » Continue Reading.
The withdrawal of Melle Mel and the Furious Five opened up a late surprise headliner on the Friday in the shape of the former greatest hip-hop band in the world. The vast walk-up queue on arrival suggested that PE’s audience was not quite yer typical Moseley festivalgoers. I missed everyone bar The Pharcyde, who went down well as a hip-hop party band without tempting me to check out their back catalogue. After the usual hyping we got a band that barely fitted on the Moseley stage: DJ Lord – sadly Terminator X is still on the ostrich farm – Chuck and Flava and then a posse that I think was headed up by Professor Griff who is back in the fold, two S1W brothers in paramilitary gear, and a few other hangers on – all underpinned by a live drummer, guitarist and bass. Did they rip the festival up? Pretty well. No revolution, but a rip-roaring canter through a set of greatest hits – Terrordome, Bring The Noise, Dont Believe the Hype, Shut Em Down, 911, and of course Fight The Power. Many unpredicatable twists in the act – including Flav reinventing himself as » Continue Reading.
Frederik Pohl is a classic genre writer – unknown outside sci-fi circles, very highly regarded within it. I don’t think that every 40-year old novel I read is worth sharing, but on rereading Gateway I was blown away by how good it is. I’ve probaly read it at least four times over the decades, and it gets better every time. Pohl’s starting point is a classic trope – the artefact left by vanished aliens (the rather strangely named Heechee). Gateway is an asteroid stuffed full of spaceships that go somewhere across the galaxy when you press a button, and sometimes even make it back. A gold rush ensues attracting prospectors escaping lives on a grimly overcrowded earth, including the protagonist Robinette Broadhead. Who we first meet at a robot psychiatrist’s – fabulously rich after a trip that has left him not just wealthy but fabulously guilty. The story unravels in flashbacks to Robin’s arrival at Gateway and struggles with his own fear about taking a ship that may never return, out into the void for an uncertain reward. Pohl’s world is economically but vividly created – and his characters are never less than adult and believable. Robin makes » Continue Reading.
Well we’ve been going on site No 3 for sometime now. As Moose says in the post below, Dylan, Beatlesband, Kate Bush and so on have all had thorough airings. Even Cactus World News had a thread to themselves a few days back. So. Who’s not featured at all in the 1600 odd blog posts, which let’s take an average of 10 comments would make 16,000 opportunities to talk about…Pete Wylie and Wah! Wah Heat, Shambeko Say Wah! But have we? Not a bean as far as the search engine returns empty. So, much like the Forgotify playlist, this is the thread to find the biggest names that have not had a single mention so far. Any advance on the Liverpool name-shifters – one of Peel’s very favourite bands to boot. Love them, here’s one of the best. Anyone find someone bigger we’ve missed? One rule – use the search box!
The music: Ashford and Simpson penned luxury pop-soul, immaculately arranged and played by The Funk Brothers and top sessioners. Beautiful vocals from Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell (possibly Simpson according to some)
The lyrics: The World is just a great big onion. And pain and fear are the spices that make you cry.
Your nominations for the Grand Canyon sized gaps between music and lyrics. We’re not talking novelty hits or party tunes, but ballards and beautiful tunes with lyrics that Adrian Mole would be embarrassed to pen.
Some songs put it all upfront. The first 10s of Stop! In The Name of Love are so perfect and thrilling you really should stop listening then and there, the next 2:43 can’t help be an anticlimax. But others take a different route, holding back the good stuff for as long as possible. Just when you’re convinced that’s it, a chorus or a melodic line swoops in and the previous five minutes all make sense. As a dyed-in-the-wool Delayed Gratifier I love this.
Dance music is particularly good at this – so have a listen to this track from the excellent LTJ Bukem compilation Earth Vol 1. For 5 mins Pablo assembles the standard textures of late-nineties D and B – clattering biscuit-tin drums, slow and deep looping basslines and liquid washes of synth – layering in the distance a snatch of horns here, a female vocal there – then at 6:54 everything comes together to reveal a Gamble and Huffesque layered soul song filtered through drum and bass. Just wonderful, and all the more wonderful IMHO for being so slowly built towards. So your suggestions for songs that keep the best stuff back until the last possible moment.
This Birmingham-based project tracks music listening habits – how, where, why – over a single day. It’s the third year they’ve done this and the results are always fascinating. Here’s what they say:
We’re pleased to announce that Harkive 2015 will be taking place on Tuesday 21st July.
After gathering over 2,500 stories in July 2013, and a similar amount in 2014, Harkive will return for a third time in an attempt to once again mobilise music lovers around the world and invite them to submit and share the story of how, where and why they listen to music on a single day.
Over the next 4 weeks, as we lead up to the big day, we’ll be posting some example contributions from a variety of interesting people who work in and around popular music. There are some fascinating people lined up this year, and we hope you’ll find the stories of how they listen to music as interesting as we have.
By gathering these stories Harkive hopes to capture for posterity a global snapshot of the way in which we interact with the sounds and technology of today. We hope you’ll consider joining in on the day.
You will » Continue Reading.