All I Remember is dreading that moment when you needed to post something pronto and you realised you were fresh out of stamp supplies. On the principle that Nothing Compares To receiving something through your actual letterbox, An Post have issued these cool Irish pop star stamps, featuring Christy Moore, Sinéad O’Connor, Lisa Hannigan and Hozier. Also nice for nutters who collect sh*t. “Some” of the profits even go to the music industry’s COVID 19 Emergency Relief Fund. And there’s some online music to promote ‘em on anpost.com/festival from tonight..
Listening to the new Mogwai album and staring into space the way you do, I found myself pondering one of the song titles, Ceiling Granny. The ‘Gwai’s tunes are nearly all instrumentals which means a bit of lateral thinking must be employed when it comes time to name that tune. For most of their career they have favoured conundrum style titles with the occasional tidy, comprehensible one (No Medicine For Regret) thrown in. They’ve generally eschewed puns, so often the first choice of the instrumentalist, although lately they have been creeping in (aka 47). I had the thought that while Ceiling Granny could just be a standard Moggie cryptic/in joke, it’s a fact that Ceiling Fanny is a mildly amusing pun. So I wondered whether one of the group had proposed it as a working title and then when it came to listing the tracks for the LP they had thought better of it. Last minute revisions based on taste or other considerations do arise: Happy Mondays had a song called Some C*nt From Preston which, understandably, became Country Song on Bummed (still called Bummed, though); Manic Street Preachers’ SYMM is a timid abbreviation of South Yorkshire Mass Murder; having » Continue Reading.
So, Lana Del Ray’s new album has just dropped. That way you bristled just now in reaction to the word “dropped”, dear reader, gives me hope that you are no stranger to the sensation of rising bile that is so often engendered in pernickety souls by the most insignificant offence to good taste, however particular said infraction might be to oneself. Anyway*, here’s the thing: Lana’s album is called Chemtrails Over The Country Club and features a song called Chemtrails Over The Country Club within which the phrase Chemtrails Over The Country Club is repeated in its entirety in the chorus many times. This – yes, “just” this – annoys and has annoyed the hell out of me and drains my enjoyment from so many things I really should be able to enjoy more. I have lived my pop life getting excited by new songs and anticipating accompanying LPs but sometimes the announcement of an album title, by itself, is enough to prick my bubble of excitement. Oh, I know most album titles are a crock, with serial offenders such as Sting graduating from pretentious gibberish (Regatta De Blanc) to “I am considerably better read than yew” pretentiousness (Ghost In » Continue Reading.
Listening to the most recent Chart Music podcast, I was surprised to hear Al Needham having a go at Ali Campbell of UB40 for singing in a cod Jamaican accent. Now, I’ll grant you, I’m just a Murphy McMurphface from Paddyland, but all I ever heard was a nasal (red, red) whine and that thing people from areas with strong accents often do which is deliberately try to blandify their singing voice because going “full Brummie” just wouldn’t do. (Although, c’mon, how cool would it be doing a duet with Cher in the Mark Williams “We want to be together” voice?). To be fair, Im not totally deaf to this – I did own most of the early singles by The Police and thought there was something odd about the vocal.. But Al spoke with the certainty of someone from the midlands and his guests agreed without hesitation, so maybe I need to take the potatoes out of my ears..?
The bigger question, really, is how much does it matter?
Obviously, in this case there is the question of racial sensitivity and appropriation. Again, as Al pointed out, UB40 are a mixed race group and, apparently, none of Campbell’s » Continue Reading.
A friend has asked me about setting up a VPN with a view, I gather, mostly to streaming stuff. I use Express VPN*, which costs a few quid but does, reassuringly, have “Express” in the name. I notice there are a few free VPNs available as extensions on Google Chrome*, and was wondering whether they would do the job just as well. I don’t want to commit my friend to an unnecessary expense, but I also don’t want something inadequate. If it was just for me I could employ trial and error, but this job involves making a trip and I want to do it right first time. Do The Massive use these free extensions and are some better than others? Any thoughts appreciated.. (Other VPNS/ Browsers are available)
The Back To The Future thread has me reminiscing about my own school days. I just pulled out one of my old diaries and one of the first pages I happened upon was a particularly sore memory.
“Today”, it goes “I made another effort to get in with the cool boys. I managed to stand at the edge of the group for a few minutes without being told to go. Encouraged, I took out a cigarette which I lit without anyone paying enough attention to me to notice I wasn’t actually smoking. The plan was going well – all I had to do was wait for a moment to join in the chat with one of my prepared put-downs for one of the more detested teachers and I might be in. Then I felt a nudge on my shoulder “What about you?” I had been busy concentrating on holding my fag properly and scanning the horizon to see if anyone had noticed me mixing with the cool kids, so I had lost track of the conversation. “What?” I affected what I thought was an air of confidence. “You got a girlfriend?” Oh no. Half an inch of fag ash » Continue Reading.
Yay! It’s time for the The Quietus to give us its list of their 100 favourite albums of the year so far. As usual, there’s a smattering of widely praised records you’ll find on most current critics’ lists (Yves Tumor, Arca, J Hus, Run The Jewels) as well as some pretty mainstream catchy pop (Dua Lipa, Georgia, Charli XCX) among the 80 to 90 acts you’ve never heard of. Curious about these, you might investigate some of the descriptions, where you will find the words “drone”, “noise”, “cacophony” and “ concrète” a bit more frequently than in the old Smash Hits polls. Number 13, Mestarin Kynsi by Oranssi Pazazu, we are told “sounds like a skipping Neurosis cd played at an uncomfortably high frequency”, Number 44, Endless Wound by Black Curse, contains “dive bomb beats that sound like a horse being torn in half”. Even better, Number 40, Jason Crumer’s eponymous album opens with “discomposing drones … that rumble away; it’s like waiting for results from an oncologist”. Very tempting! But, just as we know what to expect in different varieties of restaurants, we already know the The Quietus is the go-to place for shining light into certain less-visited corners » Continue Reading.
Silly one for Friday night, but humour me. There are as many different ways to kick off an LP as there are ways to sink a cat. I’ve had a go at listing a few. Didn’t think too long about examples (which, I think explains the bias to the 1990s). Maybe you can think of some more, or better examples of the categories I’ve suggested. By all means junk the A to Z element – it’s just a way to get the ball rolling. I will put the larger part in the comments ->
It’s notable how the crudeness (both sweary and sexually suggestive) of language in our pop music has evolved – if evolved be the correct term – over the decades. First the coyness of the fifties and even the sixties (bar the odd “one eyed cat” style innuendo) became a grunting – but still a tad vague plea to “get it on”. Then, in the eighties Olivia Newton John wanted to “get physical” (*wink*) and a “rock” was still out of the question. Fast forward to the 21st Century and we’ve had two F**k Yous and a F**k You Right Back at number one and, in the same exalted chart position, been invited to suck on Isaac Hayes’ chocolate salty balls. The runaway favourite for album of the year is called Norman F**king Rockwell and one of its catchier numbers is called F**k it, I Love You. Not coincidentally, NFR is the work of a female artist. An unexpected consequence of my journey over recent years from mostly listening to sweaty, lairy geezers to predominantly grooving to sweet, fragrant ladies has been the massive increase in filth coming in my ears. Blokes like to sing about shagging but les femmes seem » Continue Reading.
I’m sure many on here follow the wee live sessions from KEXP radio on YouTube. This latest, featuring Durand Jones and The Indications playing songs from one of this year’s better albums, is a particular treat. For those not familiar with the format, this differs from the likes of Tiny Desk in that there is an extended interview with Mr Grey Ponytail in the middle, but, tbf, he seems pleasant and not a whole lot different to yer average Afterworder and it’s worth persisting for the beautiful music..
…and I’ve heard eleven! I even liked most of those! ‘Course, we could just play the “Nevereardofit!” game or – as we did a few years back – we could essay a journey into the unknown and pick a random album to listen to and report back to The Massive. Even a single withering line would be enlightening. Are any of you up for it?
Length of Read:Medium
Might appeal to people who enjoyed…
other books about music history and other books which offer enlightening detail for the curious without being overly technical. There is a bar chart and some pictures of sine waves, mind.
One thing you’ve learned
There’s a bomb-proof bunker in which is held the Scientologists’ special record collection and turntable, so that, after the holocaust, the great movement can rise Phoenix-like to its rightful position of dominance.
What does it sound like?:
Melissa Jefferson is a bona fide star. A star of the sort that doesn’t need our affirmation, she’s already knows she’s special without our approval. You can imagine, as some shabby karaoke night in Bath or Barry or Ballyfermot is reaching its desultory conclusion, a young lady steps up to the microphone and is just electrifying, commanding the stage with the same ferocity as if it were the biggest in the world. “Hmmm”, she thinks, “Why not the world?” Lizzo has been occupying our peripheral attention over the last couple of years with some killer r n b /disco/nu soul/pop singles, but with this album she has placed herself front and centre and has made herself impossible to ignore. And she’s doing it on her terms. Lizzo is what we nowadays call oversized. So here she is naked and proud on the album cover, and within the grooves preaching body positivity and self confidence. Stars, we know, love themselves. Lizzo admits as much in the future classic Soulmate (chorus: “I’m my own soulmate/ I know how to love me”), but Lizzo’s message is inclusive – she wants us to unlock our potential by loving ourselves » Continue Reading.
Not the most AW friendly lineup perhaps (although I’m watching Kacey Musgraves at the moment), but the stream is excellent in both sound and picture, you get all three stages to choose from and if you don’t want to stay up all night (it finishes about 9am U.K. time) they replay it all the next day. It’s all free on YouTube and it will be on again next weekend.
The Specials are back and, to these ears, their new album is pretty decent and was worth returning to the studio for. Thing is, back in the day, I always liked the tidiness of their discography: three albums, all great and each one very different from the others. The first is full of sweaty energy, the second was startling when it came out, with its almost muzaky jazzy detours, the third is obviously Jerry’s record and, I think, you can hear its long gestation in the grooves (It’s not called “In The Studio” for nowt). Also from around that time, the first three releases by Dexys Midnight Runners followed a similar trajectory. Searching For The Young Soul Rebels is brassy and snotty and, as with the Specials, brought a devoted fan base who were similarly confounded by the raggle taggle gypsy sound of its successor Too Rye Ay. Still, the deal remained cracking four minute pop songs as Mr Rowland’s troupe continued to trouble the top 20. But, for the third offering under the DNR name, there was a similar protracted pregnancy before the band whose previous two albums had yielded number one records came up with an album without » Continue Reading.
Up there on that stage is not a place for wallflowers. Our pop heroes didn’t get where they are today without an overflowing sense of self-importance. James Brown may have been the only one to actually say it, but pretty much all of them would like to jump back and kiss themselves. And, more than this, they see it as vital that we know how fantastic they are. So, every once in a while*, they make some extraordinary claim about their magnificence and pan-galactic importance. As a for instance, backwards D Adam records in the sacred scripture Ant Rap that the simple decision to replace Ant Kevin Mooney on the frickin’ bass guitar with Gary Tibbs got the green light when he “summoned the Gods and they all approved”. Wilson Picket might not mean to brag or mean to boast, but on his record A Man And A Half, he observes that “When I walk the birds and bees stop loving to look at me” implying the 634-5789 hitmaker possesses an appeal more powerful than lust itself (alternative reading: WP is proposing a human/bee interspecies romantic entanglement which predates the plot of Bee Movie by decades). Later in the song » Continue Reading.
News drops today that big-in-the-noughties rockers The Killers will be headlining on one of the nights at this year’s Glastonbury. “Well, thank f*ck it’s not Kasabian again or one of the Gallagher brothers”, I hear you say. Or maybe “Couldn’t give a toss – I’ve been to Glasto a dozen times and have never seen an act on the pyramid stage”. Okay. Fair enough. But isn’t it weird that there was such a hullabaloo about Beyoncé and Kanye when they were the number one act in the world in their respective fields at the time and even somewhat past it Metallica were probably still the biggest name in their genre? I mean, if it was 2005 or even 2007 I’d say stick ol’ Brandon on the big stage after everyone else, but in 2019? I realise, as a grumpy old git, I’ve lost perspective on who is genuinely big with Ver Kids and the civilllian day trippers, but I would have thought Janelle, Miley and Christine all had more contemporary radio profile and each, in their own way, could be trusted to put on a proper show..? Should I just fuggedaboutit and go back to alphabeticising my Cds (“Whaaat! I » Continue Reading.
Interesting to hear Edwyn Collins, in this month’s Uncut, say he he didn’t think that much of his biggest hit A Girl Like You before it became a phenomenon. I remember at the time – as a veteran Edwyn watcher who had evangelized for years about the most thrillingly romantic debut album ever (“Will you tape x for me?” “Sure. And I’m putting You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever on the other side – no argument”.), about how, during the darkest depths of Winter, the sax break on I Can’t Help Myself was just the ticket to combat Seasonal Affective Disorder, the alternative universe masterpiece that is the emphatically-titled The Orange Juice, the missed-by-everyone classic that is Hellbent On Compromise and the startling fact that obscure non-hit My Beloved Girl was right in there mixing it with Aretha and Ronnie Spector on the shortlist for the song to salute my exit from planet Earth – being somewhat perplexed that this was the tune to capture everyone’s imagination. Back when parent album Gorgeous George was new, us Edwyn watchers saw it as a tidy collection of songs elevated by that trademark EC oddness. Its talking points were who was Gorgeous George » Continue Reading.
Over there on BBC 4 they’re starting something called “Friday Night Jukebox Live!” where, it seems, the standard BBC 4 Friday night audience (which we know is mostly composed of aging hep cats) gets to pick tunes to kick off the weekend while getting sozzled on the couch. Pardon me, but isn’t this The Aspidistra and Hatstand, just without the clumsy lounge staff and empty condom machine? I’ve only one thing to say to that: Bring it on! (Keep the Medicinal vodka and orange juice coming, barkeep!)
The Pharcyde’s brilliant Ya Mama has, for some twenty five years now, received regular spins down here in the sewers, being one of the great call-and-response holler along songs (if not the most politically correct – HOW FAT IS SHE?!!!!). But – and let me reiterate 25 YEARS LATER – it’s taken this skillfully animated Iron Mike Eagle video for me to understand one of the lines properly. It’s true one of the joys of early hip hop records was trying to figure out what they were talking about (how quaint now to recall that when we received a pre-release copy of Public Enemy’s 911Is A Joke we had no idea what “dialing 911” referred to. “Hey, it’s Flav”, we decided, “why would it mean anything?”) but the Pharcyde’s takedown of Ya Mama with its list of her assorted quirks: “(she’s) got a glass eye with a fish in it”, “she’s as old as dirt”, “..got a peg leg with a kickstand” (handsomely illustrated with a grotesque cartoon cover) included what, to me, was the straightforward line “Ya Mama’s got an Afro with a chin strap” which I confidently concluded was an implication that she was bald and bewigged (the » Continue Reading.
What does it sound like?:
I’be always felt blessed: blessed to discover pop music in the heyday of Top Of The Pops; blessed to only hear the punkquake through the grapevine but land up in the record shops with enough wedge for a weekly 7 inch just when the post-punk tsunami of fantastic singles was crashing down; blessed to have The Smiths around for that awkward transition from late adolescence to young adulthood; blessed to be able to witness a whole new musical genre I love grow up before my eyes.. That particular accident of when I was born and how I came to music has always informed my taste. Childhood TOTP made me a respecter of all and worshipper of none (I’ve never been a fan or a completist: I adore Bowie – first pop love – but €11 for everything he recorded between 83 and 88? Pass!) and instilled in me a neverlost love of the perfect uncomplicated beauty of the genuine-tilt-at-a-hit.
But those post-punk records seemed to have another agenda: we will be strange, they said, whether through our cut-and-paste Marxism, weird new zynderzyzur bleeps and bloops, or refusal to polish our sound with chart-conquering sheen, » Continue Reading.
Kasami Washington may not have received the memo (what with his Amazing Reproducing CDs – leave his two discs together overnight, come down in the morning and – hey! – there’s a whole new CD), but from the start of this year I noticed a trend for shorter, snappier albums, from the extremely sensible 38-40 minutes (U.S. Girls, Darlingside) to pithy (although perhaps less value-for-money) 30ish minutes (SiR, Tove Styrke, John Prine) After years of wading through pointless filler I was digging this, but then sub 23 minutes albums started dropping (Kids See Ghosts, Pusha T, Teyana Taylor), which meant I had to re-evaluate Diplo’s California and Sudan Archives’ Sink, which I had classified as E.P.s, being 20 and 19 minutes respectively. When the Tierra Whack album (15 one minute tracks at full album price) came in shorter than Malfunction, the ace opening track on the Cavern Of Anti-matter album, I felt the wheels were coming off. But now mates are trying to persuade me to get Tony Molina’s Kill The Lights (10 tracks, 14 and one half minutes FULL ALBUM PRICE) and I am asking the question where will this madness end? (And – sidebar – how do you » Continue Reading.
What is the greatest dichotomy in popular music? Some might suggest it’s more cowbell or less cowbell, or should I stay or should I go, or selling out or selling nowt. But I put it to you that the single question that cleaves le pop is, when confronted with an irresistible dancey groove, whether to “get up” or “get down”. In this video for the sublime new single by Swedish beatbots Galantis, we observe a quintessential example of the “get up” reaction (although I suspect any TOTP screening of same would necessitate a sober health and safety warning advising not to imitate the behaviour on view). Where do you stand on the get up/get down dilemma (and do you, in fact, just stand). And what are pop’s other great dichotomies?