Strength May Not Be What You Think It Is

May

Devoid of her own personal wit, Theresa May has fallen back on the ‘coalition of chaos’ barb that worked so well for Cameron in the last election to attack basically all other parties and any notions of a progressive alliance.

The fact that in 2015 the Tories had just been in a pretty unstable coalition themselves (omnishambles budgets, academies, etc.) didn’t register on their irony scale at the time, nor, unfortunately, with the feeble irony-o-meter of the general public, who ended up giving ham-bot and his cabal of wreckers carte blanche to unleash Brexit and throw us into actual, bona fide chaos… And still nothing from the masses.

The greater irony is, however,  had the public not drank so deeply from the Old Etonian cup, the Tories would have been forced back into coalition. With whom is irrelevant, because one of the first things ‘call me Dave’ would have put on the table in any negotiation would have been the referendum, which he didn’t really want, but was using as bargaining chip. A hubristic gamble that exploded in his face, just like the old days when he was fagging, possibly. So in essence, coalition would probably not have been all that chaotic by comparison to what transpired, it would have saved us all from so much fuckery.

So the next time you see a Tory banging on about strength and stability and suggesting any alternative to them is chaos, do remember that they are the architects of the most socially and politically unstable times in a generation. Giving the Tories a free hand has been disastrous and to do it again in 2017 would be lunacy.

An Arbitrary Number of Fucking Pointless Lists

Clickbait

Filling the internet with unremarkable, petty, moronic things, all to generate ad revenue, is currently the MO of online capitalism masquerading as journalism. It doesn’t matter what the fuck you write because putting it in a list makes it shareable. 11 People Called June, Seven Ways to Urinate, 61 Times That Tuesday Happened, think of any old shit, gather together the stock photography and off you go. Profit. The spreadsheet is clearly lord and master as there appear to be no limits to the barely lukewarm fripperies of the listicle; lowest common denominator clickbait wins, how the fuck else would these things get published?

  1. We’ll Never Forget These 9 All-Time Great Performances by Grieving Stars. Do fuck off, Evan, there’s a good chap.
  1. The Official Ranking of Herbs, From Worst to Best. I shouldn’t need to comment really but there is nothing in this list that raises it above half-witted, ludicrous nonsense. I’m sure the author (…) could make myriad arguments for this being light hearted and fun but it is neither, it’s just a massive, meaningless waste of everything.
  1. 21 Types of Best Friends Everyone Has. At best this is an asinine list of ‘hilarious’ personality types. Mainly it’s just aimless, soul destroying cack. If this list chimed with you in any way you should have a very fucking serious word with yourself.
  1. 21 Pictures You’ll Only Understand If You’re Introverted. No Michelle, you’re quite wrong, I like going out to pubs and getting utterly arseholed and shouting at bins, but I understood. I understood it was vacuous crap.
  1. 16 Early Photographs That Prove History Was Evil. If, having just read the title of this one you didn’t scream BOLLOCKS at your computer, we won’t get on.
  1. 35 Celebs Who’ve Aged Horribly. Pictures of people when they were young and then old. THEY HAVE AGED, HOW DISGUSTING OF THEM. Awful fucktards can at least afford surgery…
  1. 17 Celebrity Before-And-After Plastic Surgery Disasters. Nice byline pic Ashley, is that before or after your disaster? The quality of all these articles is suspect but this is so devoid of any care or attention that it would probably have been better to let a thought-challenged amoeba have a go.

This Year’s Mercury Prize

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Slaves – Not nearly as good as Sleaford Mods.

Gaz Coombes – The least interesting thing he has done so far and that includes The Road to Rouen

Soak – Taupe, fawn, oatmeal, magnolia…

Jamie xx – A kind of shit pastiche.

Benjamin Clemetine – Nice voice, but really very dull.

Ghostpoet – I like this one!

Florence + the Machine – Like an angry swan in a tunnel.

Eska – Earnest vocalising over ‘imaginative’ music. S’alright… spose….

C Duncan – Reminds me of Jim Noir. Probably not a bad thing.

Roisin Murphy – Rips off ‘Pancake Day’ by Mulligan & O’Hare. (Good!)

Wolf Alice – Did a good single but the album is dog shit and reeks of A&R box ticking. Go home.

Aphex Twin – He’s a bleedin’ genius dontcha know. He is.

InternetZ

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1995ish: nerds + porn / theft of intellectual property = internet

2000ish: dotcom bubble + porn / theft of intellectual property = internet

2005ish: stalking  old school friends + lolcats + porn / theft of intellectual property = internet

2010ish: avoiding work colleagues + lolcats + porn / theft of intellectual property = internet

2015ish: passive aggressive bullshit + lolcats + porn x marketing twattery / theft of intellectual property = internet

Public Frustrations

public-relations

I’ve worked in PR for a long time now. I never wanted to work in PR, it happened by accident. I was fundamentally opposed to lots of the practises of the profession, but responsibilities require me to earn cash, and for better or worse (give you a clue, it’s worse) I have been lying to people professionally for over 15 years.

The last few years have seen a huge paradigm shift (haha, stick that up your arse journos) in the industry, fuelled by social media and the ‘need’ for year-round conversation with your audience, the knock on effect of which has been to render my working hours for one particular client into a sort of groundhog day of deeply pointless meetings and conference calls that go not unlike this:

OK team, let’s plan what I think is an important announcement!

Everybody stop doing any PR and please feed into this pointless timeline that has no value to either you or me but will prove to my fellow directors that we know how to write lists. As in all other cases ever, we will not come even remotely close to sticking to this timeline, but I will stuff it full of unrealistic targets and hold you to them, even though you haven’t agreed that they are achievable.

OK – hey stop doing PR there – we need to go through the timeline in agonising detail and change its constituent parts from what seemed vaguely sensible to whatever it is someone has just told me is cool or good and will engage the fanbase. Shall we have an hour long conference call in which all suggestions and advice from you will be completely ignored in favour of my own personal whim?

Great, OK let’s all work to this new timeline and plan that no one really thought was a good idea and is now just a bit too convoluted and won’t really work. Everybody GO!

BUT WAIT…

Something has happened, probably an off the cuff remark by a director that I am massively overreacting to, and now we need to completely change the timeline to make sure we are connecting with the customer base. Stop doing PR and let’s spend another fruitless couple of hours discussing something largely unimportant.

Great,  now we have a new timeline, let’s just squeeze in this new announcement that no one was previously aware of, and will completely fuck up our brand new timeline, sell no wares and get no PR pick up (because you don’t have time to PR it properly) because I’ve decided that that’s what we should do and I will justify this by using the word ‘traction’.

Everybody redo the timeline.

Repeat

R e p e a t

R  e  p  e  a  t

R   e   p   e   a   t

R    e    p    e    a    t

Britpop. Shitpop.


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There is a lot of ‘20 Years Since Britpop’ noise happening at the moment, for which I care very little. Britpop was, in general, awful. Leaving aside any jingoistic connotations that were foisted upon it by the media, Britpop was basically lots of arseholes who were far too pleased with themselves for copying something that was so much better than them in the first place. Well done you clever boys and girls. Britpop was the start of the endlessly backwards looking bullshit, the artless imitation, that has been a feature of pop culture ever since, legitimising ‘will this do?’ fodder for the mass market. So much smug satisfaction and so little talent does not make for something to celebrate, as far as I am concerned – Echobelly, Sleeper, Cast, The Seahorses, Hurricane #1, Heavy Stereo, Space, are all as dull as painting your eyes magnolia and listening to every speech Ken Livingstone has ever made.

So, clearly, I won’t be tuning into Jo Whiley and Steve Lamacq on Radio 2 in the coming weeks. Their Radio 1 show was quite good at the time, mainly because it wasn’t all about Britpop, although, naturally, as the big sound of the day, it featured a bit too heavily for my liking.  Having a show that exclusively looks back, 20 years hence, on a scene that exclusively looked backwards on ‘classic’ British pop seems a bit pointless to me. I am not saying that all music should be startlingly original or it’s worthless, but when something is so slavishly travelling in reverse and so rammed full of ham-fisted vignettes of every day life that are as humdrum as the soundtracks they accompany, then there is little to eulogise.

Any scene, no matter how bereft of substance, however, will have its exceptions and Britpop, despite its creative inertia, did have at least 10 really incredible songs. Personally, Oasis make me feel unwell but Columbia is quite brilliant. Mansun, a bit like Muse after them, believed they were clever, arty and insightful and they were just as wrong, but Wide Open Space is about as elegant as anyone ever got in the 90s. This Is A Low still stands up as a timeless bit of pop and Babies, well, it’s Pulp and they stood alone in the scene… It’s debatable if Night Vision, Lazarus and This Is Music are really Britpop but I needed to make up the numbers and all three tracks are particularly magnificent.

So, despite my aversion to almost all of Britpop’s stock, here is my own contribution to the noise. Ten tracks that you should listen to If You Have To Do Britpop…

Spotify Playlist If you have to do Britpop…

Mansun – Wide Open Space

Oasis – Columbia

Supergrass – Lose It

Elastic – Stutter

Pulp – Babies

Suede – The Drowners

Super Furry Animals – Night Vision

The Boo Radleys – Lazarus

The Verve – This Is Music

Blur – This is a Low

2013 – The Best Year For Music In A Decade.

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It wasn’t a hard decision to say that 2013 has been the strongest year for music in about a decade. I’ve certainly been persuaded to part with more of my lovely cash for albums this year than I have in a lot of years; say about 10.  And it’s not just one genre that has been having a pleasingly purple patch. It’s been widespread and persistent throughout the year, like a particularly mellifluous virus happily smashing your ears in. Plenty of well-established big players have put out their best works in a while and there have been some strong new(ish) acts making a big impression on me. All in all, it’s been a very entertaining time.

As much as best album of the year lists are anathema to me, invariably filled, as they are, with wearying mediocrity to make up the numbers, this year I have struggled to keep a list to 10 albums. Therefore in the spirit of personal hypocrisy, and not without a large helping of narcissism, I shall make a list of the new albums I have liked the most this year, ranked, not unreasonably, by my own personal enjoyment, all in traditional reverse order.

10. Arctic Monkeys – AM

If I was in my 20s it probably wouldn’t be that cool to like the Arctic Monkeys. I see critics who, in general, I respect giving them short shrift (I mean you, Simon Price). I am, however, considerably older than that and can therefore not give a fuck about received wisdom when it comes to these things.  AM is, by some distance, Arctic Monkeys best album since their second effort. Much has been made of the influences outside of guitar pop on Alex and his chums but, I find, it’s the self-assured swagger of a lot of the tracks that provide the album with its central charm.

09. NickCave & the Bad Seeds – Push The Sky Away

With Mick Harvey long gone, the Bad Seeds have become a more hirsute and primal affair. The riffs on Push Away The Sky seem constantly poised at the point of collapse but never actually buckle, lending it all a strangely compelling air. Cave is his usual mawkish self, but then that’s OK because could anyone else operate even remotely in the same universe as him? I doubt it. Unlike traditional Bad Seeds fare and also a world away from Grinderman, it’s about as strong a comeback as you could have hoped for.

08. Queens of the Stone Age – …Like Clockwork

Era Vulgaris was, not to put too fine a point on it, dog shit. Queens had lost their way and Josh Homme’s dalliance with swampy pub rock in super dull group TCV seemed to confirm that his most exciting writing days were behind him. Well, thank heavens for near death experiences, as almost carking it has revitalised Josh, and by default his band, handsomely. …Like Clockwork is a sullen beast but a rewarding one. Big riffs, reflective lyrics and some honest to goodness wig-outs make this a return to form that I had not predicted and that’s a very good thing.

07. Jon Hopkins – Immunity

The first time I heard Open Eye Signal I was completely blown away and had to play it again and again and again. There’s something about how the filthy cold and digital sounds crash against the beautiful, lush and emotive music that make this unlike almost anything else around. It’s staggeringly good. Hopkins’ time served as tech provider for an uber-producer and arranger for the world’s biggest band are evident in how big it all sounds and in the fearlessness of releasing a concept album when such notions have been rendered archaic by the shuffle button. Good skills, I say, when albums are this good, their future looks less perilous.

06. Boards of Canada Tomorrow’s Harvest

It’s been a long time and essentially the Boards have not changed but the ease with which they slipped back into a different musical landscape speaks volumes about their quality. Channelling the aura of 80s VHS video nasties into an agreeably bleak but aurally enslaving long long player isn’t as effortless as it sounds, but BOC manage it without breaking sweat. Although there are some really quite exquisite touches throughout, it does lack an out and out killer track to provide a spine for the whole thing but it stands up nevertheless.  Not one for down the disco, though.

05. The Asphodells Ruled By Passion Destroyed By Lust

Weatherall comes back from the brink following the worryingly patchy A Pox on the Pioneers solo album of a few years past. With a new engineer to do his bidding, ushering in a new outlook (less songs more grooves), Ruled By Passion is classic Wevvers with some proper chuggers and lots of wicked arpeggios bubbling away all over the shop, all bathed in enough tape delay to rip a dirty big whole in the time continuum.  The dub of their cover of John Betjemen’s Late Flowering Lust is the undoubted highlight for me.

04. My Bloody Valentine – m b v

Let’s cut to the chase; it’s a woozily wonderful album. Yes it took more than two decades, yes it sounds a lot like Loveless without the obvious singles but at least another album comes close to Loveless now.  This is an album that definitely benefits from repeated listens and your complete immersion in its treacly motifs. It could never live up to expectation but has managed to be elegantly alluring all the same.

03. Fuck Buttons – Slow Focus

On a seemingly unstoppable upwards curve Fuck Buttons followed up their Olympic triumph with a broody, self-produced third album that finally had all the pieces in the right places. Whether it’s a progression in the song writing or simply knowing what they’re doing now, there is a palpable confidence in this album that was lacking previously. The stand out track for me is Stalker, a colossus on an album stuffed full of really good tunes. This was in the running for number one but a late release and my growing obsession with another album bumped it to the bronze.

02. Daniel Avery – Drone Logic

As Erol Alkan’s protégé and feted by Weatherall, Daniel Avery was anointed as the Guardianista’s techno lovey practically from the beginning of his career, and with a reputation as Fabric’s secret weapon spanking unsuspecting dancefloors to within an inch of their lives, he had a lot to live up to with his debut album. Happily, that kind of praise and the accompanying pressure don’t seem to have phased him, and in Drone Logic he has handed over an album that is simultaneously quality traditional techno and utterly fresh and exciting. You could list a whole cavalcade of bands that signpost his sound from the guitar FX pedal drones of Chemical Brothers to the bleeping arpeggios of Underworld but that would be a disservice to what is a really substantial work of hip-swaying brilliance.

01. (James) Holden – The Inheritors

Kieran Hebden tweeted a little while back that The Inheritors would be one of the albums we’ll all talk about when reassessing 2013s musical legacy. Naturally, with that kind of praise coming from a man like him I was intrigued. I’ll be honest, James Holden meant dreary prog to me, but fuck me was I entirely wrong. Throw about all the sonic explorer hyperbole you like but, there’s no getting away from the fact that Holden’s Inheritors is an auditory adventure unlike anything else released this year. Jon Hopkins’ lush digital tones may be in the same general vicinity but the musical experimentation and honeyed timbre of the entire album is breathtaking and completely enveloping. I guess it’s techno at heart but it’s so deconstructed and so thrillingly rearranged as to be something gleamingly modish and new. I am a grizzled cynic with almost no joy in my bones but I genuinely found this album intoxicatingly exciting and for that, I should really thank Mr Holden!

Honorary mentions for Savages,  Factory Floor, Jagwar Ma, Primal Scream, Daft Punk, David Bowie, Hookworms, Teeth of the Sea and Islet who all released albums which I have enjoyed a lot. Also, there are a couple of albums that have resurfaced or have been discovered late including Prolapse’s Pointless Walks To Dismal Places, Fairhorns’ Doki Doki Run and the entire Rite series by arch drude Cope. It’s possible that I am in a more receptive mood to music in general as I am more aware of the pop charts than I have been in a long time but there seems to be something on the cusp of happening there too and I am intrigued to see where it all goes once EDM is, rightly, kicked to death…

Anyway, whatever the reason, vive la 2013, you have been a good year.