Friday, May 31, 2013

Radiohead Street Spirit EPs One and Two

Radiohead released a slew of singles in the mid-1990s, and then they all but gave up on the single, preferring to release albums that were difficult and layered well beyond their "guitar oriented" period. That's a shame because they could have kept putting out singles like this and it would have marked a continuation of tremendous artistic success.

Street Spirit was a curious choice for a single; it doesn't have a hook so much as it soars with Tom Yorke's voice and the tension that cuts underneath it. What's even more surprising is that they dumped a load of B-sides with a double release and ensured that fans would snap these up. I have them and they are wonderful releases. The art is typical of that period--distorted video images as a commentary on commercialism and kitsch, and the typical shot of light from a destination point. They're not awful. They just represent an era when a band could put out a double single of a song that no one would consider a likely choice for a release.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Stone Temple Pilots: Still Lame After All These Years

The ongoing soap opera that is Stone Temple Pilots ran over another speedbump recently when three members of the band sued one member of the band.

Why these lame holdouts from the worst excesses of the 1990s just don't go away is beyond me. There has been so much drama surrounding these clowns from the moment they burst onto the scene by taking advantage of the fact that people wanted to hear more Pearl Jam. They'll never go away. They'll never stop trying to milk what little they were able to accomplish twenty years ago.

Scott Weiland will plague us for another fifty years with his bullshit. All of the drug stories, all of the excesses, all of the fights and anguish. These are just attention-getting devices that mask a creative desert that ran dry a long time ago. And the other three, whoever the hell they still are, will continue to think that they are some sort of creative or commercial force in popular American music. How they could refer to themselves as "one of America's most popular rock bands" is a mystery in and of itself.

Just because people decide to go and see you doesn't mean you can claim a special legal status when suing the guy who constituted more of your band than you are prepared to admit. This is why lead singers have a disproportionate share of a band's reputation; this is why no one cares when the drummer and the bass player join up with the guitar player and try to find someone else to sing. It's a gimmick to keep making money, not music.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Another Stupid Article About Independent Music

If you're going to write about "indie" music, know something about it first.

This is the stupidest set of comparisons in the article:
One of the first cases occurred in 2004 with The Pixies, an affair that not even the band members expected would still be going in 2013—until they found themselves routinely selling more tickets than ever. 2007 and 2009 brought The Jesus And Mary Chain and Blur, respectively, two groups that seemed even more settled into retirement. Both are still touring as well. 
And then in 2010, things got even hotter. First Pavement, then their Matador co-mascots Guided By Voices, then came Pulp, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and the “not happening, except to drink beer” Dismemberment Plan (which has since embarked on a massive tour and upcoming album in addition to those beers). The following year brought back the “no desire to desecrate the grave” Stone Roses (which became the “only if you see me begging on the street” Stone Roses, then the “we just headlined Coachella” Stone Roses), and in 2012, the “only to get paid” Replacements.
How do you compare the reunion of a nothing emo band like Neutral Milk Hotel to that of Pulp, Blur or the Jesus and Mary Chain? Or to the Stone Roses? That's beyond stupid. That's practicing the art of being a music critic without a medical license; that's malpractice of the highest order.

Just because these bands seem like small independent artists when they tour the United States doesn't mean that's actually what they are in their native countries. The reunion of the four bands cited above resulted in massive concerts in Britain on a scale not seen by any of the indie bands they are being compared to. Blur and Pulp headlined festivals; the JAMC are a world-reknowned act. And the Roses are nothing to America because they never really played here.

Let's see how many Neutral Milk Hotel (I honestly did a WTF when I saw this article) fans show up to Glastonbury when they're the last band on the main stage on the last night.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Kilbey and Kennedy Are Live and You Are Everything

If I was in Australia, and if I had anything to say about it, I'd be at this show.

The venue looks amazing. If this is the future of music, okay then. Playing shows like this for small crowds should be something someone could make a living doing. We are such a fractured society already, taste wise and entertainment wise that it just saddens me.

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Ringtone is All But Dead

The ringtone is going extinct.

Owning a ringtone business is like being the last guy with a paging service. Remember when you could go to the mall in the crappy part of town and buy a pager from a dozen different kiosks? I don't either because that was forever ago.

Sure, there will always be a consumer or two who fails to adapt to new realities and holds on to legacy habits--this is why there are, in America at least, a significant number of people who still pay $24.99 or whatever it is to access the Internet through America Online, much as they did fifteen years ago.

The ringtone business exploded because people had favorite songs they wanted to put on their phone. And while it is true that you can now put ringtones on your phone for free, I think there has been another decline of note here and that has been an evaporation of music being made that people were willing to pay for. As the number of artists has dwindled to the point where the only people making music are the ones who either love it or the ones who haven't gotten the memo, so too has the number of songs worth getting the ringtone for.

Trends being what they are, the ringtone business has fallen on hard times. Good riddance.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Lush Spooky Cover

Just in terms of sheer originality, the cover of Spooky by Lush is one of the iconic album covers of the 1990s.

When I think of how many times I saw this in record stores, it makes me wonder how many people know how good the album was and how original their sound was. Lush were knocked for having a Cocteau Twins sound, due mostly to having Robin Guthrie produce the album, but the songs were strong enough and the band were accomplished enough to rise above such criticism.

Anyway, here's a bonus--a poster of the album cover combined with other elements to promote an EP.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Slowdive Publicity Photo

Here is a publicity photo of the English band Slowdive, and I just love the composition and the arrangement of the photo.

Friday, May 10, 2013

New Order Puts Out a Live Album

I have been curious to hear how this new version of New Order sounds. For around $70, I could have gotten tickets to go see them this summer for their American tour. I hemmed and hawed for a bit, and I decided that it just couldn't be New Order without Hooky.

Hopefully, the fans will prove me wrong and buy a lot of these.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Hop Farm is a Bust

A number of performers in Britain are owed massive fees because Hop Farm 2012 ended up being a mismanaged financial disaster:

Hop Farm Festival was due to take place in Wood Paddock, Kent between July 5-6. Earlier this year, festival promoter Vince Power responded to reports that his Hop Farm Festival, went into administration last year owing its 2012 headliners thousands of pounds. Kent On Sunday had reported that the festival, which was run by Power's Music Festivals PLC, went under owing Peter Gabriel £100,000 and Suede £46,000. In all, they reported, the festival collapsed owing £4.8 million, including £22,648 to local police and £163,000 to the festival site, Paddock Wood.

Incredible.  And Richard Ashcroft is also out a load of cash. How many other artists have been screwed? The only way to get paid now is to play live. And it's not just the people who sing the songs--their crews, their support people--how do they get paid? 

I suppose we should just be grateful that we can download their music for free. This business model means the artists will get rich, apparently. Or something like that.

Hop Farm sounds like a bad dream. Did they forget to charge people to get it? Did someone stuff the cash into their pants and run? Whoever ran this should never be allowed to promote anything ever again.

How Many Times Can You Keep Going Back to the Well?

The Rolling Stones have decided to tour again, and make money hand over fist. They are, apparently, broke and they need the cash. How else to explain the fact that tickets for their show cost $600?

I mean, honestly. Six hundred dollars? For what? An oldies act played by old men? A band so out of date that it can't even be bothered to release new material and pretend people want to hear what they have to play? People in Los Angeles have money coming out of their ears. And they still won't go see the Rolling Stones play yet another night of muddled songs.

Bridges to Babylon is sixteen years old. How much of that are they playing tonight?

At some point, you can't wring any more milk out of the teat and you need to shuffle off somewhere and die with some measure of dignity.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

You Probably Thought This Band Was About You

The failure of Liam Gallagher is one that will puzzle music critics for the next generation or so. It is not a commercial failure--it is a personal failure to understand that Oasis was not about him and that he was never an equal to his brother, Noel Gallagher. It is a failure to get over the breakup of Oasis and to really move on. It is a failure to understand that the songs were more important than anything else, and the songs that mattered were the ones that he didn't write.

When you look back at the rise of Oasis, you do see that there was a dynamic between the brothers, a negative one, but a creative one. Liam has always maintained an excellent singing voice and has always been the "face" or the front man for the band. He never descended into Ian Brown territory, which was what left a stinging, bitter taste in the mouths of Stone Roses fans when it became apparent in 1996 that Brown was croaking through songs he didn't care about anymore. You have to give Liam credit--he has never stopped caring.

Fans of the band know one universal truth--when necessary, Gallagher can sing all of the songs and he has done it numerous times in the past.

The problem is, he has never understood the importance of Noel Gallagher's songs and their meaning as the real legacy of Oasis. The festival shows, Maine Road, the world tours, Knebworth--millions have seen the band, but the songs have endured. The Oasis catalog is still worth a tremendous amount of money, and it has enabled Noel to retire in place and do whatever he wants to do. The other members aren't as lucky.

If you had someone pick the best 25 songs from Oasis, none of them would be Liam's songs and maybe one of them would be a Gem Archer song. And that's what lies at the heart of Liam's constant kvetching about Noel--the story is over, their history is written, they're not getting back together, and no one wants to hear his songs.

Oasis may have come around before the Internet but they left at just the right time. They were never going to have to "crowdsource" their next record and they were never going to put out crap. Leaving when they did actually helps their legacy. Their first two albums are as strong as anyone's first two albums, and their subsequent albums have moments of brilliance.

Their oft-derided middle period--Be Here Now and Standing on the Shoulder of Giants--is better than anyone else's creative fallow period, and it needs to be said--when these records came out, the band was in turmoil, shedding original members and leaving Creation Records. They were living a life in hell and were still able to play music. What got them through that period is the fact that Noel was able to keep writing songs that were capable of hitting the charts in England. Even though they had been written off, they were able to come back from disaster and disunity and create three of the best "end of career" albums ever.  Hindu Times and Don't Believe the Truth are band records that saw the emergence of Liam as a songwriter but as one still overshadowed by the fact that Noel controlled what went into the records.

By the time Dig Out Your Soul came out, the band was more or less back to form and more or less still a major force in British music. Oasis was still playing soccer stadiums and arenas, ignoring America, and garnering grudging praise for singles like Lyla and Falling Down.

If you look at their seven albums, you can subtract the middle period and end up with their first two and their last three--a legacy worthy of any of the great bands in British history. Even if you insist on including all seven plus their album of B-sides, they still rank well above most of their contemporaries.

This "ranking" is part of the problem. Were Oasis better than The Jam, The Stone Roses, and Blur? Is it even worth arguing? Well, certainly. But that argument has to rest on the fact that Noel Gallagher should be rated a better songwriter than anyone in any of those bands, and as one of the greats. When you put his songs up against anyone else, the comparisons falter. Liam's songs were good, and worthy of inclusion on their last three albums, but they still weren't as good as what Gem Archer and Andy Bell were contributing, instrumentals and B-sides aside. They were instinctual, primitive, and worth inclusion but were rooted in a need to equal Noel.

They could not equal Noel's songs because few, if any, of his contemporaries were able to equal what he put out. Maybe in his lifetime, Noel Gallagher will be rated at a proper level as a songwriter, but, as for right now, he is still given the back of the hand. And yet, the praise he does get drives Liam crazy.

And what burns Liam is that he knows his songs were never as good and that no one wants to hear Beady Eye play anything other than the songs Noel wrote.