Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Chapterhouse Whirlpool Cover

The cover for the Whirlpool album by Chapterhouse is somewhat iconic; it is the symbol of early shoegazing. It is easily recognizable and looks good on a T-shirt or on a poster. What I like about this is that it makes perfect use of white and blue and the band felt comfortable enough to leave the album's title off the front; I like that sort of confidence.

Monday, July 29, 2013

The New Way Things Are Done in the Music Business

It sounds like someone forgot to promote Johnny Borrell's new album. Given the fact that he used to front Razorlight, there should have been a built-in audience for his latest album. Apparently, Razorlight fans couldn't be bothered.

The article makes a stunning comparison, however. Buried down in the piece is this fact:
Meanwhile in this week's album charts, the latest 'Now That’s What I Call Music!' compilation has become the fastest selling album of 2013. ''Now That’s What I Call Music! 85' shifted 317,000 copies during its first week...
That has to make Borrell very happy. A compilation album (remember the K-Tel records from the 1970s?) that people could reasonably steal from the Internet on their own sells over 300,000 copies while an album of original songs by an artist sells in the hundreds. Johnny Borrell fronted a fairly popular band--he is not a nobody. If an artist could sell 300,000 copies of their album, or thereabouts, on a reasonable basis, the music industry would be fairly thriving right now.

What's the royalty on something from That's What I Call Music? Are people getting paid or are they getting ripped off?

Had to Put a Rug Underneath Her

The collapse of Noel Gallagher's little brother's personal life is going to fill up a lot of space between now and whenever things "cool down." Liam Gallagher recently launched the promotional tour for Beady Eye's new album BE and it couldn't have gotten off on stranger footing if he and his bandmates had tried.

This is tabloid stuff--the kind of thing the British consume very easily--and it is going to bring a lot of attention to Gallagher and his band. Will it lead to sales? Will people show up for the gigs? Will it be a good thing for Gallagher to be splashed all over the press having this kind of a meltdown?

It couldn't hurt, I would think. But if I was Andy Bell, I'd be thinking about whether or not getting Ride back together would be a way to get through next summer.

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Icicle Works Birds Fly Single

I love covers like this. Rarely do you find abstract works that are so effective at conveying what a single is about. Whisper to a Scream (Birds Fly) is a great song, and this single works on a lot of levels. It's not overtly commercial and so you can't claim that the band has "sold out" in any way.

On this version of the vinyl label, you can clearly see that there is a "European" version of the single. In 1984, U2 would release a longer version of Pride for the International market as well. Apparently, you had to take a razor blade to singles back in the day if you wanted to release them in America.

Primal Scream Burning Wheel Cover

Primal Scream's Burning Wheel single has an amazing cover, which perfectly mashes up video stills, graphics and details and presents a retro military feel.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Wire A Bell Is A Cup Until It Is Struck

Easily one of the most memorable album covers ever, and one that did not suffer from being shrunken down for the compact disc era. When I bought this back in the day it came in a cardboard box that is, sadly, lost to the ages.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

I Am Not Going to See New Order

Is it New Order without Hooky?


So, I don't want to make a post where I crap on New Order. I wish them great success. I'm sure it will be a great show this weekend. I will step outside and hear it, probably plain as day. But I made the decision in the spring not to go and I have not been tempted to go.

Does that make me an asshole? Well, that's why I have blogs. Assholes have blogs.

And it is not New Order without Hooky. They're still great. Props to everyone there. But no Hooky, no New Order.

Yep. Barney in trainers. Not going to go see that, either.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Did Spring Breakers Hurt the Image of Riff Raff?

Riff Raff has a legal burden in this case that is going to be difficult to carry. I hope he wins, and I hope he wins big. Jet skis cost a lot of cash, bro. Then, they need an oil change or something.

When your name is Riff Raff, you are already on the outs with the system. When you can't get people to respect you, they will turn you into a clown and steal the image you've been cultivating--the very same image that got you out of your previous situation and made you famous. The problem is, the character that James Franco portrayed in the film Spring Breakers is a generic white rapper who may look and sound like Riff Raff but, in reality, who has Riff Raff been ripping off? He's a combination of Vanilla Ice and Eminem with a little Kid Rock thrown in. There's nothing original about him and he has to prove that the movie hurt his image. If anything, the only reason why lame bloggers know who he is would stem from the fact that those girls had big boobs in that dang movie or something. Was anybody even looking at him when all those boobies walked by? I mean, holy hell. What was that film about? Who is James Franco anyway? Is he a thing? Was there a jet ski chase in that movie with a girl on the back yelling stuff? Dayum!

When your name is Riff Raff and your stated preference and/or game is white rap, there aren't many good things that are going to come your way in this life. You might become a target of the ire of law enforcement. You might end up with a Corvette but I would be willing to bet you that it will have transmission problems almost immediately because not everyone who is running errands for you is going to know how to drive a stick. You might get a record deal, except there aren't really any record companies anymore. There are people who pretend to sell music after you pay to get it made, though. Some of those idiots might part with some of their money. The world runs on money and people need to get paid. How do you get paid when rapping is finished? I have no idea. A guy like Riff Raff has to figure that shit out while sitting in the middle of a churning lake on a jet ski that doesn't have any gas in it, I would imagine.

When your name is Riff Raff and the world is not enough, what do you do? You might get rich, briefly, and your boys may not bring the police into your crib with their personal habits right away. You might find yourself some women who aren't stereotypical hip hop women, but how long will they last? How many jet skis are you going to crash when your name is Riff Raff? How many cheap pickup trucks (that Corvette don't run no more, dawg!) are you going to have to make payments on when your boys need to run and get you groceries because they won't let you into Piggly Wiggly anymore? County tax assessors are the bane of rural rappers. When the tax man comes looking for his pound of flesh, how much money is a guy like Riff Raff going to have sitting in an escrow account? All of a sudden, you gotta sell three of your best jet skis and then, well, what are you going to do when your boys want to go riding? It's what they call a conundrum.

When your name is Riff Raff, holy Mother of God, this is a hard life. Let's all hop Riff Raff wins one so he can relax on a jet ski and not have to deal with the reality imposed on him by an unforgiving land of serious people.

The Cure A Forest Cover

This is my favorite single from The Cure. The single itself is about as goth as they ever got and it is a wonderful example of stark imagery used to explain what the song is about. When you think of the record inside of the sleeve, you have a firm grasp on what it means just by looking at this sleeve.

In other words, the marketing of the single does not deceive the listener at all. How often can you say that about things that were released in the 1980s?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Jam Live EP Cover

Nobody does this anymore.

Nobody puts out live EPs and things of that nature. I think these are great and I treasure the ones I have.

This particular live EP, from the Jam, is the beneficiary of a fantastic retro "beat" era cover. The overhead shot of the band playing live is a keeper and the graphics are wonderful.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Arctic Monkeys AM Cover

Arctic Monkeys have kept with their minimalistic philosophy and have released the cover for their new album, AM. Using squiggly lines on a dark background is a stylistic improvement over the cover of Suck it and See, obviously, and they continue to put graphic artists out of work.

By the way, look dead center at the squiggle and you'll see the cleverly disguided A and M.

You Have to Fight to Get Paid

This article reveals a universal truth--no one wants to actually have to pay for music. No one wants to let artists have money for what they create. Everyone says they want to "pay" for music but they refuse to pay what it is worth. Spotify are no different than any other failed idea of the 2000s. Music cannot be free because a decade and then some of free has left artists with nothing to show for their efforts.

If there is an exceedingly bad business model out there, someone like Spotify will try to refine it and make it worse. There are still a few more coins to shake out of the music industry before it dies.

Oh, and it should be noted--why do you have to pay $49.99 for a video game? Why aren't video games free? Why doesn't the video game industry go with Spotify and pay video game makers nothing for something?

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Phish Actually Sucks

So, for the second night in a row, we've been treated to the meanderings of Phish, who are playing Merriwether Post Pavillion. This second show seems to be going on well past the usual stop time for shows. I don't think anyone really cares. Who are you going to call? Is Howard County going to send a deputy out there to pull cords out of sockets? Are they making as many drug arrests this year as the last time? Who cares. As in, who cares without the question mark added.

All I can say is, wow. That's a band that knows some scales. There are no words to describe the onslaught of sounds and how aimless and pointless it sounds. The music is a little louder than it normally is for shows here--the heavy metal acts that played earlier this summer were quieter.

Phish represents one of those paths I never took in the early 1990s. A lot of people jumped on that wagon and trailed off into jam band hell. After eleven minutes or so, I think you need to move on or do something else. Jeebus.

I don't care if they can play. I don't care what they play. This is a part of the culture that means nothing to me and I can't wait to move a little farther away from Merriwether.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

When Your Whine Doesn't Work Indoors

Really? We're taking cheap shots at artists now?

Now, if we're going to debate Radiohead and Atoms for Peace, and how awful that stuff can sound when you're not in the mood for it, then we're in for a long afternoon of arguing. If we're simply going to acknowledge that the interior of Chipotle is simply not conducive for the reproduction of recorded music, then I think we're in agreement.

Are the artists who help shape, and give value to, this music identity being paid? Are they being paid a token licensing fee or are we actually going to break new artists and compensate people in a meaningful way?

Echo and the Bunnymen A Promise Cover

An Echo and the Bunnymen post? Here? How long has it been?

The cover for the 45 rpm single for the song A Promise borrows from the cover art and theme of the album Heaven Up Here. This is an excellent use of the method of tying in the single to the album.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Damned I Just Can't Be Happy Today Single

The Damned released I Just Can't Be Happy Today in November of 1979 and it was less of a punk single and more of a social commentary than anything else. By the end of 1979, there weren't many real punks left anyway. Everyone was well on their way to having a career or two.

What I like about this cover is the simple garishness of the images. Someone has vandalized a staid, stuffy old statue and put an absurd piece of headgear on it and they have slapped modern graphics across the front as an afterthought. I love this stuff, especially when it is well done.

No More Underground

I have to agree with what Bobby Gillespie is saying here. The underground vanished with the independent labels and with the artists who could survive by playing live and selling their recordings. When the ability to steal music over the Internet happened, it killed the support mechanism that used to sustain independent and underground artists. Now, you have to be corporate friendly. Now, you have to have a website and a social media presence. How can you be underground if you have to have a blog and a Twitter account and an open line to what you hope is an engaged group of supporters. It used to be about a mailing list; now, it's about making sure you don't offend anyone.

Dissent happens when you can sustain yourself through alternative means. When you can feed yourself and your band for months at a time through a non-corporate method of playing live shows, banking the take from that, spreading out money over months at a time, and financing independent recordings that can be sold at shows--that's what has disappeared, by and large. That's what has been replaced by a need to engage and plead for support. You can't do that by being offensive or shutting down for a few months to go have a life. You can't do that if you're constantly looking to other outlets to support what shows you do get to play. Dissent only happens when you can tell everyone to fuck off.

That's what it is all about--when you can be a band and afford to tell certain constituencies to fuck off places power in the hands of an artist. Being able to give an immediate message of dissent happens when you know you have a support network that does not include having to kiss anyone's ass and plead for money from a label that, in turn, has corporate considerations above all others.

Nobody can afford that anymore. When Kaiser Chiefs complained about being the third band to play their new hometown arena, it led to Ricky Wilson having to delete a Tweet and suffer through the indignity. In a time of dissent, Wilson would have been able to make a statement and hold to it. You cannot blame him or the band for having to hold their tongue--they literally could not survive without that show at that venue and without future shows.

Our new reality comes with a price, and the removal of dissent from music has removed the excitement and the immediacy.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Gawker Hates Zooey Deschanel

Today, Gawker published another bizarre post about Zooey Deschanel. I realize that this is not news--Gawker HATES Deschanel with an indescribable fury. Apparently, she's adorkable or something.

Whenever Gawker posts about Deschanel, I usually just ignore it. However, in the comments, people are basically calling out the site and pointing out that bands like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs have similar bans on the use of phones. So, you know, blog fail or whatever.

Artists have begun trying to separate fans from their phones and from the practice of holding this rectangular plastic thing in front of them so that they can claim to have watched the show in person. How that translates into an experience is beyond my grasp. Why not enjoy what you are seeing without worrying about your phone?

If you have to record something to remember it, your mind is already gone.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Robyn Hitchcock and Getting What You Can For Yourself

Robyn Hitchcock talks about how retro things have become and how displaced the world of music is in relation to how things were at the end of the 1960s.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Dave Matthews to Address New U.S. Citizens

Dave Matthews to address new U.S. citizens at Monticello |

Given the hysteria about keeping people from immigrating to America, you can make your own jokes about whether or not Dave Matthews is the right choice for people who want to come here and live. Whenever an artist makes a move that is not self-serving or designed to promote themselves and make money, should we automatically go to the jokes and sarcasm? Probably not.