Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Ian Fraser Kilmister 1945-2015

Lemmy got his start in the music business specifically because he saw the Beatles at the Cavern Club. I just found that to be hilarious and historical, all in one fell swoop.

And Hawkwind was a criminally neglected band in this country. Can't forget that, either.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Definitely Go Play Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is the island in the lower right portion of the map...

Sometimes, you just can't please an underserved market:

Maithripala Sirisena, the Sri Lankan president, is not happy following a few bra throwing incidents at Enrique Iglesias's recent concert out there.

The Spanish-born, US-based pop singer played a date out there (December 20) to promote his tenth album, 'Sex and Love'.

After the gig Sirisena called the bra-throwing "uncivilised behaviour that goes against our culture", the BBC reported, and said that the promoters should be "beaten with poisonous stingray tails".

Maithripala Sirisena, sans poisonous Stingray tail

The Sri Lankan president then made it clear that "these indecent concerts should never receive authorisation again in Sri Lanka".

Sri Lankans probably love this kind of music. They probably love seeing a spectacle at a concert. I feel bad for them because they are led by a reactionary old fart. Musicians everywhere should ignore the president and go get their rocks off in Sri Lanka. More weird stuff! More sex stuff! Make Madonna's costume designer blush!

Doesn't this sound like a stranger version of Footloose than we would normally be used to?

Monday, December 21, 2015

Donald Trump's Mandingo Analogy

This is just plain evil:

In the latest series of Trumpisms, the Republican presidential frontrunner on Monday knocked Hillary Clinton for not returning to the stage on time in Saturday night's Democratic debate and getting "schlonged" by Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential race. "Even a race to Obama, she was gonna beat Obama. I don't know who would be worse, I don't know, how could it be worse? But she was going to beat -- she was favored to win -- and she got schlonged, she lost, I mean she lost," Trump said. The real estate mogul also criticized Clinton for her late return to the stage because of a bathroom break, calling it "disgusting." Unprompted, Trump said, "I know where she went. It's disgusting. I don't want to talk about it, it's disgusting."

I'm just going to say it--a mainstream Republican candidate for the presidency invoked the racist image of the Mandingo. He spoke of an African-American man having sex with a white woman. God help us all, but that dog whistle was blown today like it hasn't been blown in a long, long time.

Now, we know several things. One, Trump will not pay any price whatsoever for his latest crude missive. Two, he's unscripted and out of control for what amounts to the eighth or ninth week in a row, depending on when the first outburst occurred. Three, the sexism embedded in his comments about Hillary Clinton is still absolutely shocking and without any real precedent.

This is not the sort of thing that a John McCain would have said and it's not the sort of thing Mitt Romney would have said. I mean, there's just no precedence for the crudity and the vulgarity of this man. We've gone from the Romneyshambles to the Donaldshambles. It's a shit show no one can stop watching.

Do you know what would work right now for the Republican Party? A Mitt Romney-John McCain ticket. They should drag both nominees out of mothballs, give them a billion dollars in someone else's funds, and remove all of the other candidates from the race. Make it Trump against Romney-McCain. Granted, it would turn to shit and catch fire like a bus full of exploding propane tanks and potato masher hand grenades, but it would still be more fun than what we have right now.

If you're conservative, you're quietly pleased with this Donald fellow. If you're liberal, you can't imagine how many more


posts it's going to take before everyone agrees with you that Donald can't survive this. I'm sorry, but the crude sexism just brings more voters to the table. I would be surprised if he doesn't end up breaking forty percent soon.

Adele Doesn't Like Getting Ripped Off, Either

This is a wonderful development:

Adele has spoken for the first time about her decision not to stream her hit album '25'.

The Londoner chose not to stream the album online when it launched back in November, preferring to stick to paid downloads and traditional hard copy formats. It remains unavailable on free platforms.

Speaking with Time Magazine for their cover today (December 21), she went into detail on the decision, saying:

“I believe music should be an event. For me, all albums that come out, I’m excited about leading up to release day. I don’t use streaming. I buy my music. I download it, and I buy a physical [copy] just to make up for the fact that someone else somewhere isn’t. It’s a bit disposable, streaming.”

I see this as a very positive development. A major label artist with a huge album just slashed her way through the obscene profits that streaming services would have made from her album. She decided to forgo the miniscule royalty rate that her album would have made from streaming royalties and take the download/physical sale numbers for herself. If Adele had streamed her album, her sales would have been down significantly, making her album less successful. Why do all of those people want to go see her? Because she's real. She stands there and sings. The extension of that is, she is a premium artist who requires you to buy the thing she makes and play it in your home. How is that a bad thing?

A huge chunk of her sales came from the fact that everybody wanted her album and that it was actually in stores where people could buy it. And I can guarantee you that Adele's album was probably the only album many of those people this year. In and of itself, that's a huge thing to ponder. And we might have to come around to thinking that someone who pays ten bucks and then downloads an album is every bit as important to the process as someone who buys a CD in Wal-Mart.

Once you kill off streaming services, you send people back out there looking for music. If that's the case, they'll buy albums and they'll restore a bit of sanity to the process. More of this, please.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Violent Femmes Have a New Album on the Way

How many times does someone tell you that they're going to skip the bullshit?

It's been 32 years since Milwaukee alt-rock legends Violent Femmes burst into Australian consciousness with their lauded self-titled debut album — a sleeper hit that contained a slew of angst-ridden songs likeBlister In The Sun, Kiss Off and Add It Up that quickly became embedded in our national psyche. Now, following a lengthy hiatus due to perennial internal disputes, they're back to tour the country with Hoodoo Gurus, Sunnyboys, Died Pretty and Ratcat for the A Day On The Green franchise.

What's really exciting about these impending shows is that earlier this year they released the Happy New Year EP for Record Store Day — their first substantial collection of new music since 2000's Freak Magnet— meaning that we're going to hear new tunes from them live for the first time in aeons.

I wish I could skip the bullshit and stop being a blogger, but then what would I do? I know, I know. I would instantly have to fuck off and die, but what good would that do me?

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Jesus and Mary Chain Psychocandy

Has it been thirty years?

I have followed the Jesus and Mary Chain for a long, long time. When Psychocandy came out, a blurb about it appeared in People magazine (if I remember things correctly) and I was instantly intrigued. The Mary Chain were the original shoegazers and the penultimate creators of music designed for kids to listen to that their parents wouldn't like.

Thirty years? Wow.

Oh, and this. A thousand times this because I love you.

Getting Together and Playing Live

Looking at this, I would say that neither Blur nor Oasis have much of a future.

Former foes Noel Gallagher and Damon Albarn teamed up to form a one-off supergroup with Chrissie Hynde and The Clash's Paul Simonon to celebrate the latter's 60th birthday.

Clash bassist Simonon turns 60 on Tuesday (December 15) but marked the milestone with a gig on Sunday. Ringo Starr's son Zak Starkey, Albarn collaborator Jeff Wootton, rapper Kano and others were also among the guests.

Gallagher joined Albarn, Simonon and co for covers of Gorillaz track 'Dare', plus The Clash's 'I Fought The Law', 'Brand New Cadillac' and 'Janie Jones'.

It makes sense to do something new as opposed to risking the reunion backlash that seems to be creeping upwards every time someone puts the band back together and makes a halfhearted attempt to relive the glory days of 1996 or so (which was a terrible, terrible year for music). Nostalgia is a killer but these new combinations of styles coming together isn't all bad. If anything comes out of a Gallagher/Albarn collaboration, it'll probably be innovative and commercially successful in England. Everywhere else? Who knows?

And did you notice the sexism? Why wasn't the fact that Chrissy Hynde decided to play with a bunch of tossers the lede here? Go and be aghast at it all.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Scott Weiland Was an Asshole

Hey, don't take my word for it. Here's what Mary Forsberg Weiland had to say:

[...] she writes of Scott’s “paranoid fits” while she herself faced depression, saying, “There were times that Child Protective Services did not allow him to to be alone with them.” She says that when he remarried — to photographer Jamie Wachtel, in 2013 — “The children were replaced. They were not invited to his wedding; child support checks often never arrived…. They have never set foot into his house, and they can’t remember the last time they saw him on a Father’s Day.”

Oh, but he was the "voice" of his generation. Fuck that. What a complete and utter asshole. Being high all the time didn't do that. He had a serious character defect that went beyond simple addiction.

Monday, December 7, 2015

The End of Rush

The greatest band is no more.

[...] it appears Rush is no more. In a new interview with Drumhead Magazine (via Jambase), Peart spoke frankly about his coming to terms with retirement. “… Lately Olivia has been introducing me to new friends at school as ‘My dad– He’s a retired drummer.’ True to say–funny to hear. And it does not pain me to realize that, like all athletes, there comes a time to… take yourself out of the game. I would rather set it aside then face the predicament described in our song ‘Losing It’ (‘Sadder still to watch it die, than never to have known it’).”


The Pointlessness of Writing About Musicians on Drugs

I didn't pause to write anything about the death of Scott Weiland over the weekend because, other than being a tragedy for his family and friends, there is no point in trying to maximize hits over someone else's pain. The world is full of ghouls, and most of them are in politics because music doesn't pay.

He was handed the world and he threw it away as fast as he could because that used to be the way to sell more records and make more money. He was an addict enabled by an industry desperate for content without any regard for the cost in human dignity. His band was over when it was apparent that he preferred drugs to entertaining people. Did you even know the name of the band he was playing with when he died?

This is from April of this year:

Scott Weiland has not been making it easy to be a Scott Weiland fan. Last month, an inebriated Weiland allegedly told devotees “Let’s suck a dick!” during a meet-and-greet event, rude comments which he later apologized for. Now, during a recent show in Corpus Christi, Texas with his Wildabouts backing band, the rocker offered a less-than-stellar ghastly performance of Stone Temple Pilots’ “Vasoline”.

“Alright, this is a new song, we just worked it out today,” Weiland told the crowd, before launching into the ’90s classic. He must have meant “horrendous rendition” when he said “new.” While the band played its part faithfully, Weiland muttered his vocals with little to no enthusiasm, frankly looking as though he wanted to be anywhere else but on that stage.

The guy has been out of control for months and no one has done anything to help him. You can't help but read that piece and not wonder "who was looking out for him and why did they fail to get this guy some help? Why was he even on tour? Did you know that he was in a parking lot in Bloomington, Minnesota when his heart gave out, which is just about the saddest way to die, period?

Brother, I've been to Bloomington. There's nothing rock and roll about Bloomington. You might as well die in the middle of nowhere.

The fact that he died on tour with a band hardly anyone knew about in a bus is proof that it was a senseless thing. The individual interests of other people meant more than trying to save this man's life. Why was he even on a promotional tour when it was clear months ago that this was not something he should have been engaged in? How was that the healthiest thing for that guy? If there was a functioning mechanism for a working musician to live off past album sales, Weiland should have been able to enjoy himself. I hear those grunge bands sold a lot of record to dirty kids in the 1990s. The nostalgia tour from that should have been more than enough to buy a house somewhere near Malibu.

All of the plaudits I read were hysterically sober and praised his "art." There was no art there. He appeared when he appeared because Pearl Jam were between albums. His band was marketed for a specific gap. The fact that he was pushed out there sounding like Eddie Vedder and looking like Eddie Vedder should tell you that people don't remember anything the way they're supposed to. Don't bother with the whole notion that Stone Temple Pilots were their own thing and that they were a great band. Come on. Vilified? Hell, yes. That's why I laughed when poor Billy Corgan shambled off of his rollercoaster seat and pretended he was the wise old man of early 90's alternative rock. Fucking wanker, man. Fucking wanker to the end of days.

Scott Weiland was sucked dry and propped up and tolerated because he made money for people who should have put his health before their own desperate need to ram cash into their pants. As soon as he spiraled out of control on drugs, everyone in his life had a choice. Help him, or enable him. This was a guy who was enabled. How many albums did they make after they knew he was hopelessly addicted to drugs and still able to perform? What a disgrace.

That doesn't mean we're ever going to run out of broke, crying Deadheads who are sad the money train ran out of steam when Jerry Garcia died. Reading this article is like being inundated with selfish recrimination and tales of being strung out for no reason. You had a bad time when you went to see the Dead in 1994? Were you paying attention to anything going on in the world at that point?

I don't care about drugs or drug bands and neither should you. This is a distraction from the fact that Weiland and Garcia died when they were in the music business. In our society as a whole, people die from drug abuse all the time and waste their potential. It is not something worth celebrating and anyone who speaks out about it is just trying to nurture what's left of their conscience. In reality, they're just mad they can't make money off the dead guy anymore.

Fuck them. And fuck the enablers who suck money out of people who are sick and dying and need help.

Further Notes on the Decline of Music Criticism

I'm not sure what's wrong with Salon.com or Scott Timberg, but this is a pretty clear indication that writing about music is a sucker's game, man:

Nominee lists are always, by their nature, a mix of disparate things. But just when it looked like the Grammys had come to its senses with most of its nominees this year, it creates a very weird juxtaposition: Putting one of the freshest figures in indie rock, Courtney Barnett, alongside one of the most annoying and unoriginal singers in history, Meghan Trainor. Both show up in the Best New Artist category, a place where the Grammys don’t exactly have a great batting average in the first place.

To make it even more bewildering, Trainor was nominated last year for her song, “All About That Bass.” Even overlooking that, and the fact that her first album came out in 2009, irritating songs like “Dear Future Husband” and “Lips Are Movin’,” along with one of the most mannered vocal styles imaginable, should have disqualified her first.

Barnett is the drowsy-voiced Australian who combines some of the best qualities of Bob Dylan, early Liz Phair, and Cat Power. Her LP, “Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit,” builds on her earlier EPs that showed her capable of low-key melancholy (“Avant Gardener,” “Don’t Apply Compression Gently”): The new album is more forceful (“Aqua Profunda!,” “Dead Fox”) without losing her essential skepticism and reserve.

If Courtney Barnett really matters, then you'll be glad to see her lose out to someone like Meghan Trainor. These two young women are not in the same "business." Barnett is making music that rock critics like. Trainor is making music that sells. The people who write her songs aren't getting paid. And while there should be more than enough revenue to keep both in a career, the music business isn't really working for too many people anymore. Yeah, we get it--your precious Liz Phair of the moment shoulda woulda coulda were it not for the pre-packaged soul-sucking machinery of the music industry. She's a guitar-strumming muffin head who's just inarticulate enough to make a hipster swoon. That's not why she does what she does, so make sure you thank her for being amazing even though she probably makes music in order to get away from other Australians (is there any other reason why one would make music in Oz because I haven't heard of one).

But this really says more about not having anything to write about and having nothing to add to the discussion. Transcendent artists win Grammy's but that's absolutely the last aspect of why they are winning things. An industry award celebrating units moved is not relevant to any discussion about who's good and who isn't.

They've lost their minds at Salon, by the way. The political commentary is excruciating and everyone is upset because there's not enough outrage being generated when someone says something expressly for the purpose of outraging libtards. It's damned near time to edit bookmarks.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

New Order

This is a fascinating read:

The scrap rumbles on. Electro-pop legends New Order have, intermittently, been at loggerheads for years, with bassist Peter Hook having quit the band in 2007. This week he sued vocalist Bernard Sumner and the rest of New Order for continuing without him, though the seeds for the whole debacle were sown as far back as 1991.

Every slight has been calculated and remembered to the point where no one can agree upon what really did in the band. I think it was really just money--they had more than they knew what to do with and got bored. New Order was one of the few bands from their era who made a shitload of cash (and then lost it when the Hacienda went belly up. This is largely because their records actually sold. Now that no one buys records, what's a band to do except fight over the scraps.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Music Has No Power to Change Anything

One of the enduring myths of popular music continues to be the notion that it matters.

It does not matter who plays what at which gig. It does not matter what's on that new album. Music doesn't matter anymore and it does not connect more than a handful of people to one another. An entire generation of kids does not buy the same albums anymore. In America, Adele sold over 3 million copies of an album containing similar songs about being sad. Where's the uplift and change in that?

When you read Bono these days, you're reading the last words of a dying movement that actually thinks a song sung a certain way matters:

Bono says despite the deadly attacks in Paris last month, he believes Paris will remain strong and he is hoping U2's concert there this week moves the audience.

U2 was set to perform in Paris on Nov. 14 and was in a middle of rehearsing when 130 people were killed in suicide bombings and shootings the day before in what has become the worst attack on French soil in more than a half-century.

"Well, knowing our French audience and having a sense of them by now, I would say joy as an act of defiance," he said of what concert-goers can expect when U2 performs at the AccorHotels Arena on Dec. 6-7. "That's what U2 does, that's what French people want from us and that's it."

"They took a lot of lives we're not going to get back, but they're not going to change the character of the city of Paris," he continued in an interview with The Associated Press.

If there's even a remote chance that public safety could be threatened, no, you don't play the show. It's all well and good to play a concert for the people of Paris--in fact, why not let everyone in for free and see what that gets you? Ultimately, that's up to the people who decide such things. Whether it's a U2 concert or a classical music show or Muse does not matter. Whatever goes on there will be seen and heard by a fraction of the people who live there. Many will be high on drugs and will wonder when Bruce Springsteen comes on, and fewer still will remember to put down they phone and actually watch the show.

And that's what's really sad about watching Springsteen, et al, do their thing nowadays. They still get up on stage and play as if what's happening is some sort of religious experience. They make it out to look like something really special is happening, as if there isn't a set list or lighting cues or a plan to get the whole thing over with in order for the roadies to break it all down in time to get on the road. They make it out to be something that It's not. Those people in front of the stage paid somewhere around 280 euros, each, to pretend they were watching a show from forty years ago when tickets were only $20, if that. They want a nostalgic experience worth the face value of the ticket they paid way too much for. They want spectacle and they want the whole thing to matter more than it does. 

Music is nothing more than a nostalgia trip these days, but only if you can afford it. You're not playing to "fans" anymore because your fans can't afford to come see you anymore. You're playing to bankers and lottery winners now. You're playing to people too rich to care whether or not you used to matter. And none of them bought your last album, brother.

And so, here's Bono. He's defiantly promising to play a show in France that may or may not happen, depending on the logistical concerns of safety and security. He's going to play to a fraction of the population--the wealthier fraction that's willing to pay a lot of money, of course. The only fans he rubs shoulders with will be well-heeled enough to get back stage. He'll play songs that are thirty or forty years old, and if he doesn't play enough of them, people will shuffle back and forth during the newer songs or go back to whatever is on their phones (funny how no one demands they play No Line on the Horizon and How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb back to back instead of the hits). 

The real aim of terrorism is to get people to change their lives. The real aim of people like Bono is to make damned certain that when people do make changes to their lives, they don't inadvertently stop going to overpriced concerts. We can have freedom, but we can't have an interruption of touring profits. And that's okay--no one should be mad that Bono and the lads are already well into another decade of making ridiculous amounts of money playing old songs in front of people who are willing to pay to hear them.

But let's not make this out to be a fight against terrorism. U2 doesn't fight terrorism. There are actual men and women fighting terrorists and they often lose their limbs or their lives doing so. They get paid peanuts and they risk everything. Theirs is the real fight that matters, and we belittle their efforts when a mere rock and roll show is elevated into the pantheon of things that actually matter. Do you know who else is playing that same venue this year? Madonna, David Guetta, and the Cure. I suppose they fight terrorism, too, just with less bravado than Bono.

Ah, but they played Pride, so that showed everyone.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Ringo Can’t be Broke, Can He?

I just can't believe it:

Ringo Starr is auctioning off the first ever copy of the The Beatles self-titled 1968 album.

More commonly known as 'The White Album', each unit of the record came with its own serial number stamped on the cover.

Julien's Auctions based in Beverly Hills estimates the LP will sell for up to $60,000 (£40,000) at the December 3-5 auction.

The numbered copy of the LP was rumoured to be John Lennon's who, according to Paul McCartney, "shouted the loudest" for it when the band decided to have the copies numbered.

The first four pressings of the album were all in possession of The Beatles while copy No. 0000005 sold at an auction in 2008 for a little less than $30,000 (£20,000).

All proceeds of the sale will go to the Lotus Foundation, which was founded by Starr and his wife, Barbara Bach.

It's great that he's trying to raise money for his tax shelter I mean his


, but, come on. Doesn't he have a kid who would like to own this? Doesn't he have someone out there who would appreciate owning record number 1 (which, admittedly, probably sounds crappy because they've remastered the

White Album

and fixed whatever was wrong with it in the first place)? Give it to that guy. Don't let some jackass pay too much money for something they'll never appreciate.

I don't want to live in a world where Ringo needs cash. I want to live in a world where Ringo just does his thing.

Did you know he has 17 solo albums?

I can't believe that either.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

This is How You Stop an Artist in Their Tracks

Never sign with a label, and never put your career in the hands of a producer:

A petition has been launched to release Kesha from her record contract.

Over 53,000 people have signed the Care2 petition demanding Sony Music Entertainment release the pop star from her record deal.

Kesha has been locked in a legal battle that has allegedly prevented her from releasing new music since 2013.

The singer filed a lawsuit against Dr Luke for "mental manipulation, emotional abuse and sexual assault" last October. She is looking to be freed from her contract with the producer.

The legal system has to change. No one should be able to lock up an artist and keep them from working. It's completely unfair and it shouldn't be legal to use a contract in this manner. I would think that a percentage payment would be due to the producer in this case if Kesha were to release music on her own and make money, otherwise no one would sign a contract ever again. But to tie her hands and deny her the ability to make a living is wrong.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Beat Farmers

A sad anniversary:

Suddenly on a Wednesday night, November 8th, 1995, while playing drums in Whistler, Brittish Columbia (about one hour out of Vancouver- a BFer strong hold!) the unthinkable happened. Country Dick was struck down by a heart attack during the third song of their show.

The indestructible, fun loving, deep voiced, friendly, extremely humorous giant was gone. There are no words that can describe how any BFer fan felt. Dan McLain AKA Country Dick Montana was a talent that can never be equaled. Sure he wasn't well known but anyone who ever saw a BFer live show could tell you that Dick was at his best- on stage. His presence will never be replaced and I know that the remaining BFers did not want to replace him. Whatever shape the BFers took, it was never be the same without Country Dick Montana. As of 11/11/95, the BFers were no more.

Twenty years! Good Lord.

No, You Can't Go Around in Blackface Anymore

Damn, son. How stupid are you?

Country music star Jason Aldean has caused controversy after allegedly wearing blackface for a Halloween costume.

The Nashville Gab recently published an image which it claims shows Aldean, his wife and friends posing in their Halloween outfits. Aldean appears to be seen wearing black facepaint and a wig of black dreadlocks.

Following criticism and accusations of racism, the singer's publicist confirmed to the Associated Press that Aldean "dressed as rapper Lil Wayne for Halloween" but provided no further explanation or apology.

If you're surrounded by people who refuse to tell you how things really work, you're going to do something stupid. It doesn't matter if you're in country music or Norwegian death metal--you need someone who can be relied upon to make informed commentary on the stupid ideas that surface.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

What Good Would Come of It?

the pro and the con

over whether or not the Stone Roses need to release new material in order to justify a second round of reunion shows. I don't know if I buy the premise anymore because I've thought a great deal about what a new album would represent.

One, albums are few and far between now. The distance between the first and second Roses albums--1989 to 1994--was a paltry five years. Everyone waits at least three years between albums (five or six if you're a major artist or band) and so that gap doesn't seem as Earth-shattering as it used to seem. The consensus opinion was that 

Second Coming

took too long to release and therefore the band squandered their chance to make an impact with it. Looking back at the situation, which was fraught with legal problems and creative differences, five years doesn't seem like a big deal. A third Stone Roses album would arrive at just the right time for them and would be released on their terms. Don't hold your breath for a fourth one.

Two, the business favors other models now. The Roses are slated to play massive shows--that's what they do. They don't go on arena or club tours. They are probably not going to come to the East Coast of America and play to 500 people at the 9:30 club in Washington D.C. like Kasabian did after a top billing show at Glastonbury. And why should they? If there's no tour, why do an album? If you can make a ton of money playing a handful of large shows, what's the harm in doing only that?

Three, this is a band that released an incredibly successful album and has had no control over it since the day it was released. Why deal with that again? Why risk it? Granted, they did sign a record deal and they will have more control. But why go down that road? They can play the thing live and reap huge benefits from only doing that. To enter into the retail music world again is to risk having people enrich the very people who screwed over the Stone Roses. Why line their pockets? Play some shows, collect the cash at the gates, and split it after costs.

Four, sales of a new album are going to be problematic at best because everyone expects music for free. Everyone expects an album to be polished and free. Yeah, the hipsters want their vinyl. The purists want a deluxe edition with outtakes. Alright, fine. But don't blame an artist for not wanting to give something away for nothing.

Anyway, that's what I think. If a new album lands, great. If not, I think we can all deal with it. A new album is absolutely not necessary for a second run of reunion shows. There is no artistic imperative to support new shows with a physical product. In fact, you can hardly blame an artist for thinking that the whole point of playing live is to celebrate older rather than newer material. Let's be honest here--the people are there for a dozen old songs. If you fail to deliver, they'll vote with their feet next time,

Friday, October 30, 2015

Thursday, October 29, 2015

One of the Punters

This is all but unheard of in America. We expect rock stars to arrive by private limousine. We expect them to have a tricked out ride when they get where they're going. In Noel Gallagher's case, it's one of two things. He's broke (unlikely) or traffic in London is really, really bad.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Joy Division Unknown Pleasures

The story of the cover:

The mysterious cover of Joy Division's 1979 debut Unknown Pleasures – a black-and-white visualization of pulsar data that looked like digital mountain peaks – is the subject of a new, in-depth Scientific American article. The magazine traced the origins of the "computer-generated illustration" to its first publication around 1970.

Brilliant. And the man who did it had to buy his own copy of the album in a shop--no free copies were handed out. He also picked up a poster of it as well, all on his own dime.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Overdrive Pedals

Ride's Andy Bell has said that he believes Noel Gallagher is underrated as a guitarist, arguing that the former Oasis songwriter laid the foundations for a style that many musicians use today.

Bell joined Oasis in 1999 as a replacement for original bassist Paul 'Guigsy' McGuigan and is now back with his own band Ride following a reunion earlier this year.

Speaking to Music Radar, Bell was asked about his time with the band and also how his life was affected by hearing them when he was still making music with Ride in the '90s.

"I just want to say that I think Noel's really underrated as a lead guitar player," Bell said, "His playing is like a John Squire-y thing, but there's a lot more muscle behind it. He kind of trademarked his own style, which has become something that everyone uses now – that massively overdriven sound with quite a lot of delay on it."

Someone must have mentioned the possibility of playing with Oasis next year. Who knows?

Noel Gallagher has always been a great guitarist--underrated and under-appreciated in a genre where guitar players generally reach Godlike status. Noel suffers because he wrote the songs, sang a few of them, and couldn't possibly wear all those hats, right?

The gear that he's used over the years is fascinating reading. It's as if a kid was given the keys to the candy story and ran wild.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Lush Return

It's about fucking time for a Lush reunion.  4AD needs to deliver remastered deluxe editions of all of their albums. And whoever is paying Miki and Emma to do this better give them the whole bank because they deserve it.

I've been grumpy about this for years. Now I can slink off and think of something else that will make me miserable.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Almost Over Before It Started

The Libertines have issued a new statement following the recent news that they have postponed two UK live dates following a medical emergency.

The band cancelled their London headline show at the last minute last night (September 10), citing a 'medical situation' as the reason behind the postponement. They have also promised to reschedule this weekend's gig in Manchester.

Now, writing on Twitter, the band have stated that frontman Pete Doherty is OK. They wrote, "We can assure everyone that Peter is safe. Clearly this is a private matter, but we also feel it necessary to let people know he is OK."

A previous statement on Facebook claimed that the band's other commitments will not be affected and that the two gigs will be rescheduled "as soon as possible".

When it comes to actors, musicians, and any kind of creative person--their health and well-being comes before all other considerations. You have to go into any situation aware of the problems that a musician like Pete Doherty has had over the years.

I would think that Amy Winehouse would be first in their thoughts as they try to put on a tour and promote a new album with Doherty. You have to give them the benefit of the doubt--they cancelled the gig and spoke about it as best they could. Here's to getting to the end of the tour with no major incidents.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

See Us Before We Retire For the Third Time

I've picked up on something and I don't know if it's a marketing ploy or a realization that far too many of the major touring musical acts out there right now are made up of men in their 60s and 70s:

AC/DC frontman Brian Johnson has spoken about the possibility of retirement.

The hard rock band released 17th album 'Rock Or Bust' in November 2014, reaching Number Three in both the UK and US charts, as well as topping the charts in their home land of Australia.

However, speaking recently to The Morning Sun, Johnson conceded that the album could be their last.

"Y'know, retirement is like anything. A good footballer, a good ice hockey player, they don't want to retire, but unfortunately, sometimes there's a time when you have to call it quits," Johnson said. "So it's an ongoing thing with us; we never say no, and we never say never."

The singer continued, "The thing about the boys in AC/DC, you've got to remember, is we're constantly surprised and amazed at how we keep the success going. We don't know what we're doing – I mean, we literally don't know what we're doing except what we're doing is we just play 100 per cent every night and give it everything we've got. If that's the secret of success, we'll pass it on."

I read that to mean, "come and see us before we retire or you'll feel horrible for passing on us." And that's not an idle threat when you've been a band since the late Sixties or Seventies. That's just reality. How do you signal your intentions to fans and still keep things moving? How do you make albums when you're good at making albums at a time when everyone steals music?

If you put all of these blokes in a room, you'd come up with the same answers--this is a difficult time to be in the music business. The only thing that seems to have any value is a tour package featuring acts that have been around at least thirty years or more. How does that end up being a viable business for musicians? Should you invest in the inevitable "tribute" bands that are going to appear in ten to fifteen years? Once the dinosaurs are gone, someone is going to make money playing their songs to people who want to live nostalgically.

Imagine the music industry in twenty years. There are virtually no touring acts that were active in the Seventies anymore--they've all gone away. Inevitably, someone will have to put together holograms or stand-ins or animatronic musicians and then send that out on the road one last time in order to squeeze out those last few dollars. That's what the music business is going to become--a fake act playing old, old songs.

Brian Johnson is correct, though. When anyone famous for doing something retires, they look to the lucrative area of things, whether it's autographs or memory tours or auctioning off memorabilia. There's going to be lucrative consultant work for people who can help a band monetize their history and maintain a steady cash flow. Now's the time to get into that field. A lot of these bands only have a tour or two left in them.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

You've Got to Play America

The music business has always been a nasty piece of work if you are a woman:

Various tropes are repeated over and over again, like a riff you’ve heard too many times before: an aspiring bassist being told by a music teacher that bass is for boys, or a teenager being asked by her dubious male classmates to recite a band’s entire discography in order to prove her fan cred. The narrative gets even more disturbing and specific when you start charting the testimonials of women who pursued careers as musicians, sound engineers, executives, and journalists. The recurring message is that, for women, the music industry is a Banksy-designedChoose Your Own Adventure book, with each career path containing its own lady-specific land mines. 

Rampant misogyny is the music industry’s worst kept secret. Recently, legendary rapper—and the richest musician on the planet—Dr. Dre finally apologized for a lifetime of physical and emotional abuse against women. The apology stemmed from outrage over Straight Outta Compton, the N.W.A biopic, which topped the box office without addressing Dre’s problematic past. In her essay “Here’s What's Missing From Straight Outta Compton: Me and the Other Women Dr. Dre Beat Up,” rapper and television personality Dee Barnes described the night in 1991 when Dre “straddled me and beat me mercilessly on the floor of the women’s restroom.” Dre later told Rolling Stone, “It ain’t no big thing—I just threw her through a door.” He pleaded no contest to Barnes’s assault charges and settled with her out of court for an undisclosed sum.

I've always admired people like Miki Berenyi and Emma Anderson--people who put up with exactly those kinds of obstacles and didn't quit and didn't give up because of them. Her reasons for leaving the music industry were more personal and tragic, of course, but when she was doing her thing, she was the prototype for someone who didn't let those things stop her. She did her part to make glorious, lasting music and then she moved on and had a life.

Miki and Emma Anderson had their own battles within the music industry to fight, and, surprisingly enough, it was more their own management than anything else:

From the days of Split, Lush's management pressured the band to do whatever it took to "break" America. Aside from The Cranberries and a handful of other artists, becoming a huge Stateside hit was in the '90s was relatively unprecedented for European bands. And even with a change of management prior to Lovelife, little changed in the attitude toward the band, the house of cards finally tumbling in an ill-imagined tour with Goo Goo Dolls and Gin Blossoms in the summer of 1996.

"They were totally obsessed," says Anderson, who makes no secret about her adversarial relationship with the band's management at the time. "They used to sit in meetings and say, 'Oh, next album we'll just do America. We won't even bother with Britain.' Just to wind me up. I thought, 'Well maybe there won't be a next album.'... By the time we did that Gin Blossoms/Goo Goo Dolls tour, I think everyone had just retreated into themselves. It was just a nightmare."  

"We were just being told what to do and we were doing it, and it was a mistake," she continues. "You get to the point where you sort of go, 'Why am I doing this?' We were actually doing quite well in Britain. We had a Top 10 album and three Top 30 singles. 'Maybe we should be planning to go back there and do some festivals, and capitalizing on that.' But it was like, 'No, you have to go back to America. You've got to go back to America.' And at the end I thought, 'Fuck this. I'd rather work in an office.'"

"I think I'd completely lost my mind by that point," says Berenyi. "I wasn't in a very good place. We'd been tossed about in so many different directions that I just thought, 'Alright, I'm just going to do what they fucking tell us to do.' Which wasn't great, because actually then I think Emma felt completely unsupported in the fact that she really wasn't happy with the direction that we were being pushed in. And she was right. But I just don't think I had any fight left in me. It was ludicrous, but it was just chasing that prize."

Finally, Anderson had enough and sat down with Berenyi and King to state her intentions. The band had one more European tour on the books, and Anderson was committed to finish her obligation, but after that, she was out.

Now, was this because they were a band that had started putting out singles that were getting more successful or was this an attempt to push a "girl band" with two women up front singing and writing the songs? I think it's more the latter and I think it fits in with the overall experience of women in the music industry.

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Dying of the Pono Player

What started out as being a great idea has become a boondoggle:

Neil Young’s music tech startup Pono is struggling with funding issues, which is slowing down the company’s international expansion, the rock legend revealed in a Facebook post. “We are trying to set up stores in multiple countries and are restricted by a lack off resources,” Young wrote, adding that Pono wants to expand to Canada, the U.K. and Germany: “As soon as we have the funds, those stores will open. We wish it could be faster than that.”

Young launched Pono with a Kickstarter campaign in early 2014, raising more than $6 million for the company’s portable HD music player on the crowdfunding platform. Earlier this year, Pono expanded sales of the player to select retail stores, and Young said that the company has sold “tens of thousands of players,” as well as hundreds of thousands of HD music tracks through its music download store.

He also said that running Pono “hasn’t been easy.” Young has been serving as the company’s official CEO ever since it parted ways with prior CEO John Hamm a little over a year ago. The company has been looking for a new CEO for some time. Said Young: “We have no proven business leader at the head of our company, but the search continues for one who could do it to our liking and understand what our goal is and how big it is. We are still looking.”

There will always be a high-end market for music players. There isn't much more you can claim the Pono would be viable for because the technology simply does not rival anything out there while being demonstrably more expensive.

As I've said already, the Pono is not giving you anything you can't already get from a phone or an MP3 player; in fact, you're getting less because the Pono doesn't let you adjust an equalizer to accommodate your preferences. It's a high end device for delivering expensive, exclusive music. You're getting less because you have to enter the Pono's "walled-in garden" and pay for tracks that are "lossless" when really, all you need, is CD quality. You can get that from Spotify (horrors!) or by ripping MP3s at 320 kbps. You can take your own music collection and load it onto a Zune if you can still find one.

You're not going to change anyone's mind on this. It's why ordinarily smart guys pay $50,000 for a vintage guitar that doesn’t sound as good as a $1,000 Paul Reed Smith.

MP3 player manufacturers know that the device is the delivery system; the money is in getting you to buy your music from them. That's why they make those things so complicated. All anyone really needs is a hard drive that's small and that plays music that you can fiddle with until it sounds good to you. There's no money in that because the real money is in selling you shit you already paid for. Hello, albums, goodbye cassettes, hello CDs, goodbye DVD audio. Hello iTunes, goodbye to MP3s downloaded off of newsgroups. Hello remastered and expanded version, goodbye original version of CD purchased in 1994. It's all a scam.

It's not a magical piece of special equipment that will allow only Baby Boomer ears to hear incredible music. It's not an exclusive ticket for people in the know to demonstrate that their highly refined music-loving ear is superior to yours because they once worked in a recording studio for a month as a janitor. It is a mechanical device that delivers music that you have to pay more for. That's all. I would think that if it really were that special, someone in the business world would step up and run the company.

I love Neil Young. But someone sold him on a business idea that is really only viable for a select and narrow market. The Pono is for people who believe they are superior to all other humans through belief not science. The Pono is a status symbol, a Maserati when a Hyundai will do.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The End of Owning Music

Noel Gallagher tells the NME exactly what he thinks:

[...] speaking to the Varvet International podcast, Gallagher has said that while he admits that streaming is "clearly the future" because "people wiser than me tell me that it is", the lack of record sales in modern music "makes him sad".

Gallagher explained his feelings: "If you tell me now that the record buying era is over that makes me sad, that the culture of buying and believing in a record is over. That era is over and the belief is that music is for hire and for rent, the money that you pay lets you access everybody’s music but own none of it. I think that’s a sad day. I understand that it’s the future, but it’s a sad day."

At any given point, I could probably replace 75% of my music collection with a streaming service. I could not replace key chunks of it though--singles, bootlegs, rare things by artists like the Jazz Butcher, and things of that nature. Bands that failed that I happen to really like have been left in the dust long ago. Is everything from Slowdive on streaming services? No, well to hell with that, then.

This would disrupt the organizational scheme of how I manage music. I could labor for months with a paid streaming service to formulate playlists, but that would mean their suggestions might bleed over into what I listen to or it could mean the loss of key artists and tracks. Browsing through what I have means discovering overlooked gems and eliminating things I don't want to lose that I don't want to hear right now.

All of this doesn't even get into the vinyl I own and the physical CDs that I have stored in rubber containers. You can't sell that stuff anymore, except perhaps on Amazon, but even then, you'll never make money from doing that. I'm not taking $.50 for my deluxe edition of Heyday and I'm not interested in tossing those things out, either.

It is sad, but that's technology. It kills indiscriminately and the joy it was supposed to bring leaves a stench in the air and a foul rot in the soul. All you can do is carry on and keep trying to figure out what works.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Middle School

The music business used to feature adults who sang songs about adult issues and rejected the idea that it couldn't be art.

I know--what the hell happened?

Who are these people and why do they tweet at each other as if no one else has anything better to do? Better yet, why are they so enamored with an award from MTV that recognizes the shitty, overpriced promotional video they made to promote a song they didn't write?

I guess when you get to the rare level of having actual revenue from streaming and physical sales and have an actual record label to promote your work, there's no where left to but back to school, bitches.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015


Another sad commentary on the state of the music business, emphasis on business:

The strange thing about Neil Young's decision is that the audio quality on streaming services really isn't that bad. And in many cases, it's pretty good: If you're a premium subscriber to Spotify, for example, you're streaming music in 320 kbps in a format called Ogg Vorbis, which roughly translates to the quality of a CD.

Streaming services know that they have to provide quality if they want to properly steal the work of artists. You'd think that Young would have some answers, but he has his own hardware to sell instead of a better idea.

Anyway, we are well and truly fucked:

Young might argue that listeners are merely in the dark, and that they have no idea what they're missing. But if that were the case, wouldn't at least one of the dozens of high-quality audio services, formats or startups have taken off by now? TIDAL -- which Jay-Z recently launched in March -- features extremely high-definition audio quality for $19.99 a month, but very few have even noticed. And high-fidelity digital music stores such as HDtracks have existed for more than a decade, yet consumer interest has been tepid at best.

The same is true for high-end stereo systems, which appeal to a narrow, usually older niche of audiophiles. And painfully-engineered, high-end earphones are mostly for the demanding music connoisseur -- which translates to probably something like 0.01% of the population. Even earlier, high-fidelity physical formats such as Super Audio CD and DVD-Audio have floppedamidst nonexistent demand.

There just aren't enough audiophiles with endless budgets to fuel these ongoing market attempts. Even vinyl -- a warm, inviting alternative to digitized formats -- remains a relatively narrow market, despite overwhelming uptake in places such as Brooklyn and Echo Park, Los Angeles.

So what is taking off? Well, the most popular portable music device is the phone, typically connected to either white earbuds or Beats headphones, neither of which are renowned for their high-fidelity sound. Even FM radio remains a surprisingly massive format, simply because it's extremely cheap and extremely easy to use. And for those who dislike traditional radio, there's Pandora, Spotify and other free or low-cost music streaming services -- favorites for on-the-go listeners.

None of these formats are pitching users on super hi-fidelity experiences. Instead, they excel in areas such as convenience, portability, price and selection -- all things that fit active, on-the-go lifestyles in ways that higher-fidelity experiences typically can't.

How many Pono players have you bought this week? How many streaming services do you subscribe to? Good luck getting a nickel out of them when everything ever recorded becomes something you have to stream in order to hear.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Robbing Zoe Keating

Only a very few classical artists have been outspoken on the issue so far: San-Francisco-based Zoe Keating — a tech-savvy, DIY, Amanda Palmer of the cello — has blown the whistle on the tiny amounts the streaming services pay musicians. Though she’s exactly the kind of artist who should be cashing in on streaming, since she releases her own music, tours relentlessly, and has developed a strong following since her days with rock band Rasputina, only 8 percent of  her last year’s earnings from recorded music came from streaming. The iTunes store, which pays out in small amounts since most purchases are for 99 cent songs, paid her about six times what she earned from streaming. (More than 400,000 Spotify streams earned her $1,764; almost 2 million YouTube views generated $1,248.)

So, 2,400,000 plays or clicks on Spotify and YouTube in a single year equals $3,012 dollars for an artist like Zoe Keating? 

Come on. That's obscene.

She clearly has listeners. She clearly has an audience. She is not a "fringe" artist in terms of her appeal on just two--two!--of these services. And yet, they're making money. They're making money hand over fist at Spotify and YouTube.

Zoe Keating isn't making anything. Three thousand dollars for that kind of exposure and that many plays is theft of artistic property. If someone came to your house and stole that, it would be a felony. There would be a perp walk out the back door, and a rep from Spotify would be frog-marched to a squad car with no t-shirt and a back full of sweat and weeds, just like on Cops.

Good God. Nobody is going to make music anymore if this keeps up. Why would they?

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Greatest of All Comeback Albums

If I was asked about comeback albums, I would put Achtung Baby at the top of the list, even though it certainly doesn't look like a comeback album in any sense of the word. But that's what it was--a comeback, a rebirth, and an album that surpassed all previous U2 albums from the 1980s. In some respects, the Eighties were buried by a number of things but nothing threw dirt on the grave like seeing a cynical Bono in shades pretending to not give a shit.

U2 was as low as you could get after the debacle of their Rattle and Hum albumThey didn't even go on tour in America, calling it the Lovetown tour. Nobody wanted them to put out another record--nobody wanted much to do with them at all. They were a punch line and a joke after Prattle and Dumb was dumped into an over-saturated market. They took their shows to appreciative audiences and ignored the biggest music market in the world at that time, unwilling to arrive in cities where they were not welcome.

Mother Jones Magazine: Let me read you a recent quote from Randy Newman: "I used to be against world peace until U2 came out for it. Then the scales just fell from my eyes.... And when they're singing with those black people? Do you know that black people just love their music? Bono's conducting those black people and they're doing just what he says!...

BONO: I had heard that. Randy Newman is a very funny man, though I think he's written far funnier lines than those.

MJ: Are you interested that criticisms like his have been leveled a lot lately, particularly at "Rattle and Hum?"

B: I suppose. What's uninteresting about that is that we are such an easy target, from the word go, because we perform from our own point of view. I sing about the way I see things. Some people write songs about the way characters see things. Some artists perform with a wink. That's just not the way with U2. When people perform from their gut -- when John Lennon sang a song called "Mother" -- that was not a hip thing to do. He was exposing himself. It's performers like that I admire.... If you're going to spend your whole life worrying about dropping your guard and exposing yourself, worrying that working with a gospel choir might look like imperialism, that would be dumb.

MJ: But the criticisms I read of the film are that it was too guarded. Let me read, if I could, another criticism ....

Well, I'm really not interested.

MJ: I just want to give you the opportunity to respond ....

B: What this suggests is that the music is not enough. That is my expression -- the music -- and within that music I can take my clothes off. Not for the press, not for the TV shows, not for the film. That film was about music, and in that music was everything that we have to say and offer. Now people want it made easy for them. They want it spelled out. Why can't people just accept the music? You know the real reason? It's that people don't listen to the music anymore, and a lot of critics don't.... I think our fans know all the songs on our albums, and I don't think many critics do. I really don't.

MJ: Were there any criticisms that did sting, that hit home, that taught you anything?

B: No. I must say I was generally very disappointed in the community of critics. It's funny. I would've thought that what people would have expected us to do would've been to put out a double live LP, and cash in on "The Joshua Tree," and make a lot of money for very little work. That is what big rock bands do.

When we didn't do that, I expected people to recognize that. When we put the records out at low price, stripped away the U2 sound, then just went with our instincts as fans, and just lost ourselves in this [American R&B] music, in a very un-self-conscious way...

MJ: But if the LP has been unfairly and stupidly criticized by people who aren't listening carefully ...

B: No. It's not even that. It's that the spirit of it has been completely and utterly missed. The spirit of it is unlike any record of a major group, for a long time. That spirit is the very essence of why people get into bands and make music. And it's not about being careful. And it's not about watching your ass....

Achtung Baby is the result of being torn apart and reduced to having to plead for understanding. I don't think people understand that context. This is the album that only an angry band could make and that's why it still resonates. That's why it doesn't feel like a comeback album, but it does feel like U2 has put far too much distance between themselves and how they came up with the innovative sound on that album.

U2 needs to make another one of these and come back, fully, into the world with some anger instead of some wry comments about the bar scene. Whatever they just tried to do isn't cutting it anymore.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Ride Reunion Tour

Ride have announced their return, confirming a series of live dates for 2015.

The band will reunite in May for a UK tour that includes dates in London, Manchester and Glasgow, plus shows in Paris, Amsterdam, Toronto and New York. Ride will also make festival appearances at Primavera Sound in Barcelona on May 29 and London's Field Day on June 7.

In this week's issue of NME, on newsstands and available digitally now, Ride's Andy Bell said: "It's going to be really cool. As we were all still friends, we always thought when the time was right we'd do it. And now the time is right."

"People bought our records first time round," frontman Mark Gardener added, "but our music has grown in significance since we've been away... We want to give the people what they want. We'd be idiots to go out and play a new album, but that's not to say we wouldn't make new music."

There will be a series of live dates that will take them all over the globe. Who plays Hawaii anymore? Holy cow.

17 - 9:30 Club - Washington
19 - TLA - Philadelphia
21 - Irving Plaza - New York
22 - Irving Plaza - New York
23 - Stone Pony - Asbury Park (NEW SHOW)
25 - Riviera - Chicago
26 - MidPoint Festival - Cincinnati
27 - Champaign, IL - Pygmalion Festival
29 - Minneapolis, MN - Mill City

01 - St Andrews - Detroit
02 - House of Blues - Cleveland
03 - Paradise - Boston

06 - Saturn - Birmingham
07 - Fun Fun Fun Fest - Austin
09 - Crescent - Phoenix
10 - House Of Blues - Las Vegas
12 - Wiltern Theatre - Los Angeles
14 - Catalyst - Santa Cruz
15 - Crystal Ballroom - Portland
16 - Neptune - Seattle
17 - Commodore - Vancouver
19 - Republik - Hawaii