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Archive for the 'rants and stuff' Category

‘Other’

Posted: June 28th, 2010, by Marceline Smith

So, I just had a bit of a minor rage incident and finally deleted all the contents of the Genre field for all my music in iTunes. It was someone marking a track’s genre as ‘Other’ that finally pushed me over the edge but it’s been a long time coming. It’s partly the endless rows of ‘Rock’, ‘Pop’ and, ugh, ‘Alternative’ that make my music collection look so much more boring than it actually is, and partly the thought that someone might think I myself chose some of the more cringeworthy genres – AlternRock anyone?

In some ways it’s an eye-opener, a peek into the life of people whose music collections are so tedious they put Mogwai and Tortoise in a genre of Unclassifiable, or people so rockist they think Saint Etienne are Classic Rock. For all that, there have been some great moments – Christmas Song by Mogwai marked as ‘Holiday Music’, The Pastels as ‘Twee’, a live Joanna Newsom track simply as ‘Awesome’ (I disagree but applaud the enthusiasm) and The Teardrop Explodes as ‘Pop-Psicodelico’ (um).

I’m thinking of doing as many have and re-using the Genre field for record labels unless anyone has any better suggestions? And please share any moronic/hilarious genres you’ve come across yourself.

The Theatre of Eternal Football

Posted: June 14th, 2010, by Stan Tontas

I’m not going to pretend to care or know about the football part of the World Cup. What I love is the peripheral stuff — ill-informed, national chauvinist commentary, folk taking passionate positions on the correct weight of a football, counting the number of times African teams are described as “colourful”, or having “natural flair”.

But the chief delight this year is the fact that all of the matches are soundtracked by LaMonte Young. A cheap plastic trumpet, the vuvuzela, multiplied by 50,000 makes for a two hour drone performance worthy of the Dream Syndicate or the Theatre of Eternal Music.

The drone always has something of the ecstatic about it, from medieval plainsong  to buddhist chanting — now its introduction to the World Cup seems to be backing up all the clichés about football as religion, stadia as cathedrals.

Apparently it reaches 130 dB in the stadium. Imagine what it’d be like on the pitch, moving through that, the way the sound would change in an almost physical way.

I just wish that my TV’s red button gave me an option to silence the commentators and immerse myself in the noise of the vuvuzela. Maybe then football would make sense to me…

Joe Gideon & The Shark – check ’em out

Posted: June 21st, 2009, by Simon Minter

Over the course of today’s listening I’ve had the debut album by Joe Gideon & The Shark, Harum Scarum, on quite a few times. It’s scratching an itch I didn’t know needed scratching, by fulfilling my desires for a band that sounds like a combination of Nick Cave, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and Sonic Youth. Or a beat poet freestyling over PJ Harvey’s music. Or something. Anyway: buy the album. It’s a goodun.

Here’s a rather cool video for ‘DOL’ from the album:

Here’s a Myspace page. Joe Gideon used to be in Bikini Atoll, which cannot be a bad thing.

Churnalism FTW

Posted: January 30th, 2009, by Stan Tontas

It must be great to be in PR. Think of a story related to what your clients do, think of a shocking-sounding number, cook up a survey (the fewer people you ask the better) and email it the newspapers., watch the publicity role in and laugh on the way to the bank.

Do reporters not even think about the plausibility of what they write? “One third of Glaswegians a victim of card fraud last year!!1!!”

One third, eh? So that can’t be the kids and under 18s — a quarter of the population? The folk who can’t get a card because of bad credit – round here that’s got to be about 10%. Those that haven’t got cards worth ripping off? Another 20%. So that must mean that everyone else has been ripped off!!

31% of people ripped off by thieves last year compared to just 26% across the UK as a whole.

The upturn in card fraud is believed to be a knock-on effect of the credit crunch,

Funnily enough, this survey was commissioned by a company that sells credit card protection insurance…

See also the police claiming that there’s been a credit crunch-induced rise in shoplifting because, er there was more shoplifting in December last year than there was in April. Hmm, what happens in December that’s different from April. Has to do with shops… No, you’ve got me.

Sony BMG vies with Sony BMG for the Xmas No. 1!!!!!!1!

Posted: December 17th, 2008, by Stan Tontas

If I watched TV I might have felt my blood pressure rise at the thought of a cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah by whichever indentured servant of a pop puppet wins the year’s holiday from shelf stacking that is the X Factor.

But I don’t and haven’t heard any of them, so the whole “get Buckley’s version in the chart” thing had passed me by till this article in the Guardian (how old does that make me?). All very laudable, reminds people how good Leonard Cohen and Jeff Buckley are and probably shows up the soulessness of the X Factor process.

Until you get to this quote at the bottom of the article:

“A spokesman for Sony BMG, which counts Cohen, Buckley and Burke among its artists,”

They own all 3 of the versions. The record industry is terminally ill from lack of innovation, and the best story that can be manufactured about the Xmas No 1 (remember when that felt like it mattered?) is an interdepartmental pissing match between execs at one of the 3 multi-billion dollar dinosaurs that stumble along, choking, after the p2p meteor strike which set them towards extinction.

The question is, where are the funny looking, nimble mammals scampering through the undergrowth and how long do have to wait for them to take over?

Large Hadron Collider as Big Bang tribute band

Posted: September 10th, 2008, by Stan Tontas

It’s the biggest science experiment in the world, silly people are getting freaked out by the prospect of a baby black hole eating the whole world, it’s make-or-break for all current physics theories and what’s the BBC’s response?

  • a radio episode of hack sci-fi series Torchwood
  • Andrew Marr (former economics guy, aye?) smashing barely-detectable metaphors together in the hope of producing some insight
  • schoolchildren explaining why it’s great and important (“cos we’ll, like, find out new stuff even if we don’t find anything”)

As weak as gravitational waves.

Given the scale of the project and the ambition, there was really only one way to adequately deal with the subject and it would involve Godzilla spinning Mecha-Godzilla round and round by the tail before smashing it into Gojira, as spun by King Kong.

I have been wondering what the LHC sounds like, too. It’s definitely not cutesy hip-hop (I love scientists but we overwhelmingly suck at picking tunes).

Somewhat inevitably, I decided it sounds like Merzbow but in a relaxed way. So like his collaboration with Nordvardgr, which happily enough has a track called Tachyon Paradox.

diskant rewind: Honey Is Funny #8

Posted: August 12th, 2008, by Chris Summerlin

(Originally posted April 2003)

Honey Is Funny by Chris Summerlin

I work in a large office of people. It’s quite open plan so you can see what the person on the opposite side of the office is up to even though they’re quite far away. This has major disadvantages in that, well, people are annoying. Me included, in fact especially me. And living in each others’ pockets for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week means if you have the slightest chance of developing some kind of irrational hatred of someone or something then it will happen.

Since I started doing this column I’ve been dying to write one about my office. I only recently summed up the courage to watch The Office and sure enough it was frighteningly close to my life. But I always held back because, and this surprises me as much as will no doubt surprise you, some people who I work with read this column. And I never told them to either! Hi Christophe Dejous!

But this month I get to do it. You know why?

2 days ago I QUIT.

I have no job to go to and I have a 6 week notice to serve here but after that I will be UNEMPLOYED. It’s quite scary but at the same time so is the information that I have (at last count) wasted 2 years of my life working for a company that wouldn’t even exist were it not for Thatcher’s desire to privatise everything in sight.

When asked for the reason why I quit I said there were too many to list but I simply didn’t enjoy any part of my job. So I’m in a bad mood and therefore my column this month will be about the stuff that REALLY GETS ON MY TITS in my life. A Room 101 if you will. A pet hates list. So you can see what a mentalist I am. It’s not restricted to my working life and I will be adding to it month after month as well.

What are we waiting for? Lets go!

THE COUGHING MAN AT WORK

God. This one is the killer. This man (who will remain nameless) has broken me. I have worked in the same office for 2 years and about 18 months of that have been spent within earshot of this man. His job is to call people at home and ask them to read their gas meter. This means that for 8 hours a day I hear him repeating the same line over and over again. I ask myself if my annoyance is because his voice really is that grating or whether it’s the old saying that familiarity breeds contempt but the real reason he makes me want to cave his head in is that he coughs.

“What?” I hear you all cry. Go on, do it…

Sure, everyone gets a cough every so often. Especially working in a close environment like an office. No problem, cough away. But this guy has had a cough for 18 fucking months. EVERY DAY. EVERY FUCKING DAY. And he coughs in such a pathetic, crap way. And the worst bit is he tilts his head back a few degrees prior to coughing and then like some custom built germ-spreader he lets fly with phlegm. Where are his hands? On his desk that’s where. Now we’ve all seen those film clips where it shows germs flying out of a person’s mouth so I know and you know that putting your hand in front of your mouth when coughing really doesn’t do much. But, at the same time it does cover the gaping hideous chasm in your face and it also stops spit and god knows what else from flying into the air or worse still at your neighbour. Every day at 4pm he walks to the coat rack to get his coat and right as he gets there and is facing my coat he lets fly with the coughs. When I leave I’m going to buy him some cough mixture and a tissue. Or better still just wade over the 2 desks that seperate us and pummel him to death with a Wallis Elite Series office chair. And he’s a twat as well. Last classic quote from him was “I couldn’t really give a toss about the war. How does it affect me?”. If I killed him no jury would convict me.

Continue reading »

TOM BROSSEAU – EP (Fat Cat)

Posted: June 18th, 2008, by Alex McChesney

In the 90s the marketing department of internet service provider America Online had the bright idea of offering potential customers 28 days of service for free, knowing that providing they were able to log in and pick up their email most people wouldn’t want the hassle of switching to someone else, sticking with the service out of sheer inertia. Unfortunately AOL required its customers to have custom software on their machines in order to connect, and rather than wait for people to get wind of the offer and come to them, they chose instead to press vast quantities of floppy discs and mail them out to every address in the land, whether they owned a computer or not. Soon the AOL install disc became so ubiquitous that, for all the company’s problems, it was for doubling the size of the world’s landfills with useless floppies (and latterly CD-ROMS) that they attracted the most derision.

It’s probably far from the worst act of environmental irresponsibility committed by marketing knobs, but it was so visible since so many people found disc after worthless disc shoved through their letterboxes. There is a point to this geeky little tale, and it’s that the record industry is, to this day, similarly wasteful when it comes to mailing out promotional records for review, and although their address books contain only the names of those individuals who may be able to provide them with some publicity, be that a full-page review in the NME or a couple of lines on a blog somewhere, they put out far more than the odd floppy disc. Those of us who write about music, and especially those who do so for free, do so because we love it, and of course we aren’t going to complain about free records. But for every promo that becomes a well-played fixture of your record collection, there are at least a dozen that end up destined for the charity shop, or, worse, the bin.

The switch to MP3 downloads of review material seems like an obvious one. Unless the record comes in some unusual packaging and the whole object merits consideration, why not just provide the content that’s up for review? But the record industry has been historically skittish about downloads, fearing large-scale piracy of albums before their actual release date, so kudos is due to Fat Cat records for having the nerve to start providing promos in downloadable form, beginning with this, the debut EP from one Tom Brosseau. One can even stream each track first to get a sense of whether it’s appropriate for review before wasting bandwidth on a full download. How nice.

It’s funny, then, that the move to a new form of distribution should be launched with an album of such resolutely traditional music. Tom Brosseau’s influences are very much worn on his sleeve on this five-song EP. Opener “George Washington” in particular is a fairly lacklustre attempt to “do” Bob Dylan, and it’s telling that the nasal drawl he adopts on this track is absent for the rest of the EP, replaced by a far gentler, and less grating, vocal style. So too is the folk-rock instrumentation, most of the record adopting a simple acoustic-guitar-and-voice format before going entirely a capella right at the end.

The impression here is of a songwriter steeped in the American folk tradition. Which is, of course, all fine and well. I’m not anti-folk music. Some of my best friends own banjos for god’s sake, and play them without irony. But the problem with tradition is that it often goes hand-in-hand with a creativity-stifling dogma. Brosseau clearly has the ability to be a charmingly poetic songwriter. Track two on this EP, “Empty Houses”, in particular demonstrates the strength of his abilities in that department. But the talent that is in evidence here should be finding a unique voice for itself, and there is disappointingly little evidence from this EP that it is doing so. Listening to it is a pleasant, but ultimately unsatisfying experience, scattered as it is with hints that Brosseau is capable of much more.

Perhaps music reviewers should adopt a new ratings system based on what becomes of the review copy of the record after the piece as been written. If this was on CD, it would probably would not be immediately sent to Oxfam, but would be filed away and unlikely to be brought out again unless asked to review a second outing by the same artist. As it stands it’s not yet getting deleted from my iTunes library. In the event of a cull brought about by limited disc-space it may be in some danger, but it could yet be saved by the presence of a satisfying follow-up record that does its creator justice.

http://www.tombrosseau.com

Radio 3: music for the sake of music

Posted: May 16th, 2008, by Stan Tontas

Heard on the radio earlier today the controller of Radio 3, being told off for declining audience figures. One of the questions was “so as the audience for European classical music declines, you’re happy for your audience to decline?”

The guy’s in an impossible position, between conservative classical fans and market-led demands for a more popular approach. One says: “how dare you play that pop classic rubbish”, the other: “how dare you play that tuneless modern rubbish”. But both of those miss why Radio 3 is important.

The charge laid against classical music is usually that it’s elitist, but that’s doesn’t apply to Radio 3. It costs you nothing to listen to full-length works, that’s equality of access to anyone with a radio. Curious about the appeal of Wagner, Stockhausen, Beethoven but can’t afford to buy? Catch Radio 3 at the right time and you can satisfy your ears. That’s what is important about Radio 3 and it doesn’t apply only to “classical” but also “difficult” (i.e. pretty wild) modern composition, jazz of various stripes, “world” (yuk) music (a multitude of sins, some very pleasurable) and most everything else.

You hear things on Radio 3 that would never get near a commercial radio station and that’s what people who love music should value above all else, whether it’s their thing or not. We don’t have John Peel any more and you can’t stumble upon musical genius online. What we can do is celebrate radio stations that still have space for music for its own sake. Give Radio 3 the credit it deserves.

And the wee boy says “I can see Triptych’s arse”

Posted: April 28th, 2008, by Stan Tontas

I”m baffled by the praise lavished on pish-merchants Tenants and their soon-to-be-forgotten Triptych festival recently. Lots of ill-advised adjectives like “innovative” and “avantgarde”. One Stockhausen gig doesn’t make for an avant garde festival, and all that’s innovative about Tenant’s music sponsorship is their opportunism.

From a corporate eyeball whore point-of-view, they were there first. Other overpriced pint-size poisoners are still playing catch-up in Glasgow. Fair play for that.

Musically, though, they were always second, never innovating. As soon as any independent promoters demonstrated a musical appetite, there’d be Tenants the next year with a less adventurous music bill and much increased ticket price.

Case 1: Planet Pop in August in Edinburgh. After years of the Edinburgh Festival as a musical desert, Planet Pop brought a full bill of indie goodness to scuzzy venues like the Cas Rock and some legendary gigs were had. The Fall in a bar the size of your living room. Sleater-Kinney and Prolapse: were they on the same bill? I can’t remember, but I know they were the best show I’d seen up to that time.

Then what? Tenants think “ooh we’ll have some of that” and bring us T on the Fringe. More mainstream acts, with a nod towards “indie” tastes and a trebling of ticket prices. Cue lots of publicity claiming that there had been no music before Tenants and PlanetPop is written out of music history.

Case 2: Le Weekend in Stirling launches with a proper avant-garde line-up, in the 2nd half of April. That’ll never work. Oh, it did? Here comes Triptych. Less of the avant-garde though, let’s go for hipster. What are young “creatives” listening to? Ticket prices leap again. Beer company praised for innovation and bringing music to cities that never had it so good. Like, er Glasgow. Stuart B of Mogwai takes the piss out of Tenants onstage at STAR, finds himself the subject of a peeved letter from a Tenant PR hack for his ingratitude. (As we know, no-one knew who Mogwai were before Tenants gave them a gig).

It goes on. T-Break. Tenants invents the battle of the bands. Like  X-Factor, but your prize is to be bottled off of a foot-high stage in a derelict army base at the arse-end of Scotland. In front of your schoolmates.

T in the Park! Tenants invents the music festival. Let’s take 50,000 Scots out of their cities to get shit-faced, bleary-eyed and aggresive in the countryside. Take our Buckfast away at the gate, make us drink Tenants at £3 a pint. Like Glasgow Green without the fresh air and sense of space.

It’s all about market segmentation and demographics. T in the Park is your buy-it-by-the-crate lager and Triptych was their attempt to launch an upmarket “aspirational” brand. They actually did use Triptych to launch a new beer but I’m buggered if I can remember what it was called. Epic Fail.

…and coincidentally, the next year, Triptych is canned. Funny that.