You have to love someone who scans every single page of their favourite book just so they can spread the wordy magic with their friends on the internet. So, big thanks then to Evan Levine at the Swan Fungus blog for doing just that with the rare-as-hens-teeth Krautrocksampler by Julian Cope. A history and compendium of German rock from the 60s and 70s, Levine says of the book:
Back in the great, distant era of erm…the mid-’90s, there was a chap by the name of Julian Cope (ex-Teardrop Explodes/music-writer geek), who decided he wanted to chronicle the history of the Krautorck genre. So, he wrote an excellent book, called Krautrocksampler, in which he not only tells readers exactly when and wear he bought all these much-sought-after-now-sadly out-of-print LPs, but paints a great picture of West Germany in the ’60s and ’70s. When he’s not waxing (his bikini) poetic, he recounts crazy stories, and draws very cool connections between projects and personalities. Cope even proclaims that Klaus Dinger “directly influenced David Bowie to take his Low direction” and “had a direct effect on the Sex Pistols, via Johnny Rotten”. Thassalotta influence!
Having wanted this for a while, now I can read it while I try to track down a copy. In case of imminent yankage I recommend anyone else who wants it gets it now too.
Manchester is a city with an incredible musical history, but a somewhat divided and schizophrenic musical present. On the one hand there’s the let’s-have-it late 80s/early 90s “Madchester” party gang (think The Stone Roses/Happy Mondays/Inspiral Carpets/etc) and on the other the “more-serious-than-thou” school of late 70s/early 80s Factory records (Joy Division/New Order/A Certain Ratio/etc). Bestriding both these worlds like a colossus of crap are, of course, Oasis, the band who made partying and getting off-yer-face seem like the most boring activity on earth.
Entire blogs have been set up to both eulogise and criticize Manchester’s musical history and it’s current legacy. So, while it was great to see Richard posting about the Mondays here the other day (and to read the reactions from their US fan base) I can’t help but feel mixed emotions. For as much as I love that band (I vividly remember the first time I heard “Step On”, on my school bus at the age of ten) they are also signifiers of what is wrong with the current Manchester music scene. In a nutshell: a relentless clinging on to the past.
I guess it’s the double-edged sword of having a once world-beating music scene right on your doorstep, but certain elements within the Manchester “culture industry” are all too willing to just lean on that reputation (sensing that it’s a quick way to make an easy buck) without putting effort into discovering new talent. Talent like Silverclub.
Led by frontman Duncan Jones (who formerly made techno and electro as DNCN on the Human Shield label), Silverclub combine all the best bits of pop, rock, dance and electronica, drag it down the local disco and tie it up with a shiny, techno bow tie. They are influenced by the past yet remain firmly focussed on the present, while retaining a very English vibe with the kind of spiky, edgy songs that betray a childhood spent listening to Elvis Costello and the Attractions.
To me, this band represent all that is good about music from the North of England, and Manchester in particular. People here have a dizzying array of tastes, have an appreciation for pretty much every single genre available, and yet somehow manage to meld these disparate influences into something that is their own with a distinct, regional voice and outlook. Silverclub fuse a knowledge of dancefloor dynamics and sharp hook-writing skills, and maintain a singular identity thanks to Jones’ Northern drawl and sweet harmonies from synth-player Henrietta Smith. Hmm, I wonder if there’s room in the band for a dancing maracas player? I want that job!
At the very start of this year I featured the Silverclub b-side “The Goldener Reiter” on my Best of 2011 Mixtape, which you can still download, here. The single it’s taken from, “No Application”, is available as a free download (below) while Silverclub’s self-titled debut album will be coming this May on the Canadian label Hidden Pony. There’s more info on the band’s website, and in the meantime, here’s the “No Application” video:
Here’s a little something by Glasgow purveyors of rocktronica Errors, in the run up to the January 30 release of their new album Have Some Faith In Magic on Rock Action Records. Taking as much influence from modern and classic electro as they do from shoegaze and kosmiche, Errors genuinely bring something fresh to the table, and have been steadily building up momentum over the last five years. From the Rokbun website:
A group who emerged at the tale end of a period when anything purely-instrumental and guitar- based became lazily tagged “post-rock,” Errors have now distanced themselves from that loose genre so much that any fleeting comparison to it is now completely redundant.
Have Some Faith In Magic is an LP of sprawling pop, with delicious hooks applied liberally across post-electro scatterings; a complete turn away from previously lauded albums It’s Not Something But It Is Like Whatever, and last year’s Come Down With Me - not least with vocals now being included prominently for the first time.
“It was just something that naturally happened,” comments the group’s Steev Livingstone, “we had the idea to put vocals in the music a while ago but we always intended that they should be treated as another instrument.
“We’ve used them in a way that sits really naturally so the music and the vocals don’t feel like separate entities.”
Judging by the simultaneously wistful-yet-pumping sounds of “Pleasure Palaces,” the new album could be very special indeed. As for the video… well, I don’t really understand it, but I do like it. A lot. Directed by Rachel Maclean, and coming across like New Order by way of Tim & Eric, there is a whole host of strange and humorous imagery to digest here:
Ex-editor of the sadly defunct Melody Maker, author of Nirvana: The Biography and now proprietor of the excellent Collapse Board website, Everett True has not one but two Christmas mixtapes available to download just now. They covers all bases from the popular to the obscure, from funk to country to punk to indie(ish) and everything in-between. Everett himself says:
I spend great chunks of early December arranging and rearranging the 1,500+ Christmas songs in my iTunes folder into various playlists: for family, for friends, not for the children, and so on. Odd that I do so, as I’m really not fond of this time of year otherwise (although that feeling is changing as our family increases). This year, my task has been somewhat hampered by Daniel (aged 2) destroying the external hard drive, just two weeks after I’d transferred my entire cache of 2011 music onto it.
I suspend most of my regular aesthetic values when it comes to this season. As long as there’s a sleigh bell or an overtly schmaltzy production or a smart-ass lyric decrying the fact Santa NEVER BRINGS ANY FUCKING PRESENTS or some soulful heartfelt emotion or … well, anything to do with the season, really … I’m happy. I do have limits of course: Fiona Apple, that excrescence of a Bob Dylan Christmas album that appeared a while back, most of the She And Him Christmas album (although they still manage to sneak onto the collection below), most of X Factor (but not all), anything too self-consciously smart and/or indie. But really. Where else are you going to find a compilation that boasts Mariah Carey, The Moonbears, Willie Nelson, Can and Wild Billy Childish’s killer cut ‘Christmas 1979′?
As ever, the following restrictions apply:
The track-listing on the mix-tapes differs slightly to the one below. Copyright considerations, and all that. Also, the compilations will be available for a limited period only. If you like any of the featured artists, please track back to their MySpace sites, record company home pages and the like, and show support by purchasing their music direct.
Download A Christmas Gift from Everett True 2011, part onehere.
Download A Christmas Gift from Everett True 2011, part twohere.
As he says, download these now as they’ll be taken down very soon.
Shonen Knife’s “Space Christmas” (as featured on ACGFET2011 vol two):
As an introduction to a brief but important music movement, or even just a simple nostalgia piece for people who were around at the time, Kerri Koch’s 2006 documentary Don’t Need You: The Herstory of Riot Grrrl makes for interesting and compelling viewing.
For a brief while in the early 90s it seemed Riot Grrrl was everywhere. It was a breath of fresh air in the male-dominated grunge landscape, though some of those grunge bands did their best to promote it and more pro-feminist ideals (the ghost of Kurt looms into view in a flowing, floral-print dress). But Riot Grrrl was met mostly with derision in the mainstream media, what with its core values of fanzines and localised press, not to mention of course feminism, self-expression and the forcing through of female self-determination in a male-oriented world.
Looking back now It’s hard to believe how much of an uproar some female musicians simply being angry could cause, but then as has been mentioned numerous times no-one wants to see women being angry (supposedly). Pretty soon Riot Grrrl was reduced to a simple concept of being merely “angry girls”, and made easy to dismiss. UK Riot Grrrl contingent Huggy Bear famously got ejected from the studios of tacky yoof program The Word (on which they had just performed) for heckling the presenters about their Barbie doll-imitating porn star guests. This got the band into the national media, but also sealed their fate as mere rabble-rousers while ignoring their efforts to create alternative spaces and dialogs. But still, Riot Grrrl was oppositional, it was dramatic, and it was fucking exciting.
Just as quickly as it bubbled up however, Riot Grrrl seemed to fizzle out. I guess my perception of this was skewed hugely by the mainstream UK music press, which was my only port of access to alternative music and culture in those pre-internet days. It was a mutual love/hate thing (more hate/hate I guess) with the performers and the scene itself withdrawing from the mainstream attention and the negative associations it brought. In a very interesting read called Riot Grrrl - the collected interviews on Collpase Board, Everett True (the editor of Melody Maker at the time, and the person chiefly responsible for breaking the scene in the UK music media) explains his own role and that of the press:
Riot Grrrl was basically about female empowerment – females doing stuff on their own terms, separate from men, making up their own rules and systems and cultures. Sure, men were welcome, but they had to understand that for once they weren’t going to be automatically given first place. (One of the reasons my own role in the gestation of Riot Grrrl as a popular cultural movement became so confused was that after a certain period of time I began to listen to those around me – female musicians, activists, artists, human beings – who felt that having such a high-profile male associated with a fledgling female movement was absolutely counter-productive. This is almost the first time I’ve spoken to anyone since then.)
Don’t Need You - The Herstory of Riot Grrrl is important because it lets the creators of the movement speak for themselves. The editing may be rough in places, and the story may jump around in chronology a wee bit, but you get to hear first hand from the original Riot Grrrls themselves what informed their third-wave feminist views and what inspired them to start their own scene. Featured interviewees include Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill, Alison Wolfe of Bratmobile, Corin Tucker of Heavens To Betsy / Sleatter-Kinney and Fugazi’s Ian McKaye:
That’s part one - part two and part three are after the jump…
Noise may not be to everyone’s taste (in fact by definition noise is classed as “unwanted” sounds) but to the hardcore few it’s a way of life. This documentary follows some of those artists and shows them performing live, often on homemade or radically modified kit, and talking about the philosophy and influences behind their work. You won’t have heard of many of these performers but that’s the point - they are not in it for fame or money, they are simply following their muse in as unhindered a way as possible.
Most of the artists featured in People Who Do Noise are based in Portland, Oregon, and here’s a bit more info via the site filmbaby:
The film takes a very personal approach, capturing the musicians working alone with no interference from a live audience. What often took place in crowded basements or dark smoky venues was stripped bare for the cameras, providing an unprecedented glimpse of the many different instruments and methods used.
Covering a wide range of artists and styles, the film features everything from the absurdist free-improvisations of genre-pioneers Smegma, to the harsh-noise assaults of Oscillating Innards and everything in between. Many of the artists in the film, such as Yellow Swans and Daniel Menche, have performed and sold records all over the world. In spite of such successes, noise music remains one of the least understood and most inaccessible of genres.
OK, so most of this is pushing at the very boundaries of what we call “music”, but that’s pretty much the point. Casual observers (and listeners) may not make it very far into this doc because of, well, the noise, but it’s worth resisting the urge to skip forward as you may miss some very interesting interview footage. While some of these performers come across as pretentious, regardless of what you think of the sounds they create you can’t help but admire their freedom and lack of constraints:
As mainstream radio in the UK gets steadily worse, as exposure opportunities for the genuinely interesting and different quickly disappear, and as lowest common denominator fodder like X Factor begins to limit the power of music in the popular imagination, he is missed now more than ever.
In the absence of one unifying national media platform it’s unlikely that we will ever see his like again, though I feel that through his influence, and the proliferation of music websites and blogs, we are all a bit Peelie now. Proof of the man’s legacy is that the anniversary of his passing has become an annual day of celebration, with gigs, radio shows, record fairs and even specific releases happening in his honor, every 25th of October. And this is a good thing, a very good thing.
So in memoriam, here’s a clip from a 2005 BBC program where various artists and radio djs posthumously rifle through his (typically eclectic) record box:
John Peel’s Record Box
After the jump, John Peel’s ‘Sound of the Suburbs’, Jimi Hendrix playing a Radio 1 jingle for Peel’s show in the late 60s, Peel on the assassination of JFK (which he reported on from Dallas for the Liverpool Echo), and an interview where Peel talks about the influence of punk, how its natural home is in the suburbs, and how scenes get co-opted by a jaded music press…
This is the first video by Fucked Up to be taken from their current album, the very highly acclaimed David Comes To Life. Sure, Fucked Up may have made some skits to accompany their music before (namely standing around in public places while their music plays in the background), but this is a real music video, with actors, a story, production values, the whole shebang. And as such it’s pretty damn unusual. To say the least. Presumably it ties in with the narrative of the album, which the band have described as being a rock opera. But don’t let that put you off. To quote Richard Metzger:
Two thumbs up. WAY UP.
A thing of intense beauty. And unexpected. Unexpected is hard to do these days!
Hardcore heroes Fucked Up’s new album is released today. David Comes To Life is being touted in some quarters as a modern classic, a rock opera romance for the ages set in 80s Thatcherite Britain. So is it that good? You can make your own mind up by listening to it in full at this link. Or, if you like what you have already heard, you can just go ahead and buy it here. There is more info on the album at Davidcomestolife.com.
Over on AV Club journalist Steven Hyden has come to the end of his ten part look-back over the alternative music of the 90s called Whatever Happened to Alternative Nation? Cataloging his musical obsessions year by year from 1990 to 1999, the series (named after the long-defunct MTV alt-rock show) is a great read, and ends on a spectacular low point for pop culture - Woodstock ‘99.
Remember Woodstock ‘99? The one where lots of people got beaten and raped? Just as we had almost completely erased it from the collective conscious, back come memories of Fred Douche shouting at a bunch of drunken jocks to “RAPE SOMETHING!!” in his squeaky, balls-not-dropped voice, while security throw their badges an the ground and dive into the mosh pit. OK, so he didn’t encourage rape (not that I’m aware of anyway), but the point is still the same. The ‘90s pretty much started with Kurt Cobain in a dress, and ended with Durst’s audience forcibly ripping dresses off harassed women. What a fitting end to the decade, this series, and the story of rock music itself over those years.
So here’s a clip of Limp Bizkit playing “Break Stuff” at the festival. Yes, sorry, it is more terrible music on DM this week, but whereas I can find genuinely interesting aspects of Gaga/AntwoordAndrew WK, I cannot for the life of me see a shred of redemption for anyone involved in this aside from car-crash attraction. Durst goads the crowd into breaking stuff, advice they take literally, and then bemoans their lack of attention for almost two minutes while asking “is this mic working?”. An audience member tells him it is - presumably the crowd are too busy rioting or trying to avoid danger to pay much attention to the band. The situation has the strange, menacing air of a child playing with grown-up forces they don’t truly understand. And that pre-pubescent, squawking, try-too-hard-yet-not-hard-enough MC style of his is in full effect between 2:40 and 2:50, delivering hilarious lines like “I pack a chain saw!”
Hey it’s ok, you don’t have to watch this if you really don’t want to:
OK enough of that crap, back to WHTAN? The current article “1999: By The Time We Got To Woodstock ‘99” contains some interesting and chilling details from Woodstock ‘99, including stories of women getting gang raped in mosh-pits or being forced to bare their breasts to large groups of drunk guys, and security being woefully under-staffed and themselves being refused drinking water from the festival organizers. It begs the question - how the fuck did this festival ever take place? Oh wait, it’s that old devil called greed again. Greed and the fact that the hippy ideal hadn’t cottoned on to the fact that by the end of last century it had been almost completely wiped out. But then how the hell did acts like Korn, Kid Rock and Metallica embody Woodstock’s ideals in the first place? Needless to say the organizers of Woodstock do not come off looking good in this article.
So, were the late Ninties a complete curtural waste ground? No. Of course not. If I have a complaint about WHTAN? it is that it’s too rockist. I left this comment which describes how I personally feel about the path of “alternative” music in the 1990s:
“Great series but it just underlines for me how spent a cultural force rock became over this period. The original sense of anarchy and rebellion that made rock so engaging was strip mined to nothing in the Nineties. The real story of the decade is how rock, or alternative, was superseded by other genres and how people who before would have dismissed those genres started to like them. A lot. It’s what happened to me.
I would like to see someone write about what was REALLY alternative and fresh in the Nineties. Hip-hop (THE genre that defines those times), house (the early-to-mid 90s was probably the most gay-friendly period the mainstream has ever been), electronica (producers like Aphex/Squarepusher pushed boundaries that rock bands are still catching up with), drum & Bass, rave, Daft Punk etc. Real progression / boundary breaking in 90s music was being done by kids with samplers, computers and machines, not by guys with guitars trying to fit into patterns established 30 years before. Not to mention that the drugs were better. I hope someone will write a series about music beyond rock in the 90s, because that is the real story waiting to be explored. “
This post was brought to you in association with Niallism.