Mixtape…blah, blah, nostalgia, blah…

I was about to start with a profound and incisive statement, but that new Bloc Party single really is fucking dreadful, isn’t it?

I’ve spent a thoroughly enjoyable day rearranging bits of the record collection and ripping assorted tracks to the computer in order to refresh the content of my mp3 player and contruct a decent mp3 CD for a long car journey that’s coming up. It’s wonderful just browsing through the tunes that have, at various times in the last few years, meant rather a lot to me. I did the slightly embarrassing, but hugely popular, swivelling-a-little-bit-in-a-computer-chair dance to Stardust‘s Music Sounds Better With You‘ earlier and it was hugely satisfying. And what about ‘Forever J’ by Terry Hall? A beautiful, beautiful song which was sampled on ‘Life In Mono’ by Mono, which I’ve also ended up digging out. However, whilst finding out more about it I stumbled upon the Emma Bunton cover version. Eugh. Now, I actually really liked that soul-pastiche album she did a few years back. The one with pink cover. But this is not good. At all. The original is, however, and it would seem you can still buy it via the iTunes empire.

The mp3 player will soon be receiving a number of albums that I can’t believe I haven’t felt the need to put back on there since reformatting it a few months back. Most of Supergrass‘ back catalogue is still absent, as are the first two Portishead albums and Thom Yorke‘s ‘The Eraser’. Not for much longer. Also going on will be Madness‘ wonderful track, ‘NW5‘ that came out as a one-off single a little while back, but which will feature on their forthcoming concept album, ‘The Liberty Of Norton Folgate’. If you’ve not heard it, I would put it up there with pretty much anything else they’ve ever done. It’s great.

And with that cunning link (that’s great and so is this) I should probably say a few words about the Jamie Lidell record I was on about the other day. Gilles Peterson has started offering a splendid service via TellJack that allows you to hear albums, in full, before deciding whether or not to purchase. You don’t download anything, it’s all done via high quality streams, but it’s splendid. That’s how I got to hear ‘Jim‘, by Jamie Lidell. I keep calling it ‘Son of Stevie’ because it sounds like that sort of record Stevie Wonder would be making now if he was a) younger and b) as good as he used to be. To me, this album slots in quite neatly alongside ‘Innervisions‘ and ‘Talking Book’. High praise, I know, but it really is the best soul album I’ve heard in yonks. And, I’ve heard Sharon Jones and the new Al Green. Anyway, there’s a track on the newly updated Mux (click on the tape in the right-hand column) along with a chance to hear the Terry Hall track ‘Forever J’ and the Mono track that sampled it. Plus other stuff. Stuff you’ll like, I’d imagine.

I remember now what it was that I was going to talk about when I was going on about mp3 compilations. I was listening to Jeremy Vine‘s show on Radio 2 yesterday (the outraged voice of middle class Britain©) as he discussed the possible charges for broadband customers in the UK. Apparently, devious downloaders will be receiving angry letters in the near future, explaining that what they’re up to is illegal. Assuming, of course, that they are downloading illegally, that is. They wouldn’t make any mistakes, would they? Judging by some of the calls to the programme, mistakes have already been made and there will be more on the way. Predictably, one of the ‘I ain’t paying for it, why should I? I’ve ten CDs over the last twenty years and they were, like, £16 each, so why should I pay now?’ brigade got on air. I’ve never really had a strong opinion about it one way or another, but with the number of independent record stores dying on their arses and bands failing to keep hold of their record contracts, you do have to wonder. Ok, so it’s a symptom of a jaded industry, rather than the cause, but surely nobody who loves their tunes thinks it’s a long-term approach? Weirdly, I’ve just noticed that the good folks at Norman Records are having a similar debate on their blog.

And finally, the nominations for the Mercury Music Prize came out t’other day and I was amazed by just how many I’ve actually heard and liked. The list is as follows:

Adele – ‘19
British Sea Power‘Do You Like Rock Music?
Burial – ‘Untrue
Elbow‘The Seldom Seen Kid’
Estelle – ‘Shine
Laura Marling‘Alas I Cannot Swim’
Neon Neon‘Stainless Style’
Portico Quartet‘Knee-Deep In The North Sea’
Rachel Unthank & The Winterset‘The Bairns’
Radiohead‘In Rainbows’
Robert Plant & Alison Krauss‘Raising Sand’
The Last Shadow Puppets‘The Age Of The Understatement’

It’s only Portico Quartet that I need to do any real research for – and I will, I’m sure. I can’t think of a time when I’ve been so in line with the Mercury choices. It could just be that I’ve bought far too many records recently, and therefore whatever they’d gone for I’d have been in this position, but I’d like to think not. From my perspective, it’s got to be between Elbow, Laura Marling and Radiohead. Radiohead are getting a bit of negativity thrown their way regarding this because of how established they are, but ‘In Rainbows’ really is one of their best albums and definitely one of the best albums of the last twelve months. Laura Marling is someone that I’ve raved about on here for almost a year now and I certainly don’t intend on stopping. ‘Alas I Cannot Swim’ will be in my end of the year list and it’s a near-perfect folk-pop album. It’s an exercise in measured understatement, and it’s all the more beautiful because of that. However, I think it should probably go to Elbow. They went off, not in possession of a record deal, and did it all themselves; recording a record that they would want to listen to. It’s a wonderful, wonderful collection of songs and ‘One Day Like This’ could well end up as one of my all time favourite songs.

Any thoughts? Perhaps the blog will get spammed again by the vinyl collectors of Idaho. (See comments for previous post) I’m with Neil Hannon on Idaho.

Like I said, have a listen to the Muxtape.

Vinyl Junkies – written from scratch (d’ya geddit?)

Eurgh. This weekend I have mostly been getting annoyed with lazy journalism. Cajun Dance Party are just finishing their A levels, apparently. They got the album finished and ready for release and then went back to school. Fair play to them. But does that really make it ok to then say that they’ll soon be ‘top of the class’? Is that really the best way to say that they’ve got plenty of potential (and a decent debut album, as it goes)? It’s like the reviewer was channeling the jokes of Jimmy Tarbuck in an attempt to avoid having to think of a single, original idea.

It’s not entirely the fault of these vacuous dullards that clutter up the reviews section of most of the (notional, if not actual) broadsheets. If you’re going to tell someone to review an album in 100 words or less you may as well have a rating system of just: Excellent, Good, Ok, A Bit Dull, Crap, Blunt. Why bother with the other words if, having deployed a subordinate clause, the review is pretty much over before its begun?

Today’s Madonna review in The Observer set of the crapulous bullshit alarm almost as quickly as the actual album being reviewed. Almost every time Gavin Henson plays in a rugby match at which his partner, Charlotte, is present,  the commentators will call him Mr Church at some point in the game. What the hell is that all about? Apart from the fact it means absolutely fuck all, it’s such a simplistic and dopey way of saying he happens to have a famous girlfriend. In a similar manner, today’s review of ‘Hard Candy’ mentioned a ‘Mr Ciccone’. When exactly did Guy Ritchie change his name by deed poll? I wasn’t aware he had time in between making gangster films according to the law of diminishing returns to do such a thing. I mean, for fuck’s sake, it doesn’t matter where that review had appeared; it’s shit journalism, and it’s meaningless space filling. I should know. Ahem.

I know I shouldn’t be getting worked up about this, but do any newspaper reviewers actually have anything to meaningful to say about the music they’re attempting to evaluate? Having spent a few years writing reviews for one of the monthlies, I can vouch for the fact that it’s bloody hard work, but that doesn’t mean you should just settle for the first draft to avoid getting stressed. A review needs to be an interesting piece of writing on its own, irrespective of what it’s about, otherwise why read it in the first place? 

I can’t actually remember what the review said about the album, but I’m willing to bet it’s every bit as desperate as the single that preceded it. Oh, and if you can spare a couple of quid, probably best send it to the ‘Clothes-that-aren’t-underwear for Madonna to wear in pictures and videos from now on fund’. Just Google it.

***

I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the tunes of The Field Mice and Trashcan Sinatras this weekend and, were I less worked up about trifling matters, I would happily tell you more. As it is, have a quick poke around the interweb. Emusic-ers can get a splendid compilation of pretty much all of the essential stuff by The Field Mice right now, while Trashcan novices can download slightly low quality audio files of much of their output here.

Oh, and the muxtape’s been updated to reflect some recent musical highlights.

Vinyl Rotters at your service

Fair play to the NME, their piece about people getting attacked as a result of their musical preferences is a decent read and long overdue. That said, once the Daily Mail had said that ’emo’ music was dangerous, you’d like to think that most sane people realised it was quite the opposite. Their coverage was centred around the recent rulings on the murder of Sophie Lancaster, a 20 year old Goth who was attacked last August as a result of her and her boyfriend’s appearance. They quoted a truly brilliant post from one of the Goth message boards, “no group of Goths ever beat up a chav.” The idea that musical tastes will lead the nation’s youth astray is hardly a new one, although you can’t blame publications like the Mail, as all of the evidence would suggest that in previous cases this assertion has been proved to be complete and utter bollocks. Which is how they like their ‘news’. Do I need an allegedly here? Allegedly.

Something else that came out of reading the article was a sense of disbelief at the name ‘Faris Rotter‘. Apparently that’s the name of the lead singer of The Horrors. I guess he deserves a smidge of respect for supporting the message of the article before I wade in with a torrent of abuse. There it was. Right then, ‘Rotter’? ‘Rotter‘? What, as in Rotten? Well, good idea, not like that’s been used before. The ever reliable Wikipedia reveals that his name is actually Faris Badwan. Obviously he couldn’t use that as it’d make him sound too much like some simpering twat who’d stick out his little finger whilst supping a mochachino in the back of a limo on the way to being fired by Sir Alan. Yeah, sticking up for the real people there! Being true to yourself, etc. Such begging for credibility has not been witnessed since Sporty Spice unleashed her cover of ‘Anarchy In The UK‘ on the unsuspecting crowds at V99. The piss couldn’t be flung quick enough.

Anyway, having allowed by ire to subside – all this based on a name, I know – I was then confronted by a member of My Chemical Romance. They’re just shit, really, aren’t they? I’ve no qualms about defending people’s right to listen to them, dress like them and all that, but their very existence in the first place is what bugs me. In my dim and distant past as an occasionally published, and even less frequently read, music reviewer I gave Green Day‘s ‘American Idiot‘ an almighty shoeing but this lot almost arouse pangs of sympathy for that bunch of middle-aged wankers in their three-quarter-length trousers. It strikes me that if you’re going to have to battle against narrow-minded, knuckle-dragging fuckwits in order to submerge yourself in a particular musical culture, shouldn’t the music be good enough to warrant the fight?

As readers of this blog will be aware, every so often I go through a period of acknowledging that the NME isn’t actually that bad only to become completely disillusioned a couple of weeks thereafter. Once again, reading the new issue today I found it quite a pleasant experience and was delighted to reach the back end of it and find an interview with Roger Daltrey. Top man.

The NME review of The Long Blondes‘ ‘“Couples”‘ was reasonably close to the mark, although it represented my view of the album after a couple of listens. After a few more listens, the seemingly cold and insular sound opens up just enough to let you in. It’s still pretty claustrophobic, and not what I’d expected, but it’s a lot better than I first thought it was. ‘Century‘ has really grown on me, despite initially hating it, while next single, ‘Guilt‘, is already on the VJ muxtape.

Mux U

Ah, I’m just reclining and enjoying the sheer wit and style displayed in the title of this post. Ahem. So, you may or may not have heard about this yet, but it’s the latest way of pointing people in the direction of good music. It’s called muxtape – as in mixtape, geddit? – and can be accessed here. To demonstrate its many charms, here’s one I made earlier. Would fill one side of C90 perfectly. I’ll update it in due course…

VJ in the mux