The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'music journalism'
The Graun's Alexis Petridis is not impressed with the new Morrissey album:
At least the sound fits the lyrics, which are so horribly sour you could make cottage cheese by leaving a pint of milk next to the speakers while it's playing. Morrissey has been petulant and nasty before, but there was usually a mitigating hint of arched eyebrow, or a flash of wit. Here, there's nothing but vituperative clumsiness: "You lied about the lies you told, which is the full extent of what being you is all about."
It's not so much that you've heard what he has to say on Black Cloud or That's How People Grow Up before; it's more that you've heard him say it better. There's a compelling argument that Morrissey keeps attracting new, young fans because his apparently immutable worldview, in which it's always someone else's fault and everything is so unfair, chimes with their own adolescent experience. But it's difficult to hear him singing, "There's so much destruction all over the world and all you can do is complain about me," without thinking: is this any way for a man who's nearly 50 to be carrying on? Clearly, this thought has crossed Morrissey's mind as well. "I know by now you think I should have straightened myself out," he sings elsewhere. "Thank you. Drop dead."
Veteran British music critic Everett True, one of the founders of Plan B magazine, has recently moved to Brisbane, Australia, and is not impressed with the Australian music press:
Australians don't have much respect for the music press - it runs counter to their culture. Australian rock is all about "Good on ya, mate - well done for getting up on stage and switching that amplifier on". The idea of anyone actually daring to criticise musicians for the sound they make is almost heresy. Everyone is treated equally, which means no knocking anyone back, however great the temptation. (That'll be why Australian rock is best known to the outside world for such musical abominations as Silverchair, the Vines and Savage Garden.) Sport is the predominant culture here, and music is similarly viewed as a leisure activity - it's all about "work rate", "dedication" and "goals scored". Unsurprisingly, Australians get the music press they deserve.
Recently, I was interviewed by a handful of street press writers to promote a show I was playing in Brisbane with ace pick-up garage band Young Liberals. The first question out the blocks every time was, "What do you do when you have to interview a band you don't like?" Excuse me? I don't understand the query. You're getting paid less than a pittance (if you're getting paid at all) for writing for a crappy free magazine given away on the streets of your city ... and you're interviewing bands you don't like? Why? What is the point? These magazines are free: their financial stability and continuing existence have nothing to with sales figures. Why not feature who the fuck you like? "Ah..." the "journalists" bleat. "It's because of the advertisers ..."
Simply, there are two types of advertiser. The first thinks that appearing in shitty free, badly-designed publications that nobody bothers to read and everyone throws away after glancing through the live ads is the best way to promote their clients' wares; basically, by supporting what amounts to paid-for advertorials. The second realises that their clients are actually far better served by appearing in "cool" (passionate/hip/intelligent) magazines because this coolness reflects back upon their client, and makes their wares seem far more attractive to the casual consumer.Mind you, the Australians seem a bit unamused by True's prononcements, in particular a throwaway line rubbishing local Seattle-sound institution Silverchair and landfill-indie rockers The Vines. Whether it's the case that Australians are a bit chippy about Poms rubbishing their local boys, while it's acceptable (and indeed the done thing) for Australians to lop down their own tall poppies, they will circle around them and defend them if an outsider comes in and tries it, or just that True was pontificating from a position of ignorance (JJJ is not Melbourne-based, or at least it wasn't last time I checked), with no small measure of cockiness, is open to interpretation. And here is the Mess+Noise (i.e., a bit like a local Drowned In Sound, only with extra lolcats) thread.
The Graun's Alexis Petridis is not impressed with the new Primal Scream album:
More baffling is the decision to foreground the vocals and lyrics of Bobby Gillespie. Never the highlight of any Primal Scream album, here they're inescapable: he is, as a rapper would say, all up in your grill. There's the usual torrent of drug-related cliches - "I stuck a needle in my baby's heart, she looked so hot and sexy," offers Gillespie, who is 46 years old - but the real problems come when he abandons the platitudes about junkies and veins and offers us something of himself, chiefly his famous political acumen. He has a tendency to address listeners as the lobotomised drones of the capitalist system. That sort of thing got a bit wearying coming from Crass, who were at least committed anarchists, squatting in an open house commune and apparently unable to play live without attracting unwanted police attention. Coming from Primal Scream, who are none of those things, but have been heard advertising everything from cars to clothes to Carphone Warehouse, it sounds, at best, pathetic. "Take a drive around the city, tell me what do you see? Empty houses, burning cars, naked bodies hanging from a tree," opens the title track, thus begging the question: where have you seen this, exactly? In Islington, where you live? No wonder property prices in N1 have levelled off.
At worst, however, it's genuinely insulting. "Congratulations, you live in a dream, in the dead heart of the control machine," sneers Gillespie, a man recently spotted confronting the grimy day-to-day reality of life on society's margins by attending the Mayfair launch of a $250,000 diamond and sapphire-encrusted ice dagger designed by Jade Jagger for use in the world's most exclusive bars, including Crystal, the London nightclub run by Prince William's Eton pal Jacobi Anstruther-Gough-Calthorpe. He was probably there plotting the downfall of the dead-hearted control machine with his fellow guests, including noted revolutionary Marxists Alexa Chung and Davina Taylor. These are hardened insurrectionists, who, like Gillespie, know that there can be no social justice until the gutters run red with bourgeois blood. "We've got a noose if you want to hang around," he jeers, "maybe some torture to tousle your hair."In my opinion, Primal Scream appear to be a textbook example of Thatcherism-Blairism as an artistic ideology, a Hegelian synthesis of (the superficial aspects of) bolshy anti-capitalist agitation of the Thatcher era and the whorish mercantility of the Blairite marketing society, a culture, nay, a civilisation built entirely on appropriating and repackaging. And Primal Scream do it well; moving at the speed of spin from trend to trend (from NIN-lite industrial rock to meat-and-potatoes blues-rock that sounds like the Rolling Stones if they instructed their engineer to overcompress everything into a black blob of loudness to the ubiquitous vapid cod-Marxism that makes Sid Vicious look like George Monbiot by comparison), never making the mistake of investing enough of themselves in any one thing to miss the next shift in market research. Soon enough, listeners realise that they've been sold a turd in a can, but by then they've moved on to the next thing.
Music/pop-culture guru Simon Reynolds claims that industrial music (in the original Throbbing Gristle/Cabaret Voltaire sense, not the gothic-teen-angst-techno-metal sense seen today) was the second flowering of an authentic psychedelia (authentic as opposed to retro; see also: Dee-Lite, Lenny Kravitz, Sophie Lee and the Freaked-Out Flower Children), and the harsh, Dadaistic aesthetic was in some ways a direct progression from the psychedelic rock and acid happenings of the 1960s. (via FmH)
Apparently the new Fischerspooner album is getting a local release; I may have to check it out. Bec Hornsby just played a track from it on her programme on 3RRR; it's much as I expected, stilted synthpop-inspired beats. I get the impression of them being to the 80s what the mid-90s Britpop movement were to the 60s, or perhaps Air to the '70s; not so much a slavish imitation as a reinterpretation and an updating. (Or perhaps an appropriation or opportunistic plundering.)
(Which makes one wonder what the '90s-inspired artists in a decade's time will be like. Grunge revivalists, perhaps, or 'old-style' commercial techno-pop with 909s and 303s in the mix; only done as an ironic reference, with a 'teens sensibility?)
Btw, while I'm on the topic, I think the word "electroclash" sounds rather daft; as it (i.e., Fischerspooner, Ladytron, Felix Da Housecat) doesn't sound particularly clashy, or indeed like The Clash. I prefer Mag/Tif's term "neo-electro". Then again, most music-journalist-coined genre names initially sound silly and ill-fitting (e.g., "goth", "shoegazer", "britpop", etc.)
This last microtrend -- effectively a re-revival -- highlights one of the ironies of the 80's resurgence, for the 80's were the first era in pop in which recycling and retrospection became rife. There were vogues for ska, rockabilly, psychedelia and other musical antecedents. "With 1980's retro, we have reached the point of second-order recycling," said Andrew Ross, a cultural critic who is the director of the American studies program at New York University. "It's the equivalent, God forbid, of double quotation marks."
Modern digital technology is so sophisticated that producers make electronic music that sounds almost as if it were played by a live band, full of subtle rhythmic irregularities that create a humanlike feel and jazzy swing. But just as punk rockers embraced a raw, elemental music, rejecting the overproduced sound of 70's rock, today's electro groups use old-fashioned synthesizers and drum machines. They prefer cold tones and stiff beats because they evoke a period when electronic music seemed alien and forbiddingly novel. They are making machine-music and proud of it.
For many clubgoers, the 80's were a time when rock and dance music were in lively conversation with each other. Club music then was full of punky attitude and personality, a stark contrast to the functional music and faceless D.J.'s who dominate today's post-rave dance culture.
(There we have it; New Wave's Big Comeback.) (ta, Toby!)
NME names The Smiths as the most influential artist of the past 50 years, edging out the Beatles. In the Plastic thread, there is some outrage from people who don't understand why a pack of whining nobodies could be more influential than the Beatles, and countercriticism questioning whether songs like "She Loves You, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah" are that much more significant than the likes of "Last Night I Dreamt Somebody Loves Me" or "The Queen Is Dead".
Meanwhile, the Stone Roses are at #3; which seems a bit odd. (I don't mind the Stone Roses, but are they really the third most influential band of our time?)
First Melody Maker went tits-up, then NME turned into Smash Hits and now Rolling Stone's 50 Best Album Covers of All Time features modern-day classics by artists of the calibre of N'Sync and Blink-182, essentials in every well-rounded record collection. Mind you, that's just the provocative side; then there are the safe choices (old Beatles and Elvis covers, and the token '70s soul, punk and gangsta rap to show that the owner of the collection is hip and with-it; basically respectable MOR predictability that doesn't go out on a limb). (via if.then.else)
A piece on the decline of music journalism, and in particular papers like NME.
Q is now a glowing example of all that is wrong with the music press. It's the pop industry's answer to Hello!, a glorified fanzine that gains access to big-name musicians because of its bland non-critical approach. This is a magazine that is just as happy to have Robbie Williams on the cover as it is REM, where Sting is afforded the same levels of respect as Kurt Cobain. With Q dominating the monthly market, it's no wonder that readers are losing faith in music journalism.
I'm not surprised; looking at the NME website, full of tabloid celebrity gossip and adulation at the "brilliant" new releases from various cookie-cutter R&B/pop groups, it's hard to reconcile this new Smash Hits with the legendary paper that set out to challenge the status quo and instigated things like the C86 compilation. (via VM)
An interesting music-review site/webzine: Gravitygirl, written by Melbourne street-press journo Anthony Carew (who also hosts the International Pop Underground show on 3RRR). (Warning: the colour scheme can be a bit hard to read.)
Speaking of the music press, just weeks after britpop magazine Select closes its doors, NME and Melody Maker merge. The apparent rationale is the declining market for music magazines.