All posts by Michael

Heard It Yet?: Million Dead – A Song to Ruin

Artist: Million Dead
Album: A Song to Ruin
Label: Integrity
Released: 2003

Despite only being together for five years at the beginning of the new millennium, Million Dead left quite an impression on those who were fortunate enough to hear them. Lead singer Frank Turner had a violent passion running through him, and energy which endowed itself into creating some stunning metaphysical lyrics, that defied the punk genre’s rather stale take on the use of words. It wasn’t just his lyrics that gave the UK band something else, but his stunning voice which went from raging screams to melodic chants in a matter of seconds. Continue reading Heard It Yet?: Million Dead – A Song to Ruin

Review: The Mars Volta – The Bedlam in Goliath

The Mars Volta have always remained a band whose developments and evolution has always fascinated me, and so far has never failed to impress me. Last year’s ‘Amputechture‘ drew a lot of criticism from not only the music press, but fans of the spazzy prog outfit’s ludicrous adventures in sound. Some considered it a massive step back from the concept driven ‘Frances the Mute‘ and some said that it was trying too hard to be like ‘De-loused in the Comatorium‘. Whatever the case, it became clear that those who followed the unique development of this band were not going to sit and suck them off to every release they made.

After barely touring Amputechture (perhaps a statement of how they felt the record turned out) the ever expanding Volta group (the album boasts a collective of nine members) almost immediately returned to the confines of a studio, to write a record that’s conception is almost as bizarre as some of the songs on offer.

Just as a precursor to this review, you can read about the band’s own story regarding the origins of Goliath right here.

The new album introduces new drummer Pridgen. In a word – beast.

So, it looks like we’re in store for quite an epic 78 minutes, if the (dubious) narrative is anything to go by. Opening track ‘Aberinkula‘ certainly kicks things off in that direction, immediately blasting out a cacophony of high pitched vocals, erratic guitar work and drumming that conjures up images of an octopus blisteringly attacking the whole kit with all its might. The latter is the blood, sweat and tears of Thomas Pridgen, the incredible permanent replacement for Jon Theodore after his departure. And in case you were worried, he’s more than capable of filling those already sizable shoes, driving almost every song with an incredible passion and power that never ceases to amaze. The song climaxes with an absolutely barnstorming riff that explodes with punctual succinctness, making it feel like every member of the band has just ejaculated over you via the medium of musical instruments.

The great thing about the first five tracks is their complete and utter relentlessness. Metatron sends you into an uncontrollable groove the moment singer Cedric Bixler-Zavala opens a song that just doesn’t let up, once again building up into a complete and utter eargasm. Ilyena continues the trend, perhaps showing the Mars Volta at their outright damn funkiest, as the music can’t help but send your body into movement. Believe me, if you can listen to the closing few minutes of this track and not flinch at all, then music isn’t for you. Seriously, perhaps try comics?

This constantly driven sound is a far stretch from Amputechture’s acoustic tunes which, whilst allowing the listener room to catch their breath, only really ended up completely driving the record to a shuddering halt, almost as if Omar and co. had forced themselves to hold back. Wax Simulacra, which becomes the Volta’s shortest tracks at a mere two and a half minutes yet doesn’t suffer for becoming instant single material, with an alarmingly catchy verse that will bury itself into your head. Interestingly, it succeeds at showing the band are capable of holding themselves back from their oft-criticized wankery (albeit apart from the last few seconds of saxophone free styling) and creating a simple, damn good song.

Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, the collective ‘face’ of the band.

Once again, Goliath buries itself into your head. Cedric’s vocals are rather restrained, and his ever inventive lyrics fit in beautifully among the ever increasing chaos around him, before breaking down into a swirly cesspool of bass and Omar’s eccentric guitar tapping, building up and up until it all gets pulled back into another repeat of the chorus before everything is brought down a notch and the cesspool turns into a fully blown hurricane that rips everything apart as Cedric screams down the microphone, clearly not holding himself back anymore.

However, after this point the energy, and subsequently the quality of the album take a sudden drop. Tourniquet Man, I suppose the Volta’s equivalent to a ballad, complete with swimmy vocal effects and what sounds like pan pipes just doesn’t match up to the quality of the introduction. It’s almost as if they couldn’t quite let go of whatever feeling dogged them on Amputechture. Subsequent track, Calvalettas, picks up the pace with holepunch rhythms and yet more solid drumming from Pridgen, but as if on self destruct the group have decided to break up the song, interspersing it with bizarre effects that just take the song nowhere, and are reminiscent of the meandering and uninspiring passages in their live release, Scabdates. It’s not a terrible song by any means, but this unnecessary and offputting dwindling just totally ruins the atmosphere that the first few tracks did so well to immerse you into.

Agadez follows, and is certainly a marked improvement on the last two tracks. Things seem to plod along for the majority of the song mainly driven by a bassline that creeps up and down until the chorus breaks out into a rhythm that, if written, would be a series of full stops. Askepious once again suffers from breaking the tempo and cohesiveness of the album. Cedric’s voice grates, and for the most part the song really seems to be going nowhere, only really saved with an impressive ending, relying on a repeated phrase and some guitar soloing that even Slash might enjoy.

Ourobourous, once again returns to a faster pace, with Pridgen’s blistering drumming forcing the song along more so than anything else on this album, which somehow slows itself right down to a snail’s pace before kickstarting itself again and then rather uneventfully dribbling out to a meager ending much unlike everything else on this album. Soothsayer, at nine minutes long is the longest track on the album, and suffers for it. It plods along, Cedric warbling away, sounding as if he has made this all up on the spot. Those who dislike what the Mars Volta do have always blamed their over-indulgence and long track lengths, yet I will always defend these points by arguing that these factors still somehow manage to create some fantastic songs, but I can’t say that for this track. Omar rips on his guitar just for the sake of it, Pridgen sounds tamed and rather uninventive and the other random instruments thrown into the mix really add nothing to the song, especially the use of samples.

The closer, Conjugal Burns (I will never know how these men can come up with these incredible song names) rather unfortunately follows the pattern set by the last few tracks. It would seem Omar almost takes a back seat early in this song, letting some fantastic saxophone playing take the lead, but it’s not too long until he just can’t stay quiet, once again letting his guitar shrill away at you. The song jumps all over the place, so much so that you’re never quite sure where you stand with it, and as it begins to reach its eventual conclusion you’re left feeling dazed and confused. The song uses some bizarre effects that I can only suggest are an aural representation of Goliath being pissed off or something, but by the end of the song you just don’t really care. Abruptly it ends, and you almost breathe a sigh of relief.

Famed for their inventive live performances, the band have announced a slew of dates for ’08.

There’s no doubt that this is an album that cannot really be fully appreciated in one listen. Furthermore, it’s an album that actually takes quite a lot of energy to reach the end. 78 minutes is a long time, and there are times throughout the album where Cedric’s almost constant wailing nearly drives you to the edge, and Omar’s over-indulgence does begin to grow tiresome. But despite this, the album stands as a great effort from this ever evolving band. The opening tracks, full of raw passion and some fantastic song writing/jamming remind you that this is a band who are not afraid to venture into the realms of ‘catchy’ despite their inaccessible progressive image. After the first five tracks the album becomes a rollercoaster ride of quality, with the ups just being enough to keep you interested until the conclusion of Goliath’s story. It’s certainly not an album for the faint of heart, or those with little patience, but in the right frame of mind there is a lot to take away from the Mars Volta’s fourth studio release.

Interview: Flies Are Spies From Hell

The whole post-rock genre usually carries with it a lot of negative connotations. Pretentious, soulless and plain boring are a few adjectives that can be attached to a lot of bands who choose to carve out their niche with a strong focus on instrumental performances and songs that last for more than five minutes. Certainly the genre is not particularly one for the faint of heart, with some of the most popular examples of post-rock musicianship clocking in at half hour lengths.

But one band who have no qualms in accepting their position in the post-rock stable are Flies Are Spies From Hell, an imaginatively named band hailing from the seedier parts of the south east of England, all brought together by attending the same school in Petersfield.

The group, consisting of Chris and Will on guitar, George on bass, Watty on drums and Fred on keyboards, initially came to my attention after I was handed out a leaflet featuring their Myspace address (a technique that seems to be doing good for them) after an ear battering performance from ISIS at Concorde2 in Brighton. After checking them out I was hooked, incredibly refreshed to hear a band that could compose a song full of the epic scale that the best representatives of post-rock offer, all packed into digestible five minute lengths.

With a new self released EP under their belt, ‘Mountain Language’, and plans to tour the country later this year, I decided to drop the lads a line and find out a little bit more about what made them tick.

First things first – Flies Are Spies from Hell. Where’d that come from then?

Will – That’s a question we often get asked and we always enjoy answering it. I was away in a place called Nimbim {Australia} a few years ago with some close friends at a cannabis festival. We met an elderly lady sitting at the bar of an old pub and she was dressed in her finest garments as if waiting for her long lost husband to return from the sea. I got talking to her and soon realized she was barking mad when she told me that at night she often received visits from banshees who would scream at her till morning. She then swore to me that flies are spies from hell. They come to her room at night and buzz around her head driving her insane and in the morning she had the arduous task of sweeping up their dead corpses. I found this concept an interesting one, even more so when three months later, a close friend of mine said his father has often endured the same experience, sharing the old bats view that in fact, Flies Are Spies From Hell.

You guys have been together for about three years now, how did things all get started? Is there any particular reason you chose to play the music you do?

Will – Well, I think we all believe that this band exists due to circumstances. We all went to school together and from a young age {in the early days we were a cover band with a singer called Oz} played together. When our singer left the band we decided that in fact we are capable of producing better music without him. That happened at a time when we were listening to albums like ‘The Earth is not a Cold Dead Place’ (Explosions in the Sky), ‘Young Team’ (Mogwai), ‘Effloresce’ (Oceansize) and ‘Slow Riot’ (Godspeed You! Black Emperor). The thing is we are all really strong friends. We get on extremely well and playing music is the manner in which we socialize together, other than getting catastrophically pissed. So, we started jamming a lot and came up with very basic but colorful ideas which we eventually turned into songs. I’m not quite sure how people who are not friends manage to make bands.

What do you consider to be your inspirations?

Chris – The big ones are a familiar list I suppose – Explosions, Isis, Pelican, Oceansize, Silver Mt. Zion, Mogwai, 65 Days of Static, Godspeed. I didn’t really know what music could do until I heard Slow Riot for New Zero Kanada, it blew my head off. Sometimes we play with bands and they just make you have to pick up your game live and that’s pretty inspiring – They Don’t Sleep, Our Own Devices, UpCDownC spring to mind. Playing with Russian Circles was pretty amazing too.

We just try and make every section of the songs worthwhile and not meander about “building atmosphere” for ages and ages.

The music you play draws a lot of comparisons to the likes of Godspeed You! Black Emperor. It can be quite difficult to find a fresh sound in a musical spectrum that often is criticised for being rather uninventive. What do you feel makes your music different?

Fred – I think the most obvious difference in our music is that our songs are a lot shorter than the average instrumental track. We’ve been described as writing “mini-epics”, which I think is fairly accurate. We also put a great deal of emphasis on song structure and making sure no part of it is just a gap filler, but aim to keep the audience interested with new melodies bouncing between the keys and guitars. I think also the fact that our guitarists and keyboardist (me) come from such different musical backgrounds leads to some quite interesting ideas.

Chris –
We’ve played with and heard a lot of post-rock and instrumental music and some bands can be a little uninventive, and think they can get away with it. I’m actually listening to a band now which sound so much like Explosions it’s a little embarrassing, but I’m still enjoying it. We just try and make every section of the songs worthwhile and not meander about “building atmosphere” for ages and ages.

You recently announced plans to tour in March alongside Red Paper Dragon, including a performance at Aeon festival. Do you feel you’re beginning to get some real recognition for the music you write?

Chris – If people turn up for the tour then I suppose we’ll be getting recognition! I don’t know – Oxford has always been really good to us – good Nightshift reviews, BBC Radio Oxford playing us, promoters putting us on good bills. I suppose we’ve picked up quite a few fans by now in the places we’ve been playing.

Being in a band myself I know how tough it can be to stay committed to writing and performing music, especially for quite a lengthy period. What keeps you guys together? Are there ever days where you just feel it’s not particularly worth it?

Chris – We had a bit of a shite practice yesterday actually. Someone mentioned the pub and that was that really. But this weekend we played a couple of gigs which went really well (and to decent crowds) and that’s when you feel the hard work is worth it. We’d gone for months without playing a gig and we were starting to get very itchy to get on stage again. We’ve played gigs that were such an effort and so badly run and promoted that in hindsight were probably not worth doing – but we’ve always have a laugh, even when we were playing to empty rooms.

‘Rows of Moving Cages’, ‘Siding with the Menaces’ and ‘Mountain Language’: just a few names of your songs. One thing I’ve always wondered concerning music that is primarily instrumental – how do you come up with these names?

Chris – Lots of different ways – often there’s a story behind a name. For instance, one night I got together with a mate for some mushrooms and a jam. We recorded it and when I listened back I got the main riffs for “You’re making me nervous; you’ve got to stop this” and the title – which is something my mate said to me when I was obviously freaking him out somehow. Another one would be one of our new tunes – we were drinking some foolishly strong Belgian beers with our Belgian mate and he basically said we were going to get so pissed we’d be “Swimming in the streets” which we thought was quite funny.

“We get on extremely well and playing music is the manner in which we socialize together, other than getting catastrophically pissed.”

Do you ever feel you’re missing out on anything without having a vocalist?

Chris – No. Next question…..

Will – …..

Fred – Of course, not having a vocalist does restrict us to a certain extent to what kind of audiences are likely to enjoy our music, but we know that the kind of tracks we write is what we’re best at, and so that’s what we should stick to. At the same time though, we’ve constantly been surprised in the past by the kind of people who have come to us at a gig and said they really enjoyed our set, people who never even heard of instrumental music before. I think the relative shortness of our songs gives us a commercial element and gives us a more general appeal. It can be frustrating though when promoters automatically overlook you for gigs and festivals simply because you don’t have a vocalist, but there are definitely signs that those times are changing.

You’ve played with some great bands in the past year, including Russian Circles and *Shels. What do you take from these experiences?

Chris – Mostly being grateful to see excellent bands for free. But we generally play with such good bands these days it’s always a pleasure – like seeing Kumiss was great the other night. And Witches and Frank Turner were especially good.

2008 is set to be an exciting year for the band, with new tours and the possibility of new recordings. Where would you like to see yourselves in a year’s time?

Chris – I’m extremely excited about the tour but also feel a sense of trepidation. We drink quite a lot as a band as it is, especially after gigs, and putting us in a van playing every night for 8 days is unlikely to be a very healthy situation. Presuming we survive we’ll be getting a new EP done, gigging lots over the summer, and then planning an autumn tour. Every year is better than the last for us so we’re just going to keep rolling on….

Any final words?

Onomatopoeia, Trapezium, Skull-duggery.

If you’re finding the whole post-rock label a bit tedious at the moment, or are looking to find something a bit fresh within the confines of the genre, then you can do no wrong listening to these guys. Their new self released EP is practically piracy at a mere £3, and is available from their Myspace.

Interview: Planet Brain

The three members of rock group Planet Brain remain some of the most enigmatic musicians I’ve met. My first encounter with the band, hailing all the way from Italy, was at a splendid show put on by Function Records at our Student Union in Farnham playing alongside Shield Your Eyes and Munroe Effect, a long way from home for Marcello, Nicola and Claudio.
I find it quite difficult to really state what intrigued me the most. Be it the etheral atmosphere of their music (which captured an entire audience who had probably never even heard of an Italian band) in complete awe, the sheer confidence of their performance in a completely foreign country, or the frankly terrifying facial grimaces made by drummer Claudio Larese Casanova (yep, that’s his real name) as he gave every last drop of sweat, and probably a bit of blood into his performance.
It was hard to leave after seeing that without thinking that these three Italians had found a pretty special sound, so I spoke to guitarist and singer Marcello Batelli to find out a little bit more about the band.

You recently made a little trip around the UK, playing 5 gigs in 7 days. How did you feel that went? How did it compare to playing shows around Italy, where people are more likely to have heard of you? How did you find the experience of playing on foreign soil to that of playing back at home? Would you come back?

It was amazing. We had such a great time. It’s always a good challenge
playing in front of people you don’t know, trying to get in touch with them. But doing that miles away from home, in a foreign country, was probably the best challenge we’ve ever had. Not only because in the UK there’s a different ‘culture’ and attention on rock and indie music, but also because there was a different excitement between us on stage that made every gig special. We hope to come back soon for a longer tour, maybe next year.

How are you finding the whole band experience? Is it a dream come true to be playing in other countries?

In a way, it is. We would love to play more around Europe.
We spent all the time in UK telling ourselves “unbelievable, we’re here”, all the weeks before the tour thinking “how would it be?”, and when we came back to Italy we were just saying “when will we be back?”…and then everything happened so fast that…yes, it could be something similar to a dream.

How did you feel British listeners took to your music, considering the popularity of ‘indie’ music here?

That was the most unbelievable part I think. We were really surprised that lots of people liked our shows and came after the sets to talk to us or buy the
album. They didn’t care if we were Italians, or if we play a different kind of music from the bands they expected to play that night. They also didn’t mind to classify us as ‘pop’, ’emo’ or ‘alternative’. What happened was: we came on stage practically unknown, played our songs that no-one knew, in a country that we don’t know, and got nice feedback from the people. That’s magic!

The group are hoping to return to the UK next year.

If you were forced to describe your music to someone who had never heard it before, how would you do so?

I’ve never been good at this. I used to start making comparisons, but it always leads to mistakes. Generally, I would say we are a three-piece band, guitar/voice,
bass, drums, and we play rock, but then, if I am asked to, I can add some details about the melodic side of our music, the psychedelic and 70s/90s stuff, the emotional and spontaneous compositive process, the improvisation and the feelings above all.

Those who have heard you have drawn comparisons to a little band called Radiohead. How does it make you feel to have such a comparison put upon you?

Too big, maybe, or just too quick and useless. Radiohead had deeply influenced the music of our last decade and many bands took inspiration from them, Planet Brain too. Comparisons are often taken in a negative way, as they seem to subtract the personality of an emerging band. But I don’t feel there is anything wrong with
them, even when we get compared to a bigger band we dislike. Once you are aware of your influences and you like what you do, you don’t have to care about comparisons. Anyway, to be compared to Radiohead is a honor.

Why did you make the decision to sing most of your vocals on the new album in English, as opposed to Italian?

Simple as it is, I always listened to English music, and it is more natural for me to hear English lyrics on a song than Italian ones.

One song title on your new release, Compromises and Carnivals, has me very intrigued: Gash Discipline. Could you explain where that name came from?

I think that Shane or Steve from Lebatol invented that title. When we supported them, during their short Italian tour in 2005, we played that song live
twice, but we still didn’t have a title. I remember they liked that song since our first soundcheck, and a few days later they came out with that “Gash Discipline” idea. I thought it was great, and so perfect for the mood of the rhythm and the vocals, that we decided to call it that.

Recording an album can be a long and arduous process. During the recording of Compromises and Carnivals what did you take inspiration and encouragment from?

It was, definitely! We recorded guitars and vocals in our own little studio, and it was longer and harder than recording in a professional studio. But the
atmosphere was more relaxed, and this helped us a lot. We’d been listening to many bands during the recordings, I remember we told the engineer we loved the drums sound of Porcupine Tree, but that was just to achieve the best sound we could. There wasn’t a single band we focused on or took inspiration from, actually. We tried to work on the album as a whole, to preserve the concept of an ‘album’ instead of the concept of a simple compilation of songs.

You may or may not have heard about it, but there is a lot of talk within the music world concerning the fall of recording companies and the traditional structure, what with massive artists now experimenting with free online downloads for example. How has your own relationship with Function Records been?

The market is flexible and has its own rises and falls. I was just reading an article a few days ago about “the long tail”. In a few words, within the global
market, major labels sell more but in a short time, by sudden ways or odd strategies. Indie labels sell and earn less, obviously, but constantly. They represent the “long tail” of the music market, what keeps it alive and flowing, not bumping. Our relationship with Function Records is a friendship, before a partnership, and it developed slowly in the past 2/3 years. I think that they ‘believe’ in what we do as Planet Brain, and that’s more important than anything else.

What are your plans as a group for the immediate future?

We are rehearsing and recording new songs a
t the moment. We would love to have some stuff out next year, maybe an EP, and to play live as much as we can.

What was your favourite album release of 2007? And are there any bands, perhaps from Italy, who you would encourage readers to check out for 2008?

Hard to answer! I would probably say ‘Frames’ by Oceansize for 2007. But I also loved ‘Heima’ by Sigur Ros, especially the film. And for 2008…I don’t know,
really. All the majors will be closed by that time, we will have 400 GigaByte iPods, just to listen to the first minute of each song! But I’m optimistic.

Thanks for taking the time out to talk Marcello. I wish you guys the best of luck and hope to see you back in the UK soon.

Cheers Mike! All the best Ciao!

I really recommend you purchase Planet Brain’s debut album ‘Comprimises and Carnivals’. It’s a fantastic sounding album, and one that shows a lot of promise for the group. You can get it from iTunes, Emusic, mTraks, Audio Lunchbox or direct via Function Records.

Opinion: Freedom? Yeah Right.

Up until last night I had never used iTunes to purchase a song. Having a Creative mp3 player I knew the songs purchased there would be useless to me, and at any rate nothing beats owning the proper, physical CD. Furthermore, I wouldn’t even consider using iTunes to organise/play my music. Put simply it’s terrible.

However, last night I was forced to break my iTunes store virginity in order to lend my support for Reuben’s Christmas cause (see this post for more info). Now I know why I abstained.

Things did not start out very well, and so began a torturous proceedure. Upon opening the program I was informed I had to update it. Fair enough I thought, until I realised that this meant visiting the Apple website, re-downloading iTunes, uninstalling the old iTunes and finally installing the new iTunes, which in turn led to popping up in my way to tell me to re-download the plugin for iTunes, which I wasn’t interested in.

Nevermind, I thought. Not every program can have a simple auto-update feature. I’ll let it pass I thought. So then I venture onwards, opening iTunes up in order to buy a single two minute song. Naturally, it doesn’t open. Despite repeated clickings, nothing happens except for the immediate and complete slowdown of every other program open (Firefox, Live! Messenger and Windows Media Player). Rendering the computer absolutely useless, and with Task Manager deciding it didn’t want to play ball and show up on command, I give in and restart the computer.

So, once Windows had sorted itself out, and I’m all ready to go again, I load up iTunes. This time it appears, but all it seems to want to give me is a white box with a blue frame around it. I know Apple likes their white decor, but I was under the impression that this wasn’t a feature.

After repeated openings something must have clicked, and iTunes finally revealed itself to me. Things went fairly straightforward from there and I managed to find Reuben without anything blowing up, or being insulted for my taste in music, which I suppose is a nice change from the mindless dirge of HMV hippies eyeing up every purchase you make.

Having brought the single, I was fairly impressed with the ease it downloaded (yet less impressed with how it took my money, but I don’t think I can really complain about that one). But then I hit the most frustrating snag of all. I was well aware my Creative Zen wouldn’t handle the iTunes torture, but I was not expecting the song to be rendered useless in Windows Media Player. I mean, yes yes, I know Microsoft hates Apple and so on, but what a kick in the tits for the consumer.

I’ve never really jumped on the whole DRM anger bandwagon. I don’t agree with it, but being a CD collecter I don’t consider it a major problem. I can understand that all those tracks sold on iTunes need to be protected in some way, and at the moment DRM is just a solution to that problem, albeit a controversial and problematic one. But I am angry at not being able to play it on a choice of media players. Copyright protection is one thing, but media player usage protection is another kettle of fish.

I wouldn’t mind if iTunes was a decent piece of media organisation kit. But having used quite a lot of players out there (including MediaMonkey and Songbird) I found it slow, unorganised, unreliable and quite frankly bloody terrible. It’s a shame that there is not much else anyone can do about such a problem except for (rightfully so) break the format lockdown and then rant about it, just like yours truly has done. In the meantime, if you share a similar opinion to me, or want to find an alternative to online downloads which will play in any media player, then have a look at eMusic or allTunes, both of which provide music which is playable anywhere, anytime.

Much better.

Opinion: Christmas Is Awesome…

Given that us British people manage to find a shit tradition for nearly every religious event (egg painting competitions for Easter, consuming illegal amounts of maple syrup on Shrove Tuesday) it seems unsurprising that the worst of them all comes at Christmas.

I am of course, referring to the tedious race for the cherished Christmas number 1 spot. Previous winners have included Neil Morrisey’s pitiful career choices, a load of patronising bastards asking if someone knows whether it’s Christmas or not, and Cliff Richard. Four times over. Christ, it is really quite depressing to be typing that.

But with all that X-Factor and Spice Girls rubbish, there are a few bands out there getting into the spirit of things and attempting to give the number one spot some nice meaty balls. One particular band who have got my support and encouragement this year are Reuben, with their appropriately titled single ‘Christmas is Awesome’. Having never been really impressed by the threesome who hail from Aldershot in the UK, my opinion was completely changed after hearing their third album ‘In Nothing We Trust’, an album that is certainly worth a listen if you’re looking for some passionate, fairly angry music, with a sprinkling of entertaining lyrics to sweeten the deal.

Do these hard working lads a favour and choose them over a sheep.

There’s little chance that the song will get anywhere near number one this year, what with tough competition from a sheep, but it’s always worth a try. The single is released on December 17th and is available through iTunes.

Opinion: Money.

What to begin with? Well, there’s always the popular topic of Radiohead, who after releasing In Rainbows to the world have been in the public eye more than the government, which I guess for them must be some small victory, but I think at this point the majority of people have grown fed up with the bombardement, so I’m going to avoid that metaphorical elephant.

Instead, I’m going to take a look at another musical giant, Pink Floyd, a band that have been in my ears for a very long time. Having a father who’s Pink Floyd collection consists of every studio album and every bootleg, every live show and released single, often multiple times over, there’s a certain inevitability that I have a great deal of respect for these now aging rockers (that and no decent christmas presents for years because the old man spends all his money on rare Japanese versions of the ‘Dark Side of the Moon’). However, having been disbanded so long, I can’t help but laugh when I found out yet another box is about to be released by publisher EMI. As if the overelaborate opulence of ‘Shine On’ wasn’t quite extravagant enough (or perhaps didn’t rake in enough money) or the re-release of the first album ‘Piper at the Gates of Dawn‘ to coincide with the much publicised death of original vocalist Syd Barret didn’t sell quite well enough, the cash cow is being raped once again for evey last penny out of its worn, tired udders. So, for around a mere £149.99 you too can be the owner of every Pink Floyd album. Probably again.

Oh, you also get an awesome couple of posters. That’s totally worth the money. They’re collectable!

It baffles me. It really does. Here we are, just about near the end of 2007, where the music industry is fighting a war against music piracy and rapidly declining record sales and here, the big wigs at EMI, such as Guy Hands (who was absolutely lambasted by Thom Yorke in this months interview with the Observer Music Monthly) have decided the best way to combat these problems is to re-release the same old shit, with a different packet for a quick buck.

Time will tell when the recording industries wake up and smell the ashes of a failing market tactic. Downloads are (unfortunately) getting more and more popular among casual music listeners and piracy will never be stopped. It’s been no secret that Radiohead’s recent experiment has proven that there is another way of thinking within the industry. Next year is sure to be the year we see massive changes in how the business works. I look forward to seeing it crumble.