Category Archives: Opinion

Where I get a chance to spout off about how I feel on subjects.

Opinion: Elbow in my Ears.

A little while ago I wrote a review for Elbow‘s third album, The Seldom Seen Kid. I doubt anyone read it, and at the time of publishing noone really gave a shit about who Elbow were. Perhaps the album should have been called The Seldom Seen Band. But, the moment the band won the Mercury Music Prize (and fair play to them, the album was perhaps the worthiest amongst the other shite nominations) the band have become The Only Band That You Should Play Or Use In Your TV Programmes Or Adverts. Continue reading Opinion: Elbow in my Ears.

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Opinion – 4 out of 5 Ain’t Bad…

I woke up this morning with a fuzzy head and a neck that felt like a metal pole had been inserted into it, all thanks to Bossk‘s last show at the Underworld last night. But nevermind that for now, my article today deals with The Observer’s music magazine, the imaginatively titled Observer Music Monthly. For those not from these shores, it’s essentially a monthly supplement that tries it’s hardest to nail what is ‘cool’ and ‘happening’ in its month of publish. Usually it gets it completely and utterly wrong, and most of the writing is so anaemic that it almost feels as if it’s being written by the Neutrals of the Futurama universe. Continue reading Opinion – 4 out of 5 Ain’t Bad…

Opinion: How Good Is the Internet for Music? [Part 3]

Given the vast expanse of time I now have being on my summer holidays from university, I’ve found myself spending more time than usual in front of a computer screen, and I started to wonder as I browsed the web and listened to album upon album – is the Internet revolution a good or bad thing for the music industry? In the next few Opinion articles I want to talk about the Internet’s effect on the music world, and try to come to some sort of conclusion as to whether we should welcome the change with open arms or if I’m being a cynical bastard. I’d really welcome any opinions readers might have on the whole thing, so leave a comment.

Continue reading Opinion: How Good Is the Internet for Music? [Part 3]

Opinion: Jay-Z at Glasto.

“You guys aren’t into hip hop. I got one question – where’s the love?”

Jay-Z, before ‘Heart of the City


Ok, so as I start this article I’m currently watching Jay-Z answer all his critics on the Pyramid stage at Glastonbury 2008. Sticking his middle finger up to Noel Gallagher by opening with the iconoclastic Wonderwall, throwing AC/DC riffs into his set, and a dose of the likes of Prodigy for good effect.

The idea of live hip-hop is one that I don’t really understand the appeal in. A single man doing karaoke to a mix tape? I do that enough in my bedroom thanks. But having settled down to watch Jay-Z headline the Pyramid stage I was bewildered by the combination of rapper, live band and CD mix.

They said it couldn’t be done. Glastonbury belongs to guitars and rock, none of this hip hop stuff they said. Maybe they were scared? A black man taking the main stage at the most prestigious music festival the UK has to offer the world is a bold statement, like it or not. I wouldn’t put it past the mainstream press to hold their reservations not only down to the music, but to the colour of a man’s skin.

But with all this pressure mounting on his back, Jay-Z has come blasting out of the stage and has, for the most part, put on an amazing show. It just goes to prove that despite the ‘haters’, hip hop can be just as fascinatingly exciting a live show to watch as Radiohead. At the start of his set the predominantly white, probably middle class crowd cheered Oasis‘ name as Jay-Z ripped into Wonderwall. But it was Jay-Z’s name being chanted at the end of his enthusiastic and high octane set, certainly a damn more exciting sight to behold than Coldplay.

I’m going to leave it at that – I think bringing hip-hop to Glastonbury was a great idea, and Jay-Z was just the right ambassador for the genre in it’s moment in the spotlight. Articulate, confident and most importantly, incredibly talented, his show should silence any critics. Except for Zane Lowe, who is impossible to shut up. One day Lowe, one day…

Opinion: How Good is the Internet for Music? [Part 2]

Given the vast expanse of time I now have being on my summer holidays from university, I’ve found myself spending more time than usual in front of a computer screen, and I started to wonder as I browsed the web and listened to album upon album – is the Internet revolution a good or bad thing for the music industry? In the next few Opinion articles I want to talk about the Internet’s effect on the music world, and try to come to some sort of conclusion as to whether we should welcome the change with open arms or if I’m being a cynical bastard. I’d really welcome any opinions readers might have on the whole thing, so leave a comment.

One of the biggest changes that the Internet has effectively brought about is a new era of relationship between the artist and the fan. It is now a necessity to have a band Myspace account, where fans can congregate and often leave many well wishing messages. But these days even that is beginning to look like it isn’t enough. Gone are the days where a permanent divide exists between the band and the listener. We are now facing an age where the band need the fan to survive even more, and not just to buy the music and attend the gigs.

One such example of musicians refreshed attitude to their listeners came in 2007, when Mudvayne announced they wanted their fans to compile a new album, picking out the songs, and determining whether they would be live versions, or old demos. It was certainly a fresh idea, given the majority of record labels reliance on the staid release of B-side best of’s that usually comes after a band’s explosion in popularity, in the search of a cheap buck (I’m looking at you, EMI). The album was appropriately titled ‘By the People, For the People’ and sold pretty well, which came as a surprise given how awful their previous release ‘Lost and Found’ was.

Mudvayne

The great thing with this idea is that it inevitably creates a much happier fanbase. Imagine being given the power to have your input in your favourite band’s next release. What if Rage Against the Machine were to announce a similar idea, just think of all the great stuff you could fight to get in that release. Or if U2 jumped on the bandwagon – with U2 fans in charge, it’s possible you could create the worst album known to man.

But joking aside, if an artist wanted to put together a true best of, what better people to ask than the people who probably know the musician’s discography better than themselves? What could possibly go wrong with that? Well, there are a few issues with this idea. For a start anyone who takes a passing glance at a band’s forum will immediately know that it is impossible to satisfy everyone, especially on the Internet where there is always one wanker who wants to go against everyone and disagree. Furthermore, Mudvayne are a band on the wane, struggling to find any relevance to today’s audiences who have moved far away from the tainted genre that is nu-metal. Such a stunt acts as a great cover up for a lack of ideas, whilst still appeasing those who still consider themselves fans, an easy to exploit market.

One other example, and perhaps one of the greatest perpetrators of the side by side evolution of music and Internet is Trent Reznor, of Nine Inch Nails. Not only did he embark on a massive viral campaign for 2007’s ‘Year Zero’, creating a storyline throughout the web and hiding memory sticks in toilets, he also invited listener’s to remix songs from the album, giving them complete access to all the individual tracks, essentially meaning anyone could create a whole new song out of the files. Not only did this provide some fantastic free advertising, but passionate fans embroiled themselves into the murky, futuristic dystopia of Year Zero, further elevating Reznor’s status as an Internet innovator.

But once again, some doubts begin to come into my mind as to the strength of such an idea. It demands a great deal of effort and knowledge from fans to put together a half decent remix (although to counter this, Nine Inch Nails does have some extremely passionate fans) but most importantly it once again makes me question the motives behind a concept. Is Reznor doing it for fun? Or is he also struggling to stay relevant in today’s music world, relying upon his fans to create new ideas out of his old ones.

At the moment, fan participation remains fairly one way. We go to the gigs, we buy the albums, essentially we show our appreciation by keeping them alive financially. But I think there is a possibility that as the music industry struggles to reinvent itself, these ideas will become more mainstream and could change destroy artist/listener separation forever. But do we really want to be in cahoots with the musicians? Isn’t it there job to entertain us? These questions can only be answered by the mainstream, whose participation will determine the overall success of these bold ideas.

Opinion: How Good Is the Internet for Music? [Part 1]

Given the vast expanse of time I now have being on my summer holidays from university, I’ve found myself spending more time than usual in front of a computer screen, and I started to wonder as I browsed the web and listened to album upon album – is the internet revolution a good or bad thing for the music industry? In the next few Opinion articles I want to talk about the internet’s effect on the music world, and try to come to some sort of conclusion as to whether we should welcome the change with open arms or if I’m being a cynical bastard. So the next few Opinion articles are going to be exploring this issue in a lot more detail, and I’d really welcome any opinions reader’s might have on the whole thing, so leave a comment.

Music is not averse to changing its shape, as seen years ago when shiny, alien CD’s pissed all over crackly, worn cassettes, and right now we are in the transitional period of a whole new era of music production and distribution, and whilst on one hand it is genuinely exciting to see new boundaries broken, like your first awkward but somewhat enjoyable sexual shenanigans, there is an unmistakable air of anticipation and doubt as to where things are going to go next.

Things used to be so simple...

There was a time when all the music chiefs had to worry about was someone recording the Top 40.

With websites such as Myspace and now Facebook, there is a newfound outlet for otherwise unheard of artists to shout and scream about the music they are crafting. One popular example is of course Arctic Monkeys, who went from zeroes to heroes in the space of a heartbeat and haven’t looked back since, all thanks to their Myspace page. However, the reality behind the likes of Myspace is a sobering thought for any aspiring rock stars. How do you stand out when there are thousands of other bands vying for prospective listeners and (I suspect most importantly for the bands) record labels? Suddenly this golden opportunity has turned sour, with most bands participating in the art of ‘whoring’ in order to just gain a shred of attention, sacrificing any self respect.

How does one know if any of this effort pays off? Often when writing a review an artist’s Myspace page is my first port of call, as it provides a great deal of information about the band. Often I find myself scrolling down to the band’s comments, left by people who consider themselves ‘friends’ of the band and usually what I find is a plethora of advertisements for other bands, gig nights and promoters. Other people, struggling to keep their head above water in the cess pool of music who use other people’s pages to scream for attention. Ultimately it begs the question: where are the fans?

One other major problem this whole Web 2.0 business brings up is the issue of quality control. Let’s face it: a lot of what is out on the internet is either a carbon copy of the radio’s most popular band at the moment or music that is so devoid of any talent or insight that even the wordiest of music journalists would struggle to define it as anything other than shit. I don’t for one second advocate the idea that we should all listen to what we are told to listen to by the press and I think it’s important to retain that sense of individuality that music offers us, but at the same time I can’t help but feel it is wrong to offer frankly terrible bands an opportunity to throw their hearts into something they’re honestly no good at. On the other hand however, some might argue that there will always be someone out there who enjoys it, and personal opinion is just something that cannot be accounted for.

There is a danger with these websites that music could sort of swallow itself up, in an impenetrable wall of similar sounding bands with poor recordings and lousy ideas that begin to see the creative aspect of making music stagnate. Furthermore, I believe people are too keen to overestimate the importance of the likes of Myspace in giving a band an opportunity. In fact if anything I would be willing to say that it makes standing out among the crowd a whole lot harder than before, and you’d have to be something really special. But perhaps in that instance that is the internet’s greatest prospect – if you are really that good, then the opportunity is there.

Opinion: Video Killed the Hip Hop Star

I’m going to go off on a bit of a tangent with this article, mainly because it’s a non-issue that has bugged me for some time. I personally haave never really considered music videos important to the music industry, and I’m beginning to believe that the industry itself is beginning to share this opinion, with the likes of mainstream channels such as MTV devoting most of their airtime to reality shows that go a long way to suggest the lack of brains evident in Americans.

But I’m not going to talk about music videos generally today, instead I’ve got a bone to pick with the trend for rap and hip-hop artists who merely use the video as a vehicle to give the impression that they are irresistable to women, loaded with money and proper ‘ard. I’m talking harder than Grant Mitchell from Eastenders, who to this day still remains one of the hardest men ever born, much harder than that celebrity sell out Chuck Norris.

I kind of touched on this a little bit earlier in my Five of the Best feature when I confessed my hate for Fiddy Cents. Two offer my two cents (haha) I think the man is an inbred idiot devoid of any talent or humilty, and what angers me even more are the mindless tools who accept what spouts out of his mouth as music. But before I get carried away and make this an assaination on Mr Cent’s persona, let me reluctantly drag things back to the point – when did music videos just become an excuse for artists to strut around women juggling their oversized breasts and wobbling their full moon arses? Do musicians just need the video as some form of self affirment of their status?

I think to be fair I’m coming at this from the wrong angle. I’m a bit of a critic when it comes to pop/R’n’B/rap/hip hop music, as I don’t really see it as a valid type of music compared to stuff that actually raises questions, or even answers them. I’ve never been able to think about that kind of music in the same way I would spend hours analysing and delving myself into say, a Pink Floyd song or even a Tool one if I’m feeling particularly bullshitty. The idea of a man talking fast about his ho’s and his bling just doesn’t do anything for me, and it’s such a tired idea that has been repeated ad nauseum.

Jurassic 5

Concrete streets: Jurassic 5 remained down to earth and damn good to boot.

The thing is, I know that there is good hip hop and rap stuff out there. One of my favourite summer bands is Jurassic 5, who kept an irrepressable funk about them, whilst dealing with subject matter that didn’t revolve around how many women had licked their lollipops. I can even go some way to appreciating Eminem for his sickly sinister storytelling and the fact that he’s one of the few white guys out there who can show the predominantly black rap community that whitey’s can do it just as good.

Anyway, the point is that all this arse jiggling and bling business needs to stop, and if The Game or Fiddy don’t start considering issues and problems other than their dicks and guns then rap is likely to remain in a turgid bowl of mediocrity and poo. Is it any wonder the kids that listen to this stuff turn out the way they do?