Category Archives: Opinion

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

Opinion: Old Bands New Again

The Police. Rage Against The Machine. My Bloody Valentine. Stone Temple Pilots. Even the Spice Girls. It would seem that the last year has seen an influx of old bands deciding that retired life just doesn’t do it for them, and have decided to lean upon the crutch of their older legends and restart their careers. The vast amount of reunions that seem to be popping up all over the place is the subject of this article. Well, I say article – I mean rant.

I was gutted when RATM split up. Well, that’s not really true, but I certainly felt like I was missing out on something when I got into them soon after they’d called it a day and gone their seperate ways. But when I heard the news of Audioslave’s split, and the subsequent rumours that abounded on the internet concerning a possible reunion of the revolutionary quartet, I took to the hype with a sense of dissapointment, and certainly never grew as excited as I thought I would be.

Rage Against The Machine

RATM: Political protest sell outs.

I think the main problem here is the clear matter of money. The lyrics Zach de la Rocha wrote around ten years ago, about freedom and fighting the man all seem contradictory when you consider that RATM have just become another group who have given into the temptation a financially lucrative comeback tour can offer. Since the band came back to Coachella just over a year ago, they have been touring all over the place, and are now set to play a load of new festivals this year which are set to be a nice little money spinner.

But they aren’t the only ones doing it, and I think my biggest concern with this desire to see old bands reforms is that it asks the question – are we finding new music just can’t replace these bygone eras of music, or is new music just shit compared to what there used to be? Furthermore, are artists just now announcing their retirement tours as a money grabbing concept, then coming back in a blaze of glory a few years later to top up the coffers? I think the trouble is that peopel are more than willing to see these old legends come back in the vain hope that they will be able to experience what they may have initially missed out on.

Money

It’s sad to have to say this, but realistically this stuff is what makes the world go round.

But for me, seeing bands such as RATM reform almost turns me off them completely. I went from being so excited just by listening to their live album, to finding the music now has lost a lot of its passion now that I’m really aware of the money grabbing nature of the men in the band, which I think is a great tragedy for any band or music venture. The big question to the artists is this – are you willing to sell out your ideals for a quick buck? Unfortunately, you can bet your house that most will say yes.

Opinion – Nine Inch Nails: Whores or Scores?

I’ve always kind of struggled to see what’s so incredible about Nine Inch Nails. I mean, I don’t find Trent Reznor‘s music painful to listen to, but I’ve never really seen what so many people seem to find in it. And then when I do like something he comes out with, like the relatively anthem heavy ‘With Teeth‘ in 2005, it would seem that what I like is his poorest work to date.

But recently I’ve been giving the band a lot more of my time, encouraged by Reznor‘s selfless devotion to pleasing his fans and testing the mettle of the music industry since NIN and Interscope reached the end of their contractual obligations. He did it again this week, releasing another new album, The Slip’, out of nowhere completely free. It’s a brilliantly brave idea and one that at the moment I am struggling to get my head around.

The Slip Album Art

The free download of The Slip comes with a .pdf with album artwork.

Despite Radiohead’s internet release that even today still has people shouting a slew of compliments about them, it really has been Reznor who has taken the fight to the labels and is really pushing the boundaries to see just what happens when you go full out on experiements like these. A little earlier this year Reznor released Ghosts’ as both a free download (for only the first nine tracks) and offered alternate versions which involved payment, but saw you getting in excess of forty tracks of music.

Now, I think it’s bloody brilliant that someone like Reznor is doing something as groundbreaking as this. But I do have just one problem with it all, and that’s the question of whether what he is releasing is actually worth anything. To the die hard NIN fan, anything Reznor touches (including the Trent produced Saul Williams album, Niggy Tardust) is gold in their eyes, but to the average music fan is he proving that such proliference is beneficial or just a matter of throwing out half baked ideas that dilute the overall quality of an artist’s discography.

Nine Inch Nails in the studio recording The Slip

Reznor is a master of the internet, using it to entice and tease his fans. He also understands the usefullness of distribution methods such as .torrents.

It’s really an issue that has me in two minds. Personally I’ve found the new stuff Reznor has put out to be quite enjoyable so far, despite the sparseness of the ‘Ghosts’ soundscapes album. But I’m left wondering if all this is set to be as groundbreaking as Reznor believes it should be, or if people are just going to begin ignoring his output due to it’s consistency and risk of similarity.

I think at the moment, Reznor is just reaching the peak of the idea. The novelty is still there, and people are still intrigued to hear what he has on offer. Whether he is set to prove that this method of releasing albums is a viable way for the future is yet to be seen, but as it stands at the moment I hope that the experiment continues, and Reznore shows the record companies whom he despises so much where to shove it.

Opinion – Musicians and Politicians

The worlds of musicians and politicians are ones that should be kept entirely separate, and yet it would seem that both parties have a fascination for each other. Politicians, the people who hold true power and yet are usually cursed or hated by the people they control and musicians, the people who more often than not use their position as a popular figure in society to shout off about how they would improve the world if they were in charge. It would seem the two different spectrum’s are obsessed about swapping sides.

This editorial comes just after Roger Waters‘ (ex-Pink Floyd, current money grabbing bastard) headline slot at the Coachella music festival, where during his performance thousands of leaflets supporting American presidential candidate Barack Obama were dropped upon the crowd in an effort to rally support for the politician.

I’ve never quite understood this – why would a musician want to actively support and campaign on behalf of a politician who, for the most part, stands against the morals that said artist has imbued into all of his or her work? In Animals‘, Pink Floyd‘s 1977 follow up to Wish You Were Here‘, Waters‘ lyrics likened the ruthless leaders of the world to pigs – greedy, selfish and with no mercy. However, now Waters‘ uses the iconic floating pig as a mere tool in the propaganda war for a man who, for all his charisma and charm, is likely to inherit a country that is to blame for many of the greatest tragedies we’ve seen.

The iconic pig flying over crowds at Coachella

The underside of the pig was adorned with pro-Obama imagery – using a classic British icon as another tool in the monotonous campaign trail of US presidential candidates.

As a musical artist, you have a certain amount of influence and power that no politician could ever hope to achieve. People listen to your words, people shape their lives around your music and your morals, and people, just like the sheep in Animals, need someone to look up to and follow. So why you would abuse this position of influence to promote a political race that already burns up money and resources that would be better spent on other, more important, things?

The only justification I can put forward for such unashamed free advertising is the senseless belief that offering your support to such a cause is either a pitiful attempt at encouraging others to improve the world via another man, or more likely the inevitable shock tactics of a musician who has for years struggled to gain anyone’s popularity or respect for his past actions.

There are other examples, such as the bandwagon jumping of the last presidential race that saw the likes of R.E.M and Pearl Jam leap at the chance to support John Kerry in his bid to beat Bush, but this recent example just seems a step too far, with Waters‘ selling out what little integrity he had left after the disastrous split of Pink Floyd to get in another American man’s good books. Just like the dogs in ‘Animals’, the cutthroat businessmen, Waters‘ has sold his soul to America.

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 last.fm 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.