Record Store Day Rebellion!

I would always class myself as a record collector. I got my first 7” single aged 3, and grew up with vinyl. And while the ages of cassette, CD and MP3 have seen me adopt the new formats, I’ve always stuck with vinyl alongside them, for all the reasons any diehard vinyl fan will tell you they prefer vinyl. And I do prefer vinyl. But this year, for the first time in a long time, I passed on Record Store Day.

RSD has become quite divisive in recent years, with many complaining about the way greedy so-and-sos who don’t care about the music will buy up everything they can get their hands on and cash in by flogging it on eBay at insanely inflated prices. And people will pay the prices because they don’t want to miss out. It’s what collectors do.

And yes, I’ve done it myself, and been on both sides of the transaction: I’ve paid overinflated prices for releases out of desperation, and I’ve also bought items knowing they’ll be worth a packet in no time because the supply is nowhere near correspondent to the demand. Limited editions will always have that special appeal to collectors.

But people do have a choice, and this year, I opted to exercise my choice not to go and buy a stack of vinyl, despite very much wanting to.

It isn’t so much that RSD has been hijacked by greedy capitalists, and I’m not even entirely averse to queueing for stuff if I really want it. But I feel that RSD has lost some of its appeal, and moreover, sight of what it was all about in the first place.

As I understand it, RSD was about celebrating independent record stores. Sellers of vinyl. And s such, it was also a celebration of vinyl, the format, and what the format offers as a holistic musical experience. The medium is the message, in a way.

Most people queueing outside stores on RSD probably don’t frequent record stores on any other days of the year. Personally, I’d much rather celebrate record stores all year round, by dropping in and picking stuff up when the mood takes and finances allow. And for me, the record store experience is about the browsing, the mulling, and the milling. Charging in to buy stuff with a shopping list in hand and jostling for an item before it’s snatched from under your nose is not an enjoyable or even remotely pleasant shopping experience. Being pressured to grab goods – especially when you know the items have their pieces fixed high but not to the benefit of the retailer – really kills the buzz.

 

RSD queue

People in Leeds ‘Crash’ the RSD scene in 2014

But this year, above all, the releases themselves simply haven’t inspired me. It’s a perfectly personal thing, of course, and I expect that my working as a reviewer has only further jaundiced my outlook. The more bands I’m introduced to, and like, the less possible it is to obsess about owning every release by every band on every format. In my teens and early 20s, I would purchase single releases on 7”, 12”, Cassette, CD and whatever numbered / coloured / poster sleeve limited editions were going. Now… I’d rather buy five releases by five different artists, rather than the same release by one artist five times. In short, I’m still a collector, but not a completist.

And while I’m by no means averse to going out and paying for a physical copy of an album I’ve been given in digital format ahead of release to review, can I really justify doing so in the name of Record Store Day? Again, the frenzy that RSD has become pressures the decision to be made on the spot or even in advance.

This year’s list of releases features a bewildering number of reissues. I have no problem with reissues per se, but I’m not about to purchase yet another copy of something I already have on original black vinyl and CD with bonus tracks just because it’s on red vinyl, or a picture disc. I just can’t get excited about queueing up for ages to fork out £20 for an album I already have, and if I don’t already own it, chances are I could pick up a second hand copy of the original for the same price or less.

The same applies tenfold for singles lifted from albums that have been out for donkey’s years. And similarly, can I really justify parting with £6 for a limited 7” of a track I already have on album because it has an exclusive B-side? At any other time, a band could release a single in a run of, say, 500, and it would still be available a month later. Of course, it’s great for labels to be able to put something about and recoup their costs much more quickly, but it seems absurd that because a record is released on a certain say, it’s going to sell out before lunchtime.

Clearly, I can’t stop the madness, and RSD still does a great job of raising awareness of record stores and vinyl, and I still applaud that. But it’s because I so love vinyl and the whole record store experience that I jumped the RSD ship this year. I’ve still got another 364 days of the year to show my appreciation and support record stores by buying from them in more sane and sedate circumstances.

 

 

 

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Christopher Nosnibor’s Guide to Being a Music Reviewer – Part Five: Bollocks to the Brits!

As mentioned in the last installation of this occasional series, it’s often the case that music fans have unreasonable expectations, they seem to think if you haven’t heard of their favourite band, or don’t know not only every track of their favourite new release intimately and by title, then you clearly don’t possess the breadth of knowledge required to be a music reviewer worthy of respect.

Conversely, if you’re not completely ‘down with the kids’, then the same accusations are also levelled in your direction.

In short, you can’t win.

During the course of a single day, I’ve been quizzed – by which I mean grilled and challenged – over my lack of knowledge of various top 10 chart acts and Brit nominees, and been subject to complaints that my reviews are all of bands that people have never heard of.

Now, while I do try to expose myself to as much music of all strains as possible (to be clear, that’s an exposure to music, rather than me simply exposing myself) there are only so many hours in the day and like any other music reviewer, I only have one pair of ears.

This means that I do know who Sam Smith, Ed Sheeran and Paloma Faith are. I also know they hold no appeal to me, and don’t interest me. They represent the face of the mass market, the apogee of mediocrity. Aural chewing gum with haircuts. Stylised, mass-market emptiness. They have to have strong images to compensate the lack of substance to their music. Fuck ‘em. There are plenty of other reviewers out there to cover them. I consider it my job to provide exposure to the many interesting acts who don’t have major-label backing, who won’t get played on R1 and won’t be in line for Brit awards.

“I thought you were into music,” is the moan I hear most frequently.

I am, and that’s precisely why I do what I do. But we all need our niche. I don’t write for NME or Kerrang!, Q or Mojo, I’m not on the playlist panel for R1 and I’m not in the A&R department of Sony or Warner’s.

I’ll see who won what at the Brits on one of the news websites tomorrow. Or the next day. Really, it won’t change my world. For tonight, I’m busy sifting through the 40 or so independent releases of wildly variable quality I’ve received in the past few days. It ain’t glitzy or glamorous, but it means something.

 

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These smug crets are, allegedly, the face of music that matters in 2015, along with Paloma Faith and her big gums, and Madonna and her granny guns. Don’t believe the hype.

 

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10 Obscure Musical (Cross)-Genres You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

Musical development is all about incorporating different and disparate elements of existing styles to create new sounds. However, the music press and fans alike have contributed to a world of music that is marked by increasing fragmentation and specialism, with some hybrid crossovers being so obscure that only the three bands who play that style of music have ever heard of it.

Musical factions are like tribes, and while the stylistic differences may seem minimal or even non-existent to the untrained ear of an ‘outsider,’ they’re pivotal to adherents of certain musical forms. East coast / West coast rap and the fighting between death metal and black metal factions in Norway and Sweden are but two high-profile examples that have been reported in the media.

Not all genre divisions cause such acrimony between fans, but being able to distinguish between types of music can be extremely useful, especially if you find yourself in the pub in the middle of a debate over various bands; some genres – and their fans – are simply incompatible. Others probably should be, but through the years, stranger and stranger hybrids have evolved. They might sound weird, but the more micro genres become, the more obsessive about the minutest of details the fans become.

You think you know your Crusties from your Grebos, your Goths from your Emos? Can you tell, just by listening to the introduction, the difference between Industrial Metal and Grindcore? As a music fan and music journalist, these things are of interest to me, so here’s an introduction to ten of the most obscure and specialist sub-genres around.

Grunk is a hybrid of grunge and punk. While Grunge trailblazers the likes of Nirvana and Hole were explicit in their citation of punk influences, many other Grunge bands who hit the big-time in the 90s, such as Smashing Pumpkins and Pearl Jam were less punk in terms of inspiration and sound (and, indeed image: while Courtney Love and the members of L7 may have looked like Nancy Spungen wannabes, the same could not be said for Pumpkins bassist D’arcy, for example). However, the punk aspect of the grunge sound is rendered more explicit by mohawk-sporting grunge-lite acts like Humankind, who include punk / oi! style D-beats in their song’s choruses.

Gunk – Not to be confused with Grunk, is Goth-Punk. Whereas many of the bands that became synonymous with goth were, in fact, post-punk or New Wave bands with darker leanings (Bauhaus, The Sisters of Mercy), others drew more direct influence from punk, the likes of Siouxsie and the Banshees. Subsequently, there were bands like Sex Gang Children and UK Decay who were very much punk-inspired, but drew on elements of gothic imagery or even B-movie horror. It was only a matter of time before the slide into parody was inevitable.

Sadecore – A form of industrial metal influenced by hardcore and punk, the exponents of which are obsessed with sexual perversion, hardcore S&M and the writings of the Marquis de Sade. Bands tend to reflect these dark themes not only in their deviance-fixated lyrics, but on their album covers and in their appearance, often wearing leather, latex and even full gimp outfits on stage. Exponents of Sadecore include The Flagellators, Justine, Sodom and Raping a Foetus With a Poker, best known for their controversial album ‘Sacrificing an Aborted Infant to the God of Ejaculate while Embuggering the Corpse of a Goat and Slowly Sucking a Hot Fresh Stool.’

 

Corpse

Eat shit and die, motherfuckers. You don’t screw with a sadecore fan in corpse paint.

Skunk – A compound of skate and punk. Pioneered by the likes of Big Boys and JFA, Skunk – also known as Skate punk, Skatecore and Skate Rock – was popularised in the 90s by guttermouth, NOFX, Pennywise and The offspring. See also Blackened Skunk and Blackened Skate, which introduce Black Metal to Skunk and Skate respectively. These forms evolved some time after Blackened Death Metal and Blackened Crust, a hybrid of Black Metal and Crust Punk, as exemplified by Antimelodix and Order of the Vulture. The Beach Bastards from Hell attempted to forge a new genre in the form of Blackened Surf, combining satanic messages and blastbeats with guitars heavy with reverb and a Dick Dale-style twang. They split up after attempting to shoot their first promotional video, which resulted in their corpse paint makeup washing off in the breakers.

Slow-slow-quick-quick-slow-core – While Slowcore bands like Codeine and Red House Painters were inspired to create a sound that was the antithesis of grunge and hardcore, playing slow, downbeat songs with clean-sounding or even acoustic guitars, Slow-slow-quick-quick-slow-core bands like In Paris and Naked introduce Latin dance rhythms to the mix. Muscho Gusto’s single, ‘amoeba!'(2000), which featured a tango rhythm is widely considered to be the first example of Slow-slow-quick-quick-slow-core.

Lamecore – A particular thread of popular mainstream rap. Unlike hardcore rap, Lamecore is not remotely agrressive and has no social or political agenda. Lamecore rap takes the smooth production values of contemporary soul and r’n’b, and often incorporates female backing vocals and downbeat tempos to create a ‘seductive’ atmosphere. Lamecore rappers are generally smooth, stylish and sensitive, and the music is all about bling and chicks and makin’ love and whatnot, usually delivered in smooth tones (for the laydeez) and is ultimately lame – to the core. Examples of Lamecore rap can be found on Radio 1 and most mainstream radio stations 24 hours a day.

Screaming Edge
– Perhaps not as bizarre as it may sound. The Screamo genre was born out of US hardcore and post-hardcore punk (which was, and remains poles apart from UK punk) as exemplified by DC bands like Fugazi, Black Flag, Husker Du, Minutemen, by changing the flat shouting vocal style to one whereby the lyrics are screamed. Fugazi, in their eschewing of drink and drugs and casual sex, pioneered the Straight Edge lifestyle. Screaming Edge bands like EatFuckShitWorkandDie! and NDRGZ are Screamo bands who adhere to the Straight Edge principles of clean living. Simples!

Symphonic Doom
– The trappings of Doom Metal – i.e. growled, gnarly, gravely vocals and super-heavy power chords played at around twelve BPM – collide with the bombastic orchestration of symphonic metal to create this curious stylistic amalgamation. Unlike self-labelled Funeral Doom bands like the puntastic Depressed Mode, who produce weeping synth-laden gothic electrionica with guttural vocals, true Symphonic Doom bands like The Brightest Death, Bach Watching the Apocalypse and Tectonic Symphonic combine the weight of late Celtic Frost with the epic orchestration and horror vocals of Cradle of Filth to forge a truly unique sound.

Anal Crust – Crust Punk bands who demonstrate a scatological obsession within their songs’ lyrical content. Anal Crust was pioneered by The Shit Monkeys on their 1992 mini-album ‘Shit the Bed and Bugger me Raw.’ Although comedic in intent, the anarcho-punk messages of the songs – while referencing faecal matter with conspicuous frequency – set the blueprint for a number of successors, like Lords of Excrement, The Enema Animals and Coprophage, who later developed their sound in a more Sadecore direction. Anal Crust is not to be confused with Arsequake bands (or, indeed, the band Arsequake), famed for using sub-bass frequencies that would cause members of the audience to spontaneously and involuntarily defecate.

LARPcore – Derived from Viking metal, LARPcore bands don’t celebrate mythology, but are extremely particular about the historical accuracy of the lyrical content of their songs. Their stage costumes are also produced with a close eye on historical authenticity. A 2008 tour featuring Grendel’s Modor, Mons Badonicus and Scyld Scefing saw the three bands refusing to play their regular sets, and instead perform, on stage, real-time re-enactments of the Battle of Wippedesfleot (466AD).

LARPCORE

A LARPcore compilation album

 

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Christopher Nosnibor’s Guide to Being a Music Reviewer – Part Four

Knowledge is power, or so it’s said. In the music industry, there’s a sort of consensus that it’s now what you know but who you know, and while knowing the right people for bagging the best gigs and high profile interviews can help, gaining the respect of readers is more about what you know. People who read reviews – and a lot of music fans dismiss reviews as pointless, and consider reviewers to be pond-life – expect reviewers to be knowledgeable about music. It’s not such an unreasonable expectation.

After all, you’d expect anyone in any other profession to be suitably qualified and / or experienced. Granted, music reviewing isn’t on a par with being a medic or lab technician, but if someone’s job – paid or otherwise – is to impart critical judgement, you want to believe they have a background that means they understand context. While there are plenty of bozos down the pub spouting shit about football who haven’t got the first clue, anyone who writes a sports column or appears on TV or radio as a pundit has to have more than a pretty face or good speaking voice.

Of course, what ‘qualifies’ someone to be a music critic is pretty vague, but ultimately it’s about the hours put in listening to music and learning about bands and styles – including the ones you have no interest in, including the ones you hate. I make no bones that I’m no fan of The Beatles, but have a rudimentary knowledge of their career path, and know what they sound like and so on.

If anything, I think my own personal knowledge is more extensive than most. I’m a cultural sponge, and still keep half an ear to the chart shit that flops out of the R1 playlist and another on the half-arsed emo cack Kerrang! pass off as rock so much of the time. Because I’m curious. Because I consider it my duty to stay informed. I can’t criticise something I’ve never heard. Which means I’ve tortured myself with Katy Perry and Miley fucking Cyrus in the name of music journalism.

But people have unreasonable expectations. They expect you, as a music writer, to have heard every album, ever. And to remember every song, by title. And in sequence, on every album. They’ll whinge that their favourite album of the year isn’t on your list. It might be great, but you haven’t heard it. The fact you’ve listened to and reviewed over 500 albums in the last 12 months counts for nothing if you haven’t heard and raved about X, Y or Z, which 6 Music and the NME loved. Meanwhile, people in the office who love generic mass-market indie bands and who think The Cribs are off the beaten track and worship Paul Weller, and scenesters who go out to be seen at all the local shows while they talk through every act will be amazed you haven’t heard of their favourite new local band who have only played three shows but are amazing and are already getting quite a buzz around them. That, or the fact Tom Robinson played them and I haven’t a clue who they are… They were on the front of the NME! Kerrang! Featured them last week! They played the local pub last month…. The fact I don’t know who they are, and certainly don’t know their every song makes me the most pointless asinine excuse for a music journalist on the planet. I don’t deserve all these CD and downloads or free gig passes. I should just give up and get back to watching Never Mind the Buzzcocks right now.

 

Indie

Some generic indie kids, yesterday. Your opinion as a music reviewer isn’t worth shit if you’ve not heard – and raved about – their friend’s self-released cassette, limited to six copies.

20 Albums of 2014

Getting to listen to and review and insane number of new releases is something of a double-edged sword. Time was when I’d have to go out and buy music if I wanted to hear it and I’d play it to death, and then play it some more. Now I’m exposed to more music than I can even begin to assimilate. Thankfully, I get the majority of albums I want to hear sent to me in the name of work, and better still, I discover incredible bands I would have never otherwise encountered. It does mean that I forget a lot of what I’ve heard, even when it’s really good.

So, what this list represents more than anything is the albums that stuck. That I played on throughout the year, and that I’ll be playing into 2015 and probably beyond. It could have been much longer, because despite what you’ve probably read each year for the last decade about the decline of music, there’s still an awful lot of fantastic and extremely exciting, moving music being released. You just need to know where to look, and won’t hear it in the charts or on mainstream radio.

Having penned some 450 reviews this year, I’ve kept the list down to 20 releases because any more would be daft. They’re not in rank order, but a vaguely chronological order of release, and yes, it’s entirely subjective. It’s my list . I make no apologies for it, for any bias towards Leeds bands or guitar-based music, and I’m not going to bicker over inclusions / exclusions because it’s my list. And here it is.

PWGG

Brace/Choir – Turning On Your Double

Arrows of Love – Everything’s Fucked

Swans – To Be Kind

OFF! – Wasted Years

Post War Glamour Girls – Pink Fur

Her Name is Calla – Navigator

Xiu Xiu – Angel Guts: Red Classroom

Space Siren – If You Scream…

Astronauts – Hollow Ponds

VANIISH – Memory Work

Lawrence English – The Wilderness of Mirrors

DZ Deathrays Black Rat

Esben & the Witch – A New Nature

Black Moth – Condemned to Hope

Earth – Primitive & Deadly

Amplifier – Mystoria

Godflesh – A World Lit Only by Fire

The Twilight Sad – Nobody Wants to be Here, Nobody Wants to Leave

Interpol – El Pintor

Scott Walker & Sunn O))) – Soused

 

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Christopher Nosnibor’s Guide to Working as a Music Reviewer – Part Three

No two ways about it, the 9-5 is a pain in the proverbial. No doubt if you’re an aspiring reviewer you’re resentful of the humdrum desk job, bar job, whatever, and who would blame you. Unfortunately, it’s the humdrum desk job, bar job, whatever that pays the bills.

I resent the humdrum desk job as much if not more than anyone, although it was while working my day-job that a not insignificant realisation hit. I’d landed the task of leading a group of colleagues through a session on letter-writing. These are people, adults, who write detailed letters to customers daily. It’s their job. I was shocked, and indeed appalled, to realise just how far back to basics I had to take things.

I found myself having to explain not only the possessive apostrophe, and the difference between affect and effect, but also the definition of a noun and a verb, singular and plural.

I expect the bulk of my readers will laugh or feel a wave of despondency. However, anyone who aspires to be the next Nick Kent and who’s stumbled upon this blog in the hope of finding advice or otherwise gleaning some tips for making it – whatever that may be – as a music reviewer, I will proffer the following: learn to write.

If their / they’re / there is beyond you, give up, immediately. Enjoy the music, but please don’t inflict your illiterate drivel on others.

Similarly, if you’re reading this and have no idea who Nick Kent is, you don’t have a hope. Writing about music requires a knowledge of music, and ideally, a knowledge of music journalism. This is true in almost any field of critique. Yes, it’s all about opinion, but your opinion only has weight if you can qualify if with some kind of evidence. No-one’s going to respect your opinion if you don’t know shit.

Word ends in

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Christopher Nosnibor’s Guide to Working as a Music Reviewer – Part Two

We live in a visually-orientated culture. Pictures are more immediate than words. And yet I still don’t get the idea of reviewing a gig in pictures alone. The images convey so little of the experience, and besides, after a while, people with guitars or standing behind synths all start to very much resemble one another.

Similarly, I don’t get the whole deal with people posting photos of their food on social media sites, but did recently suggest that my refusal to subscribe to this trend was proving an obstacle to my achieving mainstream popularity.

So I figured I should document my day – yesterday – in images. Of food. It seems vaguely apposite, as I was assigned to review Black Bananas at the Brudenell in Leeds last night.

I got up a bit before 7am having squeezed in about 6 hours sleep, dressed, guzzled down a mug of tea and was out the door around 7:40. I breakfasted at my desk while wading through emails.

 

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Breakfast

I managed to nip out to grab a bite for lunch, again consumed at my desk.

 

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Lunch

After work, I legged it home, dropped my bag and changed my boots before heading straight back out for a train to Leeds. I had my evening meal in Foley’s on The Headrow before trekking out to the Brudenell.

 

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Dinner

 

I needn’t have rushed as the first act wasn’t on till around 8:30, but the beer was cheap and good and I always carry a paperback in my jacket pocket in case I find myself killing time.

The show was ultimately enjoyable, but I was aware of the train times and, being knackered, decided to slip out during the last song for the 11:16 train. This meant I had to run all the way from The Brudenell near Burley Park to the train station. Consequently, I was even more knackered but I arrived back in York in good time and arrived home around midnight.

Today, having woken up with heartburn and a head full of things I needed to do at work around 5am, I managed a full half hour lunch break, during which I managed to find a quiet pub and knock out the first 409 words of my review. I can’t very well call myself a writing machine if I don’t get on and write now, can I?

 

And if you’re loving my work, there’s more of the same (only different) at Christophernosnibor.co.uk