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.



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.


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

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

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.




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




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.





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

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

For those who think that working as a music reviewer is way cool and involves hanging with bands backstage and basking in free stuff and record company promo largesse, the average online music reviewer leads a very different existence. I’m not saying I’m representative of all or even most music reviewers, but as someone who’s been doing this thing for nigh on 20 years off and on, and has consistently turned in over 300 reviews a year since 2009, I do feel I’m at least qualified to report on my own experiences. Will this blog help aspiring reviewers? Probably not. Is it some kind of therapy session? I have no idea. It’s a blog. It is what it is.

When I started writing in earnest for Whisperin’ and Hollerin’ in November of 2008, I was thrilled to receive a Jiffy containing five or six CDs by artists I’d never heard of, and would never hear of again. I was actually off work with ‘flu when they landed, so I say, huddled in a blanket, streaming snot as I shivered and shook my way through a bunch of fairly bland albums, which I dutifully listened to a handful of times and did my best to give them a fair and honest but critically balanced and objective appraisal. It wasn’t easy, at least for all of them.

I started to receive offers of gigs to review in York and Leeds, too, my nominated / designated territory. Keen to get myself on the register, I took the first few that came up regardless. I wanted to prove myself, to get my name out, to show I was eager and willing, and able to critique anything. And so I did. I saw some ok bands, the majority of which I’ve since forgotten. I saw a fair few shit bands, too, but you gotta take the rough with the smooth, I figured.

Being a serious gig veteran (I started watching pub gigs and so on when I was 14 and saw my first big gig proper – The Mission at Sheffield City Hall – when I was 15) I wasn’t the sort to be swept away on the tide of excitement the inexperienced feel when presented with live music. I didn’t think ‘it’s live, therefore it’s amazing’ and was more than capable or retaining my critical faculties – and memory – even after a few pints.

It’s fair to say things rapidly snowballed.

Cut forward from 2008 to 2014 and I’d like to say the hard works paid off. In some respects it has, in that I now receive more free music than I can physically listen to, and manage to score many of the releases I’d have previously paid for for free. Similarly I can pick and choose the live shows I cover, and get to go and see bands I’d have historically paid for – or even missed because I couldn’t afford a tickets, although I still take punts, and I still review acts I’m either unfamiliar with or largely ambivalent to because I think covering them will help raise my profile.

I still don’t get paid for any of this and I still work the 9-5. Trying to do up a house and be a half-decent parent to a 3 year old with a full-time job is enough for most people. They’re pussies, or otherwise lacking ambition.

Tomorrow, I’ll be hauling myself from York to Leeds and out to the Brudenell Social Club after work to cover Black Bananas. I thought their most recent album was middling, a 6/10 but figure they might be entertaining as a live act. I’ll be going on my own, despite being offered a +1. Because I’m popular like that. I won’t hang out with the band. I’ll get back in around 2am and will be up less than five hours later for work. Because. Cool huh?



John Robb: music journalist, band front man and cool. The bastard.


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

True Journalistic Integrity: Keeping it Real

Occasional Guardian writer and former Melody Maker journo Everett True says it best on his website profile, which reads as follows:

“My name is Everett True. I am a music critic. This is what I do. I criticise music. The clue is in my job description – music critic. I do not consider myself a journalist, as I do not research or report hard news. I do not consider myself a commentator as I believe that everyone should be a participant. I criticise people and in return I am not surprised if other people criticise me. It is part of the whole deal of being in the public arena. I am Everett True. Believe in me and I have power like a God. Quit believing in me and I no longer exist.”



Everett True: the man who ‘discovered’ Nirvana knows how to be critical 


It was reading Melody Maker from around 1987 and onwards through the early 90s that made me want to be a music writer (not a journalist per se, but someone who writes about music)I always preferred MM to the NME because the writing always struck me as being far superior, more intelligent – and when it wasn’t overtly intelligent, its parodic columns and humour amused me no end. I owe a great deal to the paper’s contributors for introducing me to or piquing my interest in so many bands – and also for making me realise just how many ways there were to dismantle a release with an all-guns-blazing slating review.

The first time I tried out as a music reviewer, I submitted a sample piece to the Lincolnshire Echo who were looking for a contributor. A live review of a local band that very weekend, it was pretty brutal. I got a call from the music editor within days. He loved it. I got the ‘job’ (I say ‘job’ because it was unpaid). It was unlike your regular local paper review: it wasn’t pedestrian or polite, and instead took is cues from the national music press, and I’d gone all out to show could write and be critical and creative at the same time. I’d never expected it to land in the public domain, but the editor loved it so much he ran it that very week. For the first time in the paper’s history, a music review received letters of complaint, as well as compliment. Some found my brand of music criticism refreshing. Others thought it was simply horrible and nasty. I was torn between a sense of guilt and gleeful delight. It was awkward and uncomfortable, but I soon came to terms with the fact that what I had written was the review I had wanted to write. There was little point in writing if not to be read, and I’d have to deal with any consequences of that. Besides, it would be shameful hypocrisy to think a critic should be above criticism themselves.

It wasn’t the first time something I had penned had stirred things up. During first year of GCSE studies, I had come up with the idea of writing a gossip column based on my schooling peers: a friend with a computer had helped facilitate the publication, which was distributed by hand to select individuals. The second or third issue of The Parish News was produced during the summer holidays, so I decided to post them to people. Unfortunately, one recipient shared an initial with her mother, who on opening and reading the little zine, took umbrage to references to her daughter’s ‘tight jumpers’ and called the police, who came round to my house to give me a ticking off and insisted I cease publication.

I didn’t, of course. I was simply more careful about my distribution methods from thereon in. it seemed ironic, though, that of all of the things that could have caused offense, what got me into trouble was someone reacting disproportionately to something extremely minor.

And so it’s been throughout my career (such as it is) as a writer, and in particular as a music critic. On one occasion, a ‘find and replace’ typo error on an artist’s name prompted the artist to declare me a ‘moron’ on Twitter and resulted in a deluge of comments from fans decrying my piece ‘the worst review ever written’. I doubt they’d have been quite as bothered if I hadn’t been giving a 5-star review that described the songs as ‘contrived’ and ‘twee’.

Another less than complimentary review of another act provoked a single reader’s one-word comment: ‘cunt’, while parodic pieces penned on the death of Michael Jackson and the evolution of Linkin Park’s sound elicited a tidal wave of declarations of how dumb I was, with the former article bombarded by irate commenters telling me that Michael wasn’t really dead.

But more often than not, as was the case with the ‘contrived’ review, it’s the criticisms of the lesser acts that cause the greatest antagonism. Maybe it’s because in some cases, niche / cult acts have the more ardent fans. In other instances, I can’t help but wonder if it’s the friends and parents of those little bands who can’t believe anyone would have a bad word to say about them.

And so it was when I received an email from a harassed editor, who’d had to fend off some heavy threats from a certain label / management company in light of a less than complimentary review I’d penned of one of their bands’ releases.

I’d said the production was lousy and the songs generic. I’d said they’d be huge, at least for a while. But what sealed it was that I’d referred to them as ‘fuckers’ and ‘dismal twats’. The complainants wanted the review pulled. My editor, thankfully, refused. But what they seemed to object even more than the grim two stars were my chosen descriptors, and they threatened to take the matter further. Needless to say, said review was hurriedly cut and all the rest and a crisis was averted.

I have no difficulty is understanding why they were unhappy with the review, of course. But was a crappy review by a reviewer who very few people pay attention to on a small indie website really likely to damage the band’s sales or reputations? It wasn’t as though I’d written anything genuinely damaging. Their many fans, if any of them bothered to read my review, would likely dismiss me as a grouchy crank.

The heavy-handed threats and forced retraction, then, were tantamount to censorship. And this is where things get difficult. Matters of ‘free speech’ and ‘free press’ are hot topics in the wake of the phone hacking scandal and in light of the recent rise in right-wing extremism and rising tensions amidst religious militants around the globe. I understand that with freedom of speech comes responsibility, and I would never incite hatred or violence, even in jest. To do so would be dangerous and irresponsible. But to slam a band… that’s another matter entirely. By putting their music out there, they’re automatically opening themselves to critical analysis. Let’s also be clear here: they – the band’s ‘people’ who are acting on behalf of the band and therefore represent them and their interests – saw that their music came my way, which is essentially asking for my opinion. And I gave it. This wasn’t some unprovoked attack and it wasn’t exactly ‘personal’ in the true sense. It was just a rather fiery review in which they opinion I gave was negative, i.e. not the one they wanted to hear. While I doubt – or at least like to believe – they wouldn’t have been too affronted by negative comments on a forum posted by the member of the public, as a music critic it’s surely my prerogative to criticise, at least provided I justify my criticism, which I did, with reference to the material and production, amongst other things. So why the furious reaction? It wasn’t as if I’d fallaciously accused them of being Nazi sympathisers or paedophiles. I would challenge them to prove in court that they’re not ‘dismal twats’.

I therefore feel we’re on dangerous ground, not with the ‘free speech’ debate (here, at least, although those who use it as a means of justifying sending threats of death and rape on social networking sites are over the dangerous ground and into the domain of the prosecutable) but in terms of media manipulation through fear. Little zines and zero-budget websites can’t afford lawyers. But if the threat of litigation means it’s possible to ensure only positive reviews are published, what of free speech and journalistic integrity then? Moreover, have we really come to this? Where will it end? I expect if I stick with it long enough, I’ll find out… Meanwhile, whatever happened to simply sending a turd in the mail?


Emo Kid

Walking home from work, I passed a chubby teenage girl. As she approached, I could see she was a typical emo kid: dyed hair, piercings in ears, nose, lip, heavy eye makeup, knock-need gait. In fact, the makeup was streaking long black lines down her face, dissolving in floods of tears. She was speaking – blubbering, barely coherent – into her mobile. What tragedy had befallen her? As she came within earshot, I heard her utter the words, “but the only band I wanted to see was..” The rest was lost in a stream of slot, saliva and devastation.

And that, I thought, right there, is the epitome of teen angst, the distillation of the very essence of emo. Whatever happens, your problems will never be greater than this.





Insert image here. It was impossible to find a pic to nick of an emo girl that wasn’t a pouting selfie in underwear.


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

Get Over Brit! Or, Why I Quit Blogging

Time was when I would leap to the keyboard every time something in the news or in the mass media irritated me, and vent to the world through one blog outlet or another. Nowadays, not so much. In fact, my blog’s been pretty low on new content recently, and I’ve been concerned that this, in turn, is likely to impact on my overall profile, inasmuch as kicking out content is key to the art of self-promotion, which is vital when it comes to things like selling books (because yes, I write books. Music reviewing is, believe it or not, just a sideline).

So what’s changed? Has everything in the world turned a lovely rosey hue, whereby all is good and everything’s fine and I’m content with my lot? Far from it. In fact, the opposite is true, and that’s precisely why my blogging has tailed off. There simply isn’t the time to blog about everything that gets my goat, that grinds my gears. Moreover, while I love to rant, and it seems people enjoy reading rants more than the occasional positive piece I’ve posted (who wants a good news story? Put simply, many people are only happy when they’re unhappy), I simply found it was wearing me down.

The majority of my most ire-fuelled articles have focused on the vapidness of mainstream celebrity culture, corporate crap and advertising – which often go hand in hand when it comes to where the movements of money are concerned: they’re all integral parts of the capitalist equation in the 21st Century. It was while watching a few minutes of the BBC News Channel that crystallised precisely why I stopped blogging. The newscaster briefly mentioned the Brit Awards and reeled off a handful of winners announced at that point, with the promise that there would be more on the Brits later.



The Brits: Corporate-sponsored self-congratulatory bollocks


The Brit Awards aren’t news and I couldn’t have cared less about who’d won one. I found myself wondering just how many people outside the mainstream music industry give a shit about the Brits. Reading a headline in The Metro over someone’s shoulder a few days later about the TV viewing figures for the awards, it would appear the answer is very few. Or, more to the point, people are more interested in exchanging opinion about such events on-line than in the actual events themselves.



Who? More to the point, who gives a fuck? Critics’ Choice nominees, apparently. No, I didn’t get to nominate or vote.


I should perhaps also mention at this juncture that I used to skim The Metro on the way to work: not having the time to immerse myself in in-depth news reportage but wanting to keep abreast of current affairs, it seemed like a reasonable thing to do. But having concluded that the majority of the ‘news’ in the paper was out of date, sensationalist, or otherwise fluff and outright drivel, I prefer to read a novel while in transit these days. It’s not that I’ve lost interest in current affairs: I’m simply of the opinion that most mainstream news media aren’t covering much of what’s important, and there has to be more happening than political bickering, the continued rumblings of the phone hacking ‘scandal’, allegations about DJs and soap stars with wandering hands and floods. Equally, flippant, punny headlines and tabloid trash about ‘celebrity’ nonentities say nothing to me about my life and convey nothing of real importance.



Pundemoneum, sensationalism and advertising. Keeping the masses indignant, ill-informed and buying stuff they don’t need with money they haven’t got. 

This isn’t to say that the novels I read, the novels I write, the music I review are more important: in the grand scheme of things, I realise all too well that nothing I do amounts to anything. And this is precisely why blogging seems like a waste of time and energy. My real work is the novels, the reviews, the spoken word performances, and reading the fiction of others is enriching and makes for vital research. Meanwhile, keeping my mouth shut and my virtual pen lowered when it comes to everything else means I can maintain focus, because it’s all just pissing in the wind. That doesn’t mean I’ve given up and surrendered to the world, or that my dissenting voice has been silenced: it just means there are other ways of rebelling.

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

Getting in Early: X-Factor Christmas Number One Shocker Blog

I’ve posted various edits of the same blog since Christmas 2008 now. This year, I thought I’d post it early and get it out of the way, and rather than edit it, simply post the template version. Time will tell if I’m deserving of the ‘Nostradamus Nosnibor’ tag or if I’ll end up looking like a tit. Frankly, I’d be happy to look like a tit if it meant something interesting was at number one, but then does anyone besides the morons who watch and vote for X-Factor contestants give a crap about the top 40 any more?

I suppose it was inevitable really. Despite the efforts of [INSERT SOMEONE WHO THINKS THEY’RE CLEVER HERE] to outmanoeuvre the hype machine with some tongue-in-cheek alternative hype, there weren’t really any other contenders for the supposedly coveted UK Christmas Number 1 slot. And so, for the third / fourth / fifth / sixth / etc (delete as appropriate) year in succession, the winner of X factor, the ITV ‘talent’ content that runs for what seems like about 50 weeks of the year, has had the best selling single at Christmas.

Congratulations to [INSERT NAME OF X-FACTOR WINNER HERE]. No, really: I don’t have any real issues with him/her, other than that s/he was compelled to audition for such a credibility-free contest, and [INSERT NAME OF SOME SMUG GOBSHITE CELERITY] was backing him/her from the off (well s/he has to do something to keep themselves hip with the kids, right?). But I do have serious issues with the process.

I’m not saying that the whole audition / rehearsal / live performance / public voting / etc. process isn’t hard work or nerve-wracking for contestants, but really, when it comes down to it, what we’re watching is a glorified and overhyped karaoke competition. And the public fucking love it. They get to vote for their favourite, and the lucky winner, who’s already done all of the necessary marketing and promotion for the last few months on prime-time television, gets to put out a record that half the nation are going to buy because they voted for it. Yes, the public gets what the public wants. And once again, the public wants mediocre slop. I can cope with that: it was ever thus. But what’s the alternative?

Aye, there’s the rub: there is no alternative, at least not that’s readily available or easily accessible. And this is where I return to a point I’ve made on various occasions throughout the year on this (and other people’s) blogs: the marketplace is becoming less competitive, not more. Consumer choice is practically a myth. While the large corporations (in all industries, not just music) are so fixated on finding the Next Big Thing – and fast – the idea of the next medium-sized thing and the slow-burning long-term investment thing ceases to be of interest. They want success and they want it NOW! The shareholders want to see a return – NOW – and in order to achieve these things, there’s no scope for taking a gamble. If an executive makes one wrong decision, they’re out of a job (although probably given a substantial golden handshake for their royal fuck-up because that’s how it works these days. There are rewards for failure if you’re high enough up the corporate ladder. But I digress…)

Readers may recall my bemoaning the closure of York’s last independent record store a while back, and may also remember, more recently, my griping about the fact that neither of the remaining two stores, HMV and Zavvi (formerly Virgin) were stocking singles any more, on any format. Well, I dropped into HMV earlier this week to find that HMV were actually stocking singles again. That is to say, a single, and they had literally hundreds of it on special display stands around the store. Yup, [INSERT NAME OF X-FACTOR WINNER]’s single, [INSERT CORNY TITLE HERE]. At £3.99 a copy. Four fucking quid! So what if I wanted to buy a different single? Tough shit. If I wanted a single, it was ‘[INSERT CORNY TITLE HERE] or nowt. Suffice it to say I left with nowt.

My local Sainsbury’s is tiny and poorly stocked, but it’s within reasonable walking distance (quite important for someone who doesn’t drive). It doesn’t really stock many CDs – a few greatest hits and various artists compilations and perhaps the top ten chart albums. Again, this doesn’t exactly represent a great choice. But no matter. My local Sainsbury’s doesn’t stock singles. But wait, what’s this? I strolled in yesterday evening for a few groceries and was stunned to see, by the entrance, a huge display stand of black cardboard with a huge red X on top. The plague? Yes and no: row upon row of , [INSERT NAME OF X-FACTOR WINNER] singles. At £3.99 apiece. Four fucking quid! Etc, etc.

Like CCTV springing up on every street corner, within a matter of days there’s been a viral explosion of these CD displays. It’s remarkable how quickly they’ve managed to record it, get the artwork done, the CD pressed and distributed. Anyone would think the record company had known all along. Makes one wonder just how much of the million-pound recording contract that is the X Factor prize goes into subliminal messaging during the series… especially amid the outcry from fans of [INSERT CONTENDER HERE] who said they couldn’t get through (although I can’t say that bothers me too much, because [INSERT CONTENDER HERE] is a cock anyway and we all know these things are rigged).

So what’s my point? It’s hard to say any more. I’ve never been lethargic in seeking out the things I like, however underground, esoteric or unobtainable via the more obvious commercial channels. But I’m growing increasingly frustrated by the evermore obvious squeeze being placed on choice. Most people won’t go to the lengths I’m willing to, and the casual buyer simply won’t purchase something they can’t find. Put simply, artistic merit and even the idea of quality is being shunned in favour of a quick buck. I’m convinced it’s not sustainable, but right now I can’t see where it will end.



The X Factor: the grim face of contemporary culture, i.e. a load of fucking bollocks for people who don’t like music and think karaoke is fun


And if you’re loving my work, a version of ‘X Factor Number One Shocker’ features in The Changing Face of Consumerism, available for Kindle now and out in paperback in January.