Corporate Christmas

This piece was penned with a view to fitting the ‘Black Friday’ theme of December’s Fictions of Every Kind spoken word night at The Wharf Chambers, Leeds, on 30th November 2015 (which, incidentally, was great, with a good mix of writers of outstanding quality, and a brilliant atmosphere in a super venue).

‘Corporate Christmas’ is a part of the ever-expanding and presently ongoing ‘Rage Monologues’ project, and as such, is designed first and foremost as a performance piece. However, as I’m aware my live performances are few and far between, and tend to take place in the north of England, there are may who won’t be able to hear this material. So, in the spirit of the season, I thought I’d share this piece, which doesn’t feature in the tour edition pamphlet of The Rage Monologues, here.

Enjoy…

 

Corporate Christmas

It’s all about the money. But at a certain point, the money becomes theoretical. Top-flight executives, boards of directors, the upper echelons of the corporate hierarchy, I get. No, that’s not true. What I get is that it takes a certain kind of person to become a top-flight executive, a director on the board, to scale the heights and reach the upper echelons of the corporate hierarchy. A sociopath, no more and no less. I will never understand the mindset, the megalomania that drives such criminal disregard for everything other than money. They’re so far removed from the reality of the everyday, so distanced from the shop floor, they’re effectively exempt. They’re wired differently. They don’t see their employees as humans. They don’t see their customers as human. They never hear the voices of the downtrodden, the weary, the world at large. They can’t hear us cry out, fists raised.

You’ve got the money.

You’ve got the status.

You’ve got the power.

You’ve got the control.

You’re fucking us all over.

You don’t see the planet as a finite resource. Everything exists for your benefit. And nothing is ever enough. You have everything already. What more can you possibly want? More… always more. Because money doesn’t just talk. It buys whatever the fuck you want. Want it? Buy it. Because you can.

What do you want? World domination!

When do you want it? Yesterday!

Competition? You’ve bought the competition, and shut it down.

Regulation? You laugh in the face of it. You’ve bought the regulators.

Government? You’ve bought the government. The parties are in your pocket, paid off with the money not spent on paying tax. You’re not the law – you’ve bought the law.

But the countless other layers of management, from the cringing petty bureaucrats at the lower managerial levels, to the ones who command payola and power but don’t own a fleet of yachts or several Pacific islands… I get where they’re coming from. And they, they’re the worst fucking scum.

You, you’ve also got the money – not as much, but just enough to think you’re special, to afford the finer things in life, not least of all thanks to the company credit card, the expense account. Like you fucking need it on your salary – pleading poverty while cruising in your Audi, smugging it up, your 2.4 kids in private schools and destined for top universities and to follow in your patent leather footsteps.

You’ve got the status – not as much as the real high-flyers, but club class will do. You’ve got enough to flash it around, to swan off on management away days and three-hour “working lunches”, plotting espionage and tax avoidance on your iPhones while chilling in first-class lounge suites making like your lives are so pressured, while not having the first clue what it’s like to have to worry about the bills – your pampered wives sipping Pinot Grigot from balloon glasses on leather corner sofas in front of a 60” flatscreen while wearing a white fluffy dressing gown, perish the thought they might break a nail in a five-bed townhouse with the heating cranked up to thirty.

You’ve got the power – not world domination, but you’ve got a hotline to the gods of business, and they know people who know people who know people who know people and the next thing, you’ve bought into Europe and you’ve got steer on the TTIP… so you’ve got power enough to throw around, enough to make you feel good while holding others down. You need to hold them down, keep them in their place.

You’ve got the control – just enough to live out your fantasies of power play. Those rebels and potential usurpers… you know how to dispense with them. Dissent? Crush it! Remove it! Yes, there are ways and means to sidestep legislation about unfair dismissal and discrimination… show them the door. No-one’s going to stop your march.

We need to make cuts to boost profit! The shareholders have spoken! The directors have spoken!

So what do you do? What do you do? Front-line staff every time: you’ll never see management voting for a cull of management, a stripping back of the layers of the hierarchy, no. Because it’d be like turkeys voting for Christmas. You’ve got just one interest, and that’s self-interest.

So you stand there in your sharp suit with your company laptop rucksack, your sharp haircut and your buzzwords, making like you actually give a fuck as you apologise for the cuts, the redundancies as you lay off yet more staff, just to protect your own bonus. Cunt.

You think you hold the power, that you have ownership. But you’re all part of the same system. The capitalist system. You’re still climbing over one another to attain material goods, more and more and more, and nothing is ever enough.

You don’t own capitalism: capitalism owns you. You’re still a part of the system, a system the purpose of which is to make people buy shit they don’t need with money they don’t have.

Election Aftermath

In the immediate wake of the shock election result on Friday, there has, predictably, been a tsunami of commentary and debate, and I’m largely inclined to steer clear of it, not because I’m apolitical, but because I’m no political commentator. However, as a writer, I am an observer of people and social interaction, and politics, and perhaps this election more than ever, has shown that politics does affect everyone, whether they like it or not.

As such, my observations that politics in Britain is extremely divisive and extremely personal on individual levels may seem banal, but are nevertheless particularly important.

I live and work in the York Central constituency, a red spot in an ocean of blue, and so it’s perhaps not surprising that only one of my colleagues has openly aligned himself with the Conservatives. I might describe this guy in his early as a hipster, but given his ever-changing appearance, it would be more accurate to describe him as a fashion victim, and to hear him qualify his support of the party by citing Cameron’s ability to speak well in public and how he’s well-presented and professional-looking and less ‘freakish’ than any of the other contenders for the position of Prime Minister correspond with the chameleon-like fashion victim’s focus on style over content.

Friday morning saw the hipster swagger into the office with a jaunty step, and before long he was crowing about the emerging results. When pressed as to why he was so happy, he held forth with confidence: “We’ve got the best economy in the world, and I want more of that. We’ve got safe jobs, look, well, relatively safe anyway, I’m doing alright, get to go on holiday, buy stuff, why would I want to vote another party in who are going to stuff it all up when things are going good? They got us out of the trouble Labour left us in, it’s all good. Keep on with it, I say.”

Which, of course, is pretty much what Cameron’s been saying. Only surely a gullible idiot would swallow the slippery schmoozer’s fabrications or buy the fact that the Labour government were alone responsible for what was a global financial meltdown

The irony here is that we work for a major financial company, and this hipster deals with complaints about how poorly investments have been performing. His job involves explaining to disappointed investors how volatile stock markets worldwide have meant returns haven’t been so great, how the recession led to commercial property values and rental returns slumping. And yet he really seems to believe – or happy to regurgitate arguments churned out by the slick Tory propaganda machine, fronted by that slick, smooth-talking propagandist representing them – that somehow, this was all the fault of the previous government.

None of this sat too well with the woman who sits a few desks away from this trend-influenced lippy bozo: a mother of two children under 11, her husband recently lost his job. A family man who’s not workshy and has been in the same job for some eight years, he’s vowed to take any job going to pay the bills, but has so far been rejected by a cleaning company on the grounds that he’s male, and is being kept in suspense – three weeks and counting – over whether or not he’ll be entitled to any benefits. It doesn’t feel like the world’s best economy to her, it doesn’t feel like business is booming and that there are jobs readily available for those who are willing to take them.

Perhaps that’s because it’s all a myth. By making many benefits much harder to claim, meaning that many who would have previously received benefits illegible, and by making the process to stressful that people feel compelled to simply quit, or by declaring half the disabled populace fit for work and thus stripping them of benefits, the Conservatives have shown that it’s possible to slant the statistics and cut the welfare budget in one fell swoop. By farming out investigations into benefit claims to private, third-party companies (doubtless selected for their low-budget tenders rather than their efficiency and ability to operate fair and efficient systems of investigation, a process I’ve found myself on the wrong end of in recent months), they’re again able to cut costs and produce more favourable figures.

But people prefer to believe good news than bad. The fashion victim bozo has got it good: he’s young enough, doesn’t have any children and is in good health and a job that pays ok in relative terms. He’s also of the age to have parents who’ve done well out of the boom years, and probably bought their house for a tenth of its current value and retired at 55 on a final salary pension.

This microcosmic and extremely personal scene is emblematic of the contrasts between the haves and have nots are precisely the social divisions on which the election ran. The Conservative way, the espousal of laissez-faire capitalism and a privatisation is all about giving it all those who already have it, is great for big business and the wealthy.

Those at the lower end of the fiscal spectrum are hardly going to be leaping for joy at the prospect of the new government raising the threshold for inheritance tax to £1M, and when you’re looking at a family of four whose breadwinner has been tossed out of work because employers are downsizing and cutting costs to maximise profits (on which they’ll pay reduced tax under a Conservative government), it’s hard to see how raising the personal income tax threshold will help if they can’t claim any benefits (working tax credits and child tax credits for example require both parents to work at least 16 hours a week – and how is a parent supposed to apply for jobs and be available for interviews at limited to zero notice when they’re looking after a child?).

As the protests on the streets of London demonstrate, Britain is a nation divided, and a nation with an extremely flawed election process, one whereby a ‘majority’ government clearly does not represent the majority of voters (let alone those who didn’t vote, for whatever reason).

And yes, I am angry. I’m angry because I didn’t vote for this 9and let’s be clear, I most certainly did vote). And maybe I would still b angry even if we did have proportional representation: as much as I’m angry about the outcome of this election, I’m angry at the electorate. Because what the actual voting figures show is that we live in a country where half the population have empathy and a desire to support one another in times of need, to provide free healthcare and welfare, not just for the needy, but for all. Because they – we – understand that it’s i8mpossible to predict when you may need this support. Public transport, general public services, from libraries to road maintenance – benefit everyone, regardless of status.

We understand that immigration is a two-way street and that freedom of movement within the EU is a good thing, and appreciate that it’s the wealthy who usually retire to sunnier climes and accept that’s their prerogative. Because while they’re tanning themselves to leather in Spain having quite work at 55, the eastern Europeans who serve us excellent coffee and maintain the well-stocked, open-all-hours off-licence on the next street work had and provide excellent service. And pay their share of tax.

I’m angry that the selfish rule the country, not just in parliament, but in the street. And I’m angry that we live in a society where the idiots who don’t actually consider the ramifications of their selfish votes get to screw everyone else over. It’s the ‘I’m doing ok’ attitude that is precisely what seals I for the Tories: moreover, the attitude that as ‘I’m ding ok and I couldn’t care less about anyone else.’

And while the majority of the people I keep company with on social networking sites share my views (I chose my (virtual) friends carefully, this is exactly the spirit of the Facebook generation: the endless selfies, the snaps of your luxurious holiday, your plush house, pampered pooch and posh dinner, which say ‘my life is better than yours’ and shamelessly rub the noses of your friends in the shitness of their ordinary, poor and inferior existences.

Shame on you all. And I hope the beds provides by your private health plans are comfortable and that you enjoy long and prosperous retirements funded by your private pension plans and vast inheritances which also provide enough to pay off your childrens’ university debts, because otherwise we’ll have all endured this austerity agony for nothing.

 

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

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.

 

 

 

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

Easter, Christianity and the Big Corporate Con

I lost count weeks ago how many times I was asked the question. “Are you doing anything nice for Easter?” people were wanting to know. Family, friends, work colleagues, they were all asking… I hadn’t really given it much thought, but after a half dozen Easter cards from various family members had dropped through the letter box, and I found myself at the checkout queue behind a guy making the most of their three for £10 offer by filling his trolley and bagging 50 quid’s worth, I started to wonder if perhaps I ought to get to thinking. What was everyone else doing?

Days out, egg hunts for the children, generation-spanning family gatherings for roast feasts, couples splashing out on super-sized deluxe confectionery for one another. Clearly, doing nothing was not an option unless I wanted to position the Nosnibor household in that minority bracket of those who exile themselves from society by refusing to participate in any kind of festive activity. In the week and a half before the Good Friday holiday, social networks were aclog with images of fluffy bunnies, cutesy chicks, lambs (all thoughts of slaughter completely dispelled) and people gurgling about their imminent trips away. No, doing nothing was not an option. To do nothing would be to miss out. But on what? And why is Easter such a big deal?

Flick on the news and the BBC New Channel are cutting live to York, where the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, was busy waterboarding some zealots in the street in front of the Minster. Fair enough, you might say: Easter is after all a Christian festival – arguably the most important. The birth of Christ may be cause for celebration, but it’s the crucifixion and resurrection upon which the religion is built. Why not take the opportunity to reinforce the Christian aspect of the religion’s major festival when it’s under threat of becoming just another excuse to cut loose and enjoy four consecutive days off work (unless you happen to work in retail) by revisiting the Middle Ages? Well, the fact that Easter is another example of the Christian religion superimposing its own calendar over the preexisting pagan calender – specifically the pagan holiday of Ēostre – in order to obliterate the worship of ancient deities and nature is one very good reason.

Baptisms

A picture speaks a thousand words, especially when you can’t speak because you’re drowning in the name of Christ

 

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Grinning Christian sadist with a beard and the Archbishop of York reach the apex of spiritual ecstasy while drowning a young girl in the name of God

 

For a full and unbiased report, go to the BBC.

But all of this notwithstanding, what’s curious is the massive upsurge in the popularity and commercialisation of Easter in recent years. Could it really be that the economic downturn that began around 2008 prompted a bunch of cynical marketing companies representing big-money commerce decided the best way to boost revenue was to promote Easter-themed products in order to spur a cash-strapped society to part with their limited disposable income on things they neither needed nor wanted? And, on seeing a bandwagon rolling, the rest of the business world decided it hop on board for fear of being left behind? Well, quite probably.

Could it equally be the case that, depressed by the general shitness of life and working conditions – for those fortunate enough to still be in employment in the wake of the credit crunch – the majority of the population decided that actually, they were drawn by the mass-marketed idea of a celebration that happened to coincide with the slow emergence from a dismal winter marked by long, dark days, even longer, darker nights, destitution and flooding, and thought the antidote to their malaise could be to indulge in a colossal bout of retail therapy? Quite probably.

 

Chick

Multicoloured fluffy chicks: what’s not to love about Easter?

The celebration of spring is noble and something I’m keen to get behind. The springing of new life, the longer, warmer says, the buds, the blossom. It’s truly profound, remarkable, something far greater than human comprehension or existence. And far beyond the great capitalist con. Since when did spending money you don’t have on shit you didn’t need to make yourself feel better enter any kind of spiritual equation? Is this what life’s about now? And yes, that’s a rhetorical question.

Corporate Easter cash-ins? Just say no….

 

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

The Changing Face of Consumerism: Public Opinion, Booze Culture and Bartering

The local newspaper recently ran a front-page headline about proposals to open three new pubs in York’s city centre. Two local breweries – The Leeds Brewery, formed as an offshoot of the York Brewery, and the Ossett Brewery, had submitted plans to take over vacant premises – one a former cafe, the others retail units, previously an estate agent and an army surplus store.

The objectors raised all of the concerns you’d expect them to. Predictably, there was concern about the city centre becoming a mecca for drinkers, that having such a concentration of licensed premises would send a message that York promoted the already endemic booze culture that is, we so often told, a leading problem in Britain that causes the taxpayer billions, and that the opening of these three new hostelries would encourage an even greater influx of stag and hen parties and cause violent, alcohol-fuelled crimes and other such sordid scenes to soar.

But these aren’t the kind of places rowdy stag and hen parties would frequent. we’re talking about traditional ale houses that would also serve traditional pub grub. The kind of places tourists – particularly those from America and Japan – flock to in their thousands in order to experience a slice of culture they simply do not have back home. As a historic city, visitors to York want to see and sample tradition. They also want refreshment.

Other critics argued that it was essential that the city preserve retail premises for retail when conditions improve. Will they ever? This is also the same council that approved another out of town retail park, which objectors – not least of all local business owners – have opposed on the grounds that by taking the retail trade away from the city centre, the place is slowly dying. It’s a complex argument, not least of all because the major chains and small independent stores serve different markets. Nevertheless, they can’t have it both ways, by encouraging more retailers to move out of town and then complain that there is an abundance of vacant premises once occupied by retailers, especially in the middle of a lengthy economic downturn. Remember the words ‘credit crunch’ and ‘recession’? For some reason, people seem to think things are improving just because the FTSE’s up and more houses have sold in the last 6 months – never mind the huge numbers of redundancies announced by large employers like Aviva, Co-op and HSBC.

There is of course another angle to this, namely, if everyone’s redundant, they’ll need nice pubs to sit in and while away the hours as they drink their redundancy pay-offs and dole cheques.

The same day I read the article, I was walking home through the city’s pub-packed centre when I ran into musician, poet, diarist and rambler Mark Wynn, a man who’s inspiring in his complete disregard for any kind of consumer trends or capitalist-led operating models of industry. As ever, he’d been travelling the length and breadth of the city, the county and the country, playing poorly-paid gigs in pubs of the very sort the Leeds and Ossett breweries run and giving away most of his CDs for nothing or in exchange for a beer. It’s something to be applauded. he’ll never be rich, but in sharing his art, he never goes thirsty. Moreover, his approach represents the epitome of the punk ethic: he’s out there doing it himself on zero budget and building a fanbase from a grass roots level. that’s what I call sticking it to the man!

We exchanged pamphlets: I had the very last copy of my Liberate Yourself! pamphlet folded in my bag (there are now 100 copies in circulation, and having been left on trains, in pubs, inside self-help books in WHS and who knows where, their whereabouts and readership I haven’t a clue) while he had a batch of a new A5 publication called Dirty Work containing some selected highlights of his spectacularly off the wall and very funny tour diaries and, stapled inside the back page, a PVC wallet containing his last album. Arguably, I was up on the deal, but these things always balance out over time (some weeks later, Dirty Work 3 would see the light of day, containing more rampant ramblings and a new CD EP by Mr Mark E Wynn with additional text by Sam Forrest of Nine Back Alps and The Sorry Kisses, and myself). The important thing was, we had traded our art with one another, we’d both received something we wanted and what’s more, the cash-free barter had taken place on the street. Retail outlets are just so last year.

 

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Shops? Who needs ‘em?

 

And if you’re loving my work, The Changing Face Of Consumerism – the book – will be out some time in June.

A Total Groove: Record Store Day 2013

Record Store Day has become an insanely big deal, and while it’s something of a double-edged sword for both stores and collectors alike – a debate I don’t feel the need to cover here – the fact is that I like RSD, and I’m certainly not alone.

While I have, in recent years, spend a lot less in record stores than I used to – partly because the opportunity isn’t there, partly because I simply don’t have the disposable income I once did and partly because I get sent a lot of music to review that I would have historically paid for – I do still put money into independent record stores whenever I can. I do so not out of a sense of dutiful charitability born out of sympathy (although there may be an element of that), but because they’re the places that tend to stock the stuff that I want.

Of course, larger independent stores still usually carry more stock than smaller ones, and have more buying power when it comes to things like Record Store Day. For this reason, I could have easily been tempted to make the trip to Leeds, raid Jumbo and Crash and return home with an armful of vinyl from my ‘wants’ list plus another armful of stuff to flog on at three times the price, thus covering my own expenditure, plus train fare and even potentially leaving me with a near profit.

Instead, I stayed local and hit The Inkwell. Why? In recognition of the fact that it’s a great little boutique shop. In recognition of the fact it’s my local record store, the one I drop into and invariably leave with something cool whenever I have any spare funds. In recognition of the fact that it has a community vibe. And in recognition of the fact that Paul, the owner, asked his customers for suggestions, recommendations and requests for items to order from the RSD release list. That’s a cool thing to do. Not having the budget to get a rack full of everything, it made sense. Moreover, look after the regular customers, and they’ll look after you.

I arrived for opening, and left happy with a clutch of singles, including a copy of the Twilight Sad 7” I’d recommended (one of only 500 numbered copies) and The Fall’s single.

In the afternoon, I went back to check out the two live acts who were playing: the ubiquitous and prodigious Mark Wynn, and purveyors of tinnitus-inducing garagey grunge, …And The Hangnails. Again, although scheduled as part of the RSD goings-on, The Inkwell hosts shows from time to time, either for the launch of local bands’ releases or just because, which is another reason stores like this (not that there are many stores quite like this) deserve support.

Mark and I exchanged goods: I traded him a hot-off-the-press print copy of This Book is Fucking Stupid for a copy of his new vinyl pressing, Social Situations, a split release with The Sorry Kisses. He proceeded to deliver one of his marvellously idiosyncratic performances, interspersing songs of social observation and gloriously off-kilter anecdotes with banterous ramblings that are awkwardly hilarious and hilariously awkward.

…And the Hangnails weren’t as loud as I might have expected and were nowhere near as loud as Swans the other week, but for a room with a standing capacity of 20 or so, the powerhouse 2-piece were pretty fucking loud. The shop got extremely warm and I began to worry the vinyl might melt (although by this time, only four or five RSD exclusive releases remained). Some kids looked uncomfortable and left, probably because they couldn’t hack anything as gritty and authentically rock ‘n’ roll as Hangnails (they’re certainly not White Stripes or The Black Keys), but the rest who stuck around really dug it. …And rightly so.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is rock ‘n’ roll. And this is what Record Store Day is really about.

 

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…And the Hangnails crank it up to ten and a half in a confined space

 

Check out The Inkwell here.

Check out …And The Hangnails here.

Check out mark Wynn here.

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

Smooth Salsa and Jizzy Jazz: The Great Corporate Crap Giveaway

I recently lent a friend of mine, who works for a large financial organisation, a handful of CDs. When he returned them, there was an extra disc. it’s not unusual: he often lends me music. On this occasion, said disc was housed in a gaudy digipak decorated with segments of primary colours and it was still in its shrinkwrap. A gift? Or an accident? No. Entitled ‘A World of Discovery’, the album was a compilation that promised ‘a journey through the world of jazz, soul, funk and blues’, and it had been ‘specially compiled’ for another financial firm by Jazz FM. The bastard! He’d offloaded this piece of corporate crap on me, knowing full well how much I despise jazz, soul, funk and corporate crap because he didn’t want it. And who could blame him?

There’s something that makes this kind of corporate crap particularly abhorrent. Sure, I get the idea of a ‘global’ corporation doling out promotional gubbins that reflects and encapsulates the spirit of their ‘brand’ (or what they hope is the way their brand is perceived), and a compilation of music from around the globe says ‘multinational’, ‘global’ and ‘inclusive’, and music supposedly transcends all borders of nation (the fact I think this is utter bollocks is something for another time). But it’s about as credible an image of global culture and a celebration of diversity as a Benetton ad. United colours? One world together in music? One world under the cosh of capitalism pretending to be friendly would be closer to the mark. Does anyone actually buy this idea? Do the creators even think that this is the face of finance, or are they laughing up their expensive suit sleeves and steaming up their Rolex watches?

There’s another thing, too. I appreciate that some would accuse me of being narrow-minded musically at loathing jazz, soul and funk, and while I’d strongly disagree, the point is that I do loathe jazz, soul and funk and I’m certainly not alone or even in a minority. I daresay that in attempting to associate themselves with the artists concerned (I’m assuming the artists all gave their consent and were paid handsomely for selling their music and souls in such a way), the company in question think they’re being ‘hip’ and presenting a ‘cool’ image to potential clients and partners. But in producing and distributing a compilation such as this, they’re making a huge assumption regarding people’s musical tastes. Either that, or they’re hoping to dictate people’s musical tastes, in which case they should be sponsoring something on MTV or Radio 2. But Jazz FM? What does that say about the company, really?

Sidestepping that question and letting it serve as a rhetorical device, I’ll admit that I haven’t actually played the CD at this point. But then, do I really need to hear the ‘old school raw soul quality of Australia’s Electric Empire on their number ‘Baby Your Lovin’’, or ‘Let me Show Ya (Funkhaus Sessions)’ by Jazzanova of Germany?

Against my better judgement, I bung the disc in the player. It’s fucking hideous and sounbds exactly the the way you’d expect it to. A flicker of flamenco, a splash of salsa, with the horrible drum machine backing favoured by the Peruvian pan flute bands that play on the high streets. Laid-back Latina grooves smoothed to slick perfection transports the listener to a forgettable restaurant where the wallpaper, food and music all melted into one beige blur not even worthy of a smiley snap for Facebook. The ‘United Kingdom’, incidentally, is represented Escala, with their multinational smash, ‘Feeling Good’. Er, yes, quite. Escala, the ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ finalists covering Nina Simone. What in? Well, in keeping with the jazzy jizz of the rest of the material here, stringy sonic spunk.

In a time of recession, I do understand that companies need to find new promotional angles, and even when times are tight, it’s necessary to speculate to accumulate. But surely that’s all the more reason to ensure that promotion is effective – and cost effective. Even if the clowns who cooked up this cack-handed codswallop campaign genuinely believe that most people do like jazz, soul, funk and blues, what do they expect the recipients of these discs to do with them? Play them on an evening or at dinner parties to show how sophisticated they are, while subconsciously deciding they ought to do business with the company who gave them out? But as we’ve established, not everyone likes jazz, soul, funk and blues – so then what do you do it you’re the recipient of one of these dodgy discs? Landfill seems horribly wasteful. There’s the local charity shop, but who would buy it and would you want to be seen donating it? And while CDs make great coasters, it’s not everyone’s style. Which means the best option is to pass it on to your mate who happens to write music reviews and ranty blogs about pointless causes of irritation.

 

yikescds

A substantial stack of crappy unwanted CDs, not unlike the one in my house.

 

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