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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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.’

 

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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 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?

 

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

 

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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.

 

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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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On a Grohl: The Best of Foo

The Foo Fighters have become something of a recurring theme in my writing, for a number of reasons. I will confess that I did find their debut disappointing, although it’s only as time has passed and their career has progressed that my dislike of the band – Dave Grohl in particular – has really solidified. There was a time in 2005 when it was impossible to escape the strains – and I use the word intentionally and fully aware of all of its connotations – of ‘The Best of You’. Not having a digital radio at the time, I found myself often stuck with Radio 1, where Chris Moyles would play it relentlessly. Fine, he’s a commercial DJ and a slave to the playlist almost as much as to his appetite and ego, which are of comparable size. But at the time, Zane Lowe represented just about the best – by which I suppose I mean the only – real conduit to new alternative music. However, it was around this time that the playlists of the supposedly alternative Lowe, who was growing increasingly irritating in his excessively exuberant links and evermore sycophantic interviews with artists, began to overlap with the mainstream daytime shows to a considerable extent. Were alternative bands taking over the mainstream? No, the alternative being represented was becoming increasingly commercial and narrow in scope.

 

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Zane Lowe: Bumlicking Cockend

The Foo Fighters – a major force in the charts, especially following ‘The Best of You’ and the attendant album, In Your Honour – were not an alternative act. In fact, the crime was worse than that: they were the acceptable face of rock, the ‘rock’ band it was ok for people who don’t like rock to like. The very worst type of corporate rock is surely the rock the suit digs and references when trying to make like they’re hip. In my own experience, I’ve heard it said on more than one occasion that ‘The Foos Rock’. The line always seems to emit from the mouths of people who wouldn’t know rock if it hit them round the head and knocked them unconscious. Arguably, it’s impossible for any band which has songs converted to ringtones to be alternative, and certainly, if an act’s getting played every morning for a month on Chris Moyles’ breakfast show, it ain’t alternative. While I’ve never actually heard a Foo Fighters ringtone, I’m sure they exist and are favoured by the least ‘rock’ people you’re likely to meet.

Moyles

Chris Moyles: the saviour of Radio 1 or just an egotistical fat cunt who loves the sound of his own voice?

Yet the Foo Fighters retained credibility with the true rock crowd because of Grohl’s credentials in terms of his previous output. Now, as a drummer, I have to confess respect, even admiration, and his contribution to the recordings of other bands is also noteworthy: Killing Joke’s eponymous 2003 album would not have been half the album it was without his powerhouse percussion, for example.

Anyway, while some authors have imbued characters they intend to portray negatively with, for example, physical defects or deformities as a reflection of their defective personalities or deformed morality, I bestow mine with questionable musical tastes – at least as far as I’m concerned. Ben’s liking of the Foo Fighters correspond with his conflicting nature, namely the conformist battling with his rebellious streak. In Ben’s case, it’s a more complex issue than his inner rebel struggling to find an outlet against the conformist he’s become in order to fulfil the function he has assumed. Moreover, he’s a conformist at heart who has a fear of anything that disrupts the comfort of conformity; any rebellion he exhibits is as artificial as the happiness he presents to the outside world, because he knows that a dash of rebellion, of non-conformity, is cool. Fearful of going too far, and not really having a taste for anything too far beyond the ordinary, The Foo Fighters are emblematic of ‘safe’ rebellion, the musical equivalent of, say, a henna tattoo.

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Foo Fighters, with the nicest man in rock, Bee Gee tribute artist Dave Grohl

 

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Compare and Contrast: The Fall (again) vs Pavement

If Mark E Smith’s words were to be believed, every band sounds like The Fall in some way, shape or form. Every act from the last thirty years has ripped them off, apparently, such is the enormity of his band’s influence. Seminal as they are, this is patently untrue, but Pavement acknowledged their debt to the band, with the track from their debut album Slanted and Enchanted being more of a tribute than a rip-off.

So as much as a case of compare and contrast, this post’s about enjoying two cracking tunes for the price (and chords) of one.

 

 

 

 

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