The Blind Lead the Blind, Pig: Craft Brewers vs Crafty Brewers

Today, a colleague of mine presented me with a bottle-shaped wrap of newspaper. On inspection, the newsprint looked to be slightly yellowed and aged, and the stories similarly ancient, with headlines about flappers, jazz and the like.

PigWrapped

It looked better when I received it than on arrival home

Within the clandestine-looking wrap (which was rather torn and tatty-looking by the time I’d carted it home in my messenger bag, which was full of CDs and my Asus notebook) was a bottle of cider. He’d received a crate of Blind Pig cider for Christmas from the boyfriend of one of his daughters: he happens to be involved in the brewing industry in some kind of sales capacity. My colleague seemed to think he was in fact employed by Carlsberg or a similar major, but he was intrigued by the cider, which appeared to be an entirely independent venture. He wanted my opinion, knowing me to be something of an enthusiast and not entirely lacking in knowledge or expertise where alcoholic beverages are concerned.

Wrapper

Fake newspaper wrapping, and all that jazz

Indeed, the information on the elegantly-shaped and vintage-looking bottle, with its suitably retro labels gave precious little away, and the same is true of their website. Pretty much all on-line coverage is devoted to rave reviews of its pop-up prohibition-themed launch event. Moreover, inspecting what I had brought home and which now sat on my kitchen table all looked distinctly prohibition-era US: the bottle’s capacity, 16.9 US fl oz, and the alcohol content, 8 per cent proof. there’s no question that they’ve gone all out for cultivating a strong image and a brand that’s all about cult cred.

But here’s where they’ve slipped. Anyone with any real knowledge wouldn’t need to look at the rear label, which confirmed the brew was produced ‘in the EU’ and that its alcohol content was 4% ABV. All these bullshitters who try to look hard and / or cool by referring to drinks – spirits in particular – by their ‘proof’ strength are only airing their ignorance in public. Wow, you’re drinking a whisky or vodka that’s 80% proof? Must be tough… oh, no, wait, it’s only a regular 40% ABV. It won’t turn you blind, sunshine. And the nicely-shaped bottle is of course 500ml in capacity, 68ml short of a proper pint thanks for the metricisation of, well, everything.

Bottle

Nice bottle neck

So, what’s pitched as a ‘premium’ cider for ‘connoisseurs’ and therefore ‘superior’ and ‘edgy’, with its unusual flavour (Blind Pig Cider comes in threw flavours: whiskey, honey and apple; rum and poached pair; bourbon and blueberry, with a bottle of the whiskey, honey and apple perched on my decidedly post-millennium IKEA pine folding table), is starting to look very like another exercise on kitsch marketing of something ultimately mainstream trendy, namely fruit-flavoured ciders.

Label

Neat label

So how is this different from, say, Dark Fruits Strongbow? Well, I’d question just how much it is. It’s light, it’s fizzy and however hard you chill it’s, it’s incredibly sweet. The flavour isn’t unpleasant, and there is a smoky, peaty tang, a hint of charcoal that hints at single malt and bourbon. And yes, bourbon is sweet in comparison to the majority of single malts (the raisin and honey hints of something like Jura excepted) but even accepting that we’re talking about whiskey and not whisky, this isn’t that kind of sweetness. Actually’ let’s unpack that flavour set again: whiskey, honey and apple. The honey speaks for itself, and you’d expect sweetness from it, but again, honey beers like Waggledance aren’t as cloying as this, and as for apple… wait,apple flavoured cider? that’s beyond audacious. What next, grape flavoured wine? Gin flavoured gin? Milk flavoured mikshakes? The point is, unless it’s a ‘flavoured’ cider, it should be apple flavoured, no? Well, actually, no: cider should taste of fermented apples and have a crisp tartness, whereas this has that claggy, artificial apple sweetness. It’s simply not refreshing.

Pint

Sorry, favourite festival glass

While they’ve done a good job of creating a mystique around the product and hiding any major brewery connections, it feels like a huge con, another example of the mainstream hijacking burgeoning trends, specifically the craft brewing fad that’s all the rage right now. A real ‘craft’ cider wouldn’t use spirit flavourings, of that I’m certain: this hasn’t been near a drop of whisky, or an apple as far as I can tell.

Sipping this syrupy fizz, I’m reminded of both Kopparberg and the deceptive marketing of Blue Moon beer, which despite its independent ‘handcrafted’ appearance, is produced and marketed by MillerCoors, and its cloudiness isn’t a natural unfiltered haze but the result of a ‘clouding agent’ being added. In turn, it’s no different from a major record label creating a subsidiary that’s pitched to all intents and purposes as being ‘independent’ as a vehicle for pushing ‘alternative’ band signings that present a sanitised, mass-market version of the underground scene. it’s the way of the world, and the way of capitalist markets: most innovations and revolutions rise from the underground, from the zero-budget, and as soon as there’s a sustained groundswell, the big corporations come sniffing around wanting a piece of the action.

While I expect the origins (and the source of its bankrolling) will be revealed one way or another in due course, the bottom line is that Blind Pig Cider ain’t what it presents itself as being (c’mon, real newsprint would be cooler and more environmentally sound than ersatz repro newspaper wrappings, as real apples would be more appealing than a syrupy synthetic shot of flavour) and nor is it especially good: I have a very real need to cleanse my palette with a can of Scrumpy Jack.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Corpse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LARPCORE

A LARPcore compilation album

 

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