Monday, 8 February 2010

On Football

Once again it's a World Cup year, and the media have cranked up their effort to sabotage the England team.

It can be argued that John Terry should have kept it in his pants, but it can equally be argued that it's none of anyone else's business. Same with Ashley Cole and the end of his sham marriage.

The pubic at large forgets or is unaware of the media witch hunt against Alf Ramsey during the 1966 world cup, mostly because they hail him as a genius these days. Nothing to do with any kind of sex scandal, but as far as they were concerned he was useless up until he won the thing, a theme repeated ever since.

Glassjaw @ Manchester Academy 24/1/2010

When I first heard Glassjaw on a Kerrang! cd or tape in either 1998 or 1999 I thought they were crap. I'm fairly sure the song was 'Pretty Lush'. I thought the singer's voice was annoying. I considered going to see Soulfly supported by them at Rock City but ended up sacking it off, but if I had gone I probably wouldn't have made any effort to see Glassjaw.

Then in 2000 I was sat having some beers at a friends house, and during the gaps in conversation I heard some amazing music. I think it was during 'Piano' that I asked 'who's this?', only to be shocked to find out it was in fact Glassjaw.

It's one of very few occasions where a band I've initially hated I've ended up being a fan.

So having missed out 11 years ago due to a snap decision based on one listen I arrived at Manchester Academy with innumerable listens of both albums under my belt. Yes, both albums. That's how many they've managed to release. They have threatened to tour many a time but there's always something stopping them, often Darryl's health. For the first time ever I paid extra for the cancellation insurance on these tickets.

For some people stumbling across this blog, perhaps some background is required. 2 albums in 12 years is slow going, (unless you happen to be Axl Rose in which case it's very fast indeed). They last officially released anything in 2005, an EP collecting together some B-sides from a few years earlier, and the only 'new' material anyone has heard is a track called 'You Think You're John Fucking Lennon' which is all over the torrents. In the meantime singer Darryl Palumbo has been either suffering with his Crohns disease or fronting Head Automatica, who made 1 very good pop-rock album and 1 very poor pop-rock album. He's done a few other side projects too, although these are somewhat more obscure. Various versions of the band have apparently recorded about 20 songs, which may or may not be released this year. Apparently there are record company issues, although it's quite possible there's 'unfinished songs' issues. Check their wiki page out for a bit of background.

Anyway, a gig review, which I've not done since being cast adrift by a certain free magazine that doesn't seem to retain it's volunteer writers for longer than a year... *stops going down a bitterness road*

Missed the first band, second band were a bit crap, Pulled Apart By Horses was their name. They had one good riff, which made up the last two minutes of their set.

Glassjaw eventually wandered onstage. I say eventually, it turns oput they'd done their own soundcheck, but it's been so long since they played and no one was quite sure who was in the band at this stage except the hardcore fans, which I don't qualify for as I only have the two original versions of the two albums and not the relatively obscure tracks. I digress. The band came onstage and.... did nothing for about 2 minutes. They talked amongst themselves, Justin Beck played a chord for a bit. Then they started 'Tip Your Bartender', the opening track from 'Worship and Tribute', and the place went a bit mental. Palumbo's voice was in fine form, his entertaining performance akin to a child having a tantrum, the band were tight as fuck. Even the slightly shitty sound in the Academy didn't seem to matter as the quality shone through. The first half of the set was a mix of new stuff and tracks for 'Worship..', with a couple of b-sides thrown in (El-Mark and Convectuoso, both of which I have since 'acquired) and the aforementioned John Fucking Lennon, the second half with a few more from the first album. The new stuff sounds really good, and eventually it might actually be released, or leaked on to the internet. The hardcore fans (including the man next to me who kept shouting for 'Black Coffee' and doing the softest moshing in the world) seemed to know the words already, probably due to YouTube footage that can be found on their offical website.

The only black mark on the evening was the fact that the band didn't seem to care that there was an audience for most of the gig. About the only things Darryl said to the crowd were some ramble about chavs and frozen margaritas, asking for a beer and introducing songs as either 'This is a hardcore song' or 'This is the best song'. I suppose it's hard to keep to the hardcore philosophy when you're playing a cavernous venue but there were frequent 'awkward' silences where the band stopped and chatted amongst themselves between songs. As a friend who went to a different show said, he seemed like a 'right mardy bastard'.

It's often a testament to the real size of a band's fanbase how many bootleggers are outside. Glassjaw had a whole lot of bootleggers. And their t-shirts were better than the official ones.

But to sum up, as reviewers probably should, it was a good gig, I got to sing along to songs I liked when I was younger at last, and hear some good new stuff, the band could have engaged a bit more but it wasn't a ruiner, and if they come back again I'll definitely see them.



Here's some ramble about independent records labels and the shittiness of the music industry.

Earache Records were one of the first labels to release grindcore. They were also one of the first independent labels I was aware that bands had criticised, having heard first band from couple of bands who used to be signed to them about the owners reluctance to pay royalties or bother to promote more than one record. I remember speaking to the singer from a grindcore band (probably best off not naming him or them for legal reasons!) of the late 80s who said that they're still owed over £3000.

I used to be a bit of a fan of Roadrunner Records as a teenager. In the mid 90s their roster was a 'who's who' of great metal bands (excluding the 'big four' of thrash and Pantera), with a few hardcore bands thrown in for good measure. Anyone who was into rock music at the time will fondly remember great albums by Fear Factory, Machine Head, Sepultura, Type O Negative, Shelter and various others whom I could list, or you could go on Wikipedia and see their more comprehensive list. I assume there is one.

The late 90s were the era of Ross Robinson, then the most prized producer in rock, recommending Amen and Glassjaw amongst others, and involved a bit of diversification in the shape of Junkie XL (who later found fame and a No. 1 single remixing Elvis as JXL) and signing up some random indie bands, including Mansfield's Delirium, who had to change their name to something like D-Elz for legal reasons and then got dropped before releasing an album (I had to check this as was doing it purely from memory - the bass player is now in an Abba tribute band...). More significantly for their bank balances they signed Slipknot, who became huge at the turn of the century, partly due to their first album being great, partly due to them being very easy to market. When the sales slowed, Slipknot got dropped, despite what appears to be a continued large fanbase.

People assume independent labels will somehow be more ethical than the majors, that they don't plan to screw bands over in exactly the same way. Many an interview with bands tells us that the opposite is true. Glassjaw have gone as far as to state that people shouldn't buy their first album, to download it, to avoid giving Roadrunner and further money. Apparently contractual issues mean that they still can't release songs recorded whilst on the label in any other format, and to date they claim their career has been hampered by 'decisions we made when we were 21'. more about Glassjaw in another post.

I've not even got onto promoters who are only interested in promoting themselves rather than the bands they claim to represent, or the London band manager who screwed a band out of a shedload of cash by getting them a fixed rate for session work on an album that went on to sell 3 million copies, before largely ignoring them to focus of a high pitched and very irritating singer.

These are all symptoms of why the music industry deserves to die. Records labels want your money, 'professional' gig promoters wants your money and for them to be the main attraction, managers want at least 10% of a bands money and a lot more besides. All of these things are becoming redundant, and that can only be a good thing. Bands and solo artists are waking up to the fact that they don't need record labels, they don't need managers and they can organise and promote their own gigs. DIY is the way forward for everyone. Free downloads are becoming the norm. People expect that their record won't necessarily sell many copies, if they try to sell it at all.

The criticisms of this approach are generally the same: I've heard people complain that it might mean the end of the 'professional' band, but in reality only the really big bands dont' have to get jobs once they've finished on tour - that's not a situation that's going to change. Then there's the lower production values inherent in DIY, but then a £3 million recording (yes, it does happen) is still going to be played through the same speakers as an album recorded for nothing on a laptop, and the average listener probably wouldn't know the difference these days as home studio set ups are getting quite sophisticated. Innovation almost always comes from someone fiddling around with limited resources, rather than a rich rock star recording in a plush studio in Barbados snorting coke from a hooker's anus.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Tiredness can kill

I don't sleep well. I am usually quite tired. Someone once told me I might have sleep apnoea, although I might just be generally snoring. I definitely do that, as my lady often tells me!

Anyway, as such the era of the energy drink is a blessing to me.

Assisted by my 'focus group' of bassplaying energy drink addicted ladies, here is a list of energy drinks I can recall trying and some tasting notes:

Red Bull - The daddy of the modern energy drink, and a taste I quite like, although others are less impressed. Quite what that flavour is I'm not sure, vaguely fruity I suppose. One of my bands runs on this.

Red Bull Sugar Free - no thanks. It needs the sugar.

Rockstar (black) - big can, taste like a slightly cheaper Red Bull, which it is.

Rockstar Mango (orange) - lovely, I could drink it all day

Rockstar Guava (purple) - also quite tasty. Rockstar seem to be going for Rubicon's market.

Relentless (brown) - Nicer than Rockstar, less nice than Red Bull and slightly less effective IMHO.

Relentless 'Tropical' (i.e. mango) - again lovely, I'm not sure If I could pick between the Rockstar one and this.

Relentless Berry - a tasty alternative to the mango ones, tastes a bit like Fruli but without the alcohol.

Pussy - truly very odd, tastes a bit herbal, not particularly nice, only bought it for the amusing name.

Euro Shopper energy drink - ewwww. 35p, only when desperate and poor.

Blue Charge/all supermarket ones - again not particularly nice, certainly not if drunk warm. I've lumped all the supermarket ones together as they all seem to taste horrible warm, but tolerable cold. Not unlike Carling in that respect.

V - quite nice actually, an interesting alternative.

Purdey's - lovely, like a non-alcoholic wine. The silver version doesn't have any caffeine in but is my favourite of the two.

mad Chinese thing i forget the name of in a square bottle - tasted like treacle in an ashtray, made me feel very odd. possibly toxic. Tiny bassplayer 'the one with bleach'.

Red Devil - just a cheaper tasting Red Bull. Inoffensive.

Red Rooster - about the same as Red Devil

Irn Bru 32 - A true contender, tastes like slightly concentrated Irn Bru, which can only be a good thing.

Any of the 'shots' - all terrible, make me feel sick, and slightly too wired after a few minutes. The really strong ones give me the shakes.

Lucozade, whilst generally good (original or purple for me) doesn't really count anymore, although they do caffeine versions which are quite nice, there's a lemon flavour one I've had more than once. However the 'Alert' shot is as horrible as the others I've tried.

Zen Republic - I vaguely remember drinking this. Odd flavour, contains about 10 million ingredients. Says a tiny bassplayer: "It's nice, I have only seen it in Holland and Barrett."

Also the guarana herbal drinks (also Holland and Barrett. - tiny bassplayer says: "they send me loopy, thus...they rock!"

Shark - Says taller bassplaying friend - "Come to think of it I've only seen it in Northern Ireland. It is like Red Bull with a strange chemical aftertaste, and left Wayne's brother Denver completely wired for 48 hours, although he is not the caffeine connoisseur that I am."

Conclusion: Red Bull is the standard by which all others are judged, but the mango flavoured ones are also good.

Rambling return post

So I've been a bit slack with this. Here's some scribble.

I was thinking about politics and came up with some thoughts. We have a de facto two party system in this country due to the relative dominance of the Tories and Labour, but have a decent sized third party in the shape of the Lib Dems. The next election could be close enough for a coalition, which in my opinion would be a good thing - Labour's dafter excesses of late need reigning in and the Tories could do with someone to provide some kind of genuine support for the underprivileged.

Which led to me thinking about the American system. That seems to be set up for a two party system and nothing more, from every bit of political analysis I've seen. Other parties do exist but they're marginal.

The Democrats therefore seem to pick up a lot of people who would otherwise have joined another party, which goes some way to explaining their general lack of unity and infighting - they seem to be a coalition of loose common interest with various factions within it. The Republicans are much more homogeneous, and from the outside world appear to represent the bits of American culture that the rest of the world finds so objectionable - far-right Christian fundamentalism, guns, intolerance, warmongering, and the worst excesses of free market capitalism. I think part of the reason they are so successful even amongst Americans who aren't that right-wing is because people know exactly what they stand for, or at least what they think they stand for, whilst the Democrats are a bit more vague. In a country that deals in black and white, vague isn't the way to get voters onside. The Republican machine is set up to attack this vagueness, forcing the Democrats onto the back foot. Even when they have what looks like a cast iron policy to the rest of the world, i.e. Obama's heath care plan, the Republicans can manage to cast doubt on the whole thing by looking for the bits left to assumption and making false assertions, they using their friends in the media to spout nonsense about Obama being some kind of liberal socialist. The concept of calling Obama liberal or a socialist is hilarious to Europeans, most of whom have at least one large socialist party and actually understand what it means. If Obama is a socialist you might as well call Tony Blair a communist.

Much like American, Britain has developed a culture where people complain about government interference in their lives, then complain when the government isn't doing enough. It's exactly this attitude which caused the culture of spin to develop - there has to be a soundbite for everything or else the media has nothing to report, therefore 'the government isn't doing anything'. This part of the reason is why the Labour party, despite having done many decent things during their time in power, are in the shit. People no longer believe any of the 'good news' soundbites, even if they're true, and assume spin and lies at all times. 13 years will do that - no one believed anything the Major government said by the end of the Tories epic reign prior to Labour taking power.

There are many things in the American system we could adopt, like elected judges and officials in charge of public services at a local level. This would reduce the disengagement from politics that many people feel, and accusations of 'cronyism' and the like, and would hopefully reduce complacency and some of the more ridiculous decisions judges make. The drawback is the possibility of people electing reactionary idiots as opposed to the posh codgers we have at the moment, but it would make sense to have some people who have experienced real life in the legal system. This is put much better in Jonathan Freedland's book 'Bringing Home The Revolution

I'm a bit torn on this as I fear the people who would get involved might not be the kind of people I'd want involved. I'm not thinking of Homer Simpson taking over the bins. I'm thinking about the likes of the BNP getting small positions of power in this way, adding to their legitimacy. Although presumably they'd fuck it up and get voted out the next time as they seem to be a bunch of blaggers with no real policies.

In short I don't really know, I'm just another blogger, although not one with enough time on his hands to finish writing a cohesive article that doesn't have logic jumps and unfinished points. No system is perfect. It could be a lot worse. Our systems get a lot of scrutiny because we have the freedom to do so. Some aren't so lucky.