You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.

Friday, 27 April 2012

The Smiths reunion

We want the one we can’t have

Yesterday (26 April) saw fresh speculation that The Smiths had cast aside their famous differences and were set to reform for a tour later this year. It was quickly quashed by Johnny Marr and Mike Joyce, who are probably more reliable sources on the matter than
the crappy website that ran the original story.

Despite the story originating from a clearly BS article, which contained no evidence, sources or even information really, this latest round of rumours were still enough to be picked up by all the obvious names, NME, Q, Pitchfork, The Times etc. before the same sites posted follow ups dismissing the rumours.

It led to The Smiths trending on Twitter and the usual reactions to these now all too
familiar rumours. Many were horrified, many were hopeful, most were sarcastic.

It is however indicative of our interest in reformations and reunions that woolly at best speculation can still make an impact online. It’s become simply a quick and easy way to stir the pot and gain a fair few hits, both by the original website and the subsequent big boys. And yet we still bite.

I love The Smiths and I love the fact they are one of an ever-decreasing number of bands that refuse to reform. I hope they don’t. Plus, Morrissey walked off stage ten minutes into the gig the only time I’ve been to see him, so I can never take a tour announcement from him completely seriously.

I think there is a definite element of wanting what you can’t have in reunions, which is
what makes The Smiths perhaps the last big name. We know they won't and that makes us want it more. But how many bands are better the second time round? Actually manage to release new material? Most of the people who want this reunion probably wouldn’t even
get to experience it, as was the case with The Stone Roses reunion this summer.

I have seen a few reformed bands though, and so I know first-hand that it’s a mixed bag. 
It depends on what sort of band they were, when they split, why they split, the reason for reuniting and a whole load of other factors.

I saw Smashing Pumpkins (well, Billy and Jimmy before even Jimmy left) at Reading
in ’07, when they were good, and on an arena tour the following year, when they ruined everything. Billy reformed because the Smashing Pumpkins name drew a bigger crowd
than he could, but it soon became just another solo ego trip.

I saw The Libertines, also at Reading, in ‘10, who, while only doing two performances in total, were excellent. They made it through the set without fighting each other and the songs sounded great live for those of us who had missed out first time around. I’d say it
was a success but it didn’t do a lot for their legacy or lead to anything else so was it worth all the fuss?

I also saw Rage Against The Machine, again at Reading, in ’08 and it was one of the best performances I’ve ever seen. They returned with renewed energy and had lost none of their relevance or potency. They found new targets and reached a new generation. A success but again it hasn’t really gone anywhere since.

Could the same be said of The Smiths? Would they have an impact beyond their own bank balances? Obviously, there are arguments for and against.

"I would rather eat my own testicles than reform The Smiths, and that's saying something for a vegetarian," Morrissey, 2006.

The backdrop of an unpopular conservative government and a country in recession makes it sound almost appropriate, but aren’t protest songs for angry young men? Plus isn’t there something ironic about a band reforming and earning millions of pounds while playing anti-establishment songs? I've seen Dylan live and frankly, though I still love him, wish I hadn't. I'm sure plenty of Sex Pistols fans feel the same after their several reunions.

Morrissey told Uncut in 2006, "I would rather eat my own testicles than reform The Smiths, and that's saying something for a vegetarian." Do we want a Morrissey that goes back on that? While I don’t agree with a lot of what he says, that's who he is and I don't want to change that.

While I don't blame anyone for taking the money, wouldn’t it really tarnish The Smiths' legacy and go against what they stood for? We want the one we can’t have, but be
careful what you wish for.

I’m happy with their back catalogue the way it is. I think they are right not to reform and many agree, including the four most important people. So, as Q Magazine appropriately tweeted, ‘Thanks for playing ‘The Smiths aren’t reuniting game’ we’ll see you next time’.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Beach House - Myth

This song, the first to be released from Beach House's forthcoming fourth album Bloom,
is an early contender for song of the year for me. I’m not ashamed to admit that during
a particularly bad day, not long after I first heard this about a month ago, I put this song
on and ended up listening to it about ten times back to back. The fact it makes me feel something different each time I listen makes it extraordinary, it's a chameleon of a song,
at times uplifting, at times perfect to wallow to. I hope it works its wonders for you too.

Grimes - Oblivion

This song from quirky Canadian Claire Boucher, aka Grimes is taken from her excellent album Visions. I love the contrast of her beautifully incomprehensible vocal melodies with the electronic beats and droning synths in this song. The video is strangely great too, with the odd juxtaposition of her electronica and a sports arena working well. I like the haphazard nature of the video too, with confused and drunk people  interrupting, giving
strange looks and even getting involved, and the fact no one seems to know who she is.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Corporate indie.

So throw those curtains wide… it's time to write another cash cow

How do you judge when an ‘alternative’ band has really made it big? A number one album? Maybe. A sell-out tour? Possibly. Or is it when they find their cash cow? That song(s) that just keeps cropping up, especially in places that it really shouldn’t.

Advertising, TV montages, presentations, conferences – for me, these are the real indicators of when a band has made it, and by made it, I mean swapped coolness and credibility for fame and fortune. C’est la vie, but can we blame them?

Indie and guitar music dominate these mediums far more than they do the charts these days, with a handful of bands used to such levels that the royalties alone must be a significant part of their earnings.

Elbow's One Day Like This is the obvious example for me, and as we approach London 2012, yawn, we face the prospect of them releasing another, the only difference being that this song will actually have been written specifically for something as uninspiring as athletics, so will surely be worse.

You can imagine the pound signs in certain bands’ eyes as they write new songs with adverts rather than audiences in minds, but I don’t think Guy Garvey had the Olympics, a dramatic finale of Waterloo Road or Holby City, or a montage of the best bits of Big Brother 9 in mind when he wrote One Day Like This, so I doubt their Olympic song will be as inspired, but I digress.

Clearly cash cows annoy me, that much is obvious, so who should I be annoyed at?

Elbow? Like I said I don’t think this is what they had in mind when toiling away for 20 years to make it to where they are today, and everyone gotsta get paid, but they have agreed to their song being used relentlessly and degradingly. They’ve allowed something that, while not the best or worst song ever, you hope meant something to them, to be ruined, squeezed of its sentiment and left as a meaningless cliché.

I’m not just picking on Elbow, there are plenty more out there, you all know the songs I’m talking about, Florence’s You’ve Got the Love cover was an obvious cash cow from day one, Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol, anything by The Killers.

All have been milked beyond belief. And it’s not just established bands that are in on the act, PR-savvy young bands pop up all over advertising all the time, a good example being the bizarrely-popular Two Door Cinema Club, who were unavoidable in advertising throughout 2011, this list showing over 20 advertising appearances already, such as this one, apparently a Debenhams advert is what young bands aspire to now, yuck.

It all makes me think of this and, while Ricky Gervais is pushing the limits with Chris Martin here, there are people like this surely out there, if not in the bands then around them.

So, if I can't blame the bands, that are only being smart some would argue, should I be annoyed at the users? The people endlessly and mindlessly using these songs. Using a song like One Day Like This is such an obviously cheap and lazy attempt to improve something that lacks heart or feeling that it shouldn't be allowed any more. Can't they just stick to Take That or Adele?

Shouldn't we hate them for thinking a song like Elbow is appropriate to soundtrack soap actors reacting to yet another statistically-unlikely disaster in their workplace or footballers’ faces distorted with agony at failing to make the last 32 of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy?

Or should I just be annoyed at myself? For being annoyed by this, for thinking bands on the left of mainstream should be better than cash cows, that they earn enough money without needing to whore out their songs? For writing this rambling blog?

I don’t know, but I know one thing, I’m not excited to hear Elbow’s song for the Olympics. Why they don’t just trot out the cash cow they have again is beyond me.