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

Friday, 13 December 2013


2013 has been a ridiculously great year for music, from established artists scaling new heights with modern classics to stunning debuts and the odd surprisingly-brilliant comeback. In fact, compiling my own annual top 10 proved so difficult this year that I've expanded it to 20, and could have kept going.

On a personal note, 2013 has been a great year for me musically, with my first Glastonbury added to my five previous Reading Festival experiences, with the highlights of a truly awesome weekend being Portishead, Savages, The Staves, Haim, Johnny Marr, Vampire Weekend, Nick Cave, The xx, and obviously The Rolling Stones. Add to these brilliant gigs by Laura Marling, Poliça, Sigur Ros, Wild Nothing, Tegan and Sara, Summer Camp, and the three times I've seen Daughter (obsessed) and this has been another great year for live music.

I have also seen my music writing reach a wider audience this year through my reviews for Australia's Blunt Magazine, and locally for Counteract Magazine.

So, without further ado, here are my top 20 albums from 2013.

  1. Daughter - If You Leave
  2. Laura Marling - Once I Was An Eagle
  3. The National - Trouble Will Find Me
  4. Arcade Fire - Reflektor
  5. Savages - Silence Yourself
  6. Local Natives - Hummingbird
  7. Chvrches - The Bones of What You Believe
  8. Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires of the City
  9. London Grammar - If You Wait
  10. Summer Camp - Summer Camp
  11. Haim - Days Are Gone
  12. Sigur Ros - Kveikur
  13. James Blake - Overgrown
  14. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Push The Sky Away
  15. David Bowie - The Next Day
  16. Anna Calvi - One Breath
  17. Poliça - Shulamith
  18. Parquet Courts - Light Up Gold
  19. My Bloody Valentine - mbv
  20. Veronica Falls - Waiting For Something To Happen

And here is a playlist of some tunes I've listened to a lot this year, in no particular order.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Tegan and Sara + Waxahatchee

Bigger is better, so they say. Identical twins and alt-icons Tegan and Sara Quin came to this conclusion last year, six albums into their career, while playing support slots in huge arenas for The Killers and The Black Keys.

The result of this ambition for a new, bigger sound was Heartthrob, the synth-led, glossy pop album that landed to near-universal acclaim in January. And, while they don’t have arenas of their own to fill just yet, they do have a devoted audience, with the venue full long before their arrival.

First up though are Waxahatchee, the solo project of Katie Crutchfield named for a lake in Alabama, whose sound is a throwback to some of the earlier output of tonight’s headliners. Her lo-fi but loud numbers from recent release Cerulean Salt and debut American Weekend are well-received, offering a distortion-filled calm before the storm.

And a storm it is. Backed by a band of four, Tegan and Sara’s pacey 21-song set is dominated by Heartthrob, with all but one song included, and the crowd echoes the adulation their new direction has met with.

There is still room for songs from four other albums too, and they slot in perfectly, the new synths even find their way onto a number of the early songs. Back In Your Head from The Con and Where Does The Good Go from So Jealous receive particularly loud singalongs.

Their unique chemistry shines during several bursts of conversation; Tegan discussing the fear of burping on stage and Sara asking for better aim from the audience after being hit by a flying bra. Of course they’re siblings, so there are also a few playful barbs between them, but the lasting impression is of humility; the Canadian sisters truly appreciate their audience, and can’t say it enough.

Ending their set, Closer is irresistibly infectious, the perfect encapsulation of their big and bold pop star credentials. And, if it's even possible that that isn’t quite your thing, they return for a stripped down encore, which features a medley of all the songs fans have asked for recently. They really are a nice bunch. Next stop, arenas.


Thursday, 9 May 2013

The National - Trouble Will Find Me

Six albums in The National are at a crossroads. Alligator and Boxer firmly cemented the path of indie darlings and cult favourites years ago, while their last release High Violet opened up the unlikely possibility of headline slots, stadiums and mainstream glory.

After several listens however, just which path Trouble Will Find Me will lead them down remains unclear. It was hard to imagine them ever ‘selling out’, after all just last weekend (5 May) they soundtracked an art exhibition in New York by playing one song over and over for six hours. But whether this set of songs will inspire a mainstream frenzy is equally hard to predict.

For the initiated though, the key question is does this record live up to its shadow-casting predecessors. And the answer is a resounding yes.

On mood-building opener I Should Live In Salt, Matt Berninger is almost immediately reassuring us that it’s business as usual with the refrain ‘You should know me better than that’.

And, after moody first single Demons, that familiar tempo change and the driving drums that made Lit Up, Brainy and Bloodbuzz Ohio so exciting soon come in again on track three Don’t Swallow The Cap, and again later on the mesmerising Graceless. The contrast of the fervent beat and the droning vocals makes for their most affecting sound, and these two songs are utterly compelling. Similarly, Sea of Love, whose lyrics provide the album title, sees them at their most soaring and mourning in its brief three minutes.

Lyrically there are too many dark and wonderful lines to pick out. On Fireproof, the line ‘Needle in the hay’ and Berninger’s delivery brings to mind Elliott Smith, while on Humiliation he croons ‘She wore blue velvet’. By closer Hard To Find, he wearily quotes the Violent Femmes, not an obvious National influence.

With music always becoming more fractured and disposable, this is an album in every sense of the word. While its dark, melancholy nature may limit its mainstream appeal, this album simply provides further evidence that there are few better bands than The National in the world right now. 

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Alessi's Ark + Ralfe Band + Cannon Street

A bona fide folk feast took place at the Hare and Hounds last night, with the audience taken aboard Alessi’s Ark for an evening of tall tales and soothing sounds.

Kicking off with Birmingham’s own Cannon Street; the teenage sisters Nadi and Rukaiyah Qazi immediately arrest the room with their beguiling vocal harmony, evoking another pair of sisters, Sweden’s First Aid Kit. Their sibling chemistry and sweeping vocals make them compelling to watch, stand out track St Mary’s View capturing their craft nicely.

Up next is Ralfe Band who also perform as a duo, yet between them they still get guitars, bass, keyboards, drums, percussion, trumpet and even some washboard in their set. Providing a gruffer, more earthy counterpoint to the sweetness of the other bands on the bill, their bounce is caught perfectly in opening song and latest single Come On Go Wild.

By the time Alessi’s Ark (the chosen moniker of London singer-songwriter Alessi Laurent-Marke and her band) take to the stage, the audience - casually scattered around tables and chairs - are soothed and silent.

Alessi’s set, drawing heavily from her just-released third album The Still Life, features her breathy vocals backed with a rich, full-band sound, as well as some solo acoustic numbers. The short length of her songs means she has time for well over a dozen.

Slipping between French and English vocals, opening song Sans Balance is a treat, as are Big Dipper, The Rain, The Robot and her cover of The National’s Afraid of Everyone.

At only 22, her onstage presence could still be described as shy, yet the wit and charm shown in her lyrics shine through as she relaxes.

“I’m doing exactly as I please,” she sings on Veins Are Blue, and a joy it is to see and hear. Alessi’s Ark will return to Birmingham in August for Moseley Folk Festival.

Monday, 22 April 2013


Daughter’s first headline show in the second city, much like their debut album, was a long time coming, but similarly worth the wait.

Main support comes from Bear’s Den, who tick all the folk boxes with a sound that flits between the delicate folk of Daughter’s early EPs and the rousing harmonies of Fleet Foxes. Their short set is well-received and nicely scene-setting.

Bathed in red, Daugher the trio of Elena Tonra, Igor Haefeli and Remi Aguilella soon enter in the unassuming manner that typifies their performance. They begin Shallows without a word, and the crowd follows suit. Not many sell-out crowds are this pin-drop quiet; attentively soaking up every fragile sound. And the sporadic singalongs particularly for Landfill and Youth are almost hushed and respectful, so as not to disturb what’s going on onstage.

Every sound to come from the stage is equally intricate and considered; every string is plucked with care, every cymbol hit with the right pressure, every intonation of Elena’s voice is affecting. Even when things get loud when Igor uses a bow to draw some haunting sounds from his guitar on Love and Still the utmost care is still taken.

Like the titles in their 13-song set suggest (Smother, Human), they don’t shy away from big, melancholy subjects. And a close listen to their lyrics may leave you concerned for singer-songwriter Elena, but tonight she beams with joy, admitting they are overwhelmed to be back playing their own sell-out gig having supported twice in the Institute before.

She even cracks up during Amsterdam after changing the words to Birmingham, and again during Winter, apologising profusely for each, as well as apologising for not ironing her top. It’s a joy to see them come alive onstage throughout, matching their mesmerising craft with genuine chemistry.

With a clearly dedicated fan base and a top 20 album now under their belt, the future is bright for this young band and they’re clearly as excited about it as anyone. Just don’t expect their music to reflect that any time soon.


Tuesday, 9 April 2013


Last night, on the final night of a short UK tour, in a sold out, sweaty and rowdy Hare and Hounds, Jaws gave more evidence that this B-Town lark isn’t just a flash in the pan.

As a Birmingham native, the whole B-Town thing inspires two rather contrasting feelings. It’s great to have some bands to be excited about and some attention at a national level, I just wish they didn’t have to give us a shitty nickname. But I digress.

With a young and restless crowd whipped into a frenzy across four (at least two more than any gig needs) support bands, by the time Jaws took to the stage and burst into Breeze, the whole room was a swirling mass of leaping, shoving and jumping. And the faster Donut only poured more fuel on the fire for the wildly juvenile audience.

A gig shouldn’t be judged on the floor though, and what was happening onstage was quite the opposite. Dressed ready for a trip to Hawaii in the early 90s, Jaws produce their sweet and jangly distortion-tinged pop so effortlessly it borders on lethargic, like they’re chilling on a real beach and not just surrounded by inflatable palm trees.

Looking barely older than the kids throwing themselves around in front of them, the band don’t quite have the showmanship yet (“Birmingham is the best place in the world,” was frontman Connor Schofield’s repeated mantra), but they display the raw materials that should see them match or even surpass their friends and current Birmingham starlets Peace. They certainly have the songs.

And with only a handful released so far, their set was short but sweet; a great-sounding new song and an early song supplementing the six that will make up the Milkshake EP, released on 22 April.

Jaws were hailed as “the undiscovered gems of the Birmingham scene” by the Guardian in December, in a lengthy piece profiling them alongside Peace and Swim Deep. With gems like Friend Like You and Surround You already inspiring reactions as frenzied as those witnessed tonight, they won’t stay undiscovered for long.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

The Knife - Shaking The Habitual

To fully digest a record takes multiple listens. An ambitious and complex 100-minute album complicates this to no end.

And, with 13 tracks – ranging from the 37 second Onyx to the 19 minute ambient centrepiece Old Dreams Waiting to Be Realized – the fourth album from Swedish electronic duo The Knife is a bold statement, and one that deserves more than snap judgements. Unfortunately, with its complicity and its intimidating length, it will live or die by such first impressions. So here we go.

First single Full of Fire is a good place to start, as it is the album at its best. A nine minute storm of beats, bangs and bleeps; not a second of it feels overbearing or unnecessary.

Almost inevitably though, that can’t be said of the whole record. Songs such as A Cherry on Top and the aforementioned Old Dreams Waiting to Be Realized disturb and linger with their chilling mood and brooding tones, but they also test the patience, the latter becoming something of an anchor threatening to drown the whole listening experience.

However, the relentless jungle percussion of Without You My Life Would Be Boring and the slow stomp of Wrap Your Arms Around Me, as well as the glitchy twitch of Networking and the punchy buzz of Stay Out Here in the record’s second half, are more than enough to drag the listener through and leave them at the other end smiling.

Lyrically the album comes and goes, with some lines intentionally obscured and others brought to the fore, but when they land, they are provocative and indicative of the intellectual background of the band.

Despite its length, this isn’t a record that outstays its welcome, even if a few tracks may have you reaching for the next button. However, as confounding as it all sounds at first, the multiple listens which at once seemed daunting will soon become compulsory, as this compelling beast infects and controls. Give its near 100 minutes a chance, and Shaking The Habitual just might take you too.

Saturday, 23 March 2013


In early 2012 a song came into heavy rotation on 6 music, and almost every play came with an attached quote, or endorsement if you will, from Justin Vernon of Bon Iver fame. He had declared the then-little known Poliça ‘the best band I’ve ever heard’. Quite the soundbite.

It helped that the song itself, Lay Your Cards Out, was brilliant and distinctly different sounding, as was the entirety of their debut album, Give You The Ghost. Layers of ghostly, autotuned vocals. Duelling drummers. It was an electronic cacophony, a storm of noise and ideas.

And last night, with a storm raging outside, they brought it to Birmingham.

Ambling on stage and casually launching into Dark Star wasn’t a stormy beginning, but it was an appropriate starting point as the whole gig is casually dark - from the music to the lighting - but also punctured with energetic and bright moments.

With two drummers on stage the gig is heavily focused on the percussive, and this is a performance that makes more of an impression sonically than it does lyrically. With soaring sounds, aggressive drumming and a frontwoman throwing shapes, the crowd duly responded in movement rather than vocally.

Channy Leaneagh is a schizophrenic frontwoman, flitting between introverted synth operator, to grooving disco queen, to arm throwing hip-hop assaulter. She occupies the stage in front of the twin drummers and bass player, delivering and layering her distinctive vocals with aggression, apomb and autonomy.

She only talks to utter an apology for the weather outside. But she delivers Leading To Death, The Maker, and Amongster like her life depends on it. And the aforementioned Lay Your Cards Out sees the crowd raise their hands and shift spasmodically throughout.

A compact performance sees most of the album played, with the encore only comprising a vocal solo and a brief new song. The crowd wanted more, but oh well, they’ll be back.

Over a year on from that infamous soundbite, Poliça have come a long way, maybe not enough for everyone to agree with Justin, but enough to justify themselves as a truly exciting band.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Wild Nothing

For a Wednesday night out in the ‘burbs of the second city, this sure was a treat.
And, at less than a tenner, it was a steal, as three bands delivered sets as they should be - loud and fast sure, but just as intricate and precise.

Opening the show at Kings Heath’s Hare & Hounds were Birmingham natives Wide Eyed, whose grunge-tinged shoegaze blew away all the midweek cobwebs. Their wall-of-noise set was no doubt ear-catching, their sound recalling early Smashing Pumpkins or more recently Toy. Yet another Birmingham band to keep an eye on.

Hot on their heels were Londoners Omi Palone, who, despite a few drum-falling-over issues, picked up the pace and ripped through an energising set of lo-fi indie pop at their first ever Birmingham gig.

And after the loud, the fuzz and the fast came the bliss of Wild Nothing. Assembling on stage and launching into Shadow from 2012’s brilliant Nocturne with minimal fuss, Jack Tatum and his live band gave off an air of complete calm.

As did the tunes, with their washed out, uplifting tones infectiously spreading around the venue, inspiring an entire room to mindlessly drift and sway around to the intricate guitar lines and soaring synths.

Playing a tight hour set largely made up of songs from the aforementioned Nocturne, as well as a couple from their debut Gemini and a cover of The Go-Between’s Head Full of Steam, highlights included Only Heather, Paradise, Counting Days, The Blue Dress, and rousing closer Summer Holiday.

A perfectly short and sweet performance from the band, who made it all look so effortless that they could have done it in their sleep.

Kudos to This is TMRW for spoling us rotten with another evening of great live music. Let’s do it again sometime.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Johnny Marr - The Messenger

As an amateur at this music writing lark, it’s not often I get a CD in advance of its release. I do have some friends though, and joyfully accepted a copy of Johnny Marr’s debut solo album The Messenger when it was offered to me this week.

Having read a few reviews of the record already, I don’t want to spend my piece talking about The Smiths and Morrissey, but it’s hard to start anywhere else, or to fail to note the differing trajectories they have been on since they parted ways in 1987.

They were always different, with Marr’s jangly guitars taking the edge off Morrissey’s bitter acidity, providing their trademark ‘sweet and sour’ sound and bringing the balance that the group's success was founded on.

Morrissey dived straight into solo work and has had varying levels of success ever since, but he is perhaps more infamous than famous these days, with constant tour cancellations and spewing a river of bile to the press seemingly his main activities.

Meanwhile, Marr’s reputation has been in the ascendancy, steadily growing over a number of years thanks to session work for a variety of artists (Paul McCartney, Oasis, Talking Heads) and time spent as a full member in several more (The Pretenders, Modest Mouse, The Cribs). And 2013 will see him potentially eclipse his former bandmate, with his upcoming Godlike Genius Award from NME, and the release of this record.

It’s fair to say his reputation didn’t really need any work, but neither did Noel Gallagher or Jack White’s previously, and as Jack would surely agree, successful solo artist is a better tag than journeyman guitarist.

And this album is a success. His guitar prowess was never in doubt, but his vocals are also impressive and flexible, often bringing to mind Echo & The Bunnymen’s Ian McCulloch. His lyrics are also solid, while none stand out as amazing, he does avoid any stinkers, which is easier said than done.

It is the guitars that rightly sit at the centre of the album though and, of course, the trademark jangly sound features, but he isn’t limited to it. Incendiary guitars pepper second track ‘I Want The Heartbeat’, opener ‘The Right Thing Right’ and ‘Lockdown’ are stompers featuring fuller 'big' guitar sounds, and ‘New Town Velocity’ mixes acoustic and electric in the vein of New Order.

Particular high points include the title track, with soft vocals recalling early Ian Brown surrounded by layered guitars and synths, and ‘Say Demesne’, which builds across its five minutes into something the aforementioned Echo would have been proud of in their heyday.

His experience as a producer also shines through. It is a well-rounded album, with a great flow through the faster and slower songs which makes the whole thing fly by.

Overall, it’s a solid, enjoyable album of indie pop/rock. It isn’t The Smiths, but nothing is. I doubt anyone would want to shoot this Messenger.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Drumming songs

We all likes drums, and the people that play them, they're generally the craziest or coolest band members. I've befriended a number of drummers in my life, and they have been fairly similar characters, but not in the way you'd expect. Creative, intelligent, and surprisingly quiet when away from their kit.

While a lot of people fancy the drums as the instrument they'd love to play, most simply want to sit at a kit and bash to their heart's content. But, while power is a credential, to stand out in the drumming world takes much more. When I thought of drums, these were five of the first songs to come to mind  others not available on Spotify (seriously Spotify?!) include Moby Dick by Led Zeppelin, Come Together by The Beatles and Reckoner by Radiohead.

It's by no means a list of my favourite drummers, just five songs with great and memorable beats, from Stephen Morris' originality and Meg White's simple infectiousness, to Dave Grohl's power and Matt Tong's speed. Air drum away!

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Lucy Jones

“Tweet journalists but don't be too pushy.”

This quote is buried in the middle of my interview with Lucy Jones, Deputy Editor of, but brings a smile to my face. Mainly because I’m intrigued whether this is advice Lucy thinks I need, or that I have already followed.

To explain, October 2012 saw Radiohead play a hotly anticipated three-date only UK tour, and I was lucky enough to be at the first gig in Manchester. Being aware that the majority of the pro music writers out there would be attending the two London dates several days later, I saw an opportunity to get an early review written and out there.

I had it ready the following morning and sent my review to several writers on Twitter, one of whom was Lucy, who deemed it worthy to retweet for her followers.

I got a bunch of views and even connected with plenty of Radiohead fans in the process. Job done, thanks Lucy! But I didn't stop there, and was cheeky enough to ask her for an interview, which she graciously agreed to. But, the best laid schemes and all that, coupled with a new job at the NME, and it subsequently took me two months to nail her down. Tweeting and emailing enough to remind her, while hopefully staying on the right side of her advice on persistence.

Fortunately, persistence is something Lucy knows a bit about too.

“After school I moved to Honduras for 6 months to work on a newspaper for free,” she tells me of the geographically-unusual start of her route into journalism.

“It was an awesome experience and I got a taste for the exciting side of journalism, I spent my time interviewing gangsters and reviewing 5 star hotels in the Bay Islands. It was insane. Then, after doing a degree in English Lit at UCL, I worked somewhere a little less exotic, the Maidenhead Advertiser.”

And while this move may have lacked the glamour of Central American gangsters, it was a vital step in establishing herself as a serious journalist.

“I loved writing about village life, but I also reviewed albums and films when I was there and realised I was much more interested in that side of things than straight news. After six months the paper sent me to do an NCTJ course. It was helpful to learn media law and shorthand, and it's a good qualification for any journalist to have on their CV.

“After that I started doing evening shifts at the Telegraph on the Comment desk, and a staff job followed a few months later.”

So, varied experience - check, qualifications - check. But what else does Lucy have that sets her apart in the desperately overcrowded music journalism job market?

“Eek. Um. That's a hard question. I'm passionate about music and committed to creating content that's going to entertain and inform. I’ve also studied music and learnt quite a few instruments, so I have quite a lot of knowledge on music theory, genres and instruments, which maybe makes it easier to deconstruct stuff. My skin's pretty tough as well so it doesn't knock me if pitches are rejected or someone writes that I'm a ruby-lipped monkey whore on the internet.”

Lucy preempts a later question by directly addressing the trolls, and the less said about them the better. So, other than being called a ruby-lipped monkey whore, what have been the highlights of Lucy’s career to date? And is the music journalism game all it’s cracked up to be?

“Getting a job at NME was pretty cool. I've also loved covering SXSW in Austin for the last couple of years. Interviewing Bryan Harvey? Just kidding. Tori Amos, E from Eels, Bjork, Bobby Womack and Graham Coxon have all been cool interviewees.

“Interviewing musicians and artists I was in awe of and spending my time listening to music and going to gigs rocks. Also I love the idea of introducing a song or artist to someone that'll flip their wig.”

Despite Lucy’s nonchalant “pretty cool” remark about her move to the NME in 2012, and my previous interviewee and former NME writer Laura Snapes’ branding of it as a “normal place”, the fanboy in me has to ask what the move there was like.

“I try not to think ahead as much as possible, so I'm not sure I had expectations really. I didn't expect to walk in and see Liam and Noel and people shooting up in the stationary cupboard. It's been amazing working with a team who just absolutely love music and are excited about it. It's a really nice vibe, there are a lot of LOLs. It's also nice to write for a massive readership who really care about new music.”

Lucy's favourite song of 2012

So, having made the “pretty cool” move to the NME, what else does someone who tries not to think ahead still want to achieve?

“I'd like to write a book. Maybe fictional, maybe about a band I like. I want to travel and study more too, and possibly move to the States for a bit. And to meet my dream interviewee, Prince.”

For those who haven’t been with this blog from the start, the reason I started interviewing writers whilst still at university was not only to tell their great untold stories, but to get their advice too. Lucy’s advice? Be polite. Be bold. Be yourself.

“Write to everyone you want to work for and send them an article tailored to their style. Stop waffling. Cut your prose down by at least half. Wake up every morning at 6am to write. Read all the books about music you can find. Make notes and keep them. Read other books too. Go to gigs even if you don't know who's playing. Crate-dig. Put your best work on a blog. Tweet journalists but don't be too pushy. Get an NCTJ or masters if you can. Work for a local paper. Look for local papers that offer scholarships for training. And don't be offended if someone says your writing needs a lot of work.”

Tweet but don’t be too pushy. Lucy subsequently assures me that was not an answer tailored for me, but I will now remember it nonetheless. Thanks to Lucy for her time, and for sharing her story. She can be found in the links throughout this blog, and on

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

HMV: Love the one you’re with

I wasn’t sure why at first but, like many, I found the news that HMV is going into administration rather disconcerting. Like democracy or public transport, it’s doesn’t always work and sometimes it’s frustrating, but we need it.

I’m not a diehard customer – probably buying from there only a handful of times a year – and have played my part in contributing to its demise by replacing my once frequent purchases with a Spotify account and Amazon. But, as I’ve written this piece, and got caught up in it, the thought of a high street without a single place to buy music or film has become increasingly depressing.

The closure of the four-floor Birmingham store last year is already proof enough for me that the loss of HMV would be keenly felt. While it wasn’t my local store, it was the biggest one nearby, and the best. I spent hundreds of hours in there, buying, searching or just killing time browsing. And I have missed it since.

As great as independent music shops are, for most of the country they are too few and far between to play a big part in the filling the potential void left by HMV. And for film lovers, there are no such shops at all.

Sharing in the nostalgia that many have expressed (via #HMVmemories), HMV played a key part in the early development of my music obsession, and in my teen years as a whole. I have undoubtedly more vivid memories of HMV purchases than of any from other shops. While that may make me rather sad, it is true nonetheless.

Unfortunately, this announcement could be the final step in a trend that has seen Virgin Megastores, Fopp, Zavvi and more wiped from our high streets over the last decade, and, if that isn’t worrying enough, we may soon find ourselves in a time where music and film can only be immediately bought in supermarkets.

I doubt today’s teens will similarly reminisce about hours spent in Sainsbury’s or Tesco’s music sections, or even remember the process of clicking a few buttons to buy their first ever album. As Reverend Lovejoy's wife would say, WON'T SOMEBODY PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN?!

The truth is, as much as sleek web design and recommendations from other users are great, they are no substitution for browsing in a store filled with physical and wondrous products. not to mention actual human beings you can even share a conversation with about what you're buying. That is worth paying a little extra for.

I hope that a buyer is found and that as many stores as possible stay open and that staff can keep their jobs. But I also hope we all appreciate HMV more. While sales may be down, no one ever questions the popularity of music or film as a whole, and they deserves their place on our high streets.

If this national institution can be saved, I for one will remember the thought of it no longer being there, and will try to act accordingly. It’s not perfect, but nothing is.

Friday, 4 January 2013

Tainted Love?

After spending yesterday afternoon binging on The Smiths and The Smashing Pumpkins, a thought suddenly occurred to me that these two have something in common.

I love the music of both – each would probably make my personal top 10 – but they also both suffer from having frontmen that are, frankly, tools. This tenuous but hopefully noteworthy link between these bands wasn't an entirely new thought, but in the wake of an unrelated comment I saw recently, it made me think again.

Namely, it made me wonder if you can love a band’s music when you no longer love the band, or even if you never liked the band themselves in the first place? And what would it take to make me completely disown a band? 

To go back to the unrelated comment, an unnamed friend posting on social media recently posed the question, or problem, that they wanted to listen to Lostprophets, but in the wake of recent revelations, weren’t sure if they should, or even could.

I felt it was an interesting question, broadening it slightly, they were basically asking if the subsequent actions of a musician can taint their music?

Obviously, that is an extreme example, and this is a light-hearted blog and I’m drawing no comparison between Morrissey and Billy Corgan and the Lostprophets frontman I don’t even want to name let alone discuss. I am not attempting to make out that their actions, which I will now discuss, are anything like what he is accused of (disclaimer out of the way, calm down).

But there are a number of reasons for me to have formed these opinions. They have both fucked me over in person by ruining gigs I was at, Morrissey walking off four songs into a gig I’d travelled all the way to the Roundhouse in Camden for, and Corgan ending a Pumpkins (in name only) gig in Nottingham after just over an hour, despite completing a three-hour gig in London just two days later. The following setlist for the gig even mentions him storming off.

Unless the mythical Smiths reunion ever comes to fruition (it won’t), or the original Pumpkins line-up tours again (they won’t either) I would never consider seeing either of them again. These experiences have irrevocably changed my feelings towards these bands because they always come to mind when I listen to them, which is admittedly unfair on the rest of The Smiths and the original Pumpkins but true nonetheless. 

Add to that, they both have become increasingly erratic and annoying public figures, frequently making embarrassing or simply ridiculous statements in the media. I’m sure I’m not the only Smiths fan bored of having to defend themselves to non-fans every time Morrissey makes a ridiculous remark about the royals or worse. Last year Billy Corgan said he wanted to “piss on” Radiohead. Seriously, what a dick.

I had ignored Oceania, the latest SP’s album, completely (until yesterday, it’s okay by the way) because of my thoughts on him as a person and comments such as that. The same would apply for any new work from Morrissey. But, I still regularly enjoy their best work, just as I still admire their talent too.

So, I guess my point is Steven and Billy, you haven't completely ruined it yet, but please, stop it already. I still want to listen to The Queen is Dead, Meat is Murder, Siamese Dream and Mellon Collie for years to come. You've ruined yourselves, don’t ruin your work for me too.