Monday, 29 March 2004

Frustrating Legal Downloads

Recently I won a free song in Coke's new "rot your teeth for free music" promotion. Actually, I didn't win the free song, I was at a mate's place and a lot of coke was being done. With a lot of rum. Anyway, a lot of pull tabs were up for grabs and I decided to see if the odds were actually "1 in 10" as the tins stated. For the record, it's more like "1 in 22".

Anyway, the other day I decided to log in the Coke music site and spend a penny (not worth more than that, these free tunes). I'd been in a Lost Boys mood that day - "24" overload or worry over Corey Haim's career, I couldn't tell - and I'd honed in on Charlie Sexton's 'Cry Little Sister' from the Lost Boys soundtrack as my freebie track to download.

Guess what.

Yeah. Legal downloads are great, except for two things - they're copy control infested AND there's nothing you can't get in a record store.. or in this case, there's stuff in a record store you can't get. Poor old Mr. Sexton, who hasn't had a hit in a while, won't be getting my 11p anytime soon as the only version of 'Cry Little Sister' they had available was part of that worrying trend where crap producers rape obscure and classy 80s songs and turn them into horrendous stomping trance "hits". Last week 'Heaven' by Bryan Adams, now 'Cry Little Sister'.

Looks like I'll have to buy a Britney song from MyCokeMusic as they don't seem to want to cater to the obvious market - people who want to buy music that is currently unavailable - either through deletion of original albums (Cab Voltaire's 'Code', anyone) or being on obscure promo 12"s (I'd buy DJ Hell's remix of 'West End girls' in a heartbeat).

Time Out interview with Duran Duran

Cover of "Big Thing"Cover of Big Thing

Having leafed through this week's Time Out, I was surprised and a little elated to see that Zodiac Mindwarp was playing a live gig in London (with or without the Love Reaction remains to be seen). £12 at the Borderline, btw.

My elation at obscure 80s cock-rockers aside, the interview with cover stars Duran Duran was actually interesting and (almost) factually correct!

Most of the press recently have been harking on about the "comeback" and the "reunion" but seem to forget that the band haven't actually broken up. Some of the more enlightened press have worked the "reunion of the original lineup" angle, but most (near all) seem to shit from a great height on any material released post the Taylor-trio member days... that's the 1981-1985 era for those playing along at home.

Time Out however, not only reversed that trend, they actually went on record saying the material between 1986 and 1990 was their strongest stuff!


I mean, fans know this - Big Thing and Notorious are permanent faves for those in the know - but what do the press know of this period? The interviewer does go on to mention that hits were few and far between (the amazing "Skin Trade" stalling at 39 for instance).

Not only are Duran Duran being reassessed in light of the 25th anniversary reunion (damn, now they've got me saying it), but the press are finally taking their heads out of their collective asses and actually letting the music do the talking - not preconceptions.

It's a perfect day.

Btw, the factual error was saying that the band were all from Birmingham except for Watford boy Simon. Truth is, Andy's from Newcastle.

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Wednesday, 17 March 2004

Georgie says goodbye

George Michael is the world's most indecisive pop star. First he fights his original label - dinky little Innervision - until they succumb and allow him to fully sign to CBS sub-label Epic.

He then cried foul at the treatment from Epic (now being a sub-label of Sony Music, itself a sub-company of Sony Electronics, the Japanese powerhouse) and leaves to join Dreamworks in the US (and Virgin for the rest of the world).

Having fulfilled his commitments to those labels, he takes things into his own hands and auditions distribution labels for his new music - you see, he's gone and signed himself to Aegean, his own label, and he just needs someone to get discs in stores.

Polydor get the chance to release a couple of admittedly weak singles - 'Freeek!' and 'Shoot The Dog' - and the whole experiment underperforms.

Cut to late 2003 and Georgie boy announces the label he's going to allow to release his new album 'Patience' is none other than Sony.

Man. Does George not remember the hell and lawsuits he went through in the early 90s being nothing more than a piece of "Sony software"?

Obviously not.

Just to add salt to the wound, during this week's promotion of the album, George has announced he's sick of being famous and is retiring from the record-label release game. Any further music will be on his terms, his timescale and downloadable from his website.

Hope Sony weren't hoping on getting any further material to release.

Decent Album

Following this track record, who's knows what will actually happen. One thing is certain, 'Patience' is quite a decent album. There's snippets of the prominent George Michael phases here - the quiet introspective stuff from 'Listen Without Prejudice' and the stoming dancefloor anthems like 'Outside'. His hits album's division - For The Heart and For The Feet - still sums up his output.

Standout tracks - 'Flawless (Go To The City)' and 'Precious Box'.

Wednesday, 10 March 2004

Music that gets you going

Sometimes, listening to music can put you in a certain frame of mind. Most couples have "their song" which reminds each person of a certain (usually naughty or intimate) experience with the other. Other people can put a timescale on music - "that's a university band", "that's my parent's music", etc.

Having re-aquired the debut album by Ned's Atomic Dustbin, I've been reliving (in my mind) the early 1990s as a fresh uni student, driving around Southwest Ontario visiting all my newly-liberated-from-highschool mates.

The music's more rocky and indie-feeling than today's charts would allow, but it does recall more than one night of drunken fun at Phil's Grandson's Place in Waterloo, where the drinks were cheap and the music was decent (mostly UK-based) indie.

Ah, the memories of yoof.

Goodbye label, goodbye

With all this consolidation in the music industry going on, it's not too surprising to see that artist rosters aren't the only things being trimmed.

News is out this week of BMG hacking and consolidating labels from their stable (including Clive Davis' venerable Arista!) as well as the newly Canadian-controlled Warner Music looking to prune imprints from its' list.

This all harkens back to the Universal reshuffle shortly after their take over of Polygram. Island became part of the Def Jam stable, as U2 obviously sit together with rap music.

The cynic could argue why there's a need for subimprints at all. If the copyright on your release says EMI, why are you on Parlophone? Or Food? Or Blue Note? Or Virgin? You get distributed the same way, you're technically on the same label. You're just giving 15 people the title of label boss, when you use one - EMI Label boss.

Of course, in the real world, an imprint says (or should that be "said") something about the music coming released on it. Blue Note is still EMI's jazz label, but releases on EMI can be just the same style or genre as releases on Virgin, Parlophone or Chrysalis.

Oh well. We all know the joyous days of a vibrant and interesting music industry are long gone. Just wondering how long its' iron lung will hold the whole house of cards together.

Monday, 8 March 2004

I broke down

I broke down on Saturday and bought the Cure b-sides/rarities boxset. Why, after having enjoyed the 192kps MP3s I downloaded over a month ago, would I shell out £25 for the CDs?

Quite simply, the whole experience. It's not complete with just MP3s. First thing I did when I bought the boxset was to pour over the packaging like a child at Christmas. There's pages and pages of background material of each song, a truncated history of the Cure itself and probably one of the better quotes-as-arguments for the single:

"The first thing I always did when I bought a new single was flip it over and play the other side. I always hoped the B-side would give me another version of the artist, something as good as the A-side but somehow different. I expected great B-sides from the artists I loved..." -- Robert Smith

How true, but sadly in the this day of disposability and digital finery, the B-side may be relegated to the annals of history along with the vinyl masters it was originally spawned from - the 12" and 7" singles.

Call me a saddo, but music - especially boxsets - is generally as much about the packaging as it is the music. If a band puts a lot of time and effort into the whole experience, I feel compelled to oblige by purchasing.

There's a lot the record industry gets wrong, but compiling boxsets that are so obviously for the fans is one diamond shining through their sea of mud.