Friday, 30 July 2004

Music for every moment

Cover of "Hysteria"Cover of Hysteria

I certainly agree that for various occasions in life, there's music to fit the mood and situation. For instance, driving down the road really really fast, you can't beat "KDX 125" by Pet Shop Boys.

Sitting here in my pod beavering away at work, I've found it rather embarrassing to discover that the perfect album to listen to whilst chipping away at the grindstone is Hysteria by Def Leppard. Not a natural selection by anyone, I must admit, but it's quite driving and perfect for just getting on with it.

Now if I could only locate my mullet and tasselled jean jacket, I'd be all set.

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Thursday, 29 July 2004

How true it is

While hunting around the Internet trying to justify my increased loathing of the iPod, I came across an article from the Telegraph. It's basically a tired bit of waffling about not giving into peer pressure, more than a stirring indictment of an inferior product, but one comment did ring true:

"There's a bit of software on it that allows you to give each song a 'star' rating. Soon, you end up only listening to the tracks you've awarded five stars to. Then, you start getting bored of your five-star playlist. So you end up thinking that, if you don't even like your favourite songs any more, your entire record collection must be crap. So you stop listening to your iPod altogether and switch to Radio 4 instead."

Does make you wonder what makes a favourite song "favourite" in the first place. I guess incessant repetition can make you hate just about anything.

The hunt continues for my justification of iPod hatred.

Wednesday, 28 July 2004

More Depeche goodness

It's been in the planning stages for yonks, but now it looks like details are firmly cemented for the forthcoming Depeche Mode live DVD 'Devotional'.

Recorded during their SOFAD (Songs Of Faith and Devotion) Tour circa 1993, it captures Dave Gahan in pure heroin/grunge mode and the band in a quandry over their musical direction - all keyboards and guitars.

According to Side-Line Magazine, the double disc will contain key elements making it a better buy than it's VHS sibling. Of note: two extra live cuts, "Halo" and "Policy Of Truth", left off the original release; 5.1 remixed audio; live projections for 8 live tracks; promo videos for SOFAD releases; and an MTV rockumentary.

For fans of the rockier era Depeche, this should be a nobrainer. Having said that, any type of fan of the band will already have the video collections, so including the SOFAD ones here again makes the mind boggle.

I, for one, found SOFAD to be a decent album, but only in hindsight with tracks like Walking In My Shoes and In Your Room standing out amongst the band's best output.

I just wish the pinnacle of the band's success, the World Violation Tour, would find its way onto the shelves.

Whose blame is it anyway?

Pet Shop Boys live in concert on October 13, 2...Image via Wikipedia

In an interview recently, Pet Shop Boy Neil Tennant was complaining that the most annoying thing about internet piracy was that it ceased making the release of music - singles especially - an event.

While I agree that the term "release date" doesn't mean a damn thing these days, I would argue that, in the case of singles, the blame for them not being "events" should lay solely with record labels.

Back in the good ole days, a single would go to radio around the same time it went to the shops. The single would thus begin it's upward chart trajectory. Take "Relax" by Frankie Goes To Hollywood which went from the basement parking lot of the charts, all the way up to Number 1, staying there for weeks.

The single was released in October 1983 and didn't hit the top of the chart until January 1984! In June 1984, it found itself at number 2 just behind "Two Tribes". This is a single with a chart live of well over EIGHT months.

These days, a single goes to radio up to two months before it hits the shops. By the time you have the chance to buy it, you're bored of it. I guess one could argue that the day a single goes to radio is "event day", but I would counter-argue this is about as detrimental to the shelf-life of music as downloading pre-releases is.

Just another side of the coin.

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It's still a tuneless drone

I've read the reviews and seen the glowing praise. I've tried to listen again, but the new Cure album is still a tuneless drone. Whoever compares it with Distegration needs their hearing checked. The lushness of the 1989 classic has been replaced with a ham-fisted drumbashing, Robert Smith screaming sonic mess.

Tuesday, 27 July 2004

Yes, Delete Entry I. Can't believe. He's releasing. Another. Album

It had to happen. Voted one of the cheesiest albums of all time by people who still have their sense of hearing, William's Shatner's The Transformed Man is getting a followup release.

The new set will be produced by Ben Folds, who put his own band's new disc on the back burner to work with Captain Kirk.

Of note to fans of music from the last decade or so, Shatner will cover that great Pulp talky hit Common People, with Joe Jackson helping out on the singy bits.

Shatner previously appeared on Ben Folds' spin-off album Fear of Pop, and I do believe that is an apt description of what is about to be unleashed upon the world.

William Shatner back with a new album


Produced And Co-Written By Ben Folds, Shout! Factory Releases New CD
From Performer William Shatner -- In Stores October 5th


The Brookes Company
Jolyn Matsumuro
(323) 913-7000 x202

Annissa Mason
(310) 979-5602 x204

Shout! Factory
Stacey Studebaker
(323) 913-7000

LOS ANGELES, CA -- More than 35 years after the release of his debut solo album, William Shatner teams up with Ben Folds to create Has Been, a surprisingly pop-driven, lyrically potent collection of songs written by the duo. With the exception of “Trying,” co-written by Folds and novelist Nick Hornby (High Fidelity, About A Boy), “Real” by Brad Paisley, and Pulp’s “Common People,” Shatner proves to be a witty and self-deprecating poet, while Folds’ talent for crafting the perfect pop melody has never been more evident. Has Been will be released on October 5th by Shout! Factory.

Although it may sound like an odd coupling, the two have actually collaborated before, once on Ben’s solo album, Fear Of Pop, Volume 1, and when Ben repaid the favor by appearing in some of Shatner’s popular commercials. Earlier this year, when Shout! Factory executives Richard and Garson Foos approached Shatner with the idea of recording a new album, the actor casually mentioned that his friend Ben had been trying to get him to do the same thing. Everybody agreed and everybody signed on, and Shatner began writing. “These are thoughts and experiences of mine that very few people have heard before,” Shatner explains. “I wanted to share them with my loved ones.”

Shatner’s performances are stunning. His rendition of “Trying” is downright heartbreaking, as he depicts an absent father’s desperate attempt at building a relationship with his daughter long after it’s too late. His own droll way with prose makes a splash on “Common People,” in what could be an ode to a certain girl with a famous last name. And the album’s title track is a playful romp -- a spaghetti western score with Shatner embracing the lyrics, “Has Been.”

Remarks Folds on the Has Been recording experience, “If I thought that there were heaps of artists who were willing to be as honest, vulnerable, creativeand as trusting with their producer as William Shatner has been with me, I’d just be a producer.”

Not only did Shatner’s lyrics surpass everyone’s expectations, but friends and fans were more than willing to be a part of the recordings. Folds brought in Aimee Mann, Brad Paisley (who wrote a song specifically for Shatner), and Grammy winners Joe Jackson and Henry Rollins to contribute vocals, while Adrian Belew adds guitars and the U.K. ambient duo Lemon Jelly weighs in on “Together.” Nearly the entire album was recorded at Folds’ Nashville studio, with Matt Chamberlain on drums (Tori Amos, Fiona Apple), Sebastian Steinberg on bass (Soul Coughing), Jon Auer on guitars (The Posies), Folds on piano and bass, and with Folds’ longtime engineers John Painter and Joe Costa manning the controls.

In 1968, Shatner released a spoken word album that was clearly ahead of its time. The Transformed Man was a collection of contemporary pop songs paired with excerpts from classic literature that were thematically alike. Written-off by many as “camp,” later generations grew to see his true poetic soul and delivery, and finally understood the conceptual goal of the album. Shatner reprised his musical beginnings with the series of commercials for several years ago, sparking renewed interest in his musical career and demonstrating his knack for never taking himself too seriously.

About Shout! Factory:
Shout! Factory is a multi-platform integrated entertainment company that was started by Richard Foos -- co-founder of Rhino Records, Bob Emmer – former Warner Music Group and Rhino executive and Garson Foos – former Rhino executive. It focuses on audio music catalog development and home video/DVD projects and television properties. Conceived as a broad-based retro pop culture entertainment label, Shout! Factory video and DVD projects range from live music and music documentary programs to offbeat special interest titles ranging from animation to sports content. Shout! Factory DVDs and CDs are distributed by Sony Music Entertainment.

Catalog Number: DK 30349
Price: $18.98 SRP
Release Date: October 5, 2004

Track Listing
1. “Common People” (with Joe Jackson)
2. “It Hasn't Happened Yet”
3. “You'll Have Time”
4. “Trying” (with Ben Folds and Aimee Mann)
5. “What Have You Done”
6. “Together” (with Lemon Jelly)
7. “Familiar Love”
8. “Ideal Woman”
9. “Has Been “
10. “I Can't Get Behind That” (with Henry Rollins)
11. “Real” (with Brad Paisley)

Monday, 26 July 2004

Yes, Delete Entry Telstar lays bla

Telstar Records have finally gone bust. Personally, I thought this happened months ago, but all the papers (The Times, Sun, etc.) are reporting it as if it happened today.

Funnily enough, in events that mirror the demise of Factory, it seems the label's fate has been sealed by disasterous attempts to get Posh Spice's career off the ground, with much spent on studio time for failed recordings and horrendous costs on marketing and the like. This is similar to the worrying moneypit of the Happy Mondays that eventually led to Factory calling it a day, almost 12 years ago.

The funny thing about the whole Telstar debacle is where Chairman Neil Palmer is actually placing the blame. In an article in the Sun, after paragraphs outlining the fatally costly mistake that was the Posh Spice incident, it then goes on the state, "Chairman Neil Palmer blamed illegal internet downloading and lack of radio support for British artists."

Illegal downloads? Telstar never released any of the ill-fated Posh material, how can it be downloaded at all?

It beggars belief that the scapegoat of piracy is still being trotted out to cover a myriad of sins, mainly bad judgement at the top. Tony Wilson took his hits in stride and admitted that getting the Mondays to record in Barbados was a bad thing. He didn't have the scapegoat of music fans hungry for material to blame, and to his credit, I don't think he would have had he had the change.

Neil Palmer, you are a petty man.

SuperAudio prices

With labels bitching about piracy, I'm just wondering why the obvious unpirate-able format (SACD) is still so expensive. Searching for a copy of Talk Talk's Spirit of Eden or Colour of Spring is bringing back results of nearly £17 per disc. Compare this to the CD-only version for around £6.99 and you start to see a problem.

I can rip, copy, download, etc. the CD, but listening to the SACD layer in an SACD player brings a whole new level to the sonic soundscape. I have 101 by Depeche Mode on SACD and the 5.1 surround makes you feel like you're there and the stereo SACD layer on Roxy Music's Avalon makes the CD layer sounds like a gritty MP3.

Of course, there's a number of punters out there who don't care about sound - they're happy with a JS 128kps MP3. To them, I say, get a pair of ears. To the audiophiles (or burgeoning audiophiles) I say, let us band together and get the dumb labels off their asses and lower the prices. They could shift loads of units and the format is still relatively unpirateable... which means (for many reasons) I won't be spending £17 any time soon.

Some SACDs you might like

Thursday, 22 July 2004

Yankee doodle download

This week's Online section in the Guardian has an article about the P2P study that was recently conducted in the States.

The outcome? That P2P and downloading has no effect on CD sales. Of course, the RIAA are up in arms about corrupt data, and all that... basically anything to legitimise suing their bread and butter out of every penny they earn from McDonald's, an action deemed "one of the stupidest things in the world to do".

Interestingly, it seems the recording industry still won't acknowledge the ACTUAL reason for loss of sales - increase in spending on DVDs (according to the article, spending on DVDs is up $500m compared to the $200m downturn on CD spend... no corrolation there, then) and video games, coupled with a decrease in quality output. People are sick to death of manu-pop and there's only so many times you can buy the same remastered album.

Wednesday, 21 July 2004

And then there were four?

With news that the impending merger between Sony and BMG's recorded music divisions apparently getting the go-ahead, I have to ask, is no one else scared of the ramifications of this? There will only be four majors left - BMGSony, Warners, EMI and Universal (three if EMI's bedhopping actually comes of something with Warners).

Back in the heyday of music - I like to call it the 80s - there were loads of "Majors" - MCA, Polygram, Warner, Sony, RCA, EMI - as well as a thriving indie industry - Go Disc!, Mute, Rough Trade, etc. You see, competition was a good thing.

Now that all the indies have either gone bust or been swallowed up by the majors, who are swallowing each other up in some sort of cannibalistic Darwinian nightmare, it can't be long until music will be released by the EMIBMGWarnerUniversalSony Record Label Ltd., the only remaining outlet for recorded music.

Monopolies are good for no one, as pricefixing and stagnation of product usually is the result (cough... Microsoft...)

Thankfully, as these majors are picking themselves off one by one, stalwarts are beginning to emerge. The Sanctuary Group, known for giving a chance to bands who's time has come and gone, are becoming a huge player in the international arena.

The feather in their cap seems to be not only recorded music, but a music management division as well as lucrative music publishing. Rumour has it they've just signed up Courtney Love for a publishing deal. This may not seem of much interest as she seems to spend more time in a pile of cocaine than making music, but she does hold the key to dead hubby Kurt's music as well. With the keys to the Nirvana publishing castle, Sanctuary stand to eek out some very good business deals in the coming years.

But, to reinterate, I am concerned about the BMG Sony merger.

Mercury Prize? Who cares.

I guess the Mercury Prize noms were announced this week. Now sponsored by Nationwide building society (nice to see my "building society member money" going back to the member), here's the list. Stop me when someone interesting appears:

Amy Winehouse Frank
Basement Jaxx Kish Kash
Belle & Sebastian Dear Catastrophe Waitress
Franz Ferdinand Franz Ferdinand
Jamelia Thank You
Joss Stone The Soul Sessions
Keane Hopes and Fears
Robert Wyatt Cuckooland
Snow Patrol Final Straw
The Streets A Grand Don't Come for Free
Ty Upwards
The Zutons Who Killed... The Zutons

I definitely won't be staying in to watch this award show.. wow, that's a lot of crap.

6Music rocks. TV ad doesn't.

Came across a fairly entertaining article about the new 6 Music ad featuring Phill Jupitus. Now we can all agree that 6 Music is a great station, but I have to agree, the Jupitus spot is one of the more baffling interstitials the Beeb has run.

Tuesday, 20 July 2004

In it for the publicity

This week sees U2 looking for some publicity for their forthcoming album by claiming a CD of finished tracks was stolen from a photoshoot in southern France. Reports since value the lost CD at around $10 million.

Hmm... ever seen those actresses at movie premieres with obscenely expensive necklaces (or diamond encrusted bras)? They're only worth around $2 to $5 million and the number of bouncers and security involved is ludicrous.

Now, with the U2 CD, from various reports, it looks like The Edge left the disc in his coat or something and when the photoshoot was done, the disc wasn't there. Something of that high a value should naturally never have left ANYONE's sight... the minders, the band, the manager.

As their most recent best of glaringly pointed out, however, U2 haven't released any music of import for about a decade, so to value these lost songs at $10 million is rather conceited.

Still, let's hope Inspector Clouseau and the rest of the French police force find this missing goldmine... my guess is that it fell under the front seat of the band's car... I'm always losing crap down there too.

Tuesday, 13 July 2004

Orbital R.I.P. article

The Telegraph ran an article on Orbital in their arts supplement on Saturday which could easily have doubled as an obit.

Lamenting the death of not only one of the 90s dancescene staples, but also the scene they came from, the article takes greats pains to highlight the bands career high - 1993's Brown Album - and outline when things took a turn for the worse. "Their 2001 album The Altogether was a directionless mess."

The parallels of the band's demise and the demise of the 90s music scene were easily summed up thusly, "It was time to wake up and recognise that there was no longer a dance scene, just niche markets and a leisure industry."

Orbital, just for the Blue Album we'll miss ya loads.

Monday, 12 July 2004

MP3 article

The BBC have an very interesting article about MP3s. Basically, they're crap. The only thing going for them is universal uptake.... VHS anyone?

-- MP3 encoding loses a lot of data
-- sound is tinny and compressed
-- it's a 16 year old technology (developed in 1988)

Here's the link

Wednesday, 7 July 2004

Lyrics, what luxury

BMG are striking out at pirates and trying to make nice with music fans by releasing CDs in three different tiers.

The first tier is set to compete head-on with piracy. The no-frills version will be a CD with titles printed on the disc (sorta like what you'd get making a CD-R from MP3s). This will sell for just under €10.

The second tier is a full-fat version, with cover and lyrics, which will cost €12.99. The top tier will be a luxury version with added value (additional material or DVD video) and will go out for €17.99.

It's interesting that a major label is taking this plunge. The amount of time, effort and CDs pressed for a three-pronged attack will be immense. However, for music fans who relish the "extras" (sleeves with lyrics, etc.) the offer of a choice is welcome, as is the choice to just have the music.

Time will tell how well this initiative goes, but anything other than DRM-infected Copy Controlled discs is much welcomed.

Sunday, 4 July 2004

Some girls...

Thursday night I went to see Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others, a musical loosely based on the musical works of The Smiths.

It was six actors moving around in a very abstract narrative that recalled the oddest music videos you've seen, very much style over substance. There was gun fire, poisoned wine, trapeze artistry, and black and white video footage, all set to the rather morose tones of songs like "I Know It's Over" and "What She Said".

At one point the entire troop drops into a pool of flesh, reminiscent of those photos from the wars where they pile the dead on top of each other. Like an Iwo Jima flag, a microphone is erected on the top of the pile where the last standing actor can sing "Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want".

It was an entertaining evening, with a bit more sexual undertone given to a couple of the tracks (especially to songs like "I Started Something I Couldn't Finish"), and the new musical arrangement - augmented by a live string section - which was second to none.

If you go, turn your brain off, enjoy the ride and just don't expect to understand what the hell's going on.

Link: The Times review

Friday, 2 July 2004

Pet Shop Boys' Neil Tennant talks Battleship

Hot on the news that Pet Shop Boys being the cornerstone of the forthcoming Trafalgar Square summer season, ex-journo, current PSB Neil Tennant, has penned an article for The Guardian explaining why the duo created a score for Battleship Potemkin.