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From the Vault – The Smiths

So, a curmudgeonly old leader of a Manchester institution released a book this week, in which he viciously lashed out at the people he used to work with back in the day. But enough about Sir Alex Ferguson. Morrissey also released his autobiography.

The indie bedlam surrounding it was compounded by the NME opportunistically doing one of those ‘Best Albums of All Time’ lists they do every six weeks and naming The Queen Is Dead as number 1. But one man’s opportunism is another’s, well, opportunism, so here’s some awesome footage of The Smiths performing ‘Big Mouth Strikes’ again in London in 1986 (the show which was later used for the Rank album.)

What’s colder than cold? Not the NME Cool List

It’s that time of year again, when the NME attempts to prove how hip and wit’ it they are by selecting the coolest people in music and creating a neat, numbered list. Everyone knows the devil has all the best tunes, but apparently he also likes to be very organised and make sure he has all his information in neat little formats which can be quickly jotted down in an exercise book.

You see, that’s the problem; when the NME tries to be cool, it’s like when your dad tries to talk to you about ‘the twitter’ or your Prime Minister tries to pretend he likes the Arctic Monkeys. It just sets your teeth on edge and utterly confirms how painfully uncool they are.

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Tunng and the art of album teasers

Way back in the days when you only owned music if you paid for it, and owning thousands of songs necessitated having a storage space sufficient to house a small elephant in, there was the flexi-disc. This was a, essentially, a seven inch single which hadn’t been to the gym and was floppy. Music magazines would give these away, usually containing interviews or b-sides by successful bands (no-one ever gave anything remotely decent away for free back then. The idea of doing so has only recently caught on and, even at that, very slowly.) Continue reading

News Nuggets – Processed, non-organic version……

ChickenJamie Oliver, you lying fat-tongued bastard. ELM, being brought up in the 80’s when children were taught to believe everything they heard on television, was completely suckered by the whole organic food argument. I wanted my lettuce with cowshit on it. I hoped my chicken had been running around an area the size of Gloucestershire. I was helping vegetables and animals lead a better life, I thought. Turns out, was I fuck. I was simply giving more money to Tesco.

So, by way of revenge, this week the news nuggets are comprised of 100% mechanically recovered meat, mostly beaks and arseholes from chickens which had chicken AIDS and the gallus gallus domesticus equivalent of a drug habit.

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The Artists Union?

Following on from last week’s news, NME.com reports that Radiohead’s Ed O’Brien is at the forefront of a new ‘Musician’s Union’.

Here is the news on the Featured Artists’ Coalition (FAC).

The FAC, which aims to look after the needs of musicians and fans, held its first meeting last week (March 11), at London club Heaven. It was attended by stars including Robbie Williams, Mick Jones and Travis’ Fran Healy.

O’Brien, who alongside Blur’s Dave Rowntree, Kate Nash and Billy Bragg is one of the FAC’s directors, blogged about the meeting on Radiohead’s Dead Air Space site.

“Two days ago a historic meeting took place in Heaven (!) under Charing Cross railway station in London,” he wrote, before stating that he wasn’t sure how readily the FAC would be received by the music industry.

“I’m going to post up stuff about this because it’s an exciting time and also because there is going to be some seriously heavy PR aimed at us by the interested parties who might deem the FAC a threat…there’s a lot of fear out there in the biz.”

In the blog, the guitarist outlined the FAC’s mission status, saying the group wants to give both musicians and fans a voice.

“Traditionally in the music industry two groups have been shut out of any negotiations and rights/revenue carve ups…and that’s the artists and the fans. The formation of the FAC is all about changing this state of affairs…hopefully we can not only do artists justice but also the people who listen to our music.

“After all, in order to be a musician you have to be a music fan. And first and foremost this is about trying to ensure that young bands and artists get a fair deal and are able to make a living in the digital era.”

Ladytron – ABC, Glasgow

ELM’s resident curmudgeon Vespertine checks out the hotly-tipped electro act;

I approached this gig with an open mind. I knew a few Ladytron songs but had no in-depth knowledge of the band or the set they were likely to play. But the company was good, and I was able to have a few pints and a lift home! Sometimes going in blind is a good way to evaluate a gig. Sometimes it isn’t of course, but live music is an experience in its own right I suppose and differs from the guarantee that playing a CD, MP3 or vinyl record brings with it.

First, the downside of the venue, a venue I really like. To reach the smoking area you leave your drinks on a small table and then go outside. Upon return my pint had been lifted. I assume it was by some large haired student arsehole who has a constant hard-on daydreaming about Peaches Geldof. There were far too many fashion victim types, readers of The Face and id magazine. Rant over.

The band emerged wearing black, to a dimly lit stage. The impression they give is of electro goth and guess what? First impressions arecorrect! It is hip swinging, groovy and funky but it’s goth at heart. And this is strangely unsettling. The image one has of the band is one of bacofoil suits, laser beams, tinkling synths and vast projections of the planets. To find the reality is closer to Curve (google them kids!) is a tad odd. The live set up seems to have been geared towards a more ‘rock friendly’ sound with bass, drums and guitar being added to the keyboard. It is a very common move for electro bands, but has its own problems. Should such a band, whose image is so striking, be ‘reduced’ to something akin to indie rock? Is the need to promote the album reducing the scope of their ideas?

A second quibble is the sound: the vocals are too quiet. That is never good at any gig. Glaswegian Helen Marnie is the ‘front woman’ such as they have one, but she struggles to make herself heard at times. She does dedicate a song to her 83 year Gran who is in the audience, a nice touch!

However the songs themselves are often very good; from huge, brooding, dark opener ‘Black Cat’ sung in Bulgarian by Mira Aroyo, through to pop/electro/goth stormers such as ‘International Dateline’ and ‘Runaway’. There are moments that show the band could break free of their self-imposed ghetto: ‘Ghosts’ is simply a very, very good song and ‘Fighting In a Built-Up Area’ is a superb shimmering slice of funk. Great songs give any
band hope of a breakthrough. They have some great songs and so the future they often allude to in image terms is still up for grabs for them.

My gig partner was delighted when they ended on ‘Destroy Everything You Touch’ – another excellent track. It brought the short gig to an end and we emerged into howling wind and rain. Ladytron weather perhaps? They don’t strike me as a sunny afternoon festival band.

Overall a mixed bag: perhaps a lack of variation in their sound, and the need to get their songs across in a live setting has reduced the impact of the idea they had. Too often volume and crunch replaced soft caress of their sound. Four albums and a decade together must also dilute that initial impact to match minimalist synths, jump suits and dystopian lyrics. It’s hard to dream of a soundtrack in your head when the bills need to be paid. They are the kind of band you’d almost rather didn’t play live but instead transmitted their songs from an orbiting space station.

But when they are good they are very, very good and could move the feet of a corpse. The gig worked for me in the most crucial sense: I will be buying downloads and exploring their work further. That is a result for someone who came as a casual listener.

When You Just Can’t Get It

Glasvegas. Dunno if you have heard them yet, but you will. They have a Mary Chainish-musical style, low fuzzing guitars and big drums, Spectoresque production. The usual. They deal in emotional, overwrought lyrics, a bit of a cut above most stuff that the NME rave about. They look quite cool. They also sing in Glaswegian accents, a brave and rarely taken step.

And I fucking hate them, and I mean really, really hate them. They make me want to cut the top of my skull off with a sharpened 50p piece and whisk my brain until it has achieved a nice consistency, then bake it. I don’t know why. They tick all my boxes. It’s an early stage in their career, certainly early enough that I could claim not to like them after their difficult second album. Why don’t I like them?!

This is where music’s inescapable subjectivity comes to the fore. You can pretend to like something, you can believe you really do, but if you don’t, you don’t. Cards on the table – I think ‘Nude’ by Radiohead is shite. I’m sorry, I wish I didn’t, but I do. I have yet to find a reason to not despise the Klaxons. Rufus Wainwright annoys me more than I thought possible from someone not an EastEnders cast member. But I wish it were not so, dear reader, but you can’t get away from who you are.

Maybe it’s an age thing, getting older brings more confidence. That said, if I ever hear a Kooks song and think ‘that’s magic!’ you have permission to shoot me.