Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Ferocious noise: Pitchfork’s Music Reviews

I wrote another article about things I don't like about music reviews, but this time I tried really hard and it got published on the wonderful Shouting At Cows site, which was nice of them. Enjoy?

“Ferocious Noise.”  This one fairly clumsy descriptive couplet used pointedly as a sentence to describe one poor band’s album has got me up at night. Nothing so far this week has angered me like this; an affront to common sense, a beastly exercise in self-satisfied pretention. The paragraph preceding this had been a set-up for a review, a mediocre thousand words or so, on an album so ludicrously named only the severely fashionable would ever say it out loud. Six out of ten. Fairly average for something so seemingly memorable. “Ferocious noise”. So ferocious it may get played from time to time on nights where all the girls have bowl cuts, and all the boys chain smoke thin Cutter’s Choice rollies and debate Stanley Kubrick’s choices in direction, lighting, music choice and underwear. Judgemental, yes, but they’re the ones with half-mast drainpipe jeans and cheap cigarettes despite their ample bank balance. This isn’t an article about trendy people though, this is an article about how truly, achingly, horrendously shit two thirds of music reviews are – and I blame Pitchfork.


Monday, 21 November 2011

The Only Person In The World Who Doesn't Like Jaffa Cakes

That would be me. The only person in the world who doesn't like Jaffa Cakes. It is lonely being me.

It wasn't always this way - there was a time when I loved them. I'd eat the chocolate first and then remove the orange jelly disc from the sponge cake base and marvel at it. A wobbly sunset. Then I'd eat it, obviously. I'm not a total weirdo.

The thing is, my family got wind of this propensity towards orangey treats. The gifts began. I have never been a very easy person to buy presents for, so when my family and friends see a theme, they grab it with both hands. I don't blame them, I'm a dick to buy stuff for unless you let me make an Amazon list (why won't you let me do that?) My birthday is not very long after Christmas, but it is just far enough away for me to receive two separate presents which I love. The downside to this is the amount of food I have to consume. Yes, have to consume. You can't let it go to waste.


I always receive selection boxes at Christmas, because I love all that tacky shit. I also always get Chocolate Oranges - again, LOVE. Then one fateful day, the whole world found out about my love for Jaffa Cakes and my Toblerones were replaced with tube after tube of the circular cakey horrors, filling me up with not-enough-chocolate; overstimulating my orange receptors. After three years of this madness I could take no more. However, it takes a lot longer for news of me not liking something to trickle down through the family ranks. Think of it like wealth in society. The groups furthest away from my central base (Mum, Sisters, Dog) had no knowledge of my new-found hatred for dry, orange-flavoured cakes. Some of them still send me boxes of the things. "We know you love them!" They say, their happy smiling faces saying "Oh, she's so good for only asking for Jaffa Cakes and not a Wii Fit". I can't tell them now. Anyway, it's just a box of Jaffa Cakes. How much harm is letting them buy them for you going to do? None.

But still they come. Year after year, tubes of them are delivered to your nasty, ungrateful bastard arms and you try to think of excuses. "I'm lactose intolerant!", "I can't digest gelatine!", "My friend was killed by a man dressed as an orange!". You can't though. It's just another tube of Jaffa Cakes. Smile and say thank-you. You are a horrible person.

One day I will tell them all. I'll reveal my horrible secret, that for years I've been misleading them, that I have brazenly lied in their faces - that I do not love Jaffa Cakes. That I in fact hate them. I expect I shall be cast out as I should be, in a world that is almost exclusively filled to the brim with Jaffa Cake aficionados.

I'll give it one more year.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Bad Poetry

I am moving house (as you probably know) and this means a lot of packing. I have found a grand total of nine (9) half-full notebooks so far, some with stories in, some with rubbish drawings and ideas in, and one just seems to have shopping lists in. One had poetry in. I haven't written a poem in at least four years, and I'll be honest, I'm pretty terrible at it. However I thought I'd share one because I liked a couple of lines in it, and I thought you might like to see that I don't just write about adverts and organised noise. Sometimes I write about soppy love, like a dickhead.

It doesn't have a title, I'm not gonna make one up now as I can't remember what this was really about (or even who it was about, if anybody). I can remember writing it, I was on a train to Newcastle to see Justin Timberlake (YOU 'EARD) but I only remembered that after reading it. I remember looking out of the window as we went over a bridge and there was a really deep gully filled with green and thinking about how great all the textures looked. Then I wrote this and fell asleep. Cool story bro.

Your perceptive face, thank God
The warmth of your skin sets in
And soon my hands feel
Knuckle and palm.

In gaze I find new lines, eyes blink
Slow and trace cheekbone – jawline.
I know what you’re thinking.
It’s okay. Smile, hear, remember,
Telling stories in the past tense
Completely intent on staying awake
To be with me.

Forever thankful, I love you.
When we chased storms, remember?
When we chose our stars?
We hid from the night, warm, tight,
Lost in the world we owned.

Looks, touch, steady ribcage
Raise, fall, raise, fall
Raise I hold you tight.
You are asleep.

I wish you could tell me
What I already know.
Tell me again.

Friday, 18 November 2011

The History of UKG as Heard by a 10 Year Old Aberdonian Girl

It's the time of the month where I write something for the405.com - this time, it's about UK Garage. Enjoy!

UK Garage was at its peak – in my very humble opinion – in 1999-2002 when I was just about to become a teenager. Compared to the Trance Nation CDs and hyper-manufactured pop I heard every day, it was several hundred thousand light-years away. It felt like hearing a part of the future. Completely dropped into the genre with no background knowledge whatsoever, I found myself lapping up anything with a garage break in it, headphones on at every opportunity, worshipping the Dreem Teem on Radio 1, falling for So Solid Crew’s wobble. There was no loyalties with me, no efforts to take up the more fashionable side – Aberdeen was so far away from the hub of Garage that I was rarely met by anybody who had even heard of it properly, let alone scoffed at my dubious Craig David-based choices. It was a totally happy and uninhibited time where every part of the scene was fair game, and it felt special because it felt important. It felt like the start of something.

UKG's History As Heard by a 10 Year Old Aberdonian Girl

Of course it wasn’t the start of something at all – UK Garage was in full swing by the time it had reached my unaccustomed ears in 1999. Artists like Grant Nelson had been manipulating house into garage since ‘94 and earlier; Todd Edwards had brought a new style in as early as 1995. Speed Garage might have been the order of the 90s, but as it became popular in its own right alongside jungle, the garage I knew and loved came into its own around the 1997 mark. What I had felt as a music epiphany was the result of years of evolution, from house and Speed Garage to the heavily dancefloor and 2-step influenced sound it became at the turn of the 21st century. By the time it had reached the frozen north (of Scotland) it was 1998, and MJ Cole had released what I still firmly to believe is one of the greatest UKG tracks of all time – Sincere. As I said, there’s no point scoring here. It’s highly likely you’ll disagree, if fact, I’d like it if you did. That’s how this becomes a conversation instead of me simply recalling things I once heard.

Friday, 11 November 2011

The History of Hats in Music

One of my odd stories I wrote on Twitter on the train to work.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Traversing Zone 3 on a Raft of Optimism/Stupidity

I'm moving to London in three weeks. Well, Four. Okay, 26 days.

After a month or two of total life upheaval, resignations from jobs and relationships, the creeping sensation of becoming a Young Professional instead of a Graduate, the decision has been made and I've been forced out of my comfy little period property in the depths of leafy suburban Leeds (yes, such a thing exists you cheeky bastards) by necessity and fear. Not 'bad' fear - although until recently I was only aware fear could be such a thing - but fear in another capacity. The type of fear that makes people want to jump off cliffs just to see what living to tell the tale feels like. The type of fear that forces sensible adults to buy 1200cc superbikes or go scuba diving in underwater crevasses. I haven't got a death wish though, I just want to move to London. There's a difference.

This notion of city living has been swimming about in my brain like a little wriggly tadpole for years now, occasionally getting itself stuck between gaps of long-term commitments and the idea of living in Leeds well into my thirties. Until recently it was a far-off dream, something that I could wistfully call upon while looking out of a misty bus window on a wet Tuesday morning. My idea of London has never been romanticised or exaggerated; I always assumed it would rain 70% of the time, that my flat would be the size of an egg carton, that my job would be unrewarding and I'd find it hard to afford anything more nourishing than soba noodles. However things have (luckily) taken an uncharacteristic turn for the positive, and it would appear that I may actually be able to afford to leave the egg carton for the odd evening with friends, and my job might actually be something I enjoy. I'd still be poor, but I'd be mostly happy. Which is nice, isn't it?

In a job interview recently, I was asked "why do you want to move to London?" I thought it a peculiar question to ask a northerner who desperately wants to work in social media and someday have a book published all the while somehow running some sort of successful record company with very little effort or money expended. Not only are the career prospects semi-existent in the capital, how about that there public transport, huh? How about all the live music and nightclubs, eh? My friends who live scattered around zones two and three in previously inaccessible studio flats? "Why do you want to move to London?" My answer? Because up until recently, I couldn't. Because now, I can.

Bedsits like this don't really exist.

Househunting has been the huge churning ache in my stomach that I assumed jobhunting would be. People have dogs when they said they wouldn't; people won't allow chicken in the house (it was all I could do not to turn and storm out right then and there). Some people, would you believe, think they can advertise a house filled with rabbits as "cat friendly". It sure is, but it certainly isn't rabbit friendly. I have spoken to a number of lovely, friendly, funny people in my search for a house, but I have fallen short in some way for all of them so far. I don't like dogs very much, I have a cat who is also a dickhead, I eat meat, I like listening to music and coughing from time to time (how "quiet" does "quiet" have to be anyway? There should be a standardised measurement to see if I fit their strict stipulations), I don't want to sit at the table and eat dinner every night, sometimes I'm late home, sometimes I don't come home, sometimes I lie on the sofa all day and watch Futurama. I didn't realise that all of these things constitute a terrible housemate in one way or the other. My one bonus point is that I do not smoke - however living with non-smokers could be a nightmare anyway, because if they don't smoke, what else don't they approve of? Caffeine? Alcohol? Dairy products? Rigorously-tested pharmaceuticals?

So yes, I'm moving to London in three weeks. Four weeks. 26 days. I haven't nailed down a job or a house yet, I haven't started packing and so far my closest call to getting some accommodation is some flirty text messages with a friendly housemate called "Luke" (Hello "Luke", I hope you're not reading this and finding out what a judgemental bitch I am). The weirdest part of the whole ordeal is that I'm not frightened, no matter how many times I get asked "Oh, aren't you frightened?" Nope. Not even a little. I won't have to get the megabus home from Cable at 8am ever again. That's got to be a step in a positive life direction.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

My iPod & Me - A guest post by Andy Tullock

The bus driver is in a rush today, pulling away from the station before the last old lady has barely crawled her brittle bones onto the number thirteen lowrider. Not that I'm complaining; I'm grouchy and I wanna get home pronto, but also the bus is exuding a greater stench then normal. These harsh urban nights arent filled with neon lights and inspiring images but degredation and demoralising hour-long journeys home.

Don't get me wrong, I'm normally a positive person and so starting my first set of blogs on here in such pessimistic tones is probably not the best way to entice you to my prevails; it's simply to highlight this exceptional mood I happen to be in. So, hearing 'Guns of Brixton' stagger randomly onto my iPod comes as a reassuring hand on the shoulder, a little acknowledging nod. It's the friendly 'I know how you feel' without the need for meaningless conversation. I can sit back and relax as my multimedia playing pal continues his consistent run of good form in this field.

I believe it's a direct reflection on the amount of time I have spent editing, selecting, re-selecting and dissecting the playlists and music that he has to work with. In effect I have nurtured my iPod to my exact needs; taught it the value of certain tracks, whilst encouraging the randomness of shuffling through others. Furthermore by skipping, actively searching and relistening to certain tracks at specific times I have taught my fruitfully-infused friend the sporadic yet all encompassing relationship I have with music. There is always a song for my situation, a melody for my mood, a beat for my emotion. That my iPod reguarly picks this better then I can, he can be akin to the skill of any half decent DJ as he stumbles half cut into his arena.

The unspoken relationship between myself and this minijukebox is one that is becoming more complex & confusing. In the same way that old people become close to pets in time of isolation, my many sprawling journeys of late have developed my love for the little fella. Not only has he stuck to his task with a more then commendable spirit, but twisted and tricked his way through each of the obstacles I have erected in front of him.

To break this down into such examples of tracks at times would not only subject you to mundane mentions of mediocre music, but also alienate a lot through my array of embarrassing artists that sit on my CD shelves. Needless to say there have been times when I have specifcially desired to hear certain tracks, and he has actively found these amongst his cast of thousands without the request from myself to do so. Other times I have been treated to forgotten favourites, genre jumps and ever evolving track trips.

Of course there are times we have disagreed, fallen and argued. Sometimes I have had to take control and guide us in the right direction or merely seek out new material to give him the tools to work with. But like every good relationship it has stayed fresh, we've grown together and have a better understanding of each other for that. There were times when I took all of this for granted but as soon as I did I was presented with a reminder that it is not possible for it to work without the commitment of both. Now I know and acknowledge this we can move and adapt, working with each others suggestions to never let staleness stagnate between us, unlike the stench from this bus.

Andy writes his own words here and here, and lives in Hull.
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