Friday, 19 July 2013

Last Goodbye

This is our last goodbye
I hate to feel the love between us die
But it's over
Just hear this and then i'll go
You gave me more to live for
More than you'll ever know

This is our last embrace
Must I dream and always see your face
Why can't we overcome this wall
Well, maybe it's just because i didn't know you at all

Kiss me, please kiss me
But kiss me out of desire, babe, and not consolation
You know it makes me so angry 'cause i know that in time
I'll only make you cry, this is our last goodbye

Did you say 'no, this can't happen to me,'
And did you rush to the phone to call
Was there a voice unkind in the back of your mind
Saying maybe you didn't know him at all
You didn't know him at all, oh, you didn't know

Well, the bells out in the church tower chime
Burning clues into this heart of mine
Thinking so hard on her soft eyes and the memories
Offer signs that it's over... it's over

Thanks to everyone who has contributed, read and commented on 'Session Bloggers' over the last 8 months.  Now it's time to go.

See you in the next (blogging) life...

Lots of love

Simon S.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

2013 : An Introspective Discursive of Symphonoius Oeuvres by @Another__Name

Hello all, hope you're well.

Today we're pleased to introduce a new Session Blogger to the family.  I've been following @Another__Name on twitter for a while now and, given his excellent music taste, I've been hounding and hounding him for a blog post for ages.  Finally, here it is, and it was definitely worth the wait.

I'm going to pass you over now for a brief review of his favourite, and not so favourite, music from this year. Anyone who loves songs containing Autotune should look away now :

"New band! They’re based in New York! They’ve got attitude! They’re not the Strokes! Punky! I think if you want to be the next big thing you need to be based New York, have attitude and not be the Strokes.  A wee while ago everyone was raving about Parquet Courts so I continued to listen to 90s grebo dance rock, waited until they weren’t cool anymore then bought Light Up Gold.  I should imagine this will be taken entirely the wrong way but my favourite bit of the album was the space between the songs.  The album is completely out of its face on whizz. It turns all the dials to “Arghh how do I get off this?!” and charges off over the horizon pausing only to buy 3 packs of gum, before ploughing into the next riff. For the first 10 minutes I can’t tell whether the heartbeat pauses are gaps in the tracks. And I really like that.

As a wise man once said: “New band! They’re from New York!* They’ve got attitude! They’re not the Strokes! Punky!” And so to Poliça.  It’s taken me 10 minutes to find that c with the dangly bit on it on this computer that now I’m annoyed with them. The other thing that annoyed me about them was that voice modulation thingymagig.  You know the one – that thing Cher used on ‘do you believe in life after love’ to make her sound like a sexy dalek.  You also know how when you get a new toy you think it’s the best thing ever a play with it to exclusion of all your others?  Well her from *cuts and pastes* Poliça got Cher’s annoying voice thing for her birthday and uses it on every single song on the album. Well certainly as far as track 8.  I had to turn it off then because it was bugging the flip out of me.

Where to next? Ooh Jon Hopkins.  I’ve seen him playing a weird piano accordion chimera at a festival once.  It’s widely accepted by musical historians that the humankind’s musical output peaked in the mid 90s with releases from Leftfield, Tricky, DJ Shadow, Chemical Brothers and Portishead to name but a few.  The nation’s musical serotonin was used up and then what followed was years of crippling musical depression.  God, this analogy is tedious.  It sounded so much better in my head. Anyway, where was…ah Mr Hopkins.  This album could’ve been released in the mid 90s and I would have gone, ‘yeah it’s alright – stands up to the other stuff that’s around at the moment’.  That’s my way of saying it’s absolutely brilliant and there’s not a weird piano accordion in sight.  It’s a full on proper techno record with a full on come down ending complete with King Creosote popping up to provide oodles of melancholy, depression and self loathing born of having been up and forgotten to eat for 3 days, realising you have to go to work in a pizza restaurant for 12hrs.  During the Edinburgh festival. On the hottest day of the year. And your girlfriend has left you. And you don’t know what to do with life. But in a good way.

Boards of Canada, Boards of Canada, Boards of Canada. What is there to say about Boards of Canada’s Tomorrow’s Harvest that hasn’t been said before?  How about;234I;UTWEGNBFLKMSDFFVTSJTRAVCBFGBJKGWEY5RFQDHBBFM0998765GHJKFLV BVLK. That’ll do it. I like this album.  I like music that can make you feel 17 different things at once and yet you can still listen to while doing a crossword. When I say ‘doing a crossword’ I do of course mean ‘eating toast and reading twitter’.  There’s just so much going on here.  It’s busier than a simile generator I used on these reviews, yet sounds bleak and empty.  HOW DO THEY DO THAT?

From public service broadcasting to Public Service Broadcasting.  I’m not quite sure how I came to own Inform – Educate – Entertain.  As has happened on an increasingly regular basis, I woke up the other day after a bottle or two of middle-aged mind relaxer to find half a dozen Amazon confirmation orders in my inbox and this particular album on my phone.  I know nothing about the artist but reckon it’s one or two blokes from either Brighton or London.  I’m basing this wholly on the fact that if the Go! Team and Lemon Jelly got drunk at a party, got off with each other, went on an awkward first date but saw enough in each other to go on a second date, start hanging out with other, realised they were in love, got married (in the most hipster wedding imaginable – it was in Shoreditch and the guests had to wear tweed), wanted kids, tried for kids for a few years then had IVF treatment and lo! Had a baby it would sound just like this.  I will love this more than any other record for the whole summer, play it at every waking moment, chuckle at the lovely dropping of samples - the ‘here we go again’ one being the current favourite, overdose on it then not listen to it again for 5 years.  It is what I do.  I have previous.

Living in Scotland, I’m contractually obliged to fawn over everything Fence records puts out. And reviewing The Pictish Trail I’m contractually obliged to mention the fact he lives under a rock on the Shebridean Island of Sphune.  Now we’ve got all that out of the way, let’s look at the music. Secret Soundz Vol.2 by young Mr Trail is rather splendid.  Heartfelt songs augmented with a fine selection of bleeps, distortion big bad drum loops, interesting ‘kzzzz’ bits and ultimately sounding like it was recorded in a bin on a wet Tuesday. Think Badly Drawn Boy making out with a sexy dalek.  In a wet bin.  On Tuesday.  I’m thinking audiophiles aren’t going to particularly like this. Ignore them. Like I just ignored that split infinitive.

*probably not from New York.  I’m on a boat in the middle of the North Sea with no internet."

Thanks for the contribution @Another__Name There are a few beauties in there that I still need to check out.

Thanks to the rest of you for stopping by.

Hope to see you back here again soon.

Simon S.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

When something suddenly makes you think about an obscure 90s band #1 - Passion Fruit and Holy Bread

A friend of mine recently gave birth to a boy named Jonah.  Apart from the happiness I felt that my friend had had a baby, two other things instantly popped into my head on hearing the news.  The first was that if we had had a boy, instead of two girls, then Jonah was on the shortlist for names.

The second was that I suddenly remembered a band from the early 90s called Passion Fruit and Holy Bread who had a song called 'Jonah was swallowed by a big fish'.

I like it when this happens.  A band who you haven't thought about in 20 years is suddenly just there, front of mind.  It's like they knew all along - "I tell you what, if we put a person's name in one of our songs, someone is bound to randomly remember us in many years to come". Or maybe not.

Passion Fruit and Holy Bread, named after a lyric from Stone Roses' 'She Bangs the Drums' were pretty good, to be honest. They were lauded by the music press when they released the 'Jonah EP', which the above song featured on, and even appeared on my main man Gary Crowley's 'The Beat'. Everything seemed set up for success but then they just disappeared and haven't been heard of since.

If anyone knows of their whereabouts I'd love to hear about it.

Anyway, for those of you who never heard any of their stuff, below is a clip from their appearance on 'The Beat'. The song 'Arise' also appeared on the 'Jonah EP'.  I really like it, they had something a bit different at the time.  The lead singer had a good stage presence too.

Let us know what you think.

So, has an obscure band from the 90s suddenly popped into your head recently from nowhere?  If so, I'd love to hear about it.  If you fancy it, you can come on here and write about it.

Thanks for stopping by.

Loads of love

Simon S.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

"Secondary Ticketing : The New Touting" by Tom Hingley

Hello everyone, hope you're well. 

I know it's been a while but the following post is definitely worth the wait.  We've got a massive treat for you today - the very wonderful Tom Hingley, ex-lead singer of the Inspiral Carpets, has written a fantastic post about the hot music topic of the moment - Secondary Ticketing. 

Anyway, without further ado, here it is :

How many of you have been in that situation where an old band announce they are reforming and you become part of a mass scramble to get hold of tickets for yourself, your friends and your loved ones? You perhaps end up spending hundreds of minutes, online time, and eventually hundreds of pounds through purchasing tickets at multiplications of their original face value.

You are part of a con being deliberately constructed by big players in the live performance industry.

Secondary ticketing sites were set up under the previous government under the aegis of introducing an element of control over the anarchy of unregulated online retailing of sports and entertainment tickets and scams with the official line that this would deter touting,
namely individuals purchasing a sizable minority of all the tickets for an event and then selling them outside for a massive profit. In fact, in many cases the very establishment of these secondary ticketing sites had exactly the opposite affect and what became the common occurrence was for many promoters to commit a sizeable allocation of tickets to these players, who then sat on them and sold them through the internet at vastly inflated prices while assuming the apparent position that each of the thousands of tickets they possessed was being sold as though it were a scarce item.

The con hinges on a concert/tour being announced through a variety of media outlets, such as the radio/TV/websites/social media platforms. The public are then encouraged to leap on one premium rate ticket hotline at 9 AM Friday morning. This creates an artificial log jam, and the disappointed fans then turn - in increasing desperation - to any other online retail outlets who may be able to satisfy this artificially hyped demand.

The secondary ticket sites exist under the falsely constructed identity of not being connected in any way with the original promoters, when in fact they are often actually partners, in the web, sometimes even owned by the same people who own the large entertainment entities who control the business. I call this cosy relationship of business entities who are actually fingers of the same corporate hand false walls, when I discuss a similar double value system operating in the UK drink industry (but more of that later).

As if this situation weren’t bad enough, added to the complexity of embedded and collapsed yet ‘separate’ presentation of promoters/touts is the added issue of individuals employed in the secondary ticketing entities owning and operating hundreds of credit cards, and purchasing large slabs of tickets from the original retail sites at the first point of retail in addition to, and way beyond, the original ones promised in the promoter’s direct allocations. The effect of these two actions is to render it impossible for genuine punters to buy tickets at the original ticket price and to divert tickets to a small number of secondary outlets/touts who then control the value-added super resale price of these consumer items.

One side effect of this ‘double buying’ by the promoter controlled/embedded secondary touting sites is that a possible outcome would be for a concert with a total of 10,000 tickets to be left with 10% of the tickets left in the drawers of the secondary ticketing businesses on the night of the concert, or being sold well below the original cover price by physical touts outside the venue namely, i.e., exactly what the introduction of these sites was supposed to prevent!  There may be false walls but really it’s all open plan, and they all live in the same house

My concern about this promoter-led touting is threefold: 1) the super value of the resold tickets is generally not being passed back to the performing artists, 2) the fans are being ripped off by a music business that knows this practice is being carried on at all levels (another horse meat scandal?) and 3, this practice is slowly and surely killing the live music scene. The digital touting of tickets , including the price fixing, monopolistic , fraudulent actions of these secondary ticketing touts and promoters and the deprivation of, say, 10% of a potential audience to see their favourite band will eventually prise even the most ardent fans away from their loved artists. There may come a time where punters are made to choose between seeing their favourite band for £500 per ticket or paying for school dinners and the mortgage. This inflation of the ticket price will lead to fans abandoning bands, and they won’t come back. This is a hideous adjunct to the end of recording artists being able to make money from exploiting sound recordings with the explosion of P2P infringing sites 

This is the Dutch Tulip Bulb Bubble of the 21st Century

Tom Hingley

Thanks Tom.  I think all genuine music fans feel this is an issue and it's great to see someone in the music industry sharing that opinion.

Before I sign off today I wanted to again thank Tom for a great, insightful post.  If you want to follow Tom on twitter, you can do so here - @tomhingleymusic

Today I'm going to leave you with a live clip of Tom singing the song 'Good' from his solo album "Thames Valley Delta Blues".  I highly recommend the album, it's a corker, and if you get a chance to see him live then go for it, you won't regret it.  He's a very funny man as well as a fantastic musician.

Thanks for reading

Simon S.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

"Why I fucking love Gary Crowley"

A couple of weeks ago I bought one of those cassette tape to mp3 converters.  In our loft I've got quite a few mixtapes, albums by bands who aren't on Spotify and songs that I wrote and recorded in my bedroom (on a crappy little tape recorder, not on an 8 track or anything) on guitar (3 chord, Status Quo specials) when I was a teenager. 

When I saw you could buy one of these converters for £15 I thought why not, the nostalgia value will be worth 10 times that.  And I was right, it's brilliant and works a treat, however, I've been using it merely as a Walkman rather than a converter since I bought it.

You see, on one of the tapes I found in the loft was an old Gary Crowley GLR radio show from 1996 and I've been hooked on it ever since!

Gary Crowley, along with John Peel, has been one of the most influential DJs in my life.  Ever since the early 90s it was Gary's TV programme 'The Beat' where I discovered a lot of my new music.  I still remember seeing Radiohead perform 'Anyone Can Play Guitar' live on the show and they soon became my favourite band.  My mates and I played the footage of The Jesus Lizard playing 'Mistletoe' in the studio over and over after we'd videoed it (I think it used to be on about 2am in the morning!) because it was just so bloody funny! They were great times for music.

Around that time 'The Beat', 'Snub TV' on BBC2 and the 'ITV Chart Show', along with John Peel's radio show, were must watches / listens for me.  And with 3 weekly music mags at that time (NME, Melody Maker and Sounds), us Indie Kids really were spoilt for choice.  Even Top of the Pops featured really good bands in the early 90s.

Gary also championed shoegazing when it first arrived and a series of gigs at The Marquee as part of the 'Band Explosion' heroed the genre.  I was lucky enough to see the Chapterhouse, Slowdive and Moose gig and the week after it was all televised on 'The Beat' (I'm sure I saw myself queueing up at the venue on telly, can't be 100% certain it was me but it sounds good anyway).

Anyway, the tape I found brought back loads of happy memories of Gary's GLR show including the 'Demo Clash', where 3 unsigned bands were played and listeners had to ring up to vote for their favourite.  To win was seen as a huge accolade, I think Suede were probably the most famous band to feature and they didn't do badly out of it did they?

It seems I'm not the only one who loved Gary either, as soon as I mentioned his show on twitter, and especially that he'd play 'Wembley' by The Candyskins on the particular show I was listening to, fellow music lovers like @1pAlbumClub , @extreme_rice , @Snippetcuts and @woodmanstone all reminisced about him or the music he was playing.

As I was very excited by the whole thing, I decided to put the following Spotify playlist together of all the songs featured in the show here - Gary Crowley June '96 Playlist

If you're not on Spotify, the songs were :

"How does it feel to feel?" by Ride
"Forbidden City" by Electronic
"Set the controls for the heart of the pelvis" by Barry Adamson featuring Jarvis Cocker
"Born Slippy (Nuxx)" by Underworld
"Hate" by Acacia
"Wembley" by The Candyskins
"Juvenile Scene Detective (Howie B's Tribute to Mr Laudanum Mix)" by Compulsion
"Chelsea Girl" by Ride
"Devils Haircut" by Beck
"Theme From Turnpike" by dEUS
"Marching Men" by Rich Kids
"Tattva" by Kula Shaker

The other songs played, which aren't on Spotify were :

"Mermaid" by Posh
"Eat my goal" by Collapsed Lung
"Everything must go (Chemical Brothers remix)" by Manic Street Preachers
"I never want to see your face again" by Black Star
"Ponces" by Swimmer
"Computer Crash" by Computer

Gary is still DJ'ing for BBC London 94.9 (what GLR became). I have to admit I haven't listened to a show of his in years but after finding that gem in the loft, I definitely will again soon.  I always have and always will fucking love him! Would love to hear your memories of him too.

Thanks for reading.

Loads of love

Simon S.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

The Great Lost Albums of 2011

2011 was a bit of a blur for me. My youngest daughter was born in November 2010 so the following year, as you can imagine, was pretty crazy and my priorities weren't about discovering new music. I therefore missed a lot of music releases that year.

My daughter has since apologised, and I have forgiven her. However, I would still like her apology in writing but may have to wait a couple of years for that.

Recently, in order to get over it, I have re-visited 2011 and amongst my favourite albums that year that I was aware of at the time - the debut album by The Vaccines, 'Portamento' by The Drums and Radiohead's 'The King of Limbs', to name but 3 - I have also uncovered 3 beauties which I missed. I will come onto these a bit later.

It wasn't just me who missed these 3 by the looks of it though.

I wanted to find out if the 3 albums below were on any of the Top 50 lists compiled by the top music journalists in the industry. I decided to do what any 37 year old, who hasn't got a clue how to find things out, would do and I Googled 'Top 50 albums of 2011'.

I then looked at the Top 10 results in detail. These were Pitchfork, NME, Rolling Stone, The Guardian, Spin, Stereogum, Consequence of Sound, FACT Magazine, Paste Magazine & Obscure Sound, and not one of them mentioned any of my Great Lost Albums of 2011 below. I'd love to know what THEIR excuse was (okay, maybe they just didn't like them, fair point. But I do, so ner!)

Anyway, without further ado, here, my friends, are my Top 3 Great Lost albums of 2011 :

1. 'To the death of fun' by Cashier No. 9

"Oh them again", I hear you say. Okay, I admit I am slightly obsessed with this band at the moment and I think they know it.  I have a feeling they are very close to blocking my twitter account.

It's just a fucking great album that people need to discover, and now's your chance.

Here's a little teaser for you but please check out their album (how many times do I need to say this?!) and we'll all stalk them together - agreed?!

2. 'Buffalo' by The Phoenix Foundation

This album is amazing, it is so varied and just so beautiful.  They hail from New Zealand but the album does sound very 'British'.  I'm not usually a big fan of albums that start off with a slow song, I have always felt an album should be like a gig, where you start off with a real stomper (sorry, it was the only word I could think of) to get everyone dancing / moshing but 'Eventually' is just gorgeous and they've got it spot on.

You know when you hear an album and it only takes one listen to get into, well this is like that.  They've got a new double album out shortly which I'm really looking forward to and they are touring soon so try and catch them live.  Anyway, here's a clip of their song 'Buffalo' which is another beauty -

3. 'Whatwave' by Dead Trees

Erm...'Whatwave' also starts off with a slow song so my whole 'fast song at the start' opinion has now officially been quashed.  It was a bit of a rubbish statement anyway, wasn't it?

The Dead Trees are a great band and this album is a beauty, very summery / west coast sounding. I'm definitely looking forward to checking some more of their stuff out.

The song below is called 'World Gone Global' but you really have to listen to the whole album to fully appreciate them -

So there you have it. My next challenge is to find another 3 beauties from another year that were missed by the top music publications / websites and their dogs.

I'm probably going to struggle to be honest, 2011 may be a one off.  However, if you fancy giving it a go yourself, pick a year, discover some albums from it and then come back and write for Session Bloggers. Everyone's welcome.

Thanks for popping by.

Loads of love

Simon S.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue #2 - what I've been listening to recently‏ by @TheJDaddy

He's a clever little so and so that Greg aka @TheJDaddy isn't he? Not only is he our first Session Blogger to make a second appearance on the blog but he's also gone and taken one of the features I started and added something extra to it.  He is, as I've always said, a very beautiful man.

Whereas, in a previous post of mine, I thought 'Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue - what I've been listening to recently' would be a bit challenging (hence why I chopped the 'blue' bit off) he has gone and proved me wrong and here's how, over to you Greg...

He’s only gone & done it again: Top bloke Simon (aka @SessionBlogger)  has talked me into doing another guest post on his great music blog. To be honest I didn’t need much encouragement; not even any Twiglets this time. Today has been great day for music, which made this post an easy one!

The theme this time is “Something old, something new, something borrowed – what I've been listening to recently”. So here we go:

Something old I’ve been listening to recently – The Beatles

Something old? Easy. I’m old! Most of the music I listen to belongs to the last Millennium, although I do like to at least try to keep current. And I no longer apologise for it. Dylan was once asked why he played so much old music on his radio shows. His reply? “There’s just more of it”. Kinda hard to argue with.

For my old track I've gone with an obscure little band from northern England that no-one but me will ever have heard of.

OK, it’s possible that others may have heard of The Beatles, & they did achieve a measure of success.

When it comes to sixties British bands I tend to favour rockers like The Stones & The Who. Let’s face it, to start with at least, the Fab Four were the boy-band of their day.

But recently I’ve been playing “Let It Be…Naked”, a stripped-down version of their great album, & I’ve been reminded of just how many great songs they really had. It starts with ‘Get Back’ & ends with ‘Across the Universe’ & ‘Let It Be', with ‘The Long & Winding Road’ along the way. The latter are not only 3 of their greatest ballads, but arguably of anyone’s, ever.

It’s hard to choose but my favourite is probably this one, so, so beautiful, even more so stripped down I think:

Something new I’ve been listening to recently – David Bowie

Yes, just this morning the great man released a new single, with a new album due soon. I already love it, very sad, very beautiful.

2 words: buy it! I have.

Something borrowed I’ve been listening to recently – Suede

This morning on twitter music journalist Pete Paphides said “Poor Suede. Their new tune –free to download from yesterday– has been lost amid all the Bowiemania, but it's splendid” 

And it is. And it’s free: how good is that?!

So that’s my lot. But hang on! I’m married; I remember this bit.  Isn’t there more? Yes!

Something blue I’ve been listening to recently – The Blues Brothers

I love the blues & don’t need much of an excuse to plug it. I've been listening to 'The Definitive Blues Brothers Collection' recently, & this is 1 of the stand-out tracks. If you’ve seen the film – and if you haven’t, why not?! – it’s the track the band play -  and play, and play, and play – at their gig in order to buy time for Jake & Elwood to give the cops the slip. Sort of an updated Sound of Music, really.

“I now pronouce you…”? Hope you enjoyed my choices.

Great post Greg, thanks for contributing again.  Oh and from this day forth, this feature will be called 'Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue - what I've been listening to recently'.  Yep, the 'blue' bit is officially restored. You've proved to me that it can be done - without any mention of Deep Blue Something - and what a great song to do it with.  Love that film.

Thanks for reading all.

Loads of love

Simon S.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Damian Harris, Musical Genres and Social Awkwardness by @SlightlySubDad

Welcome back, my friends.  Before I introduce you to today's excellent post, I just wanted to say thanks to everyone who has visited the blog over the last couple of weeks since I started publishing guest posts.  You are all very beautiful people.

Anyway, before I get all choked up, today's Session Blogger is the wonderful Jason who blogs over at Slightly Suburban Dad.  Jason is another person who I instantly clicked with on twitter (follow him @slightlysubdad , you won't regret it, he is a very funny man) given our mutual love of music. 

Jason's post today is all about his experience of meeting a music hero of his, from the Brighton Big Beat scene, recently.  In all honesty, I think he handled it pretty well, whereas he would probably disagree. Anyway, have a read and decide for yourself.

Over to you, Jason...

They say you should never meet your heroes. I always thought it was because you may be disappointed in them but, thanks to my social awkwardness, I’ve just discovered you can disappoint them. Possibly. Anyhow, it turns out I’m scared of famous people. Even people who used to be famous. You may not have heard of Damian Harris but, along with Fatboy Slim, he pretty much invented a musical genre and a famous one at that; Big Beat.
Damian, you see, founded Skint Records. He was responsible for signing and promoting three of the best dance acts of the 90s (I say act, and I know it makes them sound like a magician on Blackpool Pier but what do you call musicians who are part band, part DJ, part composer?). They were Fatboy Slim himself, The Lo Fidelity All Stars and Bentley Rhythm Ace. Combining huge riffs and acid squelches with hip hop breaks, and more jazzy, downtempo influences, Big Beat could be in your face on a sweaty dance floor and yet played to calm you at a chill out afterwards (“Bentley’s Going To Sort You Out” by Bentley Rhythm Ace was particularly good at this).
The genre was named after the Big Beat Boutique which ran in Brighton. But for four years travelling and working abroad I have lived in Brighton all my life and while I was more of a trance and techno clubber there are certain places in Brighton that are institutions and that you would inevitably end up in sooner or later. Big Beat Boutique was such a place and inevitably, a few times, I did.
Even if you never went you were soon sure to have heard of it, thanks to the massive selling second Fat Boy Slim album You’ve Come A Long Way Baby. It was a world wide smash, selling millions. The money rolled in to the Skint offices in such large amounts they could barely keep count and suddenly the world knew all about Brighton and Big Beat. At the time, techno snob that I was, I perhaps didn’t appreciate the impact (too busy deconstructing the latest Carl Craig or Jeff Mills track over a Marlboro Light) but there is no doubt in retrospect that it WAS the sound of Brighton.
Then Damian and Norman Cook did something mind blowingly cool. They sponsored the shirts of my beloved Brighton and Hove Albion football club and produced other clothing merchandise in association with them. Now I was fully onside. I filled my CD racks with Skint albums and my clothing draws with Skint t-shirts. I bought the ONLY cool football shirt that’s ever been made, the original Skint sponsored black and red striped away shirt. I still have it even though, when I wear it now, it makes me look like I’m smuggling a beach ball.
I mention this all to reminisce and also to illustrate just what a huge deal Big Beat was as a musical genre.  It’s vaguely important later.
Unlike many other bloggers who write stuff that is either quite personal, swearily humorous or, in the case of the brilliant Motherventing, both, my mother is aware that I have a blog. Since I have written about her in the past it’s a good job that she just keeps forgetting the url.  She also knows that I would dearly like to write a book and have it published one day, arrogant as that may be, and that I am never really satisfied with the quality of my writing. Therefore for Christmas she got me something REALLY cool. A writing masterclass at The Guardian offices in Kings Cross held by Jay Rayner (another hero, a favourite writer of mine. The masterclass was brilliant and Jay was fantastically entertaining and informative). He had sent out four of his pieces to read beforehand as homework so we could go over the techniques he had used. Then, a few days before it started he sent through a fifth piece to read. This was not one of his but was from The Independent in the late 1990s. It was an interview with Damian Harris. Reading it I was transported immediately back to the Brighton of my youth.
Sitting in my seat waiting for the class to start a man was brought in to the room from the door opposite the one from which we had entered. I vaguely recognised the face from DJ booths, music magazines and behind the counter of Rounder Records. Sure enough it turned out to be Damian Harris. In the second part  of the masterclass Jay interviewed Damian live. We had to take notes and then write the opening paragraph of a story about the interview. This was brilliant news. THIS WAS MY SUBJECT MATTER!
The discussion did, of course, talk about Brighton clubland in the 90s but it also focussed on what Damian was up to now – after the rave. And one thing he mentioned was that he had recently read an article about emerging new music genres and hadn’t known anything about any of them. And just a quick search on the interweb shows I don’t either. Ever heard of ‘Juke’? ‘New Orleans Bounce’? ‘Glitch Hop’?  ‘Waffle Berry Bollock Step’? OK one of those is a bit made up but only one. I doubt I have ever heard a piece of Juke music let alone identified it as such.
The tragic thing is I used to be able to do this. As a youngster in the dance clubs of Brighton I could tell my HardBag from my HandBag, my Detroit Techno from my Chicago House, my Gabba from my Trance. Trance seemed to create a new sub-genre almost every week. There was Acid Trance and Goa Trance and Hard Trance. Christ, what a boring bunch of wankers we were.
I may not be trendy any more. To be honest most of my good tips for new bands have come from my kind host Simon, here at Session Bloggers (and before at musodad) and my brother who is a Sound Engineer. I have a few acclaimed fairly recent albums but they mainly have links back to my past. Andy Weatherall’s Masterpiece is by, well, Andy Weatherall. Steve Mason’s Boys Outside is brilliant but I knew him from listening to The Beta Band at chillouts and King Biscuit Time’s ‘I Walk The Earth’ at clubs. Django Django are also influenced by and, I believe related to The Beta Band. I am mostly stuck in the past.
However, these days I don’t feel the slightest need to put a piece of music in to a genre labelled box just to look cool. One advantage of getting old and being in to music is that you just like a piece of music or you don’t. These days I’ll happily admit to liking odd songs by Katie Perry and AC/DC and Squeeze. I know I wouldn’t have in the Brighton of the 90s. Brilliantly, the older you get, the less you also feel the need to listen to a piece of music and decide if it’s really Goa Trance or Acid Trance. You can just enjoy it for what it is.
Oh yeah. The social awkwardness thing. I asked a question of Jay in the Q&A part of the class and managed to crowbar in that I came from Brighton, supported the Albion and bought records at Rounder. Afterwards, preparing to leave, Damian Harris said hello to me. My brain was doing about 6 million things, all of which were ‘DAMIAN FUCKING HARRIS JUST SAID HELLO TO ME OH MY GOD’. Unfortunately the only thing that came out of my mouth was ‘er hello’ before I practically ran for the door, scared as the proverbial rabbit in the headlights. I doubt Damian will ever read this but I realise that this made me look like a grade A twat. That may seem a bit weak but I am as awkward in real life as I am garrulous on twitter and on my blog. An extroverted introvert I think a fellow blogger once called it.
Also I’d never met anyone who’d invented a proper musical genre before.

Fantastic post, Jason, thanks for contributing.  I used to love Big Beat - how cool is Norman Cook though? He was in one of the most influential bands ever in The Housemartins, then he had the huge hit with Beats International, then he launches Skint and reappears as Fatboy Slim.  He is a very talented man if you ask me.

As for Damian Harris, he was probably as nervous as you.  You never know he could be sat at home now thinking 'I wish I'd spoken to that bloke more, he seemed very nice'.  You know what you have to do, my friend - @generalisation - it's in your destiny...

Anyway, that's enough from me, I'm off to listen to some Lo-Fi Allstars, haven't heard them in bloody ages!

Thanks for reading everyone.

Loads of love

Simon S.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Musical Rant - "Is guitar music more sexist than electronic music?" by Roberta from Curxes

Have we got a treat for you today Session Bloggernists (sorry, I know that sounds shit, I will think of something better one day, when I can be arsed, I promise), we have a blog post written by the wonderful Roberta from the band Curxes.
A few days ago her bandmate Macaulay talked about his love of Sleigh Bells and now we have Roberta going on a musical rant about sexism in music and boy, are you lot in for a treat!  I am seriously thinking of jacking blogging in now as I just don't know how this post will ever be topped, it is an excellent read and Roberta has just become one of my favourite bloggers in the blogosphere, she is a natural.
Before I hand you over, if you haven't heard Curxes yet (they are as brilliant at music as they are blogging) I have posted a You Tube clip of their song 'Spectre' at the end of this post.
Anyway, without further ado, here's Roberta...

Guitar music is back! Well that’s great. If you need me at all, I’ll be in the kitchen eating fancy crisps and listening to Kraftwerk (“Tour de France” singalong, Monster Munch everywhere). It’s not that I have anything against guitar music at all. In fact, I used to be in a post-punk band with a horrendous Motley Crue-esque barnet, glitter make-up and the traditional guitars/bass/drums setup, but I’d just like to clear up a couple of things...
My first gripe is with you, ‘male guitar music elitist’ and that fun argument we always have about whether ‘synthesizers count as real instruments’ (further anger here) or that it’s ‘girl music’. You could ask someone at Moog perhaps what they’ve spent the last year doing arsing about with that fake piece of junk? But hold on, what’s that you’re running your guitar through? An effects pedal? Manufactured by Boss (part of the Roland group that builds synthesizers)? Which amplifies and manipulates the sound of your instrument?! And that kind of sounds like a Farfisa?! Shock horror! It’s electronic! You’re a fraud. It’s not real, man.
The second point I’d like to raise, which is more bothersome than anything but completely open for discussion, is the assumption that guitar music is ultimately a male-dominated game. In fact, my biggest trepidation about its ‘triumphant and imminent return’, comes in light of a few artful rants I saw online which protested against ‘fakers’ in the music industry. I read through what they had to say about 90s bandwagon-jumping (I like TLC but that’s as far as it goes), contrived US slang (when you’re from Surrey), the transient nature of cool (I listened to obscure jazz once, you know) and many other points which highlighted their disillusionment with a select few among their musical peers. I read their outpour in agreement for the most part, nodding along with the bit about smashing instruments in front of East London’s apathetic crowds (Unsureditch, as we like to call it), but then I felt a little uneasy...
There was a reference to girls in guitar bands, moreover, that the girls are only in those bands to boost things in the attractiveness stakes or to act as an ornament. This struck me as actually a little outdated and maybe even borderline offensive (see also: this ridiculous advert). I’m pleased to say that I’ve never received any unpleasant attention as a result of embracing circuitry fully and being a female electronic musician. True, I’ve had the odd snidey comment about the music as a whole, but then haven’t we all? You’ve got to ‘LOL’ with the punches. Or something. However, in my previous band, which was more guitar-orientated, I had to deal with constant grief for being a female in a guitar band. Inherently disrespectful comments ranged from “well, they’ve only got that far because they have a girl in the band” to the slightly more patronising remark whilst packing away equipment, “aww, and which band are you here to see sweetheart?” – in a little baby voice too? Ah, you really shouldn’t have! This then followed up with being pushed, jabbed at and harassed for the rest of the headline band’s set. On another occasion packing up gear, I was forcefully grabbed and pinned against the wall of a venue in soup-loving Covent Garden, because that’s standard if you’re the little girlio hanging out with the real musicians. It’s ok, he got thrown out. Arsehouse...
I have always written music as a way of articulating how I feel, maintaining it’s cheaper than counselling in the long run and provides an opportunity to be more eloquent than in real life, plus I have always been the primary songwriter. The notion that women in guitar bands are seen as no more than a visual commodity or novelty, without being recognized for their songwriting abilities/achievements, really effs me off and I bet there are hundreds like my old self dealing with this nonsense at every show they play (read all about it!). Sure, there are axe-wielding female musicians who are very visual or overtly sexual in their performance and media, but it is done so as an interpretation of their music which they write and comes from a place of empowerment. Moreover, the visual element is not present as a distraction from said music; it is an accompaniment to the “art”, or “choons” if you’re less pretentious. Take Polly Jean Harvey as an exemplar. She bares all lyrically, through dark wit and obviously sexual turns of phrase, only to get a reputation as a “man-hater” / psycho (as this satirical set of reviews highlights) but her dude-y equivalent gets to talk about his “no pussy blues” in a tongue-in-cheek way and is generally left to get on with it (hint: maybe you should get to know them properly first and form a meaningful connection? Haha, only joking Nick, you little rascal).
Maybe it’s my bad eyesight, but women in electronic music seem to be far more openly accepted and celebrated for their contributions to our life’s soundtrack in the last 50 years or so than women in the straight-up guitar music scene; Suzanne Ciani, Delia Derbyshire, Laurel Halo, Julia Holter, Gillian Gilbert, Grimes, Annie Lennox, Cosey Fanni Tutti, Laurie Spiegel, Daphne Oram, Leila, Alison Goldfrapp and so on (no sign of that changing this year either. Hi Chvrches & Polly Scattergood.). Their musical output is widely revered, respected and it would appear, more rapidly absorbed into the public consciousness than their guitar-wielding or guitar-backed contemporaries. Electronic music seems to give women the freedom to express themselves musically without their Top Trumps ‘prettiness’ ranking taking precedence (I think mine’s about 4 – still saving up for that boob job...). I struggle to reel off as many in the guitar realm who are solely known for their songwriting above their looks. Patti Smith? Suzi Quatro? What about The xx as a modern example (again, a Marmite choice for some of you)? There were some awful comments made after their Mercury Award win about Romy, their singer, primarily about her appearance rather than the musical merit of their minimal yet guitar-y first album. I always thought she looked more like Tracey Thorn, but there you go.
“Lipstick feminist!”, I hear you cry. Well, I just think it’s odd that there are so many differing standards between the two genres when they are both a valid part of the alternative music scene as a whole. As part of a male/female electronic duo, my bandmate Macca and I are treated with equal respect (and I thank him for his support in having read my venting). Is it because electronic music is more indebted to its female pioneers than guitar music? Is ‘sexist’ just the default nature of a corporate business which electronic/synthesizer music, somehow, is cleverly subverting? Is the whole “guitar music” thing just marketing bullxhit? Does it work both ways too, in that I can have naked bearded backing singers dangling freely (applicants should email a picture of themselves for consideration...)? Or perhaps I’m just looking at electronic music through Korg-tinted spectacles. In a recent post on her Tumblr blog, Pitchfork editor Laura Snapes called for a broader, more inclusive definition of the term “guitar music” and it’s certainly a welcome consideration. Maybe if that were the case, we wouldn’t hear about “token females” in bands and, perhaps, the other girl in my class at college would’ve stayed on and got her qualification instead of taking boisterous jibes to heart and leaving after only a year.
Out of interest, I Googled “female guitar music celebrated” & “female electronic music celebrated”. Not only was there a difference of 1,400,000 million results, but the top results for each were interesting too...
Guitar music:

Electronic music:

I also looked on Wikipedia for a tiny piece of credit for women with guitars:

P.S. If nothing else, we all stand together on Fanny, right?
P.P.S . Do Sleigh Bells count as guitar music or electronic music?
Over to you.

Thanks for contributing Roberta, if you and Macaulay ever want to write for Session Bloggers again you're always welcome to do so.  I'd love for you both to come back soon.

Before I go, as promised, here's a clip of the brilliant 'Spectre' by Curxes. Enjoy...

As always, thanks for stopping by. Hope to see you again soon.

Loads of love

Simon S.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

"Why I fucking love Sleigh Bells" by Macaulay from Curxes

Today I am chuffed to announce that we have a couple of very special guest posts coming up on Session Bloggers over the next few days - Macaulay and Roberta from the band Curxes.
I mentioned Curxes a few posts ago when I was listening to the Blog Sound Of 2013 Longlist.  At the time I referred to them as 'a more frantic version of Siouxie and The Banshees' but they're definitely more than that and just sound better and better after each listen.  At the end of this post there's a You Tube clip of their excellent song 'Haunted Gold' which I highly recommend you listen to.
Anyway, enough of me rabbiting on, I'm just the support act here today. 
First up we have Macaulay who kicks off our "Why I fucking love..." series by talking about Sleigh Bells.  Roberta's post will follow soon.
Over to you, Macaulay...
They’re noisy, visceral and fun, and whilst not necessarily considered the most “deep” of bands, they tick all my modern musical boxes. This is why...
We all know there are a plethora of great artists from the past 50 years and like many people, these make up the majority of my listening. I imagine it’s the same for much of the music-loving public too; because how can brand new artists compete with the likes of The Beatles and David Bowie when those artists experienced such dizzying heights during their respective heydays, as well as having their legacies fawned over in proceeding years?
Sadly, it’s unlikely that any artist starting out now will reach such heights, so surely they must try harder to be as attention-grabbing as possible, right?  In my eyes, yes – and this is what Sleigh Bells have done.
The songs are short, spiky and don’t outstay their welcome. They combine nursery rhyme-simplicity with repetitive riffs in short, three-minute bursts. One listen is usually enough to make a song stick in your head. It’s an amalgamation of genres from the last 30 years and sounds like it is – a band having fun. Fusing 80s hair metal with sickly sweet vocals, modern R’n’B beats and then distorting it all to within an inch of its life sounds like a terrible idea, but their aptly-named debut “Treats” succeeded in making people take notice when it emerged back in 2010.
They are a marmite band and it is a bit juvenile, but it’s essentially boisterous party music you can crank up loud without shame and “lose your shit” to. For me, music is essentially entertainment and should therefore be fun. Sleigh Bells are awesome live, insanely cool and actively coined the term “bangover”. It’s what I get every morning after I’ve seen them play.
Thanks for the great post, Macaulay.  I agree, there's just something about Sleigh Bells. They're so unique and 'Comeback Kid' was definitely one of my favourite songs of last year.

If anyone else out there fancies writing a post for our "Why I fucking love..." series then please comment below or tweet me @sessionblogger

Before I leave though, as promised, I'm leaving you with this...

Thanks for stopping by.


Simon S.

Friday, 11 January 2013

'The Early Nineties Were Easier' - Band No.5 : U2 by @TheJDaddy #TENWE

Today it's a beautiful day (okay, so that's even worse than the pun you will read in the post below, apologies), the wonderful Greg aka @TheJDaddy has written a post for Session Bloggers.

Greg blogs over at the brilliantly named Whiskey For Aftershave and I'm chuffed that he could take some time out from that to blog about his favourite early 90s band here.  He is another music fan who I bonded with over on twitter.  I highly recommend you follow him on there and visit his blog too.

Take it away, Greg...

Top bloke Simon (aka Session Blogger) has asked me to write a guest post for his blog. And how could I refuse? I’ve never done a guest post before, & the subject is one dearest to my heart after my family (of course): music.

And he asked so nicely. (The promise of a lifetime’s supply of Twiglets helped too).

He's started a series called 'The Early Nineties Were Easier" (#TENWE) & has invited me - and anyone else who wants to - to write about a favourite band from that era.

Well, I had to think about it. So I did that, & decided on the band I’d rave about.

Then I changed my mind.

The band I first thought of fitted with the rest in the series so far. They were huge in indie clubs and, although they have achieved great mainstream success & even had a big hit across the pond, they are first & foremost an indie band. I love them, & today they are still 1 of my favourite bands, 1 of only 2 I’ve been to see 3 times.

So why did I change my mind? I realised that I wasn’t actually into them at the time! As with most things in my life, I came in late. It wasn’t until the end of the decade that I came to love them. So, if I’m going to be honest – and I always try to be – I should write about the band I really was most into at the time. So I will.

In the early '90s my life was in a huge state of transition. I’ll spare you the details but I’d spent the '80s mixed up in fundamentalist religion, & my attitude to secular music would have done the Taliban proud. I considered it inherently corrupt & corrupting; to be avoided at all costs.

1990 was the year I escaped. I emerged, blinking & naïve, into what – for me - was a brave new world. I spent the next few years tentatively feeling my way into the real world, slowly breaking free from the chains in which I’d been bound. A major part of that was catching up on a lost decade of music! As cheesy as it seems to me now, Alan ‘Fluff’ Freeman’s Radio 1 show 'Pick of the Pops' became one of the most important things in my life! I still have many of them on cassette tape.

I heard a song on the radio which I loved, although I didn’t know what it was or who it was by. So I went into Tower Records in Piccadilly Circus, went up to the nearest till & said to the guy there:

“I’ve heard this song that I really like & I don’t know what it is. It’s live, it features a great Gospel choir, & it’s something about ‘what I’m looking for’. Do you know what it is?“.

To the lad’s eternal credit his wry smile didn’t appear to contain even a hint of sarcasm, as he straight away went off to fetch the record in question.

He came back with an album from 1987 called 'Rattle & Hum'. By some outfit called ‘U2’. You may have heard of them. *ducks to avoid any thrown bottles & various types of fruit*

I hadn’t. I kid you not.

So I bought the album: my first album purchase as an adult. And I loved the album, & the song, & still do. The song pretty much summed up my life at the time, & to this day I find it trremendously moving every time I hear it. Always will I think.

I found what I was looking for! (Sorry – couldn’t resist…)

I then discovered 'Rattle & Hum' s predecessor 'The Joshua Tree' & immediately had a new all-time favourite band & album.

“OK”, you say, “you bought the albums in the early '90s, but it’s still the music of the '80s!”. Fair enough. But then in 1991 U2 brought out ‘Achtung Baby', a ‘comeback’ album, & one that is regarded by many – myself included - as their other great album along with ‘The Joshua Tree’.

Bought it, played it, loved it, still do. Later did the gig & bought the T-shirt. Which I still wear! ‘Zoo Station’, ‘Even Better Than the Real Thing’, ‘Until the End of the World’,’Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses?’, ‘The Fly’: great rock with added electronica; ‘So Cruel’, a classic intense slow-burner; & this 'one' - my favourite - melts my heart every time I hear it: electrifying, achingly beautiful.

U2, for my sins, was the soundtrack to my life in the early '90s. I still have in mind maybe to one day write a post called 'How U2 Kept Me Sane'.

And my first, discarded, choice? Probably much cooler, sorry: maybe another time! So I'll end with my favourite song of theirs from the time:

Thanks for the brilliant post, Greg. It's a fantastic story, still can't get over the fact you didn't listen to any music in the 80s - don't know what I would've done without my regular fix of Wham!

I think that was my favourite period for U2 as well, even though I love 'The Joshua Tree', 'Achtung Baby' really reminds me of that era, when we were learning to drive and that was one of the tapes we always had in the car.  I really think you should write the 'How U2 kept me sane' post, would love to read that too.

As a special treat for writing a great post (and cause I'm all out of Twiglets), I have added both U2's 'One' and 'Out to get you' by James to the Spotify playlist here - The Early Nineties Were Easier #TENWE

Until next time, thanks for reading everyone.


Simon S.