Author Archives: Tim Hall

Bob Lefsetz, One Direction, and American Psycho

I’m not sure that there are many people who still take Bob Lefsetz seriously; after all, this is the music industry pundit who told David Bowie he needed to be more like Mumford and Sons. He’s got to become a good music pundit litmus test, in that anyone who takes him seriously cannot themselves be taken seriously.

His blustering patronising style and detemindedly anti-hipster stance leads him to praise the most vacuous examples of corporate rock as works of artistic genius; he’e even claimed that anyone who doesn’t think Nickelback are the world’s greatest rock band is a pathetic loser. Some of his more ridiculous rants remind me of those often-quoted monologues about Huey Lewis and Phil Collins from Brett Easton Ellis’ “American Psycho”.

But this piece about One Direction goes beyond patronising and descends into the disturbingly creepy.

It was incomprehensible.

Furthermore, if you weren’t there you probably didn’t know it happened, despite the act selling out two dates and nearly a third, on a Thursday, a school night.

And that was who were there. Students. Girls. Wanna get laid? Go to a 1D show. You won’t see odds this good at the prison of “Orange Is The New Black.” An endless sea of barely pubescent girls, screaming their heads off. You’d think it was the new Beatles.

Only it wasn’t.

Maybe these kids know the Beatles. But they’ve got no idea who U2 is, never mind want to hear their music. And U2 didn’t sell as many tickets in Pasadena. Because the generations have changed and those in charge don’t want to admit it.

You’re done. History. Kaput. Your children have replaced you. Because they’ve got one thing you do not, PASSION!

What’s scary is that if you read those first few paragraphs side-by-side with Patrick Bateman’s infamous Phil Collins monologue , his One Direction piece is actually creepier.

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Murdoch Bulk Muck Shifting

Oxford Diecast Murdoch tipper with Scania T-Cab

It’s almost disappointing to learn that “Murdoch Bulk Muck Shifting” is a real company based in Scotland rather than a joke at the expense of a well-known Australian newspaper proprietor.

The model is from Oxford Diecasts, filling what has until very recently been a big gap in the market, for modern commercial vehicles in British N (1:148) scale.

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It is hard to get to grips with them in argument because they constantly shift their stance and reinterpret the meaning of words to help them evade difficult questions“. The context is a blog by James Christie about ISO 29119. But it’s a far wider truth. Professional cliques and ideological sects have long used jargon words as an in-group identifier. But it always frustrates communication when they insist on applying new jargon-meanings to perfectly good existing words.

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What is the purpose of music awards?

The announcement of the nominations for the Mercury Music prize along with the press coverage for the Prog Awards begs the question; exactly what is the point of these awards and their associated ceremonies? Are they really about celebrating the best music in all its diversity, or is the whole thing just a PR exercise to sell records? Or just an excuse for a party?

I am more and more of the opinion that it’s the latter. The Mercury, voted on by secretive panel of expects, does seem to have as its prime purpose selling records to the people who buy two or three records a year but like to think they’re far edgier than they really are. Even when I find that for once I actually own one of the nominations. Perhaps that explains why their gig was so full of hipsters?

As for the Prog awards, with half the awards chosen by a committee, and the other half voted by readers who were forced to choose from a seemingly arbitrary shortlist chosen in an opaque manner by the same committee, does winning an award actually mean anything?

But given the way the awards ceremony has gained a lot of favourable press coverage including being reported by the BBC, is quibbling over who did or didn’t get nominated simply is missing the point? Does it matter who the awards went to if it gets progressive music in the press?

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Testing and The Facebook Effect

Like many testing professionals, I don’t post as much about my work as I sometimes feel I ought to. An insightful post from Adam Knight entitled “The Facebook Effect” provides a good explanation as to why.

It’s always considered a no-no for any professional to criticise their employers on public forums, and rightly so. This is a problem for those of us in testing; our very job revolves around breaking things in interesting and innovative ways. It’s difficult to talk about your work in public when so much of it is about the bugs you’ve been finding. Your employer may well not want the world to know about that huge security vulnerability you just discovered.

This places us in something of a double-bind at times. While spilling too much information about current projects could be a seriously career-limiting move, not having a positive online presence can have exactly the same effect. I’ve actually been told I’m less likely to be hired if I’m testing in secret!

Fortunately Adam Knight does come up with some practical suggestions for sharing professional knowledge without compromising your employment.

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The context was actually Manga, but the advice from a convention panel goes broader than that. “Be thick-skinned. you need to be able to take both good and bad reviews“. Because, to quote Serdar Yegalulp, “Sometimes praise can be as damaging as insult, and the damage is not always as palpable“. This is just as true with music, especially in this social media age. I’ve seen artists surround themselves with sycophants, and it’s all too easy for them to lose their edge as a result.

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Will They Stay Or Will They Go?

Next week, Scotland may vote to end the 300-year union with England. If it happens, it won’t just change Scotland, but England as well, and there are legitimate fears than it will unleash ugly forces that will leave the remainder of the UK far less of a green and pleasant land.

Superficially, the removal of 60-odd Scottish seats from Parliament appears to benefit the Tories, who have barely existed as an electoral force north of the border for a generation. But it’s difficult to imagine the break-up of the United Kingdom not changing the political landscape south of the border. The possibility of England lurching to the right after Scottish independence is certainly possible but is by no means inevitable.

Another possibility is that it will provoke a backlash against the same forces that were seen as driving Scotland away from the UK, and are as true for Wales and the English regions. If the London-centric ruling elites are found guilty in the court of public opinion of destroying the union just to line their own pockets, there will be blood. Hopefully just metaphorical blood, but….

If we’d had electoral reform years ago we wouldn’t currently be facing the possibility of the break up of the UK. We would not have been electing governments who could afford to ignore entire regions of the country because a handful of marginal constituencies were all the mattered in elections. And we would not have been electing governments with a mandate to enact far-reaching and irreversible changes with the support of just 40% of the electorate.

I’m a former Liberal Democrat voter who’s currently politically homeless. I have always considered myself left-of-centre but I have never trusted the authoritarianism that was never far below the surface of the Labour Party. But, whatever Scotland decides next week, if Ed Miliband promises electoral reform as a manifesto commitment, he will have my vote.

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The Reasoning cancel October tour

After postponing their long-awaited album into the new year, The Reasoning have now cancelled their upcoming tour, and the release of the album may be postponed further.

The band will be spending more time working on their next album, which currently has the working title of Horrorscopic. They say, “We’ve decided to take some time away from the music, in order to allow it to grow and develop more naturally. This will also enable us to think carefully about how best to produce, record and promote it.

“There’s no finite limit to said breather: whether it takes us six months or two years to create an album that we’re genuinely proud of, then it will have been more than worth the wait. We hope that you will agree and understand. In the interim, of course, you’ll still see many of us out and about at other gigs, pontificating online and (if you’re really lucky) doing the weekly shopping [insert supermarket of your choosing].”

Despite the ostensibly upbeat tone of the announcement, you can’t help wondering about the long-tem future of the band with news like this.

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When Empires Fall

When Empires FallWhen Empires Fall is the latest addition to the incestuous York-based progressive rock scene. It’s the new project from former Stolen Earth and Breathing Space bassist Paul Teasdale. A sample track, “Call To The Night Watch” with vocalist Aleksandra Koziol appeared something like a year ago, but since then we’ve had a long wait for the album.

When Empires Fall consists of guitarists Stew King and Dave Hunt, and Paul Teasdale on everything else. Paul handles the majority of the lead vocals himself, with Aleksandra Koziol and Joanne Wallis appearing as guest vocalists, each singing lead vocals on one song. There is also an appearance from Paul Teasdale’s one time Breathing Space bandmate, guitarist Mark Rowen.

The two opening tracks set the tone. “Intro” with it’s birdsong, doomladen keys and Floydian guitar flourishes leads into the bass groove-driven rocker “Hurt”. The album is an interesting and very varied mix of indie-rock and progressive rock, uptempo rockers with trebly guitars sit alongside atmospheric keyboard-led ballads. There are certainly a few songs that would not have sounded out of place on a Stolen Earth album had the original lineup of that band stayed together. But other material, especially on the first half of the album have a strong Britpop flavour. A strong sense of melody that owes a debt to The Beatles is the glue holding it all together, and the album as a whole has something of the feel of mid-period Porcupine Tree.

Highlights include the Hammond-drenched ballad “Barricade”, the angry psychedelic rocker “14 Bullets” and “Under No Illusion” with a superb extended solo from Mark Rowan. “Call To The Night Watch” is the nearest thing on the album to a prog epic, with it’s pastoral opening and a spine-tingling vocal from Aleksandra Koziol. A few of the songs carry a strong political charge,

Never any more than a backing singer in Breathing Space or Stolen Earth, the soaring melodies prove Paul Teasdale more than up to the task of singing lead. His bass playing is as dependably solid as expected, but he also impresses on keys, especially the Hammond organ on “Barricade” and the electric piano on “Sinking Deeper”.

Much like another recent record from the York scene, Halo Blind’s “Occupying Forces” this is a record that has feet in more than camp. It has the depth, atmospherics and musicianship to appeal to progressive rock fans, but the straightforward and direct songwriting should also make this record accessible to more mainstream indie-rock audiences.

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When Things Just Aren’t What They Seem, a very moving and very tragic post from Michael Larson. It’s quite long, but really needs to be read in full.

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